What started as a small website with the profiles of a dozen girls and a lady at the other end of a mobile phone matching those ladies with horny guys, has grown in to arguably the best-known escort website in Thailand. Today, BangkokEscort.com is the flagship of the country's most professional and most successful escort agency group. When I was in town recently I caught up with 6 of the agency's escorts for a chat about their lives. What particularly interested me about Julie, Sophia, Cherry, Bonnie, Alice and Maria was that they have all been with the agency for some time. What was their plan and perhaps more specifically, did they have an exit plan?
In previous chit chats we have talked about how you each got in to the business in the first place and what it's like working as an escort. I guess I expected most of you would be out of the industry by now but you're all still working! What's the story? You can't do this sort of work your entire life, can you!
Maria: I think maybe it will be another 2 more years for me. I still don't have enough money to stop working and when I stop I don't want to work again.
Bonnie: I have a dream for my future and that is why I continue working. My dream is to be the master of my own destiny. I don't want other people to choose how my life will be and the only way for me to control my own life is to have enough money. Money doesn't make us happy, but it gives us choices.
Maria: It's all about the money – the more money, the better your life.
Bonnie: I want to make sure the quality of my life is very good. I also have to take care of my family. I want to be sure that I have enough money for my life and their life to be better.
So you want out, but you stay because you need more money?
Sophia: I want to have enough money for my family and me.
So that begs the obvious question: What is your number?
<Blank looks all around, no one is quite sure, almost as if no one has actually thought it that far through.>
I mean how much money do you need?
< Still a little reluctant to answer>
OK, let me tell you my number. For me, I need $2 million, or in your money, about 50 million baht. To buy a decent house in my country, furnish it and have a couple of cars is about $1,000,000. And I would like another million on top of that to invest and generate an income. Anything less than that amount and I would not be confident that I have enough money to stop working. I figure with a house and another $1million+ I can earn enough from investments to live comfortably, travel and still have enough to buy a few toys. More would be better and it's really not a lot of money these days, but $NZD 2 million is the minimum for me. So, would 50 million baht be enough for you?
<Laughs all around as if what I have said is the most profound thing anyone has ever said to them!>
Maria: 2 million baht.
Is that really enough? It really doesn't sound like a big number to me.
Maria: Yeah, it's enough, I think.
You think? Think is not good enough, you need to be sure!
Bonnie: 5 million baht is enough. Cash. I am building a house already. A house and 5 million baht will be enough.
Sophia: 5 million baht too. I have a car to pay off. I need to pay off my car first and save more.
Cherry: 5 or 6 million baht. I want to buy a big piece of land, which will cost 3 million baht. It will be large, many rai. When I have that I can have a farm and run my own business from the farm and make money.
Julie: 3 million baht. Before I thought 1 million was enough but now I know it's not enough.
Bonnie: Everything is getting expensive now….even just bla-too, you know a small piece of fish costs much more than before.
Julie: Sometimes we have a big dream and we have to revise it with a smaller dream but I think 3 million baht will be enough.
<I find myself multi-tasking, asking questions + scribbling answers while also doing the maths in my mind to estimate the number of customers the girls have had to save this amount of money. Most escort agencies in Bangkok split the fee 50 : 50 with the girls. So, from a 2-hour liaison @ 5,000 baht the girl gets 2,500 baht. 5 million baht divided by 2,500 baht is 2,000 = meaning 2,000 customers – and that's just to save 5 million baht. I decide to keep this thought to myself.>
So when you have reached the point that you have saved enough money, what will you do with it?
Maria: Put it in the bank and buy gold.
Julie: Buy my land.
Sophia: Put it in the bank and earn interest and just use the interest to live on.
Cherry: Once we have enough money, for me it's 5 million baht, we can run a business. I will go back home and work on my farm. I will grow fruit and vegetables and sell them in the market. We can grow food for ourselves and sell the excess at the market. If we're lucky we might be able to export some to other countries and sell it at a higher price.
Alice: If I have enough money I will move home, buy land and start a business too.
So when you have made enough money to stop working you're going to go home?
Everyone: <A very resounding> YES!
So does that mean you don't really like Bangkok and that you're only here for money?
Sophia: We are only here to make money. That is the only reason to be in Bangkok!
No one is here for the fun or excitement of a big city?
So ultimately you don't really like it here?
<I am looked at as if this is another incredibly stupid question.>
Julie: I want to go back to home and be with my family, stay with them and be close to nature.
