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Golden Mountain temple in Bangkok

Golden Mountain temple in Bangkok

 

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Thailand - Random Page 1

Alien Registration

Using the official wording (and capitalisation is as it is on the form), "The ALIEN permitted to stay longer in the kingdom must notify your place of residence to the immigration office every 90 days."

 

As Phil Collins once said: It ain't much fun being an illegal alien

As Phil Collins once said: It ain't much fun being an illegal alien

 

For a brief moment in Thailand you stop being a farang and become an alien.

Once upon a time in the not-so-distant past, it was possible to live in Thailand indefinitely without any kind of a visa. Many people did. You simply went to the border every 30 days to get another free stamp in your passport.

No one knew who you were, what you did, or where you resided. This arrangement suited a lot of foreigners in Thailand who liked living 'under the radar' but there were obvious problems.

Some time during 2006, Thailand tightened up its immigration laws. The idea was to get all foreigners in Thailand on proper visas so they could be kept track of.

The 90 day reporting procedure is to make sure that Thai immigration have the address details of all foreigners living in Thailand. This is quite understandable, and it is given a lot of importance. Yearly visa extensions won't be granted unless the person has been reporting in to immigration every 90 days.

Failing to report results in a fine. "Any ALIEN who fails to comply with will be punished with a fine not exceeding 5,000 Baht and with an additional fine not exceeding 200 Baht (possibly 500 Baht these days) for each day which passess (sic) until the law is complied with ACCORDING TO IMMIGRATION ACT B.E.2522 SECTION 76.

The procedure involves filling in a form and getting the relevant pages from your passport copied. It's quite painless and takes me about five minutes. You can also do it by post but I have always done mine in person.

The alien in the photo forgot to register and is now a clothes display at Jatujak market. The following story is about the two dumbass farangs who thought the red shirt riots would be a good opportunity to get involved with some anarchy and looting.

Two alien suspects on trial for violating the emergency rule

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Andrew Biggs

Once upon a time, Andrew Biggs was probably the most famous farang in Thailand. Apparently, while travelling between his native Australia and England he stopped over in Bangkok for a couple of days and fell in love with Thailand. It's a familiar story.

 

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs

 

He studied for a degree in Thai at a Thai university (where he had to pass a test in English, which terrified the Thai students) and from then on he started to get a lot of newspaper and TV work. He speaks, reads and writes Thai effortlessly and has written language books in Thai for Thai students learning English.

He has a typical Aussie sense of humour and his articles in English are quite amusing - even more so if you know a little about Thailand. Some readers may think he is boasting when he talks about leaving his mansion in the morning, except that many apartment buildings in Thailand are called mansions for a reason known only to Thais. He makes fun of things like this, as do most farangs in Thailand.

He used his new found fame and money to open a nationwide chain of English language schools: Andrew Biggs Academy. I don't know anything about the quality of the teachers working for his organisation, but he takes part in the bidding process and no doubt his celebrity status and Thai language ability help him to win new business.

Strange as it may seem, the vast majority of farangs living in Thailand make no, or very little, effort with the language. At the other extreme a few people, such as Andrew Biggs, Todd Lavelle (Todd Tongdee) and Adam Bradshaw have made a massive effort and now have successful businesses as a result of their ability in Thai. I really admire such people.

I am updating this in February 2017 and recently I noticed that the branch of the Andrew Biggs Language Academy in Hat Yai has just closed. Acoording to the staff working in the restaurant next door it has closed for good, and not moved somewhere else. I don't know why.

I haven't heard any mention of Mr Biggs or seen him on Thai TV for several years. I met Adam Bradshaw at Dream World in Bangkok and Adam had aspirations of becoming the new Andrew Biggs in Thailand.

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Banking

Banking in Thailand feels quite old fashioned, but the security seems fine and I have never had a problem.

All customers have pass books which are updated with each transaction. Everything is very labour intensive with each branch full of officious-looking staff. Contrast this to my UK telephone bank where I have never actually met anyone who works there.

