COLUMNS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Snap Shot

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

A Slice of Thai History

Bits ‘n’ Bobs

Personal Directions

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Women’s World

Family Money: UK CGT & IHT

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

I hope that non-British readers will forgive my once again addressing certain important UK tax issues - but my defence is, first, that there are a significant number of British expats in Pattaya, and second, that many expat Brits are not aware of their tax breaks or liabilities - and with regard to US tax avoidance there’s not much I can say, since essentially Americans can’t legally avoid US tax, which is levied on their worldwide income, howsoever derived. (I shall be addressing Australian tax in a future article).

But Brits living overseas are afforded certain tax breaks. The principal advantage of non-resident status for British expats is that you are no longer liable for UK income tax or, for long-term expats, UK capital gains tax.

An exemption to capital gains tax (‘CGT’) may apply to those assets sold whilst an expat, even if those assets were originally bought at a time when you resided in the UK - provided that you remain non-resident for at least five years.

Property & Income Tax

Even if you’re retired out here and are blithely unconcerned about UK income tax, I have to remind you that you’re still liable to UK tax on any income derived in UK, such as interest from onshore bank accounts, dividends from investments, income received from most corporate, private or State pensions, not to mention the most common one: rents from property. You are, however, allowed to claim your full tax allowances against this income, so you may actually have no liability - but a tax return should nonetheless be filed each year to keep things neat and tidy and avoid problems down the road.

The Inland Revenue provides information on its non-resident landlords’ scheme which, for expatriate UK property owners, is essential research.

Non-resident expats will find it is possible to sell a home in the UK (provided it qualifies as their main private residence) and not be charged capital gains tax. However, certain issues to do with occupancy and letting to tenants should be clarified before taking any action.

For instance, letting dependents live rent free in your UK home may make you popular with your relatives, but may create a tax liability for you, as the IRD may take the view that this home is available for your residency with your dependents staying as your guests, rather than you occasionally visiting paying tenants - even if the rent they pay you under a properly drawn-up tenancy agreement is only nominal. Ensuring the paperwork is complete - including receipts or bank deposit slips for the rent - will stop potentially awkward questions from the tax man down the road.

Expats should certainly aim to obtain an offshore mortgage on their UK property as there are distinct tax advantages to this course of action. Any letting income earned from a UK property whilst living and working abroad can be offset against mortgage interest payments. Furthermore, Section 81 of the UK’s 1994 Finance Act permits British expats to keep all their financial accounts offshore.

IHT & Domicile

I’ve written at length before about the question of residence versus domicile, but many expats are still confused on this issue. While the question of domicile determines your liability to inheritance tax or estate duty, it is the most difficult to determine. Basically, your domicile is the country where your roots are. For many British expats - even those who have been away for decades - this will still be the UK, in which case the Inland Revenue has the right to demand inheritance tax on your entire worldwide estate.

You may consider that having cut off all your cultural identifying links with the UK, and since you have no intention of ever returning to the UK, then you have changed your domicile-of-choice. But receiving a UK pension, or maintaining a UK bank account will be deemed to continue your link to UK, and therefore your UK domicile.

As domicile is a question determined by the probate court, not by some clear-cut IRD rule, the IRD in most cases will only declare its perception of domicile status after the death of the individual concerned. There have been many who have claimed a foreign domicile only to have revealed a request that they be buried in some quiet corner of the English countryside. That wish alone entitled the tax man to a share of the inheritance, and it can be a big one.

The current amount you may bequeath to heirs and beneficiaries tax-exempt is ฃ250,000; your estate is liable to pay 40% UK inheritance tax on the rest - unless your UK-domiciled spouse is your sole beneficiary - when she may inherit everything tax-free. (Or if she’s not the sole beneficiary, she can inherit the principal residence tax exempt, even if it’s worth more than the nil-rate band.) Proper estate planning with the help of a professional is important, as failing to do so could result in delays and prove expensive.

Similarly, every British expat should be aware of what you can get away with legally and what constitutes tax evasion.


