Stickman's Weekly Column December 4th, 2016

Uncontrolled Migration in The Land of Smiles Part 2


Staying in Thailand long-term used to be easy and getting a new visa to make sure you were legal was never a great concern.  Sure, you might have to endure a trip to the border every 3 months but there were always plenty of visa options.  Those who left Thailand did so because they lost interest in the place or ran out of money, not because they ran out of visa options.  Thailand has changed, visa rules have tightened up and those rules are actually being enforced.  This week I make a few predictions about what further changes to the visa regulations may be coming and look closely at the one visa option that is available to all of us.  All is not lost.

I expect Thai immigration to crack down further on those staying long-term in Thailand and close more loopholes – and there are 7 specific areas they may look at.  I’ve also commented on how likely I think it is they will look at each of these.

 

Limiting Time In Country On Tourist Visas

The most likely change in my mind will be setting a limit on the number of days one can spend in Thailand on tourist visas, visa waiver stamps (the 30-day stamp you get if you fly in without a visa) or a combination of the two.  The period in which the limit would apply might be a calendar year, or it might be a rolling year i.e. the last 365 days.

My best bet is that the number of days one can stay in Thailand on tourist visas will be limited to 180 days.  The reason for that is that it keeps visitors below the level at which they become tax resident.  At the end of the day, few could legitimately complain that 180 days per year is not enough for them to enjoy Thailand as a “tourist”.

Likelihood:  The Immigration computer is already counting time spent in the country on visa waiver stamps and with the use of tourist visas back to back a common loophole exploited by those keen to stay in Thailand year round, I’d say it’s very, very likely!

 

Outlawing Visa Runs

Just how long will it be before we see visa runs abolished altogether?  In the last couple of years Thai Immigration has started publicly using the term “out / in” to describe the practice of exiting Thailand, entering a neighbouring country, spending little or no time in that country, exiting it and crossing back in to Thailand to “reset” their visa and get another 15 / 30 / 60 / 90 days permission to stay, depending on the class of visa they hold.

The Aranya Prathet / Poi Pet border crossing is the busiest land border point between Thailand and Cambodia and certain nationalities are prevented from making visa runs there.  At one time Russians, Vietnamese and some other nationalities could not exit Thailand and re-enter Thailand there.  If they exited at that point and wished to re-enter Thailand they had to do it at a different border crossing.  This was to prevent those nationalities from making visa runs.  Recent reports from some have it that holding a multiple-entry visa is no guarantee that they will let you make a visa run at that border as many have done previously.

A no visa run policy would be difficult to enforce because there are those who cross the border and come back the same day not to reset their visa, but because they have a legitimate reason for doing so.  Perhaps they wish to take a day trip in a neighbouring country.  Who wouldn’t want to pop across to Laos, see some sights, grab a decent French meal, stock up on good coffee and be back in Thailand before the sun goes down?  And there are many who cross the border to enjoy one of the casinos on the Cambodian side.

There is an easy way for Thai Immigration to implement a no visa run policy.  They could state that anyone exiting the country and returning the same day has to have a re-entry permit – which would mean that when you re-enter Thailand, your visa would not reset and you would still have whatever time is remaining on your visa.

Likelihood:  It might sound unlikely but I don’t think that the abolishment of visa runs is as crazy as it may sound.  Given what is already happening at one border crossing, is it really a stretch to see it becoming a policy nationwide and visa runs, by land at least, abolished altogether?

 

Limits On The Amount Of Time Multiple-Entry Visa Holders Can Stay In Thailand

Related to the possible abolishment of out / in visa runs, I would not be surprised to see a policy change whereby those who use multiple-entry visas – be it non-immigrant B, non-immigrant O or tourist visas – are prevented from spending virtually all of their time in Thailand.

Multiple-entry visas are issued so that the holder can enter Thailand a number of times during a set period without the need to apply for a new visa each time.  Many exploit a loophole and essentially stay in Thailand for the entire period of validity of the visa, exiting every 60 or 90 days and returning immediately with the clock reset so to speak.  You can bet every plate of som tam in Thailand that those who designed the visa never envisaged it would be used this way.

And for some, multiple-entry visas are a backdoor that allow them to stay in Thailand when they don’t meet the criteria to get a one-year visa extension.

