Stickman's Weekly Column April 21st, 2024

The Clarity You Get From A Good Coffee & A Great Meat Pie

I was having a week off from the column and Bangkok should have been the last thing on my mind. It was a beautiful, cloudless, mid-Autumn day, ideal for a drive along back-country roads and a visit to a charming café known for good coffee and great pies. But it seems like Thailand is never far from my mind and on a morning’s outing in a small, country town, I’d end up thinking about Bangkok.

Otane is a 55 km / 40-minute drive from home. It’s a nondescript country town without any especially redeeming features, save for its one and only café which makes wonderful meat pies. Thais will happily battle traffic and drive across town – or even to another town – for the best som tam or the freshest seafood. We Kiwi males of a certain age think nothing of jumping in our car and driving a considerable distance for a great meat pie.

He Clinic Bangkok

It was a beautiful Autumn day with not a cloud in the sky. After a coffee and a pie – a steak & cheese, if you were wondering – I was in no hurry to head home. I thought it would be nice to wander around and explore this small town of 800 odd residents.

Otane is a quiet town, and being off the main highway there’s very little traffic. In the hour or so I wandered around, fewer than 10 cars drove by. Even in coffee-loving New Zealand, on the main road there’s just one café. There’s a hotel which looks more like a farmer’s pub than a place to stay, a general store, a handicrafts centre that I can’t imagine gets many customers and a professional services office which probably does the books and taxes for farms in the surrounding area. A typical rural New Zealand town? Not quite. Unlike many small rural towns, Otane isn’t dying. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s growing.

Adjacent to the café is a pretty, tree-lined street. Most houses are set well back from the road, and mature trees enhance each property’s privacy. From this one street alone, I could see why this small town has become something of a hot spot for those seeking the quiet life, while remaining close to a major provincial centre.

CBD bangkok

I wandered around the town, ventured down side roads and I liked what I saw. Most houses had a decent plot of land, a quarter acre or more. It wasn’t like so many small rural towns where everything feels old and there are plenty of abandoned buildings. There were streets with recently built houses, and many more homes were under construction. Most houses looked well-kept, and the impression I had was of a town where residents took genuine pride in their home.

As I wandered around Otane, I asked myself that question I always seem to ask myself these days when I go somewhere new. Could I live there? I didn’t need to think hard. I could. I lead a quiet life. I don’t eat out much at all. I don’t care for shopping. And I don’t socialise all that much. The town has high-speed fibre Internet, you can get satellite TV no problem and there are daily post and courier deliveries. Sure, it would be a quiet lifestyle and you could soon become bored, but perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad fit for me.

Don’t go thinking that the writer of a column about one of the world’s most exciting cities leads a colourful, exciting life. The truth is anything but! I enjoy the quiet life. Taking a long morning walk. Spending lots of time in the kitchen. Doing odd jobs around the house. Reading. Keeping an eye on world news, the markets and investments. That’s my life these days.

Given my lifestyle, where would I be better off? Otane, a small rural New Zealand town where I know not a soul, and most Kiwis couldn’t place on a map. Or Bangkok, a city of 10+ million people, the world’s most visited city, a city where I have many friends, and a place where almost everything is available and anything is possible.

wonderland clinic

If I had to choose today between living in Otane or living in Bangkok, Otane would get the nod. That’s not to say it’s a better place to live, but that’s how I happen to feel today. My thoughts may very well change tomorrow.

It’s not that Otane is paradise. It’s more the case that these days there are reasons why Bangkok doesn’t appeal as a place to live.

I don’t like the anti-foreigner sentiment in Thailand. For visitors, it’s probably not a thing, and it’s not to say that Thais hate foreigners – they don’t. At the same time, I truly believe that the anti-foreigner sentiment in Thailand at this time is real. Of course, if you conduct yourself as every foreigner should – are always polite, go about things with a “cool heart”, don’t break any laws and are discreet, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Each year it seems like the visa situation gets that little bit more challenging, even if the rules may not have changed. Reporting to Immigration every 90 days? That rule has been around forever – but we never bothered in the past. No-one I knew ever reported to Immigration back in the day, and no-one at Immigration cared. None of us was ever fined for failing to report, and no-one’s visa extension was declined because they hadn’t done their 90 day reporting. This is what I used to like about Thailand – there may have been plenty of regulations but many were never enforced. It’s rather different today. Don’t do your 90-day reporting and it’s a 2,000 baht fine. Worse, you won’t be able to extend your visa.

