Readers' Submissions

General Trends

  • Written by Mr Tim
  • March 9th, 2002
  • 9 min read




I was wondering how you size up the overall atmosphere and attitude towards Farangs living, working or "owning' Businesses in Thailand, as opposed to those visiting for a few weeks. I feel Thais being a fairly tolerant people, allow Farangs residing in the kingdom to exist and make a living. But perhaps it is just me who over the last couple years has sensed an increased resentment to those farangs that actually prosper monetarily. There's not much of a problem for those willing to teach English for 30,000 Baht a month. But for those in other areas making well into the 6 figures from ongoing business concerns, there is more interest and effort than previously being devoted to curtailing any increase in the number of these individuals. Get too successful and your costs of doing business may rise rapidly from rents to bribes.

One has always had to remain "on top of things" constantly to give any farang operated business a chance for survival and a decent profit. The Thai economy having taken a dive over the last 4-5 years means there a lot more "legitimate" Thai businessmen out there that have seen their investments go south. I would venture that seeing a farang making a real or perceived "killing" in the current economic climate, is becoming increasingly harder to swallow for those unable to get a finger in the Farangs proverbial pie.

The Farang oriented bars existing in the numbers that they do, are the most visible investment made by a single or small group of partners. Without prostitution as the engine, how many Farangs would be willing to travel half way around the world to sell only beers in this restrictive business climate? Prostitution will obviously never be eliminated or probably even seriously curtailed.

The recent restrictions probably hurt the Farang oriented and Farang operated bars the most. The farang oriented bars running on Thai investment may be equally damaged. The alternatives, such as the hotel coffee shops at say the Nana Hotel are owned by Thais. And because the Nana predominately caters to Farangs there will be a lot closer police presence and subsequent ways may well be found to restrict places like the Nana or increase their operating costs which will be passed on to the customer. What the police may come up with in the way of petty offences in the peripheral areas to milk their "fair" share of money out of the Farang could be quite creative.

I shall be quite curious to see how much attention gets paid to places like the Siam Hotel coffee shop on Petchaburi Road that is large by comparison and caters exclusively to Thais. I haven't been there in quite a while but every time I was I and my friend Edward, who has lived in Thailand 30 years and actually does speak fluent Thai have been, the pale faces in the place. The same thing goes on as it does at the Nana, it just isn't [or wasn't] as obvious as of my last visit was a while back. Few of the women wore jeans, and a number arrived driving their car. The visitor to Thailand for a few weeks or a month is the bread and butter of NEP, PP, the Thermae, the Cowboy.

The Farangs who do have substantial investments in bars in the Sukhumvit area, and have been making substantial profits are quite likely located in or very close to these places. The Thermae of course is not Farang owned. Anything affecting the ability of these places to generate business, such as restricting operating hours directly affects their ability to survive. How much if any of the intent in these new restrictions were formulated with reducing the number of Farang operated bars is unknown to me. With talk of entertainment zones to areas already existing, prospering and pretty much exclusively Thai owned and operated such as the Rachadapisek area being kicked around, what will happen down the road? The cost of setting up "shop" in this area could be quite expensive for a Farang starting or relocating their business.

As you now have the opening of the Queens Park entertainment Complex on Soi 22 starting up [to some degree anyway] back in December, what is actually going to come of all this is anybody's guess. But as far as The QPEC on soi 22 goes, they were building new beer bars all through January and the 1st half of February. I personally think these places are going to have a tough go of it as many of them didn't even open till the season was half over or more. I think this complex will operate in much in the same way as a motorcycle dealership operates in Thailand. When someone buys a new bike, they make a down payment and then are into monthly instalments. Some manage to pay them off, some make a varying number of payments, but a significant number face the inability to make the payments and get the bike repo'ed. The dealer then resells the bike, and the process starts all over again, and again and I am curious as to the actual number of times this happens, particularly out in the provinces where any chunk of hard cash is so difficult to come by on a regular basis. That combined with many Thais inability to perceive adequately the consequences of there actions on a long term scale, at the time they enter into an agreement.

