Long silky black hair, a ready smile and a small frame are amongst the features many foreign men find most alluring in Thai women. But not all Thai women popular with foreign men boast all of these traits and one Thai woman growing in popularity amongst bargoers exhibits none of them. Her hair is not long, nor is it black. She exudes a confidence that could be misconstrued as bitchiness and smiles only when she's genuinely happy or amused. Her name is Soda and she is the star of The Strip, far and away the most popular dancer. Her distinctive looks are creating quite a stir. I'd like to introduce to you to Soda.
The 166-cm tall, Bangkok-born beauty has a distinctive look that makes her stand out from the crowd. Soda eschews the look many punters gravitate to the bars looking for, but once in The Strip most customers can't keep their eyes off her.
Described as the most exotic looking girl currently working in a Bangkok gogo bar, Miley Cyrus is her idol and the inspiration for her look.
Photos of her on The Strip's Facebook have caused many to contact the bar's owners expressing interest in her and asking all about her. Come to the bar and find out for yourself is the standard response!
Soda doesn't just look like a rock star, she is an accomplished guitarist with many years experience and has punk rock tattooed on her left hand. She looks the part and if she could sing it might be her songs playing in the bar instead of her dancing to the songs of others.
It would be easy to see all of the tattoos, piercings and that hairstyle and think she must be one hard bitch. Looking at her you'd think she'd be better suited to the bar next door to The Strip – Bar Bar, the fetish bar, but the opposite could not be more true.
She looks tough but she is in fact friendly, approachable and engaging. She's perfectly comfortable conversing in English and unlike most dancers has plenty of interesting things to say.
The late, great Freddie Mercury was a bold and electric performer but said to be a very shy and gentle guy off stage. Soda is very much in the same vein – wild on stage and mild-mannered off it.
Soda has been dancing in The Strip since late last year and enjoys the atmosphere of bars and being an entertainer.
Soda is one of the highest drink earners at the bar and the new owners of The Strip who inherited her know they are lucky to have her on the team.
Oh no, the headdress doesn't fit!
Soda became better known when The Strip resurrected the old snake shows.
Especially made for the Egyptian-themed version of the snake show, no-one thought that it might be an idea to have Soda try on the headdress on first. Just before the show starts it is discovered that the magnificent Egyptian headwear doesn't fit!
After a wardrobe change and the old headdress is found, it's seconds until the show is supposed to start. Everyone in the bar biz agrees that organising girls in a bar is like trying to herd cats. Throw a snake in to the mix it becomes madness, but Soda takes it all in her stride.
When the snake was brought to the bar the first time it seemed to fall in love with Soda and the decision was made to make her the star of the snake show. Apparently snakes, like bees, can sense fear in the person that is handling them. With the snake draped over her shoulders Soda is fearless.
That might be because Soda has two small pet snakes at home. Handling snakes is nothing new for her.
Soda's look is unique in the industry and she comes across as shy at first but there is a natural confidence underneath, not the fake confidence you find amongst so many bargirls who put on a hard exterior to protect themselves but that of someone who is comfortable with who they are.
The Miley Cyrus look-alike may have a wild look but there's a sensual side to her and when she does a slow dance under turquoise lighting, grinding up against a friend there's not a person in the bar who doesn't start to fantasize….
She looks like a rock star but there is depth to her along with that playful charm we all love in Thai women.
A pensive moment….shades of Brigitte Nielsen, perhaps?
Like so many dancers, Soda comes and goes. She'll be working in the bar a few nights, and then disappears for days at a time. The best night to see Soda on stage is Friday when she is the star of the snake show which runs at 10 PM and is repeated at 11 PM and again at midnight.
The smile doesn't come easily. Because it isn't fake. But when Soda smiles, look out….you'll be hooked!
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the Chang Building, the famous building in the shape of an elephant on Paholyothin and Rachadapisek roads.
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 – What do you really love?
I really noticed this week with Songkran just how disinterested in Thai culture people who claim to 'love it' are. We know what they love and that soon gets old.
Another temple recommendation.
