The Golden Hue Of A Rainy Season Afternoon in Jomtien
A solitary visit to the iconic Poo Pen restaurant aside, I don’t think I have spent more than an hour at Jomtien Beach in the best part of 10 years. Keen to get away from the madness of Pattaya as much as I was to see how Jomtien had changed since my last visit, I drove over the hill from Pattaya to reacquaint myself with Jomtien.
Jomtien Beach sits on the other side of Pratumnak Hill from Pattaya, and has long been known as Sin City’s poor cousin.
Jomtien is considered more laid-back and is particularly popular with Thais who flock there at the weekend. It also has the reputation as being a cheaper option for expats compared to Pattaya proper.
Recently, Jomtien has become known as the place for the hordes of Russians who have discovered Thailand, and if the rumours are true, Jomtien might just be the most popular beach in all of Thailand for those who used to hide behind the iron curtain.
Evidence of the presence of Ruskies abounds. The only language you hear spoken more than Russian in Jomtien is Thai. Many hotels, restaurants and massage outlets have signs in Russian although few bars do, interesting given the Ruskies’ reputation for (very heavy) drinking.
Thais flock to Jomtien at the weekend but the weekend I was there it wasn’t to be. Jomtien was quiet to the point that you thought it had gone out of fashion. Asking the locals about it, they said the cool season – when the weather is most settled – is the time foreigners visit while the hot season is particularly popular with Thais.
For many Thais, the number one reason to visit a place is the food and they are very well catered for at Jomtien where the beach front runs several kilometres with eateries its entire length.
There is little in the way of international chains which gives the area something of a Thai feel, despite all the foreign visitors and signage in English and Russian most everywhere. Jomtien is known for seafood but it seemed to me the most popular type of eatery were those serving Isaan food.
That should come as no surprise really as in some ways, Pattaya and Jomtien feel like a part of Isaan transplanted next to the sea. Many bar, hotel and restaurant staff hail from the Isaan region.
I am told that the Jay Pry Isaan food vendor that sets up right outside the SCB bank branch at Jomtien soi 11 is the place for Isaan food across the greater Pattaya area. My Bangkok Thai got all excited as we pulled up, having spent the previous half hour telling me how good it was. Better than sex she muttered, which made me wonder for a moment if it was merely a saying or if there another meaning and I have been doing something wrong all this time.
A couple of varieties of som tam, larb gai for me and grilled pork neck for her, along with noodles, rice and drinks ran exactly 300 baht. That puts it on the high side for streetside Isaan food – but the portions were large and the quality was superb. Yeah, I’d go out of my way for it again.
On an overcast rainy season afternoon Jomtien Beach has a golden hue, the light fighting its way through the clouds and reflecting off the sand very much a deeper shade of orange than you find on the other side of the hill.
Jomtien Beach – as in the beach proper – is nicer than Pattaya Beach, but don’t take that to mean it is as nice to walk along as Pattaya Beach. It isn’t.
City Hall has embarked on various projects to improve the boardwalk at Pattaya Beach, widening it and removing obstacles. Today it is a pleasure to walk along. It’s pothole-free and so wide that even when some clown comes along on his pushbike there’s still plenty of room for everyone.
Jomtien Beach has a stray dog problem. There are many, and a good few are aggressive. Some have the scars to prove that they’re no stranger to a bit of rough and tumble.
Along the entire length of Jomtien Beach, many new condo buildings have gone up since my last visit, admittedly some years ago. A casual glance suggests occupancy rates are low and I would not be surprised if some buildings have no more than a couple of dozen residents. Car parks are empty and there are none of the telltale signs like clothing hang out on the balcony that the units are occupied.
Driving along the beachfront and Jomtien’s Second Road, you see billboard after billboard, advertising new condo projects, some of which are huge. The prices are low in many cases, starting from 2.5 million baht or less. The market is said to be saturated and I cannot imagine that many of these proposed developments will be built any time soon. One prominent Pattaya real estate observer wrote a year or two back that the number of cancelled or abandoned condo projects in the greater Pattaya area could number one hundred! Amazing, but quite believable.
