Hooters on Sukhumvit soi 15 was where Dollhouse Darel cheered on his hometown team, the Denver Broncos, as they beat the odds and beat the Panthers. Darel and all the Broncos fans present were in great spirits. But a day that started so well would end in tragedy. In the excitement of the post match revelry, Darel returned to his condo but couldn't find his keys. Without his keys, he couldn't get inside his 39th floor condo. Darel got access to an adjacent condo from where he could swing over the balcony to his own condo and get inside. Unfortunately, Darel never made it to his condo.
Darel with friends at a Nanapong dance contest, late 2014.
With his default expression a smile, Darel was fun to be around. All he wanted to do was live life, have fun and everyone around him – friends and strangers alike – to enjoy themselves too.
My first Darel memory goes way back to the early Nanapong dance contests when Dollhouse was an integral part of all the Nanapong fun and games. A friend and I had been given permission to record the event and we had set up our cameras on the mezzanine level of Dollhouse. The dance contest was in full swing, raunch on and off the stage, when the music stops, the microphone comes on and Darel's voice booms out, telling the two people recording to stop or else. WTF! We looked at each other, shrugged, and started packing up our gear with everyone in the bar now looking at us like we were dorks. The music resumed and shortly after it stops again. The microphone comes back on. Darel then announces, "To Stickman and his buddy, you guys can resume recording!" I don't know if Darel was messing with us or not, but he loved to joke around and play pranks!
Nanapong used to be the wildest party in town. In some bars the Pongers as they were often referred to became so well-known, and were such good customers, that the girls would go wild when they saw the Nanapong crew enter their bar. They knew they were in for a great pay day! In their heyday, the Pongers would throw stacks of banknotes off the upper level at Dollhouse down on to the stage as the girls went crazy grabbing at the cash. On one occasion shortly after Darel had been to Cambodia, he brought back bundles of 100 riel notes. He stood up on the mezzanine floor and threw what may have been the largest collection of banknotes ever thrown on to a Bangkok gogo bar stage. They rained and rained down and the girls went even crazier than usual. When the shrieking finally subsided and the whooping had stopped, the girls became confused and then went quiet. They realised the banknotes were Cambodian riel. At that time the exchange rate was somewhere around 4000 or 5000 riel to the US dollar, making the banknotes worth about 1 baht each. Darel was in fits of laughter. He really did love to joke around.
Darel was a big part not just of Nanapong, but of the dance contests and word from Nanapong guys is that it is very unlikely another Nanapong dance contest will be held.
Darel started Dollhouse in Clinton Plaza with his long-time buddy, Big Andy. The popular artwork on the mirrors in the bar also featured on the coasters and was Darel's idea. There were two versions, happy girl and sad girl. The happy girl's caption says "I'm not a lazy bitch, I like to fuck!" whereas the sad girls says the opposite. It was classic Darel.
I'd often see Darel riding around Sukhumvit and he was one of a number of foreigners you see riding a bike that was in some way distinctive. Darel used to ride a mini-motorbike that was smaller than a regular sized motorbike and had Donald Duck painted on it. The Thais had a great laugh seeing a foreigner riding around on a motorbike with a cartoon character on the side!
Darel was in the Army Airborne and as a keen and accomplished sky-diver, he was a member of various sky-diving team world records. Few people knew for sure whether the whispers that Darel had made a base jump off Los Calinas, the 44-storey condominium building right next to Soi Cowboy, were a myth or not. This YouTube video shows that it was real. It was not without incident as Darel landed heavily at the Asoke intersection and messed up his leg.
My favourite Darel story also involves sky diving. Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy employed a young doorman who was more than just security, he was an interface between the bar and the authorities. The friendly young lad was unlike any other bar security and was as popular with customers as he was with the bar staff and management. He knew everyone on the soi and knew everything going on and was a valued member of the Dollhouse team. Darel wanted to thank him by doing something special so he took the young fellow up in to the sky. This young lad had never been in a plane before. He took off in a plane, but didn't land in it. His route back to terra firma was a tandem jump on Darel's back!
