You’re On Your Own, Farang
Thailand can feel like a snake pit for the foreigner who has run out of luck. And just like the wretch who falls in to a snake pit, with danger imminent, it can feel like there is not a soul to help you. But the truth is that most foreigners in Thailand who run out of luck have made many bad decisions before it finally dawns on them that they’re screwed.
Visit Thailand and chat with a few expats and you’ll hear the stories about foreigners whose lives have fallen apart. Stick around for a while and you’ll see these lost souls for yourself.
The low cost of living can lead many foreigners in to a false sense of security. Yes, the landlord will demand payment for rent if you don’t make and no, he won’t feel an ounce of guilt about it (and neither should he)! Too many foreigners stick around Thailand with barely enough baht to survive and like the boiling frog only realise when it’s too late.
Asking people how they spent their day or worse still, what they have achieved recently ranks right up there with where did you meet your wife as questions you just don’t ask expats in Thailand. Your time is your time and you don’t have to answer to anyone, farang. Those who don’t have discipline can easily become wasters.
Throw in the many temptations in Thailand against the backdrop of an expat culture which celebrates partying and having fun and you have a recipe for disaster. Expat Bangkok is full of people with problems.
What are the options for a Westerner in Thailand down on his luck?
I maintain that most friendships in expat Thailand typically aren’t that strong. If you genuinely have friends in Thailand who will are willing and able to help, you’re doing better than most.
People with problems quickly discover that their embassy is not the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The only thing consular officers dread more than visiting the morgue to sign off on a dead body is a down and out countryman turning up at the embassy asking for help.
The difficulty helping an expat with problems is that they often have multiple issues. Poor health, money problems and addiction issues can each be tricky to work through back home, the trifecta in a foreign land is another dimension.
Local hospitals will treat a foreigner in need – stabilize them and preserve life – but for those out of baht they should not be relied upon nor expected to do anything more. Few medical facilities in Thailand are geared up for foreigners with addiction issues and / or mental disease.
We are seldom shy to criticise the local constabulary but I pity them for all the crazed foreigners in trouble they are called to help. It is the boys in brown who are tasked with cleaning up the mess that more than a few foreigners in Thailand become.
In recent weeks, emails and messages on Line have provided updates about an expat in a bad way. The buck is passed in expat Bangkok where it’s every man for himself.
Don’t expect others to help you out when the shit hits the fan after you have chosen not to take their advice. Don’t ask for money when everyone knows you already owe money all over town. And don’t ever forget that as a foreigner in Thailand you’re largely on your own.
Thailand can be great when you have a spring in your step and money in your pocket. It is much less pleasant when you don’t.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week’s photo was taken of Thao Suranaree, or Yamo as she is commonly known in Nakhon Ratchasima / Korat, the statue in the heart of Korat. Long-time readers with a good memory might recall that I ran a similar shot some years ago. This week’s photo was taken somewhere in downtown Bangkok.
FROM STICK’S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.)
Intellectual pursuits in the green room of the damned.
The difficulty is to actually edit one’s “friendships” in an expat enclave so that one does not waste one’s time in boring exchanges. This is due to the wide range of expats, as you say. There are guys who can afford to read and research and there are others who are utterly consumed with survival. They don’t always match up. Plenty of stinking rich bores and plenty of half-starved geniuses. And plenty of scammers. And plenty of fake hard asses who’ll tell you about all these missions they’ve been on.
Some rumours never die.
I was just browsing through some of the archived Trink columns. On November 2nd, 1996, Trink mentioned the Landmark Hotel was not going to buy Nana Plaza. So that rumour is at least 20 years old now!
An industry in need of rejuvenation.
About the gogo bar scene, I think they should do something different. To start with, they should relocate to less expensive real estate. Then they should invest in comfortable seating, play music less loud and most importantly, create a fun vibe. In a nutshell, they should provide patrons an entertaining evening, as picking up a girl is no longer the sole purpose of visiting a gogo bar. Of course, the girls should be treated fairly as technology has brought many options for them.
A hotel in need of rejuvenation.
On the way back to Bangkok, our usual hotel (Golden Tulip Mandison Suites on Sukhumvit soi 20) was full due to Chinese New Year so we took a punt on the Nana Hotel. Oh my God, what a dump! Built in 1963, it looks like nothing has changed since. Never again!
It ain’t broken.
You asked if the gogo bar model is broken? No, it isn’t. It’s like a taxi, there are too many players playing for the same pool of baht.
I’ve been wondering how Brexit may impact guys from the UK who spend time in Thailand. So far I haven’t noticed anything in particular, but was wondering your thoughts. Any impact on pensions / retirement plans for these retirees / expats? Maybe a topic for the weekly? <I plan to do something on this whenever I am next in Thailand – Stick>
Beating the scammers.
