Thai Life


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21st December

  Surviving Homeland Customs

Based on tips from a long thread on Pattaya Talk

Having had a great time in Thailand one can get woken up to the bollox of farang life as soon as one hits the homeland Customs Hall.

Customs have awesome powers and it is always best to avoid anything that may let Customs jump to conclusions.

Unfortunately single middle aged men returning from Thailand fit a profile for sex tourists seeking under age sex. There is probably little one can do to shake off this stereotyping, so it is best just to be prepared for hassle.

First of all Customs have precious little time to establish any suspicions so they do not waste time with genuine small talk. Their apparently innocuous questions about having a good time etc establish simple facts that they can check for consistency. Eg they start off asking you about where you have been, they will then keep an eye out for guide books and spare cash, hotel stickers etc to ensure that they match your small talk. They may also check your wallet for similar reasons.

It is probably wise to weave in a mention of your wife if you have one. I guess that they may be more likely to be worrying about single men.

Similarly with business trips, they ask about your line of work with view to checking this against what they find in your luggage. The American customs seem particularly keen on checking your business card probably for similar reasons. They also tend to examine any other business cards they find on your person.

Cursory level scans seem to focus on the contents of your toilet bag, probably unlikely to be relevant for travelers from Thailand probably more to do with the temptations from a country like the Netherlands.

Cameras and lap tops seem a particular focus for US Customs. No doubt looking for pictures of kids. Probably best to review the pictures in your camera and on your laptop before travel. Adult consensual hardcore porn is perfectly legal to import into many countries including the UK but maybe it would be best to avoid highlighting at least the possibility of being a sex tourist.

It may be that Customs may want to scan your laptop. Why not be prepared and scan your own computer for all its images before you set out.

If you have some pictures that you would rather like to keep out of the gaze of the scan then groups of them should be compressed into reasonably sized files (ie not the biggest and most obvious files on the disk). For safety these can then be encrypted. You should also change the file extension (3 letters after the dot) to something innocuous like .dat. Perhaps then place them in a games folder where they wont stand out. Probably not a good idea to hide all your pictures, that may arouse suspicions too, particularly if you are carrying a camera.

Never attempt to encrypt an entire disk or partition, this would stand out like a sore thumb. However strong the encryption is, it is trivially easy for Customs to demand the key on the back of threat to detain you until you cooperate.

A few other suggestions:

If you have copy CDs then throw away the giveaway sleeve and maybe copy the disk onto a blank marked with your own handwriting. After all you are surely allowed to copy your own disks for back up purposes.

Don't buy brand new luggage abroad, Customs assume that anyone bringing an obviously new case may have filled it up with goods brought abroad which are likely to be above the duty free limit.

US Customs are pretty strict about your list of goods brought abroad being accurate.

The US limit on importing cash is apparently $10,000 but seemingly any more than $3000 arouses suspicions.



14th December

  Living Up Country

From Stickman  

Is The "Real Thailand" A Real Option?

Wandering around Bangkok's Sukhumvit, Siam Square, Khao Sarn Road, Silom or any of at least a dozen other areas, one could be mistaken for thinking that they were in a farangised version of Thailand. Westerners can be seen everywhere, shops stock foreign brand name goods, and there are more signs in English than in Thai.

But there are those who bemoan the reminders of Farangland in Thailand, people whose desire it is to experience not just a more Thai version of Thailand, but the so-called real Thailand.

I want to live the real Thailand. That is what I want to experience, not the metropolis of Bangkok, or Phuket or Pattaya, enclaves of which bear a greater resemblance to Farangland than Thailand itself. I want to experience and embrace the real Thailand, and the real Thai people.

I cringe when I hear people saying that they want to live their life in the "real Thailand". It is not that it is unpleasant, more that it is not quite what they expect.

The first thing one notices in the real Thailand, "Up Country", is the living arrangements, which tend to be group style. Two, three or sometimes even four generations of a family may live together, in what appears to be harmony.

And not only do they live together, they do things together. They go on outings together. They eat together. They watch TV together. In fact I sometimes wonder just what they don't do together.

You want to buy a car? Don't expect to choose it without consulting with the family! You want something small and sporty like a Honda Jazz? Well that would be all very well but there are 19 of you in the family and 19 won't fit into a Jazz! And then there is grandmother's back. Getting into a Jazz might be something of an ordeal for the old duck. No, no, a Jazz just will not cut it. Now you may want manual transmission because the joy of driving is one of life's pleasures, one of those things you sorely miss from Farangland. Forget it! Old Aunt Noi can only drive an automatic, so an automatic it will be. And black? Black? Who buys black cars? Gold is the colour that grandmother says it must be.

Get the picture? Individualism goes out the window. This might seem like something of an extreme example, but this is how things are in a Thai family. The family ALWAYS comes first, no matter what. That's the real Thailand!

In the real Thailand the quality of the produce, particularly meats and poultry, is not what you find in the capital or in the areas popular with tourists. And the further you get into the countryside, the worse it seems to get. Admittedly, the quality of fruit and vegetables does not differ much, the but range available may be limited.

Farang comforts go out the window. There may be no cable TV, no English language newspapers available, and few or possibly even no other farangs. Forget your imported food products. You won't find imported New Zealand lamb, Turkish apricots or your other favourite food products in the provinces.

Westerners resident in the Thai countryside really are looked at as the proverbial walking ATM. When the locals see such farangs their first thought will be money. If you do anything wrong and they feel they could use it against you, there is a very real chance that they will, for a cash settlement, of course.

When we look at it more closely, just what is the real Thailand that so many wax lyrical about?

The real Thailand is to me the epitome of all things that most farangs do not really want! In the real Thailand, you do what your elders tell you to do and you can toss any ideas of individualism out the window. You want to go and do this or that? You consult the group, in other words the family, first.

I understand that maybe you didn't come to Thailand to eat McDonalds, sip coffee at Starbucks, and buy Western brand name goods but hey, there is nothing wrong with doing those things from time to time, is there? Is it not true that most farangs who come to Thailand want to avail themselves of the advantages that the country offers over their homeland - warm weather year round, friendly people and affordable prices - without giving up some of the advantages that you only find in the areas popular with farangs.

Don't let anyone tell you there is anything wrong with desiring a good imported a steak, watching your favourite football team, or having a beer with your farang buddies.

I used to think it would be great to sit down and watch a night of TV, back when my language ability was not up to it. Now I find I can stomach the news but that's it. Once the soaps, game shows or "funny shows" come on, it's time to get online. Thai TV, like so many other things in Thailand, pleases the locals, but really doesn't appeal to foreigners.

Whenever I meet Westerners in the countryside, they crave conversation with other farangs. They tell you how wonderful the real Thailand is and how they could never live in Bangkok, yet they beg you for the 3 day old copy of the Bangkok Post sitting in your car, and any other English language material you may have. You have to make excuses to get away, and you can see in their eyes that they are desperately lonely.

Trust me farang, you'll have a more enjoyable, fulfilling life in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin or somewhere similar, than you would somewhere rural or remote, somewhere with little to remind you of all things farang. As farangs there is much we embrace about Thailand and Thai culture, but severing ties with our roots is something most of us are unable to do. A few do it successfully, but truth be told, most don't.

