Stickman's Weekly Column June 2nd, 2019

Retire In Thailand? No, Thanks!



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Retired Westerners continue to pour in Thailand, many having planned their retirement years, even decades earlier. At the same time some Westerners who had retired there are leaving Thailand, having become disenchanted. Is Thailand a good place to retire?

I am still asked by friends in Thailand and readers when – not if, but when – I will return. Often it sounds like what they really want to say is, “When will you return to your senses and move back to Thailand?”

I used to love living in Thailand but as middle age approached, what I wanted from life could not be found in Thailand.

I live in a part of New Zealand popular with retirees, and have plenty of friends retired in Thailand. What follows are a few thoughts on retirement in Thailand and what I think are some of the issues to consider.

 

Do The Visa Hassles Ever End?

Thailand does not have a retirement program in the same way neighbouring Malaysia does and it shows in the visa process which is a confusing and convoluted mess.

A foreign retiree keen to stay in Thailand can apply for 12 months permission to stay if they meet the simple age (over 50) and financial requirements (800,000 baht in a Thai bank account, half of which cannot be touched at all and the other half of which cannot be touched for 2 months before, and 3 months after the application for a visa extension).

The visa situation and the ongoing requirements to remain legal have become complicated in recent years as some regulations that have long been on the books but seldom enforced must now also be met.

  • Retirees visit their local Immigration branch annually to apply for a one-year extension of stay. Various documents are required such as proof of funds and the actual requirements vary from Immigration branch to Immigration branch. * This is probably the easiest method for retirees to stay in Thailand, but there are others which I won’t go in to.
  • In addition to the visa extension process – which you have to go through every year – you are also required to report to Immigration every 90 days. This is known as 90-day reporting. Most people visit Immigration and do it in person while it is possible to do it by post. The latter sounds a whole lot easier but there are always concerns about what would happen if your postal notification isn’t delivered, hence most do it in person.
  • The owner of the property where you reside (you, if you own a condo / your wife if you live in her house / your landlord if you are renting etc.) is required to notify Immigration within 24 hours of your arrival at that place of abode. That is, every time you are away for more than 24 hours, you have to notify Immigration within 24 hours of returning. That means that every time you return home from abroad, or merely from a short trip away within Thailand, you are required to complete a TM30 form with Immigration. Technically, this is the property owner’s responsibility but in reality, it is the retiree who has to do it. This could become onerous if you took, for example, several trips away a year – because every time you return home you have to go to the nearest Immigration and complete the TM30 form within 24 hours. There have been raids in residential buildings in Bangkok recently by Immigration checking the visa details and registered address of foreigners. If the Immigration computer shows you as being registered elsewhere i.e. at a hotel you once stayed at, you may be fined up to 5,000 baht. Note: in some provinces / under some Immigration branch jurisdictions, this law is not enforced and you don’t need to report in every time you return home, even if the law says that you must. At this time, it seems this regulation is not being enforced in Bangkok whereas apparently it is being enforced in Pattaya. But this could change without notice.
  • The length of time you spend at Immigration varies from province to province, and what you’re there for. In provinces with a small expat populace, your annual visa extension might be approved quickly and you may be out in 30 minutes. 90-day reporting might see you in and out in 60 seconds. Elsewhere, visa extensions can be a whole day affair and if your documents aren’t in order, you might have to return the next day. Note: don’t try and be clever and go to a provincial branch of Immigration which is quiet – you have to go to the branch nearest to where your address is registered.

It is possible to do 90-day reporting by post, and the TM 30 report using an app which was recently released. However, some who have tried to do this have experienced problems and many prefer to do it themselves – which means frequent trips to the local Immigration office.

So with the annual visa extension, 90-day reporting which is 4 times per year and let’s say, for argument’s sake, 8 trips away, that could be THIRTEEN trips to Immigration in a year! Reality check for those in Bangkok: Immigration is a hike from downtown and the areas expats like to live and is very busy these days. Visiting Immigration in Bangkok is not like a quick stop at 7 Eleven. Make sure your mobile phone battery is fully charged and / or take along a book!

Let’s not forget that the so-called retirement visa is not guaranteed. It’s not a permanent thing. Each year you essentially have to reapply and have to show that you meet the requirements. Could the requirements be changed? There have been tweaks to the financial requirements and there is always conjecture that at some point, the financial requirements will increase. And frankly they should because they are ridiculously low.

