For the past several weeks I have been in Bangkok. I stayed quiet about it. Bar owners and bar managers knew I was in town, not because I told them but because they spotted me and once a couple knew, they all knew. Close friends, obviously, knew I was in town. But most readers did not. It wasn't a secret and in a good few columns I dropped hint after hint that I was in town yet almost no-one picked up on it. It was not until the Billboard photo essay – the opening piece in last week's column – that a handful of people asked the question….was Stick back in Bangkok?
I guess the first question is why was I back – and no doubt the wise guys can answer that. Stick couldn't cope with New Zealand – the high cost of living, the cold weather and the even colder females – and came back to Thailand on the quiet with his tail between his legs. Nothing could be further from the truth and I'm happy in Auckland from where I write this week's column.
But that doesn't answer the question of why I was back in Thailand.
The answer to that question has zero relevance to this column. I was back in Bangkok in a support role for a new business start-up. That's it, and that's all I'm saying. The business has nothing to do with Stickman or nightlife or expats or anything covered in this column.
So why didn't I tell people I was back in Bangkok? The simple answer is that I prefer not to divulge a great deal about my life and as much as anything, I don't really see it as being other people's business.
I have to say it has been quite funny reading emails with words to the effect of, "You're in New Zealand, your column sucks and you stink!" when I have actually been in Bangkok, been out and about, doing all the research myself and writing it while in Bangkok. Funny!
Anyway, don't take this is as opening article, more just a quick note to explain the past several weeks. I travelled from Thailand to New Zealand this week and am using that as an excuse not to write an opening piece this week. I will write about my time in Thailand as the opener for next week. Actually, I was not going to publish a column at all this week but that never goes down well, especially when I don't give advance notice of it and besides, there was quite a bit of bad news from this past week and newsbytes date fast so I figured it best to publish what I had while it is still newsworthy.
OK, on with the column proper.
Last week's photo was taken from opposite the main entrance to the Hualumpong Railway Station, looking towards Chinatown where Rama 4 Road and Maitri Chit Road intersect. That area has been a mess for ages as work continues on the extension of the underground train.
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 – Tinder in Thailand.
I have always had a love / hate relationship with Tinder, recently a hate, but decided to give it a go in Thailand in-between my nights being entertained by the regular treats that are found in Cowboy, Nana and Walking Street. So on arrival in Bangkok, I started swiping left and right. It didn't take long for the matches to start to coming in and after wading through the ladyboys (not my thing), I was quite surprised with both the quantity, quality and age of the matches. So before long I started organising catch-ups in bars with many of the girls, but found that just prior to catching up the question of money came up, to which I refused, which naturally resulted in a cancellation. I don't have a problem with paying, it's just that I normally get to choose between a number of girls and a few photos on Tinder often don't provide you with the full story. I know from experience! I finally decided to match up with a girl I really liked the look of and we agreed on 2,000 baht after she asked for 3,000 baht to start with. The strange thing was that she mentioned that if she wasn't feeling it, all I had to do was pay her 200 baht so as she could get home. So after she finished work from her daily job around 10 PM, she came to my hotel and we decided to go for a feed and a few drinks. After an hour of chatting, some food and drink we both decided my hotel was the next destination where she ended up stayed the night. I'm still in contact with her and we will probably catch up should I venture to Thailand next year, but I found it a truly unusual Tinder experience, something that would only happen in Thailand. My new little friend mentioned during dinner that Thai girls come across countless males coming to Thailand who use Tinder as a cheap night between gogo bar visits. I am no different. The payment is seen by Thai girls as compensation for their potential broken hearts and payment isn't necessarily an ongoing thing should she see a viable future in the relationship. It should be noted that when I ask how she would supplement her income should she start something serious, she became a little sheepish!
Who's on your mobile phone?
I heard of a guy who was arrested because he had exchanged messages with a girl who turned out to be an underage prostitute. Apparently the police found hundreds of guys on her phone, some of whom were prominent Thais and some were Farangs. I have collected hundreds of phone numbers over the years. It does make you wonder if any of these people were ever arrested for anything would you then be hauled in by association. Welcome to Stalinist Russia. It's time to start deleting numbers and Line contacts of dodgy people. Oops, that's everyone!
Medical misadventure in South-East Asia.
