When I left Thailand early last year to return permanently to New Zealand I had no plans to return. Later in 2015 I would return to Thailand briefly to settle the sale agreement of this website. 2016 has been another story. This year I have visited not once, not twice but several times. Columns with references to things I have seen with my own eyes, and things I have done recently has some readers thinking I have permanently returned to Thailand. I haven’t.
The regular visits I made to Thailand this year have been for reasons in no way related to this website.
Travelling backwards and forwards frequently and having a residence in each has allowed me to experience first-hand what it’s like for those I have often said seem to be the happiest of all expats, those who split their time between Thailand and their homeland.
There is something to be said for splitting your time between Thailand and home. Whenever you get bored, you can just jump on a plane.
Having two bases sounds like the lifestyle of the rich and famous but with international flights cheaper than ever and accommodation condo rentals in Thailand so affordable it is quite doable. Those I know who split their time between Bangkok and Farangland don’t have a luxury residence nor a fleet of cars at each end.
One of the great benefits of splitting your time between two residences is that you can experience the respective places when they’re at their best. In Thailand, weather-wise the best time of year is December through to February when it’s dry and – by Thailand standards – relatively cool. That happens to be the coolest time of the year in the northern hemisphere – and many are happy to escape Winter.
But for those of us from the southern hemisphere it’s the other way around. The best weather here in New Zealand is December through to March, which coincides with the best weather in Thailand. June and July can be chilly in New Zealand – but it’s hardly any better in Thailand where it’s (too) hot and can be wet.
Having two homes works vis-à-vis the weather for those from Europe and North America, but it’s not the same for Aussies or Kiwis.
But running two homes in two countries is not without its challenges and for many it simply won’t be an option.
Running two households costs more than running one. In Farangland home ownership can be burdensome financially, not just the property purchase price but all of the ongoing costs like property taxes, insurance, maintenance etc. It’s pretty hard to cut corners on those things and still feel like it’s your home.
It needn’t be that way in Thailand. If you own your own place, maintenance fees could be as little as a thousand dollars a year, maybe even less. And rents in Bangkok, while not the bargain they once were, are still quite affordable. Even if you pay rent year-round in Thailand but only spend half the time there, it needn’t break you financially.
If you’re employed, moving backwards and forwards between two countries might be problematic but as more jobs are performed offsite and the idea of employees working remotely becomes more accepted, such lifestyles are no longer limited to actors, artists and writers.
Perhaps the biggest issue for those who would like to have a home in both Thailand and their homeland is whether or not you have kids. School-age children could be a deal breaker. Uprooting your children’s lives, removing them from school and taking them away from their friends every time you move location just wouldn’t be fair. But it’s not impossible if you have children and I know one fellow who has managed this – but it could mean that your Mrs. and children are stuck in one location while you float backwards and forwards. An empty nest would make things a whole lot easier.
Coming and going from Thailand is no great burden visa-wise – and relatively short periods in country of say a few months at a time does not present the same sort of visa obstacles that those who live year-round in the country without any obvious signs of employment may face.
Some years ago I commented that I thought the happiest expats in Thailand were those who split their time between Thailand and their homeland. Not regular visitors to Thailand, but those who had a residence in each country. I stand by those comments today. Even those foreigners who speak disparagingly of their homeland and make out it is the worst place on the planet admit they miss things about the place. Splitting your time between your homeland and Thailand helps you appreciate each so much more.
Having inadvertently lived such a lifestyle for a good chunk of this year, I can see the case for splitting your time between Thailand and Farangland. I’ve floated backwards and forwards between my real home and the place I lived for 17 years, spending equal amounts of time hanging out with my friends in Auckland and my friends in Bangkok, and getting to enjoy the best of New Zealand and the best of Thailand. But while I can see the benefits of floating between the two, it’s not for me. New Zealand is home.
Where was this photo taken?
The last featured weekly photo was taken at Benjakit Park, about half a kilometre down the road from the Asoke intersection. I thought it was easy but only a couple of people got it. This week’s photo was supplied by my good friend, Big Greg.
Email of the week – A flood of Americans coming soon.