Snap Shot: The 1,677 baht photography course

by Harry Flashman

Would you be prepared to pay 1,677 baht to improve your photography, to have an unlimited resource for ideas and be guided by one of the world masters? My photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt was prepared to. I am sure you would be prepared to as well after reading this article. That being the case, write down this book title, John Hedgecoe’s New Introductory Photography Course (ISBN 9-780-240-80346-9).

Now John Hedgecoe seems to have been around for years, and in fact his career spans four decades ending up as the Professor of Photography at the Royal College of Art in London. He wrote over 30 photography books, many of which are used as course texts for photography classes all over the world.

What makes Hedgecoe’s book stand out, in my opinion, is the standard of the photographs. They are clear and do show the point that is being elaborated in the text. In fact, the photographs take up about three quarters of the book. You could even purchase this book just to look at the pictures. I actually have in my possession a photo book, written by a famous name photographer, who uses artist’s drawings to explain the text. Drawings! What happened to photographs?

While the book proclaims itself to be an introductory course, and some of it is devoted to the basics and groundwork, there is nobody who will not benefit in some way, even if it is just to stimulate your imagination. The basics on just how to hold a camera will smarten up 50% of the photographs that seem to go through my local photo-processors shop, all rejects because of camera shake, she tells me.

It begins with advice on how to use the camera and gives the differences between point and shooters and SLR’s. Film types and exposure metering and then the differences between shutter speeds and apertures, light and flash lighting. In itself, these first chapters are everything that a new photographer needs, all explained with devastating simplicity.

The majority of the remainder of the book (around 170 pages out of 200) comes under the heading of “projects” and there are about 65 of them. For my money, they are not all strictly projects, but are lessons in how to use your photographic skills to produce various outcomes, or put another way, how to acquire various photographic skills to produce a known outcome.

Amongst the “projects” are many items that we have touched on in these newspaper columns, but are so well illustrated in colour that it is hard to beat them. The section on Time of Day has 12 shots taken from the identical location and shows the differences that occur over 12 hours much better than any words could do. It requires colour printing to show the colour shifts that occur in that time.

According to John Hedgecoe, “Of all the elements of a photograph, it is colour that draws the greatest emotional response from the viewer. It is for this reason that it must be used with great care.” He then goes on to show (in colour by use of appropriate photographs) the differences between complementary colours, muted colours, contrasting colours and the colours produced by man and by nature.

The last 20 pages encompass darkroom techniques and then setting up a small studio. Not enough to really do the job, but enough to point you in the right direction and give you a push! Harry here began with a roll of paper on the back wall of the garage too! Right at the very end there are a few pages of technical information that will help, followed by a glossary and an index. What all good reference books should have.

Ernie bought his copy in Bangkok, but if you ask at the local large bookstores and quote the ISBN number, they should be able to get a copy in for you. I do recommend this one for anyone who is interested in photography as an “art” and who would like to improve their own picture taking.


Modern Medicine: The Diabetic/Dental Diet!

by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant

As we get older, many exciting events are waiting for us. Unfortunately these include being told that you have late onset Diabetes (“Sugar”) and that your teeth have Dental Caries. Last week I dedicated the column to those who had a problem with fats - so this week I am dedicating it to anyone with Diabetes, and to all those people who would like to have kept their own teeth by the time they are 60.

Once again, it is a case of looking at your diet and reducing the amount of sugar that you take in, and that means you have to look a lot further than your morning coffee with “one lump or two?”

Let’s begin with sugar itself. From your body’s point of view, it makes no damn difference whether it is white, brown or raw. It’s sugar, end of story, and it is the big NO-NO. If you must have the sweet taste, then use the tablet, liquid or powdered artificial sweeteners.

Other sugary sweet No-No’s are jams, marmalades, syrups and the lovely Nutella. If you really must have something to put on your toast or bread, then look at the low-joule jams and marmalades or Promite, Vegemite, Marmite, meat or fish pastes.

