Expat life in Bangkok is full of characters, some of whom have featured on this site. Some characters have developed such a following that at times it felt like there was more interest in what they were up to than what was going on about town. What happened to these characters and where are they now?
Here’s an update on some of the characters featured in this column, as well as a few of the people who have written for and contributed to this site over the years.
Sharky, also known by his real name of Tim Ward, is a Kiwi bodybuilder / former loan shark / Internet personality, and one of the most recognisible expats in Pattaya. With a physique like the Incredible Hulk and dramatic tattoos, Thais get a fright when they lay eyes on Sharky for the first time. Sharky used to be seen most days on Beach Road and was a regular poster online and given his quirkly lifestyle many took an interest in him. But that was several years ago and you hear much less about him these days.
Some were taken by his dramatic looks and the way he walked around Pattaya shirtless. He looked scary, but at the same time he had a big heart. He was always willing to stop for a selfie or a chat with strangers and was unfailingly polite.
But controversy followed him. Digging up his past online showed that he got rich being a loan shark, something some felt was a black mark next to his name. And that he offered protection to some street-walking girls in Pattaya was perplexing. At the same time there are lots of videos of him online feeding soi dogs and helping stray animals. It was hard to know what to make of him.
I met with Sharky and had a chat with him in his magnificent Pattaya beachfront condo. The Sharky interview was published back in 2012, but we have had little contact since.
Sharky hit the news in 2015 and was filmed ranting in the Pattaya Police Station. This YouTube clip of Sharky ranting at the Pattaya police station is worth 2 minutes of your time.
Rumours follow Sharky but who knows what is true, most rumours you hear in Pattaya are nonsense. What is known is that he went under the knife a year or so ago in what was described as an urgent operation to correct a problem caused by years of steroid use.
Sharky is still seen strolling along Beach Road from time to time. Whether Pattaya is his main base these days or he spends more time on the Gold Coast, I just don’t know.
As colourful as the streets of Pattaya may be, they aren’t as colourful as they once were. Some years ago Pattaya lost a character who, quite literally, brought colour to Sin City’s streets. That man was known as “Glitterman”.
Glitterman rode a circuit around the streets of Pattaya on an elaborately decorated bicycle, wearing a colourful outfit that featured a golden cape and at times, a Venetian-style mask. He was quite a sight – but unlike seeing Sharky for the first time, the sight of Glitterman brought smiles, laughs and made people happy.
Considered a weirdo by many in Pattaya, I found Glitterman to be only mildly eccentric. He genuinely wanted to bring happiness to people’s lives – and riding one of his decorated bicycles in his technicolour suit, performing what he termed the show did just that.
Glitterman left Pattaya many years ago to return to his native London where the show continued. A couple of readers sent me clips from a local Wimbledon community newspaper featuring Glitterman up to his old tricks. I dropped Glitterman an email but nothing came back. I wonder if the show is still going?
Another Londoner, Arsenal Alex arrived in Bangkok with grandiose stories, telling all who would listen that he had 50 million baht to spend. I’m a rich dude from London with money from an inheritance and real estate investments and I want to buy some bars. That was all he had to say for bar bosses to be all over him like flies on shit. The list of bar owners entertaining Alex read like a who’s who of the bar industry. The head of the Nana Group, the founder of Angelwitch, the founder of Club Electric Blue, the Patpong family, the manager / owner of The Strip wined and dined Alex, all keen on doing a deal. The thought of getting your hands on 50 million baht does funny things to people.
The Arsenal Alex period, as I like to think of it, from the end of 2012 through until the middle of 2013, were good times – and Alex was in the middle of it. But without the dosh to back up his stories, the charade wouldn’t last and Alex would flee Bangkok for London just as an arrest warrant was issued in his name following unauthorised use of his Thai girlfriend’s credit card, funds from which he used to live the high life.
Alex’s love of South-East Asia sees him splitting his time between London and Angeles City, the latter of which has become something of a magnet for a few who have left Thailand.
I still hear from Alex and the emails are every bit as cheerful as they were during the times we hung out in Bangkok. He may be a rogue, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t likeable. We have a mutual understanding whereby I know he’s a rogue and he knows that I know it, but we get past that and still share the old email about Bangkok, and how our respective football teams are doing. And as a Liverpool fan, I have all the bragging rights.
I’d put decent money on it that come mid 2023 when the arrest warrant has lapsed, Alex will return to Bangkok. He has not said that to me, nor even hinted at it – but I am sure he will be back. And maybe he’ll try it on with the next generation of bar owners too?!
No-one delighted the readers’ stories section of this site in its heyday more than Dana. Dana’s unique musings and passion for Thailand had readers tuning in every Saturday for his latest article.
Dana was one of many who made frequent trips from Farangland to Thailand. He lived for his trips to Thailand, and he loved the ladies of Pattaya.
Dana stopped writing many years ago and circumstances mean he has not been able to visit Thailand. Dana has been in poor health for a long time and this week I touched base to see how he was and see if he was ok being mentioned in this column. This is what Dana had to say:
Dana is currently fooling around with advanced, stage 4, terminal prostate cancer that has spread to his bones. He has tumors on his clavicles, sternum, ribs, backbone, pelvic bones, and the femur bones in his thighs. One of his drugs (the one that is keeping him alive) is paid for by insurance but I do get a monthly invoice with my monthly pills that is $14,800 per month. It makes me wonder how much the four Rainbow bars spent per month back in my day.
If it was not for this stupid cancer I would be back in Thailand immediately. Unlike many of the fellows I spent time with, I miss it terribly. I always thought (and I used to counsel) that Thailand was a ten-year place. If God took away my cancer I would start all over on a brand new ten years. I miss Thailand. Towards the end of my Thailand adventure I cracked the code and learned to relax. The more I smiled, and the more I waved my hands, and the more I relaxed; the more the ladies wanted to spend time with me. It was magic. I miss Thailand. Luckily, I’ll be going to my grave with a lot of memories. An awful lot of this Earth’s men don’t have memories. Me? I don’t have to make stuff up. Thailand smiled at me, I smiled back: and I would love to be deplaning at 11:55 p.m. from a Northwest flight and headed for Immigration.
He may not have been the most prolific nor the most polished contributor to the site, but Sawadee2000 rivals Dana as the most popular. With perhaps the most engaging writing style of any contributor, Sawadee2000’s real-life adventures as an outsider in a medium-sized Thai town had a great following. We learned what it’s like to build a house, the trials and tribulations of teaching in Thailand, what happens when you have a vehicle accident and we lived through his wars with some neighbours. He simply told you what happened and what it was like as a foreigner in Lampang. He was always cheerful and I think that endeared people to him.
We met in Bangkok and became friends. I visited him a few times in Lampang and caught up with him whenever he came down to Bangkok. We also had a couple of trips to Pattaya together. Sawadee2000’s beautiful house in Lampang featured in the opening piece of a column in 2012.
A charming man with a genuine following, his health had been a concern for many years and he wrote about his frequent visits to hospitals in northern Thailand and ongoing health issues. At times it seemed like he was financing the good life of heart surgeons in Chiang Mai.
Medical issues would deplete his finances and eventually he bit the bullet and moved back to the States. These days he’s availing himself of medicinal marijuana to treat the pain of various conditions. He wasn’t entirely happy to leave, but at the same time he has no plans to set foot on Thai soil again.
A huge contributor to the site, I became friendly with the big, burly American military vet who also happened to be a highly accomplished photographer.
BKKSW contributed dozens of stories to the site and wrote the Bangkok Focus photography section, mixing digital photography with travels in Thailand and around the region.
BKKSW was a bit of an oddity – at a time when many expats were out and about in the neon jungle, he had zero interest in that. It was never part of his life. He’d prefer to be at home with his tropical birds, BBQing steaks on his gigantic balcony.
BKKSW left Bangkok several years ago. He’s happy living Stateside, close to his sons, and running a business using the skills he learned during a long career in the military. He misses the Thailand we used to know and love, but is happy to be living back home.
Pattaya Gary is another American expat who wrote dozens of articles for this website. He was open about his lifestyle in a way most sexpats are not. He was not one of the stars of the readers’ submissions section but there was an openness and honesty about what he had to say, and completely free of pretension. In a world where so many try to present themselves in a positive and at times inauthentic light, and sometimes try to make themselves out as someone they may not be, Gary was just a good, down to earth bloke.
Gary left Pattaya many years ago for Angeles City. After many visits he found that he clicked with the Filipinos in a way he couldn’t with the Thais. And unlike many who leave Thailand, he didn’t miss the place he left. To quote Gary this past week, “I’ve forgotten all about the so-called amazing Thailand.”
But Pattaya Gary is no longer Angeles City Gary, but New Mexico Gary. He is Stateside, recovering from a bone infection after questionable hygiene during surgery he underwent in the Philippines. In his words, American medical care is far superior to the PI’s or Thailand – Gary has undergone a number of procedures in all 3 countries.
Despite a dodgy knee, Gary is enjoying the perfect weather of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I may have a great girlfriend over there in the Philippines and 3 condos but I want to sell them and stay in the US. I don’t want to be vulnerable to Asian medical care. I was in West Palm Beach, Florida and it was nice too. Asia and its heat are for someone else.”
The Dirty Doctor
The dirty doctor has been mentioned in this column more than most and for many years was my sidekick on nights out on Soi Cowboy. A regular on Soi Cowboy (he doesn’t care for either Nana or Patpong), he knows lots of the girls and has long been a great source of news and gossip.
In 2007 and 2008 he went on a one-man crusade to rid Sukhumvit of fake monks. He got so annoyed with being hassled by them that he fought back, quite literally, and disrobed some of the fake monks on the street, ripping off their robes and taking off with them.
The doc still gets the odd mention in this column and he enjoys living in Bangkok as much as ever. Like most of us his lifestyle has changed and he seldom makes it out to the old haunts, preferring to spend time at home with his lovely girlfriend. I spoke with him earlier this week and he mentioned he hadn’t been out in the bars since March, nor had he had a drink. He was thinking of giving up alcohol altogether.
Many of these characters have either left Thailand. Some have headed back home, others departed for greener pastures. Of the 6 out of 8 characters featured who lived in Thailand, only the Dirty Doctor still lives there.
These days, it feels like there are fewer characters around the farang haunts and the areas popular with farangs. Or is it simply that as I no longer live there, I don’t see the new generation of characters. Will we see another Glitterman on the streets of Pattaya? Will there be another Dana delighting us with his prose? I don’t know that there will….
Last week’s photo was taken of the expressway just a little south of Ploenchit and Sukhumvit Roads. The photo was taken from what is sometimes referred to as the green route, the walkway connecting Benjasiri and Lumphini parks.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Survival of the fittest.
I think (especially with Thai owned establishments) most bar owners are so inward-looking that they really have no grasp of just how much bad exchange rates are making prices unacceptable. Older punters are becoming much more selective about how much and how often they spend as budgets become increasingly stretched especially amongst expats. Then there’s the younger traveller. I don’t know about NZ but in the UK they are growing up differently and just don’t have the pub-based lifestyle the older generation had. Here at home, pubs are going bust at an alarming rate because people no longer want to waste money like we used to. The best bars will survive, a lot won’t.
Farang falls from Phuket hotel to his death.
Last night as I approached my hotel around 2 AM I made room for an ambulance to turn in to the lane entrance of my hotel. As I walked towards the entrance there he was, laying motionless on the ground. Dead! The paramedics tried giving him press compressions – these guys don’t carry much with them, no oxygen or whatever. But he must have been dead for some time. He wasn’t responsive, and I think they must have just been going through the motions. Feedback from the hotel staff is that he was drunk and jumped. Was it intentional or accident – who knows?
Thailand health insurance, cheap for Americans.
I got a chuckle out of your column about “no thanks” to retiring in Thailand. While I pretty much nodded my head to everything you said, I laughed when you talked about how expensive health insurance gets once you hit your 60s, stating that it could be several thousand dollars. For people most everywhere in the world, that would indeed be expensive. Except for us Americans. We think that’s cheap! I currently pay $6,000 a year for health insurance, and I have a $6,000 deductible on top of that, which means I have to pay $12,000 before my insurance pays for anything. And I’m in my early 50’s. I know older people who pay $12,000 a year for their insurance. We have a truly horrible system here, so the cost of premiums in Thailand looks like nothing to us. I used to know an American retiree who lived in Udon Thani. He was in his late 60s and he told me his health insurance cost $3,600 a year. We both thought that was an absolute bargain!
To have medical insurance or not?
I fail to understand why the medical thing seems to be an issue with expats there. I have had insurance in Thailand since 2002. BUPA until it was taken over last year by Aetna. I pay under $2,000 for the year and it’s good major medical coverage. No out-patient stuff, but surgeries. As I have hit 60, next year it will go up, but over the years it started at around 600 per year if I remember right and I had less coverage. After a major surgery where I had my gall bladder taken out, I opted for a platinum plan. That lesser insurance got me 7K covered out of an 8K surgery in higher cost Bumrungrad. I think some will find that insurance won’t take sign ups after 60.
The secret is out.
When the column yields up five mentions of the bar scene’s tedious rip-offs there’s no longer any point in reading between the lines now is there? In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, I feel your pain.
Gruesome death with an expat connection across the border.
Some body parts started washing up on Phnom Penh’s riverside a few days ago, leading to much speculation. It turns out that the dead lady was a moneylender, and she was murdered by a local woman who owed her $3,000 and didn’t want to pay it back and / or didn’t want to tell her husband about the debt. Her husband is a long-term American expat. Together, they own and operate the Alamo Cafe, a Tex-Mex restaurant. The wife has confessed to the murder, and says she killed the money-lender in the restaurant – which is their home and they live above it – and then kept the body parts in the restaurant’s freezer, right next to the french fries. The Texan is smitten with her and previously borrowed from expats to pay off her gambling debts. Now he’s trying to borrow more to get her a lawyer. News reports say he’s her fifth husband. Friends tried to tell him she’s bad news, due to her drug use and gambling and cheating on him, but he didn’t listen. Some reports say he was involved in the murder or dismemberment, but that’s contrary to her confession that she acted alone and drugged his iced tea with sleeping pills so he wouldn’t wake up while she was cutting up the body.
It’s the news section of the column and yeah, I’m going to play the same broken record this week as I did last week, the week before that….and probably the week before that too. It’s not merely quiet around the traps in Bangkok, trade has been described as absolutely dire! One bar owner reported they had their worst daily take one day this past week. I know this is hardly what you want to read – but at the same time it’s what everyone seems to be talking about.
Whether Chinese visitors are hitting the bars in Bangkok I am not so sure but down in Pattaya the Chinese are venturing in to bars on Walking Street. If not for the Chinese, some owners would probably throw in the towel. Say what all you want about Chinese and other non sex tourist visitors, on Walking Street they are keeping some bars afloat.
And that’s probably why there are so many touts on Walking Street these days, promoting those awful ping-pong shows. One Bangkok expat who visited Pattaya this week says the touts on Walking Street are just as bad as they used to be on Patpong soi 1.
And word from Walking Street is that new bars are doing well, with Pin Up and Tantra both said to be worth stopping by.
It is expected that Dundee on Soi Cowboy will reopen real soon. New signage went up this week revealed it will have a new name, The Peep by Dundee.
Since reopening, Bada Bing, on Patpong soi 2, has gone from quiet to busy again with a good line-up of familiar faces from around Patpong.
The Wednesday quiz night at The Royal Oak on Sukhumvit soi 33 is packed with locals / expats which just goes to show that some bars do have pulling power when elsewhere is quiet.
A not long retired Bangkok gogo bar boss is writing a book about his time in the naughty nightlife industry and it shouldn’t be long before his account of 5 years in the bar scene is available on Amazon. Names will be changed but those familiar with the industry should be able to work out who is who. I am really looking forward to it because the guy can actually write so it should be a decent read. More when it’s available.
Bangkok’s newest expat pub, The Craic, opened on Sukhumvit soi 22. It’s just a short stroll some 50 or so metres up the soi from the main Sukhumvit Road. It has been described as a fun, relaxed bar with cheap drinks, live sports, friendly staff and late closing. Great deals on pints too. You can find more on The Craic’s Facebook page.
A new bar is coming soon on Sukhumvit Road, near soi 13. Work is well underway and it should be up and running sooner rather than later.
Word is that the building on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and soi 11 which has had all five floors gutted will be home to a new bar on the ground floor. Again, details are thin and there’s no word who is behind it.
I’ve been getting my jollies recently reading comments from Thais responding to news articles posted on Facebook. Many Thais have a way with words that makes their responses amusing. Many are especially sarcastic when commenting on silly news articles. The recent articles about Thai police inspecting Walking Street in Pattaya and announcing there was no prostitution to be found elicited some hilarious responses, translated here in to English, “Do you think foreigners go to Pattaya for the beautiful beach?!” And my favourite, “You can report this in the English language press but please don’t insult us Thais with this.”
A pal who calls South-East Asia home said to me recently, “I’ll take wrecked tits and a few stretch marks with a pretty, undistorted natural face any day.” He absolutely hates it when the angels of Asia get their nose done. Nose-jobs are more popular than ever with bargirls these days. I have never been in favour of surgical enhancements just as I remain adamant that tattoos, bright contact lenses, fake eyelashes, blonde and unnatural hair colour can ruin an otherwise perfectly pleasant lady’s looks. What do you make of working girls getting nose-jobs?
There’s a new scam in town and it goes down like this. A random guy is sitting on the patio of a restaurant and another guest sits down beside him. The guest orders a pint and they share some chit-chat. The random guy says he is the manager of the venue. Guest wants to leave after 30 minutes and the random guy says here, let me take care of your bill and takes the guest’s credit card. Random guy disappears with the guest credit card and tries to use it elsewhere while the guest is still waiting. This scam is happening now on Sukhumvit Road, so be careful who you give your money / credit card for the bill to.
Speaking of scams, I got an odd email this week from someone calling themselves John Doe. “John” wrote that my computer had been infected with Malware which gave him control of my webcam and in doing so he had saved a video of me wanking in front of the webcam. Sorry, John, not me. I have much better things to do than self-stimulate in front of my computer. John’s email said that if I did not send him $1,400 by Bitcoin he would release the video. John’s email started with a password I use on 3 Thai forums. It’s not a password which gives access to my computer. So how did whoever was behind the email get the password? If I had to take a guess, I’d say someone behind one of those 3 forums has been up to no good. Website admin, past or present, perhaps? Either that, or one of those 3 forums has been hacked.
Every few days I check the AQI (air quality index) for Bangkok online. This past week the levels were in the safe range for the first time since last year. If you’re concerned about air quality in Bangkok, June through until late October is the time to visit.
If the whole TM30 Immigration reporting thing is confusing the hell out of you, the owner of 1DProperty.com wrote an article about the TM 30 form explaining what it’s all about and what you’re required to do. It is probably the best article about this most confusing of reporting requirements for expats.
Thai Airways sponsors the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby team with a small logo near the collar-bone of the team’s match shirt. I wonder if the airline will be rethinking their sponsorship after the Rebels were hammered 59 : 8 by the mighty Waikato Chiefs and eliminated from the competition on Friday night. It was a sponsorship deal I could not get my head around given rugby in Australia is not nearly as popular as other football codes in that country.
My advice for those who wish to avoid hassles when extending their retirement visa would be to use an agent. I used to warn against using an agent, but it’s something I’ve changed my mind on. I used to say avoid the agents like the plague because some of what they do falls in to a very grey area. If there is a crackdown in the future, those who procured dodgy visas in the past may get caught up in it. The agents are in cahoots with Immigration officers – and while that sounds wrong in our Western way of thinking, in Asia it’s all quite normal. If you don’t meet the criteria for a retirement visa i.e. you cannot show the required funds, then you’re essentially paying an agent to liaise with / pay off an Immigration officer to look the other way and approve the visa. I still think there’s risk going down that road, albeit the risk is low. If you do qualify for a retirement visa and don’t want to go through the time-consuming hassle of extending your visa annually, that’s when using an agent may be the way to go. Instead of spending what might be the best part of a day at Immigration (or more, in a worst case scenario), you should be in and out quickly with an agent. Agents know the system – some are said to be former immigration officials – so there shouldn’t be any surprises, hassles or headaches. Agent fees typically run 12,000 – 20,000 baht. At that price it might be worth your while.
Reader’s story of the week comes from an anonymous writer, “Why Ride The Waves Is Worse Than Everyone He Hates“.
An Aussie dies after falling from a Phuket hotel where he was trying to climb in to his room from outside.
The Sun looks at the problem of illegal prostitution on the Indonesian island of Batam.
It’s official, what expats have been saying for years is finally being reported in the press – Bangkok is getting more expensive to live!
A German who took a secret holiday to Thailand is found dead in Krabi with a plastic bag over head in what has been described as a sex game gone wrong.
It was a fun walk down memory lane writing the opening piece this week, but kind of sad at the same time. It felt like a group of old friends who have all been banished to different corners of the earth and who, in most cases, will never see one another again. The characters and legends I wrote about today were a big part of this site during its heyday. Bangkok remains colourful but in terms of those sorts of characters, I wonder how many similar folks are around now. The only real character who gets mentioned these days is the Mad Professor and his whacky diagrams. I wouldn’t say Bangkok is getting sterile, but does it have the same colour it used to?
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]