September is usually wet and this day was no exception, the rain coming down so fast the wipers shifted automatically in to top gear, furiously trying to push the torrent of water off the windscreen. In front of me, all I could see through the teeming rain was a blurry sea of brake lights. It was grid lock and the traffic wasn't moving. Another rainy September day, and another traffic jam. But Bangkok this wasn't. I was on Onewa Road on Auckland's North Shore, glancing nervously at my watch, and counting down the minutes to the cut off for check-in. I was on my way to the airport. Bangkok awaited.
The view from the Phrom Pong BTS station, looking west towards Asoke.
Returning to Thailand so soon had never been part of the plan. There were things that needed attending to and in many ways this trip was forced upon me. That's not to say that it was a trip I didn't want to make, more that I wasn't particularly excited about it.
There were people to meet and business to discuss. If all went to plan, it would take no more than 3 days, leaving me time to meet up with friends, visit old haunts, take some photos and do a bit of shopping. A week should do it.
With a smallish bag, just one camera and one lens, this was going to be a whirlwind trip. There would be no time for side trips, not even a mad dash down to Pattaya. I couldn't be sure I'd have time to do any photo essays and truth be told, I didn't have any great desire to shoot in the bars. What used to get the juices flowing is no longer exciting.
The slug was out early on Sukhumvit.
I'd only been gone 5 months and thought I'd slip straight back in to the rhythm of Bangkok, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Clearly I had acclimatized to New Zealand because on the first morning back I was positively melting. Sure, it was unseasonably warm, but I didn't cope with the heat at all. It was stifling, and reminded me of my first ever visit to the tropics.
Early morning and I am wandering around lower Sukhumvit, crouched down taking a photo of the slug when a bar boss almost stumbles inn to me. What are you doing here?, he asks. Never left, mate, I lie. We chat for a few minutes before I make my excuses. Any hope I had of flying under the radar was dashed within hours of arriving and by lunch time countless bar bosses will know I'm in town.
Back at the hotel a friend emails to say he thinks he has seen me wandering the streets and is indignant I had not been in touch. Another email comes in from someone who says I have been sighted.
Rather than trying to explain to people how I was in town for a short amount of time and wouldn't be able to meet up, I thought I'd quietly sneak in and out, flying below the radar. If only it had been that easy.
Graffiti in Bangkok is just getting worse and worse.
The first meeting was not until midday and I was keen to make the most of my limited time, so the first morning was spent strolling around the farang playground, checking out what had changed since I had left. Not a great deal, it would seem. New condos are going up faster than the weeds grow at the corner of Sukhumvit and soi 6. That aside, lower Sukhumvit looked much the same.
Graffiti is getting worse. Much worse. Bangkok used to be almost free of graffiti with slums about the only place you saw this garbage. Today it's everywhere, indiscriminately scrawled over public and private property – and no-one seems to be cleaning it up.
On the pedestrian overbridge at Sukhumvit soi 7 someone scrawled fuck corruption over a year ago. More than a year later, it's still there. No effort has been made to remove it. It was highlighted more than a year ago. The Bangkok governor should hang his head in shame at the lack of action. Ah, I forgot, problems in Thailand don't get addressed; rather they get worse. Sigh, I'm thinking like a Kiwi, not a Thai.
With no keyboard to hide behind, the ThaiVisa Lounge Bar in Sukhumvit soi 7 didn't prove to be a hit.
Walking around downtown Bangkok I find myself out of sync. I trip on the uneven pavement, walk too fast for the conditions, bump in to street vendors' carts and am generally out of sync with the rhythm of the city. It was much too hot for my liking. I didn't predict what would happen next in many situations as I used to be able to.
The Tunnel in Sukhumvit soi 7 looks more like Berlin, 1945.
New Zealand has changed me and reflecting on the trip, I realise that my general expectations are much higher now than when I called Bangkok home. Through the eyes of a visiting Westerner, I would see Bangkok in a very different light. When I once used words like character and charm, now I see filth and a general ugliness.
I cringed at the state of many foreigners who looked decidedly unhealthy. Blood-shot eyes and shoddy appearance was just part of it, as much as anything it was the way they carried themselves. There was no light in their eyes, not life inside, as if they were carrying many years of dejection. Many seemed dis-spirited and few seemed to have any urgency. Where once I chuckled at those on their third beer before the clocked ticked over to midday, now I found myself cringing.