After the funeral ceremony at Wat That Thong, a crowd estimated at well in excess of 200 retreated to Dollhouse which had perhaps its biggest crowd outside of a dance contest. Fitting with Darel's wishes, it was not a mourning, but a celebration of his life. Around the stage were hundreds of photos of Darel doing the things he loved and putting a smile on the faces of everyone around him. There were photos of him skydiving, scuba diving, and lots of photos taken in Dollhouse. There were photos of Darel as a boy, photos of him in the military as a paratrooper and photos taken with celebrities. Many photos featured Darel's signature thumbs up and almost all had that smile that showed his love of life. Darel touched so many.
As the night went on, many of the girls decided that while wearing black was proper and respectful, it was perhaps not fitting with the mood in the bar so several put on their work clothing. Later in the evening it became necessary to close the curtains as some girls got in to the swing of things. Darel would have approved.
Darel was a fun-loving guy, upbeat and always encouraged those around him – friends and strangers alike – to enjoy themselves. He lived the dream. It's easy to feel sad that he's no longer with us, but that's the last thing Darel would want. He'd want us to party on, to celebrate life and all that is fun in this world.
Darel Davenport to some, Dollhouse Darel to others, he was a good guy to everyone. May he rest in peace.
Celebrating his birthday in 2015, Darel was always the life of the party.
Last week's photo was taken from Wat Saket, also known as The Golden Mount. You don't have to be a bar hound to get this week's photo right – regular readers might recognise the place which has been featured a number of times.
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 – Thai-style entertainment.
With regard to Thai places, I don't know why wat fairs are never mentioned – you cannot get more Thai than that. Our local one is this week and I have been every night. Some people live here for decades and have never been to any Thai style music concerts yet say they love the culture. Clueless! Fairs also have loads of food, markets and rides for the kids as well as temple fund-raising, some of which is amusing.
Off to the kennel in the stars.
Sad news that the Soi Cowboy dog has made its way to the kennel in the stars. I used to have a soft spot for that mutt, particularly as he used to bark at the annoying Polaroid guy who used to hustle for photos. I last saw him a couple of weeks ago, barely able to stand, and hand-fed food by compassionate passersby. I was told by reliable sources that he has passed away, and that the staff up and down Cowboy had a whip-round and got together 5,000 baht to have him cremated at a local wat. Given that a couple of girls had told me in the past that he was inhabited by the spirit of an ex-bargirl, the money spent seems to be a nod to karma they hope to be continued in years to come.
Growth in Cheap Charlies?I have noticed more and more people walking around Bangkok with bottles of beer, usually large Chang, Leo or other cheap beer. I had hardly seen this until a couple of years ago, but now there are literally scores of people I see every day with their opened big Chang walking on the street. Last night a group of Americans stopped outside a bar and wanted to use the toilet. Every one of them had opened bottles of beer, and every one of them had a minimum of 1 opened bottle and 2 in plastic bags. Is the price in bars too much for the singlet and shorts tourists, or do backpackers come with less money these days?
Denial about the changing market.
I've had numerous bar owners and their like complain about lack of customers and they seem in denial about the changing market. Even less so when you tell them that for every hotel room taken it means one less for potential customer(s) from their target market. This point brings to mind Darwin's theory as explained to me during a business course / lecture. It is not survival of the fittest as commonly assumed but rather : those who survive are those who can adapt / adopt quickest.
The ++ nonsense!
There has been a marked increase in bars, restaurants etc which add a 10% service charge and 7% VAT to the bill. Being a bar owner myself, I find this disgusting. When I go for a drink and I see 150 baht for a drink, I expect to pay that and if I want to give a tip, I will. To go to a bar and wait for someone to bring a menu and then have to wait for the drinks to be delivered and then get automatically charged 10% for poor service is wrong. I met an old friend last week who I hadn't seen for about 5 months and as I was close to Sukhumvit Soi 22, we went for a drink in Bangkok Betty's, had a couple of beers and 2 shorts. Not too sure what the short was but the bill came to 930 baht. When I asked someone who may have been a manager, or may not, I got the usual blank look and no reply. I was told later it was because it's attached to a 5-star hotel, The Holiday Inn – 5 stars so they have to charge the extras. Very strange that Denny's in the same hotel has a net price. I was told this in a bar on Soi 11 also. I've never gone back. In fact any bar I go to and they charge more than is advertised on the menu I never return to. I was wondering what other people feel about this new way of extorting money out of the paying public. Do they think we are all stupid? You could run a name and shame for any bars which have this practice.
