The barrage of bad news stories coming out of Thailand surged this week. As one expat friend said, he feels foreigners in Thailand are under siege. Bad news story after bad news story filled social media, forums and probably expat pubs too. What is going on?
Thailand has always been a challenging place for foreigners to make a living and articles in the mainstream media this week outlined harsh new penalties for anyone caught working without a work permit. Fair enough, that’s no different to how things are abroad. But what got some foreigners upset was that more jobs are to be added to the list of professions that foreigners are not allowed to perform in Thailand along with new, extremely harsh penalties for those performing roles that are not outlined in their work permit. Obviously, the authorities have finally got around to closing this loophole. As a business owner friend wrote to me on Line this week, “For the first time ever in Thailand I have a bad taste in my mouth.”
Ko Tao is supposed to be one of the jewels in Thailand’s tourism crown, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand surrounded by some of the best diving sites in the world. But you could not be blamed for thinking that the islanders are doing more than their share to put travellers off visiting with news that yet another young, pretty Caucasian female was found dead under suspicious circumstances with the local police rolling out the old chestnut….she killed herself. Ko Tao is developing a reputation for all the wrong reasons and being nicknamed Death Island won’t do the island any good if the nickname sticks.
The consensus is that the power and influence of certain families on Ko Tao is so great that the authorities either cannot or will not do what has to be done. A simple Google search reveals tales, witness accounts and even compelling evidence naming members of prominent families who got away with murdering Western visitors without so much as being charged.
There have been too many suspicious deaths on Ko Tao to call it all coincidence. The most at risk visitors to Ko Tao are pretty, single Western women – but that’s not to say that Western men haven’t been victims either.
While there ought to be a probe in to what is going on down on Ko Tao by Bangkok investigators – the Thais would no doubt use their favourite term, “crackdown” – instead the authorities are going hard on other aspects of the tourism industry with Pattaya coming in for special attention.
Each week Pattaya locals learn that more of their favourite short-time venues have been visited by men in uniform. Operating hours have been limited with afternoon delight off the menu. Some venues escape with a warning, others are ordered closed. Much of the problem is that many venues’ whole business model revolves around providing rooms on the premises for adult fun. The use of rooms on the premises is not legal. (Offsite is perfectly ok.)
The Thais say that they are cracking down on certain businesses in Pattaya because they damage Thailand’s image and reputation. No-one outside Thailand cares about a bunch of old men getting their rocks off in Pattaya, but they most certainly do sit up and take notice when pretty young white women die under mysterious circumstances. You can only blame suicide so many times.
Where once the hardcore ridiculed me for my critical comments of the direction of the bar industry, now many of the hardcore are in agreement. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about attitudes or prices, the gripes are coming in thick and fast. Not a day goes by when I don’t get an email from someone saying they’re done with the bar industry. Where once, many (quite fairly, I must say) pointed out that my criticisms of the bar industry were not legitimate because, after all, how could someone who just hung around the bars and did not participate really expect to be taken seriously? Now the consensus is that it is just not the same. (Of course, you can still have fun but it’s a different sort of fun.) It’s not just the attitudes and the prices, it’s the whole package. Imagine ordering a beer at 11:30 PM from a Soi Nana beer bar and being told that you have to pay for it there and then because word is that the cops will be coming by and closing bars early. And then imagine seeing not just police, but military personnel along to make sure that the police really do enforce the letter of the law (which means bars closing at 1:00 AM).
A trusted friend – one of my confidantes and someone whose reports, observations and opinions I value – emailed me this week about a night out in Nana Plaza. Closing time came and was all horned up and, how shall we say, ready to go! He knows a lot of girls in the plaza – and is genuinely liked by many. As some of these girls were leaving at the end of the night he asked them if they would like to join him across the road for a nightcap. It would have been a quick 1,500 baht and they’d be on their way probably 30 minutes later. He was staying in the Nana Hotel so it was not like they’d have to go out of their way. He’s very presentable, knows Asia well and treats people with respect. He propositioned a few girls leaving the plaza and not one was interested! Some say the bar scene isn’t changing but when a guy standing outside Nana Plaza with money in his pocket wants to get laid but cannot, what conclusions can you draw?!
