Today's opening piece about visa runs wasn't finished in time to run in today's column as I spent much of today watching the first two Rugby World Cup quarter final matches, followed by reading rugby reports and listening to sports talkback as we Kiwis wallowed in the after-match glow of our beloved All Blacks' best performance in years. Yep, I put my love of rugby ahead of my love of producing this column, hence there is no opening piece today. My apologies. I do hope you still find this week's roundup of news, views and gossip worth tuning in for.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the Starbucks branch at the edge of Pahurat, the area known to some as Little India. This week's photo was taken that far away from there.
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.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The big sacrifice.
The Thai ladies from the escort interview section aren't even close to office girls in terms of sophistication, style or beauty. When will men understand this? Even a brief fling with a real Thai lady trumps a long-term barfine with a working girl. It is so easy to see the reality of working girls versus office girls. And with barfines @ 1,000 baht in spots and short time @ 2,000 baht and long time higher, you'd actually save money by courting a real girl! Add in a few drinks for you and you're easily talking 4,000 – 5,000 baht for 2 hours with a bargirl at most. With a measure of self-respect and the courage to approach a non-bargirl, the rewards are worth it. To reap such rewards, a man would have to make himself vulnerable – and that's what mongers avoid. To go on a date with a Thai lady, you have to ask her out on a date. Amazingly, you could wind up in a real relationship and having real sex. Many men in the monger community think of the risk of a relationship that goes sour; they've lost faith in their own ability to be a true partner in a long-term romantic encounter. The reality is they are sacrificing all of the great things that are part & parcel of the affection of a well-raised lady.
Finding paradise in Isaan.
You wrote of small bars / restaurants struggling to make ends meet. I know of one that appears to be doing well with both farangs and Thais. A few months ago I discovered what can only be described as an oasis out in the Isaan countryside but less than 15 minutes from where I live. It's a couple of kilometres out of Huay Phung on the road to Mukdahan called AJ's Pizza and Steak. Not sure why as the owner is called Steve. He's a Brit from Manchester and he previously worked at the city's largest hotel, The Midland. And that explains why the food is so good and so well presented. He really knows what he's doing. The menu can be a bit limited although he is slowly expanding it and he's open to ideas, and he even bakes my bread for me. Until he arrived on the scene there was very little choice in the area, and all of them served food I would hesitate to give to my dogs. I live in the countryside but have high-speed internet (much faster than I had in Bangkok), satellite TV with Premier League football in HD, two fresh markets and two 24-hour Tesco Lotus and 7/11 mini-marts nearby, a computer repair shop where the staff trained with Microsoft in the US and really know what they're doing, fresh air – and now great food. Thailand really is developing at a pace. Life doesn't get any better.
I agree with you that many people have Bangkok, as opposed to Thailand, on their bucket list. The question I have is why? What does Bangkok offer that other cities in the world don't? I would be interested in your and other readers' views.
From the best airport in the world.
As for confiscated items from airport security, I did not take a great deal of notice but in Singapore's Changi Airport they have security checkpoints at the boarding gates and just outside the gates there is a box with advertising that says something like, for items you can't take on board your flight send them via Singapore Post. I'm not sure how you weigh and pay for it but it looks like a parcel post box. A good idea.
Relaxing in The Den.
I dropped in to The Den on Sukhumvit Soi 12 one afternoon this week. The place was quiet with enough empty sofas to relax, but I chose a bar stool in the centre overlooking the 3 sharks in the aquarium. There were a sufficient number of girls around, and they weren't pushy so I could enjoy my drink quietly before heading off. Not a bad place to kill some idle time in the afternoon.
Tattoos and good girls.
