Forbidden Colours – Obsession Bar
The latest Stick weekly column and the comment right at the end concerning the burgeoning interest in Thai lady-boys led me to believe that the time is right for a more considered look at some of the venues in NEP, and elsewhere, that cater for lady-boy lovers. Often these bars and go-gos, and the ladies that work in them get a bad press; just this week one of the weekly contributors has referred to lady-boys as ‘creatures’. However, my evenings in a number of these bars have been great and I wanted to pass on some thoughts on why these bars are proving so popular.
I’ll start with what I consider the market leader, Obsession bar and go-go at NEP. I’ve been visiting Bangkok for 8, maybe 10, years and throughout that time this go-go has been the most popular venue for customers wanting to have a few beers, enjoy the music and meets some cracking-looking girls. It’s on the ground floor of NEP, at the back adjacent to the stairs, and next to one of Rainbow bars that is tucked in the corner. It’s not a huge place; on three sides there is only one row of seats set-back from a smallish stage that contains a revolving platform. There are also seats adjacent to the platform itself, but these don’t get used that often. You really want to be seating in one of the 5 rows of seats that are set around the walls to take in the stage and the dancers. Décor and lighting are fairly low-key, with nothing fancy. The ceiling and the walls show the remnants of quite a few parties at various times of the year. Music is from an in-house DJ playing a fairly run of the mill soundtrack, but not too loud and conversations are still possible.
Drinks are the bog-standard NEP range of beers and spirits, costing about 140 or 145 baht for a local bottle of beer or spirit and similar for a whiskey and coke lady drink. The range of drinks is pretty poor: I asked for a diet coke last week and was told they don’t stock it. I must have visited Obsession bar at least 100 times and can report I’ve not once had cause to query my bill.
The feature that separates Obsession from all of its competitors is not the venue itself, but the girls that work there. The numbers vary, but most nights will see upwards of 50 – 60 girls working the stage, organized into 2 or 3 flights. The vast majority of these girls are stunning! I’ve no idea how the selection process works, but whoever is responsible is doing a great job. It’s rare that you’ll see an ugly or overweight girl working there (though there are 2 or 3 dancers carrying a few extra pounds). The bar has a range of girls to meet the desires of their customer base: there are larger and taller girls that tend to be favored by western expats and tourists, a few smaller and thinner girls that some of the customers like and the down-right gorgeous ‘cuties’ that are preferred by East Asian tourists. On any night of the week there will be girls that range from tall and almost black in colour, with what can be described as a ‘sporty’ physique, to very pale, almost Chinese-looking, ultra-feminine girls displaying the hairstyles, make-up and accoutrements favored by visitors from Japan and Korea.
I reckon that Obsession bar is very much in the mould of Baccara, the Rainbow bars, Déjà Vu etc. and East Asian customers are very much in the majority and are preferred by most of the better looking girls. It’s been this way for a while and, in my opinion, it’s a good thing as it certainly ensures that there is a lot of money flowing through the bar and to the girls that work there; these guys are, without exception, very well behaved (I’ve never seen even the hint of trouble there), and it keeps Western guys, like me, on their toes and without the big-head syndrome that some expats can develop after spending some time in Thailand.
There is a small downside to this which I’ll illustrate with an example from a recent visit. I’d been sitting there, money’d-up after a stint of work and looking for some fun. Into the bar walks 4-5 young Japanese guys, all about 20-25 that look like they’ve come from a nearby J-pop audition. The attention of almost every girl in the place shifted to the arrivals and amongst much hollering, V-signs and good-natured calling, the girls attempted to lure these guys into buying them a drink or bar-fining them for the evening. Most other customers became invisible at this point. But fair play, the guys appear to treat the girls well, spend a lot of money and are usually very well turned-out. I reckon they’re a dream date for most of the girls that work there and good luck to both parties.
In actual fact, there are very few girls that work in Obsession that exclusively go with East Asian guys, possibly 4-5 on the whole roster. It can get a bit one-dimensional though: I’ve been in Obsession when it's full and been the only Westerner present. I tend to prefer bars where the background of customers is more mixed.
Notwithstanding the above, the profile of visitors to the bar and NEP itself, is changing, there are more couples going to the bar and groups of visitors from both sexes are increasing, particularly later in the evening.
In addition to the cracking ‘working-girl’ line-up, another reason I like spending time in Obsession is the non-dancing wait and service staff. The bar has a couple of male ‘meeters and greeters’ who have worked there since I first started going to the bar, plus around 7-8 waitresses, a bar-tender and cashier. All of these workers are friendly, without being over-bearing, and they don’t hassle customers to buy them drinks.
Like a lot of the bars in NEP, Obsession can take a while to get going in the evening and moves through several phases as the night moves on. I think the bar opens around 7, but between 7 and 9 it's quiet, with few dancers and a lot of the early-arriving girls sitting in groups around the bar, chatting and putting-on their make-up. This latter activity takes a lot, lot longer than in non-lady-boy bars ! If you’re interested in a chat with one of your favorite girls, then this is often the best time to visit and get to know a bit more about the dancers and the wait staff, if that floats your boat.
The stage tends to fill-up around 9 and a number of girls will be shaking their stuff. However a lot of the high earners don’t tend to arrive until 9 – 9.30, so it can be 10 before the stage if full. The bar tends to get busier and busier as the night draws on and around 12 it can be packed, without a seat in the bar. During the recent high season, this was a common occurrence and more that once I had to divert to an alternate venue as it was not possible to get a seat inside the bar.
I get the impression that most of the customers take the girls for a short-time bar-fine rather than all night. This didn’t use to be the case and I’m not sure whether finances are driving this trend, but it seems to be what the girls prefer. Certainly the better looking girls are very popular during the high season and with the bar being so busy, a number of these girls will go with multiple customers in an evening. I’ve seen one girl go 4 times in a single evening shift, which I thought must have been a strain! But 2 -3 bar fines a night is fairly common. Based on what some of the girls tell me the East Asian customers pay, a number of the popular girls must be making an awful lot of money working at Obsession.
From my perspective, the bar fine is 600 baht and I’ll give the girl 1500 for a ST and occasionally 2K if I’m really keen. Over the last couple of years, these numbers have been all over the place, so it pays to stay grounded, certainly at NEP there are so many really nice looking lady boys working there now, of every size, shape, colour and persuasion, there is little need to pay above the odds (in my opinion).
After 1 AM the customers start to drop-off, plus the number of working girls has reduced as some drift away with a customer, go for something to eat or sit-out front of the bar chatting with their mates. The place immediately in front of Obsession bar is set-up for smokers, but it’s a lovely relaxed place to sit and have a bit of a natter with the girls as they have a fag or something to eat. I’ve found that provided you show these girls some respect and aren’t rude, they’ll sit and have a chat about just about anything. There are several of the older girls at Obsession that have been around a bit, have travelled and are delightful conversation.
Between 1 and 2 it’s often quieter, but funnily enough, it was often by favourite time in the bar. There are fewer girls dancing, the remainder of the girls will be sitting chatting with the wait staff or customers and the DJ will often put on some music that the girls really like, usually this is some local Thai style music, or whatever takes their fancy. And it’s during this period that the girls really show some moves and enjoy themselves dancing. It’s a great time to be in Obsession, and a number of other go-go bars, my only regret is that as I get a bit older (50 this year) I tend to not be in any bar at 2-3 AM and would rather get a good nights kip!
That’s about it really; Obsession is my all-time favourite Thai bar / go-go and after several years, I can say it’s one of the few bars I never get tired of visiting. Its very well-run, without any gimmicks or daft shows / events, with a great line-up of girls and staff that almost never disappoint (I have had one or two disappointments with bar-fines over the years – but there you, nowhere is perfect). If anyone is contemplating visiting a lady-boy bar for the first time, then I would whole-heartedly recommend Obsession as the best in the business. I would be very surprised if any visitor to this bar would fail to be satisfied, on any level, with a few hours spent there.
I've never been in to Obsession so cannot comment on that particular bar. Interesting that you like it so much over say Cascade which I hear is the most popular of all the ladyboy bars in Nana.