So the next time someone tells you that they know the real Thailand and you don't, don't get too worried or upset at it. Odds are that you are enjoying yourself a lot more than they are!


29th November

  Don't Let your Typhoid Jabs Lapse

Spotted by Thai Visa

About half of all Thais admit to not washing their hands before touching or eating food, a recent survey has found. The results coincide with an annual increase in the incidence of diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid, which are often related to poor personal hygiene.

Although the hand-washing figure was lower than last year, it is still too high, Public Health Minister Pinij Charusombat said yesterday. Last year, the ministry's survey found that 65 per cent of people said they did not wash their hands before handling or eating food. Hand washing has been proven to help stop the spread of germs, Pinij said.

The combined total number of cases of diarrhoea, dysentery or typhoid rose by more than 200,000 this year, said Pinij. The rise was an apparent consequence of the population's poor hygiene standards, he said.

The survey also revealed that some four in 10 people said they did not wash their hands after using the toilet.

The Public Health Ministry is encouraging the public to pay more attention to personal hygiene, particularly those involved with food processing and cooking, said Dr Pratch Boonyawongwiroj, an acting public health secretary.


28th November   The Morning After

From the BBC

The 'Beer goggles' effect explained

Alcohol is not the only factor in the beer goggles formula. Scientists believe they have worked out a formula to calculate how "beer goggles" affect a drinker's vision.

The drink-fuelled phenomenon is said to transform supposedly "ugly" people into beauties - until the morning after.

Researchers at Manchester University say while beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder, the amount of alcohol consumed is not the only factor. Additional factors include the level of light in the pub or club, the drinker's own eyesight and the room's smokiness. The distance between two people is also a factor.

Beer goggles formula ratings:

  • Less than one: No effect
  • 1-50: Person you would normally find unattractive appears less "visually offensive"
  • 51-100: Non-appealing person becomes suddenly attractive
  • More than 100: Someone not considered attractive looks like a super model

They all add up to make the aesthetically-challenged more attractive, according to the formula. The formula can work out a final score, ranging from less than one - where there is no beer goggle effect - to more than 100.

Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester, said: For example, someone with normal vision, who has consumed five pints of beer and views a person 1.5 metres away in a fairly smoky and poorly lit room, will score 55, which means they would suffer from a moderate beer goggle effect.

The research was commissioned by eyecare firm Bausch & Lomb PureVision. A poll showed that 68% of people had regretted giving their phone number to someone to whom they later realised they were not attracted.


26th November   Who Runs Thai TV?

Prime Minister (PM) Thaksin Shinawatra owns the Shin Corporation and is the leader of the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) political party.


  • Channel 3 - MCOT owned, operated by BEC - Maleenonts, Thai Rak Thai party members
  • Channel 5 - Owned and operated by the Thai Army
  • Channel 7 - Army owned, operated by BBTV
  • Channel 9 - MCOT owned and operated
  • Channel 11 - PRD owned and operated (under Prime Ministers Office), public TV with no ads
  • ITV - Thaksin's Shin Corporation owned and operated under concession from PM Office
  • UBC - Bangkok cable (and Satellite TV), owned by CP family - close to TRT, MCOT concession


22nd November   A Bar in a Million

A few ideas to think through when contemplating buying a bar business

From Justtony on  PattayaTalk

Basically you own the lease on the bar (or your wife does) you don't own the land that the bar sits on so you are renting. You have to "buy" the bar from the person selling it again he is charging you for the business and good will (if he has been trading for a long time) There are people on this board that will tell you stay clear of a beer bar and you will lose your money but in reality you will get out of it what you put in. I had 3 beer bars and they all gave me a very good living in Thailand until i decided that i had enough of the game so it can be done. Another board member hammer opened one up a few months ago and he is doing well.

Its the same as any business you have to work hard at it. There are 1000's of beer bars in Pattaya why would people come to yours. You have to have nice looking women and above all else you have to be there a lot of the time as people you meet will expect to see you there when they pop in for a drink.

Drink prices has overall increased in beer bars since i had them. Typically a vodka and orange will cost you 80 baht (16 to make) a black soda about 90 baht (32 to make) and a beer about 75 baht (between 23-35 to buy) so there is a large amount of profit to be made.

Also a lease on a beer generally is for 1 year then it is renewed by paying money for a new lease to the landlord This is called Tea or key money and basically is glorified rent paid in advance. Never pay more than you can afford to lose as the lease is a renewable one you never know if it will be renewed. When i brought a bar in Soi 2 on a one year renewable lease i was told 3 months later that the bar complex was being knocked down and yet 6 years later it is still there and looks like will be there for ever, so knowledge of what's going to happen is important as well.

Try to buy a long established bar you might end up paying a bit more but in my opinion its better to pay say 800,000 for an established beer bar in a good area then say pay 200,000 for one in a complex that has just opened with no customers.

Good luck whatever you decide


28th October


  What's Up Down South

A useful summary of the unrest that makes South Thailand a very dangerous place to be.

From The Times By Richard Lloyd-Parry

A murderous conflict in the land of smiles

Hundreds of people have been killed in southern Thailand in an uprising shrouded in mystery

Even when you know what is happening in southern Thailand — and how much blood has been shed — it is difficult to identify exactly when you have crossed into the Red Zone. The only notable difference is the absence of people, and the faces that do peer from the wooden verandahs are suspicious and unsmiling.

Westerners think of Thailand as a place of sunshine and smiles, but in the villages of the Red Zone, a few hours south of the tourist beaches of Phuket and Ko Samui, a cruel and neglected conflict is unfolding.

It began early last year with a series of bold and well-organised attacks on Thai military facilities by suspected Islamic militants. In the subsequent 21 months, more than 1,000 people have died and thousands more have been terrorised and injured.

The victims have been monks, teachers and soldiers from the Buddhist north of the country. Others have included ordinary villagers from the Muslim Malay community, which makes up 80 per cent of the far south's population, and members of the mysterious Islamic insurgency.

It is a savage and ghostly conflict, fought by night in paddy fields, jungles and isolated villages, by unidentified combatants for obscure reasons.

On a recent Wednesday night hundreds of insurgents raided 50 villages across the south. Five villagers and two insurgents were killed as the attackers seized 70 shotguns distributed by the Thai Army to defend against just such incidents.

The dream of the insurgents is to raise this to the level of international terrorism, said Lieutenant Colonel Manoeh Anantsithkool, a police superintendent in the province of Narathiwat. The situation is getting more and more violent.

The origins of the conflict go back to 1902, when the independent Muslim Sultanate of Pattani was incorporated into the Buddhist kingdom of Thailand. The three "Sultan provinces" have always been among the poorest parts of the country; in language, ethnicity and religion their people have more in common with the inhabitants of Malaysia across the border. Separatist unrest simmered for decades until progressive policies aimed at reducing poverty caused it to peter out in the 1990s.

Then in January last year, out of nowhere, 100 armed men stormed an army barracks close to the Malaysian border and seized 400 assault rifles, machineguns, pistols and rocket launchers. Since then deadly violence has occurred somewhere in the three provinces almost every day.