You are also going to have a real good look at what you drink - beverages are loaded with sugar and waiting to trap you. Here we go, the ‘not to be drunk’ list includes cordials, soft drinks, tonic water, fruit juice drinks or flavoured milk. And it doesn’t end there - you also have to look at alcoholic drinks that are high in sugars like sweet wine, port, liqueurs and beer. In their place you have to look at using low-joule cordials and soft drinks, plain mineral water and soda water, low fat milk and dry wines or spirits and even then limited to a maximum of two alcoholic drinks a day. And that’s the good news!

For breakfast, you again have to be very careful and choosy when at the supermarket. The sweet cereals like Sugar Frosties are out, as is Nutrigrain. These should be replaced with the high fibre cereals like porridge, Vitabrits, Weetbix, All Bran and Wheaties. But don’t sprinkle sugar on top!

Fortunately the redoubtable Ms. Hillary is not diabetic, as chocolates are high on the prohibited list, as are the so-called ‘diabetic’ chocolates or the chocolate substitute carob. Diabetic sweets which are sweetened with sorbitol or mannitol are also not wanted on voyage as are muesli bars or the incorrectly named “health” bars. If you have to have lollies to suck then look for sugar-free lollies sweetened with “Splenda” or acesulfamane K, which are marketed as sugar free Kaiser, Double D, Ricci drops or Lido glace drops. Biscuits are not quite as difficult in finding substitutions, but all the sweet biscuits should be forgotten and wheatmeal or Milk Arrowroot biscuits be taken instead.

Desserts are another loaded sugar bomb, where ice cream, fruit in sugar syrup, jelly, fruit pies, cheesecake and puddings are all on the black list, even yoghurt. There are low-joule desserts available, and fruits which have been steamed and tinned. Light ice cream (one scoop) is fine, or the commercial “Vitari” (of which you can have two scoops).

While this list of do’s and don’ts looks daunting, it should not be. Most of the sugary foods are ones you don’t really need - they are indulgences only.


Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

You are a rat fink who should be tarred and feathered and ridden on a pole to the Burmese border for your defence of that annual abomination known as the Christmas card (Pattaya Mail Vol X, No 52). The fact that this garbage beggars up everybody’s postal service for weeks to come is but the physical consequence of this fraud. The sociological implications are much worse. After fifty years of television and consumerism, the fact is that most people no longer give a damn about each other. The celebrity system has totally consumed them. Why waste time on the average slob who lives next door or happens to be an in-law or even one’s own child when it is possible to sit down at the box and have a super person like Jerry Springer all to yourself. Yet every Xmas the politically correct thing to do is to buy idiotic cards with the message already printed on them to be sent to a wide list of slobs the sender has neither seen nor thought about since the last time he looked at the list. But he who sends not receives not, and it is a great loss of face not to have half a million cards on display over the fireplace. My favourite incoming card is from my crooked garage mechanic who has the nuts to hope I will have a ‘prosperous’ New Year. It would be a whole lot more prosperous if he stopped gouging me and the rest of his captive clients. I do intend to send one package out next Christmas. It will contain a Baby Cham bottle of Guatamalan (sic) champagne and a box of chocolates spiked with castor oil. You can guess who will receive it.

Cyril H.B. Dilling

PS. I learned from a reliable source, on the condition that he remain anonymous, that Hillary you are an undercover, plainclothes agent of the Hallmark corporation. Is there no justice?

Dear Cyril H.B. Dilling,

Oh my poor Petal, my heart goes out to someone such as yourself, caught in the cleft stick of society, with your legs dangling down each side. It is so painful for you men, I am told. However, I must take you to task over a few items from your impassioned letter. Firstly, it is “Guatemalan” to get the spelling correct and it is not champagne (reserved for bubbly from the correct region of France), but “methode champenoise” and “Baby Cham” is the trade name for an awful sugary British concoction. Do not let passion over-rule your basic ability to spell. Secondly, it really is time you took stock of your position, if all the people on your Xmas card list are from a “wide list of slobs” - where are you hanging out these days, Cyril? Nakhon Slobisima? Your attempt to put the blame for the celebrity system on to consumerism and TV is a fine example of the Colander Theory of Modern Society. It just does not hold water! Now then, you refer to “time wasted” on Jerry Springer or “one’s own child”? Were you rejected by your mother, my precious Poppet? I am sorry. But it is good that you can let the pain out through these pages, that’s why Hillary is here. Your car problems worry me a little too. Have you thought about unchaining the drawer on the cash register and buying a new car, complete with warranty? It sounds like a much better idea for you. Finally, Hillary as a plainclothes agent for Hallmark? Really, Cyril! Hillary does not have one stick of “plainclothes” in her wardrobe, nothing but the best Thai silk and made to measure, as well. However, I do hear you, and I promise to remove your name from my personal Xmas card list at the end of the year.