An alternative to Viagra.
Concerning men from North America facing death in the sack when they ingest drugs prescribed or not, to reverse the effects of erectile dysfunction I recommend they ask their urologist at home about a drug combination known as Trimix, which is injected (doesn't hurt) and has no known effect on the heart. It is new and was only available in America, as far as I knew, until recently when sales were expanded into Canada. The drug is a sure-fire way to become 16 again for a few hours or more. No need to hurry for fear of going limp. Users are told the drug's refrigerated shelf life is 3 months but I've found it to be useful for 9 months to over a year, if you haven't used it all up by then. It costs about $40 for 12 – 20 injections, depending on personal needs for maximum effectiveness. The only downside (if you are a rabbit) is that it is recommended that it not be used more than 3 or 4 times a week. It's powerful and you will welcome the downtime, so to speak.
Airbus to blame for crowded airports.
I take a certain flight on Emirates which arrives late morning / early noon and I think it is the sheer quantity of passengers which arrives around the same time which is causing problems. We now live in a world of A380s and their vast travel-load and yet we still have airports built to cater to lesser volumes. Others I know who arrive around 7 or 8 AM do not experience the same queues.
More Chinese on Suhkumvit.
As for quantity / nationality of travellers, if you look thoroughly on Agoda which I had to in order to find a hotel around Christmas, you will discover in the comments mention of Chinese visitors and in some cases their merits. One hotel in particular is the Royal Benja on Sukhumvit soi 5. If any of your readers are out and about between 6 and 7 AM and are near to the mouth of soi 7 they will see a small convoy of coaches ferrying Chinese(?) tourists away for sightseeing. The same coaches return around 8 PM down soi 5. My guess is this is now legion around the city.
Singapore better for reporters.
I'm very surprised that any foreign news outlet still has any people based in Thailand. It's far too dangerous when you can be jailed for reporting the truth. Better to be based in Singapore to report regional news, surely?
The Tunnel today.
Finally, there has been some action in the cut through between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 in what has long been known as The Tunnel. The old Heineken beer garden is now under construction, and the car park level is being evened out to be level with The Tunnel. The proposal is that Tunnel will be a walk-through, Marrakesh-style market catering to the increasing number of visitors from the Middle East.
In that same sub soi, Country Road has had its lease extended and the remaining bars at the back have also got extensions.
In the same neighbourhood, CheckInn99 has just has had a light refurbishment with a new floor kitchen laid and some new furniture which is great because it suggests the owners are confident CheckInn will continue for years to come. The venue is also replacing its classic old signage, placing it higher and making it shorter to keep the local council happy.
The long vacant short-time hotel above CheckInn99 has been surveyed for conversion in to apartments although the final use of the space is yet to be confirmed.
No decision has been made on the future of Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy but as soon as it is, I'll let you know.
In the absence of the Dollhouse's solid A team line-up, where is the best place on Soi Cowboy? A friend who is a regular on Cowboy and provides me much on the comings and goings on Cowboy filed this: The Girls at Suzy Wong with the exception of one or two are on par with their western sisters; the line-up was better a few months back. Shark seems to be a fair alternative to Dollhouse. Cactus has a mixed line-up as does Lighthouse. Tilac bar scores high and Baccara is in a class of its own. Long Gun is also an option. Crazy House ranks high, at least in terms of eye candy.