I cannot comment on the nightlife, the girly scene or any of that nonsense as I only spent a few hours in Jomtien one afternoon. I don’t recall ever seeing a streetwalker on Jomtien Beach as you do on Pattaya Beach – at least not someone lingering and looking for a customer. There are small blocks of girly bars at the northern end of the beach i.e. that closest to Pattaya. If I were to describe the nightlife in Jomtien, as much as what I know from the past and what I hear as what I saw with my own eyes, I’d say that for the most part it is low-key. No doubt locals know a few fun spots and don’t have to venture over the hill to get their thrills.
I’d like to have spent more than a couple of hours in Jomtien. What started out as jaunt over the hill for a tasty Isaan lunch and an afternoon break from Pattaya became a fun excursion of its own. As more and more I find that the side of Thailand that appeals to me is that which is less developed, I can see how Jomtien might be a nice spot for a couple of quiet days away, in a way that you don’t get in the likes of Pattaya, Phuket or Hua Hin unless you hide away in a full service property and never venture out. I was impressed with what I saw in Jomtien and I won’t make the mistake of taking so long between visits. And I might just do what I have never done before – stay a couple of nights.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week’s photo was taken of the walkway / cycleway that runs from Benjakit Park, past Sukhumvit soi 10 and all the way across to Lumpini Park, passing over the end of Soi Nana, the expressway and a some local communities. The first person to get it right was Wild Bill who seemed almost indignant that there was no prize. Sorry, Bill, the prizes were abandoned after some readers tried to scam me.
Email of the week – There’s no place like home.
I really enjoyed this week’s column, and agree totally about splitting time between Bangkok and one’s home country. Two months ago I finally left Bangkok for my home country, the United States, after living in Thailand for 3 years as a retiree. I really love living in the US (Hawaii) and can’t tell you how much safer, more secure and belonging I feel here. I will never again live in Thailand but I hope to travel there from time to time as I did before moving there. At the end of my 3 years in Bangkok, I felt aloof, dejected, depressed and confused. I thought by leaving for a while I could get my head straight and return. It always worked in the past. But this trip back home was all I needed to finally come to terms that I belong here in my home country. Similar to your situation with New Zealand. I guess Dorothy said it best in the movie The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
I could not agree more about living in your home country and Thailand. Maybe we are condemned to be wanderers between two worlds, with each of the advantages and drawbacks to be kept in perspective. This is what makes you think about who you are, what values you hold and what in the end makes you happy.
With frequent travel, life is good.
I think you are 100% right about spending time in more than one place. I struggle to see how I could spend 12 months anywhere once retired. But spread across Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Japan – yep, that I could see. And with the likes of AirBnB it is so much more doable. You don’t even need to have a 12-month rental anywhere. What I do wonder, but I suppose it is silly to worry about the distant future – is where I will want to be when I reach my late 70s and do not want to be travelling around. There probably comes a point where you want to settle and have a permanent abode. Maybe the answer is where family is at that time. But in the meantime, the modern world of travel and accommodation makes having a rich life experiencing a number of locations something that our parents or grandparents would never have even dreamed of. Life is good.
You know Bangkok is quiet when…
You know it’s quiet in Bangkok when “Hello hansum man” turns in to “I love you.” Yes, that actually happened as I was walking down Sukhumvit soi 22. Further proof of how quiet it is, two ladies in different bars on soi 22 actually grabbed me and hung on tightly, one arm around me and the other grabbing my arm when I slowed down to see if the bar had pool tables. They really, really wanted some business. And I ain’t getting younger or more handsome, compared to previous trips when I was merely a hansum man. Or maybe it was my new inadvertent Justin Bieber haircut from a salon in Terminal 21, the result of asking for “just a little shorter on the sides and back, but longer on top.” At first I thought the definition of “a little shorter” is different here, but then I realized he just gave me the standard current Asian cut.
There are no secrets in Thailand.