Dear Hillary,

I am on a long stay holiday here in Thailand, and I must say that I have been made very welcome by everyone. After getting more than slightly tipsy the other evening, I wonder of you could advise me on the alcohol content of some of the local brews? During the night in question which began at 6.30 p.m. I only had four pints of Carlsberg Draught, followed by a couple of Heinekens and two Singha Gold’s. I shared in a bottle of some white wine with my father and my stepmother and followed that up with another two Singha Gold’s. This was over six hours but I suddenly began to feel ill and my ability on the pool table decreased so much that my father beat me. My question is, should I have stuck to one brand, or should I only go by the percent alcohol? As I write this, the following morning, I have a large headache, so I need to know the answer as soon as possible please.

Carl S. Berg

Dear Carl,

I think the headache probably came from banging your head during the resuscitation efforts after you were pulled from the bottom of the beer mug. You weren’t drinking the alcohol, you were drowning in it! Tell your father to look after you a little better next time you go out. Or was there a wager on the outcome of the pool tournament? As they say, “Age, experience and animal cunning beats youth and enthusiasm any day!”


A Slice of Thai History: By Train to Songkhla in 1957 Part 1

by Duncan Stearn

Travelling around Thailand by train in modern times is a relatively comfortable experience as long as you don’t go Third Class for anything longer than a half-day trip. However, from the late 19th century until the 1980s and even beyond, travelling by train overnight was a virtual major undertaking and could be an uncomfortable one at that, even for passengers in First Class.

The following extracts are taken from a letter written by the wife of a British embassy official to her family in England, recounting a trip she took with her husband by train from Bangkok to the southern Thai city of Songkhla.

‘It was very hot when we arrived at the station at two o’clock in the afternoon. The car was immediately besieged by scruffy-looking men and boys who wanted to carry our luggage but we waved them away...’

‘...the luggage had to be weighed...and [then] we got into the last coach which belonged to Malayan Railways and was...going through to Penang and seemed rather comfortable. But we were in the wrong compartment and...went into another coach which was not nearly so comfortable. We had a First Class sleeper compartment, consisting of one rather narrow plastic-covered seat facing a wooden partition. A creaking, turning fan tried to cool us from above. There was a wash-basin in one corner of the compartment and a small table which could be put up beneath the window. There was a glass window which could be put up and also a shutter covered with a fine mosquito mesh.’

The train was half-an-hour late leaving Hualumphong Station and, although numbed by the heat she and her husband, ‘... summoned enough energy to stagger along to the dining-car where we ordered tea, an iced drink in glasses, so diluted as to be almost tasteless, and costing 1 tical (about 4 pence) for the two of us.’

‘We passed numerous herds of cows...and flocks of goats and sheep which were tended by boys or men or women, the men in loose navy blue cotton shirts and shorts and the women in blouses and sarongs, and all wearing conical or flat-topped or broad-brimmed straw hats. Nearer to Songkhla cows seemed to give way to buffalo.’

Observations about the countryside, the villages (‘... wooden huts on stilts, mostly with roofs made of coconut palms...’) and the local inhabitants followed and then it was time for dinner.

(Continued next week...)