Some tell me they look at reporting to the Royal Thai Police Immigration as a morning out. Is visiting a government department with unsmiling officials who give the impression they don’t really like you really a morning out?! And yes, I know, there’s an online system but word is that it’s about as reliable as a knock-off Patpong Market Rolex.

With anti-foreigner sentiment and hoops to jump through to navigate the visa system, how secure do you feel? In those early years living in Bangkok I was young. I didn’t think that far ahead. It was all a big adventure. But as you get older, feeling secure becomes much more important.

What concerns me is that even if you do almost everything right, all it takes is for one bad decision – or one bit of really bad luck – and your life could change.

Take the Swiss hot-head in Phuket, as an example. In a moment of madness he kicked a trainee doctor in the back and verbally abused her. The actions of a thug and a seriously dumb thing to do. He’s trying hard to work things out but few see any chance of a happy ending. His life will forever change as he will almost certainly be deported from Thailand and quite possibly blacklisted, meaning he can never return. Thailand has been his home for years. He set up a business, and rented a beautiful house with his wife. His whole life was in Thailand. That is all going to be taken away. He’ll lose his business, his home and he might even end up losing his wife.

Visa rules are not the only rules you need to keep on top of. Announcements made late last year about changes to the enforcement of Thailand’s tax rules have caused all sorts of anxiety in expat circles, particularly amongst retirees who bring in funds from abroad. Anyone spending 180 days or more in the country in a calendar year is deemed a resident for tax purposes. New interpretation of this law came in to effect at the start of the year, but there has been little clarity about just what this means for foreigners who regularly transfer money in to the country. Accountants and lawyers can’t agree on what it all means. Different branches of the Revenue Department have said different things. What hope does your average foreigner have of understanding what is required of him? It’s yet another example of how the goalposts have moved for foreigners living in Thailand.

But life in Thailand is so much cheaper than home – surely that counts for something? This is generally true, but it’s not the case for everyone. It all comes back to the lifestyle you lead. Live like a Thai and it’s cheap. Live like you do at home and it might not be. You save on things like property taxes, but a decent health insurance policy in Thailand can be costly, especially as the years roll by.

And what about the issue that has had so much press recently, Thailand’s world-beating air quality. Over the past couple of months there have been days where parts of Thailand have had the worst air quality in the world! It’s so bad that some leave their home and relocate for a couple of months to escape the terrible pollution. As someone who spends a lot of time outside, Thailand would not be a great choice for me.

So that’s where my mind is currently at when it comes to the idea of living in Thailand. I still maintain that it’s a fantastic place to visit, and a wonderful holiday destination. But to live year-round? It doesn’t appeal to me like it once did. It’s amazing the clarity you get from a good meat pie, a coffee and a leisurely stroll around a country town.



Mystery Photo

Where is it?

The last column’s photo was taken out front of the Supalai building, in the space that was formerly the Australian embassy, on South Sathorn Road. A number of you said it as the Australian Embassy which, of course, is wrong – the Aussie Embassy moved to Wireless Road a number of years ago.


Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Two Weeks

Many have lost their sense of humour.

When I opened your column last Sunday, it seemed plausible to me that the column would appear a day later. At that time, I hadn’t realized yet that it was April 1st. The next day when I read the column, I quickly realized it was an April Fool’s joke. I suspected that many people would fall for it and might react angrily. It’s a shame that column was taken offline. From experience, I know you enjoy an April Fool’s prank now and then. I also thought it was successful. I can’t shake the impression that people have been reacting very differently since COVID-19.

The charms of the Nana Hotel.

