Bangkok as Relative Value Proposition
I am a retired American guy that lives in Thailand 6-8 months per year, mainly in Chiang Mai, though I do visit Bangkok, Phuket, Samui, Hua Hin from time to time. I first came to Thailand in 1989, and the country has gone through significant changes during that time, some good, some bad. After the Asian crisis, Bangkok was a city full of half finished condos and bankrupt developers; today the real estate market is thriving. Phuket was a quiet, beautiful beach town. Now it is bordering on being overbuilt and not so attractive any more. Thailand has moved from a 3rd world country to a developing or emerging market over the last 10 years.
I have seen a lot of stories recently about how Bangkok's "adult" nightlife scene is in serious decline, and many people who post on Stickman say they are turned off by the increased prices, yet the diminished service in terms of the bargirls' attractiveness and attitude. I want to say that I agree with that view, as I have noticed over recent years increased prices for drinks as well as ladies fees, though the attractiveness of the girls has gone down. Say 10-15 years ago, if I went into a bar in Nana, Cowboy, etc, I would see many knockouts, slim, beautiful, friendly girls. Last time I visited Bangkok and stopped in a few clubs, I was disappointed with the overall looks of the ladies, though there were a few stunners. And years ago they were much more friendly than they are today, though back then they didn't have smart phones and social media.
So while I long for the good old days of 65 baht beers, 500 bar fines and 2,00 baht overnight fees, and the bars full of young, thin beauties, I realize those days are gone, just a distant memory. I also wish in the US that gas was still $1 per gallon, a cup of coffee 50 cents, and you could get a bottle of beer for $1.50, but those days are long gone too.
Before retiring, I worked in finance where you learned to value assets on a relative value basis, compared to the cost of similar assets. I choose to look at the Bangkok nightlife scene on a relative value, rather than absolute value basis. I see Bangkok as one of the world's major cities with world class shopping, hotels, condos and restaurants. Years ago Bangkok did not have shopping malls like Emporium or Terminal 21 and young ladies weren't aware of designer goods. And compared to cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, New York, London, Geneva, Rio and Buenos Aires – places I have either worked or spent a lot of time in – the cost of hotels, condos, restaurants in Bangkok is very cheap compared to other major cities. I can stay in a 5-star hotel in Bangkok for $150, while the same room in NYC, Hong Kong or Tokyo might be $500.
As far as nightlife goes, many readers complain about paying baht 150 for a drink in a girly bar, or paying more than baht 3,000 to take a girl for the night. I agree that it is higher than it used to be, but it is still a good value on a relative basis. In the US, you want to go to a nice gogo bar or gentleman's club in NYC, LA, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, this is what you get. You pay $20 bucks cover charge, then maybe $8-10 bucks for a drink. You buy a lady a drink, she wants you to buy her a lap or table dance, at $20 a song. You don't by a dance, she moves on to another customer. If you buy a dance, they may grind on your lap, but touch them, and you have a huge bouncer in your face. So, you pay cover, a few drinks and drinks for dancer, and a few lap dances, and you have just lightened your wallet by $200-250 without getting anything besides a tightness in your groin. The dancers are not available for take out. My experience with London and Prague clubs is similar.
In Asia, you go to a gogo bar in Hong Kong or Shanghai, and you will find them more expensive than NYC and London, particularly if you go to the karaoke clubs. They are available for take out, but you will spend upwards of $500 (15,000 baht). And the cost of going to a hostess bar in either Tokyo or Seoul is unbelievably expensive – you could take a vacation to Samui for the same amount of money spent in one night out.
The last thing is the price of escort services. While I haven't experienced it, I understand that Bangkok escort services may charge you 10-12,000 baht for an overnight, which is $300-400 bucks. Many people posting here have called that outrageous, but again, I talk about relative value. You try calling an escort in NYC, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and you will probably pay that much for one hour with an escort. So, even if you paid 10,000 baht for a beautiful, young, fun escort girl for an overnight in Bangkok, that is much cheaper than you can get elsewhere.
I'm not defending the price increases in Bangkok in recent years, or denying that the quality of girls working in the bar has decreased. I'm merely suggesting that the world has changed. Things will not go back to the way they were 10-15 years ago, so you either accept it, or vote with your feet and don't play. In my opinion, if you find a young beauty who is fun, even if you pay 4-5,000 baht for a night, that is a better deal than you will get in any major city in the world I have ever been to. Or you can sit around complaining about how the Japs have ruined things and caused prices to be increased. Everyone can make their own decision, but the market will dictate costs, not what some old timers wish it would be.