Try to avoid going to a bank on a Monday morning. They are packed with Thais paying in their takings from the weekend. The end of the month is also a bad time. If you do visit a bank be prepared to wait for a long time. The staff work at the same leisurely pace regardless of how long the queue is.

My account was opened for me when I worked at a university so that my salary could be paid directly. A minimum deposit of Bt500 was required to actually open the account and the bank charges Bt300 a year for an ATM card.

I have received some e-mails from foreigners wanting to open Thai bank accounts who tell me that there is lots of conflicting information on-line as to what is required. This is normal for Thailand where there is never any consistency.

I called into a branch of the Siam Commercial Bank and asked what is required for a foreigner to open a bank account. I was told that the main requirement is a work permit. This got me thinking.

Foreigners over the age of 50 can apply for a retirement visa in order to retire to Thailand. Those people living in the country on retirement visas can't work, and therefore can't get a work permit. However, one of the requirements for this type of visa is that the applicant has Bt800,000 in a Thai bank account.

If a work permit is required to open a bank account, yet the person isn't allowed to work and therefore can't get a work permit, how does that person open a bank account?

Here's an article from The Nation with information for foreigners wanting to open a bank account in Thailand. However, it is quite old and the information may now be out of date.

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Buying Property In Thailand

Foreigners can't own land in Thailand and therefore can't own any free-standing property because it needs land to stand on. Condominiums are different because you can buy just a condo without amy land. Foreigners can buy condos in Thailand.

There are ways that foreigners can buy properties that include land, but they all carry a degree of risk.

Foreigners can set up a company with capital assets of a specified amount in Thailand and buy a house through the company. I've never liked this idea very much. If you buy a company that has already been set up it may have debts and the law may change at any time.

You can only own 49% of the company and the other 51% must be owned by Thais. The normal method is to divide the remaining 51% between several Thais so that you still have the largest share.

The company accounts need to show a certain turnover and I believe that Thai nationals have to be employed. I would also expect that the Thai revenue department would want some tax. If you have a genuine company, this might be a convenient way to buy a house. If you set up a sham company just to purchase a house you may run into problems.

When Thaksin was around he introduced something called a Thailand Elite Card (available for US$25,000) which granted owners of the card special privileges, including being able to purchase a limited amount of land in Thailand. Thaksin has gone now and I think the Thailand Elite Card scheme went with him.

Foreigners can buy condominiums but not houses as long as foreign ownership of the condominium building does not exceed 49%. The reason behind this is that when buying a house you also purchase the land it is built on (which foreigners can't do in Thailand), but when buying a condo you just buy the condo unit without any land. This is similar to leasehold and freehold in the UK and is why flats and apartments are normally sold on a leasehold. Leases on condominiums are normally for 30 years and can be renewed, but there are never any guarantees at renewal time.

Naturally, if someone is trying to sell you a condo in Thailand they will tell you anything and everything in order to get their commission. They will swear that at the end of 30 years the lease will be easy to renew but, of course, they have no idea.

Foreigners can buy condos in Thailand but that doesn't give them the right to live permanently in the country. At one stage there was something known as an Investment Visa. If a foreigner invested more than Bt3 million in the country - and buying a condo for Bt3 million or more satisfied this requirement - they could apply for an investment visa which would enable them to live in Thailand. The only requirement was proof that the money for the investment had come from abroad.

In September 2006, many new immigration regulations came into force and the Investment Visa was done away with. A few years later I heard that it had returned, however, the amount had increased from Bt3 million to Bt10 million. If you buy a condo, make sure that you can get some other kind of visa to allow you to actually stay in the country and live in the property that you own. Also, be very careful about the terms of the lease.

Most foreign men in Thailand will have a Thai girlfriend or wife and the easy option is just to buy a property in her name. This method is not without its risks, though. If the relationship turns sour or if her Thai boyfriend turns up to live in the house that you purchased, what are you going to do? In Thai law, Thais always have an advantage over foreigners and if the house is in her name, you won't have much of a chance.