Bars in both Nana and Cowboy show more evidence of marketing towards Japanese.
While I didn't see any visible signs of a greater presence of Japanese on the streets or in the bars – probably they are staying away as the Japanese are notoriously fickle and avoid destinations experiencing problems – clearly more effort was being made to target Japanese customers with new bar signs featuring text in Japanese.
I have to comment on the metal detector at the entrance to Nana Plaza. It is one big joke, and no more effective than the guards at entrances to the underground stations. The Nana Plaza metal detector is brought in each evening and taken away at the end of the night. It would appear to have been installed for show. If someone wanted to place a bomb in the plaza, they'd take it in during the day when anyone can walk through the place because the entrance is unmanned. And if you want to avoid the metal detector at night, you can simply walk from the street in to the front of Big Dog's and walk in to the plaza using the rear entrance of Big Dog's, bypassing the metal detector. You can probably do the same at K + S Bar and Stumble Inn but I was not really looking. The metal detector is a nonsense. I wonder if it even works.
Is he getting some sleep; is he the security guard, or both?!
Everywhere I went in downtown Bangkok was quiet. Even the traffic was relatively light. I did laps each morning at Benjakit Park and it was much quieter than it used to be. In my favourite foreign exchange outlet I was the only customer when usually there would be a couple of dozen.
I did not see one single building with increased security. While I'd received reports that buildings downtown had put in place increased security at entrances post the bombing, I saw zero evidence of that. In fairness, probably any concerns of imminent danger have passed.
The bars were quiet.
When night fell I trudged along to the bars with the same excitement a pig has before it goes to the abattoir. Aside from those who work in the industry, many friends hadn't stepped foot in a bar since I left Bangkok. In fairness, a few bars were pretty good with Black Pagoda, Club Electric Blue, Jail Birdz and Bangkok Bunnies all a lot of fun.
The girls were playful in those bars which were doing ok.
According to Dave The Rave, the mix of customers in gogo bars has changed. Where once the majority of punters were expats, today expatriates make up a small percentage of gogo bar customers. Are expats tired of it? With that said, while the bars of Nana and Cowboy are popular with visitors, Patpong bars seem to attract a higher percentage of expats.
It was scorching in the old part of the city and I wish I too had taken my shirt off.
None of my friends disagreed when I said that I felt the Thai smile had disappeared. One friend suggested that the reasons were as numerous as they were complex, a mix of concern about more bomb attacks in Bangkok, the ongoing political situation and worries about the economy. In the case of the latter, when have you ever heard Thais say the Thai economy is good? Ask any Bangkok cabbie and for as long as I can remember they have always said setakit mai dee – the economy is no good!
The lack of smiles starts with the very first Thai you interact with, the Immigration officer. The dudes in brown were taking more interest than ever before in passengers' travel documents. Where once it took perhaps 30 – 45 seconds to process each passenger, this time it was more like 2 minutes as every page of every person's passport was examined, each turn of the page punctuated by the officer looking up at the passenger, squinting, eyeballing them and putting on a suspicious face, all rather theatrical and comical. And now they ask you to write a phone number on the form. Which number are you supposed to write down? Your home phone number in Farangland? Your mobile? A Thai mobile? I mean, they're not really going to call you, are they?
After New Zealand, the food in Thailand is a great letdown.
I used to love eating out in Thailand and being able to eat every meal out used to be a big part of the appeal of living there. Eating out at some of my old favourite haunts was one of the things I was looking forward to, but truth be told, I didn't enjoy it all that much. Indus, Margarita Storm and May Kaidee aside, I thought most of the meals I had in Bangkok were kind of average – and undoubtedly unhealthy. No matter what they're cooking, the Thais show zero restraint with sugar, salt and bad oils. I probably sound like a food Nazi, but you really can taste the difference.
This would make a great where is this pic photo, but I am not sure many would get it right.
I had a bit under a week in Bangkok and I guess Saturday was the day I enjoyed most, the one day I had entirely to myself. No meetings, no dinner plans, a day all to myself to do as I pleased. I did what I enjoy most in Bangkok – I walked – a long walk that took me from my old stomping ground at Asoke, west along Sukhumvit to the Erawan Shrine to see it for myself post-bombing. From there it was on to Siam Square which for a Saturday was awfully subdued. I continued towards the old part of the city and made a loop of the Khao San Road area. Then it was over to the river where I perched for a while and watched the river traffic before following the waterway south in the direction of Chinatown, perhaps the only place in Bangkok where it felt like business as usual. I'd planned to walk back to the hotel but chickened out on the final stretch and took the underground back to Asoke.