I enjoyed this week's opening piece. I have never been (as apparently most haven't) to Wat Lad Prao, but I will go there when I need some solitude. Another temple that is worth a trip is Wat Paknam. I went there with a friend a few months ago and was very impressed. There is an interesting museum with lots of old Western artifacts that I guess a resident monk collected as well as a nice garden with ponds, fish and turtles. It was busy on the weekend we went, but only Thais from memory. I can't remember its exact location. I'd like to go back again on a week day.
The love affair is over.
I travel around Thailand every winter. I've been to many temples from Krabi to Nongkhai and east and west, north and south. I don't pay entrance fees at temples and have stopped paying entrance fees that are not equal for all nationalities to the Thai price. I avoid national parks despite being a national park employee in the States. I feel the costs of these attractions are extortion of tourists' money. I would likely donate if there was a more honest approach by the officials. I have a long-term girlfriend here, and have been wintering here for more than a decade. To keep Thailand real for me, I have to go places that tourists don't go. I have witnessed the country change, and the life for foreigners has changed here too. Things will never be what they were back then. But there is a lot I still love about Thailand. I'm trying to keep my faith that things are going to be ok. But I'm not sure anymore. This year I admit I am anxious to leave.
Keeping tabs on farang.
The Thai government is now requesting that foreigners requiring certain kinds of visas provide details of what social media they use, the make, number and colour of their car and their bank account details. Even shops and restaurants they use regularly. The purpose, they say, is "to help track down foreigners when problems arise." They do not say what those 'problems' might be, but cite national security. As far as I am aware this information is not required of Thais, as they are all honest citizens and never a threat to national security. But the info required doesn't have to be given. It's voluntary, which of course defeats the whole purpose. Very Thai.
Why the economy is down.
As one who has struggled with the Thai language, I'm always looking for handy mnemonics to help me remember the correct tones for spoken words. I see that "set-tha-kit" (the economy) is pronounced with three low tones, so henceforth I will think "in Thailand the economy is always down."
Songkran in Pattaya.
Songkran in Pattaya is celebrated for 7 days from the 13th until 19th April. It's difficult to avoid getting wet. No food carts or girls ordering food get attacked with high-powered water guns and buckets as the Thais respect food. The Thais also consider people walking the sois with their luggage on the way to check-in to hotels. Even long after the sun has set, the Thais still playing with water don't target people who are dry and heading out for dinner. You know where I'm going with this… Of course, some young Thais on bikes riding the sois and drinking too much end up having fights. From my week-long Songkran experience here, having played with water and sat and observed, it's the dickhead Farangs with high-powered water guns hitting people in the face, attacking people with food, people going out dressed for a night out etc. Even drunk bargirls manage to recognise and respect people who want to avoid water later in the evening. While writing this email in a dry area on sois 7 with 45 baht beers, I have witnessed 2 altercations between Westerners with high-powered guns attacking people who are dry. Only 28 more hours left of this craziness then off to track Everest. I'm confident Everest will be less to endure.
I had an interesting experience at the Full Moon Party. As I was exiting to go back to my hotel after a completely rain-soaked evening, a girl from the UK stopped me to ask if I had finished with my wristband. I asked her why. She said that since I didn't need it any more could her friend have it so that she didn't have to pay to get in. I replied saying I was going to take it home as a souvenir. I said to her and her friends that they shouldn't be so cheap considering what the exchange rates are for Brits in Thailand. I followed that by saying that the entry fees are used to pay people to clean up your mess when you are back in your room having a kip and if you have to be tight-fisted with the reddies, you should stay home. You should've seen the look on her face! I'm just curious as to what the Thais call cheap farang women – cheap Charlene, perhaps? Cheapness is a gift but you pay for it with your dignity.
I am a regular at Spasso and have a VIP card. Extremely courteous and friendly staff from security to bar staff. Very good American band there. I know the girls there will ask 8,000 baht, but will drop to 5,000. They are beautiful and worth it. If they ask Indians for 12,000 baht then there is an obvious reason for it.
On Saturday, May 7th, Club Electric Blue in Pattaya will throw a party to celebrate the bar's first anniversary. A pig will be roasted, special shows will be held at midnight and 10 baht Tequila shots will be available all night long. All are welcome!
