Stickman's Weekly Column May 14th, 2017

Baked Beans In Heaven

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Every aspect of Pattaya is polarizing from, the place to the people – the Thais and the foreigners.  I like Pattaya but after 48 hours I have to get out.  In all my years visiting Pattaya I got to know many people there, but I only made one lasting friend.  His name was Robbie.  This is not his story, but recollections of the Robbie I knew.

I first met Robbie in Secrets in late 2008.  We didn’t know it yet, but that was right at the end of the golden age.  The bar industry was booming and things weren’t bad for those of us with Thailand websites with a nightlife slant either.  Robbie was about to join the ranks of Thailand-centric website owners and was keen to push his new venture.  We chatted, traded email addresses and a friendship was born.

Robbie had been living in Pattaya about as long as I’d been living in Bangkok and I guess it’d be fair to say that Robbie was your typical Pattaya expat.  He enjoyed the nightlife and enjoyed a drink.  Robbie was known all over town.  Bar bosses knew him and many girls had been entertained by him.  From the big-name gogos of Walking Street, to the short-time hovels of soi 6, Robbie was a familiar face.

Needless to say, Robbie knew all the ins and outs of Pattaya and when we first started hanging out he seemed to really enjoy showcasing Sin City to me.  Some afternoons we’d wander up and down soi 6, others we’d cruise around the darkside.  There wasn’t a bar where Robbie wasn’t known.  I think part of what Robbie liked about hanging out with me is that I don’t drink a lot and never drink during the day.  So we would cruise around, me on the water, Robbie on Diet Coke and just chat about Pattaya and life in Thailand in general.

Robbie had been around for so long and knew so many people that he had many crazy stories of things that could only happen in Pattaya.  He knew which bar owners had a casting couch, and those who had sold shares in their bars multiple times over.  He knew of many girls who were HIV+ as well as which bar bosses would fire such girls and others who would happily take them on.  Time with Robbie was never dull.

Robbie was quite the naughty boy in his day.  Marriage slowed that part of his life down for a while but he never did tear himself away from the temptations of Pattaya.  He’d be a good boy for a few months and then he’d go out on a 36-hour bender and enjoy everything Pattaya had to offer.

Robbie wasn’t always on top of his game when it came to using protection and one of the most amusing stories he told was how he developed a nasty infection that required circumcision as an adult.  He had the procedure performed in a backyard clinic in the outskirts of London by a gay Indian quack in a turban who kept complimenting him and using the phrase handsome sausage.  It wasn’t that Robbie was a raconteur – he wasn’t – but like those who had really lived the life in Pattaya he had unlimited stories to tell and there was something about the way he told them that they were as enjoyable to hear the fifth time  as the first.  In retrospect, I think he was one of those rare people who was truly engaging simply because he enjoyed your company and not because he wanted anything from you.  Just hanging out with Robbie and being in his company was a delight.

I wouldn’t call Robbie a gossip, but he knew what was going on and many of the Pattaya news scoops I ran in this column between 2008 and 2012 came from Robbie.  And I would learn all sorts of stuff from Robbie about the bar business in Pattaya that I could never write about.

What was curious about our friendship is that in many ways Robbie and I were very, very different.  Thailand aside, we had little in common.  He had a few tats and I can’t stand the things.  He followed English football while I much prefer rugby.  He understood little Thai and never spoke the language.  He only ever ate English food – even hamburgers didn’t work for him “Stick, they’re American, not English!” – and had little interest in much outside of England and British culture.  “I’m English”, he would so often say as if that explained everything!

 

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Robbie’s finger tattoos were done in a drunken state and he later regretted them immensely.

 

The drink could be a problem for Robbie.  Up to 6 drinks or so and he’d be fine.  When he was in Bangkok often we’d meet at Soi Cowboy.  We’d have a few and we’d each wander home.  But if Robbie went past 6 or so, he often kept going until the sun was coming up.

On one occasion in Secrets I heard the next day from staff how he’d struggled to walk out of the bar.  He was stopped at a police checkpoint while riding his bike and totally off his face, and in his words, “Stick, I was on another planet.”  20,000 baht later – he always had large amounts of cash on his person – and Pattaya’s finest allowed him to ride the rest of the way home.