Maria: If I am with my family in the countryside, even if I just sit and gaze at a canal all day long I'm happy. Being home with family beats living in this city any time. I don't care what I do when I am at home, I am happy there.
So tell me about your dreams, the dreams you had when you started this work and the dreams you have now. Have your dreams changed? No one has said they want to settle down with a foreign guy / customer which I find a little surprising.
Bonnie: It's very hard to find a good guy in this business. It's hard to find a rich guy for marriage, or even just find a good guy who isn't rich. It's better to buy a lottery ticket. There's a better chance of getting lucky that way.
Maria: If we meet someone, that would be good. But if we don't, hey, no problem.
Sophia, I know you better than the other girls here. You used to work in the UK, for a number of years as I seem to recall. You've been back working in Thailand a good few years now. You must have met some good guys over the years, surely?
Sophia: How many years have I worked? Oh, I don't remember but it's a long, long time. If I was going to meet a guy and he was going to marry me, it would have happened already. It isn't going to happen.
Cherry: I have been with so many handsome men. I have taken care of many smart guys, high-class guys, rich guys. Many of these guys were very desirable to be a husband. I have met so many guys already, so many who would make a good husband, but it wasn't to be.
Why is that? Are you all super fussy? Are you waiting for that one guy who is both super rich and super handsome?
Julie: That's not the problem. Most guys we meet are not single. Most have a wife and family in their country.
Sophia: We're not lucky to meet a guy for life in this business. It's only for a short time, only to make money.
Alice: For me it doesn't matter. It's only about money and was never about anything else. I never had a dream to meet a foreign guy to marry. Honestly, I never ever thought I would meet a guy for a relationship in this business.
That's very different to how things used to be. <I tell them briefly about the history of this website, my time in Thailand and how for many years Western guys visiting Thailand got involved with working ladies, relationships flourished, they got married, kids came along and some lived happily ever after. They seem genuinely surprised.> So do you see foreign guys only as a source of money?
<She'd been tapping away on her mobile, seemingly in a world of her own, but obviously she was tuned in to what was being said because before anyone has a chance to answer the manager interjects quick fast and stops the girls before they answer, with the Thai equivalent for the English "inappropriate" used.>
Bonnie: So many guys we take care of say they love us. I have heard those words so many times! I have to try so hard to feign happiness as if I believe them, but it's hard when you have heard it from so many guys and know it's not true! How can they love us after a few days when they hardly even know us?
Julie: We can only hope for so long that Mr. Right is going to come along and when he doesn't, we must face reality. Eventually we lose any hope at all that this business will be about anything more than making money.
Bonnie: Since I have worked as an escort, I have learned many things and seen things I would not otherwise have seen. A lot of people tell me what I have to do – do this, do that….but I do what I want to do. One thing I know it is very hard to make people like me and love me.
So has your idea of Western men changed? What were your general thoughts about white guys before you started and how have they changed?
Maria: Farang are more polite than I thought they would be.
Julie: Before I was scared of foreign guys, but now I am not scared at all
Bonnie: African guys really are big and some are scary.
Maria: Some guys don't let us sleep!
Maria: Some guys want to have sex all night and never stop.
Bonnie: They want to use all the time they have paid for, the entire night, kind of like they have paid for “full option!”
Alice: Some guys think they can do anything they want to us because they paid money for us.
Cherry: But when they're good, they are really good.
Maria: Some guys are so good. Like the customer I had last night. They make us really happy.
Sophia: When I meet good guys I am happy to keep working but when I meet bad guys it puts me off and makes me think about leaving once and for all.
So it means your work is changeable depending on the customer and never the same?
Maria: Yes, it is like an up and down graph. <She waves her finger up and down, as if drawing a graph.>
Bonnie: Up and down, up and down, that's our life!
For me, Thailand feels like it is changing fast. Some older expats are leaving while younger guys are coming in even greater numbers. Have you seen any changes in this business or is it business as usual?
Bonnie: I think more expats come here for work. I see more farangs here and many live here.
Julie: I think customers have changed and they spend less money. Before my customers liked to go out and take me to really nice places, expensive hotel bars and restaurants, but now most stay in the room and play with their laptop when they're not playing with me. Bangkok is expensive and a lot of people just play online because they don't have money to do things. Just eating basic food is much more expensive than it used to be.
Sophia: Many farang live here now, more than ever before. I think a lot them are poor. They always complain about money.
So do you still get the same number of bookings as in the past?