The delights of hidden Bangkok.
I like discovering new places and the oddities and surprises you see walking in Bangkok, things which are only found by exploring on foot. Being away for 5 months, even walking a familiar journey meant there were plenty of new things to see along the way. I need to find more places to explore on foot, preferably large cities with depth to them where the locals are friendly, the weather agreeable and the food tasty. Large Indian cities, perhaps?
#1 and #5 – sure, the rest….no thanks.
Khao San Road was free of the made-to-order fake degrees, counterfeit drivers' licenses and dodgy credentials that it has long been famous for. A temporary thing or gone for good, I have no idea. At the end of the day this crap has made Thailand look bad for so long that it's good to see it go. And who would ever try to use any of those credentials anyway? I mean, who would try and use a fake FBI badge?
Outside the McDonald's branch on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 5.
I didn't get the feeling that downtown Bangkok was overrun with white guys quite the way it was when I left. Could it be that the influx of retirees has tempered; have perhaps digital nomads found places with more agreeable visa rules? When I left, Bangkok felt it was rapidly heading towards becoming a city as diverse and cosmopolitan as New York or London; this time it felt unmistakably modern Thai. Modern, as in new shopping malls and new condos. The city's unique flavour is being watered down by the day. You might even say that as it becomes more modern and less exotic, Bangkok is losing its soul.
Rachel from PureBangkokEscorts will feature in an upcoming column.
I was looking forward to getting back to the comforts of home, and right up until lunch time on my final day I was ready to leave. And then I looked at my to do list and saw that I had only met up with half the people I had wanted to meet, and I hadn't managed to visit some of my favourite places. I missed out on a walk around Lumpini Park and never did go for a river ride up to Nonthaburi. Never mind, they'll always be there.
It was a whirlwind tour and I wandered around in a daze, the combination of jetlag, the heat and stressful meetings meant I never really enjoyed it quite as much as I could have.
There's no place like home.
I walked out of the terminal at Auckland International Airport right in to a cold southerly. After a week in the tropics it caught me out and for a moment, just a very short moment, I wondered if perhaps I'd be happier if I were in Bangkok. A few seconds later that silly thought had disappeared and as I strolled to the car with the familiar fresh, grassy smell that hits you when you walk out of any airport in New Zealand, I was happy to be back home.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken in Soi Rambuttri, which runs parallel with Khao San Road.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (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.
Dysfunctional people have dysfunctional friendships.
On your question regarding why friendships fail in Thailand, I think there's a simple answer – Thailand doesn't attract the best of the West. To be more specific, it attracts dysfunctional people. Harsh words, but I find there is something not quite right with people who give up what they have in the west to live in a third-world country. Take me as an example: I'm educated, can hold a well-paid job – but I'll be blunt and honest: I'm not the West's finest and I know it. I find Thailand and the Philippines increasingly attractive. And you know what? So does my best mate who, I might add, is probably in the same dysfunctionality category as me. That's probably why we are best mates! My first trip to Thailand was 8 years ago. I went with a friend I knew all my life. He is what I would consider 'normal'. It's quite amazing that when I came back I started thinking of my next trip as my addiction was high, and he was bewildered wondering what all the fuss was about. With dysfunctionality comes relationship issues, both personal and to some extent, professional. As we don't have the greatest people in Thailand, we're bound to have issues with one another.
4 decades in Thailand….and just one expat friend.
After 37 years here in Thailand I have only one expat friend, a Frenchman who grew up here like me which is ironic because I'm from America. The reason for not making any expat friends is first, they just don't stick around very long and after a few years they are off to another country so it's just not worth the effort. The second reason is when they find out how long I've been here they ask too many stupid questions. All my close friends here are Thai – they are always there for you. It was not always like that and it took a long time for them to see me as someone not just passing by. My best Thai friends don't speak any English.
The danger of buying a Thailand website.