A cryptic sign posted on the door of The Dubliner in Sukhumvit soi 33/1 this week says that the renovation is indefinitely renewed, a mangled translation from the Thai language. After moving from its prime position at the Sukhumvit Road entrance to Washington Square over to the thriving Sukhumvit soi 33/1, The Dubliner never seemed as popular as when it was on the main road. Word is that the closure is actually related to a fight that broke out in the bar the day before Songkran following which most of the staff walked out. How long the closure will last, who knows?
Are the most idle coyote dancers in the Cowboy found in Cowboy 2 bar? I always thought the idea behind bars hiring coyote dancers was that they are (supposed to be) great dancers and they provide entertainment. That's the idea in principle, but some of the coyote dancers in Cowboy 2 just stand there and don't even shuffle, let alone dance – and they do this song after song while the mamasan sits there inside the bar doing nothing and the foreign owner sits outside. And to say that a good few don't have anything like the lithe figures you'd expect of professional dancers is the understatement of the week.
On the top floor of Nana Plaza, the Jail Birdz happy hour runs from 8 – 10 PM with all standard drinks 99 baht.
In Nana it's the older bars with a history of success that are doing best. Spanky's and Angelwitch have both had a good week, although Billboard is still the current favourite.
Things are so bad in some Bangkok bars that this past Friday night a popular and heavily promoted Bangkok gogo bar did not have a single customer for a full hour and a half after they opened, despite having a full troop of (increasingly frustrated) dancing girls on stage eager to make money.
Very sexy uniforms – multi-coloured and revealing – are donned by all of the staff in what was Wall Street on Sukhumvit soi 33 and is now Amethyst Massage, one of many new massage shops on the soi once known for hostess bars. Massage outlets of the naughty kind have long been popular on soi 33 but in the past several months even more have sprung up all over soi 33, both the main soi itself and down in the sub sois. Some are brazen with their advertising with the signage clearly saying that a naughty boy can expect to be satisfied.
Is it called Santana, or Napoleon, or Santana Napoleon? The actual name of the bar which was previously Santana and which has since inherited staff from Napoleon is unclear with one sign outside saying Napoleon and another Santana. Whatever the name, Santana as I will call it is perhaps the only remaining old hostess style bars consistently doing reasonable trade on soi 33. The other old-style hostess style bars that remain in business on soi 33 are as dead as the artists after which they are named.
The venue that started life many years ago as Livingstone's and in 2013 became Ocean closed its doors this week for the final time, dying a slow and very painful death. The Frenchman behind it had grandiose plans that some critics felt might have been better suited to development in another neighbourhood. Ocean was popular for a period but like an old man in the saddle, it couldn't keep it up. As things became desperate, rooms on the premises which once went for almost 2,000 baht a night were offered for a mere 600 baht. Even that was not enough and now it's game over.
Soi 33 is trying to reinvent itself but is a soi of massage houses the way to go? Given the competition found on the likes of Sukhumvit sois 22 and 23, as well as many other sois between Asoke and Nana, I am not so sure. The idea that Sukhumvit Soi 33 is a high-end bar street is well and truly confined to Bangkok bar history.
Fury erupted across Thailand expat forums in response to an article this week in the Khao Sod newspaper about how a small, satellite branch of Immigration has introduced a new form for foreigners extending their visa to fill out which requests additional information from them including their local bank account details, social media accounts, car registration details as well as listing places they hang out at. This form and the collection of this information was the brainchild of a senior Immigration officer but at this point in time it is not official policy and the form is being used at one small Immigration office. Collecting all of this information would be cumbersome and I don't imagine that Immigration has the resources to process all this information and record it – it would take AGES to type all of this in to a central computer (have you ever seen how slowly some Immigration officers type English?!) and I very much doubt they have the resources to file all the paper reports in such a way that the information can be quickly and easily retrieved. Remember the Immigration Department's plans for fingerprint scanners at all border points and Immigration offices a couple of years back? That never eventuated and presumably the idea fell through. I don't think it's a stretch that the same will happen with the new form. In other words, don't stress about it!
Friends in Thailand who do their 90-day reporting (not all foreigners do it and many who don't never have a problem) have switched to doing it online, saving a trip to Immigration every 3 months. Please note that if you do it online, for some strange reason you are limited to using the Internet Explorer browser. Also note that you need to do it 7 to 15 days before the due date. You will receive an email acknowledging that you have completed the 90 day reporting within a couple of days, along with a slip that you can print out and keep in your passport.
