Stickman Readers' Submissions February 28th, 2002

I Shed No Tears For Nana

As far as I'm concerned the NEP has been slowly cutting their own throat for the last 4-5 years. I've noticed all the negative aspects in your recent columns ever so slowly creeping towards becoming the norm for a long time. The abundance of the "Rookie" short time vacationers" with little or no practical experiences in the trenches of Bangkok nightlife and the art of negotiation willingly shelled out as often as not the 1st price that was quoted. A rough eye-balling of the battlefield tells me the number of wilful combatants peaked about 2 years ago.

It was a sellers market {The perfect Macroeconomics marriage of supply and demand] There was serious money being made and it kind of went to some people's heads. It started to remind me of when the U.S. Navy comes to Pattaya, and you have to hunker down in near seclusion with your favourite 1st string player before the hordes from offshore hit the beach. That or leave town for baseline going rate entertainment. I felt increasingly more taken for granted.

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The attitudes of too many girls soured quickly. The smiles were fewer and shorter. If you didn't want to match the 2 grand and up prices the top girls were getting for a short time, the replies became increasingly terse. Anything but the short time, with a Thai woman whose prerequisites met the standards of those who's tastes had been cultivated over many years and often decades became the only option on the menu. The place became assembly line sex with not even the equivalent of a complementary mint on the pillow. It became unabashed business. The fun and "atmosphere" of what for a few years did exist, leaked out of the place like a tire that had just backed over a set of parking garage spikes.

But the place continued to be in vogue as people visiting the LOS for 2-4 weeks are much more often willing and able to keep up with the rising prices and decreasing value. My visits there now usually by a friend or visitor with a specified agenda. I was there last month to see a girl of 21 who I'd been sporadically taking 3-5 day trips with the last 2 years, and had just moved to dancing at the 1st floor Hollywood from a much less travelled area of Sukhumvit. I had asked her shortly after meeting her why she wasn't at NEP or Patpong. She was content with the low key small venue that was close to home and where her friends worked. She was content to go on the road to Pattaya, Hua Hin, Samet etc. at the rate of 1,000 Baht a day. It was usually fun and worth putting up with her occasionally being a minor pain in the ass for short periods of time. I know her well enough to get some reasonably accurate answers to questions concerning "The Business". Her 1st words being "Oh Tim, this is not the same kind of place as XXX is" and went right into the nature of the difference working around the 2-4 week visitor to the LOS.

Since the current hook was the 50 baht draft, the pressure was on to compensate by shifting up a couple gears to hustle drinks. The barfine at 600 baht she stated with a slightly contorted smile, was not conducive to the income she expected. Arriving at 7:30 there was quite a choice of ladies and I only saw one that was that far to the right of the standard deviation, and she indeed was a Dandy in American vernacular. I sat there every time they danced as they usually were placed side by side in the line-up and tried to nit-pick any subtle flaws that would give one the edge over the other. It was pretty much a dead heat.

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The only reason I could come up with to choose the unknown lass was that she, at least to me, was unknown and therefore there was an element of mystic. The point being that my friend was about the least likely female in the place to be less than thrilled with the fruits of her labour. Things had gone downhill quite a bit, even in the 4 months she had been there. The full bikinis, the top so rigid it held her enormous assets from fulfilling the laws of physics. This thing had metal frame reinforcement, to contain her noms from spilling out over top to do their imitation jello mould routine. Like seeing a hyper puppy on a short leash, they commanded my sympathy as they strained to be free. At 21 years, 160 cm and 50 kgs.

Many times at home or "on the road" I would ponder this assault to the theories of Sir Isaac Newton and Gallelieo. How could natural breasts maintain such a perfect, almost like they must have had some invisible suspension devise to maintain this defiance of gravity. Alas the answer is youth. Being in the medical field I'd bet a renewable yearly visa to the Land Of Smiles their is no violation to the truth in advertising laws. Sorry to get distracted by memories and off the subject momentarily, but here is a girl with a face that goes right along with the rest of her, who likes sex, and has no qualms about how she is making a living, and even she isn't happy with the whole environment at NEP.

The money is still better than her former place of employment, but as she states, it's sanuk nitnoy. She loves to dance and had more spunk than any girl in the place, so it's not the dancing, which didn't exist at her former job. And she's not the shy type. Several times she would proudly direct me to check out her body since she had lost a tad over 3 kgs. It was almost too perfect as she could add a half pound to each cheek and be well with in the parameters to make most any man drool. She's never hesitated when we're out to say 'let's go somewhere else", "no fun here'. Too fast, too serious don't waste a minute if it isn't producing income.

Everyone in what is now an industry likes a free spending customer, and I've never regretted the occasions over the years, despite taking some heat from more experienced friends who may be too rigid at times in breaking new territory in financial outlays for a girl I've felt I must have. I would venture that the NEP could have continued on it's long-standing course and continued to prosper, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree till the whole 9/11 stigma blows over. But with this new gent Mr. P. and all the restrictions aimed to discourage the nightlife scene {and I believe you ain't seen the half of it yet} are going to create such a dog eat dog, survival of the fittest business environment that few will be able to make it profitable to operate any place anybody with even a fair to middling amount of time spent hanging out or carousing the night spots would consider much fun.

