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A Look At the Local Scene




One of Stickman’s best received Sunday columns quite some time ago described a trip he made to the outer reaches of Bangkok to investigate the nightlife scene there. Well, I don’t live that far out, but it is certainly an area where few tourists would venture. Yet there are a large number of entertainment places in quite a short distance, reflecting that the tourist nightlife scene of Cowboy, Nana and Patpong is merely the tip of the iceberg. Long-timers here know that, of course, but those new to Thailand might be amazed at how widespread the naughty nightlife in Thailand is.

Even the smallest village will have somewhere people can go to be pampered. On my first visit to an area close to my wife’s village, at a place that is not much more than a crossroads and a market, 40 kilometres from the nearest decent-sized town, we stopped at a small hotel for dinner one evening. There was a stage in the restaurant, and I spotted a number of girls sitting nearby doing the face maintenance thing with the lipstick and mascara. I assumed they were singers or dancers with a band that was to perform later. It was only later that I found out they were there to provide a different kind of entertainment. Silly me.

So of course there are also places in Bangkok that cater for the local market rather than the tourist trade. Many of those places are hardly discrete, either, with huge multi-storey massage parlours lit up like a Christmas tree, or the clubs along Rachada. I’m not going to concern myself with those now, and in fact Stick wrote recently of a visit to one of those member clubs. A great source for info on those places is The Farang Speaks. So, instead, this is about the small local stuff, rather than the big city centre places.

I’d been intrigued by all these places close to my home, and the sheer number of them, but realised that to get anything much out of a visit to them would need a decent knowledge of Thai, it not being a tourist area. And although I’ve lived in Thailand for over 10 years I’m never here long enough at any one time to start learning the language. Can’t learn for six weeks and then go away for a couple of months. Plus, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the ability to learn, although when I eventually stop flying around the planet I’ll give it a go. Anyway, I mentioned these places to Stick, and he was interested in having a look and so we did a bit of exploring together.

The places appear to cater for all tastes. After rejecting an offer from a ladyboy and what might have really been a girl within minutes of meeting, we walked up the street before choosing our first stop. This was a pub called Julie’s, with a decent outdoor area, comfortable modern seating and a long bar set against the wall with concealed lighting. Pleasant, and despite the warm evening we sat out there rather than inside because the band inside, with no customers as it was still early, was just far too loud. Service was efficient and polite and we were treated no differently than anyone else. No stares, no giggles. They came later.

Then we moved on to look at a place just off the main drag. A girl sitting outside in a short skirt jumped up upon our arrival, offering a flash of white underwear as she did so, and showed us inside. But it was cold and gloomy and empty. So out and onwards. There are two or three karaoke places along the road with quite a number of attractive girls sitting outside, and we did now receive a bit of extra attention from some of them as we looked like potential and comparatively ‘exotic’ customers. We stepped into one of these places and got the lowdown on prices. The room, with cheap plastic couch seating and a table with a dirty looking computer keyboard for choosing the songs would cost 300 baht. A bottle of whisky was 1200 or 1600, and a girl to pour your drinks and sing with you, or whatever, cost 400 an hour. Thank you, we said, and left. One girl was really cute though, so that hurt a little.

Then we wandered into a pub, called the Wooden Boat or something like that. An old crone was sitting outside, showing her three brown-stained teeth, who smiled a welcome and we gave each other a thumbs up. Friendly contact established, and so it continued inside. The place was set out like a restaurant, and food was available if we wanted it, but we just ordered drinks. The service was friendly, and it was nice to see most of the staff smiling. A number of girls, mostly in long cocktail dresses, got up on the stage and sang, as well as a couple of guys in smart jackets. The girls were good looking, the singing was surprisingly good, and the music wasn’t too loud. A very decent place to relax, so we stayed there awhile. We discovered the girls were available for takeaway, and there was none of that bar-fine nonsense.

Moving on eventually, we tried a place called The Fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although it was probably by now around 11, not only was the place completely empty when we were shown in, but most of the lights were off. Bizarre, and they wondered why we didn’t want to linger. Then we spotted a place down a side soi which we investigated. The place covered quite a large area, with a restaurant on one side and pub on the other, with the car park in between. We headed towards the pub, which had a sign outside (in Thai) promising pretty lady singers, but the music was loud enough to be heard quite clearly outside so we left before we got an ear bashing.

One kind of place that I’d often passed and wondered about was the small places just one shophouse wide, with lots of little lights outside and a very dark interior (most do not have doors or windows, just a shutter to pull down after closing), and a TV on. Often, girls would be sitting outside in short dresses or mini-skirts. So what was that all about, I’d wondered. The cave-like darkness hinted of things your mother wouldn’t approve of. So we chose one, received an enthusiastic welcome from the staff, and settled at a table. Just a cheap but clean table for four as you’d find in any low-priced restaurant. The deal here was that one of the girls would sit with you for 60 baht an hour. Yes, 60 baht. This, I thought, was a good deal, and chose one who was quite cute with a lovely smile. Another, slightly older, lady sat with us too, and they were decent company. The girl sitting with me, we learned, was 19, from Surin, and had had a baby when she was 12. Yes, 12. Didn’t seem to have damaged her mentally, because she was very perky and smiled a lot. There was no hanky-panky there after all, just customers singing. While we were there, an elephant arrived to be fed sugar cane, just as if we were in Cowboy or Nana. It was the second one we saw that night, a little surprising so far away from the free-spending tourists.

So, the overall impression? Good. Prices were cheaper than in the tourist ghettos, as you’d expect, and there was no pressure to buy lady drinks or any other services. In fact, when we offered to buy one waitress at the Wooden Boat a drink she refused it, finding the idea completely alien. Imagine that happening in Nana. People were relaxed and friendly, and the service was always, always, with a smile. It reminded me of what Thailand is supposed to be like, and increasingly isn’t anymore. It underlined that, away from the tourist areas, Thais can still be the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world.

Stickman's thoughts:

It was a good night out and we must do it again, perhaps in a different neighbourhood.