“There are no secrets in Thailand” is a saying I have heard several times and I must say I believe it to be true. Thais are notorious gossips. They just can’t help themselves. I know more about the people of my neighbourhood than I’d ever want to know and I’m sure they feel the same way about me. Any “secrets” I hear I assume are open secrets i.e. not secrets and I never tell anyone anything (not even my Thai wife) unless I don’t really care who finds out. Thais are also very bad liars. I find them utterly transparent which, in an odd way, makes them the most honest people I’ve ever known. Whenever I hear a farang complain about being deceived by a Thai, particularly a Thai woman, I conclude that the complainer either willfully deceived himself (believed what he wanted to believe) or is very, very stupid.
The passport question.
With regard to your passport question, in the US I was a deportation officer. When a person was in deportation proceedings, we would keep their passport in the file. At the end of the case, if they won we’d give it back to them, and if they lost we’d use it to deport them back to wherever. In 23 years I never had a consulate ask for a passport that we were holding, and we never returned a passport in a pending case. Local / State law enforcement would hold on to a passport as evidence, but when asked would give it to us.
High barfines = fewer punters.
I decided to check out Kiss bar in Soi Cowboy. One of the ladies out front was quite a looker, despite the damn braces, so we went inside and I bought her a drink. We chatted for a while and although I’m not much of a naughty boy, I thought hell, I’m in Bangkok, in Soi Cowboy, in a gogo bar, with a hot gal, and I won’t see my main squeeze for a while, so I asked what the barfine is. 2,000 baht, she said. I came so close to actually spitting out some of my Rum & Coke. You’re kidding, really? Yes. For you or for which ladies? All ladies and then money for lady, too! You could almost hear the fun seeping out of the conversation. I told her that she should tell the management that 2,000 was way too much. I added that a lady I met on Line charged 2,500 total. So I’m now assuming that the business model is to make money on drinks, because I can’t imagine a lot of guys paying a 2,000 barfine plus the girl’s fee. The place was basically empty and now I know why.
German banks ATM fee refund change.
German banks including Comdirect and DKB offer credit cards with no fees for ATM cash withdrawals in any foreign country. Until recently, they even reimbursed local fees such as the 200 THB per withdrawal levied by most Thai ATMs (as mentioned here before). You had to send your ATM receipts to your bank in Germany and you would receive a refund. This is no longer the case. As of this summer, banks such as Comdirect and DKB still don’t charge fees for ATM cash withdrawals around the world – but they will no longer pay back the fees collected locally, such as the 200 THB fee in Thailand. This change of terms and conditions came rather quietly.
Girl Of The Week
Noey of Korat
Noey is one of the sweetest girls you’ll find in the bar industry
and despite being a fixture at The Strip for several months,
she still manages to retain her sweetness and an easy smile.
Noey is not photogenic and is prettier in person than the photos suggest.
It has been another very slow week as bars and restaurants popular with expats and visitors do it tough. Most gogo bars around town are opening earlier than usual, around 7 PM and have to close by midnight. All expectations are that midnight closing will continue for most bars in Bangkok until November 13th. So for those who like to party late in to the night and for whom partying is the primary reason of visiting, you might want to delay your travel plans until after that date when – to use that word again – it is expected that things will ease up.
You’d think shorter opening hours and few customers would mean fewer girls around but it would appear that the opposite is true. Nana Plaza’s best bar, Billboard – arguably the best gogo bar in all of Bangkok at this time – had a hundred girls turn up for work on Monday night. Typically the bar would have around 60 ladies turn up for work on a Monday – which is often the quietest night of the week. As the owner of Billboard said to me, fewer customers means the girls are hungry!
And it’s not just gogo bars that are brimming with girls, word is that massage outlets of the ambiguous variety (think the sort of places you find in the likes of Sukhumvit sois 22 and 23) are fully staffed and have more girls than usual.
The renovation of Jail Birdz in Nana Plaza is pretty much done and the revised interior is a big improvement. The 25-year old speakers that the previous owner brought in have been put out to pasture and a new sound system has been installed. Ditto a new lighting system. The large bar features two main dance floors with a third smaller, elevated dance floor in the centre and a shower area off to one side. The seating is a mix of standard gogo bar tiered seating along with some comfy red sofas that make a nice change from the uncomfortable seats you find in most chrome pole bars. The prison theme has been abandoned and the bar will be renamed to Butterflies in the next couple of weeks.