I recently stayed for the first time at the Nana Hotel. The room seemed very clean at first glance. The cleaning staff did a good job. Despite the recent renovation of the room, it felt worn out. The silicone sealant around the bathtub was very dirty, but it was nice to have a bathtub. There was occasionally an unpleasant smell in the bathroom. The air-conditioning in the room was too effective for the heat. I set it to 23 degrees Celsius, but it always cooled down to 21 – 22 degrees, which was too chilly for my liking. Breakfast took place in a kind of ballroom, which felt a bit strange. The breakfast was very basic and prepared with cheap ingredients. The old bread toaster started smoking at one point because a piece of toast got stuck in it. Chaos ensued, which was amusing to see. The water in the pool was very clean, but unfortunately, the outdoor Jacuzzi was out of order, which seemed to have been the case for a while. I’ll also never forget the man sitting at a table by the elevators, checking which ‘guests’ were coming and going. There were usually 20 to 40 ID cards on his table.

Ain’t no Sunshine down soi 4.

Due to a good experience with a girl from Tanzania on a previous trip, I decided to go for it again this trip. That turned out to be a good choice. Her name was Sunshine and she was incredibly beautiful. She was the happiest girl I’ve ever had. She could dance and sing and genuinely enjoyed herself. I found her a few hundred meters away in Soi 4. There were about 15 African ladies standing around there. When I chose Sunshine, I had to wait a bit, and some administration seemed to take place. The next night, I went back to the same location, but there was no sign of Sunshine or the other African ladies.


The pollution in Bangkok at the moment has to be seen to be believed. When you fly in you can see the entire city encased in a grey dome. You can see it when you drive into the city, too. The sky is shite / grey and the buildings in the distance are blurry. It was bad enough to sting my eyes every time I went out. Truly awful. Cancer rates are already going through the roof and it will get worse.

The scenic route to Sin City.

A few minutes before 10:00 AM, I arrived at Ekkamai Bus Terminal with the intention of buying a ticket at the rightmost kiosk. But then someone holding a sign “10:00 AM” called out “Pattaya” a few counters down. I thought, why not take that? The price was 160 THB. So I ended up in a minivan, thinking we’d get to Pattaya faster than by bus. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only used a short stretch of Highway 7 and mostly drove along the coastline to Pattaya, stopping at various small minivan stations to drop off passengers. In the end, it took us 3 hours and 4 minutes to reach Pattaya. I was dropped off at Soi Buakhao.

More Readers’ Emails

When an Englishman orders tea in Bangkok.

I was in the Old English yesterday and ordered a pot of tea. Being English, that’s what I often drink. Now bear in mind this is a place that serves food and has an all-day breakfast, including unlimited tea or coffee, so it’s not like someone asking for tea is an unknown concept. I was brought a pot with hot water and a cup with a tea bag in it. I was also brought a small jug of milk, without any milk in it! I wasn’t brought any sugar or a spoon. It’s nice to know things haven’t changed since my last visit.

Is it any wonder Thailand attracts lawbreakers?

Many Thais have a holier-than-thou attitude and have been raised to believe that everything they do is perfect and that they live in the greatest country on Earth. And not only the harmless ‘car on the beach’ episode you referred to sets them off (ironically, a car driven by a Thai and not a law-breaking foreigner), but any perceived wrongdoing. Not to condone him, but does anyone believe that if the foreigner who kicked a young woman who was sitting on ‘his’ steps was instead a Thai there would have been hundreds protesting at the site? Of course not. And did they protest that a Thai had built those steps illegally? Of course not. At the same time, Thailand also needs to look itself in the mirror and ask why their country attracts so many law breakers and low-lifes. Does Singapore have the same problem? Malaysia? Japan? Thailand is known for its slack respect for the law, so is it any wonder it attracts lawbreakers?

When the rules aren’t known.

The hassle of dealing with Thai officials that you mentioned last week is something we have all suffered and, as you say, it’s Thais who have to deal with this as well as us foreigners. Sometimes it might be them just being difficult, something they believe their uniform entitles them to be. But equally it might be that they simply don’t know their own rules. They are poorly trained or the rules are too complicated. Last year the immigration officer I was dealing with kept referring to his rule book – and it was as thick as an old-style London telephone directory, hundreds of pages thick. No wonder they don’t know what the rules are.

