This issue of

This is Thailand

For those of you with questions regarding Thailand, Thai culture, history, tourism, laws, rules, food, nightlife, subculture, dating, or generally anything as long as it is relevant, we have a panel of experts ready to respond to your enquiries. Email: [email protected]

We have been separating our garbage into different categories for recycling and collection, but we’re not sure what to do with old batteries. Can you advise?

Hilary: Good call! Failing to separate batteries from regular waste – especially in developing countries like Thailand – is dangerous and bad for the environment. If mixed garbage containing batteries is burned, the batteries will leak harmful toxins into the surrounding atmosphere, which can then enter communal food and water supplies. Also, many batteries sold in Southeast Asia are extremely low quality and highly toxic, with as much as 1,000 times the amount of heavy metals that are allowed by European standards, according to Myrtle Lemmerling, co-founder and managing director of ReCharge! Enviro Network ( So, what can you do with your used batteries? Bring them to Free Bird Caf? ( /FreeBirdCafe, 081 028 5383) on Maneenopparat Road. They’ve got a big container to collect old batteries for recycling. You can also find hazardous waste bins (as well as separate containers for recyclable plastics and general waste) at major shopping malls and supermarkets, including Airport Plaza, Central Plaza, Pantip Plaza, Big C Extra, Big C Don Chan and the Muncipal Office on Intaworot Road, just west of the Three Kings Monument. 

I am looking to open up a restaurant in Thailand as a foreigner. Am I eligible to do so? 

Pooja (intern): Yes, you certainly are allowed to open your own restaurant in Thailand. However, there are various rules that need to be followed. Firstly, you cannot own the restaurant wholly unless you are a citizen of the USA (thanks to a loophole dating back to the Vietnam War). Otherwise, a foreigner can own only up to 49 percent of the equity. A 51 percent share must be held by a Thai National. It could be your girlfriend, your wife or a close friend, but use caution and make sure it is someone you trust completely. Secondly, you will have to live in Thailand on a non-immigrant business (B) visa. Thirdly, you will have to hire a lawyer to take you through the legal formalities. For more information, visit How-to-Start-Your-Own-Business-in-Thailand.

Where can I enroll for pottery classes in Chiang Mai?

Pooja: Thailand is very famous for its pottery. There are various locations where you can learn how to make it yourself. The classes range from beginners to expert levels depending on your experience. The In Clay Studio runs classes on Suthep Road. You can contact them at 081 785 1943 (Chi). The Empty Space Chiang Mai Ceramic Studio in Sanpatong also runs workshops. You can contact them at 089 045 8585 or visit their website at

I want to extend my tourist visa. What do I do?

Pooja: Upon arrival, citizens of most countries receive a 30-day tourist visa (now via land or air for many countries include the US and UK). However, if you do wish to stay in Thailand for longer than that, you can do so – it just requires some extra work. The first option is to go to a neighbouring country (i.e. Burma, Laos, Cambodia or Malaysia) and cross back into Thailand, thus getting a new 30-day visa on arrival. Note that you can get a multiple-entry tourist visa (as well as other types of visas for those that qualify) in places like Vientiane, Laos. 

An easy way to set up this trip is through AYA Service ( which offers overnight mini-bus transport and visa assistance at quite reasonable prices. If you’re only looking for another month and don’t wish to travel, just go to the immigration office (between Central Airport Plaza and the Chiang Mai Airport, 71 Moo 3, Tel. 053 201 7556) and apply for an extension of 30 days. The extension fee is about 1,900 baht.

The following documents will be required for an extension:  

 • Passport with the departure card form   

 • A photocopy of the photograph page ofpassport  
 • A photocopy of the Thailand tourist visa already stamped on the passport  
 • 2 passport size photographs

A form needs to be filled out upon arrival at the immigration office that asks for your address and reason for extension of tourist visa. The entire procedure takes about 15 minutes, but you may need to wait in line awhile.