On the subject of tatts, a mate has been trying his luck on TF without any luck to speak of. He has been in Bangkok now for about 7 months and had a few dates but it seems that a lot of ladies there have jobs that one would not call them good girls. The thing is, he likes girls with tattoos and I have told him that I don't think too many good girls in Thailand would have tattoos all over them. Would my assumption be right or am I right off the mark? <In the old days your assumption would be right but nowadays more young Thai women have tattoos, although not nearly as many are tatted up as in Western countries – Stick>
I was very impressed with Chef Luis – his life story was very inspiring, the American dream personified. I was interested in your comment about how "Yanks" get passionate and argumentative about Mexican food. I'm 61, have lived in Texas, Arizona and have visited many cities in Mexico, and can honestly say I have never had an argument about Mexican food. Sure, I have disagreed with friends about a certain restaurant, or perhaps whether a certain dish is "authentic Mexican" or "Tex Mex", but never had an argument. I think most Americans, unless they have spent significant time in Mexico, know that many popular dishes (nachos, fajitas, burritos) are not really authentic Mexican fare. But if it's delicious, who cares!
Angeles City is not Pattaya.
I've been to Angeles City before. Twice. Great place but there's something weird about the bars system. You pay the whole barfine & the lady for her time for 2,000 pesos (about 33 pesos to the AUD). It's non-negotiable and that's the way Walking Street in Angeles works. The red-light district area (for foreigners) is in Walking Street. In other parts of Angeles the crime rate is high. I don't mind the place and there's no shortage of women but I still prefer Pattaya. I think Pattaya is more laid-back and safer. I loved the back street bars in Pattaya where you sit around, play pool and drink with the girls. It's more "civil". My mate wants to retire in the Phils. He's 52 and not getting any younger. He just got back from 4 weeks over there and there's no shortage of women entering the bar industry in Manila so I'm guessing Angeles would be the same. He reckons majority of the tourists are Australian as it's probably the better economy of first world countries. Americans used to be in every corner of the bars in Manila but now apparently they're gone! In the bars of Manila the girls are complaining about where the tourists have all gone.
The biggest farang gogo bar in the country, Bangkok Bunnies in Nana Plaza, doubled in size this week as the bar once known as Voodoo was gobbled up. The construction is not quite finished and smaller details will take up to another month to finish, at which point the boss is confident it will be very impressive. The second entrance is still not open and food should be available outside within a week or so. It sounds like its final completion date will be good timing with the high season not too far away.
In Nana Plaza, it's worth making the climb to the top floor and sticking your head inside Jail Birdz which has brought in one of the acrobats behind the legendary shows performed in Jail Birdz' sister bar in Pattaya, Alcatraz. This is one of the girls who featured in Thailand's Got Talent. What she does is way beyond anything you have seen in a gogo before, although don't misinterpret that – we're not talking shows in the Nanapong style, but genuine class. Jail Birdz' roller coaster ride continues but for now it's definitely worth a visit.
Friends tell me that Patpong is standing out amongst bar areas for the wrong reason – it is very, very quiet. No surprise really given that there is only a handful of must visit bars and they are all in a small cluster at the Silom Road end of Patpong soi 2.
The gogo guru, Dave The Rave, is no longer to be found at Patpong having parted ways with the Bar Bar / The Strip / Black Pagoda group. More on where Dave can be found in a future column, most likely next week. If you find yourself floating around Dave's spiritual home, you might come across him.
A couple of weeks ago one of the Arab's bars never opened one night and there was no explanation as to why. On Thursday night of this past week two of the Arab's bars never opened – the lights were turned on but there was no music, no staff and no business done. The speculation is that like many bar bosses, the Arab is struggling to hire enough staff so some nights he chooses to consolidate dancers in a smaller number of bars.
Sad news comes from Soi Nana where Hillary 4 has said goodbye to Dom, a long-serving member of the team and occasional neck masseuse, who was killed in a motorbike accident last week.
Work is still stalled on The Tunnel, the back alley that serves as a short cut between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7. Despite looking like a construction site, 3 businesses continue to function. At the soi 5 end, there is still one bar in operation and at the opposite end, both Country Road and the Check-In Bar, the latter a ladyboy venue, are still open and pumping. It is also again possible to walk the length of The Tunnel – just be careful at night, lest you slip over and do yourself an injury. Lights have been jury-rigged and broken pieces of concrete have been laid like paving stones for most of the length. Toward the Soi 5 end you can exit through the Amari Boulevard Hotel parking lot.