The company I work for is always looking for investments, and I toyed with the idea of proposing ThaiVisa to them. What put me off was this scenario: You buy the entire site and everything that goes with it. Then random posters start posting seriously defamatory posts about elite people. Screen captures are obtained and circulated on social media. At some point afterwards the Crime Suppression Division blocks the site in Thailand and the site / visitors / revenue goes down the pan. The bulk of the site is the forum and without the forum the site is nothing. I don't think it would take much for that to happen. It's a good job the Crime Suppression Division is not in any way corrupt, isn't it?!
I have an office near Sukhumvit area and decided to do lunch today in the Nana area. I must say that in the 3+ years I have been here I have never seen it so quiet or subdued. I walked over to Soi 4 just before lunch and traffic seemed much less congested than in previous weeks. The little soi that connects soi 11 and soi 3 near Bumrungrad was down to a trickle. I headed up Soi 4 and although just before lunchtime on a Friday, every beer bar was virtually empty or contained just 4 or 5 customers. I stopped at Hillary 2 for a beverage and was the only farang in the bar for over an hour whereas most days it has 5 – 10 customers playing pool or relaxing. After lunch, I headed back down Soi 4 and again it seemed eerily quiet. There were the typical older Western tourists on the street or in some beer bars e.g. Morning Night but it seemed that the Middle Easterners were missing from the scene. Is this a sign of things to come or just a result of what happened a month ago? There are definitely fewer people around. After lunch, I ventured back to my office and walked down Soi 11 and once again, I have never seen it this quiet in all my time here. It seems not even Thais were on the street having lunch. It was a bit cloudy and rainy today (but no more than a normal rainy season day in September) so I am not sure if that kept people away. What is happening? Is this an aberration, one off day or a sign of things to come? Or, am I becoming immune to the chaos of life here and see no differences? In summary, I have never seen Bangkok this quiet in 3+ years of living here.
I overnighted in Bangkok and Nana was the quietist I have seen it in years. Knee-deep in ladyboys though, it made me think back to your column when you suggested that they were painting the plaza yellow and would start calling it Banana Plaza. I don't know, mate, but your powers of prophecy are amazing. If any more "normal" gogos get replaced by ladyboy bars it really will be Banana Plaza, but for all the wrong reasons. Possibly the whole of Sukhumvit soi 4 may soon be known as Soi Banana!
Supporting a good cause.
I'm delighted to see a proactive woman create business opportunities for female ex-convicts in Thailand. Meth is one hell of a drug, and many of these women seem to have been caught up in the profitable trade through circumstance. They've served their time, and here's a legitimate opportunity for them. As I'm a fan of a good, powerful Thai massage, I'll consider heading to Chiang Mai for this winter holiday season as I haven't visited in over a decade, and among the northern city's various attractions, I consider this a cause well worth supporting.
Milk for the baby.
I was in Jail Birdz Tuesday night and saw a girl dancing up on the catwalk on the far side of the bar. I decided to have the staff bring her down so I could buy her a drink. When she walked over, I realised she looked too young for my tastes, perhaps too young to be working in a bar. I felt obligated to buy her a drink anyway, of course, and when the drink came, it was a shot of milk!
Spying on Stick.
I have a friend who knows you by sight and he said he spotted you at Soi Cowboy the other night. Then he saw you walk past Times Square the next day. I don't think he's stalking you though. Whether you're here for business or pleasure I hope you have a good visit.
Someone needs a disguise.
Somebody told me you are walking around in Bangkok. Is that true?
For 5 months I have been reliant on the eyes of others to relay to me what is happening in Bangkok's expat underbelly, but this week makes a change and all of the news is what I saw with my own eyes, along with conversations with bar bosses and bar managers – which is a whole lot easier to get to the bottom of things than emails and text messages. The first thing that struck me was just how quiet Bangkok was. Let's not forget it's the low season – September is usually the second quietest month of the year after June. There has been the drop-off in visitors following the Bangkok bombing along with the general economic uncertainty afflicting much of the world. Some put on a brave face and tried to say things are ok when clearly they aren't. It's really quiet out there.
On the one Friday I was in town – the Friday immediately after pay day, a night you expect to be one of the busiest, if not the busiest night of the month – the expat bar areas were dead. I visited all three and all were the same – business was dire. Without a word of exaggeration, it felt like the city had emptied out for a long holiday weekend. Bars that you expect to be pumping were so quiet you wondered if it was worth their while to open. Taxis can be hard to come by on the Friday night following pay day but most had the red available light shining bright. As for traffic jams, no chance…it was quiet out there.