Nana Plaza’s newest bar, the strangely named Enter, opened earlier this week on the top floor, next to Billboard. It’s a smallish bar – larger than Sexy Night or DC 10 – but smaller than say Angelwitch. It has to be said that is very nicely done out. The one criticism I would have is that it has lasers inside, something I’ve never thought worked in a gogo bar as they are distracting and are perhaps better suited to discos.
And right next door to Enter is the office for the admin crew and management of Nana Plaza. I find it rather peculiar that there are long, narrow windows that allow anyone walking past to peer inside and see what’s going on.
A kilometre down Sukhumvit Road from Nana Plaza, in Soi Cowboy the word is that Lighthouse is still a lot of fun. If I had to choose one Bangkok gogo bar to have a fun night out in, Lighthouse would have to be near the top of the list.
Over in Patpong, The Strip has 70 baht beers until 9:00 PM every night.
In last week’s column I asked why it was necessary for dancers at Rock Hard in Phuket to return to the bar by closing time – 4 AM – which essentially means long-time is off the menu. The answer is that it’s forced on the girls because that is when they get paid for the evening under an unreasonably harsh no-show, you lose policy. The girls return to the bar and have to wait up to 2 hours as the cashier calculates the day’s pay for every staff member including dancers and service staff, that calculation including their salary / day fee, barfine, drinks, commissions, share of the tips etc. With all of the waiting around, some girls don’t get home until the sun is coming up. This is quite a ridiculous system and something the bar owner should be ashamed of. The only other bar I have heard using this crazy system is….also in Phuket!
Bar owners and bar managers in Bangkok should be aware that there is an NGO actively looking to make trouble for you. Recent raids on Bangkok gogo bars that were carried out with the help of dozens of soldiers – some of whom were armed with M16s – is the work of a foreign agent provocateur. Bangkok gogo bar owners in particular should be VERY cautious how they run their bars at this time and be very careful about bending any rules.
Atmospheric Sukhumvit soi 22 bar Bangkok Betty which is fitted out and themed with World War II bomber paraphernalia is, sadly, to close. One of the most underrated venues on Sukhumvit, Bangkok Betty always felt out of place in soi 22 and the beautifully done out bar was probably better suited to soi 11 or better still, Thonglor. That it never really took off I put down entirely to one thing – location. Soi 22 isn’t mature enough to appreciate what Bangkok Betty offered – fantastic cocktails, good food and service in lovely surroundings. But with all that said, No Idea a little further up the soi attracts a discerning crowd and has a very strong expat following so maybe there was more to Bangkok Betty’s demise than just location? Probably (ridiculously high) rents were part of it.
In Pattaya briefly this past week, the first thing I noticed was that the atmosphere was very different to how Bangkok has been for the past couple of weeks. The streets of the capital, shopping malls and pretty much all public places are a sea of black as many mourn the passing away of His Majesty. In Pattaya some people wore black but unless you were really looking, you might not notice.
Pattaya appeared busier than when I was last in town with the number of Westerners significantly up on a couple of months back. There were noticeably fewer Chinese around. Walking Street was not that busy and Soi Buakhao was quiet. That said, it rained heavily at night and that never helps the bar trade. Bars have been told to tone things down – but I saw little evidence of that – and have been told to be closed by 2 AM, an hour or two earlier than usual. The overwhelming impression I had from Sin City was that it was largely business as usual.
If your first experiences with women in Thailand were in the bars, you might have developed a warped view about Thai women. Much of what is the norm (as opposed to being acceptable) in the bars is not ok with Thai women who never worked in a bar i.e. the vast majority of the population. With this in mind, don’t grab a Thai woman in a provocative way in public and things like pinching her bum in a public place is seriously uncool in a country where image and reputation are so important. Some Pattaya working girls might allow or even encourage that sort of carry on but the truth is that most working girls don’t like it. Embracing in public is ok as is holding hands. That’s probably about all you should do with a Thai female in public. Another thing your average Thai girl might be uncomfortable with is kiss greetings, especially if the person kissing her is not her boyfriend or husband. Yeah, it might be fine to do that in the West – but you’re not in the West! Some Thai females have a look of horror when introduced to a foreign man who wishes to embrace them or kiss them. This sort of thing can make some Thai females very uncomfortable.