A retirement visa is NOT permanent residency. There are no guarantees that you will be able to remain in Thailand. What happens if, for example, you were caught up in something untoward or fell foul of the law, even inadvertently? There is no path to citizenship from a retirement visa no matter how long you stay in the country. That doesn’t strike me as great for one’s peace of mind.

As an aside, when I see what rights foreigners here in New Zealand get visa-wise, I see just what a raw deal foreigners get in Thailand. Here, at each step along the way from the issuance of a work permit, to a residence class visa to citizenship, one gets lots of information from Immigration outlining everything from what their rights are, to the government services that are available to them (such as free medical care), what their future visa options are, what they need to do and by when they need to submit further visa applications by etc.

Thailand’s Immigration rules impose all sorts of requirements on foreign retirees and it feels like big brother is watching your every step with the requirement to report your whereabouts every time you are away from home. At some point the amount of money you must show to qualify for a visa will increase and those who don’t have enough might be forced out. Do you really want all this stress and these hassles in retirement?!

 

Health And Healthcare in Thailand

Decent healthcare is available in Thailand – but like so many things in Thailand it is no longer the bargain it once was. While some retirees choose to ignore anything related to health or medical care, no-one stays healthy forever.

The cost of treatment and medical care for something serious like, say, trauma from a motor accident can easily see bills running to millions of baht. Friends who have had minor operations in government hospitals have been presented with bills well in to 6 figures. A close friend recently had a health scare and just the tests and follow up consultation on those tests wasn’t far off 100,000 baht. What if you develop health conditions that require ongoing monitoring and expensive medication for the rest of your life? Are you able to finance these sorts of unexpected expenses?

That’s what health insurance is for, right? But so many retirees in Thailand don’t have health insurance! They prefer to “self-insure”. Failing to have health insurance is a huge risk, while at the same time, the older you get, the higher the cost.

Health insurance might be affordable in your 50s, but from age 60 up the premiums go up fast and from 65 years of age, they skyrocket. Add in a pre-existing condition or two and you could be looking at several thousand dollars a year for a decent health insurance policy.

But you don’t need health insurance, do you? You’re fit and healthy – what’s the big deal? It’s a risk. Trip on one of Bangkok’s dodgy footpaths. Be hit by an out of control vehicle. Suffer a nasty bout of food poisoning. Be diagnosed with a chronic condition. Any of these could see you facing a bill that puts a major dent in your war chest.

Health insurance for retirees is not compulsory – but could that change?

 

Is Thailand Really A Bargain?

Google Thailand as a retirement destination and you’ll find articles about how you can retire in the country on less than $1,000 / month. And you can….so long as you’re willing to live like a Thai.

You can live for less in Thailand than in your homeland, but is that really the lifestyle you want? The reality of that lifestyle probably means living in an apartment building with working class Thais, eating mainly Thai food, with not a lot of money left over at the end of the month for travel or new clothes or toys or repairs or naughty nightlife dalliances.

If you want something of a typical urban Western lifestyle in Bangkok, I figure you need a budget of at least 100,000 baht / month, but preferably closer to 150,000 baht / month. Or in real money, about $US5,000.

When I last lived in Bangkok, I was spending around 100,000 baht / month – and many commented that I was frugal. I was comfortable with that lifestyle but the reality is that I was living in a 50-odd square metre condo (which was too small for 2), didn’t have health insurance, wasn’t running a car and while I ate very well and travelled a little, I didn’t drink much at all. It was a pleasant lifestyle, but hardly fancy.

A good apartment in a good area with good neighbours could set you back around 60,000 baht / month. Yes, of course, you can easily find places much cheaper but where once I said good condos in decent buildings close to downtown Bangkok set you back 25K +, generally these days I think you need to spend more. 35K+ baht for an ok place in central Bangkok is probably a better starting point. Figure another 8,000 – 10,000 baht / month for utilities / cable TV / Internet / mobile phone etc. Health insurance could be anything from a few thousand baht / month to 20,000 baht / month.

If you want to be active and do stuff without worrying about being frugal, you probably need at least another 50,000 – 60,000 baht / month to cover everything from food, clothes, travel, going out etc. See how you can get close to that figure of 150,000 baht / month? Yes,  I know, you live in Bangkok for much less, but if you factor in things like say car ownership, some travel or a mildly expensive hobby then numbers can easily blow out.

And this is all begs the question, if you’re spending $5,000 / month, why would you live in Thailand and not the West? At $5,000 / month in your homeland there’d probably be enough left over for a couple of trips to Thailand per year. $US5,000 / month gives you a sweet lifestyle here in Kiwiland as I suspect it does in most Western countries, save for expensive cities like New York, London, San Francisco etc.

 

Thailand For Foreigners

Seriously, what is the attraction to retiring in Thailand if you don’t have roots / aren’t heavily invested in the country? The cost of the living? The weather? The pussy? That’s what used to attract foreign retirees to Thailand.

The cost of living is low if you’re willing to live like a Thai, but live in a good building in a good area, eat decent food and do the stuff most of us foreigners like to do – and I am not sure it’s cheaper than home.

For much of the year, the weather in Thailand is too hot and too humid to spend time outside and most of us need to run air-conditioning to be able to get a good night’s sleep. And don’t get me started on the pollution and terrible air quality.

And the pussy? Much costlier than it was and most get bored of that lifestyle soon enough.

I just don’t get what the attraction is.

 

Thailand Farang, The Hassles And The Drama Of Expat Society

Expat society in Thailand has changed. There is so much drama these days. Where once pretty much every expat living in Bangkok was happy, now bitching and complaining seems almost as common. Expat circles, expat forums, expat pubs….they’re all just not that much fun these days.

Yes, there are many interesting expats in Thailand who you’d be happy to be friends with and one doesn’t like to over-generalise, but there are plenty of complete nutjobs too. And unless you live in a high-end building / development, and only venture to the fanciest bars and restaurants, you can’t avoid the crazies – and even amongst those with money there are more than a few who are off.

 

Things To Do As A Retiree In Thailand

Something happens to many of us physically around the mid to late 60s. It’s like we hit a wall, and even the fittest slow down considerably. Some may stay fit and active well in to their 70s but many slow down noticeably in their 60s i.e. around or shortly after retirement age. Deviations from regular routines become a hassle. The armchair and the TV remote beckon.

What I take from this is that you should do stuff when you’re young, and when you can. Come retirement, most of us will slow down. Be active, but it’s probably going to be the gentler stuff.

I believe you’re better off having your fun when you’re younger, fitter and healthier and when your tolerance for bullshit is greater – and that last point is relevant to Thailand.

Let’s revisit the idea some have that retirement in Thailand will consist of unlimited pussy. Dream on! Carnal desires don’t last forever and the days when a couple of thousand baht got you the hottest lady on Walking Street for the night are long gone. And with plenty of young, handsome foreigners living in Thailand and making very good money online, the average Thai woman is not so interested in “Papa” any more.

 

Alternatives to Thailand

There are alternatives to Thailand – there’s a whole world out there!

In South-East Asia, the consensus is that Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines are more welcoming to retirees than Thailand. And each of the Philippines and Malaysia has a retirement program to attract foreigners to the country which has been carefully thought out. The visa situation is more straightforward and comes with benefits specific to retirees. In the Philippines I understand the retirement visa / package includes provision for healthcare and in Malaysia, retirees can buy a property.

We all have options closer to home. If you’re European, Spain and southern Europe are warm, inexpensive, have fantastic food and wine – and there are zero visa issues.

Ditto down under where Queensland is a good choice for Aussies and Kiwis. It’s all of the above, warm year-round and long stretches of coastline with world-class beaches.

For Americans and Canadians Florida is an option and I imagine there are many great places to retire across much of the southern parts of the USA, and Mexico, of course. And if you prefer somewhere more exotic and cheaper, Central and South America are still a whole lot closer to home for North Americans than South-East Asia.

Open your eyes, do your research and you might just find somewhere much more compelling than Thailand.

 

In Conclusion

Thailand is a great place for a holiday but in the twilight of life when you’re slowing down and your tolerance for BS diminishes, it’s not a place I’d want to retire.

I know there are tens of thousands of Westerners retired in Thailand who are happy and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. Good on them and all power to them. And I know some have roots in Thailand, a wife and a family so living anywhere else just wouldn’t make sense.

I still recommend Thailand as a great place for a holiday, but I wouldn’t want to retire there.


Billboard Bangkok

 

 

Mystery Photo

bangkok-mysetry-jim

Last week’s photo was taken of the staircase leading up to a massage shop on Sukhumvit, near soi 14 and the Asoke intersection. I believe it is called Garden House Massage but I might be wrong on that. This week’s shot was taken in a part of Bangkok which today attracts a lot of foreigners BUT it is not what I’d strictly term “downtown Bangkok”.


Nana Plaza

 

Stick’s inbox – the best emails from the past week. Please note: There were A LOT of good emails this week so this section is much longer than usual. Thanks to all readers who send thoughts and feedback – it’s great to receive interesting emails to publish!

Marring one’s natural looks.

Your photo essay of Dollhouse was another sad example of what’s happened in Thailand. Aside from #14, to whom I give two thumbs up, most of the girls look as if they were purposely making themselves up to be unattractive. Thai women in their natural state are often beautiful. Don’t they realize men come from all over the world to see Thai women, not these made up trollops who are destroying everything that’s attractive about them? Stupid and overdone tattoos – those tats across their stomachs are hideous – dyed hair of unnatural colors, with three inches of roots showing. Fake eyebrows that are applied with a paint brush. Colored contact lenses that make them look like ghouls, and braces on their teeth?! How does someone go through all of that, look in the mirror and say, “Now I’m ready”? Honestly, if I were a newbie thinking about a trip in order to develop my mongering chops and all I had to go by was photos of current a-go-go bar girls, I’m pretty sure I’d take a pass.

Where the Thais party.

I visited Tawan Dang, a 130 baht meter taxi from Nana (on the way home only 71 baht). Nice elaborate costumes on the performers. Crowd fired up and best of all, a large bottle of ice-cold Chang (no other beer offered) was 140 baht and I had a glass and a bucket of ice. Great lighting. I made the comment to a friend and he said the bar owners at Nana and Cowboy could use a visit here as they have fxxked up with strobes flashing into the eyes of customers instead of on to the stage. So 140 baht for a large bottle of beer with ice and a 20 baht tip gets you live entertainment. The performers make the rounds and say hello at the table. Not begging or hustling, but just to say hello. Yes, they get tips and will share a shot from your bottle but it’s not a snow job. A couple of birthdays in the crowd too and they stopped the show to appreciate the birthday boy or girl with cake and happy birthday signs. The show stopped at 2:15 AM but the other Tawan Dang across the street continued. Are bar owners in the farang bar areas taking the piss, or are we just getting ripped off?

Flight in to Bangkok almost empty.

I don’t think a single flight can indicate a tread, but I’ve never seen anything like my just completed flight from Thailand to America and then back to Thailand. On the way from BKK to Taiwan, and then on to SFO, the Eva Elite cabin was full as expected and the first class cabin appeared to be full or nearly full. I didn’t get a chance to observe the coach cabin on either flight. On the return leg of the flight from SFO to Taiwan, the plane appeared to be nearly full. On the return leg from Taiwan to BKK, the plane appeared to be mostly empty. Only 9 or 10 of the seats in the 49 seat EVA Elite cabin were occupied, and when we landed they didn’t close the curtains to allow first class to exit first, so the first class cabin appeared to be empty. In many years of flying between Thailand and America I’ve never seen anything like this.

Only sentiment causes you to return.

I just returned from a trip to Bangkok and Phuket. Very long queues at Immigration, which made the long flight all the more painful. Through to grab a taxi, got a ticket, jumped in and said meter. He said, no, 800 baht includes toll way. I asked why 800. He said bigger car. No thanks, I jumped out. I notice taxis place towels over the meter. Nana Plaza was so quiet, how any anybody is making money there I don’t know. Next stop Biergarten, empty as well. Walked back up to Gulliver’s. A handful of people playing pool. I sat outside with a beer and it was only me there. I headed to Thermae and finally, somewhere busy! Phuket was next. Went in to Suzy Wong Gogo. Dancer wants 10,000 baht short time. I asked if that includes the flight back to London and a bottle of Bollinger 64. Phuket is very expensive now with 4,000 Baht = £100. Crazy money being asked for beers and lady drinks that only Bill Gates could afford. So back to Bangkok for the long flight home only to find huge queues again to get out. Finally boarded the flight to London which looked like the movie Con Air. I can’t see me going back to Thailand. Seen it done it sort of thing. Still a fun holiday but very expensive. I think I only went back out of sentiment.

Looking out, looking in and immigration.

Countries are like people. Some look out and see what they want and others look in and see only themselves. For over 400 years Japan was an inward looking country. This changed when Japan became occupied by the USA and, to grow, had to look outward to the consuming nations. Singapore, way too small to support itself, had to look outward to become a home of the most fungible thing of all, MONEY. The British in the 17th and 18th centuries had such population growth due to the agricultural and industrial revolutions that people had to go outward to prosper. Same with the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danes. Even the Khmer, starting in the 3rd century and peaking in the 9th century was a result of being outward looking. So what does that have to do with Thailand and Immigration? Some people, and countries, are inward looking. They do not need, or want, more. More food; more wealth; more people or more of anything. How do Thais look at the Hill Tribes? They don’t! To Thais the Hill Tribe people are non-existent. Kept at the subsistence level because they are outside. The immigration policies and their adoption are the result of a people who look inside. Thai is Thai as many of Stick’s readers have commented on over the years. In 2003 I first visited Thailand and traveled to the Hmong area,12 km from the Golden Triangle, to an area ravaged by AIDS. Our Thai hosts didn’t care about the adults that were dying. But the children were a source of funds from the donations of outsiders. People were not welcome, money was. Over the next 7 visits things did not change in Thailand but did change in other South-East Asian countries which started looking outwards while Thai immigration continues to keep people outside! Short-term visitors with money can stay a while, but not too long. Thailand does not want you in the system, just spend your money and leave. Immigration will never change until the people look outward. It is not a conscious decision, just a way of life.

Sukhumvit trade slow? Try Singapore.

I hooked up with a Biergarten girl I have known since 2011. She was saying things are really slow and how it’s almost a losing proposition to go out and look for customers at the Biergarten or Hillary when you factor in taxis and the odd drink. She says she doesn’t come out Sukhumvit way much and instead works in a bar in Lad Prao. She said that a lot of the girls were looking to get out of the country and try to get work in Hong Kong or Singapore, but one of the drawbacks is that both have been turning back girls, even some with a guy in tow. She knew three girls that were going but didn’t travel together and each one got turned back at Hong Kong.

Jail for overstayers?

When I lived in Thailand years back, I knew a guy who had overstayed his visa for 10 years! I kept warning him of potential dire consequences. He just shrugged off my concern. He was teaching English somewhere in Isaan with no contract and no work permit. I found out through friends that he was deported and fined 20,000 baht. But there was no jail time! I wonder if this is typical of those who overstay for a long period of time.

The status thing.

I agree with your comments on young Thais being more polite than older Thais. The older ones seem to think their seniority gives them status, especially if they are upper-middle or high social class. Thailand would have a much nicer society without that whole status thing.

Alleged Brit murderer a free man across the border in Cambodia.

I don’t know if you remember this, but back in 2004, a Brit named Michael “Mick” Taylor who was an expat in Phuket was arrested for murdering his Thai girlfriend by stabbing her through the heart. His nickname in Phuket was “Mick the Pom.” The Thais had 13 witnesses and a bloody knife and trousers that they claimed were his. His alibi was that he could not have committed the crime because he was having sex with a ladyboy on the beach at the time. His trial was delayed for quite a while and he managed to post bail. The Thais took his passport. Then halfway through the trial he disappeared. He resurfaced years later as “Mick Doggard” running a bar in the Philippines, and the British authorities won’t say if they issued him a new passport. He was arrested in the Philippines pending extradition to Thailand but the Thai authorities say they were “too busy” to extradite him, perhaps because they had lost all the evidence by then. Anyway, the guy is now living quite openly in Kampot, Cambodia, where all of the sleazy Sihanoukville expats have moved to now that Sihanoukville has been taken over by the Chinese. Taylor’s friends claim that the talk of him being arrested for murder in Thailand and still wanted there is “fake news.” This has been the subject of much discussion on the Kampot Noticeboard Facebook group this week, as Taylor started posting there using his “Mick Doggard” handle offering locksmith services and looking for a cleaning job for his girlfriend. Taylor has responded to some of the talk by saying the Thais “dropped” the charges against him and released him and claiming he has been back to Thailand, but I suspect that is nonsense. Some Kampot expats have expressed alarm about a fugitive accused murderer moving to their community, others have responded to the recent reports with comments like “snitches get stitches” and “I drink with him he’s a good guy” and “He’s never hurt anyone in Kampot so who cares.”

 


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok

 

 

The latest from legendary Bangkok bar CheckInn99 is that the soi 33 location was too big for the old CheckInn99 format and despite efforts to adapt they were unable to fill the venue. And it didn’t help matters that long-time Philippine band feature act had a fight amongst themselves, split up and with that the venue lost a big part of its appeal. Sunday Jazz remained popular and retained a loyal following – and it is hoped that will live on at another venue, at this point yet to be decided. CheckInn99 is up for sale or partnership investment. Any interested parties can contact Chris at: [email protected], In the mean time, the bar has reverted in to a holding pattern under the old guise of Christie’s / Napoleon.

In Patpong 2, The Strip 2.0 is struggling to gain traction. To be fair, May is the quietest month of the year, the industry is in the doldrums generally and you couldn’t pick a worse time to restart a bar. Those punters who are about seem to be gravitating to a few big-name bars. Here’s hoping the new owner of The Strip can get through the worst of the low season which – and let’s be fair, it feels like we say this every year – looks like it will be worse than last year’s.

Last week I mentioned The Butcher’s Arms in Soi Buakhao was on the market. Rumours from multiple sources have it that on Soi Nana, two popular beer bars are up for sale. I have refrained from naming them because of past history where some bar owners have got their knickers in a twist and deny that the bar is for sale…..until you tell them that you have had interest shown from someone then it’s a case of yeah, we want to sell! Note: We’re not talking any bars between Sukhumvit Road and the entrance to the plaza, nor any of the Hillary bars.

The 1,000 baht / 1,500 baht barfine rates mentioned in last week’s column for Sexy Night in Nana Plaza may have been a temporary – perhaps a holiday? – thing. Word is that the standard barfine in the plaza’s oldest bar is back to 900 baht.

Rumours that the revamped Pickled Liver Pub is set to open any day are bollocks. The relaunch is still some time away. For those who don’t know it, The Pickled Liver was a pleasant little British pub at the end of Sukhumvit soi 7/1 more popular with expats than visitors, and one of few pubs where late kick-off football matches were shown live. It will reopen under new management after extensive renovations which are taking a while – the new owners are keen to get things just right.

 

le-pub-soi-diamond-icc-cricket

 

The Cricket World Cup is underway with the heavyweights England and New Zealand respectively demolishing opposition in their opening matches. One bar showing matches live is Le Pub in Pattaya’s Soi Diamond which is trialing a new audio experience in the bar. Customers may request a Bluetooth speaker that sits on your table and plays the commentary and sound from the match. Those who wish to follow the cricket can do so while those who wish to listen to music and enjoy a traditional Pattaya bar atmosphere can do that too. Le Pub has invested in a new TV system and sports are streamed from the UK, buffer free. Le Pub is also launching a bar snack menu which includes Bob Palmers famous pies, pastries and home-made fries.

The new police chief in Pattaya sent the troops out to close the bars last night at 2:30 AM, which is about half an hour earlier than many chrome pole bars like to close up in Sin City. With rain this past week, Pattaya’s nightlife has been quiet. The main gogo bars on Soi LK Metro are holding their own as bars fight for what customers are around.

Back in Bangkok, the bikini contest at Hooters in Soi Nana mentioned in last week’s column is a regular thing, every Wednesday at 9:00 PM. So I guess it’s somewhere to drop by if you can’t find bikini-clad dancers elsewhere in town.

Tomorrow (Monday, June 3rd) is a public holiday. It’s not a Buddhist holiday so I imagine the bars will open and alcohol will be served. Funnily enough, tomorrow is Queen’s Birthday in Thailand AND is also Queen’s Birthday in New Zealand. Different queen, of course.

The Australian Pub & BBQ has a great happy hour special throughout June. Aussie Hours started yesterday with all local bottled beer just 39 baht from 6 – 8 PM, every day, through until the end of June. There is also a new all-day happy hour, from 9 AM – 8 PM, on Leo & Chang draught, San Miguel Light bottles, wine and double pours on house spirits. The good news doesn’t end there. On Mondays, order one of their homemade pies and receive a free schooner of local draught beer free. On Thursdays, order Barramundi, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and you get an ice-cold schooner of your favourite local beer free!

 

aussie-bar-bangkok-aussie-hour

 

This week a long-time reader made the annual pilgrimage to the Thai consulate in Savannakhet, Laos, to apply for a new non-immigrant O visa. The Thai consulate in Savannakhet has long been favoured by some as it is quiet with relatively small numbers of people applying for a visa. Or at least that’s how it used to be. Not any more! It might be the low season in Thailand but said reader said it sure didn’t feel like that in Savannakhet. This week it was far busier in Savannakhet than he had ever seen it. He was on the first bus across the bridge in to Laos, but when he arrived at the consulate there were already hundreds of people waiting to lodge their visa application. He finally handed his passport in at 2:30 PM (the usual cut off time is midday) and was given number 379 – and he wasn’t even anywhere near the end of the queue. Could it be that Savannakhet has become so busy after the Thai Embassy in the Lao capital, Vientiane, put in place a booking system whereby you must book an appointment online – fail to do so and you will not be able to enter the embassy and cannot apply for a visa there. With the number of applicants at Vientiane thought to be limited to a few hundred per day, the spillover had to go somewhere – and it looks like Savannakhet is the number one choice.

Expect to be fingerprinted when flying in to Suwannahphum Airport with the new biometric security measures now up and running.

The visa situation in Thailand isn’t getting any easier. Thai embassies and consulates require more documentation before they will issue a visa. On arrival in Thailand you may face questions at passport control, especially if you have a long history of visiting the country. And now you can expect to be fingerprinted on arrival. Oh for the laid-back days of old when visas were handed out like candy to children and seldom did you hear of anyone being turned away. But it’s not all bad news. There is still one consulate where visas are issued very quickly and with a smile. This week a pal dropped off his visa application at the Thai consulate in Brisbane, Australia, a bit before 11 AM. He was told to pop out for a coffee and if he returned at midday the visa would be in his passport, ready for collection. It could not have been easier and the staff could not have been nicer.

 

farang-hula-hoop

Photo courtesy of reader Monty.

 

The latest farang oddity on Sukhumvit was spotted by reader Monty this past week, thrusting his hips with a hula hoop near the Asoke intersection. A fun-loving guy? Not quite right in the top 6 inches? Who knows!

More pain for our British friends with the pound back below 40 baht. Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians share your pain, we are all getting crap rates against the baht.

The prices for some things in Bangkok these days give me a fright. When you mention high prices to business owners, some take it personally and can really bite. It’s almost like by mentioning high prices you have insulted them! One restaurateur explained that he uses only high quality ingredients and they cost a lot – but when you run through the prices restaurants pay for local ingredients, the costs are low. Yet the final product is often priced higher than at an equivalent eatery here in NZ. High prices are often blamed on high rents. That might be part of it, but I think there’s more to it. Many businesses in Bangkok just aren’t efficient, and many are just plain badly run. There are few systems in place, periods when neither the owner nor a manager is on the premises, staff training is often non-existent and you just know that there are fingers in the till. Blaming high prices on rents is just a small part of the story.

 

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Reader’s story of the week comes from Yellow Fever, Tales From Thailand 4 – Return To Patpong.

Quote of the week comes from Brian the Westie, “A few of the freelancers at Biergarten look like they have been around the block more times than Mr. Whippy!

A Frenchman is arrested on Ko Samui for running a hotel without a work permit.

A law change means you won’t be able to ignore your traffic fines forever as many did in the past.

A tuktuk driver who charged 3 American passengers 500 baht each for a total of 1,500 baht for a 3.5 km journey is tracked down and charged.

 

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Soi Cowboy, late 2004.

In many ways this column is a place to relive the glory days of the bar industry and the golden age for expats in Bangkok as I comment on the present and compare with the past. It’s nostalgia as much as anything else. Sexpat Bangkok is today a very small part of expat Bangkok. What that means is that this column is much less relevant now than it was 10+ years ago. Some readers aren’t shy to remind me of this, as if it will somehow bother, upset or offend me. It is what it is and I am completely at ease with that.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]