A Norwegian guy I spoke to told me that if you do this you should also get a legal document drawn up to the effect that you have made the girl a loan for the same amount as the price of the property. If all goes well you don't ever need to use this document but if the relationship goes bad you can demand that she pay you back, which means she would have to sell the property to repay you. Just remember though that properties do not sell easily in Thailand. It could take a very long time to sell and the sale price could be less than the purchase price.

Someone from Hua Hin told me that he uses a different approach. For a period of six months he transferred quite large sums of money into his wife's bank account so that she built up a credit rating. Once this had been achieved a mortgage was then taken out in her name. He pays the mortgage but because it is in her name she is responsible for making the monthly repayments.

He hasn't invested a huge lump sum by buying the property outright so his wife is not tempted to try to rip him off and claim the house. She relies on him each month to provide money for her to make the mortgage repayment so it is in her interest not to do anything stupid to jeopardise the relationship otherwise she will find herself in an awkward financial situation.

I know that to many Westerners this general lack of trust in the Thais, and Thai women especially, sounds bad, but in Thailand it is a necessity. We all want to have complete trust in other people and we feel awkward about pre-nuptial agreements, etc. The truth in Thailand is that it is difficult to trust anyone, especially when large sums of money are involved.

The housing market in Thailand is very different from somewhere like the UK. For a start, the concept of estate agents doesn't seem to exist. I don't know of any estate agents where I live and the only ones I have seen have been set up by farangs in areas popular with expat farangs.

New houses appear to sell quite well but the used market seems to be pretty flat. I don't believe you can look at property in Thailand as an investment vehicle as you can, for example, in the UK. It may be different in somewhere like Phuket which is popular with foreign investors but the claims of the property developers as to how much property will increase in value year-on-year seem a bit optimistic.

You need to understand Thai law and be aware that many Thais are less than honest. It is not unknown for someone to try to sell property that doesn't belong to them. The property title deed is known as a chanot in Thai and you must make sure that the person selling the property is the legal owner. The name on his ID card and the chanot must match. Red chanots mean that land cannot be sold for 10 years. If someone is trying to sell you land with a red chanot and the 10 years isn't up yet, it is illegal.

Land is marked out with cement marker posts so make sure you check these to know what you are buying. Don't believe stories about roads in the area 'coming soon' without getting the facts verified. One problem is being told that something is going to be built when it isn't, such as a road. Another is not being told about something that is going to be built. If the lovely, quiet house you look at has a huge music pub built next door a year later, it will suddenly lose a lot of its appeal.

Buying property in Thailand is fraught with potential problems so go into it cautiously, get the best advice you can and use the services of a good lawyer who specialise in the area of foreigners buying property. In Thailand you would do well to follow the old adage of never investing more than you can afford to lose.

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Car Ownership

There is no doubt that in image and status conscience Thailand (where cars are by far the single biggest status-symbols) there are other reasons for owning a car rather than actually needing one. Many middle-income Thais who own cars would not dream of taking any form of public transport (even though they could travel from door to door for just a few Baht in a tuk-tuk or sawng-thaew) because they consider it is below them and not befitting their status in society.

 

Weird farm vehicle yours for just Bt110,000, Chiang Rai

Weird farm vehicle yours for just Bt110,000, Chiang Rai

 

A few farangs living in Thailand feel the same way, apparently, and seem to drive cars purely to try to impress other farangs. One farang who used to drive around in an old Honda CRV with dark tinted windows already rolled his window down when he saw me walking just to make sure that I saw him. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I was.

A car isn't necessary in Thailand but there are advantages to having one.

In the constant heat, it's more comfortable being in an air-conditioned car. People who use public transport are often looked down upon as second-class citizens and treated like cattle being taken to market.

Minivan drivers are generally maniacs, so driving yourself is safer. Also, having your own vehicle gives you a lot of freedom to explore areas that would otherwise be difficult to get to.

Not all foreigners can own cars. According to Thai Visa, "A foreigner who wants to buy a car and register it in his name, must hold a non-immigrant visa and either a work permit or a proof-of-address document from the Immigration Office."