There have been roadside bombs aimed at military convoys. Hitmen on motorbikes have murdered patrolling soldiers or village headmen. Buddhist rubber tappers have been attacked and beheaded on their lonely plantations. This month an elderly Buddhist monk was murdered in his temple.

In Tanyong Limo, the young men shot dead at the tea house had just come from evening prayers at the mosque. When two Thai marines drove by later, they were pulled from their car and murdered by a mob, convinced that they had carried out the killings.

If the insurgents are indeed set on re-establishing an independent Islamic state of Pattani, they are doing a poor job of setting out their agenda. There have been no manifestos or demands, and there are no active insurgent websites or spokesmen.

If they're real separatists why they don't announce who they are? asks Abdulrahman Abdulsamat, a Muslim leader from Narathiwat province.

And why did the violence rekindle when it did? Almost all independent commentators cite the same reason: gross mishandling by the Government. The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, removed an army general who had been winning over the disaffected Muslims and instead gave power in the region to the notoriously corrupt Thai police.

The security forces fuelled the spreading insurgency with a series of gross human rights violations. Suspects have been held for months on treason charges only to be acquitted for lack of evidence. A year ago 1,300 demonstrators were arrested in the town of Tak Bai, handcuffed and piled on top of one another in the back of army lorries; 78 were crushed to death.

The local officials treat our people as if we are uncivilised, as if our dress is bizarre, as if we speak a strange language,  Abdulsamat said. I've spent years in the Middle East, but even the Israelis never treated the Palestinians the way the army treated Muslims at Tak Bai.

The insurgency has yet to attract much outside attention, for two reasons. There is no evidence, yet, of foreign involvement — from Jemaah Islamiyah, for example, the organisation linked to al-Qaeda that is held responsible for the Bali bombs. And the outrages have been confined to the south, well away from Bangkok and the foreign tourist resorts.

One bomb in a Phuket hotel, or a Bangkok embassy, and the Red Zone's troubles would suddenly seem much closer to home.


19th August   Mug Shots for the Surveillance State

Presumably for the new facial recognition surveillance technology that the UK is so keen on.

From Pattaya Today

The British embassy has announced a tightening of the regulations for the two identical photographs when UK nationals apply for a new passport. They must have been taken in the last month, be exactly 45 mm x 35 mm in size, printed on plain, white photo quality paper (not embossed or watermarked), produced against an off-white, cream or light grey background and show you with a closed mouth and a neutral expression. The full details can be found on the embassy's website.

Incidentally, the current fees are 5,175 baht (32 pages) or 6,150 (48 pages), but add 40 baht if you want the new document returning by EMS post.


15th August   When Last Orders may Really be Your Last

Sometimes the menfolk of my row of houses have an impromptu get together over a beer in front of the house. I invariably take my leave after an hour or so. There is invariably a major argument or even a fight that breaks out a couple of hours after I have gone. I tread very carefully amongst drunk Thai men... even friends and neighbours.

From Stickman

Just returned from Pattaya and Bangkok today, nursing a very black eye, bruised head and thumped neck. I complained when a staff member took my beer off me at around 2 AM, (in a bar of Walking Street). The security thumped me in the back of the neck. I hit the floor and around six others appeared to try to kick my head off. My girlfriend had me in a pick-up, and quickly out of there! Looks like lethal force is in down there! Or maybe the beginnings of a new Thai sport, farang bashing. I think some may have a very large chip on their shoulders.

A s mall part of an article from last week's Stickman  

I used to think that Bangkok was safe, but recent events have forced me to reconsider this.

I do voluntary teaching to policemen from three different police stations. After the lesson ends the cops usually hang around and chat and we chat about life in Thailand. One of the coppers said to me that there has been a huge increase in the number of rapes in Thailand in the last year and said that it has become a much bigger problem now than it ever was in the past. He said it was getting much worse, not just in Bangkok, but nationwide. These cops, the very guys who are right there at the coal face, told me that violent crime is on the increase in Thailand.

Some of the worst violence is warring between the students of rival vocational schools, but it is not unknown between high school students either. It's easy to feel that this is a Thai vs. Thai thing and that foreigners don't get caught up in it but nothing could be further from the truth. There is a vocational college on Phyathai Road, a few hundred metres away from Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre. This institute has been the subject of drive by shootings and I see farang tourists wandering around lost in that area all the time.

A former colleague of mine was on a red bus recently when a petrified vocational college student jumped on and tried to run through while pursued by two boys from a rival vocational college. One of the pursuers swung a machete which passed just a few inches above my friend's head, narrowly missing him, but going straight into an older woman's shoulder, sending her to the floor and my mate covered in blood.

One bar owner who gives me plenty of news and gossip said to me that there have been a heap of fights in and around his bar area but he wouldn't tell me about them in detail for fear I would run it in the column and it would have a detrimental effect on business.

There was a quite awful, graphic description of an attack on a foreigner posted on various Thailand websites last weekend. The foreign gentleman was attacked while on the back of a motorbike being ridden by another foreigner late on Saturday night, last weekend. In what appeared to be a random act of violence by a motorbike gang against a foreigner, he was attacked with clubs, knives and machetes, beaten up and basically mutilated! He was rushed to emergency surgery where one leg was amputated in emergency surgery before he went on to die a day and a half later.

There would appear to be a number of contributing factors. First off is the increased nationalism that came about, oh, around early 2001. I wonder what that coincided with? Whereas in the past foreigners used to be tolerated, I feel that more and more Thais do not accept us as they did in the past, and that many actually resent us. Farangs are no strangers to every corner of Thailand, and being unique isn't a card we can play anymore. More and more, Thais seem to have a short fuse with farangs and if pushed, have the propensity to go crazy, which means violence.

Then there was the crackdown on drugs which broke the supply chain and resulted in the cost of drugs soaring. Addicts could no longer afford their fix and those desperate for drugs resorted to desperate measures. Crimes were, and still are, committed to raise funds to feed their habit, and the common man, the likes of you and I, could be their next victim.

If you do get into a spot of bother, you should remember that Thais tend not to interfere or intervene in public spats or fights, even if it is plainly clear that someone is being unfairly attacked, beaten up on or whatever. They'll stand back and watch, but that's generally all they'll do. And when the police get involved, they do not always handle things the same way that police in the West do. Many a foreigner has felt let down by the level of support or follow up from Thai police.

I'd urge you to do your very best to avoid any trouble that could escalate into a fight or an incident. Smile, back down, walk away, apologise, admit fault even if you weren't at fault. Do whatever you can to diffuse the situation. When you're on the ground unable to get up, and obviously unable to defend yourself, it doesn't necessarily stop - in fact that is when the big hits start, and the real damage is done. Too many people have suffered when the ante has been raised to ridiculous levels.

And where in the world, in the West at least, do people continue to put the boot in and cause grievous harm even when someone is down? The damage done is taken to a whole new level and it is almost as if the perpetrators want to permanently maim the victim.

Many of the attacks happen at night, late at night, and this means that most people will be safe at home, thankfully. Read the reports and so often they occur very late at night so going to bed early drastically reduces the chances of being a victim. But that's the last thing some people want to do in Bangkok.

