The Love Of Rugby
Several weeks ago in this column I predicted New Zealand would play Australia in the Rugby World Cup final, and that is exactly what happened. If you had bet on that outcome at the time I made that prediction – New Zealand to beat Australia in the final – you would have got odds of around 8:1. If you'd bet the farm, you could have retired. If you'd bet a mere $10,000, you could have spent several months partying in Thailand. If you didn't place a wager, don't go thinking you can wait until the next Rugby World Cup in 2019 for the next set of tips. I'll be calling it a day long before then.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken at the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 4, looking up at the sign which showed directions to Bumrungrad Hospital, the Pakistan Embassy and the Nana Saen Saeb Canal boat pier.
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 best Thai food.
The best Thai food is in Southern Thailand (the further South, the better it gets) with some spectacular aromatic coconut curries. Thai cuisine (especially Southern Thai food) has some of the most delicious flavours in the world – and I am sure that a marriage to a good southern Thai cook would be long-lasting and fruitful. The woman would age, but her cooking is only going to get better. If she keeps smiling one could easily spend a few years living with a girl like this. Tom Ka Gai – probably my favourite southern Thai dish, is so good I consider it to be medicinal. That and Massaman curry, also delicious. Beer Chang to wash it all down works well. Massaman Curry was once described as the most delicious food in the world.
You published an email last week in which the writer questioned the economic viability of a particular Soi Cowboy bar. I too have long wondered how a business can pay what must be a considerable wage bill when customers are thin on the ground. That doesn't only apply to bars, but the many high-end malls where you hardly see a customer. Peer into any of the Gucci etc stores, and they are invariably empty of all but a bored salesperson. Where's the business sense, yet more and more are springing up. I'm not saying this applies to those high-end stores which are perhaps there to have a presence, but when you look at the bars the answer might lay in something referred to in the past, that places like The Den have an ulterior motive for setting up their business. I wonder if the same applies to some of the bars.
Do you lose your balance as you age?
Speaking of Pattaya, what is it with middle-aged men falling to their death? Are these guys really jumping out of high-rise buildings or is there something else going on? Vancouver has many high-rise buildings with balconies and no-one falls here. Poor health can make people do tragic things, but this is bizarre. Where is the follow up on these cases?
Choosing your Thai teacher.
I tried to learn the Thai language a couple of years ago. I bought some books and audio. I studied the language for a couple of hours every day for a few months. I learned to read and write the Thai script. I also learned some basic grammar and vocabulary. But the "tonal" aspect of Thai language has been a total turnoff for me. It is too confusing and I don't get it. Also, I couldn't gather much support from the environment which I consider as my own limitation. The Thai people I interact with seemed pleased with my knowledge of basic vocabulary and Thai greetings, but rather than encouraging me beyond "Sawasdee krap" level, they seem keener to brush up their own English skills. A couple even asked me why I want to learn Thai. Did I want to listen in to them gossiping? I'm not a good student of languages. Though I've been able to learn a few languages with a reasonable proficiency eventually, they didn't come easily. I had to spend many years to reach that point. Even then I can't claim to have truly mastered any language other than my native language. Despite using it every day for many years, my command of English is still not good enough. I can barely differentiate between an English, Scottish or an American speaker by his accent or preferred vocabulary. But when I deal with my native language, I can accurately tell which province the speaker is from. And from the quality of the language I can even guess the speaker's education level, social standing, profession etc with reasonable accuracy most of the time. This has made me extra cautious about how I learn a language or rather from whom. For example, I never attempt to practice my Thai with a girl from a bar. I don't want to pick up an accent or vocabulary which has a deep root in villages.
Pink @ The Pong.