Looking for a venue with a good atmosphere to watch English Premier League matches? Stumble Inn on Soi Nana has long been a favourite and will screen the Manchester derby live next Sunday, October 25, with kickoff at 9 PM. A free buffet will be served at half-time and there will be the chance to win 3 litres of Draught Chang by correctly predicting the final score. If that's not enough, there's a free bottle of Chang Beer for everyone turning up in club colours.
The large sign for Hooters in Soi Nana covers the space that was the Golden Bar.
A huge sign some 3 metres in height and estimated at more than 10 metres in width covers the frontage of what was the Golden Bar, announcing that Bangkok's second branch of Hooters (the first opened just last month) is under construction. The new hooters will take up the space that was the Golden Bar as well as 90% of the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop. The chosen location for Bangkok's second Hooters outlet in seedy Soi Nana is a curious one. In addition to what I find a curious choice of location, one also wonders just when the decision to build a second branch – which is just a 10-minute walk away from the other branch of Hooters – was made. Are Hooters branches going to start popping up all over Bangkok like branches of Starbucks? I guess that wouldn't be so bad, would it?! Soi Nana is an interesting choice of location and I can't shake the feeling that big-breasted staff in tight-fitting t-shirts in the Nana area might be signing up for more than they bargained for.
Thursday is the chosen day off for many of the girls at one of the large Thai-style massage parlours on Rachada Road, the one with a name that sounds a little bit like "battery". The reason they take Thursday off? That's the day the doc visits, bringing with him syringes, beakers and rubber gloves. The girls are anxious to avoid the doc altogether although it's not sure what they fear most – the pain of the needle, the embarrassment of a smear test or the expense of the test, to say nothing of the fact that many Thai working girls would rather not know if they have actually contracted anything nasty.
With the demise of Stringfellows Bar in Pattaya, the number of teams playing in the 4th annual Ladyboy Water Volleyball Competition on November 7 at Pattaya's Areca Lodge is now five. All tickets have been sold and according to the organiser, a hard core of regulars will be flying in from around the globe especially for this event.
After braving a tough low season, being flooded out twice and the loss of their iconic street sign, Checkinn99 is in fight-back mode big time. There's a new floor in the original black and white tiling, stage, kitchen and bar area and the famous old street sign is being modified (to be a little higher and shorter) and is due to go up in the next 10 days. Next Saturday and Sunday evenings, that is October 24 and 25, from 8 PM the house band Music of the Heart will be on a mission from God. Already well-known for its Blues Brothers nights, Checkinn99 will put on two consecutive shows featuring a tribute to the Blues Brothers accompanied on alternate sets by touring Dutch swing band B2F. Don your dark glasses and join a great night of entertainment. 200 baht cover will include a welcome house drink. More details at: Checkinn99bkk.com.
And more for lovers of ladyboys, A Fairy Bar in Nana has the same problem the bars that once occupied that spot in the plaza had, namely G Spot and Candy Land. Deceptively large inside, A Fairy Bar looks quiet because the big bar only has a medium-sized crew. A Fairy Bar is operated by the Rainbow Group, as they sought to avoid confusing their faithful customers by naming it Rainbow 5. When A Fairy Bar opened it boasted a troop of almost 100 dancing ladyboys, but numbers have been in decline and at last count was nearer 40. And in such a large bar, A Fairy Bar looks quiet despite the frolicking transgenders doing their best to liven things up.
A Fairy Bar, previously Candy Land and before that G Spot.
G's, the outstanding German restaurant in Patpong soi 2 with very reasonably priced food, looks likely to relocate in the near future. The new location is most likely to be the predominately gay bar soi, Silom soi 4, less than 100 metres away. The reason for relocation is the usual story – rents have reached a point where the business is no longer viable in its current location. If you enjoy good food at very reasonable prices, G's is worth a visit. The owner is an award-winning chef in his native Germany.