Of course, you can buy anything in Thailand in the name of a Thai person. However, to do so isn't exactly risk-free, and making any major purchases in the name of the bar girl who you now refer to as your Thai girlfriend should be given lots of thought.

At the time of writing this I have been had a car in Thailand for almost seven years and I drive every day. Living where I do, and having two young children, makes a car a necessity. However, I wish it wasn't.

Thai drivers are some of the most selfish, inconsiderate, aggressive, reckless, pig-headed drivers I have ever encountered. My mood can be great, but driving for five minutes on Thai roads is all that it takes to make me as angry as hell.

If I didn't have to own a car I wouldn't have one and I am not so insecure as to own a car as a status symbol. I would just rent one occasionally.

In normal life I don't have any problems with Thais, but whenever I do have a problem, a vehicle is normally involved. Cars are bad news in Thailand.

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Car Prices

Cars assembled in Thailand are relatively cheap to buy in Thailand. The problem is that there isn't much choice, and what is available isn't very exciting. Pickup trucks are abundant (most are made by Isuzu or Toyota), if you don't mind looking like Bob the Builder or Somchai the Rice Farmer.

Small and large saloons from the major Japanese manufacturers assembled in Thailand are also abundant and relatively cheap. You can buy a Thailand-assembled Toyota Vios cheaply, but if you want an MR2 or RAV4 from Toyota it will need to be imported, and it will be expensive.

Thailand levies huge import duties on foreign cars. Import duty varies, but for high performance vehicles with engines larger than 3,000cc pushing out more than 220bhp it's a whopping 328% (Thai Customs Department).

This is why the new Porsche Caymans I saw for sale in Bangkok a few years ago were around Bt12 million, and why used models I saw advertised were around Bt6.5 million.

I was browsing through a Thai newspaper and saw something about the latest Porsche 911 Turbo to be imported into Thailand.

It was priced at Bt22 million (UK £402,000 or US $662,000 at current exchange rates). The price in the UK is a little over £100,000, and in the US about $130,000.

When you see expensive European cars being around in Thailand, the owners aren't just rich. They are very rich.

The most worshipped brand of car in Thailand is Mercedes Benz. Mercedes Benz models in Thailand are far more expensive than they are in Europe or North America. Despite this, you still see lots on Thai roads.

And when extremely rich Thais turn up at national parks and other tourist attractions in their ultra-expensive Mercedes Benz cars they only pay a tenth of the entrance fee that foreigners pay because all Thais are poor and all foreigners are rich. Yeah, sure.

The cheapest way to get a car on the road, of course, is through a finance deal. A down payment is required and the monthly payments depend on interest rates and loan duration. There is also a registration fee to pay with new cars, and insurance, of course.

Finance deals require some form of security, and in Thailand that equates to home ownership. The problem for foreigners is that they can't own land in Thailand, and so they can't own property.

As a foreigner you need to pay cash. I guess you could use a credit card if your limit is high enough, but credit card interest rates would make this very expensive. The old 'buying it in your Thai girlfriend's name' ruse could be used if you think you can trust her.

A Thai friend of mine bought a new Toyota Yaris on finance which he told me was worth Bt700,000. The down payment was Bt70,000 and he pays Bt13,000 a month. Another friend pays about Bt8,000 a month in finance payments for her pickup truck.

I got the finance figures for a five year-old Toyota saloon with 190,000 km on the clock which was priced at Bt290,000. The down payment was Bt63,000 with monthly payments of Bt5,306 over five years or Bt6,261 over four years.

Second-hand cars were vastly overpriced in Thailand up until around 2013 when the market finally crashed. At that time a used car in the UK that would have cost the equivalent of Bt50,000 would probably have cost Bt300,000 or more in Thailand. It was ridiculous. Now, however, used car prices are a liitle more reasonable.

