If I had to choose between the Angeles I visited for the first time and the one I recently returned from, the choice would be the former. Even if the costs were equivalent, my choice would be the same. Then the bars had less entertainment, the food choices were less, the hotel choices were less and infrastructure needed improvement. But the atmosphere was way more relaxed, not commercial like today and the bar girl attitudes were different. A GFE was almost guaranteed even if you were not looking. Money changes everything and is certainly making its presence felt in today’s Angeles.
I recently returned from my 7th trip to Angeles (over 10 years). Tried to take a trip every year but for some reason or another, financial issues, job loss, I could not. I missed 3 years between those years. I have enjoyed immensely on each trip, but have had to change my approach during the more recent years due to a rapidly changing Angeles City. A significant factor is the rapidly declining US dollar (55 pesos in 2004 to 40 in 2013). 2004 costs were a great bargain, a steal that would not stay long. 2006 to 2008 was reasonable but in recent years the effectively rising prices are having an effect. For me, 2013 may be the last year I have enjoyed Angeles like before. A change in direction for a middle class guy like me has become necessary.
Bars, bar fines and drinks
My latest trip was for 2 weeks in January 2013. Newer bars have and are coming up with more entertainment like choreographed dances. They are more fun than sitting in a bar with a stage and watching the girls going through the motions, mostly unenthusiastically. The drink prices in the newer bars are now in the US$ 3 range and the barfines are up to 3000 pesos (US$ 75). There is a laddered barfine pricing and the 3K peso girls are reasonably good looking with nice bodies. They are out of my range so I have no comment on experience with them. For regular girls, 2000 pesos (US$ 50) is the normal bar fine. I bar fined just one of those and had a lousy experience. She turned out to be a total starfish and I let her go within minutes of coming to my room. The only other Fields bar fine was ok, but she left after a short time.
The Perimeter bars are what Fields was 7 years ago, at least in terms of drink and bar fine costs. A big difference I found in the Perimeter bars was that although the bar fines were in the 1300 to 1500 range, the girls were interested in short term only. You must confirm the length of stay before you bar fine, else you may be in for a surprise.
Although many new hotels have come up, the hotel cost within walking distance of Field Avenue bars has risen rapidly. One must book a month in advance, otherwise forget getting a room at the more reasonably priced hotels around Fields. I waited till 2 weeks before and had no choice but to pay the 3000 pesos per night rate for the entire weekend at a hotel within walking distance of Fields bars. You can get some decent hotels at 1600 to 2000 pesos per night but the rooms fill up quickly. The good thing is that almost all hotels now have good wireless internet.
This is another big one in terms of rising prices. There are more restaurants and a greater variety of cuisines and so the choice is ample. But the prices are now at or very close to what one would pay at a restaurant in a major US city (perhaps excluding NYC). A meal for 2 including a beer each came to about 1000 pesos (US$ 25).
Demographics of visitors
A big factor I believe in Angeles rising is the changing demographics of the patrons. There seems to be a large number of patrons from east Asian countries. These guys (usually seen in a group) sit in the front rows and buy lady drinks for multiple ladies at a time. On multiple occasions I saw the gents on the higher floor of the multifloor bars throwing wads of 20 peso bills down at the dancing girls. They also seem to bar fine the good looking ones which I saw in their arms as they went bar hopping. If these guys are in the bars, they will have girls hovering around them and unless you too are a whale, be prepared to be ignored. On multiple occasions, I just walked in and out of the bar. No waitress or GRO or hostess looked at me or directed me to a table. It is more an exception rather than the rule, but something that I never experienced in the past. The other demographic I observed in growing numbers seems to be from South Asia, probably India. They seem to have discovered this alternative to Thailand and are coming in droves. I don’t remember seeing a single Indian in Angeles in 2004.
In short, money is making its presence felt in Angeles. From a historical perspective, it cost me less than US $100 per day in Angeles in 2004 and over $200 this January (about 10% inflation, compounded) and the tipping point for me has been reached. Does it mean I will stop going to Angeles? No. I will spend less days there and stay away from Field Ave hotels. I am also working on cutting out the middleman. Nothing new here, I just may be late in the game. I usually try to have some conversation with the bar girls (outside of what’s your name, where are you from, how long you stay…) and some of them do open up. From this trip I started carrying a mobile phone with a local number. I ask for her number and she willingly obliges. They all have mobile phones. I ask her if she would like to meet me outside her bar hours and I would compensate her for that. I also ask her if she knows anyone… friend, relative, etc. who may be interested and I would compensate both her and her friend. If her friend does not work in a bar that day, it is a win : win for all. Befriend 2 or 3 bar girls a day and you could have a large network. Sit with a well charged phone during your free time and you don’t need to spend a single evening alone. I found the thrill and excitement of meeting women this way was no less than meeting them in a bar. The list can get large quickly, you may have to manage it on a spreadsheet. I am still in touch with bar girls I met on a previous trip. As they say, one door closes, another one opens. One small note… runners and no-shows are not uncommon. “I will go home and return later” could very well mean “I am not coming back, ever”.
It does look like the bar owners are getting wind of this method, as it must be used by many. The internet and the dating websites have no doubt contributed to it. I did see a ‘low’ bar fine of 700 pesos at one of the high end bars, but that was what you pay to the bar and the girl gets no cut. What you give the girl is between you and her. Is this not how it is done in Thailand? I guess Angeles will sooner or later adopt the Thai model and the ‘all inclusive’ barfine of Angeles will become a thing of the past.