Stickman's Weekly Column January 29th, 2017

Smooci

Technology and the Internet have changed many aspects of our behaviour, including the way we buy things.  From booking flights and hotels to the way we order pizza, technology has made things easier, faster and perhaps best of all, cheaper.  And now you can use your mobile or laptop to find a lady in Bangkok and book her with the same ease with which you book a flight or buy a pizza.

Connecting users with service providers is what bridging technologies do.  Perhaps the best-known bridging technology is Uber which allows anyone with a car to provide transport to those who need to get somewhere.  Another example would be AirBnB which allows anyone with a spare room in their house or condo – or an entire vacant property – to rent it to someone who wishes to stay in that area for a night, a week or longer.

And now there is a website and app using similar technology which allows men in Bangkok in the mood to meet up with a lady (or a ladyboy) keen to meet a man and earn a few baht.

Smooci launched in Bangkok a couple of months ago and the ladies using the service – Smooci refers to them as companions – are for the most part escorts.  It would be easy to think of Smooci as a centralized booking service for escorts in Bangkok but it’s much more than that.

Smooci is not a Thailand-centric service.  Bangkok struck the founders as a good market to test Smooci out in, and other cities in Asia will follow.  There are plans to roll it out in many countries.  You could say that Smooci offers a service not that different to the naughty bars but again, that’s not really what Smooci is about, even if many customers might use it that way.

Ultimately, the goal of Smooci is to create an ethos with a level playing field, allowing the big-name escort agencies, the smaller agencies as well as independent escorts to all compete with the same tools.  Each individual is accountable for the service level and performance they provide.

The girls have bought in to it.  Service standards are going up and prices are going down.  With users able to rate their experience – a popular feature of Smooci – and the girls aware of the importance of the ratings they receive, and how customers tend to select a lady based on her rating, the girls are aware of the importance of providing good service and getting a good review.

One of the biggest complaints some guys have about the ladies they meet in Bangkok gogo bars is how bad the service provided has become – and how it can be rushed and expensive.  Many feel the bedroom experience is a disappointment.  With a rating an integral part of their profile in much the same way hotels and restaurants are rated on Trip Advisor, the girls have an incentive to perform.  Smooci allows punters to make an informed choice by not just looking at a girl’s photos and profile, but also considering her rating, thus improving the odds of a good experience.

2,000 baht is the starting point these days for a short time with a Bangkok gogo dancer and many girls ask for more.  Add in the barfine – anything from 600 to 1,500 baht – and the cost of drinks and the prices on Smooci are very competitive.  What’s more, the price on Smooci is for the short-time standard of yesteryear – 2 hours and to use industry terminology, 2 shots.

See the word “escort” in Bangkok and you probably think of high prices (5,000 baht has become the standard rate for a 2-hour session with a Bangkok escort), yet the rates on Smooci for ladies with big-name agencies are less than you would pay if you booked her direct from the agency.

 

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Rates on Smooci are lower than if you booked the lady direct from her agency.

 

There is plenty of choice on Scooci at around 3,000 baht, and some girls have dropped their price below 3,000 for 2 hours as they wish to be competitive and increase the number of bookings they get.  The system works.

Smooci also has a 1-hour option (1 shot) – and prices have got as low as 1,500 baht, with many around the 2,400 mark.  That’s a much better deal than you get with gogo girls and an especially good deal for those who don’t drink and / or don’t care for bars.

Presently, Smooci has a number of girls (and ladyboys, if that is your thing) at the 3,000 baht price point, and they plan to market the app towards other agencies / independents in the 2500 – 3000 baht range in early February.

Smooci cuts through all the bullshit and there is no need to negotiate.  You select the lady and know exactly how much you will pay and what you are going to get.

The booking is all done online from your phone or computer.  Place your order and your booking is confirmed almost instantly.

Once you have made the booking, you get to use one of the cool features of Smooci – GPS tracking.  You can monitor the lady with GPS tracking as she travels to you.  The tracking goes live as soon as she clicks to start her journey.