From expats to visitors, bar hounds to regular Joes, it seems that everyone is under attack. In any given week there is always stuff going on in Thailand and you could argue that this week was just like any other in Thailand, business as usual. It is the sheer overload of bad news stories and the steady stream of emails from those who are becoming increasingly disgruntled that make it sound like foreigners in Thailand are under siege.
Where Was This Photo Taken?
Last week’s photo was taken of That Luang, in the centre of Vientiane, just across the border from Nongkhai, in Laos. Yeah, I was being tricky running the photo of a temple in a neighbouring country. A number of people thought it was That Phanom, in Nakhon Phanom province. Good try. In the end about a dozen very clever readers got it right.
Stick’s Inbox (The best emails of the week.)
There’s something about Thai women.
I just love Thai women and how they make a man feel great. What I find most attractive about them is their natural beauty. Asian women have always been my weakness because they are so pretty and look classy – but there is something about Thai women that makes them my favourite right from the start – even before I went there.
Thai women sexy?
Nothing you said about Thai women should come as any great surprise. I have been saying since my first trip that Thai girls aren’t sexy. Pretty, tight bodies, well manicured but sexy? No way. Most Thais lack the things that make girls sexy – rhythm, an ability to dance, outgoing personalities, confidence in their bodies and presentation. Throwing a bikini and high heels on a girl won’t make her sexy unless she knows how to be. Wearing two pairs of undies or two bras under a bikini or throwing 2 towels on to walk from the shower to the bed is not sexy. They are for the most part terrible kissers and not overtly sexual. Not even the workers and most of them aren’t that good in the sack. When was the last time you saw a Thai girl in a miniskirt or a crop top or a midsection or in a G-string down the beach? Ever? I love Asians but there is nothing sexy about most Thais. The other hammer, nail, head is the near insurmountable odds of age, culture and language that most farang face. Also the colonial attitude of some who just adamantly refuse to learn Thai and think everyone should speak English. The nuances and subtleties of language and humour are so important in a relationship I don’t know how many make it. Well, I do…they paid for a trophy and they subsequently just drag said trophy around with them. With no interest in their “wives” needs, interests or desires it’s quite sad really but it is what it is.
One doesn’t need an ice-breaker with Thai women as they are so friendly and approachable. But crystallizing a relationship with a Thai lady requires significant efforts as what one sees is the tip of the iceberg, hiding beneath a lot of unwritten protocols and crucial non-verbal messages to decode of which western men don’t have sufficient clue. On the other hand, many of the visiting western men possibly didn’t have a lot of success on the relationship front in their homelands.
Thais vs. Vietnamese.
I was in Canada this last week, and visited a gentlemen’s club. They are popular as they are allowed to be more liberal in the amount of friction that can be generated than over the border. I met a Thai dancer who I had come across there 10 years earlier but not seen in the last 8. She regaled me with her woes of marriage and subsequent divorce; that she still had no regular job and worked at the club as a lap dancer 3 days a week to clear her debts. I even got offered extras which I politely declined. Contrast this to a Vietnamese dancer I had just previously met. A child boat refugee who had arrived via Hong Kong, she has been working for 6 years. She takes her mother away on foreign holidays and finances that by working 6 days a week. She makes the 40-minute trip from Toronto each day in her black Mercedes E400 and does a session in the gym each weekday at 8 PM after work. Her new interest is in looking for a local building plot so she can get in to property development. Add to that her down to earth attitude and entertaining conversation in her second language, English, whilst she speaks Vietnamese at home with her mother. Yes, she is there to earn money, but I still lost a piece of my heart. Time we all did a candid appraisal of what Thailand really does offer.
Phuket and specifically Patong is lost to Thailand. The spectacle there now resembles the McTropics: a theme park for rich whiteys who live in winter climes to visit and sit around eating overpriced seafood while Filipino bands trudge their way through threadbare farang pop tunes, with the added attraction of transvestites! Whoo whoo, you don’t see this at Waikiki. Look, little Johnny and / or Gertrude, at the transvestites! So exotic, let’s take pictures and upload them on social media!
The rain virus!
I do not believe Thais fake sickness after getting wet in the rain. Thais truly believe they will get sick if their head gets wet from the rain. I have inquired about this belief and the only answer I get is, “There’s virus in the rain.”