Let’s take the common example of a foreigner married to a Thai who doesn’t have sufficient funds to meet the requirements for a one-year visa extension.  Instead, they get a non-immigrant OA visa which has a period of validity of one year and allows them to stay in Thailand for up to 90 days at a time.  Every 90 days they do a border hop and re-enter Thailand and get another 90 days.  Ditto for those who have a non-immigrant B visa and a legal business but do not have 4 Thai employees.  They cannot get a one-year visa extension so they make a dash to the border every 90 days too.  It’s the same for multiple-entry tourist visa holders who jump across the border and back in, and can essentially spend 270 days in Thailand before they need to go to a Thai embassy or consulate and apply for a new visa and the cycle starts again.

Yes, technically, multiple-entry visas allow the holder to spend almost all the time in Thailand if they return to the country immediately after exiting.  That is within the rules and is, strictly speaking, legal, but at the same time it is against the spirit of the visa.  Think of using this class of visa in this manner as if you were at a buffet.  You could haul all of the food on offer to your table and eat it all – it is, after all, a buffet and you are allowed to eat as much as you want – but that would be very much against the spirit of it.

Likelihood:  Not that likely but at the same time, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility.

 

Retirement Visa Requirements To Be Reviewed

Once you’re 50 years of age it is very easy to stay in Thailand and the retirement visa is the easiest option of all with modest financial requirements.  At some point the financial requirements are likely to be increased.  When that happens there are going to be casualties because some people barely manage to meet the current requirements.

Currently, you only have to show a local bank balance of 800,000 baht, or a monthly income equivalent to 65,000 baht to meet the financial requirements for a retirement visa.  If the requirements went up to 100,000 baht, or the amount required in a local bank increased to, say, 1,500,000 million baht – still relatively modest amounts by Western standards – I believe that many – quite probably the majority of – retirees in Thailand could not meet them.

Out of curiosity, I looked in to the financial requirements for a foreigner wishing to retire in my homeland, New Zealand.  There are a number of retirement visa options and in terms of the financial requirements, the easiest path is called “temporary retirement”.  One must be aged 66 or over and make an initial qualifying investment of at least NZD $750,000 (approx. USD $550,000).  You need an additional NZD $500,000 (USD $350,000) for settlement funds, and an annual income on top of that of at least NZD $60,000 (USD $43,000) from pensions and other investments.  To see if this was an anomaly and the requirements unusually high, I searched for the requirements for a retirement visa in Australia and they were remarkably similar.

Many argue that the current financial requirements for a retirement visa in Thailand are adequate as that amount of money is plenty to survive on.  That is missing the point.  The number is not necessarily based on what you need to live, but at the level Thailand wishes to set to attract a certain quality of foreigner and importantly, a level at which the country gains certain economic benefits.  Yes, plenty of foreign retirees only have around 25,000 baht a month and claim to live quite happily on that.  Be that as it may, is it really so hard to understand that Thailand wants to gain greater economic benefits from foreign retirees?  It is for this reason that I expect the financial requirements for the retirement visa to increase, not because you need xxx,xxx baht per month to survive, but because Thailand wishes to gain greater economic benefits from retirees than it does at present.

Likelihood:  Very likely indeed, in fact it is virtually a given.  The question is not if but when.  It should be noted that Thailand has a history of grandfathering the previous requirements through for those already in the system – although there is no guarantee of that happening, of course.

 

Elimination Of Dodgy Agency-Acquired Retirement Visas

Despite the modest requirements for a retirement visa, many retirees use an agency to help them secure said visa because they are unable to meet the financial requirements.  These agencies open a bank account in the applicant’s name, deposit 800,000 baht of their own money in to it, get a letter from the bank stating the account balance and then withdraw the money using a withdrawal slip that had been signed by the applicant.  The letter from the bank and photocopies of the bank book showing a balance in excess of 800,000 baht is submitted with the visa application to satisfy the financial requirements.

What I don’t understand is how these agents get around the requirement that the 800,000 baht must be in the account for at least 3 months prior to the application being made.  Somehow they manage to get around this.

The dodgy practice is perpetuated by a number of agents and even some foreign visa agents who have advertisements to the effect of “Over 50?  Want to stay in Thailand?  No money?  No problem!