If you are applying for a visa to visit the USA, Australia or other country for your Thai girlfriend and you need assistance with the visa application process, Tanya, the principal of Bangkok Buddy, now offers such a service. Tanya has developed her business which grew out of the Jack Gold visa run company and offers visa assistance for foreigners in Thailand who have any visa issues. Tanya and her team can also help you or your Thai girlfriend get a visa to visit the West.
The newest taxis in Bangkok have an LED panel on the roof which is part of the Taxi Meter sign. Hooked up to GPS system and not to the speedo, the LED panel displays the speed at which the taxi is travelling. I don't know if this is just the taxis of the All Thai Taxi company or whether all taxis in Bangkok will feature this in the future. Given the speed at which some taxis like to roar along the expressway, anything that measures and reports their speed has to be a good idea.
From huge billboards around Bangkok to skytrain stations to inside skytrain carriages themselves, Bangkok has been saturated with advertisements for Eatigo, a discounted restaurant reservation service. Eatigo allows you to book a table at many popular restaurants in Bangkok and receive a hefty discount depending on the time you dine, of up to 50%. The listings are heavy on hotel restaurants but there are a number of outlets popular with foreigners including Hooters, Roadhouse BBQ, Bangkok Burger Company, Huntsman Pub and American Bar & Grill. Eatigo has a both a website and an app through which you can book and user reviews are extremely positive. The app is super easy to use and it's free to join. Check it out if you dine out frequently in Bangkok.
What's the best way for those staying in Thailand for a medium term – let's say 3 – 6 months – to get the best rate for their foreign cash? I know it's not ideal and, yes, there is some risk, but bringing cash in to the country and changing it at one of the local money changers (like Super Rich or Vasu Exchange in Bangkok) is fee-free and these transfers get the best rate. It's amazing how much money you can lose on ATM withdrawals and terrible exchange rates if you're not careful.
English friends and English readers are all telling me the same – there are some great deals flying from the UK to Thailand these days with fares on quality airlines for less than £500 return. Even direct on British Airways you can get a fare for under £500 if you're lucky. Of course on the other direct airline, Thai Airways, fares are quite a lot higher.
Quote of the week comes from Dave The Rave, "Thailand is the only country where you get low-speed Internet for the cost of high-speed!"
Reader story of the week comes from Claymore, "Saying Bye Bye To Patpong".
Foreigners in Thailand may be asked to provide bank account details, social media and other personal info to Immigration.
Thai visitors behaving badly in Japan are to the Japanese what the Chinese visitors are to the Thais in Thailand.
A video clip posted online shows a foreign male being brutally attacked and beaten by a group of Thai males.
A documentary screened this week about the deaths of 6 foreigners on Ko Tao in the last two years.
A Western couple is caught having sex on Pattaya Beach and accused of ruining Pattaya's pristine reputation
A German gets stoned in Pattaya….that is stoned in the face by a ladyboy.
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 am considering building an apartment building with my Thai business partner who I both trust and have known for many years. We both agree on the concept, location, size, number of rooms etc. As we all know, land cannot be put in a foreigner's name. I have considered a 30-year lease contract and consulted various experts. My favourite solution would be to set up a company in which the company owns the land and building and is of course responsible for correct accounting. Each owning 49% and the other 2% to someone we trust. We both have equal amounts of capital to invest, so I doubt it would be regarded as a nominee type company set up. May I ask for your opinion and if such a construct complies with Thai law and if there would be any possible risks or legal obstacles? Your advice is highly appreciated.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Since you will be purchasing the building and property for commercial purposes, using a Thai Limited Company for the purchase is the best course of action. Property-owning companies with part foreign ownership are under increased scrutiny but as you will all be investing capital in the business it should withstand that scrutiny.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has an in-house team that can assist with the required company registration procedure as well as the subsequent visa, work permit and accounting support required. We can set up a consultation to go over this whole process in more detail. Please feel free to let us know a date and time to your convenience.
