Bangkok Gogo Bars & Farangland
Your current week's column has helped me a lot in understanding the reason behind all those hit-or-miss experiences I've had in various nightlife venues in Bangkok.
Before I landed in Thailand I had frequented numerous pubs and strips clubs in various Faranglands for over a decade. So, my initial experience with a gogo bar in Bangkok was pretty confusing as I thought it would be similar to a strip club in London, New York, Chicago or Toronto. But I soon realized that a gogo bar is not a strip club at all at its core.
I appreciate that those two categories of establishment are meant to be different. Someone can't straight away barfine a girl from a strip club in Farangland. In fact it takes a lot of frequent visit and additional effort just to secure a dinner date with those hotties. But apart from this very obvious one, there are numerous other differences which shouldn't be there considering the similarities of the operations in a gogo bar and a strip club.
However the core two differences that stand out are (1) professionalism of the people running the place and (2) quality of the lineup.
In a strip club in Chicago or Toronto, you may find a couple of security personnel of imposing physique in black shirt and trousers standing at the gate with stony faces. But you will also find at least one of them in a nice evening jacked nodding at you. Once you are regular, these guys can be friendly enough to intimate to you about the availability of you favorite girl. Inside the strip club, the girls might be a bit pushy for a drink or a dance at times. But I haven't heard of bill padding nor have I seen a girl running away immediately after gulping down her Tequila, that which I see and hear about so often in Bangkok. The environment looks so professional that someone may even think of conducting a business meeting there! 😉
Compared to the level of professionalism found in strip clubs in Farangland, let me write about what someone may see inside a gogo bar in Bangkok. At the gate, you may find a guy of average-build, wearing a black t-shirt, sitting on a bar-stool and yawning and suddenly shouting "welcome welcome" out of the blue. Sometimes the security guys stand in a group and chat and keep scanning the door from the corner of there eyes. A legitimate security guy is allowed to look straight at the guest, am I right?
Now let me tell what someone may see inside the bar. Once I was sitting with a girl drinking my beer in a gogo bar in Nana Plaza. The girl used to work in that bar. But she was in a normal dress (not in bikini) as she had already been barfined. A late 40s gentleman of some obvious influence was sitting on a sofa by the side of the DJ's cubicle. A few other gentlemen were giving him company. The group was having a good time with their beer bottles sprinkled with hearty laughter. An obvious sign of a perfect group of customers. My girl suddenly stood up saying, "I go say hello to boss!" She walked up to the gentleman who was the center of attention of that group, greeted him with a very respectful wai and came back a few seconds later. After about 15 minutes, another gentleman aged around 50 walked into the bar and joined the group on the sofa. My girl nudged me saying, "He is the boss". I asked her, "So who is the gentleman you did a wai to a while ago?" "He is another boss", she replied. After about half an hour, another group walked in to the gogo bar. This group was being led by a lady in a white shirt who settled down to a sofa with her group at the opposite corner than where the previous group of gentlemen were sitting. My girl stood up again and walked up to the lady, greeted her and came back in a few seconds. "She is the boss", my girl explained. I said, "You are kidding!" Looking around the room, I see that half of the people sitting there are actually owners and their people! So one can imagine how much attention and service a regular can expect when half of the room is filled with "big shots". I felt like I had gate crashed a private party!
Now about the girls. I found the lineup in strip clubs in a Farangland to be absolutely gorgeous. They are fun to talk to as they quite intelligent, have interest in a wide variety of subjects, and some of them even claimed to be university students moon-lighting. They all are perfect escort material! It's a pity you can't barfine them. 🙁
About the gogo girls! Looks are reserved only for the coyotes or occasionally MILFs (if that is your cup of tea). About having a conversation with a gogo girl, I believe language is not a barrier at all. Anybody can speak Thai with them because most of them don't utter more than 10 different sentences. Girls after girl, you hear the same thing like a playlist running in a loop!
So how did your column help me here? It tells about the root cause behind good customer experience (or lack of it) found in nightlife establishments in Bangkok. From your analysis, I can draw a correlation between a good (or not-so-good) customer experience in a bar and the professionalism and business focus in running that bar.
I can totally understand ranks 1 and 2. But I'm a bit surprised about Rainbow securing 3rd spot. In my perception, those places aren't very innovative, and are rather average looking (not the girls of course) and are a kind of 'Japanese only' establishments.
However my biggest surprise was seeing Tilac down at #5. In my humble opinion, Tilac is the best gogo bar in Bangkok. They do things right in every aspect that an average customer can think of. They have a good layout, good interior decoration, friendly bar staffs, caring mamasans (you get a cold refreshing towel or a quick back-rub quite often), gorgeous girls (in gogo bar standard), fun environment and even the right lighting scheme (I found too many gogo bars in Bangkok don't care or know much about lighting which is a very important ingredient to set the right mood). So, doing things right in so many departments and also keeping the place buzzing with customers most of the time, I thought Tilac would secure a much higher place in your list. Though I don't have any idea about other establishments running by the same group.
This week's column basically highlighted the big bar groups in Bangkok by size. It was subjective but feedback from bar bosses including two who had bars featured was that they were comfortable with it. In response to your comments about me placing the Tilac group at #5, I was looking at the group overall, and not just one bar.