I am amazed that so many have got away with this for so long but I do not expect it to continue.  Just this morning a post on Facebook outlined how senior Immigration Department officials from Bangkok visited an Immigration branch by the seaside where this practice is widespread and reminded them that the 800,000 baht must be in the account for at least 3 months prior to the visa application otherwise the extension of stay cannot be approved.

Of all of the dodgy visa stuff going on, this one is serious and involves misrepresentations to a government department and fraud.  Don’t do this as you could find yourself facing charges and your time in Thailand curtailed.

Likelihood:  Already Immigration is cracking down on this and Bangkok sending officers to the provinces shows they know about it and are serious about putting an end to it.

 

Marriage Visa Requirements To Be Reviewed

I expect the financial requirements to get an extension of stay based on being married to a Thai national to increase.  At the moment, a foreigner wishing to get a so-called marriage visa only needs to show a 40,000 baht per month income, or 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account.  This strikes me as a low threshold to meet, especially as many foreign husbands support their wife and family financially – and that is hardly enough baht to support an entire clan on!

Likelihood:  Raising the financial requirements for the marriage visa sounds like a no-brainer but then I am not so sure if it will happen.  Making things more difficult for foreigners married to a Thai could have negative consequences for their Thai partner and family.  That might prevent the authorities from increasing the financial requirements.

 

APEC Card Visits To Be Scrutinised

Many of us ANZACs use the APEC card to reside in the country year-round, year after year. The APEC card is issued to Aussie and Kiwi businessmen pursuing opportunities in the APEC region and it allows visa-free stays of up to 90 days.  It has long been the back door for Aussies and Kiwis to stay in Thailand and other countries in the region and there are many advantages beyond just Thailand.  With the APEC card you don’t need a visa to enter Vietnam, for example.

The card was created for frequent business travellers and not for those circumventing the visa privileges.  After widespread abuse, the agency in Australia charged with issuing it tightened up the requirements but in New Zealand it’s still relatively easy to get.

An email from a friend in today’s emails to Stick section shows how the special category APEC card triggers the Immigration officer to question the traveller and as such the APEC card is now no longer a guaranteed way of getting visa-free 90-days permission to stay.

Likelihood:  It looks like use of the APEC card to remain in Thailand year round is already being cracked down on.

 

No doubt some will say these predictions are scaremongering but there is already a very clear trend on the part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – which issues visas, and the Immigration Department – which manages the borders – to tighten up not just on the requirements to qualify for a visas, but also on the enforcement of visa rules and the closing of loopholes.

But it’s not at all bad news.  There is one option that is available to almost everyone who wishes to stay in Thailand.  All you need is 500,000 baht and you can stay in the country for almost 6 years without any visa hassles.  And yeah, it’s legal.

 

The Visa Solution For All, The Elite Card

Thailand Elite launched the Elite Card in 2003.  Today there are a number of different Elite Card packages ranging in price from 500,000 to 2 million baht.  If you’re primarily looking for a hassle-free visa option that allows you to stay in Thailand long-term, the Elite Easy Access card is probably the best choice.

The baby elite card as I call it costs 500,000 baht which might sound like a lot, but at current exchange rates that’s only around $14,000.  For that, you get a 5-year visa.  Every time you enter the country you get permission to stay for one year.  Being a 5-year visa, you can actually stay in the country for almost 6 years – you can enter the country just before the visa expires and get another year’s permission to stay.  Defray the costs over 6 years and that’s around $2,333 per year as your total visa + visa run cost.

If after a year you don’t wish to leave the country, you can simply go to the local Immigration office and extend the visa for another year, for 1,900 baht.  It’s as easy as that.  You don’t have to go through the rigmarole gathering documents and preparing your application that those on a work permit, the retired or those married to a Thai have to go through each year.

The Elite Card is not just a visa option.  It has many other benefits which include:

  • Up to 24 free limousine rides per year between your hotel / residence and the international terminal at the airport.
  • Fast-track processing at Immigration, both coming and going, so you avoid the queues.
  • Free use of airport lounges.
  • 90-day reporting is done for you by Thailand Elite so you don’t have to go to Immigration yourself every 90 days (this is only available to those in Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai & Phuket).
  • Assistance when dealing with government agencies such as when applying for, or renewing a driver’s license.

