Stickman's Weekly Column August 16th, 2015

Pattaya’s Real Estate Market Downturn

It's just 15 months since I interviewed Kevin, the owner of Pattaya Jomtien Real Estate, a Brit with many years experience in the Sin
City property market. It's hard to believe that the first sentence from that interview referred to Pattaya's real estate market going gangbusters given what has happened since. There has been a massive turn around in the market and
Pattaya's real estate market is going through a terrible slump. Given the great change, I thought it time to revisit Kevin and after a number of emails backwards and forwards, Kevin helped me understand just what is happening in Sin City.
Real estate agents can be reluctant to talk about market downturns, but I was not going to let Kevin off with easy questions.

When we spoke last year you said you'd had the best March since you'd set up the company – and that was just halfway through the month. I understand that things aren't so good now.

Things aren't so good' is a bit of an understatement!

We had the worst Q1 this year I can remember in my ten years in the business. Things had slowed down in Q4 of 2014 so the lull in business didn't really come as any great surprise to us and I think most real estate offices in Pattaya, if they are honest, have suffered the same fall in business. I must say at this point though that the lull in business has really only hit the condo market as the housing market is still very much ticking over, albeit not to the level of a year ago but there are still active buyers in this segment of the market.

Having said all of this, August has seen business improve with completed sales and more enquiries and viewings. Is it a mirage or are things starting to pick up just a little? Only time will tell!

So what do you put the downturn in the market down to? What are the main contributing factors?

I‘m pretty sure it's due to the whole global downturn, not something particularly attributive to Thailand in particular, such as the coup followed by the military government. Some point to the collapse of the Russian Ruble which may be part of the problem but in my opinion I think the fall in the price of oil has had the biggest impact, not just here but globally, and has had a massive knock-on effect in as much that it has affected the livelihoods of so many people who all have to cut back on their spending and put off making any serious purchases until things go back as they were a year or so ago.

You mention the Ruble. Are the economic conditions in Russia really having that much of an effect on the Pattaya real estate market?

The fall of the Russian Ruble has had a real impact on the Sin City real estate sector, especially with the developers and those offices that really honed their marketing at the Russian market. Several of the companies affected have off-loaded most of their Russian staff, in fact one developer closed the work permits of all the farang staff employed. I have associates employed by developers and for them it's a fact that when a large number of buyers find they cannot make the regular monthly payments then subsequently this hits the developers' monthly cash flow and whilst this may not have too much effect on the major developers, it certainly must hit hard the small independent ones. It has been quite noticeable that a number of projects have quite visibly slowed construction down, although the reason could also be a lack of skilled construction workers.

There were once booths in the likes of Royal Garden and Central Festival manned by Russian hotties selling condos in new developments off plan. Friends in Sin City tell me that for the most part these have gone. Is this true?

Ah, the memories… I've spent many an afternoon strolling around the malls admiring all the developments on offer by the Russian hotties but alas, it's almost a thing of the past with only a few stalwart hotties hanging in there… But on the positive side, they have been replaced by some even hotter Thai Hotties, so really it's not all doom and gloom!

Ah, maybe that's part of the reason why some complain there are fewer hot dancers in the bars these days!

Pattaya has seen an increase in the number of real estate agents over the years. Has the current market seen some agencies shut their doors for the last time?

The lull in business has hit everyone from developer, established real estate offices down to the Thai 'freelancers' but obviously those hurt most are those of us operating legally with offices, staff, work permits and the associated overheads. A few offices, including a couple of very well established ones, have closed their doors and most others are looking to down size. Some in the business have lost their jobs, some have set up their own office and it appears others are prepared to take the gamble and work freelance.

The greater Pattaya area encompasses not just Pattaya City, but Jomtien, Bang Saray, the beaches north of Pattaya like Naklua and Wong Amart and the other side of Sukhumvit. Has the market downturn been more pronounced in any particular areas?

Generally I would say the downturn has been across the board, particular in the lower priced segment of 'B' grade buildings in 'B' grade locations. However, with fewer projects in the Bang Saray area there has seen little impact on that market, especially as it's very popular with the Bangkok Thais and similarly with the beachfront projects, which are and always will be in demand regardless of any circumstances.

