January 15, 2017
Since I left Bangkok several weeks ago my motivation to write an opening piece for the column has waned. I tried to put something together this week but, frankly, it was junk, and I feel it is better to leave the opening piece empty than publish the drivel I had lined up. I’ll try to snap out of my malaise before next Sunday.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week’s photo was taken of the walk way leading in to the Time Square Building, opposite Robinson’s at Sukhumvit soi 19. A number of people got the location of the photo right but only one reader knew who the well-known expat in the photo was. This week’s photo was taken in central Bangkok.
Stick’s Inbox – These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick. Preference is given to publishing emails which may refer to something from the previous week’s column.
Predictions for 2017.
It’s always hard with predictions, but here are mine:
1) Continued gentrification of the Sukhumvit area, ripping the heart and soul out of what once was a vibrant area. More condos are a given.
2) More pain for bar bosses. Despite any increase in tourist numbers, the demographic changes are irreversible as ‘naughty boys’ age not so gracefully and / or partner up. Pattaya especially hard hit.
3) No elections – delayed again as the cronies maintain their grip on power.
4) Another Asian financial crisis which takes the property market down.
Bar closing times.
Regarding the closing hours, 2 AM might suit people who work 9 – 5 jobs but for people like me who finish work at midnight and get our first drink at 1 AM, it’s way too early. Everyone who works unsociable hours deserves the opportunity to go out and enjoy themselves. Licencing laws are pointless outside of telling adults what time they should stop having fun and go to bed. If a venue is outside of a residential area, the hours of business should be decided upon by the business owner. There are far too many moral codes disguised as ‘laws’. Who decides that we need to stop drinking at 2 AM? A politician? A religious leader? Are they more moral or intelligent than the average person? History would suggest not. People should have the right to choose their own behaviour on the proviso that they don’t harm anyone else.
Lack of girls a Bangkok issue?
With your comments about difficulty of bar owners recruiting girls, whilst in Bangkok there may well be a shortage of recruits, in Pattaya there is no shortage whatsoever. There are still thousands of girls working in bars. The problem is that there are now far too many gogo bars. Compared to say the genre’s heyday around 15 years ago, the number of gogo bars in Pattaya has rocketed. There simply are not enough old-style, hardcore gogo customers around these days and so many gogo bars now cater to the curious tourist market rather than their traditional customer base.
Soi LK Metro balance lost.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to hear of the closure of Armageddon and conversion in to yet another gogo in Soi LK Metro. Even though I’m a big gogo fan, I feel the balance in Soi LK Metro has been spoilt in recent years. I haven’t even set foot on Walking Street literally for years. And I haven’t been a regular there since before 2005. In recent years I have spent a lot of my time in Pattaya in the Soi LK Metro area. Until around 2012/2013 I felt the soi had a really nice balance. A few decent gogos, and a good choice of guesthouses, restaurants, beers bars / sports bars and a few regular shops. Since then it has been a manic race to buy up any available unit and turn it in to yet another gogo. I’ve no idea if anyone else cares but to me the whole balance of the soi has changed and it’s a turn for the worse in my view.
The Three B’s of Nana Plaza.
I used to avoid Nana Plaza but now that the 3 B’s are open – Butterflies, Billboard, and Bunnies are staples on my nightly bar runs. Butterflies and Billboard were packed on Saturday and Bunnies was busy.
What the girls would look at.
You asked, “What would the girls look at if the gogo bars didn’t have mirrors?” The answer is : the screen of their smart phone, and yes the camera is on and they are using it, preening themselves.
One difference between Thais and Cambodians.
You commented recently about not having more Thai friends. I think there is a difference here in Cambodia that the Khmers are looking for a meal ticket and a way out of the country. I have a lot of ex staff in Australia, and a few in France and the USA. The Thais don’t particularly want to leave and are looking for someone to finance a house in their village. I know it’s a pretty broad assessment but a stumbling block. There is one irony however. I see many of the gogo girls post on Facebook and they do seem to be crying out for love, but it is in their Thai circles.