Regarding the news story you posted of women in the Philippines doing the sextortion scam over Skype on guys in Hong Kong, I had this happen to me. I was using a common dating site, and this really hot girl was pressuring me to use Facebook with her. I don’t give anyone I haven’t met my Facebook, so I said I don’t use Facebook. She then said let use Skype. Being paranoid, I created a new Skype account, and used that to chat with her. I got on, and she was real, so after a little chat she started taking off her clothes and convinced me to do a little rub and tug while I watched. I’m a kinky guy so, sure, I did it. A few seconds later, she is showing me a video of myself, telling me to give her money, or she would share the video. I laughed and said ‘go ahead! I used to do porn in my younger years’ (which other than some videos I made with girls was a complete lie). I then said, ‘Let’s meet up and make some videos together. We can make some good money!’ She hung up on me. Then I hounded her account on the dating app, asking her to meet up with me and make some videos, until she finally blocked me. Never cost me a cent. And I got to see this hot chick naked. I was pretty proud of beating the scammer.
The joys of Bangkok airports.
The long lines at Immigration lines at Suvarnabhumi are back. I stood in a 25+ minute arrival line one afternoon a week ago. Then the next morning the exit Immigration line was 45 minutes long. The line was backed up past the down escalator. They were holding people on the upper floor after the security check and making people wait to go down the escalator into the jam-packed room to line up to get stamped out. Last night I stood in a 45-minute arrival immigration line at 2 AM. On each occasion it seemed that many of the Immigration desks were empty and the whole process was understaffed.
Girl of the Week
Noey, showgirl, Spanky’s, Nana Plaza
Noey is currently the most popular lady in Spanky’s
Photos kindly provided by the Nana Plaza Marketing Department.
A wake will be held for Bob Mcindoe at the Mexican restaurant in the Raja Hotel parking lot, next Saturday, February 25th. It will start at 11:30 AM. Bob is the legendary bar boss who ran Hog’s Breath in Nana. For anyone wearing a Hog’s Breath golf shirt, the first beer is free. All are welcome!
Should Chuwit Park be renamed Chicken Park? The gates to the pleasant garden next to Sukhumvit soi 10 have been locked shut since the middle of last year and now Chuwit Park is home to a bunch of chickens and a rooster. How did they get there? Given what Khun Chuwit, the owner of the land, used to do for a living, Chicken Park has a bit of a ring to it.
Not a lot of bar news from Bangkok this week, so from over the border in Phnom Penh, the Infamous 69 bar and its sister bar Mr. Butterfly are now employing coyote dancers who, like so many of their coyote sisters in Thailand, don’t go with customers. No doubt some local expats will mutter about the Thailand disease arriving in Cambodia.
Popular Phnom Penh bars Angry Birds and Honey Pot – which share the same owners – have banned the smoking of cigars inside. I am told they are the only bars in Phnom Penh to do so. I don’t smoke but count me amongst those who prefer to avoid smoky bars. At the same time, if there is one thing you can say about cigar smokers – and admittedly it is a generalisation but one with more than an element of truth – it is that they tend to be moneyed up folks. As such, preventing cigar smokers is a bold move but may not be so smart, business-wise.
And still in Phnom Penh, a new bar called Dragonfly opened last week. The owner of Angry Birds is involved and of particular note, popular Khmer bar manager Ann has a significant ownership stake. Predictions are that Ann’s involvement will pay dividends.
If you’re watching your pennies but don’t wish to have to resort to drinking in beer bars, you might like to consider Mercury in Nana Plaza where Chang, Leo and Thai whisky are all priced at a very reasonable 105 baht, all night, every night. Mercury is a pokey little bar tucked away at the top of the escalator leading up from the ground floor of Nana, but with 105 baht drinks, it’s a great spot for those on a budget.
On Sukhumvit soi 23, the old Offshore and latter Fish & Ship place has the builders in and will re-open as the rethemed and renamed Papa’s Kitchen. It will serve a variety of farang food from burgers to pasta to fish & chips which will bring further competition to a soi already full of farang eateries (think Bradman’s, The Queen Vic, Clubhouse and The Old Dutch to name just a few).
Why is it that discussions over whether to visit (or live in) Bangkok or Pattaya can be so polarizing? I’m amazed at how some get all bent out of shape when you say you prefer one place over the other. As someone who lived in Bangkok for many years, I rather enjoyed my visits to Pattaya although I could never have imagined living there. But for some folks – and this includes visitors – it’s amazing how many love one of Pattaya or Bangkok, and absolutely hate the other.
A news article from Pattaya this week outlined how a police raid on a short-time room in Windmill A Gogo found one of the bar’s maidens inside with a 62-year old Londoner. The issue was not that 2 consenting adults had agreed to get to know one another better, but that the room they used was on the premises of a bar. Long gone are the days when some gogo bars had short-time rooms for customer use. What, I hear you asking, about the large Thai-style massage parlours? We all know what happens behind closed doors, but there is a pretense that a lady only bathes, washes and massages the customer. Anyway, the point I wanted to make is don’t be alarmed by that news article and you needn’t worry about the boys in brown storming in on you in a room with a lady of the night. Do consider, however, that if you are invited to enjoy a lady’s company in a room on the premises of the venue where she works that that is something the constabulary frowns upon. Even so, odds are if caught in such a compromising situation you would not be charged with anything.