<The manager interjects and pointedly says that there are still a lot of bookings but the girls take more time off these days and any drop in bookings is due to the girls' availability – or lack of it – more than anything else. She doesn't say it explicitly, but I get the feeling she is not impressed that these particular girls, all of whom have been with the agency for some time, some for approaching 5 years, are not as hard-working as they used to be.>
Sophia: Before we got a lot of long bookings, like overnight or multi-day, but now it's mainly short bookings. We used to get overnight regularly, but now most bookings are just 2 hours.
You make A LOT of money in this business. Is the money so good that it's hard to walk away from?
Sophia: 9,000 baht is what a lot of people get paid for one month. We can make that in one day. Even if we earned 30,000 baht a month which is a high salary, that would be a huge drop in income for us. Just my personal expenses can be more than 30,000 baht a month.
Cherry: We're getting older every day so we have to make money while we can. We cannot make this sort of money doing anything else.
You make good money – what do you do with it? Do you save it?
Sophia: I send a lot of money home. I am always buying this and that. It depends on our family. Every family is different.
Julie: There are four areas of expenses each month. First there is rent. We all have to pay rent. Next are the things we buy for ourselves. Then there is the money we send to our family. Finally, there is the money we save.
<Everyone nods in agreement.>
Cherry: My number one priority is sending money home. I try to save. That's about it. I don't have a lot of expenses so I can save a lot.
Bonnie: I send some to my family and the rest is for me.
Has anyone bought a home?
Everyone: <Yes, everyone is either building or has already built / bought a house.>
Sophia: Buying a house is the biggest expense in life. What do you say in English? Easy come, easy go? That's what happens with the money we make. We have to be sensible and buy things that are important like a house and a car.
Julie: We need to save a lot of money for any medical care or hospital expenses too.
Sophia: With assets like a house, land or car, if we need money in the future we can sell these things. When we stop we might not be making money so we need to be careful to plan now.
I know you make very good money already and probably earn more than most of my readers, but have you considered working abroad where the money is even better? Singapore, for example? A lot of Thai women are on the Bangkok / Singapore circuit and I understand they make several hundred dollars a day.
Sophia: There are many young ladies there and we are not young. And in Singapore they like white-skinned girls so we cannot compete with them.
But there are lots of expats in Singapore and they will go for your look.
Julie: It's easier here. We know how everything works. Everything is easy here. This is our home, our country, There are no problems working here. If we have a problem with a customer here, we can easily sort it out. In Singapore or in another country if we have problems with a customer it can become a big problem and it's not easy for us. We should not be doing this work there and that would always in the back of my mind.
Maria: I love Thailand and I want to stay here.
Bonnie: We cannot get som tam there or other places!
Cherry: I hear it's not easy to go to Singapore for us any more. It's risky these days.
Looking good is a big part of what you do. What sort of effort do you make to look good?
Bonnie: I spend a lot of money on the way I look. Filler, vitamins, Botox once a year. Supplements are important too. I try to be healthy.
So there's no alcohol? No drinking?
Cherry: Haha! We drink a lot but we try to eat well too. It's important to eat nutritious food.
Maria: We need to get enough sleep. That is really important, but it's not easy in this line of work.
I've got my opinion on this, but why do you think so many Thai women work in the sex industry? Is making money from your body natural for Thai women? OK, perhaps that's not such a nice way to put it. Let me try to put it a more palatable way….do you have fewer hang-ups about sex for money than other cultures may have?
Maria: Working like this is the easiest way to make a lot of money fast. We do it for the money. We don't think about it too much. The money is for our family.
Cherry: Many Thai ladies take the responsibility of taking care of their family seriously. To do that you need money, sometimes a lot of money, and this is the best and easiest way for us to make a lot of money.
Bonnie: It's Thai culture. We cannot leave the family behind or abandon them. Never. It's the last thing we can ever do.
<Everyone is nodding in agreement.>
Tell me honestly, do think this business has changed you?
Bonnie: I feel it has made me grow up. I have seen more than I ever would have seen had I not done this. It has forced me to grow up. I think I have learned a lot and it has made me consider different ideas and look at things from a different perspective. When we're young we just want to have fun but when we do this work we feel like we have grown up in our mind. We feel that we have a duty to our family and honestly, I feel I have fulfilled that duty and I feel a great sense of pride in that.
Sophia: It has made me stronger through all of the experiences I have had.
Cherry: If I worked in a factory I would have a small salary. Working here I have made good money and I have been able to provide for my family and that has made everyone at home happy. Whatever they want, I can give it to them. If they want good food, I can provide it. I don't know if you know how important that is to us. Do you send money to your family?