 

A Porsche-priced used Mazda MX5 for sale in Thailand

A Porsche-priced used Mazda MX5 for sale in Thailand

 

The 2008 model Mazda MX5 (Miata) was being offered for sale in 2010 for Bt1,850,000. Using the exchange rate as it stood at that time, this worked out to be approximately £38,752.

I took a quick look at some on-line used car sites in the UK, and it seems that the same car there would be around £8,000 - £10,000. As I said, it was completely ridiculous.

If you had almost £40,000 to buy a used sports car in the UK, you would be looking here, and not at a Mazda MX5.

 

The sign in Thai for Por Ror Bor

The sign in Thai for Por Ror Bor

 

Car insurance is another consideration. The mandatory government insurance is something called Por Ror Bor.

Vehicles need to display a disc to indicate that the owner has Por Ror Bor, otherwise a fine can be imposed.

พรบ (Por Ror Bor) = พระราชบัญญัติ

The way it was explained to me was that Por Ror Bor covers the occupants of the other vehicle if you cause an accident. It doesn't cover the other car, your car, or the people in your car.

If you destroy an expensive car, it's down to you to pay for a new one because Por Ror Bor doesn't cover you.

This might worry some people, in which case you can buy insurance to give you more coverage.

A lady I spoke to at a used car dealership told me there are two levels - 1 and 2. Level 1 sounds like what in the UK would be described as fully comprehensive (where your vehicle and the other vehicle is covered in the event of an accident) and level 2 sounds like third-party where just repairs to the other vehicle are covered.

I would suggest talking to a good multi-national insurance company in order to make sure you have a level of insurance cover that gives you peace of mind.

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Censorship

Thai censorship is another subject that highlights the huge differences between Eastern and Western culture. Their censorship rules obviously make sense to them but seem crazy to me. Not a problem - it is their country and I'm here as a guest. I never forget that.

On TV they pixelate cigarettes and alcoholic drinks if anyone is shown drinking or smoking. That's fine, alcohol and nicotine cause serious health problems and young Thais watching their favourite soap operas shouldn't be encouraged to pick up bad habits.

However, when the soap opera finishes and the news comes on there are regular scenes of blood-stained dead bodies littering the streets. Whether it is a government war on drugs or insurgency problems in the south the scenes are similar and quite graphic. I'm not sure how these scenes affect the mental state of young kids watching TV but obviously it's not as damaging to them as watching someone smoke a cigarette or drink a gin and tonic.

Newspapers are also very graphic with the photos they publish. I was in a restaurant with my girlfriend and we had just ordered our meals. While waiting for the food to arrive she picked up a couple of Thai language newspapers that were lying around.

On the front page of one was a quite horrific image. At first glance it reminded me of something from the Egyptian section of the British Museum. It was a small brown body burned to a crisp which looked like a 3,000 year old mummy recently recovered from a sandy grave.

I asked my girlfriend to explain the story as I don't read Thai. A deranged mother had slaughtered her own child with a machete before dousing the body with petrol and setting light to it. The photo showed the charred remains of the child and alongside the body was the machete. In the Thai press apparently this is a perfectly acceptable image to send to print. It ruined my dinner.

The Thaksin government is slowly muzzling the media in Thailand which is a real shame because for a long time Thailand has had the reputation of having a very open media. Shin Corp's acquisition of the only independent TV station means that TV broadcasting is very controlled. Many of the newspapers are already government controlled and there is pressure on the few who continue to speak out against government policy.

The irony is that with a single party government in power for the first time and no coalition parties to provide checks and balances the free press have an even more important role to play in Thailand these days. If Thailand wants to avoid being completely run by a one man dictatorship it will do well to protect the freedom of the media.

Regarding Internet censorship, I found the following information on Yahoo!

According to the Royal Thai Police Web site, some 32,467 Web sites have been reported as illicit since censorship of the Internet was launched in April 2002. More than half are categorized as pornographic, and 3,571, or 11 percent as a "Threat to National Security."

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Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.

If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.

I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand

 

 

Cities

Beaches

Mountains & Hilltribes

Islands

Interesting

 

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