Driver licencing in Thailand.
A few weeks ago, I went to the LTO (Land Transport Office) near Mo Chit to get my Thai Car Driver’s Licence. As you are probably aware, if you have a driver’s licence from another country the process for getting a Thai licence is pretty straightforward. You do, however, need to pass some ‘physical tests’ as they are called. A colour blindness test, a reaction test (ability to apply the brakes quickly in an emergency – done on a special contraption) as well as a peripheral vision test. The one test I expected to be examined on was not required – Thai road rules. On completing my Thai car licence requirements, I was asked by the LTO officer if I would also like to apply for a motorbike licence on the same day. It wasn’t my intention to do this test as well, but I did want to get a bike licence at some stage, so agreed to do that testing in the afternoon on the same day. As I had already passed the ‘physical tests’ for the car licence, I wasn’t required to repeat them. However, I was required to pass the road rules test (not required for the car licence). The test was quite tough, needing 45 correct answers out of 50 questions. I really hadn’t done much preparation for it, and failed with a score of 39. No problem, the tester said, just do it again. On my second attempt, I also failed by a similar margin. I was then told to come back the next day for another go. That night, I found the test on the web, practiced it a few times and got a perfect score. I guess my point is that the road rules should be required knowledge for all road users, not just motorbikes! The fact that a person has a driving licence from a foreign country implies that they can drive a car, but it does not imply they know anything about Thai road rules – this needs to be addressed by the LTO.
The troubled Glamour Bar on Patpong soi 2 opposite Foodland always seemed like it was closed as often as it was open. The doors have not been open for some months but good news is here and some associates of Bada Bing bar are doing it up and hope to open it real soon.
As the Patpong area seems to be doing a little better these days, the King’s Group has reopened their bar on the corner of the alley on Patpong soi 2, opposite Foodland and the Dragon’s Head.
Speaking of which, Dragon’s Head is gaining in popularity which might be part of the reason King’s Group has seen an opportunity to reopen – and snatch some of their customers.
In last week’s column I commented that bar owners were struggling to recruit enough girls. 3 different bar bosses had told me that recruitment was a big problem again and currently their #1 headache. It must be pointed out that the problem of recruiting girls is not one faced by all bar bosses as one bar boss pointed out. This very large gogo bar has been on a major recruitment drive and in a 2-week period over Christmas and New Year managed to recruit a whopping 87 girls – enough to fill two medium-sized gogo bars. So obviously some bar owners have a few tricks up their sleeves!
The game of cat and mouse continues on Sukhumvit with the Tesskait officers (city hall inspectors) fining vendors on Sukhimvit soi 11 this week who had set up and forcing them to pack their stuff up and go home.
There is a chain of Thai restaurants here in New Zealand called Thai Chef, with branches throughout the North Island. I’ve only eaten in one of their outlets, but can give the food the thumbs up. The quality of their food is not the reason it is noteworthy. What is interesting is the rather colourful menu which features Thai dishes given unique names, including Mr Bean in Bangkok, Naughty Pig and just to prove that New Zealand is not nearly as politically correct as you might think, there is even a dish called Suicide Bomber! These odd names and or two others that are kind of crass make it sound like a dodgy chain set up by a former Pattaya slapper and her ex-con Kiwi beau but in fact the chain is well-regarded and was even awarded Thai Select Premium status by the then Prime Minister of Thailand in 2013 during her official visit to New Zealand. I wonder what Ms Shinawatra made of the menu?
I am reluctant to include photos / image files in this column that I did not take myself and which I have not been granted express permission to use, but the image file below appeared on social media and given my well-known feelings about tattoos and how I think they mar a female’s natural beauty, I just had to include this in the column. Oh, boy, it sure made me laugh!