Many readers have an aversion to Russians in general and I've heard rumours that a lot of Russians who had recently moved in may have had financial problems and had to leave Pattaya altogether and return to Russia. Have you seen evidence of this?

This is an easy one! Take here in soi 5 as an example: a year ago there were two Russian travel agents and a Russian restaurant in the soi. Today there are none and I think practically every business that was targeting Russians a couple of years ago must be in trouble / really feeling the effect of the dramatic decline in the number of Russians arriving here.

What about Bangkok Thais looking at the Pattaya real estate market? Are they still buying or is the slowdown in the local Thai economy having an effect on local buyers too?

Certainly the slowdown in the Thai economy is having an impact on all businesses, not just in the real estate sector. The Bangkok Thais are still very much active in the 'upmarket' end of the scale condominiums and more so with the established Bangkok-listed development companies that have moved in to Pattaya, such as Major and Sansiri which both have a proven reputation and track record of 5-star developments in Bangkok and are now reproducing those standards here in Pattaya.

I read a quite astonishing report on the Pattaya real estate market recently where a number of new developments had either stalled or been cancelled altogether. I have also heard it said that as many buyers are not physically in Pattaya as construction takes place – they're either in Bangkok or perhaps even outside Thailand – the pain will not be felt by folks in Pattaya so much. How much truth do you think there is in this?

It's true there have been a small number of projects either cancelled or postponed over recent months. One of the most well-known and well-established developers in Sin City cancelled the second of two low-rise buildings 200 metres from the beach to replace it with a high-rise tower which several months later was also cancelled. All deposits and payments that had been taken were returned to the buyers in full. This same developer then cancelled another high-rise tower project just two days after a big celebration to open the showroom. Again, any payments already made were refunded in full to the buyers. You usually find the first buyers in any project are investors based in Thailand with a smaller number from outside the country and as the developers depend on these initial buyers then it's pretty much certain that if the developers want to keep their reputation then refunds will be paid quickly when the project is cancelled.

I think it's fair and reasonable to say that despite the fact that this is Thailand and when things go wrong you're very much on your own, until recently it was relatively safe to invest in off-plan projects in Pattaya and in Thailand in general. Now, well, I can't help but feel there is a much greater risk – more so in Pattaya than say, Bangkok – and you'd have to be brave to buy off plan. Would you agree?

This is very much Thailand, and even more so than when we last talked about real estate a little over a year ago, when I did say to be cautious when buying off-plan and use the free services of a reputable agent to cut the risk down as far as possible of getting your fingers burnt and losing your hard-earned cash!

At the present time I would advise anyone thinking of buying off-plan to really to do your homework first and don't rush into signing a sales contract, and to take the advice of a reputable agent. Only consider buying if the project is within the final 6 to 9 months of construction so it's a near certainty of completion. In a development not already underway, really do your homework on the developer first. The major ones have a reputation to uphold, and they are not interested in one quick project and get out quick!

I've received new listings in the last year where the buyers – a group of small foreign investors – had gone direct to the developer thinking they would get a better deal without using an agent. Every single one of them was persuaded to purchase off-plan and every single unit they bought was in a Thai company ownership, which I would only recommended in very limited circumstances. In my opinion they were certainly not given the best advice. It's far better to own and easy to re-sell if the units are in a ‘foreign name'…your name!

This is a real concern given that projects were selling well and given that, well, as Trink always said, this is Thailand.

As the real estate industry in Thailand is not regulated anywhere near as well as say in the UK, US, Europe, Australia etc. there are unfortunately agents and developers, although very small in numbers, whose main concern is getting a sales contract signed and the first downpayment made which is usually around 30 – 35% of the total sale price. In regulated countries this money is kept safe in an independent escrow account and in the event of a developer failing then all buyers get their money back directly from the escrow account. In Thailand, this money is usually kept by the developer, not in escrow accounts and should they not complete the building then the onus is on the buyer to try and get their money back from the developer, which can be very difficult especially from a small independent developer (the exception being the well established and reputable developers mentioned earlier who always repays monies in full). In my memory this has happened four times over the ten years I've been in real estate. Although small numbers, it is still four times too many for the people who trusted these developers with their savings. So in the present financial climate it really is a case of 'buyer beware' and again I stress to all, 'use the services of a reputable agent'. It's free to the buyer and really should save you from a financial disaster.