With EQ Late Night Club on Soi Nana (the new name for what was first Equality and then EQ), the owners know they're on to a winning location and are tinkering with the formula to make it work. Frankly, the venue has been overcomplicated in recent guises and those who set the concept need to take it back to its roots. The way to get punters back to EQ Late Night Club (PLEASE rename it Nana Disco) would be to say that once again it is a meat market with good music, clean bathrooms and good entertainment. That's all you need. No-one is enticed to visit a bar with marketing talk gobbledygook and puffery. Fill the bar with pretty ladies and the guys will come. Play decent music, shirk the nonsense of a cover charge and make sure the vibe is welcoming. That's all you need to do. The grand opening of EQ Late Night Club will be on the night of 25th February from 11 PM for invited guests and 1 AM for the general public.
Toy Bar wasn't the only place where folks were being blown on Soi Cowboy last Sunday night as a chilly wind blew through the soi. It was so cold that one friend checked the weather app on his phone to see if the term wind-chill was used in the Bangkok forecast. Estimates were that it was around 10 degrees cooler than usual. Those rare evenings in the cool season where the temps drop can be amusing in the bar areas as the girls in bikinis race off stage even faster than usual to wrap themselves up in warm clothes. There are always a few reprobates who make lewd suggestions on ways for the girls to warm up.
Since Hangover II was released, Soi Cowboy, which featured in the film, has attracted more visitors, male and female. For the most part they have been backpackers but amazingly their number continues to increase and some of these farang female visitors have been described as ready to join the local knitting club. Typically, they do not venture inside the bars but sit outside, enjoy their G+T, their eyes watching their husbands like a hawk while taking in the fun and games around them.
The Welshman who up until a couple of weeks ago was manager of Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy (note: I refer to the manager and NOT the owner, Darel) has been appointed as the new manager of Angelwitch in Pattaya.
And if you fancy yourself as a Bangkok bar manager, now's your chance. Mister Egg, Captain Hornbag and Big Jim are accomplished bar managers who all had one thing in common. No, they're not all bald (two are) and no, they're not all American (again, two are). What they all have in common is that they applied for their first Thailand bar manager's position with Big Andy of Club Electric Blue fame after they answered an ad in this column. So, now you can follow in their footsteps and become a member of the elite club of Bangkok bar managers. If you're interested in managing a Bangkok bar, drop an email to Big Andy at : firstname.lastname@example.org
AfterSkool in Soi Cowboy was sold last month to a German gent. The service staff will remain and new pole staff are being sought. The format will remain the same. There will not be a major refit but renovations will be an ongoing project. Does that mean a DNA cleanup in the back corner?
A Touch Of Class on Sukhumvit soi 24 has been taken over and given a major revamp. It is now called Club 102 Massage. I have no idea how much it has changed, but photos on the Club 102 Massage website show a more refined and luxurious space than your typical Sukhumvit knocking shop. Rates are perhaps a little higher than similar venues in the area but if the service is as good as the premises look, the aptly named A Touch Of Class might just be worth it.
I've heard about the jet ski resolution booths on Beach Road and wonder if any readers have had any experience in dealing with the folks who man them. The jet ski thugs and their extortionate ways have long been a problem in Pattaya and I wonder if these booths have actually had any sort of effect?
For those of you who really want to try something spicy, a new gay fetish club So Dom is now open for business in Pattaya at the same location as the long-running fetish venue, The Castle, on Third Road.
If anyone tries to tell you Bangkok was quiet this past week, don't believe them! A few readers mentioned that getting a last-minute hotel room on some booking sites was a nightmare with room rates soaring resembling New York hotel prices. I checked it out and they were right – the hotel I stayed at in September was a solid 3-star property and about $70 a night. The rate when I checked this week was $357 per night which is about twice what you typically pay for a 5-star hotel in Bangkok. Chinese New Year in Bangkok has tended to be a relatively quiet period as Chinese-Thai businesses closed, many Bangkokians of Chinese ancestry wore red and restaurants, especially anywhere Chinese, did a roaring trade. With Bangkok now firmly a favourite destination for Chinese travellers, it looks like Chinese New Year is going to become a peak holiday period – so expect hotel rooms to be harder to come by and longer queues at Immigration.