The sexpat days are over.
Pattaya, Bangkok, and Phnom Penh have all moved in the same direction. Less fun, more mercenary, more expensive. The sexpat days are over. You can still live well and have a good time in Bangkok or Phnom Penh if you live a more mainstream lifestyle. But how do you really do that living in a society that does not accept foreigners? Pretty limited, I would say. We live in ghettos in Thailand, don’t we? Phnom Penh was the spooky Wild West when I first went there in 2009, and the expats were an inclusive, friendly bunch. These days it is the “in” place for the backpacker crowd to smoke pot and live cheap. Ugh! Is it two years now since Jim sold the California2? All the staff have moved on. I miss those guys and those days. Nowadays a lot of westerners are in Cambodia because they can’t make it in Thailand. Where before the expats in Cambodia were an entrepreneurial bunch, now the place is the outside of the centrifuge. I still go back to Thailand. I love Thailand. Still looking for the next Cha Am. Maybe it’s futile.
Chiang Mai not so bad!
Chiang Mai is getting bigger and changing and not necessarily for the better though people are still a lot less mercenary, friendlier and more genuine than in Bangkok. I am happy here, it is my choice of where I want to live, and at 70 years old the slow changes aren’t so important. I could never have lived in Bangkok – probably because I remember it from the late ’70s and early ’80s when it was like the Chiang Mai I discovered in the early ’90s.
Mad artist at it again.
Our mad artist was busy laying down another schematic just west of Petchaburi MRT on Petchaburi Road, near Condo Villa Asoke, Saturday night around 8:30. According to his diagrams, there appears to be some sort of connection, no doubt nefarious, between “Trump,” an apparent elephant preserve, and “Sheraton” (presumably the hotel chain.) The lines however go through a complicated mish-mash of unintelligible Thai, English, and Chinese script (except for the “Aloha”) and unknown symbols before they…well kind of….connect. He used some blue ink for one portion, no doubt highlighting its significance from the remainder of the mysteries which he is attempting to reveal to us laymen. Can we start calling him The Reverend?
Girl Of The Week
Queen, dancer, Enter, top floor of Nana Plaza
Insanity opened in its new location on Sukhumvit soi 11 this week and word is that it is spectacular, both the venue itself as well as the light shows.
On soi 33, various single-shophouse bars have closed in recent months and now the combined Santana / Napoleon Club bar has left the soi altogether and relocated to a back soi on the nearby soi 39. Santana / Napoleon is a throwback to the days when some soi 33 bars were popular hangouts for packs of expats but whether the new location on soi 39 will work, only time will tell. History would suggest that these satellite bars which aren’t surrounded by lots of other bars generally isn’t sufficient draw for punters.
The army shut down the second-tier bar area on Sukhumvit soi 22, Queens Park Plaza, at 2 AM last night.
Mercury in Nana Plaza reopened last night as Mercury Ladyboy bar, making the 8th all-ladyboy bar in the plaza.
And another all-lady bar in Nana Plaza has closed, albeit temporarily – but don’t expect that to mean fewer ladies in the plaza. How does that work, I hear you ask. The authorities raided Butterflies on the top floor of the plaza on Friday night and ordered it closed. For how long, I do not know. Word is that someone was on the premises who should not have been – either they were not of legal age or not Thai. I assume that the Butterflies girls will probably move across to Billboard, which is owned by the same people. (I’ve not been told that, and am merely making an assumption.)
Stumble Inn on Soi Nana will celebrate American Independence Day on Tuesday with 20% off a number of American-themed food items on their menu like burgers, ribs, wedges along with some Mexican dishes.
There have various comments in the column this year about the number of African women hanging out on Soi Nana. You see them at all hours, but it is late at night that their numbers really swell. Word from multiple sources is that those with a thing for African women will be in their element on Soi Nana at this time. The late-night streetside booze booths are full of Africans – not just women, but men too – quite likely those blokes are the girls’ pimps. These women can be quite aggressive and are not at all shy to grab at passersby. At some point there will be a crackdown on them and they will disappear for a while….and then any time between a few weeks and several months or so later they will return and the cycle will start again. As a good friend and one of my most trusted sources of info on the ground said to me in an email this week, “Sukhumvit really is becoming a shithole with Nigerian hookers, drug dealers and their lookouts. I hate to see it.”
And the bald Caucasian who has been spotted on Soi Nana by many readers in recent weeks is still living rough, the photo below taken last night near a short time hotel. The fellow’s nationality is not known so if anyone can shed some light on where he is from perhaps the relevant embassy can be contacted and help sought. While the fellow would no doubt be resistant to going home, living on the streets of Bangkok is not a good idea and sooner or later something bad will happen.
The amazingly successful Robin Hood Tavern Complex mentioned in last week’s column is up for sale already. That British Retox group sure move fast. They picked up the previous business for a song and the plan was always to get it up to speed and then flick it on for a tidy profit. That mission has been completed quicker than expected with the venue becoming a go to venue and as such very profitable in, to use a favourite Thailand term, the space of a short time. It is not being sold because of the state of the economy in Pattaya which is said to be rocky with a lot of bars really feeling the pressure from all angles with seemingly fewer people in town and both visitors and local residents spending less than they used to. Word is that they have already secured another pub in Pattaya and hope to open a venue soon in Bangkok too.
Who’d want to be a Pattaya bar owner or should I say, entertainment host? The authorities in Sin City have been earning their salary with raids all over the place with gentlemen’s clubs being visited left, right and centre. Of course, gentlemen’s clubs in Pattaya have a rather different atmosphere and business model to such clubs in the west. A gentlemen’s club in Pattaya usually means a venue where ladies are available for carnal pleasures in rooms provided by the premises.
To which you could legitimately ask the question of whether that means the bars of Pattaya’s notorious soi 6 are gentlemen’s clubs? Hardly! The business model is much the same but you’d never call them gentlemen’s clubs. Soi 6 has been described as a Wild West ghost town according to locals and is deserted. Some soi 6 bar bosses, particularly the odd independent, are not at all happy and fingers are being pointed with some questioning why there are folks so candid about what happens in the dark corners of the soi. In Thailand today, when nasty stuff gets reported online it soon comes to the attention of the authorities and they feel compelled to visit and to be seen doing something about it, lest they be accused of dereliction of duties and posted to desk duty in some far-flung corner of Isaan.
There is no logical reason why some branches of Foodland or – perhaps more specifically the accompanying diner – Took Lae Dee, has what is almost a cult-like following amongst some long-time expats. The branches of Took Lae Dee at Sukhumvit soi 5 and soi 16 have many farang regulars, some of whom eat there almost every day. Bangkok has a dozen or so Foodland branches and there are also branches in Pattaya but they never seemed to have the same sort of following as the Bangkok branches. That may change with a new branch of Foodland opened in the basement of the Royal Garden Plaza shopping Mall. The entrance is from Beach Road. Foodland is an international supermarket and has a decent range of products from Australia and America and even has salmon and good cuts of beef from New Zealand. I wonder if the Took Lae Dee diner will be adopted by expats in Pattaya as the branches in Bangkok have? For sure, it’s a nice addition to central Pattaya with both the supermarket and the diner open 24 hours.
Speaking of new shopping centres in Pattaya, the new Terminal 21 shopping mall in Pattaya is coming along. I cannot imagine how bad the traffic is going to get in Pattaya with so many of the popular spots in those few square kilometres from Sukhumvit Road down to the beach, and between North Pattaya Road and South Pattaya Road.
I was emailed photos from a friend flying in to Thailand this week taken in the arrivals hall at Don Meuang Airport showing horrible queues. He spent about an hour and a half in the queue before he finally handed his passport over to be stamped in. Why am I even mentioning this, you may ask? It’s not really news, right? Well, actually I think it is. June is ordinarily one of the quietest months of the year yet it’s a mess at the airport with lengthy queues at Immigration. That simply reinforces to me just how popular Thailand is – and how the rate of growth refuses to slow.
The idea in Thailand that a man must pay a dowry to marry a Thai woman is polarising for Westerners. Many of us find the whole thing distasteful – not only is it not part of our culture, the very idea of paying a not insignificant sum of money for the right to marry a woman is quite detestable. That attitude makes the Thais similarly uncomfortable. While Thais of modest means might ask for a hundred thousand baht or so, the dowry in the marriage between wealthy Thais can run in to tens or even hundreds of millions of baht. After all, the higher the dowry, the greater the face that is gained. To me, just as detestable as the whole concept of the dowry is the way that the amount is announced at the wedding party and the crowd clap and cheer. I understand that once upon a time the details of weddings between some well-to-do Thais were published in newspapers and included the amount of the dowry along with the exact specifications of the diamond ring – its size, its clarity etc. What I perhaps somewhat ignorantly never realised was that in some cases these super high dowry numbers were just that, a number. When it gets up in to the millions there mightn’t actually be any cash on display – the dowry is in the form of a cheque. The number is read out, people gasp and that is quickly followed by wild applause….but after everyone has gone home at the end of the ceremony the cheque is torn up…lest it bounce! Apparently some announce these crazy high numbers to gain face but the real dowry was much less! Ah, the things some will do for face.
If you’re in your homeland and wish to top up the balance on your Thai mobile phone, you can do it from anywhere via this site, Mobiletopup.com. It’s a very useful way to make sure A) your Thai SIM remains valid and B) you have credit in your phone the moment you arrive in the country so can use the phone right away.
Reader’s story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, “Necessary Things“.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, “If the £ : baht exchange rate was more favourable, the humidity lower, the rainfall less, the bargirls friendlier, the police less corrupt, the roads less pot-holed and the food less spicy, Thailand really would be a great place to live.”
Two Middle Easterners give a large tip to a Pattaya songtaew driver – but the banknotes turn out to be counterfeit!
An Australian who escaped from a notorious jail in Bali is mooted to be hiding out in Pattaya.
The penalties for foreigners working in Thailand without a work permit are now much more severe.
Congratulations to the Samui Times for publishing an article on yet another pretty white girl who has died on what is being dubbed Death Island, AKA Ko Tao.
Bloomberg looks at the strength of the Thai currency and what it is calling the super Thai baht.
Everyday Thais have been captivated by the story of three working girls who killed a colleague in the most gruesome manner.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Legal Advisors is here to answer all of your legal questions related to Thailand.
Question 1: If a foreigner (Western passport holder who resides outside of Thailand) owns a condo in Thailand, but has a bankruptcy or divorce claim against him in a different country, can that other country file a legal claim to seize ownership of this condo in Thailand? The condo is under foreign ownership with one single owner.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Much depends on the country where the legal proceeding is taking place, and if that country has a legal agreement with Thailand to honor and execute court orders or not. Diplomatic agreements will vary from country to country. For example, the Russian Federation has an agreement with the EU to execute EU court orders while there is no agreement with the U.S. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you in researching the diplomatic agreements between Thailand and the country where the legal proceeding is taking place.
Question 2: I’m considering a job in the Middle East. My Thai wife and daughter would stay in Bangkok as she runs a successful business here, while I would probably fly back to Bangkok twice a month for long weekends. What are the Thai visa options for doing this? I currently work for a multinational company in Bangkok and have a visa and work permit for that, but these would presumably expire at some point after I resign and I would need a different arrangement.
Sunbelt Legal responds: You have two possible solutions; a marriage visa or a 30-day stamp on arrival. However, with frequent flights in and out of Thailand, Immigration officers may wonder and could ask you questions on your arrival. You could possibly get out of this by showing your marriage certificate and the birth certificate of your daughter.
However, the first option is probably the best one to avoid questions and any hassle on arrival. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you with this issue if you wished to pursue the marriage visa option.
I never set out to write a column with a negative tone nor do I have an agenda to highlight the bad stuff going on in Bangkok. I just try to put together an honest column. This week’s edition is anything but positive. Observing from so far away I have no skin in the game, right? Wrong! With all of the bad news around at the moment, I have decided to put my next trip to Thailand off. I had planned to be there a couple of weeks from now but in retrospect I don’t think now is a good time to visit and I am delaying my next visit. That’s a shame as two good friends from home will be in Bangkok at that time and I’d love to hang out with them – but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I really hope to hear of some good news stories because I’d like to write something positive next week!
Your Bangkok commentator,