In a depressed market with fewer buyers and fewer people with money to spend in general, has there been a corresponding drop in prices as one would expect?

As far as the developers are concerned, list prices have not fallen. In fact in most areas the price per square metre has increased from previous projects to cover the increased labour costs and the increase in the price of materials. If there are any discounts done then these are usually done by the agents who agree to being paid a lower sales commission from the developer in order to make a deal happen. In private re-sales it's a different story altogether. Again the list prices haven't fallen but most owners who are serious and motivated to sell are accepting offers of up to 20% below the listed price. In some cases, if the owner is sending the money back to Europe it has been possible for us to negotiate even bigger discounts due to the present excellent exchange rates.

So, is now a good time to buy or not – and please take your salesman hat off when you answer this question!

I wish I could keep my ‘salesman hat' on a lot more and I wouldn't have to work so damn hard 😉

Seriously, in all markets when there is a downturn there are opportunities to be made by the clever buyer and at the moment in the Pattaya property market there are such opportunities surfacing every week, mainly from the Russian owners but also some Europeans who for whatever reason are heading back home.

I'm pretty certain if I know what someone is looking for and providing they have the cash already here in Thailand, I can secure the property they want at below market price. You may have to wait a few weeks for one to come along but if you can buy 10 – 15% below market price then it's worth the wait. 'You make your money when you buy, not when you sell.'

I notice on the forums that there are expats who live in apartments that sell for around or even less than 500,000 baht, and the name Nirun Condo often pops up. Hell, that's about what I pay a year in rent! What do you get for that sort of money? Is it liveable or is it a rat hole…and no, just in case you're wondering, I am not thinking of returning to live in Paradise! I'm just curious.

I have to be careful here what I say, as I'm quite sure you have regular Stickman readers happily residing in Nirun Condo and I'm not here to offend anyone!

Nirun Condo is a very well established building. Some units there require a bit more than tender loving care…a case of you get what you pay for. A few studios are on offer at 500,000 baht and most need renovation. Others fully renovated, some with new furnishings are listed with us starting from 650,000 baht. So for the budget buyer who wants to live right bang in the middle of Sin City and doesn't want all the ‘bells and whistles' of an executive style building, then Nirun Condo ticks the right boxes!

Mate, you should be a politician or a diplomat!

The Thai baht is falling slowly but steadily and you can count me amongst those who think it's got some way to go and I would not be at all surprised to see it around 40 to the dollar come late 2016. That's got to be good for the property market, at least in terms of affordability for foreign buyers. Do you see any other headwinds or tailwinds that could affect the market?

Yes, you're not alone in thinking the fall of the baht has still some way to go from now until 2016. Many hold the same opinion and providing it does that may be just one stimulus to rejuvenate the property market. It will be interesting to see what effect the Chinese Yuan devaluations this week will have on the baht. Thai currency analysts are saying it will have little or no effect but let's wait and see. The other important factor, and I touched on this earlier, is the price of oil. While it stays around its present price then everyone is affected financially. Once it rises back to previous levels then I think it will help kick start an economic recovery.

There must be some good deals out there now. Do you have any hints or tips for readers in the current market conditions, both for those interested in buying as well as those who already own property in Pattaya and who might be looking to sell?

I touched on the subject a little earlier regarding the unfortunate position a lot of Russian buyers are finding themselves in due to the crash of the Ruble. But their position leaves opportunities for the clever buyers, providing you already have the cash here in Thailand and can do the deal within a few days. In most buildings coming to completion, some of the sellers are finding that it's impossible for them to make the final payment. Rather than losing all the money they have already paid, they are willing basically to cut their losses by offering discounts on the units that are well under the developer's list prices – up to 500,000 baht less. Effectively in this ‘fire sale' situation they are 'losing' 500,000 baht but they will walk away with 500,000 baht rather than nothing if they fail to make the final payment. The 'new' buyer then makes the final payment on top to the developer.