Many foreigners howl and scream at the mere mention of the Elite Card, most likely because they can’t afford it.  But for some of those howling, it might just be a good deal.

If you’re under 50 and residing in Thailand on back to back tourist visas, you’re probably going to have to fly home every 8 or 9 months to get a multiple-entry tourist visa.  At an average of say 30,000 baht for a flight to Farangland, let’s say 8 trips over 6 years, that’s close to 250,000 baht.  Then you have four trips to Immigration each year to extend your visa by 30 days with each visa extension costing 1,900 baht.  Over 6 years that’s in excess of 40,000 baht.  Then you have all of the runs to the border – the cost of which can add up – and just think of all that wasted time!  You’re going to be visiting Immigration or passing through Immigration checkpoints at least 8 times a year when you consider all travel and visa extensions – and you just know that sooner or later they’re going to question you about why you’re staying so long on back to back tourist visas – and at some point that door will be closed.

The Elite Card is a really good deal if you are going to stay in Thailand for the next 5 years. If I was going to stay in Thailand, I’d get an Elite Card.  There is no doubt in my mind that for those aged under 50, who aren’t married, who aren’t employed in Thailand but who wish to remain in the country that the Elite Card is a good deal and a trouble-free option.

 

*  I have no affiliation with Thailand Elite whatsoever and have never had any contact with the organisation which manages the program nor anyone who works for them.  I gain absolutely nothing by talking up the Elite Card.  I simply think that it is ideal for those who are running out of visa options.

 

dollhouse-a-gogo

Where was this photo taken?

bangkok-where-291

Last week’s photo was taken inside the Terminal 21 shopping centre, looking up in the main atrium while riding the longest escalator in Thailand.  Please note that the competition is about where the photo was taken and not what you can see in the distant background.


Stick’s Email 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 – The price differential between Thailand and home is narrowing.

Your report of the gigantic rent increase at the German restaurant on soi 11 is, as you suggested, becoming the norm.  And that should be setting the alarm bells ringing at TAT.  A huge factor in tourists deciding to visit Thailand in preference to some other destinations is price.  Thailand has historically offered very good value, but the gap between what foreigners pay at home and what they are being asked to pay in Thailand is narrowing.  Indeed, if tourists want to enjoy their native ‘comfort’ food it will often cost the same or more than back home.  With rents rising so dramatically so will prices, and all too often Thailand already charges first world prices while offering third world service.  It’s a very big world out there with countless countries offering the same sun and sea with often far superior infrastructure and attitude, and tourists with their hard-earned cash demand value for money.  Thailand is in danger of not providing it.

The fallout from good guys in, bad guys out.

I agree that migration should be controlled and Thailand was long a soft touch due to the mai pen rai attitude of the authorities.  That is why the country has tended to attract many who wouldn’t be tolerated in neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.  So the fact that the country is belatedly dealing with those of questionable character and means is to be welcomed.  However, what really needs to be addressed is how a group of far greater numbers, those married to Thais, are treated.  My friends do not believe me when I tell them that although I have been married for over 25 years I still have to leave the country every 90 days or report myself to authorities as if I were a criminal.  Isn’t it about time that someone got it into their head that we are not criminals but are supporting a wife and often her family too and should not have to live with the risk that the authorities could change the rules at any moment.  Often, as is so frequently the case in Thailand, without fully thinking things through and assessing the consequences.

Thailand Elite thumbs up.

I joined Thailand Elite shortly after it was introduced and have been very pleased ever since.  I plan on remaining in Thailand for the foreseeable future, so while 1 million baht is a considerable investment for the privilege of remaining here without the headaches of attaining a proper visa, it has proven to be money well-spent.  I have heard from the many naysayers (whom proclaim to love this country) that I am stupid and wasting my money, but it has been one of the smartest moves I have ever made.  It seems that most foreigners simply do not have the financial means to join such a program, but instead of admitting such, they claim they do not trust the government and are unwilling to commit their resources into a program that does not offer fair value.  Instead they visit various countries and try applying for any type visa that might buy them an extra 6 to 8 months, but is actually only a temporary Band-Aid until the time comes that they will have to leave and resettle elsewhere….all while they bitch and moan that Thailand is throwing out people who spend money and support local businesses and are of benefit to the people.  These are the same people who are thumbing their noses at the latest retirement visa on offer, complaining it is designed only for the rich who can meet the terms required and will force many residents who have lived here comfortably (i.e. quietly working and not paying taxes) and now have to decide how (and if) they will be able to continue in their unrealistic limbo and breaking up relationships.  I for one am pleased the government is finally making moves to clean out those that cannot genuinely afford to live in the kingdom and make a contribution “legally” and are constantly worried about remaining here.

