I have been a Stickman reader for around 8 years and the slow death (exaggeration) of Thailand is evident in the quantity and quality of the stories that are now posted. Thailand is not exactly dying but it has matured to the point where it is not the place it used to be. If you are there for the beautiful sights and food then you can still have a great time in Thailand and the first visit will probably be an explosion on the senses. If you are a serial visitor and are chasing Thai women then the magic has gone. This submission will be geared more towards the dark side of Thailand's tourists so do not read on if that does not interest you. There are several factors in my opinion that have contributed to this.
Currency & Recession in the West
The Thai baht has been very strong in recent years, peaking at 45 baht to the pound and 30 baht to the dollar. I remember in 2007 getting more than 70 baht to the pound. The constant dilution of Western currencies through quantitative easing has thus increased travel expenses by 20 – 30% for tourists traveling to Thailand. For a country like Thailand this is a major factor as it relies so much on tourism. In recent years we have seen the arrival of Russian money to Thailand through business and tourists. That has now dried up due to the collapse of the Rouble. Inflation has obviously played a role in prices creeping up but you cannot blame the Thais for that!
The gogo scene in Bangkok is now awful. It is so focused on extracting money from your wallet and the experience is no longer enjoyable. I was in Nana last month and a girl sat next to me. We had barely had an introduction before the mamasan came over asking me to buy the girl a drink. To cut a long story short, I asked what the price was in there for the girls. The reply was 1,000 bar fine and 4,000 for the girl (long time). I must stress that this girl was probably a 7 or 8 out of 10. Whilst this is not an extortionate amount of money compared to Europe it shows how the Thailand bar scene has changed. I had been in Pattaya the week previously and the girl prices were half that for a better vintage.
The taxi drivers are in on the greed now too even more so than before. It is important to state that during my recent visit petrol prices are at 7-year lows (WTI crude at $50 / barrel). Most taxi drivers want 1,500 baht now for trip between Bangkok and Pattaya. I think only 2 in 3 are happy to take you anywhere in Bangkok on the meter. At the airport now there is an automated public taxi service using touch screens. I notice that the drivers are now more aggressive making tourists pay a set fee rather than the meter since this system was introduced.
Mobile Phones & Internet
These should be banned in gogos and the beer bars and it would enhance the environment considerably. When you walk down soi 4 now the girls all face outwards to the street but half of them are on their phone. The purpose of them sitting there is to drag the punters in, or so it used to be. Most of them are on dating websites and the free text messaging services lining up some business or keeping a farang sweet back in his homeland. The numerous dating websites and social media have given the women of Thailand free advertisement to the outside world. Whilst sitting in a bar it is obvious to the foreigner that the girl is a prostitute but over the internet she can portray herself as a sweet, innocent regular girl.
The internet has also made Thailand more popular as a tourist destination now and the supply versus demand situation has drastically tipped in the girls' favour.
Supply vs. Demand
This will always change in any kind of commodity and now as an average tourist with a day job and modest looks you do not carry the same appeal as years gone before. These creatures of the night are still driven by money but there are plenty of branches where it is hanging from now. The best girls choose their customers in the gogo bars. I was talking to a girl recently in a Pattaya gogo bar who was very pleasant and intelligent. She was telling me that she even turns drinks down off some men as she does not want to waste 10 – 15 minutes of her time talking with them as they are repulsive or not worthy of her time.
Another interesting factor for me is that the quality has gone down in terms of girls' appearance and the service offered yet this has not affected the demand in places like Pattaya. The experience in the past was obviously special and despite the reduction in quality it is still a great experience compared to the sex industry in most other countries. Maybe another factor is that the clientele has changed as Pattaya used to be dominated by Americans and Europeans but now the Russians, Japanese and Koreans have moved in.
There are some very wealthy men who frequent Thailand and if a women catches one of these a week or even a month it can transform her pay cheque. 2,000 baht in drinks, 5,000 baht for sex, a free meal and maybe a dress or some perfume for a night's work is not bad going. If she can create a special experience for the gentlemen and snap him up for the majority of his trip then the economics are enhanced further.
There is also a growing professional escort market in Thailand where very attractive females are charging 10,000 – 20,000 for a night's work. These rates are very cheap compared to Europe but this luxury end of the market was not so prevalent 8 years ago. I would imagine these companies are targeting business travellers. <Amazingly a lot of guys who were once customers of the gogo bars but have become disillusioned are going for escorts. Overnight with an escort from the best Bangkok escort agency runs 9,000 baht – Stick>
Japanese tourists have played a major role in destroying the pricing structure in Bangkok around Nana and Soi Cowboy. It is common knowledge to all the girls that Japanese men pay a minimum of 3,000 baht and from what I hear the experience is fast and not too uncomfortable for the lady. There is no point getting reamed all night by a young, athletic stallion who is hung down to his knees for ,2000 baht when you can have a 10-minute shuffle on a cocktail sausage for 3,000 baht! No offence intended!
On a more serious note, there is a growing middle class now in Thailand and across Asia. As countries like Thailand have become more open to business and education has improved, people have more opportunities and more expendable income. If you go out on a date with some Bangkok girls they will insist on paying their own way. They drive new cars, travel abroad and have credit facilities available to them.
As well as the growth in Thailand, there has been a considerable transfer of wealth from west to east. You only have to read the stories on Stickman and hear about the 1000s of men who have built home in the provinces, got scammed out of large sums of money, paying maintenance for their Thai children and taken out loans for their teerak in their name. There are now many families in the villages who have a big house, a car, motorbikes and a pick-up truck.
Thailand has developed and the pricing structures are coming in line with the western world which is inevitable with globalization. Thailand was a well-kept secret for a long time but no longer is this the case. The internet has spread the word and everyone knows what is on offer now. The 2 week millionaires may have contributed to the rising prices and reduced quality on offer but it was inevitable. I think it is time to seek new pastures and South America is something I am considering.
Will other South-East Asian countries ever compete with Thailand in this industry…
With regards to the farang bar areas, there is no doubt in my mind that the past is more exciting than the future. The best days are gone and I don't see things ever going back to how they were. The fun these days is with the regular girls but I give that only a few years before word gets out amongst Thai women that a lot of the foreign guys having fun on Thailand dating sites like ThaiCupid are there for a good time and not a long time. When that word becomes more widespread and more Thai women have experiences they don't like then you can expect that to start to dry up too.