It's a win-win situation but the 'new' buyer usually has to pay in full and close the deal in a matter of days. This is the reason you need to have the funds to purchase already in Thailand so you can seal the deal quickly as these 'fire sales' are only on the market one or two days at most. Always remember, 'You make your profit when you buy, not when you sell.'

So what is happening with the market for condo rentals? Bangkok has been seeing a massive influx of foreigners in recent years – from retirees to those coming for work to long stay tourists and even students, all of which has had an effect on the rentals market which is vibrant. Has the downturn in the market in Pattaya and the fact that many Russians have pulled out seen any corresponding change in rental rates in Sin City?

I think it's fair to say the rental market in Pattaya has certainly quieted down in some segments. The housing market still remains strong because of the large expat long-term lease sector, in fact we are always searching for additional rental properties in the mid to high end market. Condos however, particularly at the lower end of the scale, are a different story with many having been vacant for several months whereas normally it's a case of one tenant out and one tenant in within a matter of days / weeks and with it being low season a few owners have lowered the rent on a long term lease to rates they previously would not have even considered, so for those looking for long term leases then there are deals out there to be had. However, for the short-term, one-month leases I think you'll find it's a case of business as usual and rates as usual!

So is the number of listings up, down or about the same?

When I started Pattaya Jomtien Property almost 6 years ago we would average 3 – 5 new listings a week. At present I would say we receive 10 – 15 per week. It could be that we have established such a good reputation in the city that more and more sellers are approaching us first to market their properties (tongue-in-cheek) or it could be the fact that there are a far greater number of sellers trying to flip units in the numerous buildings nearing completion. In the present climate only properties that are realistically priced with owners who are motivated to sell will actually attract viewings and subsequent offers, whether those offers are reasonable or not… If we can't attract a viewing then there will never be an offer made.

It is without doubt a buyer's market right now so any owner listing property with us must understand this, as we (the agents) actually pay from our own pocket the costs to market and advertise properties either in the media or online. Websites and banner adverts do not come free of costs.

Really?! I'd never have guessed!

So with this in mind we only select those properties that are realistically priced to sell and likely to attract interest to promote and market extensively.

By any chance do you have any listings currently that are particularly attractive or which you think are an especially good deal that readers might like to be made aware of?

There are plenty of good deals on the go at the moment at both ends of the price scale.

At the lower end we have a 44 square-metre one-bedroom on the 6th floor in the new resort style low-rise Laguna Beach Resort 1 by Jomtien 2nd Road, fully furnished and facing the pool. It's available in a foreign name at 2.3m baht, so for 52,000 baht per square metre, fully furnished and overlooking the pool it's a pretty good deal.

If you're looking for something a little more exclusive then it's worth taking a viewing at The Palm. It's a new high rise, absolute beachfront building, on Wongamat Beach and we have a 25th floor 82-square-metre, two-bedroom unit offering truly stunning sea and city views. It doesn't come cheap at 12.99m baht in a foreign name but then an absolute beachfront lifestyle never does!

So for readers looking to acquire a property or those looking to sell, how can they get in contact with you?

If you're in Pattaya or Jomtien we are pretty easy to find. Our office is located mid way along Soi 5, off Jomtien Beach Road. It's the same soi as the Post Office and Chonburi Immigration. If you prefer, you can call me direct on 085-0569880 in office hours to make sure I'll be in the office, or alternatively you can drop me an email me at:
I do try my best to answer each and every email within two working days.

Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok street food

Last week's photo was taken of what was left over of the rubble in The Tunnel, connecting Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7.

(These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

mens clinic bangkok

EMAIL OF THE WEEK An inverse relationship between product maturity and the maturity of its users.

I too got hooked on my early dial-up connection and paid a fortune in telephone bills when I got my first computer. The sense of adventure as you moved from one site to another via links was tremendous. Hours after starting looking at one site about say
travel, I'd wonder how I'd got to the site I was on. As to forums and chat sites, there was little nastiness or name calling. I cannot help wondering if that was because the first people with computers and the net had to be reasonably
educated with a technical background, and those who followed whilst maybe not so technically proficient were still of a higher than average level of education. Once computer usage became the norm, the web became more commercialised
and behaviour seemed to get worse. I gave up on most forums and chat rooms some time ago and stick to those that stay close to their subject matter and are well moderated.