The American embassy's American Restaurant Week starts on the 26th and leading up to it Sunrise Tacos has a great space. For every 500 baht spent at any Sunrise Tacos or its sister Margarita Storm location, you get two items absolutely FREE when you say to your server "American Restaurant Week”. You get a slice of Sunrise's delicious apple pie which is loaded with American Granny Smith apples AND you get a Coca-Cola collector's glass. This promotion is exclusive to Sunrise Tacos in partnership with Coca-Cola.
High season isn't far away and that time is coming when there can be a scramble to book air tickets and make hotel bookings before they're all snapped up. There is an anomaly in the high season when it isn't busy at all – and that is the first half of December. That period is like a black spot, town can be quiet and the bars feel more like the low season than the high. Every year, bar industry figures worry the high season isn't coming and with early December traditionally quiet, some bar bosses can worry themselves silly. Visitor numbers jump around December 15th and soar from Christmas Day through to around mid-January when things taper off and slowly, ever so slowly decline. If you're keen to enjoy the best weather, but avoid both the crowds and pricey airfares, aim for the first two weeks of December.
I've often felt (and said) that Thailand can be an intellectual graveyard – and that extends to expat society if you don't choose your friends wisely. For those who crave discussion with like-minded individuals and intellectual stimulation, a philosophy club and discussion group has been founded by an expat in Bangkok. More details can be found here.
It's a couple of months since the announcement of a new class of tourist visa which will be introduced next month, the multiple entry tourist visa. Details have been published at some Thai embassies and consulates around the world outlining the requirements. Some Thai mission state a requirement to show a bank account with funds sufficient to finance such a trip – one embassy has a requirement of 6,000 Euros while another list the figure of $8,000. The new visa appears to only be available to nationals of that country so, for example, at the Thai embassy in Canberra or the Thai consulate in Sydney, the only people who such a visa would be issued to are Australian citizens or those who can prove they are resident in Australia. This would seem to be a deliberate effort to prevent those who have long gamed the system by using double-entry tourist visa after double entry tourist visa from neighbouring countries (Vientiane springs to mind). Clearly this visa is targeted at genuine long-stay visitors. A side effect of this new class of tourist visa is that it appears that double-entry and triple-entry tourist visas may no longer be available and while there has been no official announcement to that effect, some suggest that they may even be abolished. If double entry tourist visas are abolished and the only way to apply for a multiple-entry tourist visa is by doing so in one's own country, Thai embassies and consulates in the region such as those in Vientiane, Penang, Phnom Penh and Sawannakhet are likely to see a significant drop in visa applicants (and income from visas). That would mean those who visit these consulates won't have to suffer the long queues that have become a feature in recent years. I'm in a minority and believe that this new multiple-entry tourist visa is a change for the better. Whoever came up with all of the requirements and policies such as the requirement to apply in your home country put a lot of thought in to closing the most commonly exploited loopholes.
Still on the subject of regular visitors and visas, there has been a spike in reports online of people with a history of many trips in to Thailand being stopped and questioned at Immigration. And this is not a simple question or two, but in the reported cases being stopped for half an hour and questioned at length about what they do in Thailand. Those stopped have entered Thailand more than 6 times in a year (it is not known whether this means calendar year or 12-month period) without a visa i.e. they expected to enter the country without a visa as they qualify for a visa waiver. Westerners have long been able to enter the country without a visa and some offshore workers who spend their downtime (and A LOT of their hard-earned) in Thailand can fly in many times each year and never bother with a visa because they never spend more than a month in country at a time. If you enter Thailand 6 times or more per year without a visa, be aware that you might be required to get a visa in future.
Yahoo takes a look at 11 of the best cafes in Bangkok.
Thailand prosecutes American photojournalist Anthony Kwan for bringing body armour in to Thailand.
The Sydney Morning Herald lists 20 things about Thailand you may or may not know.