So it might not be Bogotá yet, but the increase in violence that we're seeing in Bangkok, both planned and random acts of violence, has to be a concern for anyone spending a lot of time here, particularly those people who choose it as their new home. Don't take your safety for granted.


1st August   Border Hassle Beggars Belief

I can confirm the warning, One of my party had to fight off a child pick pocket who had a hand in his wallet pocket. They tend to hassle in packs and it is easy to get distracted by one when another goes for a grab on the wallet. Hardly inspirational for a visit to Cambodia

From The Nation

Officials at the Aranyaprathet immigration checkpoint say their hands are tied when it comes to dealing with the dozens of Cambodian children who beg and sometimes steal from tourists.

Efforts to crack down on the nuisance have drawn a flood of complaints from children's-rights groups, immigration officers and local police said yesterday

The children won't just go when we tell them to. When we wield a stick, children's-rights activists are quick to accuse us of harming the kids, said Pol Lt-Colonel Benjapol Rodsawas, an inspector at Aranyaprathet checkpoint.

Local police say they sometimes brandish small sticks to deter the children, but do not actually strike them. When we arrest the children, the activists lambaste us. Now, we virtually can't touch these children , Benjapol said.

Immigration officials said there were more than 100 Cambodians aged between three and 12 years old who persistently begged from tourists in front of the Aranyaprathet checkpoint. When their pleas were rejected, the children brazenly searched the tourists' bags and often stole valuables, especially cell phones.

The children worked in large groups, officials said, and passed the stolen items from member to member so quickly that it was extremely difficult to get them back. When officials arrived to search the young suspects, the items were usually gone.

Lt-Colonel Subin Boonlek, deputy superintendent of Tambon Khlong Luek police station, said officials found it hard to tackle the problem of Cambodian beggars roaming the border due to actions taken by children's-rights groups in Thailand and Cambodia. If we catch these children today and deport them, tomorrow they come back , he added.

A tour guide said, Some tourists have lost their cell phones to such gangs and they complain that Thai authorities don't do anything.

A four-year-old Cambodian, who identified himself only as "Yome", said his mother told him to beg for money on the Thai side. Some days, I can steal a cell phone. When I sell it to people under the bridge, I get Bt500. Then my mum keeps Bt450 and I am given Bt50


30th July   Sex Toys

It is apparently illegal to sell toys in Thailand. But thankfully not to own or to use. I have never seen any shops or market stalls selling them either. Probably not much demand from the farangs when such obvious alternatives are available.

The easiest way is therefore to bring them with you. The feeling on the forum is that customs don't seize them when spotted during a sifting of your undies.

From Pattaya Pages forum

I got searched at Don Muang once, about 1 Year ago. They Xrayed both my suitcases first, then asked me to open one of them. They asked a few questions, then more carefully examined one plastic bag, in which I had a vibrator. The customs guy looked inside this bag, smiled, put it back, and told me I can proceed, everything ok!


20th July   UK Immigration are Coughing Blood

From The Telegraph

Thousands of visitors to Britain from six countries are to be screened for tuberculosis before they begin their journeys, the Home Office said yesterday.

The rule applies to travellers from Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Tanzania and Sudan wishing to stay in Britain for more than six months. Currently, they are tested for TB on arrival.

The six countries have the highest levels of the disease, according to the World Health Organisation. TB is a disease associated with poverty and was responsible for 20 per cent of all deaths in Victorian England.

The disease had largely been eradicated until increased levels of immigration. In 2003, 13,000 people from the six countries came to Britain for more than half a year.


17th July   Farang Friendly Banks

From Pattaya Pages


Bank Of Ayudhya I grabbed a ticket from the machine for "opening new accounts". 30 seconds later my number was called. I sat down with a Teller who spoke perfect English, and handed him my Passport.

I filled in one form with my name and address on, and signed my name a few times. I then gave him 500 Baht to open the account and 150 Baht for a Visa Electron card.

Four minutes later, I'm walking out the branch with my savings book, Visa ATM card, and Pin number.

Note that a Visa Electron card is a little limited in its usage. It is better to go for a bank that will give a full Visa debit card

Bangkok Bank Just a passport is required for ID. Bangkok Bank will open a savings account for you with a bank book and a ATM/Visa debit card.

No hassles and a good service (I even had a promotional jacket thrown in)

Military Bank Said to be accommodating to farangs
Siam Commercial Bank One to avoid. They require a one year visa to open an account and of course one needs a bank account before you can get a one year visa!

It seems that this Catch 22 can be worked around but only by getting bank staff to phone around for special dispensation.

Another poster said that: Siam Commercial wanted a letter from immigration confirming my address. I couldn't be bothered


12th July   Young Adults Should Avoid Thai Holidays

Americans may be used to such repression but those from more civilised nations may be shocked to find that it is illegal for 18 & 19 year old adults to drink in Thai bars. A letter to the Bangkok Post My daughter and I came from Singapore for a holiday in Bangkok. On Friday, my daughter went to meet a friend on Silom Road Soi 4 at 11.15pm.

At about 11.40pm, she called me for help. She was arrested by police for being underage in a pub. She is 19 years old and she is not underage to drink in Singapore.

At 12.15am, I arrived at Bang Rak police station and found her in police custody. I explained to the police officer that she was a tourist who did not know the age limit for visiting a pub was different from Singapore and therefore she should not be held in custody.

The police officer replied that she was in Thailand and therefore she should know the Thai law.

The police officer told me to wait for the paper work to be processed to allow me, as a parent, to bail her out. And I waited until 1.30am before an officer came with forms for my daughter to sign.

She signed the form without understanding what was written on it because it was written in Thai. I was asked to sign some statements without understanding what was written in the statement because it was also written in Thai.

I was eventually allowed to take her home at 1.45pm.

This was a horrible experience for me and my daughter. The incident raises a number of questions about how the Thai police and Thai laws can live up to the Amazing Thailand image the Thai government is trying to sell to tourists:

1) If my daughter had been in Bangkok by herself, what would the police do to her if no one could bail her out, bearing in mind there are many 19-year-old tourists like her visiting Thailand?

2) Why should a tourist like my daughter be arrested at a pub where the legal age limit is not displayed or enforced at the pub entrance? It is necessary because the legal age for visiting a pub varies from country to country and the Thai police should not expect tourists to know the law when they arrive in Thailand. Should the pub owner not be held responsible for enforcing the law rather than arresting tourists for not knowing Thai law?

3) Why was the incident not handled by the tourist police? My daughter was terrified by the actions of the Thai-speaking police officers, who could not understand her or explain the charges to her. She could only communicate with other offenders already in police custody who told her the police were going to put them in jail.

4) Is it a practice of Thai police to force tourists in custody to sign Thai language documents, which they do not understand, as a condition for their release? The incident would have been less intimidating if the police had not forced us to sign Thai documents without any translation.

I believe the authorities should do something to safeguard the interests of tourists and help the police uphold the image of Amazing Thailand.