Thai consulate, Perth.

On the subject of visa changes, the 60-day tourist visa at the local Thai consulate in Perth has some new requirements and proof of accommodation is one of them.  It turns out they require confirmation of your sleeping arrangements for your first night in Thailand.  After that they don’t seem too interested.  For this one night they won’t accept an email from the guesthouse which is my usual haunt, nor a letter from the English proprietor unless he provides his ‘Thai stamp’ and passport details. Arrangements I have had with this guy have always been quite informal and I really don’t want to burden him so it looks like my first night in Thailand will need to be in a hotel booked through someone like Agoda who can provide a hotel voucher which the consulate will accept.  Another requirement on the visa application is a bank’s certificate of balance of not less than AUD 800.  A chap at the Perth consulate where I visited today was informed his certificate was unacceptable as it was not dated with today’s date!  Certainly minor points, but fellow weary travelers from Perth hoping to escape the cricket results might find it useful to get these requirements in order before visiting the consulate.

Property-Sumo728x90

Increase the requirements for long-stay visas.

On ‘Uncontrolled Migration’, yes, many long-term foreigners seem to think they have a God-given right to be there but as you correctly point out – check the name of the visa – ‘Non Immigrant’.  Regarding your comment that criminal record checks from the home country should be a requirement, I obtained my non-immigrant retirement visa in Australia earlier this year.  As part of the process I was required to provide a criminal history check from the Police Department, so it would appear that is already in place.  I also feel that the 800,000 baht required is way too low and the raising to say, 1,500,000 or even 2,000,000 baht would be a move to encourage better quality long-term residents.  I would even go further and suggest that for any long-term visa, even retirees, there should be a requirement to achieve a certain level of proficiency in the Thai language, with perhaps a compulsory 6 months attendance at a language school as part of the conditions of the first year of a retirement visa.  That would weed out a few of the ‘bad guys’.  The downside would be that the Bangkok language schools would quickly fill up with grumpy old men.

Criminal record checks would kill the Pattaya bar biz.

I had to laugh when you suggested that foreigners staying a long time in Thailand should undergo a criminal record check.  If so, the bars in Soi Buakhao, LK Metro etc, would be emptier than they are already.  A certain bar in Pattaya that I could mention would be devoid of customers altogether!  Most people I know have got some kind of record for one thing or another.  Most in the distant past, but some not so distant.  Unless you are on bail or have broken the law in the Kingdom, I don’t think you should have a problem entering the country.  Scam artists an exception, of course.

APEC card questioning.

I arrived back to Thailand last Wednesday with my Thai wife.  We queued at the Fast Track lane which I can use as an APEC card holder.  I could not see the APEC listed lanes.  I go first with my wife in the queue behind me (contingency planning).  I handed over my APEC card and NZ passport.  Immediately after scanning the passport, the Immigration officer asks, “How long you stay?”  I stated 90 days (the APEC card limit) knowing if you say 30 days they will only stamp 30 days.  Next, she murmurs, “Other passport.”  I have no other passport.  I think that she thought I was entering multiple times to stay permanently.  After minutes of, “What your business?, What you do here”, she summoned the supervisor.  At that point my wife walked up to the booth and said that I was with her.  They talked together in Thai.  I got my APEC 90-day stamp.  Later my wife said that she was told “It’s new visa rules” and I should get a marriage visa.  We never had an issue at the border like this before and we have spent 50% of our time in Thailand over the last 18 months.  This is the 3rd 90-day stay issued after being away for 90 days on each occasion.  I may be best to get a retirement visa now.

The Tinder option.