In Thailand, just because it's vegetarian doesn't mean it's healthy!
Thailand has scrapped its unpopular great firewall of Thailand plan following outrage about it online.
Not fingerprint, but face scanners are coming to all border checkpoints in Thailand.
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 will move to Thailand with my long-term Thai girlfriend (note: NOT my wife / we are not married) in the next few months and we plan to buy a house in a new development in Bangkok for 7.99 million baht. I understand that being land this cannot be in my name as I am a foreigner and it will be purchased in my girlfriend's name and I will have no claim to it. I understand and accept that and having discussed this with my girlfriend, she is happy for me to have a 30-year lease on the property so if anything happens to our relationship, I will, theoretically, be able to stay there until the end of the lease. My question is what steps do I need to take for this to happen. Do we buy and pay for the property first and then file the 30-year lease, or is it the other way around? Also, are there any ongoing annual costs with such a lease? I'd be very appreciative of any more information or details you can provide.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that a lease should be executed and registered after the purchase (from your seller to your girlfriend) takes place. However, it may be necessary to delay registering the lease as some officers at the Land Office feel that immediate registration of lease after a purchase is suspicious and could be seen as a way of helping a foreigner obtain property in Thailand.
Since it is a lease, you would be required to pay rent and pay it on time otherwise it would give the landlord (your girlfriend) cause to terminate the lease. This is a distinct possibility should the relationship turn sour. However, you can set the rental costs in the lease contract.
The government fees due at the Land Office for registering the lease are 1% of the total rental value. For example, if you are renting a property for 10,000 Baht per month for a period of 30 years, the rental value will be 3.6 Million Baht (10,000 x 12 months x 30 years). Therefore the government fees due will be 36,000 Baht.
Other ongoing costs besides rent would be the costs to maintain the property.
There are some extra protections that would allow you to own the building when your Thai partner acquires land and leases it to you. This would be you sign the lease and then later retain a construction company to build a house on top of this leased land for you. But you will need to complete the petition requesting a house number.
If your Thai partner is acquiring the complete property (house and land), it will be difficult to separate the 2 items as this would require public announcements for a certain period of time in order to sell the building to you, but most importantly it will be up to the Official to allow this transaction to go through. Please be informed that there would be no ownership certificate issued for the building, only the official sale and purchase agreement issued by the Land Office.
It is important to note that we have had a few cases where the Thai owner forged the lessee's signature on a power of attorney and then cancelled the lease allowing the owner to sell of the land and house. This has happened where the Thai land owner was gambling and pressured by loan sharks. In both cases the wife or girlfriend went to prison but the foreigner lost his home.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that you consider a different form of lien imposed on the property; a servitude either in a form of a Usufruct or Right of Habitation. This could be registered and applicable for a period longer than 30 years and it can be registered for a lifetime of the grantee. In the agreement (both the initial agreement and the Land Office version), it should specify that the title deed (ownership certificate) shall be kept with the Lessee/Grantee to avoid the Lessor/Grantor from re-issuing a new deed without the Lessee/Grantee knowing. If the Lessor/Grantor did process the reissuance of the land title by claiming that he/she has lost the deed, he/she shall be considered as making a false statement which can also result in prosecution under Thai law.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you with the negotiations with the developer and the drafting of the lease contract or other agreements concerning the servitude as well as registering it at the Land Office.
From the archives, Nana Plaza on a busy night.
Writing the news section of the column blind is a challenge, to say the least. I am reliant on news, gossip and word of what is going on from a small number of friends, some of whom work in the bar industry. Their reports about what is happening in town generally marry up, but not everyone agrees with how things are. This week, one friend whom I have known for many years emailed me to say that Bangkok was really busy and specifically mentioned sois 8 and 11, describing them as pumping. Another friend had emailed a few hours earlier to say that the bar areas where very slow as was the soi he was staying soi 11! Perceptions about how busy or otherwise it is in Bangkok at any given time can be very different!