I will go out on a limb and say Pink Panther has to been one of, if not the most successful bar on the Pong. For me, from the first moment I went in 25 years ago I didn't like it and still prefer other bars. But while it has had its up and downs, changing formats and names many times over the years, it still somehow manages to attract its share of customers and has been doing so for a very long time. I try to go there every time I'm on the Pong and most of the time I can't find a seat I like because it's so crowded and it's very seldom that I can find a free seat. In my opinion, and not taking a head count, I think it consistently has more customers than other successful bars on the Pong and has done so for a long time. I used to have to spend time there as my friend and fellow adventurer had a lady he was interested in who worked there but I never really enjoyed myself and was glad to leave and go elsewhere, and still feel the same way. If I had to hazard a guess as to why, I would say that it has always attracted more good-looking girls than other places and still does. It must treat employees OK as some of the people working there have been there as long as I have been going – 25+ years – and that is truly amazing compared with the high turnover rate in many bars. The one downside is the fake Muay Thai they put on. When they start setting up the ring, patrons head for the doors and go back later when the ring is cleared out and there are never more than a handful of tourists that stop to watch the action. I can't for the life of me figure out why they continue it when it has to be costing them money every time they set up the ring.
The premises long known as and often still referred to as Nana Disco, later renamed to the silly sounding Nana Liquid and more recently the really stupid Mai Peng (meaning inexpensive in Thai) is about to change name and format again with what its creators have rightly termed a unique concept. With the most politically correct name of any bar in Bangkok – Equality – the new venue even has a mission statement of sorts, "Embracing Sexuality." The creator of Angelwitch, Matt, has come up with a concept he hopes will appeal to all. In Matt's words, "Bangkok nightlife seems to be fragmented. The gay section is in one part of town. The straights are in another and the transgender / ladyboys seem to be either in gogo bars, or are not welcome anywhere. Equality is a concept for all. We welcome everybody, we don't judge what you are, or what you are into. We focus on what music you listen to and making sure your drinks are good. We will have both ladyboy and lady coyote dancers, we will have the best DJs in town and people can party very late way after Nana Plaza closes across the street. Bangkok is years behind many other liberal cities and we hope our new concept will be well received and appreciated." Equality will be a breath of fresh air to the ladyboy-lover community. At the same time, the brains behind Equality ought to realise that many bargoers aren't just turned off by ladyboys, they refuse to step inside venues with ladyboys. The creators ought to be admired for trying something new and being open-minded. At the same time they ought to consider that the forums and every nightlife commentator's email inbox is full of comments that show that most sex tourists are anything but open-minded when it comes to ladyboys. The doors at Equality open this Wednesday, November 4th, at 10 PM for what sounds like a soft opening with the official launch party this Friday, November 6th, with an open bar from 10 PM through to midnight.
Nana Plaza was turned on its head this week when all 4 of the Rainbow gogo bars were closed following a sting in which underage girls were found in Rainbow 4. Many a foreign Nana Plaza bar owner has bitched over the years about all of the bureaucratic obligations they must meet, while claiming the Thai bars don't have anything like the same requirements. When other (read Westerner-owned) bars have had problems or been busted, the Rainbow Group has always rocked on. Initial word was that all four Rainbow bars would be closed for 2 weeks and for Thursday and Friday night that's exactly how it was. As of last night Rainbow 1 and 3 had re-opened while Rainbow 2 and 4 remain closed. How long Rainbow 2 & 4 will remain closed isn't known.
Jail Birdz on the top floor of Nana Plaza has had a real roller coaster ride. From when the signs first went up on the balcony announcing that Jail Birdz was coming soon, it took more than a year until the doors finally opened. Since then there have been widespread reports of cashflow problems, staffing issues, while at the same time recent reports about the bar have been overwhelmingly positive. But this bar seems to have a curse and the roller coaster ride continues with Jail Birdz closed for a couple of nights earlier in the week. One can but speculate on the reasons for the closure, and my email to the owner went unanswered.
It can be confirmed that the next Nanapong dance contest will be held on Saturday, November 21, at Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2. The night will double as both a Nanapong celebration of the bar industry and Club Electric Blue's boss Big Andy's birthday so expect it to be wild! Girls from 3 bars (Club Electric Blue Bangkok, Club Electric Blue Pattaya and Dollhouse) will dance off on stage for prizes.
After deciding that Patpong wasn't for him, Dave The Rave has returned to his spiritual home and is now the Marketing Manager for Nana Partners. If you happen to be in Nana Plaza, keep a look out for Dave who can often be found roaming around.
There were more Arab bar closures this past week with Déjà Vu and Kiss closed for business a couple of days, yet the usual door thugs were there on duty. The number of girls working for The Arab are spread so thin that it seems a decision was made to close a couple of venues on those nights when small numbers reported for duty.