I’ll give two thumbs up to the Tinder freelancers I’ve met.  Inexpensive at 2,000 baht and several I haven’t met quote 3,000 baht, which is still pretty good since you’re not paying for a barfine, lady drinks, or overpriced liquor.  And excellent service.  My favorite keeps vodka and orange juice in her hotel room, so you can relax, have a few drinks, take your time, and you know the rest.  Regarding time, nearly 3 hours from “I found your hotel” to “great meeting you.”  So if you’re tired of high pressure lady drink sales and the rush to get back to the bar, try Tinder.

 

pure-728x90-banner1

Girl of the week

Emma, escort with PureBangkokEscorts.com

girl-of-the-week2016b-3

girl-of-the-week2016b-2
girl-of-the-week2016b-1

728x90_Bangkok_Escort_Animated_Banner_Design_1-1

For a while now I have been suggesting that the next soi on Sukhumvit to be developed along the lines of those sois popular with visitors and expats looking for a night out could be soi 22.  I maintain that soi 22 will become an entertainment and dining destination soi before too long.  But maybe it might not be the next soi on Sukhumvit to take off and maybe, just maybe, the next soi to become popular with those looking for a night out might be the short, unnumbered sub-soi connecting Sukhumvit soi 20 to Sukhumvit Road, about 40 meters west of soi 20 proper.  This small sub soi is truly an anomaly in that it is without a soi number – there is no soi 20/1.  As such, it suffers from something of an identity crisis.  This short alley full of unremarkable shophouses has long been home to the Top Secret beer bar.  There is also the deliciously named Shag Bar which opened a while back.  Fox and Hounds arrived several months ago, followed by the Burgers and Bangers eatery which had a cult following in its previous location down at Onut.  All of a sudden and completely out of the blue, three new bars have appeared in recent weeks in the sub-soi: Foxzee Bar, Why Not Bar and Eve’s Apple – a dodgy name that makes it sound like it might house cocks-in-frocks.  Most of the bars open well before the sun goes down and a handful of girls can be seen sitting outside late afternoon doing what bargirls do – bury their head in their mobile phones.  I guess the closest thing to this small sub-soi would be Sukhumvit soi 7/1 although it’s not yet at that scale and has yet to have a must-visit venue as soi 7/1 once had with the Eden Club.  If a couple more venues should open up then this sub soi could become a destination for bargoers on a budget.

The last 2 weeks have seen a significant uplift in trade and a corresponding spike in optimism.  If business confidence surveys included input from bar and brothel owners, the index would have risen sharply this week.  But then it’s hardly unexpected given the time of year.  The best month of the year for the bar industry is January and the peak of the high season is often the first two weeks of the year.

But an old issue has come to the fore for bar bosses, one that could become a challenge when bars fill up over the next coming weeks – and that is the problem of getting enough girls.  One Soi Cowboy bar boss said to me this week that his bar would up the monthly salary for gogo dancers (specifically gogo dancers / not coyote dancers) to 20,000 baht – but even at that very generous level takers are few and far between.  This very popular Soi Cowboy bar had just 25 dancers on duty on one of the busiest nights this past week.  It’s the same for a number of bars – with trade picking up, there aren’t enough girls to go around.  Keep this in mind if your lady du jour quotes more than you’re willing to pay – you can put it down to the most basic of economic principles.

The new sign for Butterflies went up in Nana Plaza on Friday with the grand opening party for the bar which will replace Jail Birdz planned for December 15.  Butterflies is run by the same people behind what many (me included) feel is the best chrome pole bar in Bangkok at this time – Billboard – so expect big things.

The slogan on the sign at the entrance to Nana Plaza says it is the world’s largest adult playground and bars in the plaza should heed that.  Those venues which have tried something different have seldom succeeded.  We’ve had failed eateries, a failed tattoo studio and now I wonder if we will have a failed live music venue.  The closed off area in Bangkok Bunnies on the ground floor of Nana Plaza will reopen as a rock & roll i.e. live music bar.  If all goes to plan, it should open before Christmas.  I wish the owners every success but at the same time I can’t help but think that such a venue is not really fitting in with most people’s reasons for visiting the plaza.