Bits ‘n’ Bobs

HIGH SEASON CHEATS ALIVE AND WELL

The ‘Mother of all High Seasons’ predictably did not happen, as anyone living in Pattaya can testify. It was busier, but no bonanza. Of course, the hoteliers jacked their prices up to the roof and did catch a fair number of those believing the annual myth propounded by the would-be profiteers. The classic scam of the compulsory charge for a supposedly slap up dinner worth a fraction of the fare provided has yet again left many tourists with a nasty taste in their mouths, despite not eating a morsel causing a bilious tang to invade their palate. Although but an observer, I share their angst as to why they should be ‘forced’ to pay anything from 1,000 baht to silly money for a meal they do not want and have made it abundantly clear in advance that they cannot attend or simply do not want to attend? I have spoken with several people subjected to this bullying and offensive practice and they assure me they will in future avoid establishments that take this high and mighty stance under the ludicrous excuse of ‘Company Policy’. It is high time these extortionists were explained the principle of the freedom of choice and told that such rip-offs can give Pattaya a bad name with the consequent negative impact on tourism. A friend of mine was most annoyed at having to pay 1,400 baht +++ each for a function that neither he nor his girlfriend would attend, simply because they were guests in the hotel. I now kick myself for not having asked him to demand doggy bags for the meals they did not eat so I could have given them to my menagerie. I would have willingly given him the fifty baht the meals were probably worth...

ANAGRAM OF THE WEEK

A stitch in time saves nine: This is meant as incentive.

DRINKS’ STRENGTH SET TO DOUBLE IN PATTAYA!

At last the long awaited ‘high’ season has finally arrived in certain parts of South Pattaya! However, this enigma will largely be restricted to residents, Thai and farang alike, but nasally noticeable to all within sniffing distance. At the time of writing, the mains water has been off for five days but the supply could return ‘maybe next week’, according to a totally disinterested spokesperson for the Water Company who only answered the phone by mistake, thinking it was his golfing buddy.

The water flagon trucks are doing a roaring trade as desperate residents camp out in wait each morning, eagerly anticipating their arrival so they can flush the toilet before the wife sees what thirty beers and two digested kilos of heavily-spiced chicken legs look like in daylight, post desperately ‘close-call’ evacuation.

Residents are not the only aggrieved people by any means. Some bar owners are outraged at having to buy bottled water to maintain the dilution levels of their stock for fear of customers actually drinking the percentage of alcohol claimed by the manufacturers in the products they sell. I am told that a price hike is inevitable as otherwise it would be ‘unfair’ on the bar owners, given the increased costs. Moreover, some customers are already complaining that the draft beer lacks that ‘special tang’. Unbeknown to them, they are probably missing the chemicals in the normally added tap water...

POLITICALLY INCORRECT QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Not all readers will be aware of, let alone understand, British humour and would most probably and quite understandably never be able to make any sense of a Scottish comedian speaking in a broad Glaswegian dialect. Few English can, so not to worry. Many comedians have inadvisably braved the potential pillory at the Glasgow Empire, a notorious theatre from which many aspiring comics have been stretchered off to the asylum having ‘died’ on stage, so I will confine this to one understandable classic from Billy Connelly, a legend in his own lifetime: “I never forget my girlfriend’s name, I always call them BITCH!”

That one has always worked for me as an icebreaker over a cup of Earl Grey at the Olde Tea Shoppe in Worthing, although I suspect some were too deaf to appreciate the depth of humour.

Ah well, the audience of the Glasgow Empire loved it and clamoured for more, but of course Glasgow has to be the Final Frontier for the Politically Correct lobby to conquer. I wish the PC Brigade the best of luck with their efforts, in the certain knowledge they have less than a snowball’s chance in hell if they go anywhere near Argyle Street in Glasgow after the pubs shut...

MAID OF MONEY

The ambience of the afternoon in my al fresco office was abruptly shattered by the arrival of a pick-up truck manned by two surly types. After stubbornly refusing to clear off before I set the dogs on them, it transpired they were there by invitation. Upon the return of my entrepreneurial maid, stern words were spoken. I was not begrudging her salary supplement by arranging disposal of the meagre few kilos of Heineken cans inexplicably accumulated at my abode, it was the fact that she de facto left me in charge of their collection without prior approval or warning. I happened to be listening to a Dire Straits album entitled: ‘Money For Nothing’ at the time. How appropriate...