About 5 years ago while staying in Chiang Mai I had a pain in my groin area that didn't go away. Because it was really hurting I went to a hospital said to be one of the best in Thailand. A doctor said I might have Chlamydia, which was impossible because I only had sex with my wife, with a condom. He said he would test my blood but I should take 1g of antibiotics. After taking the antibiotic I went back, I think a day later, to get the blood test results and as I expected, no Chlamydia! When I asked the doc what was wrong, he said with a big smile, "Don't worry, you're fine!" Well, I wasn't fine and after 3 hospital visits I almost fainted in the hospital hall. I was brought to another doc who did an echo and said I had a varicose vain which needed an operation ASAP, at a cost of 40,000 baht. I refused to agree to go ahead with the operation before talking to my insurance company in Europe which told me this was not a medical emergency so the insurance wouldn't cover it. I am happy they told me this because the pain went away and 5 years later I am still pain-free. This shows, again, how incompetent they are. The first doc couldn't find what was wrong and just sent me away with a big smile instead of sending me to a specialist and the second doctor just wanted money for a fast operation. A similar thing happened to me in the Philippines. They kept me multiple days in a private hospital, "feeding" me multiple bags of Dextrose and I had to pay for every bag with cash because I had an allergy to a generic antibiotic. I even missed my flight home due to this. I hope I never end up in a hospital in South-East Asia again!
Good to see you were back in town for the Billboard shoot. Swung by there tonight on your recommendation. Certainly lots of talent in there, and draws a crowd. But it has got a bit Cowboy-itis, in that there's more girls standing around outside than there are inside. There is zero incentive to go inside, when you get just as good an optic, and a far higher likelihood of interaction, if you're outside than if you're inside. That penny hasn't dropped for the bar owners on Cowboy, so the Billboard owners, if they are to live up your praise, will have to twig to it sooner rather than later.
Barfine and fee in advance.
In response to the email about paying the barfine and the girls fee in advance, that is the way most of the Philippines nightlife areas work. From memory, Angeles City and the islands frequented by foreigners, such as Sabang in Puerto Galera. You may even have to include Cebu. The upper class areas such as Manila also have this system such as Makati. I found the system strange but in my dealings in the Philippines and Thailand, the service from the Philippine ladies is generally better. So at the end of the day you don't mind paying up front. The freelancers obviously do not have this system. So although the guy who wrote the email found it quite strange – if he thinks the Phils is better – think again as most areas I know of have this system.
Postcard from Pattaya.
I was in Pattaya this week and let me tell you the mobs of guided tours (mostly Chinese?) are really getting to be too much. They need to start charging organised tours because it has gotten to the point they are a serious irritation and all they do is clog up Walking Street, buy nothing and leave. I noticed many women are in these groups.
Bangkok Airport security, or lack thereof.
The security alert at Manchester United last Sunday was dealt with in a professional and timely manner. Unlike an incident at Don Meuang airport one time I was there. I noticed a backpack left on a seat and went to the desk at a nearby gate and reported it to an airline employee. She asked me what she should do (duh!) and I suggested she call security. She made a phone call and no-one at security answered! Great! Then I told her I would show her the bag, and she walked up the concourse ahead of me and went right past the bag. Didn't even notice it. Just as we walked back to it someone came and picked it up. We then went back to her desk where I noticed three more bags left unattended by the door to the air-bridge. What about those, I asked. Oh, those belong to the crew, she said. So even the airline crew had no concept of airport security. You really are dealing with children when you come to Thailand. Quite frightening.
This week saw the end of yet another long-running Bangkok bar. Goldfinger on Patpong soi 1 has closed for good. The staff at Goldfinger are now dancing in another long-running Patpong bar, Superstar. Goldfinger's demise can at least be partially attributed to the departure of Randy who left in August, 2014. Once he was gone there was little reason for the Goldfinger regulars to keep going. The owners tried to make Goldfinger like other gogo bars with LED lights and blaring club music but it didn't work and the rest is history. Goldfinger never got a lot of tourists wandering in – even when Randy was running things – and it's amazing that it lasted as long as it did.
What's going on in Patpong soi 2 where the signs at Bada Bing have been all covered up? It appears to be business as usual inside the bar so could the name of the popular bar be about to change? If you walk past and see a new name, let me know because I'm 9997 km away, according to Google.
Wonders never cease in Nana Plaza where two weeks to the day after it closed with a giant padlock on the door and rumours of unpaid rents, Jail Birdz reopened this past Tuesday night. Here's hoping its problems are in the past – when I was in Jail Birdz a number of weeks ago it wasn't too bad.