Umm, err, no, I don't. It's not part of my culture. But then my parents have enough so it's not like they need my help. They just prefer that I live close by. That's more important to them than money.
Bonnie: I have learned a lot about time and how important the concept of time is to foreigners. I have learned to rush and do things fast. Time is important. It's not like that here. One day I will not be as beautiful as I am today and my looks will have gone, so I must work fast now to make money while I can.
Maria: The most important thing is that my family's life is so much better because of what I have done. I bought a house for my mother. I send money to her every month without fail. So what happens to me doesn't matter.
Julie: Same as my friends. It's all about family.
Alice: Same same. More money is better for my family. It's as simple as that. What good can working in a factory do? Overtime? An extra 50 baht? That won't help much!
Julie: Even if you work in a good job and you get overtime you just cannot earn the sort of money we have been able to. It's a no-brainer.
I tell my readers that older ladies are better. Am I right? Why should my readers choose you, and not an 18-year-old gogo dancer?
Sophia: Service levels are not the same <said with a sexy grin>. Service is very important!
Alice: We are higher class.
Cherry: Honestly, I am confident that we are better at what we do. I truly believe that.
Maria: There is the safety issue. We come from an agency and if there is anything that you're not happy with you can contact the agency.
Bonnie: Do you really think a young girl is better in bed than us?! <She grabs my arm and starts stroking it and stares directly at me, holding eye contact. Everyone bursts out laughing!>
OK, so what about your sexual health?
Bonnie: I have had some customers who are quite vigorous during sex and I always go back to see the same doctor. Now he always says the same, "Oh, it's you again, is it the same problem as last time?!" The doctor has told me that this work is not good for me even if I use a condom all the time. I think my pussy needs to take a holiday because she works so hard!
<It's a question that ultimately the other girls don't want to answer and the interview peters out as the girls lose interest and start chattering amongst themselves, answering that very question in hushed tones, all rather cagey and nervous that I will transcribe their conversation. I tell them that we're done, they seem relieved as general chit chat follows.>
A couple of the girls show me photos of themselves and their family up country. It looks like it's a million miles from Bangkok. In those photos the girls are not dollied up, they have minimal makeup and in one shot Bonnie is wearing a straw hat and looks nothing like she does now. It's not just another province, it looks like another world. It's hard to believe that these elegantly dressed ladies come from a world so different to the upmarket shopping mall we're sitting in.
But then, I wonder to myself, are these girls really all that different to me? I came to Bangkok, did my thing, made some money – in the very same industry as these girls – and then returned to where I had come from for much the same reasons as these girls – I wanted to be close to family and a natural environment, well away from the stresses and strains of Bangkok. Maybe we're all not as different as we like to think we are?
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken opposite the Grand Palace, near the Ta Chang 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 – Not much has changed.
If you are not totally done with the South-East Asia experience, you should read Air America by Christopher Robbins. The past as a key to the future? Perhaps? Entertaining anyway. Regarding the cultural differences, it seemed that the longer AA people stayed in Laos, or in the Far East in general, the greater the cultural gap and the feeling of alienation became – the cliché, the Eastern paradox of the two cultures never meeting. The old hands began to see the mixture of great gentleness and cold-blooded cruelty as hypocrisy, and discovered that beneath the smiling deference was a total contempt. Not much has changed.
Thailand may not be the answer.
Whenever I get depressed I feel like I just want to run away to Thailand. Rent a nice place, get on Tinder, join a gym and start a new adventure. But I have learnt from my mistakes and going to Thailand is not the answer. Whenever I go I always start off on the right path. I always say to myself, enjoy the sun, no hookers, go out and explore, join a gym. That usually lasts a week. Then I get lost down soi 4, I get drunk, I wake up late. I ignore Tinder dates and just bang hookers. I even ended up with a few ladyboys hanging out the back of me on occasions. Disgraceful. Life is about good company and staying away from trouble. As I get older I have come to the conclusion that while one's freedom is important, too much freedom can send a man feral.
Time to try somewhere new?