Society hasn't changed.

As for the internet being filled with assholes, I don't think society has changed. The internet started out for the “elite” like researchers, university students, then computer literates, and it slowly spread to the entire demography.
Now we have full representation, which means we have all the class bullies, sexists, racists etc. But these people always existed, previously though they were only able to reach relatively few, although some of them would call in to radio / TV
shows that offered an open line, or write reader letters etc. There are however still many online fora which are pretty much free of these toxic individuals, so don't give up on the internet just yet.

Where the pussies of the world can be bad asses.

This week's column had the best line I think I've ever read on Stickman (and I'm talking 15 years of regular reading), "When did it become cool to be a cunt online?" CLASSIC! You painted the picture well but didn't
offer any opinions on why the Internet has become so hostile. I would suggest that is the inevitable result of a medium that discourages personalization and is totally devoid of accountability. In the real world you can't get away with slinging
shit and spreading lies for very long before it catches up with you i.e. being ostracized, sued or even punched out, but in the make-believe realm of the Internet one can be a total asshole and spout total bullshit without ever worrying about
real repercussions. So the biggest pussies in the world can become hardcore bad asses just by switching on their computer. The bad news is that as more people, particularly young people, become totally consumed by the Internet, the need to be
a genuine human being will continue to diminish. The Internet is fast creating a world where all opinions, styles, values and beliefs come from a screen that delivers information and misinformation in such mass quantities that even the most discerning
person can no longer determine fact from fiction. We have a whole generation coming up that have never known what a world without Internet as the central feature is like and social skills are rapidly being replaced by applications savvy. I get
depressed pondering the likely outcome of this "technological revolution". There are just too many parallels to Orwell's frightening vision of the future in 1984. The Internet-based social structure is far more subtle than he could
have imagined but the end game is the same. The sad thing is that the people who most need to hear this are the least likely to give it any thought at all! Good on you for getting out there in the real world and living your life!

Bringing the worst out of some.

wonderland clinic

The net has always had that anonymous quality & that has brought out the sociopathic nature of some correspondents. But yeah, things are full-on nowadays. The thing is: we're a different generation…we know what email is. Those gals with the
phones? They don't. For them it's content and it's wherever everyone else is: LINE, F***book, wherever. The ongoing privacy invasion becomes more blatant as vendors realise users have no idea, and don't care anyway. Check out
the skank on Windows 10 – it's outrageous, but people will just slap it on anyway. Or buy a new machine and there it is. Browsers and email are becoming quaint. I still stay off FB and Twit. That stuff's good for stalkers and celebrities.
All this rubbish just becomes more demanding.

Immigration hassles.

I see that you mention the experience at Immigration applying for a retirement visa for them to ask for verification of residence by the officials. A friend of mine experienced this last week when he went to renew his visa. He had never been asked for
it before and his wife had a cow there about it as it would mean traveling 100 km back from Immigration to their home. My friend said several other people had the same form in the office too. His wife was finally able to talk them down to just
signing it off in the office and then they required an additional 1,600 baht fee for executing the form that day. Needless to say he was quite unhappy (as was his Thai wife) with the situation which dragged out the visa process to 3 hours instead
of the usual 20 – 30 minutes.

Khao San erupts.

On Wednesday night I was at Khao San Road with a friend having a beer at one of the classy bucket bars. Suddenly someone backs up in to our table. There were (by my estimate) two foreign men being beaten by approximately six Thai guys, but more Thais
(waiters from other bars) joined in on the farang-beating-feast, kicking them in the head when they were down, one even taking a large wooden stick (or more like a baseball bat) and beating the farangs in the head! When the police arrived they
quickly arrested the farangs (as in threw them on the ground) and escorted them away, while not a single one of the Thais (who had just attempted to murder someone) were questioned. I do not know what these foreigners did, but I'm quite certain
they did not deserve to be kicked in the head. As for the police siding with locals, that's nothing new of course. It seems this place will never change. 2 minutes after the scene everything was back to normal, and those low-life thugs were
selling their bullshit buckets.