A few years ago when the Immigration Department was tightening up visa rules, some expats started making noises about how they’d had enough of Thailand and were going to leave. Some crossed the border to start a new life in Cambodia – to which the expats in Cambodia groaned, notwithstanding that many of them had themselves once lived in Thailand. I used to get a lot of emails from expats saying they were off to the land of glorious temple ruins and amok trey, but I hardly get any these days. I still get emails from expats telling me they’re leaving Thailand – and they all seem to be heading to the same place: Vietnam. I am not sure how they will find it there but if my email inbox is anything to go by, there is going to be a stampede of former Thailand expats resettling in ‘Nam.
What do you make of doing things / hanging out / taking day trips with your Thai in-laws? Is it something you embrace, or do you make every effort to avoid them? I put this out there because a reader asked me whether it was normal for his Mrs to exclude him from family get-togethers despite the fact that when they visit his homeland he is keen for her to join in activities with his family. I guess it depends on the sort of relationship you have with your in-laws and how much you have in common with them. All I can say is that whether I was to spend much time with in-laws or not would be of less importance – but I sure would not want to feel like I was specifically excluded or was unwelcome.
Does education as we know it in Farangland exist in Thailand? This might seem like an unusual question, so let me explain. I question whether much that is termed “education” in Thailand is really education at all. I wonder if a better description for what passes as education would perhaps better be described as test preparation. When I think back to my time in front of the whiteboard in Thailand, I did my level best to educate – which looking back on things was in contrast to some of my former colleagues who seemed more concerned that students would pass the exam. As such, much of what they did was test preparation – which is not what I’d call “education”. Is it any different in other aspects of life in Thailand? Is there such a thing as driver training in Thailand? All of the reports I have heard about driver instruction in Thailand makes it sound like it is about what happens in the Driver Testing Centre with little about actually learning how to be a safe and conscientious driver.
Unverified reports from readers in 3 different corners of the Commonwealth, namely New Zealand, Australia and England, suggest that there may have been a change in the policy regarding the issuance of non-immigrant OA visas. This is a class of visa available to foreigners married to a Thai and the visa allows unlimited 3-month entries for the period of validity of the visa. This particular class of visa has been popular with foreigners who don’t have the required funds to get an extension of stay i.e. one-year extension in Thailand based on marriage (for which one needs to show either an income of 40,000 baht per month, or 400,000 baht deposited in to a local bank account). If this policy is rolled out worldwide, it could mean that the current easy touch in the region, the Thai consulate in Savannakhet in Laos, may no longer issue this type of visa. That could cause a good degree of angst for many. Let’s see how things develop.
I don’t understand why some people persist on complaining about the speed of Internet connections in Thailand. Fixed line Internet speeds in Thailand have been fine for many years and mobile data connections are fast in most urban areas. The mobile network throughout Thailand is pretty good with 3G most everywhere and 4G being rolled out in all major centres and beyond. I liken the Internet in Thailand to what we called when I was growing up, a “yank tank” – a large, lumbering American-manufactured vehicle that was slow to get going but once up to speed could cruise along at a decent clip all day long. With Thailand Internet connections, latency is a problem i.e. when you type the name of a website and hit enter, it might take a few seconds before the site starts sending data. I guess this latency – or delay – is because there is a gateway in Thailand that data goes through and which may have filters in place, thus slowing traffic down a little. That’s about the only difference I notice between net speeds in New Zealand and in Thailand. In NZ, when you hit enter, bang, the stream of data starts immediately. In Thailand, there is something of a delay. But once the data starts coming, there is no real speed difference.
A gentle request to some American readers: Please don’t call me “dude”. It’s not that it offends me or anything like that, rather that it makes you sound like a complete twat – and if you sound like a complete twat the odds of you getting a reasonable email reply from me become less likely. That word went out decades ago and when you use it today it makes me wonder about you.