Lips got moving earlier this week when Big Dogs, the popular beer bar at the mouth of Nana Plaza with a great view of the comings and goings on Soi Nana, appeared to be undergoing renovation. It looked like much of the interior had been ripped out with what appeared to be an electrician removing much of the wiring. Was it merely a low-season spruce up or a major change? In the end it was all rather innocent – the owners arranged for the soft wood to be stripped out as it had become infested with termites and replaced with some sort of composite. There was no spicy gossip after all.
There was panic stations amongst some bar bosses this week with the second week in a row of very low trade. It wasn't helped that Friday – typically the busiest day of the week – was a Buddhist holiday and most bars were closed. May is never a great month and it's perfectly normal for things to be quiet at this time of year but that does not make it any easier for bar bosses.
But bar trade is in direct contrast with the escort industry with the head of Bangkok's biggest escort group telling me that last month was their busiest and most profitable month since they have been in business. Maybe the time of year is less relevant and it's more a representation of how the bar business is in a slow, almost imperceptible decline, while escort services continue to grow in popularity with the total value of the Bangkok escort market more or less doubling each year over the past 4 years.
The old invite the tourists upstairs to see a show and later present them with an outrageous bill as a show fee scam is still a problem in Patpong! Sure, you might not hear about it so much these days but it's still a problem. This is exactly what happened to a young Western couple this week on Patpong soi 1 and it took 3,000 baht for them to be able to leave the bar. I am convinced that many scams perpetrated against tourists in Thailand will never be eradicated, despite what the tourism authority, the government and all the others who should be doing a better job to look after international guests say.
The constitutional referendum is scheduled for the weekend of August 7 and as such early August could be a disaster for the bars (and anyone visiting primarily to hit the bars.) If the referendum follows the same pattern as referendums and elections in the past, bars will be closed both on that weekend and the previous weekend to allow for absentee voting. The populace needs to be sober when they vote, after all. In other words, if you're visiting for the bars, the first week or two of August might not be prime time.
The increasingly popular Hemingway's bar and restaurant in the classic old house in Sukhumvit soi 14 that was once the French ambassador's residence was supposed to have had an appointment with the wrecker's ball about now. What a great shame it would be if (when?) the beautiful old colonial style building is destroyed, especially after such a good job was done on its restoration. It's an overused cliché, but Hemingway's really is an oasis amongst the madness, a lovely secluded, peaceful spot just metres from the Asoke intersection – which some people consider the heart of Bangkok today. Hemingway's has to be one of the best examples of a restored colonial building in Bangkok and seems more popular now than when it first opened – the nightly drinks specials have to be a big part of that. Anyway, the good news is that it appears Hemingway's has had a stay of execution. I am not sure how they managed that with major plans to redevelop that area, but word is Hemingway's should have another year or so. Being designated an historic property and given the protection such status warrants would be even better.
I heard long ago that there is an Angelwitch bar in the Philippines which begs the question of which came first, Angelwitch in Bangkok or Angelwitch in Angeles City?
I was sent a bunch of photos that someone had taken in Angeles City in the Philippines – the centre of that country's naughty nightlife for foreign men. One thing struck me about the photos right away – unlike their Thai sisters, few of the Philippine bargirls sport tattoos.
Between Villa and Bawarchi on Sukhumvit soi 11 is a long alley lined with tiny massage booths that cuts through to soi 13. I don't know who their market is but I get the impression it is the Indians and Pakistanis in the area and perhaps some of the Africans. You have to wander through this alley to see it for yourself – it truly is a lane of horrors with some of the least attractive Thai females on the planet.
Of all the burgers I had in Bangkok over the past several weeks, probably the pick was at Firehouse. I notice this past week Firehouse has new menus printed – and in Bangkok you know what that means – price increases! My favourite menu item was up about 15% which just goes to say what I have always said – inflation on Sukhumvit far exceeds the national inflation rate. Still, Firehouse does have some of the best burgers in town.
And on the subject of burgers, one fun bar and restaurant I checked out for the first time this trip was Fatty's, a neighbourhood American-style burger bar with a rock and roll theme. It's popular with a younger expat crowd living in that part of town and has excellent, reasonably priced burgers, and quite possibly the best chicken wings in town. Fatty's isn't only about food and they also stock many craft beers. Fatty's is a 15-minute walk / short cab or motorbike ride from the Rama 9 / Fortune intersection. If you're not familiar with the area it might be a little awkward to find – Google Maps is your friend.