I don’t remember much about his life in England but one story comes to mind.  He made his first serious money working in fruit and veg in the West Country.  One day some hard mud fell over some ordinary carrots on display and a passerby asked if they were organic.  Rob didn’t even know what that meant but being quick replied, “Yeah, mate!”  This was the early days of organic and for the next couple of years everything was organic until Trading Standards came knocking one day.

Another story that came up a few times was the way Robbie lost his virginity after turning up at a Soho walk-up in London in his school uniform.  He had £20 on him and they took care of him.

One of the things that set Robbie apart from most Pattaya expats is that he genuinely preferred the UK to Thailand.  He would go back to the UK every few months.  Sometimes it was for business, other times because he just needed a break from Pattaya.  He would tell me before he left Thailand how much he was missing the UK, but then he’d be back a week or two later saying how boring it was.  This pattern repeated year after year.

On one of his longer stays back in Blighty he had decals with the name of his website and its URL printed large and splashed on either side of a van.  He drove around high pedestrian areas in London, promoting the Punter69 website.  He would drive for hours every day and enjoyed it immensely.  When he felt tired he would pull over to the side of the road, turn on his laptop, plug in a USB stick with a SIM and get online and do his website stuff.

Punter69 was never really that profitable so Robbie sold it so he could concentrate on other business ideas.

Robbie was never short of an idea and always had a few online businesses going – and most did well. Robbie never wanted for cash – but his business operated in something of a grey area.

Robbie was one of the many Brits who sold fake football shirts via EBay back in the day.  It was a nice earner.  Sometimes he would fly to the UK with suitcases full of fake Premier League team shirts and sell them all the first night he was back.

When EBay cracked down on the sale of copied goods, Robbie diversified and sold genuine football shirts with the forged autograph of a football star.  He would download a copy of a famous footballer’s autographs from the ‘net, copy it over and over and over until he could reproduce it to a reasonable likeness and then scribble it on a football shirt and sell the replica shirt with the star’s autograph for a premium.

Not long after he had sent the shirt with the fake autograph to a customer, another of his companies would contact the buyer and introduce themselves as a celebrity autograph verification service, offering to check and endorse the autograph and if it was real, issue a certificate stating that.

But the business where he really hit the jackpot was one which made me nervous, a line of business particularly popular amongst the more unsavoury types in Pattaya – selling steroids online.

Robbie had been around Pattaya for a long time and had seen there was really big money to be made.  He was familiar with the major players and knew how they operated.  Those guys knew steroids as they were steroid users themselves.  But what Robbie knew – and they didn’t – was all about websites, online marketing and search engine optimisation.

Robbie set up not one, but a dozen different websites, each offering steroids for sale.  Each of these websites was optimized for search engines in a different way or targeted a slightly different group of people.  At one time 5 of the top 10 steroids for sale websites listed on Google were owned by Robbie.

Robbie’s days were consumed operating his business.  He would deal with customer enquiries via secure email, take orders, go to one of the many Pattaya pharmacies where steroids can be purchased over the counter, and his Thai helpers packed them up, and took them to the post office.  It was a huge money-spinner.

Western Union was Robbie’s preferred payment method but with so many orders coming in to his name, the activity was deemed suspicious and he was banned from using the service.  In time he had many of his extended Thai family members and their friends going to Western Union to collect payments.  They would be paid a 500 baht commission for each payment they collected.  Everyone was happy.

Genuine steroids could be purchased legally over the counter at many pharmacies in Pattaya, but that’s not to say they are legal in some of the countries they were being sent to.  Apparently sending steroids to the UK was fine, but in most other developed countries it was a problem.

Robbie often mentioned a firm called British Dragon which started in Pattaya in 1999 and ran for 9 long years, netting its 2 British owners millions, until they were busted by the FBI and deported to the States where a long stay in free accommodation beckoned.  Robbie was always conscious of never selling to anyone in America or even to an American national.

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Selling steroids online is big business in Pattaya and I told Robbie that sooner or later he would have problems.  He knew that, but the money was too good to let it go.  Some of the other players behaved like drug dealers and would do anything to protect their patch.  Robbie was not worried about the other Brits but the Russians were a worry.  And there were substantiated rumours about the involvement in the industry of those in brown uniforms that are best not printed.

Despite the risk of running businesses in a grey area, Robbie was always very nervous about getting in trouble with the law in Thailand.  In England it wouldn’t have bothered him, he insisted, but in Thailand he couldn’t imagine how a non Thai speaker who didn’t eat Thai food and was insulin-dependent would manage in a Thai prison.

