Dave bought a bar from Nok's auntie. Nok's auntie somehow contrived to get him to agree to buy the business without using lawyers. Buddhist temple-sized warning bells should have sounded straight away, but Nok convinced him that this was the way things are done in Thailand. Dave happily signed on the dotted line for a bar - greatly resembling the one in the photo below - for the nice round figure of £10,000. Not so bad, you reckon? Well bear in mind that he was only buying the business, not the land or the property itself, with a four year lease - and there was a sizeable monthly rental to pay. Not forgetting the sums allegedly payable for 'security assistance' to the forces of law and order.
The premises themselves were nicely furnished and fully equipped. Fridges, a brand new recently installed bar, a small kitchen, a good stock inventory. For Dave, a dream come true. Until the big day arrived.
The night before, Nok's auntie - with a little help from friends - paid the bar one last visit. It was stripped of everything; the stock, the bar, the equipment, the tables and chairs, the cookers and fridges... even the photos from the walls. The police were called, but with the Thai equivalent of a Gallic shrug they told Dave that there was nothing they could do. The lease agreement (in Thai) - which supposedly made full mention of the fixtures, fittings and stock - was not worth the paper it was written on. Other than the part confirming his duty to pay the monthly rental, of course.
So opening night consisted of a devastated Dave, with a couple of sympathetic passing farangs curious to find out why the owner was sat on the floor of an empty bar, sharing a bottle of Sang Som Thai rum purchased from the 7-Eleven across the road.
Could it possibly get worse? Oh yes.
Dave bit the bullet and restocked, bought some cheap furniture. Soon-to-be wife Nok found a ladyboy friend who was supposed to be an experienced bar manager, and who would look after the late evening trade. Things were looking up. Well, they were certainly looking up for the ladyboy manager, and for his friends and late passers-by who were invited in to party into the small hours. The manager was pocketing all of the proceeds from the sale of drinks at below cost price. Dave only found out when one customer refused to pay his bill during the daytime, insisting that his bottle of Chang beer should always be charged at the same price, and only last night it had cost him just 30 baht (normally more than twice that).
A quick stock inventory revealed that Dave had lost another small fortune. Kicking the ladyboy manager out gave him no real satisfaction. He'd been had yet again.
Unknown to Dave though, the killer blow was yet to come. He'd received a letter that day. Indecipherable, as his Thai was non-existent, and for some reason, Nok - who had to make a sudden trip away into the jungle somewhere to see her sick mum - was reluctant to explain the contents just before she left. A helpful Thai customer smilingly translated.
"This is to confirm that work on the new condominium building will commence on December 1st 2008. All tenants of properties in the redevelopment area are to vacate their premises by November 30th latest."Caveat emptor? ...
To finish on a slightly more cheerful note, this young lady is just a couple of hours old.
Sleepless nights ahead!