I've been nowhere else but Thailand for holidays in the last 15 years. I'm now 46 years old. When I first came, it was all new. The pound was strong and I was young. Since then, after more liaisons than I care to remember, the attraction has slowly diminished as the years went by. The bar scene has changed altogether. Before, the Girlfriend Experience was fun and inclusive. That just doesn't happen anymore. I find escorts a preferable option. I always holiday in Bangkok then Samui. Samui has changed beyond recognition over the years, as has my circle of expat friends there. Maybe it's island life, but one by one they have slowly either fallen out with each other or returned to the UK or wherever, disillusioned with the ever increasing bureaucracy of trying to earn a legal living in Thailand as a farang. As for me, I'm back in September, not to Samui, just Bangkok and Pattaya (a place I swore never to return to after one visit 10 years ago!). We'll see what happens next. But for sure, Thailand ain't the place I was once in love with, and maybe it's time to move on.
To prepay or not to prepay?
The soapies collect everything ahead of time, except the tip. I see no problem with the bars doing the same. Just make it clear to the girl that a good time = a good tip.
Postcard from Angeles, a response.
As a long time resident of Angeles City, I feel compelled to remark upon the reader submission, "Postcard from AC." Stick's observation the prior week that tattoos are not so prevalent here is essentially correct. I have spent the past week doing an unscientific canvass and put the figure at less than ten percent with most of these tattoos being small and poorly done. Full and colorful body tattoos are common…among expat bar patrons. The average age of Filipinos is 23 years old and falling as the population doubles every 30 years. Crushing rural poverty has conservative country girls entering the entertainment industry seeking a better life. Turnover is high and the long term "bar girl caste" isn't as developed. Thailand, even Pattaya, was like that until the mid-1980s. There are a lot of bar owners here who wish the reader statement, "The GFE experience is totally non-existent in AC" was true. Good looking nice girls are quickly picked off as girlfriends by both residents and visitors. Indeed, all that the Philippines has to differentiate from the many advantages Thailand enjoys is the GFE. AC can't hold a candle to Pattaya as a sex tourist destination. No Boy's Town, BDSM houses, ladyboy bars, live sex shows etc. AC isn't really for punters seeking raw untrammelled anything goes sex. Good place to have a GFE, however, if one makes a modest effort. The Philippines can be a great experience if one thinks as a traveller rather than a tourist. Infrastructure is poor and not for the tourist who thinks "shooting fish in a barrel isn't enough but they should jump out, fillet and cook themselves too." One can still experience here the wonderful adventures once common in Thailand several decades ago. The caveat, of course, this is no place for idiots who suspend common sense.
Not all British pubs are equal.
I thought you might like to know that we called into the pub formerly known as O'Reilly's. There was one patron when we entered and he left shortly afterwards. I asked for a Beer Lao in English which the sole bar maid did not understand. I then asked in my limited Thai and she understood. However, when she delivered the drinks I found my Beer Lao to be of the dark variety. We drank up and asked for the check. I was amazed to find that the pub had the temerity to charge a 12% service fee (not the usual 10%) plus 7% VAT. No wonder there was a dearth of customers when they are charging 12% "service charge" and the bar maid can't understand either English or Thai! About 90 minutes later we entered the Robin Hood. What a contrast. It was full with visitors and expats having a Sunday roast lunch. Later still, we visited the Queen Victoria in Sukhumvit soi 23. Even at 4 PM it still had 20 people left over from lunch. Last evening we had to wait several minutes for a table. The Kiwi manager said it had been busy all evening – in fact he said it had been a really good week. The Queen Vic doesn't charge a service fee and its beer prices are slightly cheaper than the Robin Hood's. So I surmise that the pub now known as Flan O'Brien's at Sala Daeng is in its business death throes – and the 12% service charge would be doing nothing to help its obviously dire situation.
Dreaming of the past.
I doubt very much that I will return to Thailand. I doubt I could bear to see graffiti in my beautiful Bangkok – and nobody taking care to erase it. I honestly have never seen graffiti in Thailand and was always so proud that it was something very seldom seen anywhere in The Kingdom – unlike the trash that is plastered everywhere in our Western cities. I have been doing mental recollections of what once was the greatest city one could have the good fortune to be part of. To see it any other way would be quite painful for me to cope with. I guess the truth is that I really wish I was still back there in the Thaksin years – and I know that everything back there was not perfect – but it was a damn sight better than how things now are. What has happened to our wonderful Land Of Smiles?
Girl of the week
Escort, exclusive to BangkokEscort.com
In recent years we have seen an accelerated transformation of Bangkok's famed nightlife. In lower Sukhumvit in particular we have seen the loss of so many classic and in some cases long-running nightlife venues as standalone bars, hotels that sprang up during the Vietnam War and even entire bar areas and bar neighbourhoods have been closed down as down Bangkok's unstoppable march towards becoming a modern Asian metropolis continues with almost no thought of the heritage that is lost forever. This week brought the terrible news that Bangkok's longest continuously operating nightclub and bar, the classic CheckInn99 which first opened in 1957 has signaled it is no longer able to trade in its current location and has only 4 weeks left.
