Thailand’s Bars Today
I have read your weekly for years and before that I used to read Trink. I followed the bar life myself for years myself. I just want to give my point of view on the present problems the bars are facing.
The bars have changed drastically in the last 30 years. This change has been their demise. (Don’t fix something that is not broken.) The reason men came to Nana and Soi Cowboy was booze and sex were cheap, not for flash and face.
30 years ago the bars were small. There were no changing rooms for the girls and they changed in a corner of the bar in front of staff and customers. They arrived at work with their bikini in a plastic bag, changed on site in front of everyone in a corner of the bar. They applied makeup and did their hair in front of the mirrors in the men’s bathroom. It was fun, alive and active. Most did not smoke or drink. They disliked smoke and preferred not to drink. They felt they were there only to make sanuk. Booze was cheap, overheads were low, the sex was cheap and the girls received more at foreigner bars then in Thai bars. They were content. The girls were mostly farm girls just helping the family no pros. They were young, vibrant and slim. Men got a girlfriend experience because the girls did not want to think of themselves as prostitutes. Many became good wives to foreigners, some not so, but that is another story.
The term Thai wife back then referred to a woman who worked the bars but when her foreigner boyfriend came for his yearly visit she simply left the bar and stayed with him until he returned home and she then returned to the bar, with no long-term barfine needed or expected. The girls had freedom like other Thai workplaces. They did as they pleased. There were few rules. This was a big reason they were plentiful – Thais do not like rules. The bars brought in strict rules so all the hot girls left and only girls who are beauty- and weight-challenged accept the drudgery of rules and work in foreigner bars.
When these 2-week millionaires found out about Thailand, they showed up and wanted to impress themselves with their new place in life and show off their purchasing power. They spent like drunken sailors. Thais had never tipped and giving money away seemed stupid to them. But these 2-week millionaires could rent a girl for a few hours for 200 baht and to show their financial strength they would tip the girl 300 baht and give her 500 in total. Well the girls not understanding tipping, they thought, ok, these farangs will pay 500 baht for sex so that is now the new price. More 2-week millionaires showed up and believe 500 is affordable and tip on top of that. You get the picture, I hope! It is a simple of case of what the market will bear and the newbies kept showing the girls what the market could bear. It appeared most of the 2-weekers just bought a ticket and jumped on a plane and did no research on culture, economics…nothing.
These 2-weekers would go on online forums and tell others what they did and try to justify it. They would attack others who would tell them they were driving up the prices and call the guys cheap and other things. Big wheels in a small puddle. So they got their way by shear ignorance. The bars were taken over by newbie owners who saw good money to be made and brought in gentlemen’s style bars. They did away with small, sleazy Thai-style bars and brought uptown to their doorstep. The cheap booze and sex was being lost. Before the overheads were within reason so booze could be kept at a reasonable price for the customer. But guys making bigger and flashier bars had higher overheads which was of course passed on to customers. Again, I think you can see the picture here.
The young girls of today understand tipping, but now the price been driven through the roof by stupid foreigners and the girls still want a tip! The bars are all flash and no substance, just like uptown. I say som nom na.
There are still many places around that are affordable for fun but Soi Cowboy and Nana are a done deal. 2-week millionaires cut their own throat. And greed in bar takeovers and trying to fix something that was not broken and was doing well for years is the reason the bar industry in Cowboy and Nana are history. I just hope internet players do not find these other places and come in droves again and wreck the expat playgrounds.
Good business thrives when change happens out of need, not just greed. Many changes were made to attract the moneyed guys to spend but the market place was once working class guys who wanted cheap booze and sex. Guys can get Thai university students in Australia for $40 out of the ads in the newspaper. Why come to Nana and pay more than $200?
Oh how things have changed! I know I make people angry and annoyed when I talk of the past and how things are now, so all I will say is simply that things are different now…