8th July   Use of the Word Farang (ie Westerner)

From Pattaya Pages

Even if you can speak no other words of Thai, most European and American visitors to Thailand will quickly become familiar with the Thai word farang (often mispronounced (even by Thais) as falang - farang with a slightly trilled 'r' is the correct pronunciation.) It's basically used to describe caucasians, though African-Americans will sometimes also be known as farang or as farang dam ('black farang'). Farang is also the Thai word for the guava fruit, so you can expect to hear farang eating farang 'jokes' if you happen to purchase any.

Other Asians are generally known by their country of origin (e.g. kon jeen - "Chinese people", kon yee-bpun - "Japanese people"), while people from the Indian Subcontinent are often known as kairk (which translates as "guest"). Kairk is used to describe even fluent Thai speakers of Indian descent who have been living in Thailand for generations and consider themselves as Thai - obviously being referred to as a 'guest' in these circumstances, while not particularly offensive, is not exactly complimentary either.

Some people get very offended at being called farang, but whether it's an insult should or not really depends on the context. A few Thais who are uncomfortable with using it will say kon dtahng bpra-tayt ('people from other countries') instead, but this is still pretty rare. Farang is basically a neutral word, but people who respect you (or who should respect you) will not use it - if you hear a work colleague, for example, refer to you as farang they probably mean it as an insult while a taxi driver or market vendor doing the same is unlikely to mean any offense at all.


29th June   The Bangkok Hilton

From Save a Life

Thailand's notorious Bangkwang prison is known in the West as the Bangkok Hilton. Bangkwang is Bangkok's maximum- security jail, designed for lifers and death row prisoners. Of its 7000 inmates, mostly drug offenders, 883 have been sentenced to death.

The Thai people call Bangkwang the 'Big Tiger' because it is a man-eater. Scores of prisoners have been put to death in its notorious execution chamber. There is a small sign on the outside wall that says 883 ... the number of men waiting to be killed.

One of those waiting is Amporn Birtling, a Thai prisoner on death row. Imprisoned for drug smuggling, he explains how he will only find out when he is to be executed two hours beforehand. I have no clue when I will die , Amporn said. They could inject me today or tomorrow. All my life I hated drugs more than anything. I never thought that I would be arrested because of them.

Harsh sentences for drug smugglers are popular in Thailand. The country has long been a major through-route for drugs, but now the Thais themselves are becoming drug addicts as new, cheap methamphetamine pills have flooded the local market.

Thousands of school children became addicts in the last few years, prompting a public outcry. The result has been a government crackdown, leading to the mysterious killing of more than 2200 people in the streets in 2003. Officials insist this was gang on gang warfare, but watchdogs suggest it could have been extra-judicial killings by police. Ten thousand more drug dealers were arrested, many of them simple couriers, or 'mules'. Now the jails are cracking under the strain.

Amnesty International says there are now more prisoners on death row in Bangkwang than at any other time in Thailand's history. They also say capital punishment is not a deterrent and innocent men always end up being killed. But the Thai Government says drug dealers like Amporn destroy the lives of many young Thai people and deserve to die.

The new boss of Thailand's prisons is a reformer who sent officials to Texas to witness an execution by lethal injection to learn the process. It is more humane then when we used the firing squad, said Director General of Prisons Nathee Chitsawang. With the old method, sometimes they were crying and shouting and sometimes they did not die immediately, so we had to take them and shoot again.

The executioner shows how a man is put to death by pumping lethal chemicals into his veins, which he says must be done "slowly, slowly, or the vein might break." He also demonstrated how they take a fingerprint of the condemned both before and after execution to confirm they have killed the right man.

Afterwards, the bodies are taken through a tiny red door called the 'ghost gate' to a Buddhist temple on the other side of the wall. If relatives are waiting, they claim the body. If not, the body is left in the temple cemetery. When there is no space left, the monk will cremate the bodies. The monk guards the urns of the unclaimed. He explains how he tells the condemned it is better to die by execution than randomly, because they can prepare their minds for death.

Thai Buddhism holds that the state of mind at the time of death determines your incarnation in the next life. If a car hits me right after this, I might not have a chance to die with a pure mind. It's a blessing in disguise.

This look inside the Bangkok Hilton convinces viewers that karma really exists … especially bad karma.


26th June

updated 28th August


I researched the option of a mortgage from the Bangkok Bank and found that it is already possible but it was going to take weeks to set up.

From the Bangkok Post

Foreigners will find it easier to buy condominiums in Thailand under a new service offered by Bangkok Bank.

The bank's Singapore branch has begun offering offshore financing for foreigners seeking to purchase condominiums in Thailand.

Torphong Charungcharoenvijj, general manager for the Singapore branch, said loans of up to 70% of a condominium's value were available to foreigners both in Thailand and other countries who want to buy this type of property.

Applicants can e-mail their details or send them by DHL to the bank's Singapore branch, he said. The applicant's earning ability determines how much he or she can borrow. For example a person seeking a loan to buy a condominium worth 20 million baht should be earning around 300,000 baht a month, Mr Torphong said.

While foreign nationals are allowed to purchase condominiums in Thailand, financing has often been problematic, with local financial institutions reluctant to offer loans due to uncertainties regarding credit risk.

The Bangkok Bank service is just what Phuket needs, according to Stephen O'Brien, managing director of the real estate agency Knight Frank Phuket Well over half of the inquiries we receive ask for lending or mortgagee finance and up until now there wasn't anything available, except a number of private firms offshore offering lines of credit or personal loan financing.

Bearing in mind that the bank's terms apply to freehold condominium title, Mr O'Brien said he expected the takeup rate would be significant. Under Thai Law, foreigners can own freehold title up to 49% of a condominium project. Generally speaking, when a condo project is launched, sales are always brisk, because foreigners want to hold their units as freehold. If the unit is in the remaining 51% allocation, foreign buyers can either lease or set up a Thai firm and hold freehold through that company, a rather cumbersome structure.

O'Brien is confident that this is the start of more widely available mortgage financing for foreigners in Thailand. I suspect that other Thai banks will shortly start offering similar terms and conditions. All of this of course will result in a competitive environment bettering the consumer, whereby the banks will try to outdo one another with more favourable terms, similar to Australia and the UK.

From Phuket Gazette , 28th August

Bangkok Bank has broken ranks with the Thai banking establishment to become the first Thai bank to offer mortgages targeted firmly at foreigners wanting to buy property in Thailand.

The mortgages are fairly limited in scope – they can be applied only to condos; the buyer must come up with the first 50% of the purchase price; and the mortgage term is only 10 years – but they are being hailed as a breakthrough by property developers and real estate agents.

The inability of foreigners to get mortgages to cover home purchases in Thailand has put developers and real estate agents at a disadvantage when compared with other tropical destinations where mortgages are available.

The loans, launched quietly over the past couple of months, are available through Bangkok Bank's branches in Singapore and Hong Kong, and will normally be denominated in US, Hong Kong or Singapore dollars. Other currencies may be considered – but not baht.

In Hong Kong, where branch General Manager Phaithul Tejasakulsin said the bank has made "one or two" loans, the amount that can be borrowed ranges from HK$1 million to HK$5 million (approximately 5 million to 25 million baht). Loans are made only to Hong Kong residents.