billboard

The escort industry has been turned on its head with the soft launch of Smooci in Thailand.  Entire escort services have signed up for Smooci.com, an app / website which has the potential to revolutionise the way you meet pay for play girls.  Smooci is to the naughty nightlife what Uber is to public transport.  It’s an app that allows service providers to connect with their customer.  All middle men are eliminated.  Punters can search Smooci for ladies with similar criteria to dating sites, such as search by height, weight and age range.  And in the future you will be able to search by ladies’ ratings.  You see, after you have used the lady’s service, you get an email from Smooci inviting you to rate her from 1 to 5 stars.  On Smooci, girls have to be logged in to the system on their phone and available at that time to be listed.  What that means is that the search results you see are ladies who are available now – and you can book them for any time in the next few hours.  Make a booking and you get the confirmation there and then.  And then Smooci gets really clever, using GPS technology so you can track the lady on your smartphone or computer and watch her coming to you!  And as I say, after she leaves you can rate her, just like you rate restaurants on Trip Advisor or hotels at the end of your stay on the likes of Booking.com and Agoda.  Smooci was only launched a couple of weeks ago but already it is putting real pressure on escort prices and driving them down.  Some escorts are available on Smooci for up to 40% less than if you booked them through their agency.  A search at the time of writing today’s article revealed some escorts available for just 2,400 baht – that’s the all-in price.  Expect prices to get pushed down further as competition increases.

The Dollhouse on Soi Cowboy has introduced a new crazy hour.  Every night from 9:30 – 10:30 PM they offer 50 baht shots of Tequila, Blue Kamikaze, 100 Pipers, Sang Som and Hong Thong.  And there is a late-night special from 1:00 AM – 2:00 AM where you get a free slice of pizza with every beer order.  And this is not some shit microwave pizza that you wouldn’t give to your dog.  The Dollhouse has teamed up with the popular farang-owned pizzeria, Gallery Pizza.  Sexy girls, good music, beer and pizza isn’t a bad combination, is it?!

Reports from readers are indeed accurate and I can confirm with my very own eyes that the Thermae is experiencing a renaissance.  The lineup and sheer number of attractive ladies is something else, with many attractive, nicely dressed ladies who are every bit as attractive as the best-looking gogo dancers, and much more pleasant to chat.  And unlike gogo bars where there can be more customers than dancers, in the Thermae there are at least 3 ladies for every man.  Some of the ladies have a preference for our Japanese friends but note, I say preference.  Don’t take that to mean that Caucasians are a no go.  Probably the ratio of Asian men to Caucasians is around 6 : 1.

There is one thing that perplexes me about the Thermae though and that is the way that many of the ladies quote reasonably high prices while at the same time the Asian men and the foreigners are far from a wealthy bunch.  Many of the Asian men there are young and employed in Bangkok – figure their salaries in a lot of cases to be at similar levels to English teachers.  And a lot of the foreigners look like they’re looking for a bargain.  So I think these opening gambits of 2,500 for short-time are very likely just that – a starting point from which to negotiate.

Mandarin on the middle floor of Nana Plaza will host a Wild West party this coming Friday, December 9th.  A free buffet will be offered and there will also be a free lottery.

mandarin-nana-plaza-party

thestrip-shaka

dollhouse-anniversary

A Bangkok bar boss is moving on from the industry for a reason I haven’t heard cited before.  He thinks the good times are over – not so much in terms of the fun factor and entertainment possibilities – but the way that bars operate in a grey area, doing questionable – sometimes illegal things – but have largely been left alone by the powers that be so long as they continue to make contributions to the right people.  It would seem he has had an epiphany and feels that if something should happen to the bar and he was caught up in it, that could be the end of his (rather long) stay in Thailand.  He doesn’t want to risk that and has decided to call it a day.  For obvious reasons, I shan’t be saying who he is.

Down in Sin City, Paul, formerly the manager at Misty’s, will join Larry at BabyDolls as the bar’s new manager just as soon as his work permit is issued.

This coming Tuesday, December 6th, the most popular naughty nightlife forum in all of Thailand, Pattaya Addicts will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a party in 9 of its Pattaya bars in notorious soi 6 hosting events and parties throughout the day.

An update to the news item posted in last week’s column about the imminent closure of the long-running Honey Hotel which has a following amongst many long-timers.  Word is that bookings are not being taken beyond the end of February, leading to speculation that the hotel might close sooner than first thought.  A final decision on when the lights are turned off for the last time has yet to be made.