My recent comments about the poor quality of live music in Thailand has had a few regulars disagreeing. One of those people was long-time reader and former regular readers’ submissions contributor, Pothole Research who happens to be a big fan of live music. He feels that Pattaya has no dearth of decent Thai style live music, while decent Western live music is harder to find. By that, he means something that sets itself apart from the rowdy beer bar combos or the worn out Bamboo Bar band. He says that one new option for snappy pop, soul and funk is the fine band called Inner Soul which plays in the spacious Samran semi-open air restaurant on Pattaya’s Third Road. They play from Thursday to Sunday, starting around 8.30 pm or so – but not this Sunday, January 15th, when they will be in Jomtien’s Sand Bar. The all-Westerner band has a New York trombone player, a Jamaican bass player and smiling Siberian singer, Irina. They are followed around 11 PM by a decent Thai band playing local pop rock including an hilarious Loso parody. The Samran Pub is run by a Thai-foreign couple and sports exceptionally clean restrooms without the urinal shoulder-massage that bothers some of us. It’s correctly marked on Google Maps, in English; alternatively you can check their Facebook page for updates.
Many enjoy living in Thailand – as I once did – but I have to say that there is one aspect of life in the Kingdom that would drive me crazy if I still lived here . It’s something that is unavoidable and something that has got out of control. With so many changes to Thailand’s visa rules along with the decision to enforce old laws which until recently had been ignored, keeping on top of visa law changes, current policies, the requirements of your local Immigration office and being aware of the whims of individual officers has become so time-consuming that I reckon it has become one giant headache. I thought retirement was supposed to be about kicking back and relaxing with nothing to worry about. Sorry, but from where I am sitting it doesn’t seem to be that way for expats in Thailand. Some of the new visa rules are confusing and this is compounded by the way that difference branches, border points and officials interpret things differently and enforce the rules according to their own ideas. And before anyone says otherwise, no, it didn’t use to be like this. In 2017, it seems that negotiating Thailand’s convoluted visa regulations requires its own unique skill set.
It’s still a few weeks away, but for those who enjoy wild nightlife, you’ll be pleased to know that Nanapong will resume next month. The next official Nanapong dance contest will be held at Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy on Saturday, February 4th. Girls from the host venue will welcome dancers from its Pattaya namesake and Club Electric Blue. If you like your gogo bar experience spicy, Nanapong is for you. And if you’re a fan of the nightlife but have yet to experience a Nanapong dance contest, this is your chance to correct that!
The number of Chinese expats in Thailand is growing rapidly.
Two young Italians are arrested and charged with desecrating Thailand’s flag.
A monk deliberately drives a pickup truck over a dog that had bitten him many times.
A bloke has sex with a Thai bird on a glass coffee table in a Bangkok short-time hotel and the inevitable happens.
The Thai PM says Thai could supersede English as the dominant world language.
For the umpteenth time, ladyboys are caught stealing on Pattaya’s Beach Road.
An Irish couple suffers an horrific ordeal in Phuket where they are raped and robbed.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors is here to answer all of your legal questions related to Thailand. Please feel free to send any questions to me and I will put them to Sunbelt and run their response in the next column.
Question 1: I have a question regarding aliens (single and / or living in a relationship) arriving from abroad to live in Thailand with modest or even advanced dementia (Alzheimer). How does that work out with their visa and stay? Would such people get a visa exempt entry, or would power of attorney be sufficient in case for any extension of their stay? Thanks.
Sunbelt Legal responds: In the case of foreigners getting a visa extension, Immigration will make exceptions for people in hospital and allow extensions based on being in the hospital. But when it comes to someone who is not bedridden in hospital, that person must go to the Immigration office and make the application themselves. They may have someone assist them but they must go to the office.
Expat society has changed massively in the last 10 years and the stereotype of the middle-aged, overweight, lascivious sexpat is no longer a fair and accurate description of the typical Thailand expat. Today there are more young expats, more expats who take their health seriously, and many who have never stepped foot in the likes of Cowboy or Nana. This creates something of a challenge as the column has not really moved on from serving the interests of the expats of old. I used to write for the majority; now I write for a small minority. Exactly where this column is going, I do not know. There is much to think about…
Your Bangkok commentator,