In Singapore the range is from S$100,000 to S$1 million (about 2.5 million to 25 million baht) The loans currently carry annual interest of around 7.5%.

In addition there are fees attached. In Hong Kong, for example, a processing fee of around 125,000 baht is payable when the borrower accepts the bank's letter of offer. About 50,000 baht of this is refunded when the loan is drawn down. In addition, at the start, 1.5% of the loan amount must be handed over to the bank as a "prepayment fee".

The mortgages may be available later through other Bangkok Bank branches, said K. Phaithul – the London office, for example. "I think [the bank] will probably look at it," he said. Hong Kong, Singapore and Britain are regarded as the three major markets for Phuket home buyers.

Thai banks have never loaned money to foreigners to buy property because it was difficult to secure the loans when a foreigner could not own land in Thailand


1st June Updated 20th June   Farang Volunteer Tourist Police

Stickman kindly responded to widespread interest about the use of farang volunteers in kill joy operations. See appended question below

From Stickman  

They linger around Pattaya's Walking Street. They've been around for a while now and a lot of people don't really know quite what to make of them. They wear black shirts and some of them stand around with mean looks on their faces. They are the Thai tourist police farang volunteers.

Dealing with the police in Thailand is not most foreigners' idea of fun so the idea of getting some farangs involved to assist the Thai police would appear, on the surface at least, to be a good idea. But who are these guys? Are they merely a bunch of farangs masquerading as policemen who are simply there for PR, or are they the real deal with the powers to act accordingly?

Quite by chance I was given the opportunity this week to ask a few questions of an Australian member of the farang volunteer tourist police and what follows are his responses.

How many farang Tourist Police are there? How are you "recruited"?

I'm one of them and there are nearly 20 of us. First to remember we are only tourist police "volunteers" and are not full blown cops. We are there to help and assist the tourist police carry out their duties to serve and protect visitors to Thailand. The farang component is also a BUFFER between the visitors and the regular cops.

We applied at the local Tourist Police for the job for which there is no pay. When farangs were called to apply, we needed to pass a background check and were trained in life saving, first aid and many other things like PR and how we are to behave in various situations.

What are the roles of the farang tourist police? Just how much power do the farang tourist police volunteers have? Can you arrest people? Can you detain people? Are you equipped with equipment or weapons of any kind?

We are regulated by a long list of rules. We cannot arrest anyone. We can detain an offender (like a ladyboy who steals the wallet from a farang and wants to run off) until a regular cop turns up. We need to speak at least a reasonable amount of Thai. We cannot carry firearms, but we do carry handcuffs, a baton and a radio, as well as some of us who are first aid officers and carry medical kits.

What are your backgrounds?

All the volunteers I work with are either expats or very regular visitors to Thailand, some with businesses here and with Thai wives, and who are experienced in the way of Thai culture and thinking, more than the normal visitor ever will be, but we are still "farang" and understand you and why you are here. We are here for the same reasons and that's why by working with the Thai police we can protect our common reasons for being here. We are all local expats from many countries and between us speak most European languages.

Would you care to comment on any situations or cases where you feel the farang police volunteers have done something worthwhile / useful / helpful?

I'd like to ask your readers this question, if you were in a heated disagreement with a Thai bargirl and cops were called in, would you like it to be a Thai cop maybe from the same province as the girl, maybe speaking no or bad English, or a farang volunteer who can speak Thai and your lingo and who has "understanding" for your problem cause we "have been there, done that, like you"?

Also we try very, very hard to act as a buffer between farangs in trouble and the Thai cops and prevent something small from becoming something big. Like recently a fellow Aussie guy was very, very drunk in an alley way, or high on something. I and my fellow volunteer took him to hospital and we took his very thick wallet out and counted the money and got a receipt before handing it to the nursing staff. Would you have preferred someone else to have found you if you were in that situation?

Many farangs, both tourists and especially those resident here, are suspicious of the farangs working with the tourist police. What can you say to help appease many of these people that those volunteering to help are doing so for the "correct reasons"? i.e. do they genuinely wish to help or is this simply an easy way to forge strong connections with local law enforcements authorities to their own advantage?

We welcome any farang to come to our police bus situated at the entrance of Walking Street and ask any question you may have. Please remember we are there TO SERVE AND PROTECT our fellow farangs. About kill joy operations?

As far as kill joy operations are concerned i.e. enforcing the moral and closing times, firstly it's not the tourist police's concern.  This is a matter for the regular police, who by the way know what's going on everywhere, or can easily find out.  And they have their own policy of if and when they do a raid.  I'm sure you have opinions on why some are raided and some not.  We farang volunteers are told to keep away from these places while on duty.  We are not involved ever on undercover operations to see who is doing what, as that's already known.  We are involved in undercover however on drugs and child abuse offences stings, and we don't apologise for that.  We are here to help our fellow farangs enjoy Thailand in safety.  That doesn't extend to criminals or criminal behaviour. Remember, they are a danger to you as well.


11th May   Thai Family Pension Scheme

From Panda on the Yellow Board

I dont know if we farangs can ever be truly accepted by a Thai family.

After 10 years+ now I get the feeling that I am accepted by my Thai family, but I understand its only a conditional acceptance. Conditional on the fact that I am of some value to the family. I wouldn't want to be old, destitute and poor, relying only on my Thai family to take care of me like they take care of their own.

As much as I love my Thai family I have to say that Thais in general are probably some of the most racist people I have ever met. For a farang to break thru that barrier and at least be conditionally accepted into the family is a great achievement. We just need to understand what the conditions are.

It doesn't make me feel any better knowing that my place in my Thai family is only secured by my relative wealth. But then again, people like us have to understand that in Thai culture it is expected that you share EVERYTHING with the family when you are young and healthy, then when you are old and sick the family will take care of you. We are selfish by their standards, even though we might give an awful lot of money when converted into Baht... its not a lot when considered as to what we could potentially give.

This is where the cross-cultural barriers start to cut in. The Thai family sees us living in relative luxury back here in our own countries, yet we can spare only less than 10% (or whatever) of our income to send back to the family we expect to accept us for better or worse. The Thais might be prepared to put up with that sort of improper behavior from a blood relative (especially if he finds Buddha in his later years), but not so for some foreign dude who has only married into the family. Some foreign dude who didn't even help the family to the extent he could have when he had the ability to do so.

I am under no illusions where I stand with my Thai family. After 10 years they have accepted me as an OK bloke and that's all. I could never really be part of the family even if I started sending bulk money. To ever hope to become that close I would have to go live with the family and share my relative wealth while going without myself. And I would have to do that over a number of years before I was truly accepted as family.

Well, the fact is that I don't need to accepted as part of the family that bad. I can put up with them just liking me and caring about me. That's all I ask and that's all I am prepared to give. Maybe I am selfish by Thai standards. And so I cant ever expect to be truly accepted into the family with all the loyalty that it entails. I have been selfish and put my surplus money into my retirement fund instead of giving it to the family.

Am I bad by Thai standards? Well, I think they don't really see me as bad. Perhaps they see me as an OK sort of bloke, despite the fact that I am one of those selfish farangs.