Monday next week, February 22nd, is a public holiday and one of the Buddhist days which increases the likelihood that some bar areas may be closed, or at least not operating as per usual. As a reminder, if you really have to have a drink or just feel like going out, Patpong is usually the best bet on such holidays.
There does rather seem to be some misunderstanding about early closings in the bar industry so in the interests of clarity, when early closures take place they are typically within one police district. Bangkok has 50 police districts and while orders might come from the very top, each police district enforces the law within their area. Each of the three main farang bar areas is within a different police district. So when you hear that bars in Soi Cowboy have to close early, don't be surprised that bars in the upmarket Soi Thonglor area are also closed at 1 AM too – as they're in the same police district (Thonglor). But if bars in Soi Cowboy are closed early it does not necessarily mean that bars on Soi Nana, just a kilometre up the road, will be forced to close early. And to really confuse things, bar closures are not always uniform so it might be that not every venue in any given police district is forced to close early – there are often rogue venues which remain open late. While this column tends to cover the naughty bars, the mainstream bars are affected just the same. With that said, mainstream venues are less likely to open late.
A new pizza shop has opened in Bangkok with a delivery service to Sukhumvit right through until 4 AM. The recommendation came from my old friend, the zany boss of Spanky's, Marc. "Great pizza", he told me in an email. What would you know, I said to him, you come from New York, not Italy. He then started going on about the best pizza in the world came from New York so he knows! If you get the munchies any time from 11 AM – 4 AM, call Gallery Pizza on 020-411-044.
The smoky season is starting up north as farmers burn their fields, there are roadside fires and hills are ablaze in places. There is a smartphone app called Air4Thai that shows you the AQI (air quality index) as well as various other measures of pollutants. The unhealthy zone has already been reached a couple of times this year. While there's much to like about the north of Thailand from the friendly people, the very reasonable cost of living and the laid-back way of life, the smoky season is one of the major drawbacks of living in the north.
It's hard to know just what policy changes there may have been with regard to visa policy and what alerts may be in the Immigration Department's new computer system. Some people report being stopped and questioned when entering the country which seems to be as a result of a computer alert. One can deduce that there are certain patterns the computer looks for although these have not been made public. The amount of time spent in Thailand on visa waivers within a given period and the number of tourist visa extensions within a period appear to be patterns which may be flagged. One guess is that those who have spent 90 days in Thailand in either a calendar year or a 365-day period are flagged, although whether it is if they have spent 90 days in country already, or whether the visa waiver they are about to be issued with will send them over 90 days is unknown. Ditto with tourist visa extensions within a period of time. Being flagged would not appear to be an automatic barrier to entry, BUT if you are flagged you may have to explain your travel plans to a senior Immigration officer before being cleared to enter. Unlike crackdowns, this is computerised and won't fade away a week or two later. At this stage the details are unknown so the thing to be aware of is that if you're taking the piss with visas you might get stopped and have to explain for your movements.
The raid by police on the Pattaya bridge club of more than a week ago caused headlines worldwide along with widespread consternation about the way the oldies were treated. It seems the authorities misinterpreted it as gambling and that is why the raid took place in the first place. Thais become addicted very easily and the chance of striking it rich along with the lack of restraint of so many Thais makes gambling a massive problem in Thailand. I cannot count the number of times I have heard of employers having money stolen by their employees to feed their gambling habit. Some Thais just cannot control themselves when it comes to gambling, especially cards for women and betting on football for men.
Quote of the week comes from a Thai on life in New Zealand, "In Auckland, Thai people are taken seriously but in other provinces we are looked at like cockroaches."
A fierce rivalry between technical colleges manifests itself with skirmishes and fights between students.
In southern Thailand, some Thai Teachers pose as foreigners when teaching English.
From The New York Times, soccer imitates life in Thailand.
A British woman is refused entry to Thailand after ripping pages from her passport to use as toilet paper!
A crazed Scot was arrested on Walking Street after allegedly punching a security officer.
Older foreign men are being targeted in robberies in Udon Thani by young Thai males.