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In a way the NEP has become a victim of it's own success. Where the NEP sits for many years was mostly a vacant lot with 1 house in the back and a Green wood fence along the sidewalk, with the only commercial enterprise being the 2 old ladies that set up a Lao soup and noodle stand when the sun went down. A thriving trade being done with the girls from the Nana coffee shop who would take 2 bites of a 300 baht farang meal one of the boys on R+R from jobs in Arab countries would provide, and would at first chance, make a beeline for a 10 baht bowl of chow that tasted a lot like maes. Many of the guys that cut their proverbial teeth on the gohock stories and behaviour of the girls at the Nana coffee shop 20-25 years ago and the guys that hung out at the Thermae, then eventually the Cowboy and then Washington Square in a vain search for something remotely resembling the atmosphere of a bygone era, whose colour has faded like a painting left out in the tropical sun for 2 decades and more.

Change is inevitable and a lot of what has come since has been good, at least for a while. There's been some honest attempts to provide something special and or different than the almost franchise like environment of many of these current establishments. As has happened to everyplace that was someplace special in Thailand, from Phuket to Koh Samui to virtually everywhere a good idea became profitable and really fun at the same time. The concept has been taken to the extreme by a never ending stream of Johnny come lately with the great idea of opening a bar, or a guesthouse, then the mega resorts. The airport that went into Samui in '87 was something that changed things for good, whether you like or not. The jobs that have been provided for Thais notwithstanding, changed the place forever. And now they have Mcdonalds too. Is nothing sacred? I say this half in jest. A good idea, a beautiful, profitable, fun, whatever is perceived to make it that way or perceived to improve on it, and does. The concept is taken out in the back in the alley and beaten senseless by copycats till they are an almost unrecongisable image of their former selves.

This current crackdown on the nightlife should take no one by complete surprise. Christ! it was getting to the point where you couldn't swing a dead cat on Sukhumvit without hitting someone opening a new bar. You could almost forgo the "where are you from part of the conversation when you met another farang" you had seen around for awhile and just ask them what bar they owned or had a piece of or vowed to return to start yet another. The fact that it finally irritated enough Thais not making their living off "The Industry" that someone such as Mr. P can make these closing time restrictions stick and enforce them. Thais will just grab a bottle of whatever at the all night convience mart and party on at someone's place. A number of farangs I know and a number I don't have found a slightly different venue in which to deal with the current reality. I will not mention where off Sukhumvit it is, only it's probably best if you go there after hours, you should probably already have a female companion if you desire one. The part of "The Industry " that caters to farangs is only the tip of the iceberg. There won't be any or many farangs making money off any after hours places. There are nights that I don't wake up or feel like going out till 12 or 1 AM, let alone start getting ready to call it a night. What will come out of, and survive, these restrictions remains to be seen.

I would be even more dumbfounded and concerned about this if it wasn't for, a stroke of luck that only seems to find me every 2-3 years. That coming in the form of a so far gem of a girlfriend outside of "The Industry". What worries me about her other than her lack of command of the English language is that she hasn't triggered any of the usual red flags my 23 years of living coming and going to the LOS has developed. She's a fine looking woman, who is polite, places next to no demands on me, doesn't drink or smoke and doesn't come from Isaan, which is only a possible plus when one's girlfriend isn't for a change from there. So many of the Isaan girls in the industry are and there is such a massive grapevine between them that maybe less sources of negative outside influence will come into play. Her last job was at Robinson's till the slowdown has her laid off. She has a level 3 education and is philosophical about the job she has just taken sewing dresses for a small store. She will look for something better. She doesn't bother me about money, so for that reason I give her a few thousand baht periodically and at my discretion and as it has turned out I do it because I want to, and can afford to. She lives with her mother and her siblings all contribute 500 – 1,000 baht for the mothers well-being. None of them being employed in the industry.

I will take the usual advice I give to friends that have "things" going so well. Wait, the red flags will come. But for now I haven't turned off the radar. In fact I disabled the off switch years ago. But for the time being I'm just enjoying this and counting my blessings as long as they last as it's been a long time since "things" have been this good. I'm just going to sit on the sidelines while this nightlife thing plays out. Maybe I'll spoil this woman a little to show my appreciation for such great treatment. She's worth so much more than I give her. Least anyone worry that I will take the beautiful fish out of the water and back to my house in Los Angeles. Let me say that 15 years ago I met and married a non industry Thai girl and brought her to LA. I know where the potholes are on that road already. I did better than many and remain close friends, so I worry a little, where are these red flags and when will they appear. If and or when I find the need to look to The Industry for their product to pass some time with I will be more concerned. I think the number of people voting with their feet will continue. Things will get worse for The Industry. It of course will not or can not or should not disappear. The competition will get tougher, if what survives is any fun or not we will see. I enjoy your web site. Some interesting and useful things pop up fairly frequently

Stickman says:

You and I do not share the same views on the future of the industry. I think the "golden age" is well and truly behind us, and was in fact well before I ever set foot in this country. But that really doesn't bother me, for while I had my fun fooling around in "the industry", those days are now well and truly behind me. People who come here for short trips will continue to enjoy it, and for folks like me who are not afraid to call a spade a spade, they will accuse me of being jaded for saying that is isn't like the good old days. As long as it remains more fun than the West – and be assured that it will – the argument of whether the scene is in decline will remain forever.

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