Personal Directions: Imagine ...

by Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates

Imagine for a moment that you are squeezing a plump, soft, fresh lime. You taste the juice and it is really sour, so sour that it makes you screw your face up and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Shivers go down your spine and you shake your head at the refreshing but zesty and sharp bite of the limejuice - oooph! You grimace and squint your eyes. Okay. Now, think about what you have in your mouth. What’s there? Is it saliva? And where’s the lime you’ve been squeezing? Where did you say?

For most of you reading this your imaginations would have produced saliva - that’s how powerful the imagination is! Nurture it, feed it and let it loose and it will produce the most vivid pictures in your mind or produce the most surprising physical results.

Imagination is an element of our minds that we are still exploring and have only just touched upon its ability and where it can actually take us.

The power of your imagination is so tremendous that it may take you weeks to realize it. But it is a catalyst that can trigger off your positive, success-driven thinking that can lead to positive results. It can also trigger of the negative aspects as well. What you put in - you get back. Positive input means positive results and likewise, negative input means negative results.

An activity that we do in our goal setting programs is about mental picturing, or in other words, visualization. Once goals have been set, acknowledged as the individual’s own goals (this is very important) and written down with the pertinent details surrounding them, we then dedicate time to visualizing them. You may ask why we do this. Well it is an extremely essential part of the process which, although takes a certain amount of application, fires the desire and drives the individual forward, towards achievement. It helps the individual sculpt their goal and to give it shape and form. It brings the goal in touch with reality and puts the individual into the picture as well. When we can see ourselves in the picture - we begin to “own” the goal and commit ourselves even more to reaching it.

Another aspect to this, should you find it at first a little difficult to get inside your thoughts and use your imagination, is to find pictures that resemble the goal you wish to reach. Make sure they are clear, bright, detailed and easy to recognize. And then find a photo of yourself - try to use one that shows you in a positive and appealing sense. Place them on a poster or in a book or somewhere close to the details and plans you have written about your goal. To ensure that this has impact, look at the picture as much as you can, not only to remind you of your goal, and that it is your goal that you are going to achieve but more importantly, to trigger your imagination that will drive you towards it and make it reality.

Place the images somewhere that you can see them and use them in conjunction with your own mental picturing to visualize what you wish to achieve. Don’t put them in a drawer. Don’t put them in a cupboard. This is tantamount to saying that you are not going to do anything about your goals and that you expect them to come to you. This in itself is an admission that you really don’t have any thing to strive for . You think you do, but you really don’t.

Why do you think every travel agent’s office has glorious, larger-than-life, glossy and inviting scenes of places you’d like to go? It’s all to do with sparking your imagination, getting you into “being there!”

Imagination is as elusive as joy or sorrow. You can’t put it in a bottle or get it out of one. It has no shape and yet it gives you shape. It enters into our every act. It is imagination that gives us the goal for which we head. We act, or fail to act; our acts are accelerated or frozen because of our imaginations.

“Imagination is the eye of the soul.” - Joubert

Apart from using mental picturing or “imagination” to give greater focus to our goals, it can also be used to help each of us build upon our own self-image. If we can see ourselves as we would like to be - imagine ourselves in situations we would like to be in - this can have a very solid impact on how we begin to change ourselves, our attitudes and behavior.

Take for example the art or skill of acting. Actors imagine themselves as the character they are to play. Some imagine themselves so intimately, that they appear “to be” the character they are portraying. They become real as we watch them take on the emotions, characteristics, mannerisms, movements and even what seems to be the physical appearance of the character (apart from the aid of make-up and costumes).

Do this as an exercise for yourself if you are not convinced of the power of imagination. Quite often I present this idea to different groups as an alternative activity and they are overwhelmed at the ability they have to imagine themselves into roles and into situations. At first they are inhibited, and unsure of how to behave because the activity is a little unusual. But if taken through this in a relaxed and unthreatening way, each individual has the strength and the quiet confidence to draw upon their unique and sometimes outrageously wild imaginations. The results can be extraordinary.

Imagination is something you can control. Start each day by using your imagination. Imagine the tasks you have set for the day in a positive and winning light and see the results.

Imagination is an incredible tool but most people do not cultivate it!