Two young Canadian women run up a 5,000 baht tab in a Pattaya gogo bar and problems follow when they are unable to pay it.
A photo of an older foreigner at an ATM in Thailand flanked by 2 local maidens has attracted many
comments on Reddit.
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 would like to ask for your advice on a Thailand employment matter. I started working for a company here in Bangkok but after 2 months the owner decided for financial reasons to close down the Bangkok based office, meaning I would be out of a job. This was fine and I understood, however whilst I was paid for my first month there, I never got my final pay check for my last month with the company.
It has now been 3 months since I left and I have received no money, despite continually chasing this up with the owner via emails, texts and phone-calls which have been ignored. This is strange as I know some of the other Thai staff who left were paid in full prior to leaving. Now bearing in mind I was working for this company at the time on a visa exception stamp (technically illegal I know but we had plans to get a work permit), do you think there's any way of legally getting this money from my former employer? Or is it, as I expect, something I'm just going to have to write off?
Sunbelt Legal responds: An employee does have the right to claim for outstanding wages from ex-employers and must make the claim no more than 2 years after its due date. Claims for unpaid wages must be made through the Labor Court. Although you were working illegally, the Labor Court does not get involved with the legality or illegality of the alien's work status but rather on the employee's issues. However, your claim could possibly cause your ex-employer to escalate things by reporting your illegal working status. You could consider sending a formal letter to them stating that you plan on taking the case to Labor Court if you do not get paid but you should take in to consideration that they may choose to retaliate rather than pay you, so you would need to determine if the unpaid monies were worth that possibility.
Question 2 : My wife owns a house and a condo outright. I have been informed that owning a property is a must when applying for citizenship for a foreigner (please correct me if I am wrong). Is it possible that the condo could be transferred in to my (foreign) name and if so what are the stipulations (does any condo qualify, what is required on my part etc?). This is with a view to applying for citizenship later down the line.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Owning property is not one of the requirements for the citizenship application but you would need to be listed in the house registration book (Yellow for foreigners) in Thailand. This house registration (Blue book for Thais) can be in your wife's name or that of a friend. Application for naturalization requires the applicant to hold permanent residency prior to application.
But if you insist of having the ownership of your condo transferred into your name, please be informed that such transfer (from the Thai wife to Foreign husband) will be treated as buying & selling. As a result, the Foreign Spouse will be required to transfer funds (supposedly as the purchasing funds) from his / her offshore account into his / her personal bank account in Thailand (amount must be equivalent to or greater than the purchasing funds).
If you wish to own your own condo then there are specific procedures that need to be followed. You will need to transfer in the full purchase amount from overseas and specify in the foreign exchange transfer the reason for the purchase. Once you complete the transfer you will need to obtain a house registration book for the condo (Yellow book). However, you will still need to obtain a blue house registration book to register yourself in the condo. Normally, you will need two neighbors as witnesses that you live in the property.
Question 3: My girlfriend plans to import beauty products from Australia to Thailand and sell them here. She understands that she needs to get each product approved by the Thai FDA prior to selling them. She is Thai, has business experience although not in this area and wishes to do this herself. Can you provide a basic guide of the steps that's involved in the process of getting beauty creams and such products approved by the Thai FDA for sale in Thailand?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Your girlfriend will need to approach both the Customs Department as well as the Food and Drug Administration (Ministry of Health) for clarity and standard procedures. Please note that small samples may be needed for laboratory testing as part of the FDA's requirement. The storage place for the imported products will also be taken into consideration for hygienic reasons.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors would also remind your girlfriend that an FDA license is necessary for each kind of product and she will also need an import / export license. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has experience in both FDA approvals and importation procedures and can assist your girlfriend in these matters. We do have Thai speaking advisors who can meet and explain things to her.
This column has had a negative tone for a while and I guess it hasn't helped that in recent weeks popular figures Mama Noi and Dollhouse Darel passed away. I certainly don't revel in negativity and would much prefer to be positive and upbeat. With this in mind, do let me know what is rocking your world in Bangkok. Some good news would be nice for a change!