If you are worried about the lack of expats from the USA, just wait until the day after the election. No matter who wins, I am predicting a mass exodus.
Fewer vets, fewer naughty boys.
Just a theory here, but part of the mystique of Thailand and its nightlife was a result of the Vietnam War and the stories told, at least in America. That is now fading into history. Additionally, from about 2003 – 2012 there were over 100K, perhaps up to 200K contractors working in the theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan at its peak. The lowest pay for a contractor was in the $100,000 range and it was tax-free IF you didn’t return to the States beyond 30 days in a 365-day period. Thailand was legendary among the contractor community. We got 30 days a year R&R with paid airfare up to $800 per trip – 3 trips a year at $800 each. This is also history. While this doesn’t make up the entire demographic of American visitors to Thailand, it is significant. In most of the USA the economy hasn’t recovered from 2008. A lot of the economic recovery was due to the oil fracking boom which is now bust. Americans are hurting. Also, the new generation is more PC and self-hating of their own masculinity and sees adventures in Thailand in a very different way than my generation.
The reality of taking a Thai woman to America.
Many American men bought in to the whole idea that Thai women were more marriage type than the angry American women we encounter all the time. Sadly, for many of us that is not true. I work every day, come home dirty and earn my pay. I took good care of my family. The only way to keep a beautiful Thai woman happy here is the same as anywhere – you must have money to keep them in high status with their family back home and keep them entertained here. And if you live in small-town USA, you are wasting your time thinking they will be happy. I know many will disagree with this, but wait about three years and then see.
The real Land Of Smiles.
I’ve only been in Palawan for a few days but I can say with certainty that the Philippines is the real Land of Smiles. The people are unbelievably friendly with truly genuine smiles and an incredible customer service attitude. Their English is excellent, the prices are low, and the ladies are quite fetching.
Please stop prominently displaying photos of girls sporting braces! I normally read Stickman Weekly while enjoying my Sunday morning breakfast and coffee. Readers have spoken and it makes it hard to understand why you continue to feature photos of mouths full of stainless steel (or titanium) to spoil my otherwise tasty breakfast and coffee.
The little known shopping mecca down under.
You want a cheaper place to buy electronics than Thailand or Singapore? Try Perth! Yes, Perth, Australia! The AUD is low and you get the full 10% GST back at the airport. I bought the Iphone 7 in Perth 2 weeks ago, a full 20% less than the Singapore price. I also bought 2 notebooks in Perth 3 years ago, 25% less than the Singapore price. The other thing – branded handbags – at least 25% but up to 40% less in Perth. Forget Bangkok. Forget Singapore. Go to Perth!
I wanted you to know that I gained respect and felt sympathy for you when I saw the copy of your email inbox and dozens of messages from the same guy. I got thinking how many emails you must have to sort through every week and I’m amazed you manage to answer them all (at least you’ve answered all of mine, quite thoughtfully too). What a horrendous chore, I wouldn’t trade places with you for anything! So, well done, Stick. I don’t think folks realize how much work you put in on this…..mind-boggling to a semi-retired and comfortably lazy expat in sleepy Chiang Rai.
I was never much of a Thermae guy but went in a few times over the years. Probably the last time was 5 or 6 years ago at which point the few decent-looking girls would give most farangs a look of disgust! I was staying at the Sheraton last week and was walking past the Thermae on my way to the hotel and it looked pretty lively. It was around 10:30 PM so I took a look inside. Wow, it was absolutely wall to wall with girls and many were real lookers. It seemed like all of the girls had no problem with farangs and there was no discrimination at all. For all the talk of Bangkok changing, I have to say the Thermae was the best I have seen it in the last 12 or 13 years. It really was something else.
The pounding pain.
Writing as a Brit watching the pound drop day by day, your comment resonated with me. I had a discussion with a workmate regarding exchange rates and the effect on future holiday destinations. Conclusion: everywhere will be more expensive so it’s better to pick somewhere cheap that’s just not as cheap as it was. There will be some folk thinking they can no longer afford a holiday to Thailand but equally (and as you suggested) there may certainly be some now considering Thailand instead of more expensive alternatives like the Caribbean or Maldives. Thailand still has the advantage of reasonable flight prices; for me ca. £450 to Bangkok with Emirates is a very decent starter for a good value “exotic” holiday and as long as the flights don’t go up too much the Brits should keep coming.