Apart from a recent hiccup (which I expect will be only a temporary blip), the number of Chinese visitors to Thailand is soaring. Chinese will soon make up one-third of all visitors to Thailand and there’s no reason to think that within 5 years half of all visitors to Thailand will come from China. There are all sorts of ramifications, not least that the tourism industry will have to strive harder to service them, which will likely be at the expense of others. It gets interesting when you consider the shortage of women in China. An article in the New York Times this week noted that there are 33.59 million more men than women in China, making marriage hard to attain for many Chinese men. Could some of these men look abroad for a wife? And with so many Chinese men visiting Thailand, could Thai women find themselves a target for Chinese men looking for a bride? Ten odd million Chinese visited Thailand last year and I bet there were plenty of single men in their number. Could Chinese men become popular amongst Thai women?
I come across many Thais here in Auckland – it’s amazing how many are here – and when I ask what brought them here in the first place their responses are seldom convincing. Many try to side-step the question. The most common answer is usually something along the lines of their love for New Zealand. While some have perfectly plausible reasons for moving here, many don’t. My best guess is that some came here to work illegally, others were working girls in Thailand or perhaps came here to do that. For sure, there’s a lot of skullduggery and dubious figures in the Thai community in New Zealand. Conclusion? The Thais in New Zealand are like expats in Thailand – dodgy geezers abound! Is it much the same with other Thai communities around the world?
I note a lot of the 5-star hotel restaurants listed on EatiGo no longer offer the maximum discount of 50%, like they used to. Many now top out at 40% or even just 25% or 30%. I guess half off was too good to last.
Reader’s story of the week comes from Old Expat, “Thirty Years Ago: A Decade To Remember“.
The Guardian reports that Bangkok’s street food scene is under threat from gentrification.
A 62-year old Brit is caught in the short-time room of Windmill A Gogo in Pattaya.
English tabloid The Daily Mirror ran their annual Pattaya sleaze fest article this week.
The Brit alleged to be the mastermind behind the hit on a Brit in Pattaya is being held in custody in Cambodia.
The Bangkok Post took a look at the Pattaya real estate market.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Legal Advisors is here to answer any legal questions you have related to Thailand. Drop me an email and I will forward your questions to Sunbelt Legal and run their response in the next column.
Question 1: Wife and I have been married for over 15 years. After we were married she went to get a new Thai ID card. After examining documents, the issuing authority took my middle name and attached it to my family name as though a hyphenated name which it most definitely is not. Years later she took US citizenship and in the American manner kept her given name, took her original family name as middle name, and my family name as her last name. Thinking it would be easy to officially change her name in Thailand she requested a change to her family name. It was not permitted. Given name can be changed; family name can not. By being very careful about which documents are presented we have had no problems. Advice?
Sunbelt Legal responds: It is legal to change one’s given or also the family name, however it must be done at the District Office where her House Registration book is located (blue Tabien Baan). She will need to provide the current ID card, house registration book and signed copies of these. Then she can request a name change at the District Office. Once the new name and ID card is issued she will need to change her passport at the Passport Office.
Question 2: I have been married to my Thai wife for 11 years. She has two young daughters I have accepted as my own. I never officially adopted them. They are now 26 and 24 and I would like to explore the possibility of officially adopting them. What would we need to do in order to make this happen? The biological father is nowhere to be found and abandoned the family when they were babies. Do we need to track him down and get him to sign something? Hopefully not. Thanks for any help.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Before considering adoption, it is important to note that you must be at least 15 years older than your wife’s adult children. Even though they are adults, the process is fairly long and under the Child Adoption Act of 1979 requires that you must go through the Department of Social Development and Welfare (DSDW: Competent Authority) or the non- governmental child welfare agencies (Authorized Agencies) which are particularly authorized by DSDW, in cooperation with the Competent Authority and under the direction of the Child Adoption Board of Thailand.
According to Thai law, a foreigner having domicile in Thailand can submit the application at child adoption center (Bangkok area) or district office and Provincial Development and Human Security office (provincial areas). You need to provide identification to the aforesaid office. Call 02 246 8651 at Bangkok Center. Foreigners residing in Thailand not less than 1 year and with a work permit can request child adoption with support documents from their embassy or consular.
The DSDW will visit the home and will assess the applicants’ physical and mental health, family status, assets, liabilities and financial standing, personal reputation, conditions of residence and surrounding, size of family maturity and ability to give love and care to the child, motivation and any special reasons related to the welfare and interest of the child, parental relationship and obligation with the children born out of previous marriages (if applicable), and other matters pertinent to the applicants. You must be eligible to adopt a child in your home country as well.
In case the child’s parents have not registered their marriage, consent by the child’s father or if the child’s father cannot be traced, a statement from the authorized official at the District office is also required.
It is a fairly complicated process and if you would like to go over the details and required documents please feel free to contact Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors for a meeting.
The bar news and gossip section was so light this week it was almost non-existent. Don’t ask me if it was because not a lot happened or because I did a particularly poor job gathering news and gossip from the past 7 days. Probably it was the latter. Word from Bangkok was that business was brisk. I guess the best I can say is that next week’s column cannot possibly feature less news and gossip than this week’s!
Your Bangkok commentator,