Soi Cowboy's busiest bar Bacarra still has that policy whereby some punters must purchase a drink outside the bar before they step inside. Bacarra is great for eye candy but doesn't have the same reputation as a place to have fun.
In Soi Cowboy's Shark Bar there are more coyote outfits and fewer bikinis. The girls did not miraculously become coyote dancers and still dance the same. Perhaps they could be called ‘Goyote' dancers as they are neither gogo nor coyote but a mix of both.
The new Den in Patpong soi 2 has the same signature feature of the original in Sukhumvit soi 12. Sharks. No, not the girls who operate there, rather the venue features a huge shark tank inside with live sharks. Like its namesake in soi 12, The Den hasn't seen a stampede to Patpong. There is debate over whether The Den has fewer customers or fewer girls.
The large mirrors around the walls of the legendary Superstar in Patpong soi 1 have either had the bottom half changed to a white surface or been blasted and appear white. Either way, the lower half of the mirrors are now opaque. The girls have less mirror surface to admire themselves in so maybe they will make more eye contact with customers. Or maybe not.
Thigh Bar on Patpong's main soi has outfitted its dancers in matching shiny gold bikinis, a look that is getting the thumbs up.
Business isn't brisk in Pattaya's bars, but that hasn't deterred investors with a couple more gogo bars set to open in the Soi LK Metro area. A new gogo bar is being built on Soi Lengkee, just around the corner from Oasis A Gogo which is off Soi Buakhao. This is the space that was the old Le Katai Restaurant & Guesthouse, hardly a great location for a gogo bar, you'd think. An Aussie is behind it – customers are kindly requested to refrain from mentioning the rugby. Also, on Soi 21, just off Soi Buakhao and across from Dream Teen Massage, a lease has been taken out on a shophouse in which a ladyboy gogo bar will be built.
It's one thing to have scantily-clad pretties outside a bar flapping their arms and groping passersby, but someone ought to have a word with the lords at Tilac about the man outside the bar doing the same thing. It's something the vast majority of punters really do not like. Aggressive male touts are one reason some punters refuse to visit Patpong soi 1 and while the fellow outside Tilac is described as pushy rather than aggressive, he really ought to be reassigned to other duties. Maybe he can give punters a back massage while they're standing out the urinal as is so popular in many Thai nightspots?!
A couple of weeks ago it was mentioned that the bars in Khon Kaen were doing it tough this low season. Now word comes from the heart of the expat bar industry in Isaan, downtown Udon Thani, that it is similarly quiet. Various reasons have been cited for the current malaise from too many bars to too few customers to high prices to early closing to the crackdown on drink driving that is as prevalent in Udon as it is in Bangkok.
Has panic set in amongst those on the double-entry tourist visa plan of residing in Thailand? There has been a sharp increase in visitors to Vientiane as folks hurriedly apply for a new double-entry tourist visa at the embassy long known as the soft touch of the region. On Friday of next week the new multiple-entry tourist visa becomes available which looks like it will be an excellent solution. However, it can only be applied for in your own country or a country in which you are legally resident. The double-entry (and the rarely issued triple-entry) tourist visas are to be discontinued then. If you're going to Vientiane for any type of visa, expect to spend even longer in the Laos sun with the queues outside the Thai embassy said to be longer than ever.
Quote of the week comes from an expat in Angeles City, "I would prefer the Thailand guys stay in Thailand as they spoil the girls here in the Philippines with the same practices that were not working for them there."
Reader story of the week comes from Peter K, "Heart Attack in Chiang Mai".
Have British police observing the Thai police in an investigation in to the deaths of two Brits on Ko Tao been hoodwinked?
Bloomberg profiles a Bangkok surgeon who may be offering the cheapest cut and tuck in the world at just $2,000.
A Thai woman loses a whopping 23 million baht to online romance scammers.
A group of the notorious baht bus pickpockets are arrested in Pattaya.
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: A friend of mine moved to Thailand and started a business in real estate. When I told him a foreigner cannot own more than 49%, he said it is easy to solve, you make yourself the president of the company that owns the business and you buy out the shares of the Thai majority shareholder. IMHO, this is utter BS and illegal! In the Philippines there are anti-dummy laws but I couldn't find any for Thailand. Am I right that he is getting scammed and / or living an illusion?