Girl of the Week
23-year old from Bangkok
Gogo dancer and showgirl at The Strip, Patpong soi 2.
She lives with the bar’s superstar, Soda, and they do some spicy shows together.
Let Everyone Stay Beautiful In All Natural Surroundings.
Bars popular with foreigners reopened on Monday after a few days closure following the news that rocked the nation last week with the passing away of His Majesty. Nana Plaza had been closed for 3 full days. Some Soi Cowboy bars closed Friday and Saturday while all were closed on Sunday, a Buddhist holiday. Most Patpong bars never closed although a couple of Patpong soi 2 bars, Club Electric Blue and Bada Bing, did what I thought was probably the right thing, and closed for a short period. Things have been subdued this week with trade way down. It isn’t helped that bars are being asked to close early.
The vibe varied from day to day and bar area to bar area, even bar to bar. When I stopped by Soi Cowboy this week it was so quiet that standing at one end of the soi I was not sure if any bars were open. (See photo above, taken well after 9:00 PM!) The soi was dark with the large neon signs above bar awnings in darkness. Soi Cowboy was lit by the few overhead fluorescent lights mounted above the soi and the odd bar which had turned on a small neon sign above the entranceway. Doors to those bars which were open for business were for the most part closed, curtains pulled across. Music was played softly in some bars, not at all in others. Those bars in Soi Cowboy that were open had started earlier than usual, around 7 PM. In some bars the dancers were in bikinis but in others, like Dollhouse, black lingerie was a tasteful compromise. All of The Arab’s bars with the exception of Sahara were closed. The vibe on the soi was nothing like it usually is and Soi Cowboy this week felt like a quiet rainy season night….20 years ago.
Up the road in Nana Plaza first looks were deceptive. The bars immediately out front of the plaza had the lights dimmed and the sound systems off. Inside the plaza was a different matter with music played at its normal volume, girls dancing and it is all very much business as usual. Nana Plaza was a little quieter than usual this week but not nearly as quiet as Cowboy. Nana Plaza and the bars on Soi Nana are being closed at 12:30 AM.
A couple of kilometres across town in Patpong, the local area ban on dancing was lifted on Friday and jiggling on stages resumed after a week when the dance floors weren’t used. For a week there had been no dancing, Patpong-wide. And to make matters worse, Bangkok’s oldest bar area was being closed at midnight sharp – which in practice meant the authorities wanted to see the bars in complete darkness at midnight – so bars were effectively closed well before the clock struck 12:00.
Bikinis are out at The Strip and dancers at the popular Patpong soi 2 bar are looking lovely in black dresses and skirts. Personally, I think it’s a great look and I might even go as far to say that I prefer seeing the ladies dressed this way than in bikinis.
All of this begs the question: are the bars worth visiting at this point in time? My simple answer would be that if you were looking to party, then the bars of Bangkok are not their usual self, not even close – which is to be expected. If, however, you are looking for company then I am sure you will be able to find what you’re looking for.
There has been a decline in what I term dickhead behaviour in Bangkok this week, you know, those sorts of things some (usually male) Thais engage in like accelerating up and down narrow sois on their motorbikes at breakneck speeds to playing loud music at all hours to that thing that I find so annoying, the way some Thais feel the need to converse by yelling at each other across the room with no regard to others. It does rather seem that many are making an extra effort to be better behaved.
One of the unexpected effects of the passing of His Majesty The King was that in the days immediately following the bad news that many foreign exchange booths would not sell foreign currency. They would happily take your foreign currency and exchange it for Thai baht but those who wanted to buy foreign currency such as US dollars or Euros were out of luck. This included the uber popular private exchange outlet favoured by many Thais, Super Rich, and many bank foreign exchange offices on Sukhumvit. The main branch of Vasu on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 7/1 was the exception and was happy to sell foreign currency.