The recently opened and very impressive M Quartier shopping mall – which some call Emporium 2 – was dead on Sunday. It's amazing that one of the newest, flashest malls in downtown Bangkok could be dead just a few days after pay day on the one day of the week Thais love to flock to shopping malls. The weather was scorching – making air-conditioned malls all the more inviting – yet M Quartier and even MBK were very quiet.
Are 300 baht beers and 750 baht burgers coming to Soi Nana? The jungle drums are beating louder than ever that the ground floor of Nana Hotel is going to be converted in to Bangkok's second branch of the Hard Rock Cafe. I'm not saying it's going to happen, merely repeating the rumour that is going around town.
Black Pagoda was fabulous, the pick of the bars I visited.
Three chrome pole bars stood out on this trip – Black Pagoda in Patpong and Bangkok Bunnies & Jail Birdz in Nana Plaza. Black Pagoda on Patpong soi 2 currently has a fantastic bunch of coyotes. They are fun, seem to enjoy what they do and are the best bar crew in a naughty bar I have come across in years. They're so happy and smiley and fun that it's infectious. Black Pagoda features coyote girls dancing on one side of the bar and gogo girls on the other. I liked it so much that Black Pagoda will feature in a bar group profile in next week's column. It looks like Black Pagoda is finally fulfilling its potential.
On Nana Plaza's ground floor, construction continues on Bangkok Bunnies which will soon be the largest farang-owned and run gogo bar in Thailand. Bangkok Bunnies has turned back the clock and the dance floor was packed with nearly 100 dancers last Sunday night. The large bar currently seats around 300 and was packed with punters. The interior of Bangkok Bunnies has not undergone many major changes since being renamed from Spellbound, although that will all change when the expansion is completed. The main change seemed to be the removal of the silly cages on stage. Bangkok Bunnies features a great sound system and tunes to match and is worth checking out.
The final bar which impressed me was Jail Birdz which is a copy of Alcatraz in Walking Street. The line-up featured many very pretty ladies and more than half of the customers seemed to be Japanese – although that was half of not too many. Jail Birdz is not without its problems and was closed for one night a couple of weeks ago when the girls refused to work because the boss was unable to pay them. Despite a troop of very pretty dancers, word is Jail Birdz is struggling.
Things really are looking up in Nana Plaza with the Dutchman who purchased what was Spellbound and London Calling (which he has since turned in to Bangkok Bunnies) having this week acquired Billboard and Bubbles. That means he has the entire left side of the top floor and the Nana Group no longer has anything to do with those 2 bars. The plan is to strip the two bars out and carry out some much-needed repairs, but they will remain open for the time being. A complete rebuild will be done after the high season. Because the build will be so extensive they will have to close for a couple of months – but that can all wait.
Two other long-time favourite bars I stuck my head in, Tilac and Dollhouse, were quiet. In Patpong, Club Electric Blue was the busiest bar and humming along nicely.
Bar owners in Patpong are paranoid about employing non Thai nationals or those not of legal age after what happened to Pussy Collection in Patpong soi 1. Caught employing women who shouldn't have been there, Pussy Collection was reportedly ordered closed for 2 years!
But that pales in comparison with Casino Club in Pattaya which is facing a 5-year closure after being caught open late (or is that open early?) when the authorities found a crowd partying at 7:30 AM a few weeks back.
A well-known Pattaya gogo bar is erring on the side of caution, has changed their hiring procedures and now won't hire anybody aged under 20.
Speaking of Pattaya, which bar foreign manager had a wok smashed over his head by his lady friend last week? I guess it just goes to show that even those who are supposed to know how to play the game don't always get things right.
Living Dolls Showcase on Walking Street was busted this week for explicit shows but continues to operate and it's business as usual. They're probably waiting for the paperwork to be completed and served, with a lengthy closure order expected. Don't read too much in to what is likely a one-off bust. I would not expect any of the other many bars where similar explicit shows are performed will cease to put on such shows, nor will they be visited by the authorities. In such busts, it's usually a case of the authorities making a point, and generally the reason for that is that the bar failed to make a donation.
For a long time my favourite bar in Pattaya, Secrets is very quiet most nights, no matter how much of a positive spin management try to put on it. You know things aren't what they used to be with word coming out of Secrets Towers that they are considering going down-market and filling the place with beer bar girls.