Looking for a tidy room in central Bangkok for 199 baht a night? Impossible, right? Wrong! Look no further than the Euro Grand Hotel on Sukhumvit soi 31, several hundred metres up from the main Sukhumvit Road and directly opposite former Prime Minister Apisit's residence. The 199 baht per night promotion rate has a catch, however, a BIG catch. You have to pay for 10 years in advance or in other words, lay out around 715,000 baht. Huge banners draped over the side of the hotel show the promotion in English. Is this good value? Well, if you were to book a room in the hotel using Agoda it is around 1,000 baht / night. Soi 31 is a convenient & central location and the price is right – but who knows where you'll be or what you'll be doing in a few years time, let alone in 10?! And while I have no idea what conditions the promotion has, I imagine there is a no sub-lease clause so you could not pay in advance and then lease the room out on Air BnB for several hundred baht per night and make money on it. There is also a 3-year which is 299 baht / day or a total initial outlay of 327,405 baht which gets you a fully furnished unit ready to move in to.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Sex is like a Sunday roast – by mid-week you really start looking forward to Sunday dinner, but once you have had it you really don't feel like another."
From car parts to condos, faltering Thailand lures Chinese money.
Gavinmac reports on a paedophile expelled from Cambodia who protests he is not the person he is accused of being.
The BBC reports that Thailand is to close an island to tourists in the interests of conservation.
The Sydney Morning Herald looks at a part of Thailand with few tourists, Ubon Rachathani.
The dreaded form asking foreigners for all sorts of personal details is now being used by Immigration in Phuket.
The Washington Post looks at why there is no end in sight to junta rule in Thailand.
Staff in a Jomtien Hotel provide a stranger with the master key to the safety security boxes and the invitable happens.
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: My friend, a Thai lady, got married to a Scottish gentleman 18 months ago. They separated irreconcilably, about 6 months ago. They were married in Thailand through the official channels ('signed at office' in her words), not a 'monk ceremony'. He is now in Scotland and she is in Thailand. She would like to get divorced and move on with her life, but he doesn't want to return to Thailand. I should also add that there is no common property and no children from the marriage. Could you please let me know her options to move this along?
Sunbelt Legal responds: If both parties agree to the divorce, it's as simple as going to any Amphur or District Office and filing for divorce. This option is referred to as an administrative divorce or a divorce by mutual consent.
The cost as well as timeline to complete this option makes this a highly recommended option. The caveat here is that this option is only available if the husband is willing to travel to Thailand to complete the process.
If he refuses to travel then the next course of action for your friend is to obtain a divorce by judgment. This step requires a submission to the Family Court and it should be noted that the court will only grant divorce on specific grounds.
In her case, the grounds for divorce requires a separation of 3 years. The fact that your friend has been separated for only 6 months would not be enough to obtain a divorce on this ground. There are other grounds that may be applicable but more information would be needed.
Question 2: I have been married to a Thai woman for 17 years and living in the UK and on our trips only take up the 28-day visa on arrival. Next year I get my pension and want to stay 3 or 4 months and was wondering if as a husband of a Thai national I can still get the 6-month visa. I would appreciate any info you can assist me with.
Sunbelt Legal responds: As you are married to a Thai national, it is advisable to apply for a Non-Immigrant type O marriage visa. An application through a Thai embassy or consulate abroad would give you a 90-day stay in Thailand with the potential for a 1-year extension to stay in Thailand, if you wished.
This option however requires you to have registered your marriage at a local Thai district office. You would need to provide copies of your marriage certificate as well as your wife's Thai ID card and house registration as well. If you were married overseas then other documentation is necessary.
Additionally, you would also have to show either a monthly income of at least 40,000 baht or 400,000 baht as a lump sum in a Thai bank account for the past 3 months.
Please however note that every Thai embassy or consulate has slight variations with the list of required documentation and it is advisable to double check matters with them prior to any submission process.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors' visa team will be able to guide you through the application process at a Thai embassy overseas as well as the subsequent extension process here in Thailand.
I certainly do not like to mislead anyone so I wasn't comfortable not revealing that I was in Thailand for a period. At the same time I don't really care to divulge a great deal about my life either. I was kind of surprised so few people realised I was in Thailand. From the Snake Dancer column onwards, I thought it was obvious that I was in country – the photos were clearly taken by me and news reports in the column about the snake show returning were a giveaway. A few sent notes asking if I was in town, but only a few. At the end of the day, does it really matter whether I am in Thailand, New Zealand or even somewhere else?