Black Pagoda in Patpong soi 2 is one of those rare gogo bars worth going out of your way for – it’s sufficiently different from all other chrome pole bars. Set in what was once a footbridge connecting buildings either side of Patpong soi 2, it features floor to ceiling windows offering a view of the soi below. Black Pagoda was ordered closed for 3 days the week before last after a raid by police in which one lady was found not to be of legal age and a number of ladies tested positive for illegal pharmaceuticals. (It should be noted that the latter is not a bar issue per se because it cannot be determined where the drugs were consumed, but it is a problem for the girls themselves, a very big problem.) In the words of another Patpong bar operator, Black Pagoda was very lucky to escape with such a light punishment at a time when the authorities have not just warned bars of, but have actually issued some 5-year closure notices, effectively killing a bar. In addition to being closed for 3 days, the curtains of the booths in the large room off to the side of Black Pagoda were ordered removed, all but eliminating the packages the bar offered – which was essentially an all-in price for an on-premises naughty. Now that the booths don’t have any curtains you’d have to be an exhibitionist to do the business on the premises.
And it’s not just Black Pagoda which came to the attention of the authorities. The controversial Sukhumvit soi 23 gogo bar Crazy House, which operates on a soi leading to one of Thailand’s best universities, was raided by dozens of military personnel on Friday night. There are many possible reasons for the raid with one business owner in the soi saying that Crazy House pushed the boundaries too far in what is supposed to be a period of mourning – and who can argue against that when the bar opened on Monday night with no girls downstairs, and most who were dancing upstairs doing so totally naked. Crazy House has long been known for crazy antics in the bar, ladies from neighbouring countries and an extremely aggressive security team. Some love the bar, some hate it – and everyone is fascinated by it.
And in an interesting turn of events, two foreign bar owners tried to deny that a raid took place at Soi Cowboy. What’s that all about? Few bar owners have anything positive to say about Crazy House so why were they trying to deny the raid took place?
The owner of which consistently popular Nana Plaza bar has revealed that trade is down 30% year on year? The staff in that bar are going to get their asses spanked.
At the entrance of Hillary 2 and Hillary 4, signs state, “Please present your ID card or passport at the entrance. Thank you.” One can only imagine that this signage has gone up to appease the authorities as enforcing such a policy would be near impossible – and most probably wouldn’t have their passport on them anyway. Someone must’ve thought it was a good idea as the signs are not hand-written but professionally printed.
From the digital marketing manager of a large bar group comes further proof that it is the ladyboy bars which have the greatest following. Cockatoo, the only ladyboy bar in Soi Cowboy, has seen its Facebook fans increase by more than 4,000 in just a few months whereas the number of fans of the Facebook pages for the other bars in the group have barely moved. If you are looking to get in to the bar industry and you’re actually looking to make money and not run a bar as a hobby, consider a ladyboy bar.
It’s not often this column features updates from Phuket but a long-time reader and contributor has provided info on what was for so long considered the gogo bar in Phuket, Rock Hard A Gogo. When ownership changed hands a few years ago, Rock Hard went rapidly downhill but word is that things have turned around and it can once again boast being one of the better chrome pole bars on Bangla Road.
But naughty boys in Phuket ought to be aware that stopping by an ATM machine before a night out is almost mandatory. Barfines on Bangla Road are a standard 1,000 baht – and most ladies expect at least 2,500 baht compensation. The spanner in the works is this crazy new policy whereby girls have to return to the bar before it closed at the end of the night, which seems to be a Phuket thing. At Rock Hard, the rule is that all girls must be back in the bar by closing time, 4 AM. Why is that necessary? It strikes me as just plain wrong. Things have long been different in Phuket and the island has been off the hardcore sex tourist circuit for a while now because of exactly this sort of nonsense. Even worse, in another bar down the street the barfine is 1,500 baht AND the girl’s fee of 3,000 baht must be paid up front! Yep, a whopping 4,500 baht to take the girl out of the bar. One fellow did this, got the girl back to his room at 2:45 AM only to be informed that he would have to race to the finish line because her bar had a similar policy to Rock Hard and she had to be back in the bar at 3 AM! Ridiculous! Is it any wonder Phuket has had such a lousy low season this year?