Back in Bangkok, Nana and Cowboy have joined Patpong in that they can both now (un)officially stay open until 3 AM. It's been that way in Cowboy for a few weeks already, but in the case of the Nana area, a big meeting was held with Lumpini police and Nana bar owners on Wednesday September 3rd following which a 3 AM closing time was agreed upon, and no doubt a special licensing fee was requested. This brings Bangkok's three expat bar areas in to line with each other. When I departed Bangkok earlier this week, most of the Thai-owned bars in Nana Plaza (the Rainbow's and a few others) were NOT taking advantage of the later closing time and were turning the house lights on and the music off at 2 AM, whereas most farang bars were going through until 3 AM.
But don't think this is a nationwide thing. Up in Chiang Mai, the bars on Loy Kroh Road are being forced to close between 2 and 5 PM. Word is that a new police chief is shaking everything up.
It's hard to walk through Cowboy end to end without being groped. Dancers from the Arab's bars are not shy about trying to grab your parts as you walk by. They're so aggressive that it's almost as if they are under instructions to grope passersby.
In the time I was away from Bangkok, one of the things I noticed was that some bargirls body shape had changed drastically – and in every case they had gone from being a little on the plump side to being very, very slim. Some most have lost 15 – 20 kg in 5 months… The cynic in me says this was a pharmaceutical thing.
Smooci has reshaped the face of Bangkok escorting and p4p scene. The next generation escort directory brings together freelancers, bar girls, and escort girls all under one competitive roof. With genuine live searches and verified
Hooters will finally open in Bangkok with sexy, top-heavy girls serving beer and wings from this coming Friday, September 18. Hooters is on the ground floor of 4 points By Sheraton in Sukhumvit soi 15.
As a reminder, the Rugby World Cup starts this coming Friday and matches will NOT be broadcast in Thailand on Setanta which shows most of the international rugby matches, but on Fox Sports. I'll be glued to my TV watching it for the next several weeks. I'm going against what the so-called experts say and am picking a New Zealand vs. Australia final.
I am sure any pub worth its salt will be showing all the Rugby World Cup matches live although a number of games start very late after most these pubs have closed. One restaurant & bar full of TVs which is open 24 hours and will show the late-night matches live is Margarita Storm, at the start of Sukhumvit soi 13.
The historic old building 50 odd metres in to Sukhumvit soi 14 which is home to Hemingway's will be history next year. Word is that they don't want to vacate but a deal has been done and they will be on their way. I am informed that the wonderful historic building will be demolished next year to make space for – you guessed it – yet another new hotel. As nice as Hemingway's is and as lovingly as it has been done out, the few times I have eaten there the food has left me unimpressed.
Things are tightening up for visa runners with word that as of yesterday you cannot exit Thailand and immediately return at any of the border crossings with Cambodia or the little-used border checkpoint with Myanmar at Phu Nam Ron in Kanchanaburi province if you don't already have a valid visa in your passport (multiple entry non-immigrant visa or a tourist visa with an entry yet to be activated).
I cannot stress enough that if you are looking for financial advice in Thailand, think again! There are many cowboys in Bangkok working in the financial services industry so I'd suggest that sticking to the regulated environment of your own country. Just because someone comes from your homeland and speaks your language doesn't mean they can be trusted. Thailand has developed a bit of a reputation for dodgy foreign financial advisors – and I am not talking boiler rooms – but of folks who claim to be able to invest your money for you and make you better returns than they should legally be allowed to promise.
Super Rich, Thailand's biggest (and many say best) private money exchange company has killed its old website. If you were using the old SuperRich site, you can find the new site here. If you're a regular visitor it's a great site to bookmark to see what's happening to your currency against the baht.
If you have a legal question you'd like answered, you can send it in to me and I will put to Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors to answer for you. Please try and keep the question reasonably brief and to about 120 words, if possible. This service is totally free. If, however, you find yourself in a bind and actually require a lawyer, you can send email to Sunbelt Legal directly at: email@example.com.
If you have time to kill and would like to use free Wi-Fi, at Coffee World the password is: abcd1234. Just don't have a heart attack when you see the price of a cup of coffee!
Quote of the week comes from GB, “If the Thai police want to arrest criminals, they should start with themselves.”