I have chosen the farang way over the Thai way and so I cant expect my Thai family to accept me as a fully fledged family member with all its privileges and pitfalls. I will go my own farang way. And in my old age I will just have to hope I have enough money left to take care of myself.

This cross-cultural marriage thing is complex and should not be taken lightly. You have two people living together but playing by different cultural rules.


6th May   Rabies

From The Pattaya Mail

The public is afraid that a summer hotter than in previous years will increase the number of rabies cases, and Pattaya City administration has issued a warning about epidemics.

Pattaya's Environment and Health Department is urging the public to take precautions with their pets over rabies as summer begins, saying that animals such as dogs, cats, monkeys and squirrels can become infected. Rabies can be passed to humans from bites, scratches, licking and the body fluids of infected animals, the infection being passed through saliva or seminal fluid.

Rabies symptoms in humans begin with a feverishness, stiffness, itching, and pain at the bite wound. This is followed by delirium, extreme sensitivity to light and noise, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and paralysis. If untreated, death occurs within seven days of the symptoms first appearing.

Pattaya authorities advise immediate treatment for animal bites, setting out a number of distinct steps to follow: 1. Wash the wound with soap and water many times. 2. Clean again with iodine and alcohol. 3. If the wound is large and bleeding, let it bleed for a while to wash out the saliva, which may be toxic. 4. If the animal is traceable, it should be detained for at least 10 days. 5. If the animal dies, the head should be cut off and taken in for examination. 6. Immediately see a doctor for treatment. 7. A wound should only be cleaned, without stitching, so that infection can be expelled. 8. Closely follow the doctor's orders for taking medication.

If the wound is found to be not healing properly, the bite victim experiencing severe pain, numbness or itching at the wound site, or a fever, a doctor should be immediately consulted.

In their attempts to control rabies in the Pattaya area and Koh Larn, Pattaya City authorities are continually checking the number of domestic animals. Services such as vaccinations, purging of tapeworms, and sterilising of dogs and cats are carried out. However, there are fears over animals that live outside of residents' homes. The town has many stray dogs, for example, which live around the temples and amongst the local community.

This year is also hotter than others. Dogs and pets can be easily irritated, which may be dangerous for the public, especially anyone unaware of the facts, such as children.


24th March   Kenda Rubber Scam

This is a scam that has devastated some of my Thai relations in Isaan. It is irrelevant to Westerners but it is useful to know about so as to help neighbours, friends and relatives avoid being scammed.

The scam is based upon the fact that one way for Thais to get reasonably good wages is for them to work abroad and in this case Taiwan. Workers are offered good wages for a contracted term usually with extensions available. The downside is that there is an up front cost to en employment agency to organise recruiting and immigration paperwork. This is often quite substantial say 100,000 or 200,000 Baht. Many honest firms have set up such operations and many a Thai has been able to build a house on return from a lucrative contract.

However a few companies have been less than honest in actually paying the agreed rate. And in the extreme cases, the salary barely covers the up front charge. 

Several of my Thai relatives got suckered in by Kenda Rubber. They were charged 200,000 up front and were promised a monthly salary of 15,000. The contract was for 2 years and an extension of a year was promised. Even at the promised figures overtime and the year's extension would be relied upon to make a reasonable income.

The reality was somewhat different. The first major wakeup call was an undisclosed accommodation charge of 2500 per month. Then the major bombshell was the salary actually paid

Month 1 2000 (though only 2 weeks worked)
Month 2 6000
Month 3 7000
Month 4 8000
Month 5 9000

No further figures are available as the workers resigned themselves to a thumping loss and returned home angry, irate and screwed..


7th March   Foreigner in your own House

An article from Stickman  

With regard to the letter from the reader whose family always referred to him as "farang" (foreigner), I can assure him that he is not alone.  After 10 years of marriage, a house and two kids, I was still being referred to as "farang" by my wife's family.  I don't think they ever realised that I found it offensive after all that time that they still didn't use my name when talking about me.  I used to sit there listening to them ask my wife "what does farang want to eat ?" or "does farang want a drink?" and so on until one day I decided enough was enough.  Having made several loans to family members over the years (some of which actually got paid back!) I made the announcement that anyone who couldn't remember my name could forget about any loans in the future - trust me, they have never called me "farang" again.

Another article from Stickman

I've had the same annoying problem with my former girlfriend's family years ago.  After a reasonable period of time, during which they should have been able to learn and memorize my name, the issue persisted and I grew increasingly offended;

I think I found an ingenious way of educating those ignorant people. I simply started to address everyone in the family as "Thai", regardless whether they were younger or older, male or female members.  I said to prospective mother-in-law: "Excuse me, Thai, I am going to the 7-11 now. Is there anything I can bring you?"  I addressed the older bother: "And you, Thai, how is it going at work?" The sister was confronted with: "Thai, have you yet bought back that necklace you pawned last week?"  And so on and so forth.

It took a single day until they all inquired with my girlfriend why "Farang" would only speak of them as "Thai".  At which point I took over and replied: "Since you all appear unable to address me by my first name, thus withholding proper respect, I do not see any reason why I should address you with your names or use respectful titles like 'Khun Mae', 'Khun Paw' or "Pii Chai'."  A lot of consternated faces around for a moment, but I did get the message across.  They never addressed me as "Farang" again.


27th February   Business GoGo Going Gone

From the Baron

I have often wondered why so many seemingly sane people want to get involved in a go-go business in Thailand. I have written about the pitfalls (business) and the cons but I was wandering around Nana Plaza last night chatting to a few managers and owners when a penny dropped.

This article is not about the cons: there are plenty of go-go bars with 150% or more of the shares sold. There is certainly one go-go company that looks suspiciously like a pyramid that must come crashing down sooner or later. However there are also quite a few individuals who have invested properly and diligently and have, as far as is possible, a legitimate business. Particularly in Bangkok such an investment is not Mickey Mouse money, unless of course you are a Boss Hog. Assuming the investment is not a worthless minority shareholding it is unlikely that the deal will be less than 5 million Baht, and probably double, or more than that.

The problem I suspect is lies, well not lies but porkies. The reason I say this is because I sat in Nana on Thursday night and counted them in and counted them out. Well not quite, but there were few enough punters to do that without needing an abacus. So the following night I am trundling around and chatting to bar managers. How is business I ask? 'Good, never been better,' is the standard reply. 'Last night was a bit quiet?' I suggest. 'No, had a really good night, we were full!' This is the point: nobody ever has a bad night. Believe the owners and managers and every night at Nana Plaza is a bonus night.

But I know differently. Talk to the main go-go group in the plaza and the profit figures, per go-go, are stupendous even in the worst seasons. However the profit figures sound awfully like the turnover figures to me, after I have done a little counting and watching!

Now, there is nothing wrong with this. Why should somebody tell you what their business is? And is it not human nature to suggest anything other than the fact you are doing very well. In fact I have always added 'my business is doing very well thank you,' to the list of biggest lies. Of course if you are buying then you expect to get the real figures. But what are the real figures? The tax returns (nobody pays any worthwhile tax) are going to show a minimal profit. The figures to sell the business are going to show the business in the very best light possible.