A classic only in Thailand moment.

You mentioned the difficulty a reader had in finding the Bangkok Post. I once went into a shop that had it but the shopkeeper refused to sell me that day’s as he hadn’t sold out of the previous day’s yet. One of those Only In Thailand moments.

Where to find the Bangkok Post.

The Bangkok Post is no longer sold in Foodland in Sukhumvit Soi 5 so I go to Central Chidlom for a copy. On the ground floor next to the supermarket, you can find the Bangkok Post for 30 baht, or 40 baht for the Sunday edition.


Songkran was celebrated on Soi Nana with water warfare.


This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Songkran is over for another year. Photos shared by friends gave the impression that this year’s water wars were crazy. Soi Nana was bedlam. Back in the day, Soi Nana was never really known for Songkran revelry. It was more of a thing on Soi Cowboy. This year, Soi Nana was as crazy as anywhere. A friend who visited Bangkok over Songkran and stayed in the Nana area had the following thoughts, “I think there are only two ways to cope with Songkran. Either do as you do and stay away (many thousands of miles away in your case), or you do as I’m doing this year and embrace it and get involved. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to come to Bangkok at this time and not be affected.”

There is genuine intrigue amongst industry-observers about how the bar business will fare over the next few months. It used to be that the end of Songkran marked the beginning of the slow season and there is a sense that things may revert to that pattern. Holiday periods are usually followed by a few very good nights in the bars and a bump in trade – and that was very much the case this weekend. With Cowboy it’s always difficult to tell whether it’s mainly lookyloos or genuine naughty boys, but photos show trade looked decent. Nana was doing very well and last night was said to be packed. Word is that in the days since Songkran, there are a lot of Japanese and Indians about.

The murals / street art mentioned in the last column are appearing in Nana Plaza as the complex is spruced up. I have not seen the street art with my own eyes yet but a friend mentioned that this, along with all of the new bars and their new signage has the plaza feeling a little bit more upmarket than other bar areas.


Street art, a new feature in Nana Plaza.


One of the biggest stories in the nightlife industry last year was the arrest of the Austrian operator of a handful of Patpong soi 2 bars who also happened to be the creator and curator of the Museum of Patpong. It was not the Patpong bars that brought him to the attention of the authorities, but a bar in Phuket. You may recall that there were allegations of underage girls working in a Phuket bar with customers directed to a nearby hotel with ladies not of legal age. The bar was managed by a Swiss fellow and the off-site hotel operation was said to be the brainchild of a Thai mamasan. But it was the Austrian’s name on the company documents which saw him arrested in Chiang Mai, and taken to Phuket where he was charged with human trafficking. The verdict was delivered this past week, and I just about fell off my chair when I heard that he had been sentenced to 50 years in prison. Now, to be clear, I am totally against anything underage and firmly believe that anyone who facilitates it should be locked up. But a 50-year sentence for someone who owned the company and who was, in the opinion of most who know him, unaware of what was going on seems awfully harsh. This fellow was respected in the bar industry and most people considered him to be one of the good guys. His arrest and prison sentence should serve as a massive warning to anyone involved in the industry, be it bar owner, manager or mamasan: this could happen to you!

Directly across the road from Nana Plaza is Nana Nightclub, the disco which opened in the car park of the Nana Hotel a few months ago. You’d think the location would all but guarantee success, but that has not been the case. No-one is talking about Nana Nightclub, there’s zero hype and it has struggled to gain traction. This week I asked a friend to check out Nana Nightclub and see whether the lack of recent reports is an indicator of trade. He would comment that it would not be appropriate to use the word “quiet” to describe Nana Nightclub; the word “dead” would be more fitting. Between 11:30 PM and 3:00 AM, few people were observed entering. At 2:45 AM – which should be prime time for such a venue – there were fewer than 20 people inside – and that includes all of the staff. Things don’t look great for the Nana nightclub. Its profile needs to be raised and some hype generated, lest it find itself relegated to the annals of Bangkok bar history.


A couple of the lovely ladies from Lace Lounge.