When it was the guys who picked the girls.

I was thinking back to my early visits to Thailand from 1989 – 1995 and I remember the gogos were relatively busy. I was always able to get a seat, but one thing that stood out was that guys were there to pick out the girls. The prices were reasonable and on one particular trip I remember being in Tilac for a few beers with a buddy of mine and #77 had got my eye. We left and made the rounds and when I was ready, I went back for her and she was getting dressed up to leave. Now it was the end of the night and I would say a good 75% of the girls had been barfined and I had to make a choice from the left-overs. In most of the gogos, barfines were reasonable and at quitting time they were pretty picked out. This last trip I noticed this wasn't the case and there were a lot of stunners punching the clock at quitting time. I'd be curious to know what the actual pick rate is these days.

Golden Bar, Nana Hotel, Bangkok

The Golden Bar circa 2011, on the outside of the Nana Hotel, Soi Nana.

The Golden Bar – the beer bar that sits on the outside of the Nana Hotel – is one of those Bangkok institutions that first-time visitors might not give a second glance, but for many old Asia hands and long-term expats it is full of memories. The Golden Bar has long been a popular spot on Soi Nana and is perhaps best known for its laid-back atmosphere. If you're one of the many who enjoys wiling away the hours at "the Golden", as many refer to it, watching the world go by and enjoying the world-class people watching vantage point, get down there and make the most of it because it will close at the end of next month. Word is that the old guy currently leasing it from the hotel has sold out. The Nana Hotel coffee shop / restaurant is to relocate upstairs to where the rarely used function room is with the downstairs area to be developed in to a pool & sports bar. Apparently unrelated, Bee, the manager of the Golden bar, finished up yesterday.

This past weekend, the Rainbow Group opened the newest ladyboy bar in Nana Plaza. It's not called Rainbow 5, but A Fairy Bar. This brings the total of all-ladyboy bars in Nana Plaza to 7 as A Fairy Bar joins Casanova, True Obsessions (previously known as Obsessions), Charade (previously known as Cascade), Sensations, DC 10 and Straps – which is a post-op ladyboy bar. There are ladyboys to be found in other Nana Plaza gogo bars including Suckers and London's Burning as well as few more – but the owners have asked me to refrain from mentioning them.

Captain Hornbag's birthday party last night at Club Electric Blue Pattaya was a raging success with entertainment provided by Nanapong. A dance contest was held in Captain Hornbag's honour and the bar was packed all night long. Nan from CEB Bangkok was the winner while 2nd and 3 places went to dancers from CEB Pattaya.

The Nanapong brand was once so strong that guys would make their holiday plans around the scheduling of the Nanapong dance contests. Nanapong dance contests resumed last year and interest snowballed. Things soon got hot and spicy and it was decided it might be best to take a break for a while. With things slow around the bars, the Pongers have decided to squeeze in a couple of contests before the next high season. If you're keen to see the sort of show you won't see anywhere else, the next official Nanapong dance contest will be held at Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy on October 10th with Club Electric Blue to host an event in Patpong on November 21st. If you weren't sure when to book your holiday, now you have a couple of dates to aim for.

The grand opening for the most eagerly awaited new bar in the industry in some time is Friday next week, August 28th when Bangkok Bunnies opens the doors on a night which will feature guest DJs and 200+ girls dancing on the bar's 4 stages. Next Friday should be a good night to stop by the plaza.

Bangkok Bunnies

The new sign outside Bangkok Bunnies. (photo supplied)

Photos taken in the lane connecting Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 that for the last several years has been known as The Tunnel show that the renovation is proceeding slowly, and the alley looks more like Berlin 1945 than Bangkok 2015.

Popular live music venue Country Road which has been in The Tunnel for a few years is still going strong. I'm told the ladyboy lounge in the alley is not doing as well as before.

Two other ladyboy bars closed this month. Dark Side on Sukhumvit soi 33 had been battling for the past couple of years and has finally closed its doors, along with Paradise in the Rajah Hotel car park, which is set to become a Tex-Mex restaurant.