Robbie’s brother-in-law had previously been arrested and Robbie had visited him in Pattaya Remand Prison.  Robbie was shocked at the conditions and described to me how prisoners were packed in cages near an enclosure of pigs with a stench he described as overwhelming.  As an insulin-dependent diabetic who had to inject himself 4 times a day to control his diabetes, he knew a Thai jail would be the end of him, yet that never changed his behaviour.  He was very much aware that there was a real risk of incarceration with the lifestyle he led.

The inevitable happened one day when a contingent of police turned up.  It was not the local police, but the big boys from Bangkok.  They had a search warrant and turned over his house.  Robbie didn’t keep any stock at home and all of his devices were both password-protected and encrypted so they couldn’t find a single piece of evidence of what he was up to.  Robbie never knew for sure how they found out what he was doing and suspected one of his competitors had tipped off the cops.

There was a real keystone cops moment when he was arrested.  Robbie had a bit of a belly but he did not have a large frame and was small-boned.  He was handcuffed to the bed frame in his bedroom while the cops searched the premises.  Robbie’s wrists were slim and he was able to slip out of the handcuffs which he duly did.  He ambled out of the bedroom to watch the cops carrying out the search and no one said a thing about him slipping off the braces!

While nothing was found and no charges were laid, a deal was made.  Robbie continued to peddle his wares and never had any more hassles.

For a time Robbie had a condo in Bangkok and would split his time between Bangkok and Pattaya.  He knew he needed to escape the temptations of Pattaya.  In Bangkok he only had a couple of friends and he didn’t tend to go out and drink, so he got stuff done.  Robbie’s businesses may have been dodgy but he ran them professionally.

Robbie did well but he never flaunted his money nor talked about his success.  He wasn’t showy and always seemed most content relaxing in a British pub.

For years Robbie talked about moving to Spain.  On his visits to the UK he would often shoot over to Spain and visit his sister who had a bar there.  He insisted that Spain had a much better lifestyle, better weather and was more English, but he kept returning to Thailand and never did make the move.  He never spelt it out but I think his family commitments in Thailand prevented him from making the move for good.

In Bangkok we tended to catch-up over an English breakfast on Sukhumvit.  Robbie never ate rice.  As in never.  He would tell me over and over again how he was English.  Robbie loved a cooked English breakfast with toast – always white, bacon, extra sausage, heaps of eggs and he almost always asked for extra baked beans.  He really loved his baked beans and they were often a feature of his evening meal too.

I wouldn’t say that Robbie was a changed man in Bangkok because he never stayed long enough for it to last, but he did better in every respect in the capital.  For a time he had a room at the mammoth Waterford Sukhumvit and he seemed to really enjoy the Bangkok lifestyle.  He’d walk up and down Sukhumvit for a couple of hours a day and he one was one of few people who said he felt healthier in Bangkok than at home, meaning Pattaya.  Lots of walking and refraining from alcohol did wonders – his blood sugar levels became much easier to control.  Work-wise he was on top of his game.

Robbie contemplated settling in Bangkok semi-permanently.  He knew he couldn’t party in Pattaya forever and with his diabetes worsening, he knew that the Pattaya lifestyle would sooner or later catch up with him.  He knew his lifestyle meant he would not have a long life and often told me how his toes and then his feet had little feeling and it wouldn’t be that long before they would have to be chopped off.

 

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How I remember Robbie, fun times in Secrets.

 

A couple of years ago – around the time I left Thailand – the clouds parted and I began to finally understand why I like the people I do, and why I choose to hang around with those people, some of whom I didn’t have a huge amount in common with.  Robbie would be such a person.  What all of the people I like most have in common is that they are true to themselves.  And that describes Robbie.  He did some crazy stuff and was involved in some shady businesses, but he never made excuses for what he did.  He never blamed anyone for anything.  He knew he had health problems because of his own neglect and his chosen lifestyle.  He knew the businesses he operated weren’t honourable or admirable.  And he knew what Pattaya was and he never glossed over any of it.

Robbie was well-known around Pattaya and was extremely popular.  He was fun to be around, had a sharp mind and as one friend described him, was a lively lunatic.

I dropped Robbie an email when I was in town in March but never heard back from him.  I sent a text but he never replied to that either.  I should have followed up because that was most unlike him.  Even if he was in the UK or Spain he usually responded promptly.