The Indian-Thai landlord who owns much of the property in that area is developing the alley behind CheckInn99, long known as The Tunnel, into a market place and wants to cut the back 10 metres off Checkinn99. This would encroach right into the bar, all the way up to the stage. The toilets, waste water outlets, stair access to the upper levels and their small kitchen famous for its Chateaubriands would be destroyed. Even though rent has almost doubled over the past six years, CheckInn has been advised that if they wished to remain in the cut down bar, rent would triple from the beginning of July. It is also believed the land owner also has plans to convert the front of the famous old bar into the lobby for an upstairs accommodation area to be run by the Accor hotel group.
This is all quite a blow for the very affable owners, Aussie Chris and his wife who had been working with the landlord over the past couple of months to manage the development themselves, only to be told only this week that they had been outbid by the hotel group and the 3-month period of notice would not apply. Based on the original agreed plans made to Chris and Mook that they could develop both upstairs into an upscale hostel and budget accommodation, thus keeping CheckInn99 intact, they refurbished the entire bar, finally being able to fix water and flooding problems that had plagued the bar for years. The short period of notice has placed them in a near impossible situation of finding another location themselves and keeping the operation going.
In so many ways Checkinn99 is unique. It has its own rich history and a significant following. The turnaround of CheckInn99 over the last 6 years has been something quite remarkable. When Chris and Mook took over the bar it was a run-down old hostess bar that I had long ago vowed I would never step foot in again. The dreadful smell from the urinals was legendary, wafting through the bar, down the corridor and all the way out on to the main Sukhumvit Road, even overpowering the pungent smells Bangkok is known for. The urinal problem was dealt with as were many other issues, and a warm inviting atmosphere where everyone was welcome was created.
Part of the CheckInn99 story has been told on this site before. Built in the late 1950's – 60's as the Copacabana, it was a very popular out of town naughty entertainment venue complete with its own upstairs short time hotel. CheckInn99 was the first multi-storey building on Sukhumvit Road which comprised open land and rice fields.
CheckInn99 (The Copa) in the late '60s when Sukhumvit was nothing more than a dirt road.
* Taken from where the Landmark hotel is today.
The Copa was built using part of the wall structure of the old Bangkok Ice works which dated back to the early 1900s. Most recently during renovations the owner discovered a small sealed door that lead down into a vault and another door to one of the old ice works cellars. The second door was never opened as Chris's wife Mook had the vault entrance sealed up with a ton of concrete and bricked up the second door to prevent a disturbance to the dark spirits believed to be trapped inside A film crew is currently racing against time to produce a documentary on the untold story of CheckInn99 being the many paranormal events and sightings witnessed by staff and some customers over the years.
Elsewhere, an historic bar like CheckInn99 would be the subject of a heritage listing to protect it against development. Not so in Bangkok, where big money circumvents any controls over balanced planning and sentiment. Due to unrelated circumstances, CheckInn99 was previously forced to remove its once iconic street sign to make way for a bicycle path project…..that never eventuated! They recently had paid for a replacement sign to be made which was waiting to be fitted.
This is not the story of a poorly run business; CheckInn99 is a favourite destination for expats and visitors keen on a night out without the girlie scene, or high pressure sales approach that has become an unwanted feature on a night out in Bangkok in recent years.
Owners Chris and Mook are anything but your typical bar and nightclub owners. Both have full-time jobs away from Checkinn99. They set up a shared cooperative with the staff and band where there is total commitment from everyone.
Chris and Mook's achievements are undisputed, from turning a run-down old girlie bar into a highly popular bar for locals and tourists alike. Recently recognised as Best Entertainment Venue in Thailand in the Big Chili BNow Expat entrepreneur awards, they have been the #1 night attraction on Trip Advisor for five years straight, are the top listed Jazz venue. Checknn99 is also listed as one of the Top Twenty hidden Gems in the world – across an incredible 6.5 million listings!
If ever there was a bar turnaround story, Checkinn99 is one that shines and the brand they have created will live on. Chris and Mook are not shy in saying they are looking for a suitable venue to re-host the new CheckInn99, maybe in partnership with another similar business. With outrageous rents making relocation in lower Sukhumvit extremely difficult, they are looking for a good venue and will entertain locations as far away as Onut. Approach Chris over the next few weeks if you have any interest.