On the subject of Sukhumvit soi 33, it's more than a year since The Londoner closed its doors. It was hoped that it would reopen in early 2015 but that date has been revised and it looks like The Londoner will reopen in Pattanakarn Road in October.

I was never much of a late-night guy and in recent years would be home in bed, fast asleep well before midnight. I never said a great deal about the streetside booze booths that don't get going until late at the night because I was never out and about late. Despite talk of a crackdown on these illegal streetside bars, they are flourishing and word from those out late is that there are more than ever.

Spasso's has never been the place to go if you're watching your pennies, but for those who are willing to pay the entrance fee (600 baht last time I went) you get a much nicer environment than just about any other hooker bar. OK, so Spasso's is not a hooker bar per se, but it has long been known for girls who are available. A mate who has long been a regular at Spasso's was quoted 6,000 baht by a freelancer this past week – for an hour of her time. Goodness knows what an all-nighter would cost. He decided a couple of glasses of wine would be a better way to finish the night and left the lass gasping in amazement that he didn't take her for a nightcap.

Speaking of freelancers, said friend maintains that one of the downsides of taking freelancers out of the better freelancer bars, the likes of Oskar and Spasso's, is that they are often drinkers with some getting through a bottle of wine a night. It's not until you get them back to your room that you realise they are drunk, all they want to do is sleep and frolicking wouldn't be a lot of fun.

So working as a prostitute is obviously not on the list of restricted professions if the comings and goings at Casey How are anything to go by. There are a number of ladies from Laos working for Casey How who have been issued with the little blue book. They even had to go to a hospital to have a medical completed to show that they were in good health and capable of performing their duties. Obviously it doesn't say hooker in their work permit just as many farang bar managers' work permits don't have the words "bar" or "manager", but usually some ambiguous term.

The girls might be making a lot more money these days than their sisters did in years go by. These days multiple barfines each night is the norm. But being so busy doesn't come without a cost. It's not that long ago that gogo dancers averaged just a dozen or so barfines a month and if they did a short-time, they typically didn't go back to the bar. I recently heard of a lady in a popular Patpong bar making over 100,000 baht a month doing multiple barfines a night. However, she says she can't go on like that and is burned out. At just 24 years of age, she feels that she is too old to keep up that rate. With multiple barfines per night the norm in Bangkok gogo bars these days there's a great opportunity for the girls to make real money. But the lifestyle really takes it out of them and my feeling is that, in Bangkok gogo bars at least, a lot of these girls are going to have a much shorter shelf life than girls did in the past.

I note a news report this week reported that the number of Chinese descending on Thailand is expected to increase exponentially. In October it is predicted almost 1 million Chinese will visit Thailand. That's one million visitors in just one month – and arguably one of the worst months to visit with October usually the wettest month of the year in Bangkok. I also note that RL Group is to start publishing a magazine in Phuket in the Chinese language called Dao, which apparently translates as The Island. The Chinese are going to change the world.

I liked "Bangkok 8" but have been unable to get in to any of John Burdett's other Bangkok-based novels. Unlike most other Bangkok novelists, Burdett's works have done well outside of Thailand and the region in general. For fans of Burdett, the latest Sonchai Jitpleecheep novel, Bangkok Asset,
is available on Amazon now.

If you find yourself in Khon Kaen and fancy some farang food, one of the most popular spots is a Mickey's Pizzas on Klang Meuang Road, about 1 km from the nightlife area. Last year it was voted as the best restaurant in Khon Kaen on Trip Advisor and at the moment they are a very respectable 2nd.

I don't think there is a word in Thai that translates as "tacky", at least not with the same nuance as tacky has in English. Does the concept of something being tacky exist in Thai?

For those who speak Thai well, who can read the Thai language & can write it but struggle to type it, there is a solution. Some smartphone apps have excellent dictation capabilities – and that includes in the Thai language. If you ever have reason to type anything in Thai, it's much easier than typing Thai on a keyboard (which is something even Thais can struggle with).