In the UK when buying a bar (pub) the main figures, often provided, are the barrelage figures. These are provided by the brewers and are pretty reliable. I am pleased to say that metrication has not yet reached the British brewer. A barrel is 36 gallons of beer, and an average tenanted pub will do around 300 per annum. In addition, figures in galleons, on spirits, wines and soft drinks will be provided.

So getting back to valuing that Bangkok go-go. Somebody somewhere should know how many cases of beer have been sold and how many bottles of spirits, etc. Of course the problem is that many suppliers do not supply proper invoices as most businesses do not want them! But I am sure figures can be dug up. I suppose if all else fails the last month's inputs would give a good clue as to the real level of business.

Then, of course, there is the final and significant figure: the number of offs. I am not sure how that would fit into brewery terminology, I suppose in keeping with barrels it should be in 'gross.' The annual grossage of offs can thus be calculated. So combine these figures with your price list and now you have your revenue.

So what are the outgoings? There are fixed costs like rent, but many are not fixed, for instance staffing and marketing (buying punters drinks). But this is where it all goes tits up. Not enough girls on the poles means not enough to attract customers, too many and your bottom line goes negative. Enough management is needed, mamasans and managers, to make certain everything works, but they tend to cost money. Doormen, service personnel, DJs, etc., all add to the staff costs.

A good system is required to make certain that the money taken goes to the business, and not into somebody else's pocket. I know of a go-go that recently fired all its cashiers and pourers as they were caught 'with their fingers in the till.' I know another place where the behind the counter staff are clearly 'at it' but the management think removing them will cause too many problems. A wrong attitude in my experience but trying to clear out a whole section is a massive problem. How do you manage your dancing girls, when do you cut salaries and what for?

Those are just the simple management problems of operating the business. The problems of running it are even greater. How do you attract customers? How do you attract good girls? What music should your DJ play and getting him to play it? How do you keep customers? How do you keep girls if they are not busy? Girls want offs as much as you want them, that is where the real money is. No offs, equals no girls.

Then there are the real imponderables of; closing times, whether or not showing is allowed, days that the police close all the bars, and the petty jealousies and bitchiness of your competitors. If a bar does well expect the nearby bar owners to complain and report, correctly or otherwise, that bar for everything from staying open late to drug sales, etc. And believe you me, that is not just the Thai owners, some of the biggest complainers in the Plaza are farangs. There is no live and let live: it is: 'get the bastards if you can!'

So this is what I was thinking about last night as I sat in the plaza. Why do so many people want to get into this (semi-illegal) business? Experienced bar owners in the Plaza reckon that any investment must come back within 18 months, particularly with all the present uncertainties. However no Nana business is likely to be sold on that basis, because the desire exceeds the common sense. Desire for what: a business, a lifestyle in Bangkok or a desire to be a pimp?

Well, a good business as I have just suggested, it is not. Some got in early and benefited from being in the right place at the right time! Of course some succeed and do well. But they are few and far between and normally the business that does well is not the first.
The lifestyle is terrible, it involves a commitment most nights from 6 pm to 3 am, too much drink and plenty of headaches as things go wrong! So assuming that the average person has enough sense to work out the reality of running a go-go there can only be one driving force behind buying a go-go. They believe the porkies because they want to. Why do they want to believe that all that grime in the plaza must turn to gold?

Because most just want to be a pimp!


13th February   100,000 Virgins

An editorial that captures the fact that, although Thai media keeps banging on about the downside of sex, the Thais continue to partake with so much abandon.

From The Nation : An unhealthy attitude towards sex

Teenagers need frank information, not double standards and moralising

If the salacious media hype surrounding the supposed sexual activities of teens is any indication, Thai society appears to be indulging in an unhealthy fascination with how today's young people are responding to their hormones, particularly when that response involves teenagers experimenting with different forms of sex, which is perhaps inevitable. Hardly a day goes by without a new, sensational study or opinion poll informing us how young people are beginning to have intercourse at an ever-younger age. Academics and pollsters of varying degrees of credibility seem to be trying to outdo one another by presenting the most hysterical, headline-grabbing reports on the subject that they can dream up.

Almost 100,000 teenagers intend to lose their virginity on Valentine's Day this year trumpeted one recent newspaper headline, based on a supposedly scientific opinion survey.

As if on cue, agonising parents, teachers, social workers and government officials express outrage, lament Thailand's cultural degradation and start blaming the permissive Western influence for young people's "loose sexual behaviour". Unfortunately, such holier-than-thou attitudes do nothing to reduce the widespread hypocrisy towards sex that has always existed in this society.

After all, that Thailand has a reputation for being one of the world's major sex capitals does not seem to bother the adult population here all that much. The sex industry has come to be accepted as a fact of life in this country. Brothels disguised as sleazy massage parlours are doing lucrative business openly in virtually all cities, towns and neighbourhoods.

It is not difficult to imagine from whom our teenagers are learning their supposedly non-traditional "bad behaviour". If the sexual promiscuity, sex for money, sex without love and other values and practices that form the basis of the sex industry are socially acceptable in the world of adults, how can we expect youths to be able to make distinctions between what is right and what is wrong?

To further complicate the matter for young people, most parents, including those in decent and loving relationships, are hopelessly incapable of talking to their children about sex. Because of this, many parents forfeit any opportunity to instil in their children positive attitudes not only about sex, but also about loving relationships based on mutual respect between partners.

As a result, teenagers left to their own devices have to learn about sex and relationships through the sometimes distorted lenses of show business, the advertising industry, the Internet, pornography and from equally confused peers.

If too many teenagers in this country are experimenting with sex before they are mentally and psychologically ready to do so, and confronting problems like sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and abortion, among other social problems, perhaps it is time parents take a long hard look at themselves and make an honest assessment of their own sex lives.

When it comes to sex and relationships, most teenagers take their cues from their parents or role models. If parents fail to instil a healthy attitude towards sex and relationships, then teachers or other relatives could sometimes step in to provide much-needed guidance.

Although sensational media reports on teen sexual activity should not be totally discounted, they must be taken with a grain of salt. For every youth led astray down the path of self-destruction, there must be many others who have a decent upbringing and grow up with healthy attitudes towards sex and loving and affectionate relationships.

All the so-called "facts and figures" from the surveys and studies should be treated as a starting point for a lively and open debate on sexual matters, not only among confused teenagers, but also among adults, who probably have their fair share of problems.

It must be said that for too many adults, neither the accumulated experience of having numerous sexual partners or relationships, nor the wisdom that comes with age has made them any less confused about this most fundamental of human activities.

In this context, any attempt to remove the ignorance, shame and stigma associated with all things sexual should be encouraged. Certainly, sensational, judgmental treatments of teen sexual activity in the media are counterproductive and unhelpful.

A better understanding of one's attitude towards and behaviour in sexual relations can only improve the chances of people developing more healthy, positive attitudes towards sex, which can be a very liberating and rewarding activity, particularly in the context of an honest, loving relationship. This applies to all people – confused teenagers and jaded adults alike.

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