Question 2: A while ago I had a bad fall and split my head open. I woke up with manager of the apartment building looking over me and his wife patching me up. A week later I had some sort of fit. I woke up in hospital strapped to a bed…arms, legs, everything. Now this is not me threatening anyone behaviour. I'm not running up the street trying to hurt anyone. I am not abusing anyone. I had been sitting in the apartment watching a movie! The ***** strapped me down for 3 days and refused to let me go. I had to beg for water; to have a pee. Food? Close to forget about it. Other bodily functions? It's the closest I have come to imprisonment! Simple question – can they legally do this? I was not a threat to anyone. I could not contact police, embassy or family. I was force fed medication I didn't want. I have never had my personal rights violated like this. Then I had to pay. Like I said I was sitting in my room and just had some sort of seizure from a knock on head. Not alcohol related although I had been drinking. The owner of the apartment took me to hospital. They are good people, the owner, manager, his family etc. It's the hospital and doctor I have an issue with. The doc spent less than a minute talking to me, but 20 pills a day. People could speak English. I was told come back in a month. I did. I was hurting all over. The story was I hurt myself tied up. Sorry, I don't like waking up like that. I have lower back problems; it hurts like hell when on my back. The medication they gave me has really bad side effects – really, really bad dreams, no appetite, no libido. One leg totally $%^#@ from being tied up. No, I am not a crack head or on any drugs. Maybe a few too many beers (6 – 8) watching a John Wayne movie, but that's it! Are they allowed to restrain you and cut of all communication?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Since you like John Wayne movies, Pilgrim, here's a famous quote from him: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."
The lesson here is probably not to be drinking 6 – 8 beers and falling down and getting a head injury. The fact is that hospitals have the right to protect you from yourself and if they feel you will injure yourself they will restrain you. If you feel you have a civil case against the hospital that you were injured, then you could pursue that in courts here but the odds are very low that you would win.
Question 3: I have a daughter with a Thai woman. We are not married and are no longer together. She and my daughter now stay with her parents in Ubon Rachathani and I live in Bangkok. She used to be a gogo dancer at Sensations in Walking Street in Pattaya. Recently she has started talking about going back there to work and leaving our daughter with her parents. I have no feelings toward her and I've moved on. She lied to me about her age and about being on birth control. But I do care about the child. I've told her it would make me very upset if she left the child with her parents to go work in Pattaya, and that I would rather our daughter come stay with me in Bangkok. Her parents are not bad people, and it's not a terrible environment for a child. My name is on the Thai birth certificate as the father, and I had a DNA test done at Bumrungrad just to be sure, but I knew just from looking at her that she was mine. We recorded the birth at the U.S. embassy and applied to get her a U.S. passport, which I keep in my possession. My question is this: Would I be able to take custody of my daughter if her mother decides to go back to being a prostitute and leaves our daughter with her parents?
Sunbelt Legal responds: In Thailand, a child born to parents who are married to each other is considered the legitimate child of both the husband and wife. However, a child born out of wedlock is in general, considered the legitimate child of only the mother.
A birth mother's legal rights are automatic but the father's rights are not because of this. A common misconception is that a father's name on a birth certificate establishes paternal rights but it does not.
A father therefore has two options to exercise his parental rights. The first is the legitimation process at the local district office. If the mother and the child consent to the legitimation then the registration allows the father to have joint custody or sole custody over the child upon agreement between the father and mother of the child.
If consent is not granted by the mother then the only remaining option is to file for custody with the Courts. If the father of the child born out of wedlock files for legitimation of a child in Thailand, the custody issue can be petitioned together with the legitimation case. The court in the same case will decide whether the father is suitable to exercise partial or whole custody over the child.
We can arrange a consultation at our Sunbelt Asia office to go over matters in more detail. Rest assured, we have an in house legal team that can assist with your family law concerns.
As Thailand changes, so too does its visitors – and so too does this site's readers. I hate to say it….but….there's a very small number of people reading these days who give me the creeps. I guess it's partially the Internet and the way some say stuff online they would never say in the real world. The Stickman email address has seen its share of whackos over the years yet while email volumes are not what they once were – social media and instant messaging are often preferred for a good rant – I receive more crazy emails these days than ever before. I don't take such fools seriously, but at the same time it makes things just a wee bit less fun. And that causes the mind to wander and consider the time and effort running the site takes. It's fun putting together a weekly column but sometimes I wonder if it might be more fun doing something closer to home…