The Phuketwan reporters are found innocent in the defamation case brought against them by the Thai Navy.
Police in Bali get a bad rap from some Western tourists who feel they see them as a way of making easy money.
The Immigration Department head honcho is in the firing line for suspected irregularities by his officers.
Time magazine ran the best article on the issue of Wyn Ellis and the plagiarising Thai.
Living Dolls Showcase got raided by police for explicit shows.
A jock goes crazy in the Philippines and is wheeled out of his hotel on a luggage trolley!
Bangkok police attempt to crackdown on the Jetski scam in Pattaya (and I am not holding my breath!)
Questions are still being asked about what happened to long-time Bangkok expat writer Dave Walker whose remains were found in Cambodia.
The Daily Mail ran a cool photo essay on Thais living in the remains of old planes in Bangkok.
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.
Question 1: I own a couple of apartments in Bangkok and I'd like to transfer them to my daughter. She has dual Thai / British citizenship. What's the legal age for owning property in Thailand? One of the apartments is the family home. Is there any way of transferring the property to her name but preventing her from selling it for a specific period so that the family is guaranteed the right to continue living there?
Sunbelt Legal responds: It is possible to gift your property to your daughter; there is no limit on the age for the child to receive the property. It is also possible to impose a restriction on the gifted property that it cannot be sold or transferred to another party for your specified duration. However, this cannot be for more than 30 years. If no definite time is specified then it can be imposed for the lifetime of the recipient.
As your daughter has Thai nationality then the gifting of the property is not an issue but if the recipient is not a Thai national then the Land Office allows only a sales transaction from foreigner to foreigner. The recipient would need to transfer in funds from overseas to purchase the unit the same as any other foreigner purchasing a condominium unit in Thailand.
It is also important to note that if your daughter is a minor and you gift the property without restrictions then neither you nor the mother would be able to sell the property; the Family Courts would need to be petitioned and would be unlikely to approve the sale. Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience in transferring condo ownership and can assist you in this process.
Question 2: It is now September, and in exactly one year, September 2016, I need to renew my UK passport. However, in 2 months time, in November, I need to renew my marriage visa. As it runs until after my passport has been renewed next September, is my visa still valid if I just transfer it to the new passport next September, or do I need to renew the passport before November this year?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Normally the visa extension would be for one year but since your passport expires before that period then the validity of the visa would expire on the same date as your passport expires. So, since your passport expires in September 2016 your visa extension would only be granted until September 2016 and at that time you would have to apply for a new one-year extension. If you wish to avoid losing that two months then Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that you renew your passport before you do your one-year visa extension.
Question 3: I've just finished defending an Appeal Court action made against me. I'll skip the details for personal and defamatory (!) reasons but the Appeal Court upheld the lower court's decision. However, I am aware that there are three levels of court in Thailand, with the Supreme Court (Dika) at the top. Can the person who made the original claim against me and the subsequent appeal against the original verdict now go to this third level? I ask as I have to pay for my legal costs and whilst not exorbitant, it'd be nice to know that the opponent can't keep on making these spurious claims.
Sunbelt Legal responds: There are numerous requirements as well as scenarios for the case to be eligible to progress to the third level – factors include the parties' reasons for proceeding higher than the Appeals Court. Given the brief description it is difficult to determine if your case is eligible to progress to a higher court or the possible outcome. If you would like another opinion please feel free to contact Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors for a meeting to review the case.
The Erawan Shrine was not the only place that was very quiet when I popped by.
I'm all for putting a positive spin on things, but at the same time there can be a fine line between being positive about something and outright lying. Looking back at some of the mainstream media reports coming out of Bangkok in the days following the bombing at the Erawan Shrine, it's now patently clear that some put an unrealistically positive spin on things and how Bangkok had supposedly returned to normal. I was in Bangkok 2+ weeks after the bomb, and it was very quiet, nothing like what I would consider normal. Downtown Bangkok was as quiet as I have ever seen it, Songkran aside, and I was like, where is everyone?! Even on the one Friday night I was in town, which happened to be just 3 days after most people were paid (which would usually make it a very busy night) it was very quiet out and about! September may be the second quietest month of the year for tourism but it still felt very quiet as many locals chose to stay safe at home. People were still talking about the bomb and many were too scared to go out.
Your Bangkok commentator,