What came first – sugar being added to so many food products in Thailand or the Thais saying that food (as in just about every type of food item) should taste sweet. Thais put sugar on bread – that is bakers put it in the dough and many consumers sprinkle sugar on bread. Go with Thais to a steakhouse and many will douse a fantastic cut of meat in ketchup (which is near enough half sugar). And if they drink coffee, the odds are they prefer iced coffee which in Thailand often comes with two tablespoons of sugar. The way many Thais use the word "warn" (meaning sweet) where once they used "aroi" (meaning delicious) is something I have noticed in recent years.

Bangkok Bunnies grand opening

The Strip, Patpong. Bangkok, gogo bar

Quote of the week comes from a Thai, "In Thailand, the need to be seen to do something outweighs the need to do something."

Reader's story of the week comes from Mr. Anonymous, "Girl From Nan – A Journey Of Scam, Deceive And Contempt".

Here's a Q&A on how the Southeast Asian economic zone could change the region.

The issue of guns in Thailand was raised in the Aussie media
this week.

Despite record tourist numbers in Thailand, some tourism operators are doing it tough.

Thailand expects to receive almost one million Chinese visitors in the month of October alone!

Phuketwan takes a look at the great Phi Phi Marine Park rip-off.

Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal

Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department
directly for all of your legal needs.

: I have a credit card with a Thailand bank (note, this is a credit card, and not a debit card) with a 120,000 baht credit limit. Someone recently made purchases on this card in Bangkok right up to the credit limit, maxing it
out. No-one at the bank contacted me to say that the credit card had been maxed out and when my bill came there were 5 purchases all made in the same day, and none were made by me. I contacted SCB and explained that these purchases were not made
by me. They asked if I had lost the card or loaned it to anyone and I had not. They asked if I had allowed my wife or family members to use it. I live alone and don't have a wife. They advised that I make a police report which I did but the
bank says I am liable for purchases made. I still have the card in my possession and it has never been out of my possession. It lives in my wallet and actually, I hardly use it. The banks here are nothing like the banks back in America where there
is a process to go through and where if it is established that it was not the cardholder who made the purchases and the cardholder was not negligent then the cardholder is not liable. I know this is not Australia but I am not at all happy about
this. What can I do? Is there a banking ombudsman or any other higher authority I can go to? The bank is adamant I have to pay the account as I wish to stay living here, it's not like I can flee these charges.

Sunbelt Legal responds: Some banks do provide SMS and / or email notification for clients whenever a card is used. You would need to check with your bank if they do provide this service. There may be an extra charge but as you can see, it can ensure you get notified in case of fraud. However, not every bank provides this service. You will need to apply for this service if they do offer it however.

If your card had been lost or stolen you should immediately notify the bank's customer service center to cancel the card and issue a new card and PIN code.

You will first need to cancel the card and then file a police report to support your refusal to settle your credit card debt. The police will investigate the case and will request a statement from the bank.

The credit card company may still state you are liable for the bills and may possibly take you to civil court. However, they would most likely not win this action as you are not the wrongdoer in this case. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can represent you should the bank make it a civil case, ensuring that you are fairly represented and that the courts understand you are a victim as well.

Khao Sarn Road, Bangkok

Will huge numbers of Chinese visitors have any effect on farang strongholds like Khao San Road?

The world is changing and one of the biggest changes is the emergence of China as an economic superpower. Chinese travellers will make up the world's biggest group of international travellers by nationality and a news article this week predicted Thailand would receive close to one million Chinese visitors….in just one month, in the month of October. The numbers of Chinese who will visit Thailand in the years ahead are potentially so large that the permutations are as numerous as they are complex. Soon, Chinese will likely outnumber ALL visitors from farang countries combined and it won't be that long before they could theoretically comprise half of all visitors to Thailand. Will they continue to do the temple / beach / gem store / seafood restaurant circuit or will they show a greater interest in places that have long been popular with the white man. Will those enclaves that have traditionally been the domain of Westerners – the likes of Khao San Road and Bangkok's nightlife areas – see an influx of Chinese? It's happening on Walking Street already; will it happen in Bangkok? There's plenty of Chinese roaming Sukhumvit Road by day but by night they seem to disappear. If they do take a genuine interest in areas which have traditionally been popular with farangs, how will business owners respond? Things could get interesting.

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza