The Nana Hotel Isn’t So Bad
The Nana Hotel on Suhkumvit Soi 4 has been a Bangkok institution for over 30 years. It is an icon of the naughty nightlife and the Mecca to mongers the world over. Love it or hate it, it never fails to provoke an opinion amongst visitors and residents
The sainted Dana refers to it with affection as the Mothership. It is immortalised by Christopher G Moore in his Vincent Calvino novels as “The Brandy Hotel”. Oft described as the “Old folks home” or Pfizer junction, it has a reputation as a sex-tourist friendly establishment for aficionados of all ages and nationalities.
Nestled in the shadow of the mighty Marriot Hotel it is a crumbling edifice that has inarguably seen better days. There are long standing rumours that more sand than cement was used in its construction and it will soon disintegrate and collapse. A fate many feel is long overdue.
I have heard numerous stories that bar girls will refuse to stay the night in certain rooms reputed to be haunted by the pee (ghost) of dead farangs who have topped themselves during a manifestation of the Bangkok blues.
Myself? I love the place and I could not envisage staying anywhere else in Bangkok. It is fundamental to my pilgrimages to the shrine of the holy dhjim. I must confess I have stayed in other places on my early visits. I stayed in the Nana on my first trip for four nights in November 2003 and had a wonderful induction into the salacious sois of Suhkumvit before going down to Pattaya to continue my education.
That first visit I couldn’t get a room on my return from Pattaya as the Nana didn’t have one vacant so my pal Phil booked me into a serviced apartment near Bumrungrad Hospital. Although the same price as the Nana it was spacious comfortable and clean. It was also highly conducive to the full-on Thai girlfriend experience I was engaged in that week.
Ah… the Thai girlfriend experience, can you recall that overpowering sensation of elation when all common sense evaporates?
If you asked a western guy what was the most wonderful experience of his life he will automatically reply that it was witnessing the birth of his first child or some such nonsense inspired by a Politically Correct feminist indoctrination. Now if you ask a Thailand aficionado the same question, after giving him a truth serum or ensuring there are no western harridans present to prompt him, he will unequivocally reply “his first Thai girlfriend experience”. This wonderful illusion is still available in Pattaya but I suspect it has all but vanished from the Bangkok scene to be replaced by a colder hearted, more mercenary attitude.
But I digress….on my second visit I repeated the previous routine. I stayed in the Nana for the first few days had a week in Pattaya and then booked in to the same serviced apartment on my return to Bangkok. By this second visit I was fully smitten by the “sickness” and considered myself a fully time served monger. In retrospect I was still a newbie and knew absolutely nothing but was influenced by some of the folklore such as changing hotels half way through a visit into order to throw any bargirl who was getting too close off your scent. I later thought about this and decided it was not relevant to me. It was highly unlikely I would meet any bar girl who would care enough to stalk me. This is not false modesty but I am in my 50’s, am not that much of a catch and have no money worth chasing.
The apartment was too far away from the main Suhkumvit action. I had to walk down Soi 3 through the Arab quarter four times a day which was not endearing. I learnt my lesson and on all subsequent trips to Bangkok I stay exclusively in the Nana Hotel.
In the twilight world that is life outside my Siamese sojourns I spend a lot of time travelling on business or working away which entails spending time in hotel rooms on my own. Over the past 30 years I have spent a large proportion of my life in strange beds across the world. In the hundreds of hotels I have seen the ones with any memorable character or redeeming feature you could count on the fingers of one hand.
In fact only three come to mind, one is the Rex at Whitley Bay near Newcastle which is famous for its Tuesday “grab a granny night” and has replaced Prague as the destination of choice for stag weekends. The other is the picturesque Wensum Valley Hotel near Norwich. The third the Sheraton Four Seasons in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
The latter served as my home for twelve months when I was running a small aluminium motorsports foundry in nearby Latrobe (home of Rolling Rock beer) some 15 years ago. I did initially have a company apartment in the town but I quickly gave it up to another English guy who the company had sent over. He had come to set up a computerised production planning system and had bought his English girlfriend as his assistant. This rather insensitive English couple caused me endless problems with the American workforce. I considered the whole exercise fairly futile anyway as I could have scheduled that foundry’s operations on the back of a fag packet…..but I digress. Giving up the apartment gave me the opportunity to move back to the Sheraton. It was great to live in a friendly unpretentious hotel where, as a long term resident, the management and staff genuinely treated me like one of the family.
The hotel had a first class restaurant and a gifted chef generally unappreciated by the locals. I befriended him and constantly praised his culinary flair which ensured I received preferential treatment and some wonderful special meals. The deputy manager was considered a martinet and feared by all the staff. She was in her late 30’s and actually a very pleasant but somewhat lonely lady. I made a point of taking her out for a drink every Tuesday night to a local bar. I never actually shagged her but the respect I was afforded by the staff for thinking I did was worth its weight in gold.
The hotel had a large and lively bar called the Prospect Lounge complete with a decent stage and a huge dance area which accommodated some excellent live bands 6 nights a week. Friday night was the highlight when scores of middle aged (and elderly) women came out with the intention of finding a man. The level of desperation exhibited by these females would have embarrassed a Bangkok freelancer on the Nana car park. These terrifying creatures were a bit too much even for my catholic taste. Imagine a cross between Dane Edna Everage, Susan Boyle and the Two Ronnie’s in drag you get some idea of what they looked like. The mere thought of intimacy with them made my todger retract into my groin like Obi Ben Kenobi’s cloak in Star wars. That they were actually seeking husbands rather than sexual encounters also prompted my indifference. I would counter any advance made with profuse apologies that I had left my dick in my other pair of trousers.
I did have a regular Friday night date with an attractive 35 year old nurse who was a sister at the local hospital. Her ability to extract drinks from me all night with the promise of carnal pleasures was the stuff of legends. That these assurances of breakfast in bed with me always involved NEXT week was testament to her prick teasing abilities. I did once get her and her younger sister naked in a Jacuzzi with me but that is a tale for another time….I have now forgotten what we were talking about… oh yes hotels.
I have stayed in hundreds of hotels and in most you seem to pay a lot of money to be ignored. Modern hotels are inherently impersonal and the older or smaller private hotels are usually run by Basil Faulty. Actually Basil’s antics would be infinitely preferable to the behaviour and attitude I have too often witnessed. I am convinced the majority of people who aspire to be owners of small hotels are the very people who should be actively discouraged if not banned from embarking on such a venture.
Most of the proprietors of small hotels in the UK I have encountered generally display the most anally retentive behaviour seen outside of a loony bin. They are the sort of people who should be confined to using crayons in a secure facility.
If it is not their constant need to liberally plaster their ubiquitous and petty rules on handwritten notices throughout the establishment, it is their insistence on continuously informing you that the (inedible) breakfasts they serve are legendary and the talk of the chambers of commerce in the area. These dysfunctional misfits are invariably pillars of their community and have a forceful opinion on everything, particularly things they clearly know nothing about. They unfailingly consider the dreadful décor, tasteless furniture and personal ornaments littering the place give the hotel a “homely feel” with absolutely no perception of the concept of customer service their ability to annoy is infinite.
Modern hotels chains however are managed by robots that have had personality by-pass operations. With newly minted MBAs they understand all about market segmentation and measures of performance but do not know their prick from their thumb (or even care) what the paying customer actually wants.
The bedrooms in all modern hotels confirm to a template designed by some spotty youth at a design college who has never had to stay a night in one. These “concepts” are then approved by an overpaid wanker in a striped shirt and designer jeans working in a marketing / advertising company in a plush office in the city of London.
Be assured these will be amongst the first to be strung up from lampposts come the revolution….just behind merchant bankers, city lawyers and the industrialists who allowed the UK’s manufacturing base to be given away to China India and Eastern Europe. Oops ….I got carried away again.
The actual bedrooms in these modern hotels are vivid illustrations of style over substance. The dark “mood” lighting systems they install I suspect is to create a soft effect enhancing the décor. But it makes the room so bloody dark I cannot see the controls for the air conditioning unit or the numbers on the telephone without the use of a high powered flashlight torch. Another example of this “all style and no substance” are those round marble hand basins that have become popular. They may look pretty but they are certainly not very functional.
It is the little things that annoy like the shampoo and soap being sealed in hard plastic that requires an oxy-acetylene cutter to open. Which is certainly a bugger whilst you are already standing naked under the shower?
And what is it with those fluffy bath robes and soft slippers that hang in the wardrobe? These things are only of interest to silly tarts. 90% of their customers are men and what man is interested in fluffy bathrobes and slippers unless he was a shirt lifting sausage jockey? Those bathrobes are also too big and fluffy; I couldn’t close my suitcase with them in (only joking… honestly constable).
The other thing is those enormous bowls of fruit which in some hotels are even tastefully cut up and cling wrapped for you. Who is ever going to eat that much fruit without a terminal loosening of your bowels? Certainly not most of the carnivorous blokes I know who consider chicken is a salad.
When I was contemplating my first trip to Bangkok, Phil sent me details of numerous hotels and I looked closely at several. The cost of the Marriot or Landmark was obviously prohibitive and hotels of this category really held no attraction. I have stayed at the Savoy and the Mayfair in London in my time and was not particularly impressed, my opinion is they are extremely overpriced and considerably overrated…. all “fur coat and no knickers”.
There were several hotels on the Bangkok list that looked impressive with an extensive list of facilities but when you considered them rationally most were superfluous to my needs…. When the f**k would I ever need to use conferencing facilities whilst on a mongering mission?
The guest policy of most upmarket hotels where you pay extra if you bring a female back is both hypocritical and money grasping. It is like paying “corkage” if you take your own wine to a restaurant. I would avoid that type of hotel like the plague.
The Nana Hotel has much to commend it to the single gentlemen. It has a passable restaurant where they occasionally get your order correct. There is a coffee bar, a hairdressing salon and a shop for those essential requisites and toiletries you forgot to pack. It also has a bookstall that sells the leading Thailand writers like Christopher Moore, Jake Needham, John Burdett, Stephen Leather and Phet ….oops just a little wishful thinking there.
The roof top swimming pool is actually quite good, not Olympic size but big enough for a gentle swim to provide a little exercise to counter the excesses of one's mongering activities. The pool area is pleasant with a good waiter service, just the job for relaxing on a sun lounger with your current squeeze. I have noticed that you rarely get them to swim with you; I suspect Thai girls share the same aversion to water as cats.
I am probably the only guest who actually uses the limousine service situated just outside the lobby entrance. They use aged Volvos, models that have not been seen in Sweden since Abba won the Eurovision song contest. The drivers of these relics are equally ancient but they are extremely friendly and compliant and they let me smoke when they take me to Pattaya or the airport. They are a little expensive but their service is convenient and relaxing. There was a time when I would struggle down to the Ekamai terminal and catch a bus down to Pattaya for two shillings and sixpence. Whilst I am on a reasonably tight budget I no longer feel the need to “skin a fart for a baht” all the time. I am 56 and getting too old and lazy for backpacking antics.
The Nana has a late night cocktail bar for that last drink you feel you sometimes need, although if you haven’t got drunk by 1PM you haven’t really been trying. It is inhabited by some of the most gruesome women you will see on the planet. They must get the occasional customer however, which is testimony to the complete lack of discernment some of the clientele have. Although I am ashamed to admit I have taken a woman from there some years ago but harrumph…she was different.
There is a late night disco on the ground floor which was always the place of last resort if you haven’t found a date by bar closing time. I haven’t been in since it became Nana Liquid but recall with affection the old Angels Disco. I particularly enjoyed the Angels dancers who put on a show every hour. I would try to catch the 9 PM show before moving on to Soi Cowboy or the Plaza. I always thought the girls were lovely and their dance routines quite charming.
There is a big communal area in the lobby with large chairs upholstered in fake leather. This serves as a day time meeting place for some of the veterans to exchange tales and complain about the rising cost of barfines. Copies of the Bangkok Post are available for some of these old codgers to read before they fall asleep in those chairs. In the evenings this area affords a ringside seat to all the fascinating comings and goings of this delightfully dysfunctional establishment.
As for the bedrooms, the décor may be outdated, the air conditioning tired and ageing and the bathrooms a little Spartan. But they are clean and a reasonable size. The beds are large, comfortable and eminently fit for purpose. The shower is functional and be assured you can get three people in the bathtub if you are willing to try. All things considered all you want a bedroom for is for sleeping and shagging. You do not want too many distractions in the room as you want the young lady whose services you have engaged to concentrate on the task in hand I have heard of some cads and bounders who actually disconnect the TV to this purpose but I think that is a bit excessive.
The major attraction is that it is at the very centre of all the action in Soi 4. It is only a stone’s throw from the infamous Nana entertainment plaza. With three floors and 30 bars employing over 800 available ladies it is the major feature but only one of the attractions. There are numerous bars along the Soi and beyond within walking distance that provide sufficient choice to satisfy even the most discerning of gentlemen.
The Nana's own Golden Bar is a splendid source of daytime girls but there is a choice of several bars open in daylight hours and hundreds of young ladies amenable to a little afternoon delight should that be your desire.
The Nana car park at bar closing time is the 9th wonder of the world (the 8th being a Thai girl’s mudgeon). The swarming mass of humanity that gathers there is a spectacle that defies description.
In conclusion the Nana Hotel is somewhat of an anachronism but as a base for the single gentleman traveller…..to quote an inane advert we see on British TV “It does what it says on the tin”.
I shall be back in the Nana Hotel on the afternoon of the 22nd April. I envisage spending that evening in the soft embrace of a raven haired daughter of the Isaan (or two). After 6 weeks in a dormitory on a Chinese industrial Estate I will have a little catching up to do. Even those gruesome dragons in the Nana cocktail bar are beginning to appeal. I don’t expect to meet any Stickmanites, it being a Sunday and as previously reported they will all be attending Sticks bible class anyway.
However on the Monday evening 23rd at 19.30 I will be in the Golden bar if anyone should wish to join me for a beer. The following day I am bound for Pattaya. I have been told that Pattaya is by the seaside. I have been there some 10 times and had no idea of this. I will have to check it out.
Many people love the Nana hotel and many still insist on staying there, despite it feeling a little tired and the arrival of many new options on Suhkumvit over the last decade, but especially the past few years.