I only recently found out that Robbie was found dead on the kitchen floor by his wife, next to a large bottle of water.  I was shocked.  Robbie was just 45.

I heard multiple versions of the story.  Some believe Robbie had somehow lifted a large bottle of water to take a drink from and fell, breaking his neck which killed him.

Others believe he slipped on a slippery surface in the kitchen and crashed down, breaking his neck. Apparently this is not uncommon.

Robbie’s death was ruled accidental.  Many rumours were flying around.

They say Robbie’s wife was left broke.  No one knows where all his money is, but there must be plenty squirreled away somewhere.  Sure, Robbie lived large and huge nights out with massive checkbins were not unusual – but he earned more than enough to cover big nights out in Sin City.

Many tears were shed in Pattaya when news broke that Robbie was no longer.  They tell me that even some of the hard guys of Pattaya had watery eyes at his funeral.

It’s hard to believe that Robbie is gone.

Robbie was drawn to the night and the lights of Pattaya, the sexy girls, the drink and the camaraderie of the like-minded.  And because he lived on the doorstep of Sin City and was so good at business, he always had the money to have a big night out.  Robbie lived the life in Pattaya, night after night after night.

Large, framed photos of Rob now hang with pride in Lady Love A Gogo and Rockhouse Bar in Soi LK Metro, mini shrines to a much-loved and terribly missed friend.

Robbie was one of the most down-to-earth and true-to-himself guys I knew in Thailand.  I hope there is a mountain of cans of baked bans in heaven with his name on them.

 

 

 

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Where Was This Photo Taken?

 

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Last week’s photo was taken inside Burgers and Bangers on Sukhumvit soi 20.  They serve decent burgers.  This week’s photo was taken inside a distinctive Bangkok bar and is under-exposed – but which bar is it?

 

 

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Stick’s Inbox  (The best emails from the past week.)

Hidden in-room video.

Secretly taping people in gogo bars is bad, but what bout those assholes who secretly record girls they bring back to their room?  I heard of a guy who is said to have a clock radio with a hidden HD video camera inside.  These people may create videos for their own personal viewing but it’s still a shitty thing to do.  Makes me wonder how many short-time rooms have secret video cams as well.

A serious invasion of privacy.

Taking photos and videos inside private property without permission is a serious violation of people’s privacy.  And unauthorised circulation of those videos and photos through any public media platform e.g. print or internet (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, travel blogs etc.) or other social media tools (Line, WhatsApp) is possibly illegal in many countries.   Whether it is a billiards room, a private club or inside a gogo bar, management should take the necessary steps to prevent any unauthorised photography or videography inside the premises in the interests of their clients and themselves. Moreover, photographers, videographers and content publishers should self-regulate themselves and operate within ethical and legal boundaries.

Fun, so long as I am not featured.

I think you’re right that at the end of the day hidden video recordings in bar areas are very obtrusive. But like many, I’m totally hypocritical about the whole thing.  I often watch these videos on YouTube especially Bangkok112, but admit I’d be furious if I was in one of them myself!  Funnily enough, I looked yesterday and Bangkok112 who normally posts a new video every few days hadn’t posted for over 2 weeks.  And the last couple were hotel reviews.  Lying low?

Hidden video recording is wrong.

What these video guys doing is illegal.  What gives an individual the right to zoom up and take video footage of random people?  It’s no one else’s business, particularly if they’re random people off the street and then to put the video online for everyone to see on YouTube.  Very wrong, and also a breach of the Computer Crimes Act.  As you say, Nana Plaza is a private place.  We cannot take video or photos without it being sanctioned by the Plaza itself.  What’s going to be interesting is if people start getting identified and losing their marriage or job because some dickhead thought it was a good laugh to get a few ‘likes’ on his YouTube page.  If I was on the receiving end, I’d hire a good lawyer and sue every cent out of the person.  We’ll see who’d be laughing then.  I can see how this sort of technology could be useful i.e. busting paedophile / human trafficking rings etc but taking video of random people to show on YouTube serves no common benefit to anyone and resentment when one appears in these videos.  I’d like to see convictions take place.  Some hefty penalties brought down and / or the threat of jail time to make an example of these people.  How does the old saying go?  “Shoot one, the rest will fall in line.”  I just think the fact that these two particular individuals you mention are profiting from other people’s random acts isn’t right.

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Little brother can’t keep a secret.