Nana Plaza has its first VIP Club in the form of Lace Lounge, the swanky new spot above Tycoon A Gogo. During low season, Lace’s outside entrance will be open only on Fridays and Saturdays. But, if on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday you’re enjoying yourself with a Tycoon temptress downstairs, the two of you can adjourn upstairs to the comfy, cosy, quieter Lace Lounge for a VIP experience.

Still in Nana Plaza, remember Spanky’s got a new manager recently? It’s the best paying gogo manager’s position in the industry nationwide, I believe. Well, the guy who got the job has gone already. He had come from a Pattaya soi 6 bar and had experience in the industry, so you’d think he’d be a good fit, right? In the end, he lasted just 3 days. A new fellow was appointed a couple of weeks back. Many say they’d love to be a bar manager but the reality is that many don’t last long. It might appear to be glamorous work, but it’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. No way in the world could I do it, not even for one night.

Popular soi 11 freelancer venue Climax has reopened. The photos below were taken the Wednesday before Songkran. It was early, hence it looks quiet. Like a lot of venues of this nature, things get going later in the night. And obviously it will take time for word to get out that Climax has reopened. There were quite a few groups who had elected for table service, but interestingly, there was not a single freelancer to be seen. Given its history, expect that to change. Entry is 300 baht and includes one drink. Drinks prices are typical for late-night venues – a Singha beer will set you back 250 baht. Climax is part of the Hillary Group and there were lots of staff present from Hillary 3, which is located further up Soi 11 on the other side of the soi.


Climax, Sukhumvit soi 11, is open again.


The African drug dealers may have disappeared for a  short time but they are very much back on the streets. Their numbers may not be what they were and neither are they quite as upfront or brazen as they were – but they are once again a fixture along the busiest section of Sukhumvit and its side sois.

A reminder that Midnite in Soi Cowboy – one of the Arab’s bars – has a much-deserved reputation as a rip-off bar. This past week a reader and his pal stopped by. The bill for two customer drinks and two lady drinks was 1,800 baht. It’s easy to forget Midnite is an Arab bar as he acquired it long after many of his other bars. And some of us still fondly remember how, for a time around the turn of the century, Midnite was one of the best bars in Soi Cowboy. Given all the reports of nonsense at Midnite in recent years, it’s amazing that it’s still in business. I guess there are always newbies to fleece.

Mandarin Club, Red Dragon and Shark Club are keeping the spirit of high season alive with another Full Moon Party, this coming Tuesday, April 23rd.

Virgin on Patpong soi 2 has had many rave reviews, but multiple readers have commented on something about the bar which no-one likes: an all-male service staff team. Staffing a girly bar with an all-male service crew has never really made sense to me.

Horny and looking for a bargain? There is much more on offer at Lolita’s than the primary service for which the venue has long been known for – and the going rate is lower than elsewhere. Just don’t go kissing her!

For the Brits, Tuesday is St. George’s Day and The Old English Bangkok is putting on a food and booze special. Three hours of free-flow Leo beer will set you back just 799 baht. Order any main course menu item and get three hours of free-flow house wine and premium beers including Guinness, Stella Artois, Mahou IPA, Brewdog Punk IPA or Hazy Jane, for 1,499 baht.

Where can you watch European Cup football matches, some of which run through until around 4:00 AM or so – which is well after most bars close. One bar which shows these matches is The Game, below the Nana skytrain station. At 2:00 AM, the shutters go down and after that time, no-one can enter. Those already inside can stay, continue to drink and watch the match. After 2:00 AM there are no open bills and every drink ordered has to be paid for when it is brought to your table.

Next Sunday, April 28th, at Smalls in Sathorn, the Midnight Ramblers, a Bangkok-based Rolling Stones cover band, performs its final show as part of an evening-long Farewell Party. The band, which began life as Sticky Fingers 6 years ago, will perform the entirety of the Stones’ album of the same name along with other classics.

Down in Pattaya, the Las Vegas Beer Complex has finally opened. The original plan was to open in mid-January. Initial reports have been generally positive. The complex is brand-new, full air-conditioned and features an unusual design with bars along either side of the long complex and tables in the middle. Girls from the bars wander amongst the tables and don’t necessarily only go to the tables next to their bar, which can make things a little confusing. Drinks prices are said to be typical for beer bars.