Work at Bangkok Bunnies has started with the idea to make the bar feel more open. The hot tub room in the far left corner will go and be replaced by a pool table. There will be a new hot tub in the centre of the bar and a small dance floor so some seating will have to be removed to make space for it. And in what is an important change for customers sensitive to the high prices which have become the norm in many gogo bars, prices will go down – how often does that happen in this industry! Soft drinks will be 110 baht inside the gogo bar and just 95 baht at the beer bar outside. Beers will be 145 baht inside and 135 baht outside. All lady drinks will be 150 baht.
With the European Championships starting next weekend and running in to July, many European visitors will be keen to watch the matches and cheer their team on. The Den in Sukhumvit soi 12 will have a European Champ special with beers priced at just 95 baht. All matches, even those played very late, will be shown live.
It's been so long since The Londoner closed in the basement on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 33 that many have forgotten about it, despite promises a replacement would be built way out on Srinakarin Road. At long last word comes that the new Londoner should open in July. A couple of months too late for me to enjoy my favourite English pub in Bangkok, but who knows, if I ever visit Bangkok again the new Londoner will be one of the first places I visit.
CheckInn99 still has a few weeks to go and will be showing the newly released family drama / romantic adventure Patong Girl on June 16.
The photo below was taken outside The Strip in Patpong soi 2 at the end of the 2012 rainy season, so about 3½ years ago. It's a great example of how the bar industry has changed and how it hasn't. The exterior of the bar looks much the same today, as does the surrounding area. The few differences with today are minor. One difference is the price of beer which the price list outside the bar shows as 90 baht, whereas today a beer in The Strip will set you back around 160 baht which is typical of Bangkok gogo bars these days. Why such a hefty price increase? You can't blame the owners of The Strip. Like most bars (and restaurants) around town, in most cases price increases can be directly attributed to the landlord hiking rents. Like so many bars, The Strip pays an outrageous rent bill each month – and that is the main reason why drinks (and food) prices have soared in recent years.
Outside The Strip, Patpong soi 2, late 2012.
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "Pay For Play: Bangkok-Singapore-Saigon".
Police and rescue service staff arrive to a scene of blood and gore in Jomtien and an alleged murder suicide.
The Sydney Morning Herald looks at why Thai food supposedly (my word) tastes better in Thailand than elsewhere.
A Brit who ran some Bangkok-based escort agencies amongst other businesses interests was arrested in Bangkok this week.
Wildlife officials are investigating whether the infamous Tiger Temple was trafficking in tiger parts, which the temple denies.
A former ThaiVisa member is rightly aghast at the actions of one of the forum's moderators.
From the Calgary Herald, a Canadian is stuck in Thailand with a $170,000 medical bill after a motorcycle accident.
A Thai in America runs an ingenious scam with fake designer bags – but gets caught (and won't be paying her way out of this).
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: It has been a very frustrating few months here in northern Thailand. It was as if someone had decided to try and burn the whole region to the ground. The fires have been really bad, both in the forests and on the farms. Our own property was hit twice with wildfires that spread from adjacent unused land. We were fortunate that we were able to control both fires without losing any of our animals. In the forests, we spent countless days and nights fighting the fires and at times it felt pointless. We would put down a fire in one area only to have it start up again or be re-lit in a day or two. The point of origin of many fires was deep in the forests so it is hard to accept that the fires are started by anything other than a human hand. It did not matter where I went in Lampang, Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Phayao, Chiang Rai, Nan and Tak provinces, there were fires burning everywhere. Sometimes, I would revisit an area that had been undamaged only to find it was now a black and badly damaged forest. I did a bike tour up to Doi Inthanon a couple of weeks ago and had to ride through thick smoke and in places, the fires were burning right next to the roads. But to get back on track, we have acquired a drone that we would like to use as an aerial reconnaissance tool to help us pinpoint the locations of fires in the forests, but I came across an article written last year that suggests that it may not be possible any more. So, for the legal team: What are the laws relating to the use of drones in Thailand. Specifically, we want to use them in rural areas where they will be used to assist in firefighting operations. If permits are required, which department issues them?
Sunbelt Legal responds: There are two types of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles for use in Thailand, those in category one which are used for hobby or other recreational use like entertainment or sport and category two, used for TV or movie making.
If you have a drone in Category 1 that weighs less than two kilos and you are 18 years or older, than you don't need permission to fly from the Ministry of Transport. But, you do need to obey the following rules:
1. Before flight
(a) Check that the drone and remote control is in a good condition to fly.