“The great instrument of moral good is the imagination,” wrote Shelly.

Make your imagination a friend to be treasured, instead of a storehouse of fears. Have a great week!

For more information I can be contacted by email - [email protected] - or at Asia Training Associates in Bangkok.


Social Commentary by Khai Khem

The trophy wife - or the booby prize?

The recent holiday season had me running around from pillar to post so I’ve been taking a pass on our group’s Friday Breakfast Club for a few weeks. Last week I found time to make an appearance. Seems I didn’t miss much. I walked in just as the food was finished but the beer was still flowing. Our gang meets once a week for breakfast at an open bar and restaurant facing the ‘nice end of the beach’ in North Pattaya, and as I sat down, the gripe session was in full swing.

A perfect mix of Western residents, Thais and visitors had turned up. One Western gentleman who retired in Pattaya a few years ago had brought along his two sisters and a niece who were staying with him for a holiday. The two sisters were in their mid-50s and the niece was a drop-dead gorgeous Southern California advertising executive. When I arrived they were waxing eloquent about their aversion to all the gray-beards walking arm and arm around the city with Thai nymphs young enough to be their granddaughters.

According to them, this is some sort of obnoxious phenomenon that has become the symbol of Pattaya City and one of the experiences a visitor must not miss when coming here. Sort of like going to Egypt - if you haven’t ridden to the pyramids on horseback to watch the sunrise over the monuments, you may as well have stayed home.

What galled these women most is the knowledge that many of these old codgers didn’t buy these girls out of a bar for 500 baht, but they’d actually MARRIED them. They were rather open-minded about the simple business transaction of a one-night-stand that prostitution is primarily based upon. But, “Who in their right mind would actually settle down and ‘play house’ with these Third World country girls with whom they can barely communicate, probably met in a bar, then buy them a house, car, set up a bank account, and start raising a young family at their age?” they questioned.

This is always a subject for lively debate in Fun City. I sat back and watched the fireworks. Our American guests didn’t know that half of the men who were sitting at the table that morning were happily married to women who fit this description. So I told them. In a nice way.

I interjected the fact that a lot of men marry ‘trophy wives’ and that from a man’s point of view, he can ‘marry down’ and still retain the dominant role. A young and beautiful wife who is ornamental enough to make every man drool with envy when she walks into a room is not exclusive to Pattaya. This is really our esteemed columnist Hillary’s territory and frankly, had her plate not been so full of chocolates and her glass so full of champagne I’d had passed on the topic. But I was hungry and was trapped into singing for my supper - breakfast.

From my experience, what is very characteristic of what we see here in Thailand is the failed attempt to win a real trophy. In truth, most of my long-time foreign acquaintances with Thai wives are just as happy (or discontented) as other married couples around the world. The successful relationships don’t just happen. These couples work hard at making it work.

The men who seem to make a concentrated effort and hardheaded decision to set up life in a minefield are the ones who take the easy way out. They come here because they are looking for a quick-fix to mend their broken lives and think Pattaya is one big happy hunting ground filled with female solutions to all their failures and screw-ups they’ve left behind in their home countries. I’m not judging their right to be human and flawed. I see something more subtle. To me their judgment seems to be very poor in a lot of areas, not just romance.

The guys who get ripped off by Thai bar girls for example, do not think things through in a practical manner. Their decision-making process is whimsical and lacks a solid plan. It smacks of laziness and carelessness. How can grown men who are not necessarily below average intelligence be so thoroughly conned out of their money, peace of mind, and finally their sanity? Because they think they won a trophy. It’s a vanity thing. The lady who dupes these basically nice guys is focused. He’s the one who’s ‘out-to-lunch’.

There is an old saying; ‘men don’t like smart women’. The truth is, a smart woman can be an asset to the man in her life. As long as he is healthy, able, and still in control, he probably can stand tall and hang tough. When a man gets older or runs into a bumpy patch, he realizes he’s not bulletproof and a helpmate is much more appreciated.

Of course that’s just exactly when these poor duffers in Pattaya get the surprise of their life. Their young, pretty wife isn’t smart enough or experienced enough or educated enough to help him out. Do it her way and he’s sunk! Let the Thai family, friends and associates take over and he finds himself buried alive in chaos and misunderstandings.

I personally have had to coach some of these guys on how to get their money out of their home countries and set it up so that their young Thai wives with a 4th grade education - who do not comprehend sophisticated documents or procedures in any language - will be looked after if something happens to them.

I’ve met foreign men who’ve laid out cash for houses their wives picked out. A couple of years later due to poor judgment on her part, and laziness on his part, the chosen abode is either falling apart or the neighborhood is so bad they eventually have to move. The land papers may not be properly registered; the house and land may be in an illusive relative’s name. The list of nasty surprises is long. So in the end, their trophy is not a winner, it’s a booby prize. That’s the prize they give to the losers so they don’t lose face.

Of course I didn’t argue these points at breakfast. Some people are just accidents waiting to happen. If they fall down a well I am usually just thankful I wasn’t following their directions and let it go at that.


Women’s World: The brassiere Part II

by Lesley Warmer

In the 1960s fashion went the opposite way again and flattening, ‘bandeau’ bras were worn to achieve a ‘lean’ silhouette. For a short period of time the bra looked as if it might become extinct when women started burning their bra’s during the 60’s.

The adhesive bra.

Also in the 60s, with the influence of British designer Mary Quant, bras started being manufactured in a variety of colors. Then came the super model ‘Twiggy’ who everyone wanted to emulate and she certainly didn’t need a bra.

Breasts made a comeback in the 1980-90’s, with the help of Madonna and her Jean-Paul Gaultier stage outfits. In 1987 Playtex International made history when networks began airing its commercials showing women wearing bras. In the early 90s the padded push-up Wonderbra revolutionized the lingerie industry. It has become the most imitated item of corsetry this century

A fantasy bra with real diamonds costs only $12.5 million.

These days bra designs are too many to mention. You can virtually buy anything you fancy, but finding the correct size can still cause a problem. There are shops that will measure you but below are some tips that may help you if you’re in the wrong size.

1. Do your straps fall off your shoulders? If so, you’re probably wearing the wrong size bra, or it has lost its elasticity.

2. Does the back of your bra ride up? If so, the bra is not securely anchored around your rib cage. This can be because it’s past it’s best and needs to be replaced, or you may be wearing the wrong size bra. If the band size is too big, the weight of your breasts will pull the bra forward causing the back to ride up. Try a bra with support and lift in the cups, the back of your bra should be parallel to the front.

3. Are you bulging out of the top of your bra? The style of your bra may be too shallow, or the cup size may be too small. Shallow, demi cup bras may not be suitable for the fuller figure and therefore cause the bulging problem. Instead, look for styles with fuller coverage. Wearing a larger cup size that fully encompasses all your breast tissue can also prevent bulging.

4. Do your under wires poke up in the center of your breasts? Most likely, the under wires are not lying properly against your chest wall. You need to look for a bra with a very short center.

5. Do you have pain in your shoulders or back? Without a supportive and properly fitting bra all the weight of your breasts is centered on your shoulders. A bra that fits correctly anchors the weight of the breast lower on the back and relieves the shoulders. You should be able to slip the shoulder straps down and still maintain good support.

6. Do you have two distinctly different-sized breasts? A lot of women do try a bra with removable pads, or a stretch bra that will shape itself to your different sizes. By wearing a bra with removable pads you can remove the pad on your fuller side to achieve a more symmetrical appearance.

If you want to measure yourself, it is possible; try first to get the correct band measurement. Measure under your arms, high on your back across your shoulder blades, over the top of your bust. If this measurement is an even number, then this is your band size. If this measurement is an odd number, then add 1" to determine your band size.

Secondly, to get your correct cup measurement: With your bra on, measure loosely around the fullest part of your bust. Subtract your band measurement from your cup measurement; each inch is a cup size. For example: if your band measurement is 34" and your cup measurement is 36", then the difference between these measurements is two inches, and you would wear a B-cup. Other examples: (1" = A), (2" = B), (3" = C), (4" = D).