I have been visiting Bangkok for 5 years now and have always been aware of the risk of being caught on camera in the bar area.  I am sure not to hang around any area where there are aerial viewpoints, which covers most of Nana and of course Sukhumvit Road too as I am aware there is always the potential of someone training their camera lens on you.  I’m also aware of their preferred vantage points (e.g. across from Straps in Nana).  Even with the precautions I take, I realise that there is still the potential of me getting caught on camera and if the quality of the footage is good enough and someone close to me was to see it then it is obviously going to be difficult to refute it.  I would find my holiday a bit more relaxing if I was to walk around Bangkok confident that my movements would not be displayed on YouTube and I am sure my feelings are echoed by the vast majority.  I welcome the stance taken by the management of Nana and I hope their approach is adopted elsewhere and even, dare I say it, by the boys in brown.  That said, I would be lying if I said I never watched these videos, in fact I am visiting Pattaya for the first time in June and have been better informing myself of the places to visit.  So I suppose in that respect these guys do provide a service of sorts and I am hypocritical in condemning them.  My prevailing sentiment however is that these guys are more parasitic in their nature, for the most part their victims are unaware of their presence, however when they do find out it is often too late and the damage has been done.  I for one would be much happier if these vloggers did not exist.  Party with care fellow naughty boys and girls, little brother can’t keep a secret!

Flying from Africa to Thailand.

One of your readers had a note on flying from Africa to Bangkok and how he was surprised on having to detour via the health office.  I’ve flown both Addis-BKK and Nairobi-BKK numerous times, and they always get these flights gates in the E/F/G side of the airport, and there are clear-ish signs (and have been for 10+ years) that if you are arriving from Africa then it’s the health office for a perfunctory check first.  If you see the signs it’s hardly any extra time, as it is located just at the entry to the D pier from the E/F/G side.

The feet and the head.

While feet have extra meaning in Thailand as well as many other countries, the behaviour of the Western woman in your news stories is just plain ignorant.  Putting your feet on the headrest in front of you seems to be a growing phenomenon on planes and buses and in my experience it’s most common with younger westerners.  If done to me and I get no response to a reasonable request to cease, my fork has been known to slip.

Nana Hotel being refreshed?

I heard that the Nana Hotel is currently undergoing a facelift.  Supposedly many rooms are off-line and they are adding new mattresses (at a minimum).  IMO, this is good news; if the owners are putting money in to the hotel it is less likely to be gentrified into a shopping mall or upscale condos in the near future.  As maligned as it is, the Nana Hotel is still a venerable institution and a cog in the Bangkok nightlife scene.  If you could dig into this it might provide some content for your column.  <I have been unable to verify anything….anyone?Stick>

 

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Girl Of The Week

Miss On, gogo dancer, Erotica, Nana Plaza

* Many thanks to Erotica and the Nana Plaza Marketing Department for supplying the photos.

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Inside the new Hillary 1 Pub And Restaurant on Soi Nana.

 

On Soi Nana, Hillary 1 reopened this week in what was known as the Raja Hotel car park  and is a lot fancier than many of the other bars on the soi and sets the bar somewhat higher.  Some say it is too nice for the soi of sleaze.  Soi Nana’s newest venue opened this week but there is still some work to be done and will soon feature an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven, international chefs, pool tables, and an area for a live band.  It has a modern look and a black and white checked tile floor like CheckIn99 had, giving it a classic feel.  Other bars on Soi Nana are going to have to lift their game to compete.  Word is the rest of the area will be developed before the end of the year and a small lane connecting Soi Nana with soi 2 is about to open.

A little further up the soi inside Nana Plaza, Erotica has a long history, operating over time both on the middle floor and top floors, mostly as an all-girl gogo as well as at times a mixed bar of ladies and ladyboys.  In 2015, it even opened its upstairs as the short-lived Erotica Karaoke.  The format and location has changed so often that Erotica lost its identity.  Fast forward to today and the father and daughter who own and operate Erotica have relaunched it as a 100% ladies only gogo bar in its permanent home on the stairway to heaven between the middle and top floors of Nana Plaza.  Erotica currently has a sizeable contingent of slim, pretty dancers – many aged around 20 – along with some friendly veterans who know how to party.  Erotica also has one of the best – yet not widely known – drink specials in Nana Plaza with bottles of Chang beer 95 baht all-night, every night.  The relaunch is still underway and all plans won’t fully be rolled out until the end of May, but you can expect more drink specials, including the possibility of a nightly happy hour, or rotating specials, similar to Mandarin’s drink of the day.  Erotica is also planning theme parties, with offers and benefits aimed at drawing both punters and a large number of girls to show up for work that night.  Erotica is on Facebook and Twitter and will launch a photostream on Instagram once it has more content in the bank.