(b) You have permission from the owner of the land where you wish to fly.
(c) You have checked the environment and airspace of the location you are flying.
(d) You have an emergency plan in case of an accident.
2. During the flight
(a) It is forbidden to fly in a way that may cause harm to the life, property and peace of others.
(b) It is forbidden to fly in restricted zones as announced in “Aeronautical Information Publication – Thailand” and also at government buildings and hospitals unless permission is given.
(c) The take-off and landing must not be obstructed by anything.
(d) You must keep the drone in line-of-sight at all times and not rely on the monitor or other devices.
(e) You can only fly between sunrise and sunset when the drone can clearly be seen.
(f) It is forbidden to fly in or near clouds.
(g) It is forbidden to fly within nine kilometers of an airport or in the flight path unless you have permission from aircraft control.
(h) It is forbidden to fly higher than ninety meters above the ground.
(i) It is forbidden to fly over cities, villages, communities or areas where people are gathered.
(j) Do not fly near other aircraft that have pilots.
(k) Do not violate the privacy rights of others.
(l) Do not cause a nuisance to others.
(m) Do not mount anything dangerous or lasers on the drone.
(n) It is forbidden to fly closer than 30 meters to people, vehicles or buildings.
If your drone is in Category 1 but weighs more than two kilos but less than 25 kilos, you must be at least twenty years of age, not a threat to national security and never been imprisoned. You must also have a license to fly from the Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation.
You have to follow the rules as outlined above but in addition you must have more knowledge about drone maintenance and safety and aircraft rules. You must have emergency equipment on hand such as a fire extinguisher. You also must have third party insurance of not less than one million baht. Finally, in the list above, clause (n) the distance between drone and people, buildings, cars etc cannot be less than 50 meters. If you have an accident, you must inform authorities immediately. Drones in Category 2 have to be licensed and insured and obey the rules the same as drones in Category 1 that are heavier than two kilos.
Question 2: What are the obligations of the male (father) in the case when a Thai lady gets pregnant? I realise the father has a responsibility for the well-being and support of the child such as educational fees, medical, clothing, etc., so that is not the issue. My question is if the male is required also to support the mother? What are typical child support payments for a child who lives in the Isaan region? Also, if the mother refuses to let the father see the child or provide a birth certificate, how can the father assure these actions?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Under Thai law, a child born of a marriage or within 310 days of the termination of a marriage is presumed to be the child of the married couple. However, if the child is born out of wedlock, the mother is given sole custody and the father is given no rights to the child until he legitimizes the parent child relationship through a court order or the mother's consent filed with the local provincial government. A person can be named on the birth certificate as the father of the child but that does not confer him any rights over the child.
In general, the biological father of the child is not obligated to pay child support. However, the father is not barred to enter into an agreement on child support payment with the mother of the child, and such agreement is enforceable once it is registered with the district office.
If you do not legitimize the relationship with your child then you will have no rights to visit the child. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors would recommend that for any father who wishes to have a role in his child's life that the legalization process be completed as soon as possible after birth. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has an experienced team that can assist in this process.
Question 3: I am in the process of setting up a company to run a web advertising operation via the Seychelles. Many reasons, but favourable tax is high on the list. Would it be legal to set up a company in Thailand to act as a Facilities Management company that charges a nominal fee for operating parts of the Seychelles companies business so that I could live and work legally in Thailand?
Sunbelt Legal responds: A representative office may be a viable but be aware that they are limited to engaging only in non-revenue earning activities. These activities are restricted to:
– Searching for local sources of goods or services for its head office.
– Inspecting and controlling the quality and quantity of goods procured by its head office.
– Providing advice in various fields relating to products directly sold by its head office to local distributors or consumers.
– Disseminating information about new products and services of its head office.
– Reporting to its head office on local business developments and activities.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you in determining if this is the best route to take or if another option would be better.
The news that CheckInn99 is soon to join an increasingly long list of historic Bangkok nightspots to close caused me to reflect on just how rapidly downtown Bangkok is changing. Whenever I comment that I miss the Bangkok of old, the Bangkok I knew 15+ years ago, I am told to stop living in the past and embrace all that is great about the city in the present. There's something to be said for that, but I just can't shake the sadness of seeing so much of the heritage of the city I once loved being destroyed, only to be replaced by the sort of soulless buildings that the city is already saturated with. But ultimately when I reflect on the good old days it is not sadness I feel but happiness. I'm happy I lived in and experienced Bangkok when I did.