But it’s not all bad news in Phuket and positive words have reached me about Harem, a newish bar diagonally across from Suzy Wong in Soi Sea Dragon. Harem has comfortable couch seating and on either side of the stage is a soft 2-girl ottoman where the dancers are often in their birthday suit.
And down in Pattaya something odd is going on. From time to time stories appear in the press in Thailand that cause a stir – and then the story completely disappears, all traces of it removed. This is exactly what happened this week when PattayaOne, the long-running Pattaya media group that popular and since departed expat Howard Miller used to run, featured a news article about 3 Chinese nationals who reported to police that their hotel room had been broken in to and a suitcase containing 21 (yes, twenty one million baht) was stolen. I had a link lined up to the story in the featured news articles but then the article was removed from the net altogether. A search online revealed no other reports of the incident anywhere else. The original story featured photographs of those alleged to be involved. So, just what happened to the story and why has the article been removed? When there is that amount of cash involved, you’re talking serious business and heavy hitters. I can’t imagine that anyone who has 21 million baht in a cheapish hotel room was on the straight and narrow. What really happened?!
The crackdown on street vendors between the Asoke and Nana intersections really seems to be for real with most vendors gone for good. Some souvenir t-shirt vendors and dodgy Viagra dealers still operate. Instead of setting up their wares on a table which sits on the pavement – which they are no longer allowed to do – now they hang their merchandise from racks attached to the walls of buildings right beside the pavement, which is technically not illegal (assuming they have permission from the building owner).
It’s the same down on Silom Road where walking to Patpong is a much less stressful affair after the street vendors were repelled. Just like on Sukhumvit, Tessakit officers (the municipal officers who wear a uniform that is sometimes mistaken for that of police) have set up tents and are on patrol to ensure the street vendors don’t try and return.
The team at Charley Brown’s, Bangkok’s longest running Mexican restaurant, is looking for a new location before March’s deadline when their current location will be demolished to make way for just what Bangkok needs, another condo development. The manager of Charley Brown’s has set up a Facebook competition in the hope that customers can help him find a new location. If you manage to find them a spot, you will win a free meal for 2 people every week for a whole year! Details can be found here.
Did you know that as of last week there were a whopping 32 Mexican restaurants in Bangkok?
For fans of Jack Reynolds, author of the classic “A Woman of Bangkok,” there’s a new book on the market. In 1959, Reynolds, then also writing for the Bangkok World under his real name Jack Jones, published his classic story about the White Leopard and the British dupe she met in the dance hall, said by some to be one of the few novels ever written on the subject worth reading. It remains in print from Monsoon Books in Singapore. One of Jack’s most ardent fans, British writer Andrew Hicks, who also wrote his own, happier memoir, “My Thai Girl & I,” has just published a new edition of “Jack Jones: A Friend of China, The Writings of a Historic Nobody.” It tells in over 500 photographs and substantial text of Jones’ adventures driving a Friends Ambulance Unit in China during the 1940s, also chronicled by Jones in “Daughters of an Ancient Race,” a much-in-demand collection of short stories rarely available at Dasa Books, where early editions of “A Woman of Bangkok” change hands for a premium. The new work is available from EarnshawBooks.com in Shanghai.
Over the years I have heard plenty of foreigners claim that their passport is the property of their government and if the Thai police / authorities – or anyone for that matter – took it or withheld it from them, they would go straight to their embassy (who they seem to think would dispatch the consular affairs officer on the spot) and get it back. I had cause to consider this recently when a Frenchman here in New Zealand was arrested for a range of petty offences and generally being a jackass. It was reported that the Kiwi police had retained Frenchie’s passport while he went through the court system. That made me wonder if anyone had ever managed to retrieve their passport if the authorities or another party had seized it or kept it from them. Have you ever heard of anyone having their passport taken – rightly, or wrongly – and then managing to get it back, with or without the help of their embassy? I haven’t.