Still in the plaza, Suckers has been renamed back to Lollipop, the name it was previously known as until about 3 years ago.

Following on from last week’s opening piece about unauthorized and hidden video in Bangkok bar areas, the new tactic of Nana Plaza management is to go after the revenue stream of those who record video in the plaza and refuse to take it down, the idea being that if they don’t make money from it, maybe they’ll stop.

 

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The gap in Cactus Bar, Soi Cowboy.

 

Two weeks ago a design flaw at Cactus bar was mentioned in this column where renovations inside the bar had left a small gap through which punters had to try to squeeze through to enter the bar proper.  One friend was simply unable to get through – and without a doubt he was not the only one.  The image above which shows just how narrow the gap is.  The fellow photographed standing in the gap is a slim Thai guy! No doubt a gap of this size would be considered a fire hazard in a Western country but most care not too much about that sort of thing in Thailand.  There are further renovations underway so I imagine this will be fixed.

Still in Soi Cowboy, just two doors along from Cactus is Long Gun, a bar that hasn’t changed much over the years.  Long Gun is a throwback to the ’90s and the bar’s owners have eschewed installing fancy neon inside and bringing the interior in to the 21st century.  One aspect of the bar many punters like is that right from the start of the night until closing dancers are in the buff.  But that’s not to say that the girls like it and some still suffer from bent elbow syndrome as they try to cover their nether regions while dancing.  The dancers can choose whether to dance naked or not, but at the same time those who dance naked cover their most private parts which makes them look awkward and like they’re really not enjoying themselves.  Long Gun’s happy hour drinks run 120 baht and it is one of the first gogo bars to open with the girls on stage from 7:00 PM.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Strikers in Soi Nana was for sale with an asking price of 20 million baht. Another ad online for the sale of the business is particularly interesting as it outlines the rent (205,000 baht / month), electricity (55,000 baht / month) and other figures, all of which are somewhat lower than I thought they would be.

 

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One bar I have heard talk of from a few readers is a recent addition to Sin City.  Le Pub in Soi Diamond was opened by long-term Pattaya bar manager Mister Egg who is wandering down the long-trodden path of managing a few bars, building up knowledge and network of the industry and getting a few investors involved to take on a bar that he will have a stake in.  Mister Egg is different.  Customer-focused, comfortable in the local vernacular, interested in the people and the culture and with a good deal of humility, he’s one of those guys you really want to succeed – and I am sure he will.  I haven’t seen Le Pub with my own eyes but it sounds almost like a high-end beer bar come hostess bar, but not in the same league as, say, Secrets.  The bar features seating with a view to watch the world go by and a large pool table.  The main bar area has flat-screen TVs for music and sport and there’s a wide range of Tequila. Beer is cold and cheap – think beer bar pricing.  There is a chef on the premises and the food, especially the pies, is getting positive feedback.  Expect anywhere between 20 and 30 girls a night – and every effort is made for them to be friendly without being pushy.   Mister Egg is popular with the girls and new girls are arriving all the time.  Do head over to Soi Diamond and check out Le Pub.

Pattaya’s second biggest sex tourism forum moved the goal posts this week banning racy photos and the axe was swung with the many thousands of nude photos of Pattaya bargirls from the forum all deleted. Call me a spoil sport, but the forum owners have done the right thing.  Not so long ago trip reports were the most popular posts on Pattaya forums and many of these trip reports featured naked photos of local working girls, many of whom allowed themselves to be photographed not just naked, but sometimes even engaged in sex.  This new policy shows that forum management is in touch with the changes in Thai society and is aware of the draconian Computer Crime Act, for which the penalties for the posting of such photos would almost certainly be jail time.  The other side of it is that many of these once-were-naughty-boy forums no longer offer anything you cannot get on social media and most are in decline, in terms of both traffic and the number of users signing in.