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Here is the basics of how Smooci works:

1)  You select the city (currently, Bangkok is the only option) and then the time and duration of the booking.  You can only make a booking up to 4 hours in advance.

2)  You then select the lady and fill the booking information in.

3)  A confirmation email is sent to you with the booking information to check that it is accurate.  If wrong details are provided, the girl’s agency will contact you to correct the details.

4)  An email with a link to track the lady travelling is sent once she is on her way.

5)  When the business is done and the lady leaves, an email is sent to the customer to review the lady and rate her.

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I am told that users really like the rating system as there isn’t anything comparable to it in Bangkok.  The performers are separated from the starfish by user reviews.  Think Trip Advisor for working girls!  In an industry full of false promises and letdowns, this feature provides peace of mind.  If you have a bad experience you can rate the lady accordingly and warn others, while you can reward those who give you a good time.

The girls understand the importance of the rating system and some have upped their game after seeing friends become more popular.

I would have thought that Smooci would add a supplementary charge on top of the girl’s usual rates in much the same way that some Bangkok food delivery companies do i.e. order a cheeseburger and fries from a popular Bangkok restaurant using the website of a food delivery company website and you pay more than if you went to the restaurant.  Use Smooci and you pay LESS than if you went directly to the escort service!  It doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s how it works.

Smooci has evened the playing field, allowing small agencies to compete withe the bigger, established industry names.  There are no independents on the site yet but they will be coming soon.

Giving everyone equal exposure and the same tools helps the cream rise to the top (pardon the pun), and creates a more competitive market, bringing prices down.

Smooci is open to all local escort agencies to join.  Any quality escort agency can take advantage of Smooci’s large customer base and free service.

Smooci is working towards getting more agencies on board and has plans to bring in independents.  More ladies available through Smooci will contribute to more competitive prices, better service and overall a better customer experience.

Just like Amazon and Uber in the early days, Smooci is not a commercial success.  It does not even have a revenue generating business model!  No doubt that will change in time.

Smooci has launched in Bangkok and plans to launch in Singapore and Hong Kong in the first half of this year.  Smooci has global aspirations.

Smooci has the potential to redefine the way guys meet ladies willing to entertain them for reward.

If you find yourself alone in Bangkok and fancy some company, do check out Smooci.com.

 

 

Where was this photo taken?

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Last week’s photo was taken just inside the doors from the balcony at the Landmark Hotel, right next to the cafe / bakery.  While this week’s photo might look rather obscure, if you look closely at the flow of the traffic that should be the only clue you need….

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FROM STICK’S INBOX  (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.)

Remembering Bob.

Thanks for the full and deserved praise for Bob McIndoe and his Hog’s Breath Saloon. He was one of the good guys in the business and a rare exponent of the policies that turned gogo bars into “clubs” for their regulars.  So loyal were his drinkers through the boom-and-bust 1990s, when tourism fell, he continued merrily along, hosting fishing contests and an annual golf tournament, serving a core of expat repeaters, making it clear that it pays to put your clientele first.  His bars were known as “Khmer bars” for their predominant Surin-Buriram citizenry.

Even old hands can be fooled.

I was walking to Foodland on Sukhumvit soi 5 with time on my hands.  There was a lineup of girls advertising a nearby massage place down a small side soi.  I got talking to the girls and one in particular was very attractive and chatty.  She persuaded me to have an oil massage so I went in, showered and had a very fine massage.  I left very happy but before I left we talked and she gave me her Facebook address.  We have kept in touch and I asked her why as she was educated from Laos yet she is working in a massage place and not an office or boutique / perfumery.  She explained that she earns 60,000 baht a month doing massage and in an office she may earn 15,000 baht a month.  She regularly sends me photos of herself in exotic places and on the beach.  The strange thing is though a message came through on Facebook recently stating that he had changed his Facebook status.  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I was wise to the ladyboys in Bangkok but I would never have guessed!

Rookie mistakes never end.

I recently traveled to Thailand for the first time, and as much as I enjoyed the experience, I made some foolish mistakes.  To make a long story short, I was with a massage girl and she neglected to put on a condom, and I was too entranced to wisen up.  I finished without pulling out and had to leave to catch my departing flight.  After reality hit, I contacted the parlour to own up and they just responded “No problem.”  For further reassurance, I emailed the parlour about the use of birth control.  They replied that condom use is standard but birth control pills are up to each lady.  I got myself checked, and there was no problem, but the thought of getting her pregnant persists.  No names or contact info were exchanged.  Should I stop worrying about this?  Perhaps I’m being too paranoid.  I am not ready for fatherhood, but will own up to the consequences if need be.  I would really appreciate your insight and advice!

Young guys and escorts.

I keep an eye on Smooci and see a couple of girls I am interested in and might book them on my next trip.  I am over 50 and I am not that interested in gogo bars, but I like the freelancer scene.  I guess the appeal for the younger guys booking an escort could be the following.  You have an online catalogue giving your choices and you can book it straight away and it is delivered straight to your place.  So basically it is the usual online shopping experience.  There is no risk of rejection from the girl and you have a clear indication how much a couple of hours of fun will cost you.  Maybe you could say with Generation Smartphone the only thing you cannot do (so far) via phone is having the physical experience of having sex with another person, but everything else from finding a partner / booking / and paying can be done by phone.  So for me it is not surprising that younger guys see escorts just as an additional service accessible via smartphone, and they are using it.

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Punters becoming more price sensitive.

The question of prices came up often on my recent trip and it was not just we Brits (getting 43 baht / GBP) but the Americans also pondering prices, especially those of accommodation.  Places which many had stayed in long-term over the years had really hiked prices up especially for the New Year period.  I would say this was predominantly mid-range places and for some frequent multi-trips-a-year folks, I would say there was anger in their voices.

Pulled aside at Immigration.

On our way to Australia from Dublin, we broke our journey in Bangkok as we usually do to lessen the effects of jet lag.  At Immigration I was pulled aside for the first time in 41 years of visiting Thailand and taken to a room by a female Immigration official.  She said, “Sir, our records indicate that this is your 42nd visitation in the past 16 years.  Why so many visits, do you have business interests in Thailand?”  I assured her that our many visits were either holidays or to break up our trip back to Australia.  She left the room and returned with a male officer who inquired where we would be staying in Bangkok.  I informed him that we were booked at the Shangri La.  I then asked him what the problem was.  He said that high multiple visits now had a mandatory requirement for officers to inquire as to the traveller’s motives.  I informed him that if it were a problem then I would break further journeys in HCMC, KL or Singapore.  He assured me that there was no need to do that, duly stamped our passports and wished us well.  Has this occurrence been experienced by other frequent visitors?  Quite frankly, I now prefer Vietnam to Thailand and as such we will probably break further trips in Hanoi, Danang or HCMC.

Roamers.

Whilst in Bangkok I considered your columns which mentioned expats and the fewer people you are seeing.  In a similar vein I could echo this.  Since the crash of 2008, many expats had to return “home.”  My industry, oil and gas, has suffered and has been hit with massive job losses and pay cuts which make travelling to Thailand a less appealing / less cost-effective base, especially when you take Thailand’s inflation in to account.  There is also a trend which you may not know called “Roamers”.  These people are like expats but without the corporate benefits.  They will accept a job on a salary in a country not their own for the experience and not for the monetary rewards.  Financially, they can be far worse off than if they worked in their home country.  They are not to be confused with digital nomads.

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Girl Of The Week

“Miss Gorgeous”
Gogo dancer, Bangkok Bunnies

This gorgeous young lady almost makes me
want to get on a plane and head for Bangkok!

* Photos kindly provided by the Nana Plaza Marketing Department.

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In recent times it seems that seldom does a week go by without mention of Bangkok Bunnies – and this week is no exception.  What is currently the pool table area in the ground floor Nana Plaza bar will become a gogo bar with a doorway connecting through to the larger main bar area.  Bangkok Bunnies seems to be in a perpetual state of change so don’t be surprised if it continues to be mentioned in upcoming columns.

From Soi Cowboy I hear word that the floors above the main bar area / gogo stage in Suzy Wong are being renovated.  What’s that all about?

Still in Suzy Wong, the happy hour has been done away.  For many years, Suzy Wong along with Shark, Tilac and Dollhouse all offered a good deal for those watching their pennies. There is an outside area discount at Suzy Wong – it is just 130 Baht for a local beer if sitting outside which is less than you’ll pay if you’re inside.

Popular bar host Larry will return to BabyDolls for 3 days a week.  Fans and friends can enjoy good conversation with Larry on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Just how busy or otherwise the bars are is something I prefer to comment on when I see things with my own eyes but that is not possible, obviously, when I am not there.  A couple of industry insiders admit that while there are people about, the amount people are spending is well down.  This is not a recent thing and the yield per customer seems to have been in decline for some years.

Hooters on Soi Nana was in darkness last night while the rest of the soi had power.  In the boobs, beers and wings outlet, the faithful had to make do with emergency lighting.

Still on Soi Nana, the new location of what is the latest version of Strikers beer bar / sports bar in the car park of the Nana Hotel is better than where it was, in the car park of the Rajah Hotel.  Being at the top of the soi, and especially being opposite the plaza, is the ideal spot.  With that said, unless you’re looking for Strikers, you only see it when you walk out of the plaza and are facing it.  If you didn’t know where Strikers was, you mightn’t even notice it.  It really could do with a large sign out on the street – and some of the pretty lasses who work inside standing out on Soi Nana handing out brochures to get punters in wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  I’ve always liked Strikers and have long thought it had the best selection of maidens of any beer bar in Bangkok, many of whom struck me as gogo quality.

 

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Strikers, the Bangkok beer bar with a gogo bar quality lineup.

 

A quick reminder that next Saturday, February 4th, Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy will host a Nanapong dance contest.  Management reports that there has been strong demand from people keen to judge the event.  Remember, the judges get the ringside seats!  The Dollhouse manager himself will not be there as he had already paid for a ski trip to Colorado before the contest date was announced.  You do have to wonder about his priorities!

And still in Dollhouse Soi Cowboy, the bar has taken to putting the girl’s nickname on her number tag – remember most bars just use a number.  It strikes me as a good idea and makes the girls seem a little more, well, human.  Putting a number on the girls as many gogo bars and most massage parlours do has always seemed kind of crass.

The booze booths that set up late at night in and around the Asoke intersection have gone for the time being.  Many of the girls who used to work from them are lingering in the area, freelancing.  Exiting Cowboy at the Asoke end and turning left can remind you of leaving Nana Plaza and heading up the soi to Nana with a similar density of bodies to work your way past.

Stumble Inn on Soi Nana has an English boss, English management team and English marketing department giving it a very English flavour.  The kitchen does an English breakfast and you can wash it down with a pint for 100 baht or even a litre jug for 180 baht.  It’s a popular spot to watch English Premiership football (there’s now zero reason to watch the FA Cup or the League Cup for the rest of this season).  I reckon Stumble Inn should be renamed the British Consulate on Sukhumvit.

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The Dirty Doctor is looking to choose a new top bottom winner in Soi Cowboy as the seated winner has left the bar scene to start a retail business in Chonburi.  If you think there is a derriere you find particularly fetching, please pass the lady’s nickname or number along.

I may be a long way from Bangkok but the Bangkok expat grapevine extends to the shaky isles and when rumours broke this week in both Bangkok and Pattaya that Naughty Nigel – the tall, bald, flabby British porn star who featured in the AsiaStreetMeat videos – had been released from prison in Pattaya and was about to be deported back to Blighty, I wondered who was behind that nonsense.  To say Nigel getting out of prison would be a surprise is something of an understatement – I reported back in mid-2014 that Nigel had died!  I have no idea who is behind the rumour and I’d love to know how they could refute the photograph below which was taken at Nigel’s funeral at a temple near Victory Monument.  Nigel was a ratbag and the porn was only the tip of the iceberg.  He was in to all sorts of nasty stuff including dealing drugs and peddling stolen credit cards.  For a while Nigel was a fixture on Soi Sribumphen, the lane which predates Khao San Road as Bangkok’s backpacker neighbourhood, which in more recent times has been known as a place for druggies and is where girls who do the Lumpini Park street-walking thing take their customers.  The whole naughty Nigel story is very sad and a disaster for the three kids he left behind.  At the time of his death, Nigel’s twin boys and the other lad who is handicapped were said to be living in squalour with relatives of their mother in Yasothon.  The children’s mother died before Nigel which fuelled rumours about the real cause of Nigel’s death.

 

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Naughty Nigel’s funeral.

 

A long-time Stickman reader has an apartment for sale in the heart of Soi Nana.  It is on the 33rd floor of the popular Omni Tower, is 95 square metres in size, has 2 balconies, air-conditioning and is fully furnished.  The main bedroom has an en suite with dressing room and there is a kitchen with open plan dining room, lounge and a 2nd bathroom.  The asking price is 5.5 million baht and the owner may consider renting long-term.  It’s vacant now so you can move in right away.  Contact Jon: [email protected]

A position exists for a generator mechanic on Ko Lipe.  The successful applicant will have a minimum of 5 years of experience in operations and maintenance of a large plant, facility, base or municipality; with specific experience in the maintenance and repair of diesel engines.  Applicants must have certification as a Diesel Powered Generator Technician with a rating up to 1600kW.  A work permit will be provided if the successful applicant is a foreigner.  Salary is negotiable.  Room and board are provided, living the dream on a beautiful white sand beach, with gentle turquoise water and a tropical breeze.  Apply to [email protected]

Single-entry tourist visas may be free at all Thai embassies and consulates until the end of February, but the Thai consulate in Savannakhet is not making it easy to get one.  The consulate which is known as a soft touch has implemented a new policy where anyone applying for a single-entry tourist visa must show a hotel booking, proof of onward travel out of Thailand as well as show a bank book / bank statement (from a Thai or foreign bank) showing a balance in excess of 20,000 Thai baht or equivalent if foreign funds.   Failure to provide these documents will mean the visa won’t be issued.  A truckload – or is that van-loads – of unsuspecting foreigners working in Thailand illegally people have had their application refused as they didn’t meet the new requirements.  The cynics suggest that the new requirements will cease come March when the visa fee is no longer waived and the consulate won’t want to lose the income from all of those visa applications at 1,000 baht a time!

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With the visa rules seemingly changing all the time and with so many different things to keep up on, what can you do if you’re looking for advice on getting the right visa for Thailand?  You could email me if it’s a simple enquiry.  I am always willing to help where I can – but things change so fast and often the first anyone knows about any changes is when reports start coming in that someone went to get such and such a visa and was declined due to new rules or the imposition of old rules which had long been ignored.  You could always get on the Thai Visa forum and ask questions although that is not always a nice experience.  Or you could head to a friendly FaceBook group where Thailand visa experts are happy to help out.  And unlike Thai Visa, there’s none of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink advice on questionable workarounds that could potentially cause problems down the track.  The FaceBook group is called Thai Visa Advice and they want it explicitly mentioned that they have NOTHING TO DO WITH the Thai Visa forum or its parent company.  It’s simply a group where people can ask questions and get accurate, timely visa advice and visa extension information.  As soon as someone posts a sketchy under the table way to do something they’re banned.  One of the main guys on the forum asked that I include the following:

Visa questions tend to come up a LOT so just to clarify some terms.  There is a HUGE difference between a “visa-on-arrival” and a “visa exempt entry”.  A “visa on arrival” is something SOLD to people from 21 countries when they arrive in Thailand.  They cost 2,000 baht and are good for 14 days.  NOTE: there is a promotion now where they only pay 1,000 baht for them until February 28th, 2017.  As a rule they cannot be extended but that is totally at the discretion of the immigration officer and office.  A “visa exempt entry” is something that people from 57 countries get when they show up here without having bought a visa from a Thai consulate beforehand.  They get stamped in anywhere from 90 days (5 countries), 30 days (50 countries) or 14 days (2 countries).  Most westerners showing up here get a 30-day visa exempt entry stamp.  A 30-day visa exempt entry stamp can be extended by another 30 days at Immigration offices country-wide for 1,900 baht.  Since December 31st, 2016, they changed the “visa exempt entry” rules when entering by a land border and now 50 countries get a 30-day visa exempt stamp when entering by land or air.  BUT when entering by land on a visa exempt stamp there is a limit of TWO per calendar year.  There is no official limit on visa exempt stamps when entering by air.  One more thing; you CANNOT get a 30 day ‘tourist visa’.  ALL tourist visas for Thailand (which you get from a Thai consulate) receive a 60-day entry stamp.  This means IF you were stamped in for 30 days when you showed up you didn’t have a tourist visa 😉  Oh and just so you all know: Single Entry Tourist Visas for Thailand are FREE of charge at all Thai consulates in the world until February 28th, 2017.  Sorry to be such a stickler for the terms but sometimes it’s really hard to provide accurate information to posters because of the misuse of terminology.

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In a tragic accident on Jomtien Beach where a tree branch falls on a foreigner, killing him!

A young Canadian couple is involved in a tragic, deadly vehicle accident in Phuket.

Brit said to be a boiler room operator is assassinated in Pattaya.

An Iranian is caught pickpocketing from a Belgian at a market in Pattaya.

Air Asia becomes the first low-cost Asian airline cleared to fly to the USA.

An Aussie who crashed her motorbike in Thailand has a hospital bill of $56,000 and counting.

SunbeltLegal

Ask Sunbelt Legal

Sunbelt Legal Advisors is here to answer all of your legal questions related to life in Thailand. Send any questions you have to me and I will forward them to Sunbelt for their expert opinion.

Question 1:  My Thai girlfriend has rented a condo in Bangkok for 3 years.  She has left it in pristine condition and has always looked after it, no parties etc.  She has a contract for 40,000 baht deposit in writing and would like to get it back.  Ownership has changed hands 3 times and the landlord is being very tardy with coming to inspect the property and being very evasive as to refunding the deposit.  She had a contract with the original owner, then another Thai man bought it and the lease was renewed or continued.  Then the second man sold it to a Singaporean man who uses the 2nd owner as a go between (agent). I am not sure of the arrangement but my girlfriend has to deal with this Thai man (no. 2 owner) but the funds are paid into the Singaporean’s account.  My question is what can she do to reclaim these funds or is it just on his goodwill?

Sunbelt Legal responds:  The outcome of obtaining the return of the lease deposit depends on the lease agreement; if the lease agreement clearly states the conditions for the return of the deposit then it is definitely not his goodwill.  It does not matter if she has not signed an agreement with the new owner.  What matters is what is stated in the lease agreement. 

According to The Civil and Commercial Code section 569, “A contract of hire of immovable property is not extinguished by the transfer of the ownership of the property hired.  The transferee is entitled to the rights and is subject to the duties of the transferor towards the hirer.”

So, if her agreement does state she has the right to get her deposit back then she does have the option to sue.  She can contact the Thai agent or the owner himself to transfer the deposit back to her or be sued.  If this does not see any results then she may wish to consider using Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors to send a demand letter – seeing it in writing from a lawyer often has the desired effect.

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For expats in Thailand and regular visitors keeping up on Immigration issues is a headache!

 

Looking back over this week’s column when doing the final edit, I realised just how many comments there are, as well as emails from readers, about visas, visa regulations and dealings with Immigration.  There is no specific plan to include so much about visas and immigration, but it would appear this is more of an issue for expats in Thailand these days than in the past.  In my early years in Thailand, everything related to Immigration was so easy and the impression was that Immigration officers really wanted to help you – or at least that is how I felt.  Few would say that these days.  Is this representative of how things are with foreigners dealing with other government departments or is this predominately an Immigration Department thing?  As always, I welcome your thoughts.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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