Getting a good farang-style breakfast in Bangkok is not as easy as in Pattaya where many British pubs do a great spread and charge next to nothing for it. In Bangkok it’s not so easy to find a decent fry up – especially since The Dubliner closed – and the price of a decent hotel buffet breakfast can be steep. One place to consider for a decent breakfast is Margarita Storm on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 13 which has introduced a new breakfast menu with a mix of English, American and even Mexican favourites. Their new breakfast menu is below:
Reader’s story of the week is from Mega, “Around the Traps in South-East Asia Part 3“.
Quote of the week comes from the other half, “The number one thing you need to tell your farang readers is that there are no secrets in Thailand.”
In Pattaya, a soldier successfully manages to fend off some goons who try to snatch his gold chain.
Restaurants must clearly state a service charge will be added to customers’ bills otherwise customers can refuse to pay it.
Trade is down heavily on Khao San Road over the last week.
The sister of a young Aussie who died in a motorbike accident in Thailand has quit her job to educate Australians about travel safety and insurance.
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 the Sunbelt legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I am an American citizen. I will move to Thailand and make my residence there under a “long stay” O-A visa, but I am employed by a company outside of Thailand. Many of my duties for this company can be performed on the internet while I am living in Thailand, and I set up shop in a rented building for this purpose, but sometimes I have to travel to the company plant location. My salary is direct deposited to an account in the United States or possibly Singapore.
1) Would this arrangement create any problems in Thailand? If so, what would I need to do to make this work?
2) Would it make any difference if I worked as a consultant to this company rather than as an employee?
3) What would you recommend as the best way to arrange my situation in this case?
Sunbelt Legal responds: According to Thai law, any foreigner working in Thailand online and receiving income here in Thailand in a Thai bank account has to submit personal income tax and support their legal stay in the country with a valid non-immigrant B visa and work permit. If the foreigner is receiving their salary in a foreign bank account then the Thai government will not be able to check it to provide evidence of income from illegal work.
If you wish to work as a consultant and will be working in the country then you will need to change to the non-B visa sponsored by the company, or by starting your own company, and obtaining a work permit. Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience in both the tax laws and starting a new business should that be the route you wish to take.
Question 2: The mistake of my life was marrying my first Thai wife, but I managed to extricate myself from that nightmare with minimal damage, divorcing in Thailand which cost me almost nothing. Now, perhaps against my better judgment, I am about to marry another Thai lady. I guess some of us never learn… We will marry in Thailand where I live, but do not work. I have a few questions about this for you. I am in Thailand on a 60-day tourist visa – can I get married in Thailand on this visa status? I have my original Thailand divorce certificate – what other documents do I need? I did go through this process once before but that was several yeas ago and I cannot remember what I need and I know things in Thailand change frequently. Any advice on what I need to do would be gratefully received!
Sunbelt Legal responds: You will need to provide an affirmation of freedom to marry from your embassy in Bangkok. They may wish to have the marriage certificate translated in to your home country’s language, and it is best to check with them first. Once you have the signed and witnessed affirmation you need to translate that and then present it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your fiancé will need to obtain an affirmation from the District Office where she holds her household registration.
Sunbelt Asia has walked many brides and grooms through this process and can certainly help make this process easier for you. There are no visa requirements for this process but be aware that it can take up to a month so you will want to make sure you have enough time on your visa.
You may wish to register your marriage with your embassy. I so then the marriage certificate will have to be translated into English and then certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before being submitted to the embassy.
I was tempted to do a photo essay this week about how the nation is coping with the grief of losing His Majesty. I visited Sanam Luang where Thais are paying their respects and spent an afternoon roaming, observing and taking lots of photos. I was impressed at how well everything was organised and how huge – really huge – numbers visited to pay respect and say their goodbyes. At the same time it just didn’t seem right to highlight that in the column and besides, I think the mainstream media has done a fine job of covering it already. I also considered writing something about the way foreigners have responded, the way it has affected rather a lot of foreigners and the way most expats have embraced the mourning period and are wearing black but again, somehow it just didn’t seem appropriate. Yes, it’s the biggest story of the year but like I say, the Thai media is doing a fine job. I’ll stick to doing what Stickman does best.
Your Bangkok commentator,