 

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From time to time I take a look at other Thailand-centric websites with a similar focus to this one.  I did that this week and a few things stood out loud.  The first was not just the lack of bar news and gossip, but seemingly little interest in news from the bars.  Much of the talk on forums once known for their nightlife coverage was about anything but nightlife with politics, food and other topics more common.  Few forums even carried a single advert for a bar, in fact bar industry advertising is way down.  I know the industry is changing and things are moving away from brick and mortar establishments to cyber space, but the overwhelming impression I got is that interest in the bar industry is really waning.  Sexpats seem to be dwindling in number and even those you’d once have described as hardcore are losing interest.  I really get the impression that Thailand’s sex tourism industry and the number of sexpats is in decline. Would you agree?

Bar owners in one Bangkok entertainment soi have been given a big headache after staff were told that venues cannot have bottles of alcohol on display, cannot have any signs with alcohol or alcohol company logos showing and cannot even have images of alcohol bottles or logos in their menu.  The inference is that all of these bars’ menus and signs will have to be changed.  Venues with a large sign outside featuring alcohol are usually paid for by the alcohol producer whose logo or name is on it. They need to be changed too – and this time at the venue owner’s expense.  These warnings have been issued in just one entertainment soi so far where operators are pulling their hair out.  This is so infuriating because everyone knows that this will be enforced in one soi / area for a few weeks or perhaps a month, and then nothing.  For business owners it feels like extortion.

More than a few readers have expressed an interest in moving to Thailand and making a living by writing and selling e-books.  It’s an easy way to make big cash, right?  Think again!  E-book sales have plateaued and the market is saturated with so many people jumping on the bandwagon.  Even some big name Thailand expat fiction authors don’t make much at all from the sales of e-books so a no name starting out who probably doesn’t have the writing ability of a pro author doesn’t have much hope.  I don’t wish to discourage anyone from moving to Thailand and chasing the dream but this is one plan that I really think is several years late.

 

 

erotica-95-baht

 

Reader’s story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, “Grand Hotel“.

A Russian couple is fined for indecency after they are filmed having sex in the back of a moving tuktuk.

A pregnant Brit is crushed to death by a lorry in Phuket.

Two Thai women and one Thai man kick each other and hurl food at each other in a Ko Samui eatery after he asks a lady for her phone number but she refuses.

An English drug lord on the run is captured on an island just off the coast of Ko Samui.

Merely liking the wrong thing on Facebook could result in a summons to report to police.

 

SunbeltLegal

Ask Sunbelt Legal

Sunbelt Legal is here to answer all of your legal questions related to Thailand.  Email any questions you have to me and I will forward them to Sunbelt and run their answer in the column.

 

Question 1:  I have heard that you can now only enter Thailand twice per year at land border crossings. This is very limiting for someone like me who enjoys traveling around the region but who is on a budget. Are there any legal ways around this?  I roam between Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and Thailand seems to be the most difficult country to enter in the region now, whereas it used to be the easiest.

Sunbelt Legal responds:  There is a regulation which states that foreigners can only enter Thailand 2 times per year at land borders but it does not always seem to be enforced.  We know of people who have been allowed to enter more than twice.  It seems that individual officers and offices can make a determination on this at the border.  The success of crossing the land border in to Thailand depends on several factors:

  • Nationality.
  • Number of previous Thai stamps / visas in a passport.
  • Entrance point.  According to solo travellers – “At the moment it is not possible to do a border bounce WITHOUT a visa in the south of Thailand at the Khuan Don border which started denying entry to those without a visa.  We don’t know if this has a foundation in any new law or Immigration order. The only thing we can say is that you can’t enter Thailand at this land border without a visa.”
  • Duration between departure and arrival.

To feel more secure when crossing a land border in to Thailand, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors suggests obtaining a multiple-entry tourist visa at a Thai embassy or consulate.

 

 

Bangkok-Buckaroo

 

In last week’s column I touched on an emerging group I described as puritanical, xenophobic Thai social media activists.  I’d like to expand a little on this movement which, at this stage at least, is not organised. The last couple of years there has seen the emergence of nationalistic Thais who are particularly active online when stories involving foreigners get exposure in the mainstream media.  These activists are more likely to be female than male, tend to be aged early 20s to late 40s, are usually university graduates, urban and I suspect that a disproportionately high number are single.  They vilify foreigners in Thailand who do things or behave in ways they do not approve of.  You really do not want to appear on this group’s radar – they are technically savvy and will unearth everything you have ever done in Thailand and then some.  There is no reasoning with them.  Some are government workers meaning they may be in positions of power – or have connections with those who could make life in Thailand very difficult for you.  Thailand gets more and more charming, eh?!

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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