Thai At Home, a Thai eatery in France.


An eagle-eyed Frenchman sent the photo above of a Thai eatery, Thai At Home, from his hometown of Paris. I note the words cantine thai authentique which I presume translates as authentic Thai food. This is quite humorous given that the same sign also says “Not Spicy”. Has something been lost in translation, or is it perhaps that the French are not so keen on fiery chilli? Not spicy and authentic really shouldn’t appear together when describing Thai food.

The young, homeless foreigner hanging around Sukhumvit soi 14 I mentioned a few weeks back is still living on the street – and it sounds like he’s in a worse state than the last report. He was spotted by a reader going through a rubbish bin, digging out cigarette butts and smoking them. He was seen taking out cups and bottles and consuming whatever was inside. He is wearing the very same threads he was seen in a few weeks back and has been observed wandering in circles.

Sadly, that fellow is just one of the many troubled foreigners in Bangkok. Late Sunday night last week on Sukhumvit soi 2, a young foreigner jumped from the 10th floor balcony of an apartment building and landed on a small Toyota parked on the soi. A reader who was unfortunate to see the immediate aftermath said that fellow also appeared to be quite young. I searched for news reports of this incident but couldn’t find anything and it did not appear to be reported anywhere in the mainstream media – which reinforces what I have long thought that many more foreigners commit suicide in Thailand than are reported.

Thailand’s largest expat forum, ASEANNow (formerly ThaiVisa), changed hands this week. Several years ago, the Swedish founder of the forum sold it to a Brit, with the sale price reported to be somewhere between 26 million and 35 million baht. A Reddit thread earlier this week mooted that a deal was imminent with The Thaiger about to acquire the forum. This generated some chit-chat on the ASEANNow forum itself before the discussion was quickly shut down. A couple of days later, the deal was confirmed. The mooted sale price of 3 million baht is a small fraction of what the seller originally paid for it, and shows how many websites have plummeted in value. Put that down to social media, especially YouTube and Facebook, which together are killing old-style websites and forums. Just why The Thaiger would acquire the forum isn’t clear. Like most English language Thailand-centric sites, the impression you get is that ASEANNow is in decline. This is not a slight on the forum and applies to all Thailand-centric websites, this one included. I guess ASEANNow’s biggest asset is its mailing list, reputed to be in excess of a quarter of a million email addresses. Whether there will be much change to the way the forum is run remains to be seen.

There have been many reports in the media over the past several weeks of foreigners being arrested for working without a work permit. At the same time, I imagine there are still many thousands of foreigners working without that little blue book. Some foreigners do stuff in Thailand and get away with it, while others are visited by the police. What gives? What’s acceptable in Thailand and what is not? Perhaps a good guide of what is acceptable and what is not, is whether what you’re doing is embarrassing any Thais. If you do not embarrass any Thais, then you might be ok. But if you are causing embarrassment or face loss to Thais, look out!

Thailand-Related News Articles

Reader’s Story Of The Week is Lamentations Of An Old Bastard, another in a long line of a Thai girl done me wrong stories.

A German assaults a bar worker in Pattaya over a bar bill (there have since been claims the German is actually an American).

What is up with all these foreigners going mad in Thailand?

Time magazine looks at the Russian invasion of Thailand.

The ASEANNow forum (formerly ThaiVisa) has been acquired by The Thaiger.

A Chinese couple nick a million baht diamond from an MBK jeweller’s and flee the country.

Talks are underway to build the world’s tallest building in Bangkok.

Former British consul, Barry Kenyon, notes that fewer British tourists and expats are going to Thailand.


Songkran on Soi Nana this year was very busy.


Closing Comments

I really enjoyed taking a week off. I needed a break, and as much as I enjoy writing this column, I didn’t miss it last week. The nature of this column means that I cannot take an extended period off which is a shame. Sometimes it feels like it would be great to take a few weeks off. But when I have taken an extended break in the past, it has taken a long time to get back in to the groove. So I guess that means no more time off for me for a while.

Your Bangkok commentator,



nana plaza