Reader’s story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, “The Da Vinci Code“.
Quote of the week comes from the inimitable Dana, “Braces, tattoos and blond hair are the Thai girl triumvirate that proves that the whole scene is going down the toilet.”
A Thai man has a sex ring removed from his penis with bolt cutters.
A German dismembered his Filipina wife so he could escape to Pattaya for a naughty boy’s holiday.
Former Thai porn star Nong Nat says Buddhism helped her find her husband.
Sunbelt Asia is here to answer all of your legal questions related to Thailand. Please feel free to send questions to me and I will put them to Sunbelt and run their response in the next column.
Question 1: My sister-in-law is married to an Australian. He has talked of returning there, or to live with his sister in New Zealand because he claims he would lose his upcoming pension if he does not reside in Australia for a minimum period. That sounds wrong to me, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is that he is refusing to provide a paltry 5,000 baht a month for his six-year old son who will stay with his mother in Thailand where he was born (I believe he might have joint nationality). Can she take any legal action to prevent him leaving Thailand, or otherwise force him to pay maintenance?
Sunbelt responds: According to the Thai Civil and Commercial Code ( Part 3), Chapter 2 Rights and Duties of Parent and Child, Section 1564 “Parents are bound to maintain their children and to provide proper education for them during their minority.”
As they are still married, it is considered a personal responsibility of both parents to take care of their child. Legal actions can be prosecuted only by a court order in case of divorce. So in order to force child support payments, she must first obtain a divorce.
Question 2: I have stumbled upon your website while searching information regarding how to get a divorce in Thailand for my boyfriend, a Dutch national, who got married to a Vietnamese national in Thailand 6 years ago. They have been separated for nearly 2 years. Now my boyfriend is living in China while his wife and their daughter remain in Vietnam. Under these circumstances, I would like to know if a divorce has to be done in Thailand or if it can be conducted at a Thai embassy or consulate outside Thailand?
Sunbelt responds: Registration of divorce can be done in a Thai Embassy as well.
For that, both divorce applicants are required to submit their applications in person and make an appointment with the consulate’s official in advance. The following documents are required:
* Original Thai Marriage Certificate
* Photocopy of valid passport
* Photocopy of Thai Identification Card (if applicable)
* Photocopy of House Registration (if applicable)
Please note, that you have to confirm that there is an officer at the embassy to do the divorce first.
Question 3: A friend of mine rents a building and has made the downstairs area a bar. It has been running quite well for the past year. Now he has funds to expand the business and is converting the upstairs in to rooms he can rent out. I’ve told him to check first but he has gone ahead and started. My worry is there is no fire escape on any of the floors and no balcony to any of the rooms so if a fire were to break out the emergency services wouldn’t be able to get to the rooms. My question is this: Does there need to be a fire escape on each floor or an access point for emergency services or is he doing this illegally?
Sunbelt responds: Anyone who decides to rent out rooms (more than 3 ) on a daily / weekly / monthly basis must apply for a hotel license.
The responsible officer, before issuing the license, will check the plans of a building, layout and emergency exits. If the fire exits are not acceptable, the license won’t be provided.
Sometimes I know what will be in future columns, sometimes I don’t. At any one time I have between half a dozen and a dozen column opener ideas, ranging from photo essays to ideas percolating inside my head that I’d like to develop in to a full-length article. I’m not going to say what I have lined up for the next few weeks because the truth is that at this point in time I just don’t know. If time is of the essence or I can’t get a decent article pumped out, it will be a photo essay. If something newsworthy happens or I come across something particularly interesting, I’ll write about that. What I do know is that the next couple of weeks will feature a couple of very attractive ladies as Girl Of The Week. In the past I have been guilty of not putting much effort in to the Girl Of The Week section, choosing any old girl and snapping off a quick snaps that perhaps didn’t do the lady justice. I think the next two ladies to be featured are gorgeous…and if you have decent taste, you’ll agree! See you next week.
Your Bangkok commentator,