Sunbelt Legal responds: In Thailand, there are no independent laws concerning the nominee issue i.e. shareholders who hold shares but do so on behalf of someone else. Instead there are sections in each of the Acts that govern the nominee issue. For example, the Land Act states the consequences of a Thai national helping a foreigner to circumventing the Land Act or even in the civil commercial code (concerning the company establishment and shareholding).
Some foreigners do attempt to circumvent the Land Act by having indirect ownership over property in this way but it would only be a matter of time before the Land Department were to investigate the matter.
There is a legal way for a company that has been incorporated in Thailand with shares that are majority owned by foreigners is via Board of Investment (BOI) status. BOI promoted companies may own land but it must be approved by the BOI. BOI companies must follow certain criteria in order to obtain BOI promotion and must operate actively. Non-active companies or holding companies would generally not be considered for BOI status.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors suggests that the better way to utilize the property is by coming to an agreement with the owner of a piece of property and imposing a servitude on the property such as a 30-year lease or a lifetime usufruct and building the building and registering it in the foreigner's name. This allows for a Thai owner of the land but gives the foreigners servitude rights to the property. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has extensive experience in setting up usufruct and lease agreements so that foreigners may live on the land with peace of mind.
Question 2: I have an unusual question which I hope you might be able to answer. I am a FIFO worker and split my downtime between my home in Australia and my condo in Pattaya. My Australian driver's licence was recently suspended for 4 years. I would like to apply for a driver's licence in Thailand by going through the Thailand driver's licence testing system. I need a licence to drive in Thailand, and to drive here in Australia. Can you please tell me if A) The Thailand Driver's Licence Issuing Authority has access to records in Australia and will see that my Australian drivers licence is suspended? And B) what is the process to get a driver's licence in Thailand i.e. what documents do I need and what is the testing procedure. Thank you!
Sunbelt Legal responds: The Land Transport Department is the department in charge of driver's licenses and would most likely not have access to any foreign database. You would need to go through the complete testing procedure which now includes mandatory classroom time.
First, you would need to go to a Land Transport office and submit the documents, take a reflex test and eye sight test, and attend the driving lectures (minimum 4 hours).
Once you complete these steps you must take the theory exam followed by the practical exam.
A Thai national would need to show their ID card (original plus photocopy) while a foreigner needs to show the original of the passport and submit a copy as well. In addition, they need either a work permit, house registration book or a letter of residence issued by their Embassy or Consulate. Some Immigration offices will also issue this letter. You will need to show a rental agreement or something along those lines for the Embassy or office.
You will also need to obtain a medical certificate from a doctor stating that you do not have any illness or symptom that makes it dangerous for you to drive; most general practitioners have experience with this form. Be aware that the certificate should be less than one month old.
Question 3: I have a 1-year non-immigrant B visa linked to my 2-year work permit. I have lived here on the visa and work permit for over 10 years. I pay Thai income tax and have a Thai SS number. I am considering leaving the company and relocating back to Europe with my family. I have read it's not straightforward with tax clearance, 5 days to leave upon resignation etc. I'd appreciate some clarification on the facts rather than what you get on bar stool forums. What am I required to do and what restrictions will I face should I wish to remain in Thailand for 1 month while I arrange my affairs etc?
Sunbelt Legal responds: As an employee you are required to file Personal Income Tax for 2015. The Revenue Department requires this to be filed between January 1 – March 31, 2016. Sunbelt Asia has tax specialists who can work with you to ensure your tax forms are filed after you have left the country.
You can apply for a 7-day extension at Immigration upon resignation from the business. Normally the visa is cancelled on the same day as the work permit and this would require an immediate departure from the country. However, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can also assist you with the temporary extension of stay. Alternatively, you can travel out of the country and obtain permission to stay on arrival. At the airport you would receive an additional 30 days. Another option if you need to stay longer would be to apply for a 60-day Tourist Visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate.
Normal service resumes next week. There will be an opening piece and probably more scribblings about stuff away from the bar biz. Very much in rugby mode for the past few weeks, I have not tried particularly hard with the column – which has meant bar biz news and not a lot else. With the rugby world cup back where it belongs for the next 4 years, my mind is free of that distraction and it's back to column-writing for me.