The Larger bars at the front of QPEC such as Moonshine Joint and 2nd Row Players bar put down 100,000 baht right off the bat then 20-30,000 baht a month plus every year another 100,000 baht. For little places in back such as Sweet Hearts which only has seating for 7 – 8 people, the monthly rent is 8,000 baht. Three girls have got together the money for Sweet Hearts. Miss Nuan, a friend for a few years, is indeed a sweetheart and I wish her all the best, but I fear that the whole place is going to have a tough go of it. If they are planning to tap into the upscale guests at the Queens Park Hotel they are too a large percentage Asian tourists on package tours. They may fill up all the foot massage places for blocks around but I don't see many of them stopping by this new complex. And a sizeable number of the Farang guests are middle-aged or elderly couples.

Any new business has a lag time before it turns a steady profit and many small investors don't have the resources to last through the rainy season. Many nights places like Player's Bar get only a couple customers all night and some nights none. It took several years before even NEP started to get a full head of steam up. And opening this complex into the face of these new restrictions, WOW now that's what you call gambling! No parking around either. Soi 22 has seen a number of little places spring up in the last 4 years, and a number change hands.

A few who did OK have pushed things down the road as with everything that makes a few baht takes in Thailand, there is quickly another 50 similar places in the works. Will there be buyers for the weaker links come July? Will other Thais step up to the plate to take their turn, like they do with motorcycles. Will there be any more Farang – would be whoremiesters stepping of the plane at Don Muang? Of course there will, but they best be crackerjack business people or have the next gimmick to sweep the bars in the LOS to stand much of a chance.

Of course one must keep everything in perspective, and so many things are subjective. $25,000 may be a lot of money to some but a losable amount to pluck down on a long shot. Everything is relative, and as the Stick says, Thailand is still more fun than any place in the west. Who knows, in 20-25 years, those entering the LOS now for the first time may look back on this period as in their mind they may be the "good old days". What's been going on in one form or another for a 1,000 years in the LOS will continue. Prostitution here is if I may make the somewhat strange analogy, like trying to squeeze a handful of water. The harder you squeeze, the more places it will leak out . If they should put the kabash on sitting at the outdoor tables between the Thermae and Soi 13 and drinking for several hours after the bars closes. It will pop up in some other way in another.

The Sky Train Stations. Back to the days of Bogart, where the taxi driver or bell-hop was the middleman and best place to start. There's always the escort services for those who can afford them and trust somebody else's judgement. Or maybe the girls will turn to advertising and offer Thai language instruction. At least their wouldn't be many local undercover police showing up to catch the girls off guard. My original question of "is there any conscious intent in this Thais Love Thais Party led government of the current Prime Minister to nudge out some of the more prosperous Farangs? The girls and bars will always be around, but will enough restrictions be applied to the Farang bar owners to necessitate those running on marginal profits to fall by the way side.

Is there any more of an attitude this last year that if anyone is going to be making money off of Thai prostitutes, it should be another Thai – or is it all coincidence, and just an unintentional consequence? Isn't the deck stacked enough? My hat is off to guys who want to stay in Thailand bad enough to teach English for 25,000 – 30, 000 baht a month. I've met at least a half dozen of them in the last few months. That's a skill the Thais want, and can't do for themselves. At least almost never competently. So your underpaid ass stands a good chance of getting a work permit. I haven't had the desire or ability to live in Bangkok on 25 – 30,000 baht or the predevaluation equivalent in a long time! My memories are still clear enough from period where that was a reality for me. And speaking of money, is there or will there be any shift in the demographics of who that will be? I've never really wanted to risk what money I have, on something I have no experience with, so I'll never be sitting on the other side of the bar. And be able to continue to confine my expenses to what I can pour in a glass, and I don't care who gets the money, as long as they treat me decent.

Stickman says:

There are so many reasons why farangs shouldn't open bars, and you have touched on more than a few of them. However, it must bee said that some of the bigger farang owned bars do turn a very tidy profit, so there is proof that if it is done right, one can do really well out of it.