I notice that three restaurants from the JW Marriott Hotel feature in the top 10 restaurants list in Bangkok.  In fact three are in the top five!  They currently have the #1 rated restaurant in Bangkok (the Nami Steakhouse), #3 (The Bangkok Baking Company) and #5 (Tsu Japanese).  Let’s cut through the BS, I find this very suspicious indeed.  Admittedly I have not tried #1 or #5, but I have eaten at The Bangkok Baking Company numerous times and while it is a pleasant and relaxing spot, the food is not special.  I mean, we’re talking basic sandwiches no better than Au Bon Pain and quick meals that are decent, but hardly memorable.  I have long been very cynical about Trip Advisor’s rating system and the way it can be manipulated…

Vendor creep is taking place on the busiest section of Sukhumvit Road as vendors prevented from setting up stalls on the pavement are pushing boundaries.  In the weeks that followed the enforcement of the new rules forbidding vendors from setting up a table / booth on Sukhumvit Road and selling their wares, some vendors negotiated with building owners so that they could attach racks displaying their wares from said buildings next to the pavement and sell them from there.  Technically at least, this is allowed.  Many vendors have returned including the many pesky adult toy vendors selling various items including gigantic plastic cocks which are displayed along one of the most popular strips of pavement for foreign visitors, all while the local City Hall officials sit nearby and do absolutely nothing about it.

The-Strip-banner-new

While the prices for many things in Thailand can seem reasonable, even cheap at first glance, you have to consider the add-ons.  Coming from a country where we don’t have a tipping culture and where you’re not allowed to list one price and later mention that tax is not included, the practice of restaurants adding ++ to a bill, effectively inflating the price by 17% is something I still don’t accept.  And then there are those sneaky cases where business operators change the rules in the middle of the game.  Take the example of being told you require a minor dental or medical procedure, only to be told half-way through that more work is required – and that could cost significantly more than the initial procedure (and may in fact not be necessary).  These sorts of things happen often enough to be suspicious – so don’t be shy to seek a second opinion when extra work is suggested.  OK, so this is not a Thailand-only problem and Thailand is not what I’d call expensive per se, but I often find the final price to be a lot higher than what you initially thought it would be once all of the add-ons have been included.

From now until the end of February, all Thai embassies and consulates worldwide will waive the fee for a single-entry Tourist Visa.  While holders of a passport from western countries get 30 days permission to stay if they fly in to Thailand without a visa, a tourist visa gets you permission to stay for 60 days.

I have a strict policy when it comes to lending money: I don’t.  No exceptions.  This policy has served me well.  I don’t loan money to anyone and I don’t borrow money either.  In the last month I have had two people ask me to lend them money.  And I keep hearing stories of expats asking other expats if they could borrow money which suggests to me that some are doing it tough at the moment.  In a couple of cases it seems this is a direct result of their currency weakening against the baht.  In other cases the circumstances of how they came to be essentially broke are not obvious.  Lending money to your fellow expat is often not a good idea, at least if you do so thinking that the loan will be repaid.

Jail-Birdz-Nana-Plaza-banner

You’ll soon be fingerprinted when you buy a new SIM card in Thailand (so if the idea of that is off-putting you should go out and get a new SIM card now!)

Christopher G. Moore interviews Peter Klashorst as the artist paints Chris’s portrait in his Bangkok studio.

Thai police arrest 3 people suspected of plotting bombs at tourist sites.

A Canadian visitor’s wallet is 135,000 baht lighter after he invited a Thai lady back to his Phuket hotel room.

SunbeltLegal

There were no questions received for Sunbelt Asia this week.

 

LadyboysBangkok

 

thailand-cityscape

More and more, it seems stuff away from the nightlife is of greater interest to many readers.

 

These days, column openers in no way related to the naughty nightlife industry receive more emails and more enthusiastic replies than columns related to the nightlife.  The large number of emails responding to last week’s column opener was the reason I decided to write a follow-up article to that today.  I had no plans to do so but when I received so many comments about visas and so many questions about visa solutions it made me realise there was demand for such an article.  I’m not sure what I’ll write about next week and I have both nightlife and non-nightlife openers percolating away.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick