Readers' Submissions

An Update on Bangkok – June, 2019

  • Written by Geoff K
  • July 12th, 2019
  • 16 min read


I flew into Bangkok in late June and came back early July. This is an update on what I saw and a collection of observations throughout the trip. It’s not a naughty boy report so once again, if you’re looking for that sort of thing move along. I will touch on Nana Plaza briefly.

I have put my notes under sub-headings to make it easier to read.

I flew into Bangkok to see my partner and organise our wedding plans. We’ve finally decided to get married after 5 years of being engaged and the ceremony will be in Bangkok. We figured there wasn’t any rush, neither of us want nor have children but we may as well formalise the process as I figure there’ll never be another woman who would put up with me and vice versa. Haha! She’s Buddhist but wants a Western style marriage so we had to pick out a church and a marriage it will be!

Hua Hin

Went to Hua Hin and in summary, it was as dead as a dodo. There simply weren’t many tourists around at all. I know it’s low season, but I was surprised how few people were around. Many shops were closing early and in the evening we struggled to find a hair & beauty place for my Mrs. to get her nails done.

We stayed at the Hin Nam Hotel which is a new building and although nice, we paid around 1,800 baht with breakfast. When I asked about the condo where we stayed a few years ago near soi 88, I was told that there’s very few condos who rent out their places anymore as it’s illegal. Looks like they are cracking down on the AirBnB scenario where people are renting out their condos and running them like hotels…..

Khao Yai, Korat

The Mrs. organised a fundraiser through her uni whereby people can donate and the money collected will be used to renovate an old temple in Korat. The plate went around and pleasingly a total of 50,000 baht was raised! A significant amount and all for a good cause! We set out with a group of us, about 12 people using 4 cars from Bangkok to the temple in Korat. The group of people consisted of mainly University staff ,AKA Ajarns, professors and a few hi-so Thais came with us as well.

The roads to Isaan were surprisingly good until we got to the dirt road off the main road towards where the wat was. The last 8 km had to be driven with extreme caution, such a state were the roads. Holes as large as craters. You couldn’t drive more than 20 km / hr for fear of hitting them hard and doing damage to your vehicle. The road reminded me of Laos, the ditches and craters really were that bad and some parts of it could only be driven on one side. It’s times like these when you know you’re in Isaan.

 

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When we got to the wat, there was a ceremony done by the monk with a few people from the nearby village and our group to commemorate the donation of the funds. Me being a non-Buddhist I didn’t know what was going on, so I simply sat there whilst the chanting in Bali and rituals were performed. All I can say is, it’s good to give! Very nice wat as well, it’s situated on top of a hill with the climate being a very pleasant 26 degrees in the middle of the afternoon and the scenery is quite pleasant.

 

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View from the top of the wat.

 

We had dinner at the Midwinter restaurant in Khao Yai. When I asked about why there were so many nice cars in the restaurant car park it was explained to me that there are a fair few rich people from Bangkok who have farms around in the area. It’s a bit of a holiday getaway for them. Khao Yai is part of a national park.

We stayed at the Green Pix Hotel. Very pleasant. Stayed up until midnight drinking wine and eating food on the rooftop bar with the group of hi-so Thais we came with. Was interesting to see how the upper class live. These guys were ordering $70 AUD bottles of wine. I couldn’t believe it. They were ordering food and wine like it was for free! Great night and very pleasant company – one of them could speak fluent English so was easy to communicate. Woke up with a little bit of a sore head the next day though…. J

 

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On the way back to Bangkok, we found a nice café nearby where we had a coffee, the other guys continued their drinking session but I didn’t join in. That was enough alcohol for me for one weekend….. Apparently, the owner of Singha owns this café which is situated on a massive area of parkland. Plenty of middle class and rich Thais walking around taking selfies. One interesting note about Khao Yai and the surrounding areas we went to…..no foreigners! Nope, not one farang did I see!

 

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We continued our journey back to Bangkok stopping at the Chokchai Farm for a steak. This farm is massive and is situated on the main highway between Korat and Bangkok. They have everything from a huge restaurant serving gourmet steaks to horse rides for the kids to feeding goats and selling various foods produced on the farm as well as souvenirs. Good stop off for lunch and pretty entertaining for the kids if they like pony rides and that sort of thing.

We got back to Bangkok around 6 PM. A very fulfilling and sanuk weekend indeed!!

 

Bangkok/ Nana

 

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Back at the Mothership for 2 nights. I won’t bore you with the negative talk as the following submission written recently sums up quite nicely at the current state of Bangkok’s Naughty nightlife industry: https://www.stickmanbangkok.com/readers-submissions/2019/07/bangkok-bars-today/

My stay at the Nana Hotel was so-so. I do love the hotel; its location, the swimming pool and it being a stone’s throw from pretty much everything in Bangkok. But this visit left a little sour taste in my mouth. I say a little because I will be back but a few things really raised my eyebrows.

First, I wanted to pay cash for my stay. I don’t like using my credit card for anything really, and I called up to make a reservation saying I would be paying in cash. The total price? 1,600 odd baht/ night. Now, I think it’s reasonable for the location but thought it was a little pricey for a hotel in such a condition it was in. This is, in AUD terms $76/ night. Many hotels around the area are cheaper and are in a better condition. I’ve had other people say the same thing.

Second, I was given a new room so you’d expect new equipment and new furnishings. The air-con simply couldn’t keep the temp down in a reasonable timeframe. I turned it off one morning and turned it back on in the late afternoon and it took 3 hours after being turned on to get the temperature down from 26 degrees down to 23. When I called up reception saying that I think there’s something wrong with the air conditioner, the response was “Air-con in this hotel old, take long time for loom to cool down. Slowly slowly. Have to wait.” Right, well I guess that’s as good as that situation is gonna get. The air-con was rattling as well, I thought those rooms were renovated in the last few years so not sure why it rattles..? Then why, in a new room, do I still have baby cockroaches running around in the bathroom? (The Mrs. sometimes gets confused and calls them crocodiles by accident – cute). I mean, this is a new room. I also question how poorly maintenance is performed when I walk through hallways seeing small buckets put under air conditioners because otherwise it would be leaking water on to the floor. I hear the hotel is doing some maintenance on the building structure itself and you can see scaffolding on the outside of the building. I really do hope they keep the hotel amidst rumours they may knock it down – but seriously, the hotel really needs work done on it just to get it up to a decent standard. Then, I also noticed the photo below, one of the hong-naams in the lobby is still ‘out of order’. When looking at the sign, I remember this sign went up 3 visits ago, and was there in January, 2018. So how long does it take to fix a hong naam….?

 

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You know it’s low season when the breakfast room in the Nana Hotel is only 30% full.

As for the nightlife – it’s ridiculously expensive. I stayed in and around a few bars on Soi Nana which were pleasant enough but the prices they charge for cider (I can’t drink beer) were almost daylight robbery. 180 baht for a can of cider. That’s close to $9 AUD. Who said Thailand was cheap? I can get cheaper cider in a pub in Melbourne city.

As for the plaza itself, I went into Billboard and one of the Rainbow bars (can’t remember which one). Billboard still stands out as a great bar but I think it’s heading more and more down a western-style strip bar than a go-go bar. I saw a few guys having what we call ‘lap dances’ but didn’t see any girls get barfined. Still, the atmosphere was good and that bar will always flourish if it keeps its formula the same.

The Rainbow bars, as always, target the Japanese and Koreans and from looking around I was the only farang in the bar. It was pretty full, so I asked an older Japanese guy if I could sit next uteto him. The guy calls over a girl, within a minute buys her a drink and within 5 mins is negotiating a short-time rate. I saw all this from the corner of my eye and shortly after the guy asked for the bill – his drink + her drink + the ST rate; total was quoted 4,500 baht on a piece of paper. He didn’t even flinch, pulled out 5 x 1,000 baht notes and hands them over to the mamasan. When he did it, I pulled out my phone and typed some numbers in. Let’s see….let’s exclude the drinks for both and assume they were 500 baht total, that leaves 4,000 baht ST rate. 4,000 baht = $190 AUD. That’s about on par with a Melbourne brothel. Need I say anything more about the prices….? I find you can still have fun in the bars once they know you’re not there to be milked for cash and happy to go with the flow and enjoy the atmosphere without barfining anyone.

I ended up playing pool in Strikers across the road with some bargirl, something I hadn’t done in a long time and ended up enjoying my night doing that. Probably had more fun than a lot of people who barfined that night. There’s definitely fun to be had but I think the nightlife areas for the hardcore sex tourists are over, and that necessarily isn’t such a bad thing for Thailand overall.

I also question the state some of these tourists are in floating around. I mean, everyone is going to get old, me included, but why is it so many walk around in a Singha singlet and flip flops, sticking their oversized gut out, smoking and drinking and speaking with the coarsest language I’ve ever heard? I just question some people’s pride. Would it hurt to make oneself look half-decent? I know someare on holiday to unwind and take a break from a hard year at work but really, it ain’t a good look for us farangs. Funnily enough, I don’t see the Japanese nor Koreans in such a dismal state.

Work continues on at the mouth of Soi 6. About time really given that area has been vacant for close to 10 years now.

 

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The bible bashers are still at it. This one guy made it all the way to outside the Nana Hotel preaching to all and sundry regarding the ‘evils’ of what we are doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to ridicule this guy because I’m Catholic myself, but really – is blurting out to everyone regarding the evils of prostitution really the biggest issue in the world right now? I mean we can all talk about the moral debate ad nausea but I think the world has a lot more problems than the issue of 2 consenting adults having sex for money. Excuse the poor photo quality, this is the best one I could get from where I was sitting.

 

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I can’t confirm nor deny the comments around whether there are more freelancers around the Nana Hotel than before. I think there were always a fair few loitering around that area, particularly in the Nana car park. I was there during rainy days so whether the rain kept a lot of them away I really don’t know. There were still a fair few standing around with their umbrellas.

 

Conclusion

As I stated at the start of this submission, the main reason for this visit was to organise my wedding to take place next year in Bangkok. This is an exciting time for both of us, neither of us have been married before. There is a lot to organise. And on the subject on sin sot, in case you’re wondering: I’m paying zero. I don’t believe in it and said to my partner at the start that if we do get married, I’m happy to ‘show’ a sin sot as long as the money is returned. She mentioned it to her parents and they said it was unnecessary. My take on sin sot is it’s an outdated tradition which really holds no merit these days. Given 90%+ of farangs look after their woman before, during and after the marriage a sin sot in my eyes is really unnecessary. The fact you’re looking after her emotionally and financially should be more than enough.

There hasn’t been a lot of change in my opinion in Bangkok between now and when I was there last time in late January. The pollution levels have definitely dropped off (thank God!) and I’m seeing more high-end vehicles roaming the streets, think BMW 7 series, E and S class Mercs and Porsches than ever before. It’s interesting you hear a lot of middle and rich class Thais talking about how bad the economy is and how Thais are always looking for bargains particularly the happy hour concept and ‘buy one get one free’ deals to overcome the current economic situation. I’m thinking – bad economy? Where? I really can’t see any bad signs in the economy and things seem to be purring along nicely in my opinion. Then again, I don’t live there so maybe I’m not the expert of this. I still think the average Thai earns more than ever, there’s a growing middle class and I see more disposable income with many Thais as a whole.

The political situation has mellowed out, the biggest reason for this was (finally) the announcement of the right-wing party winning the election. In fact many Thais admit that since General Prayut Chan-o-cha (also known as The ‘Uncle’) came into power, things have stabilised on the political front significantly. Many question how valid the voting system was but a lot of Thais agree he has stabilised the political situation and it seems he has a major focus on really stamping out the corruption which exists on so many levels in the country. For Thailand to compete with the high-end Asian countries, i.e. South Korea, Singapore and Japan and to a lesser extent, Malaysia, stamping out corruption is a must. There’s a reason why first world countries are what they are – the corruption levels are much lower.

I think the coronation of the new King has also stabilised and united the country more. It was interesting to see the coronation and the detailed rituals of HM King Rama X on TV and the YouTube channels which took place a few months ago. It’s probably the first coronation most people have seen in Thailand in their lives as the previous coronation of Rama 9 took place in 1950.

It’s difficult how the Farang is perceived in Thai society these days. Although I can speak very basic Thai, my understating of the language is weaker and I understand about 10% of what people say around me so it’s difficult to interpret of what they’re really thinking. I think how the average Thai perceives us is best summarised in the new national anthem which gets played on TV twice a day. Have a look about half way through the clip and you’ll see a farang in the background in a suit. He is merely a backdrop, he stands there not singing the anthem but is part of the clip. It strikes a chord with me, we’re there in Thailand but the fact is I don’t think we stand out, we’re in the background and tolerated if we keep to ourselves. If you think about it, that’s pretty much how Western society sees many Asians who reside in their homeland. Most Asians that live in Western countries (in my case, Australia) seem to stick to themselves, they keep to their own communities and stick to their own culture. Some assimilate and some don’t. Those that do assimilate are welcomed. The issues are that our cultures are so different that sometimes it’s just too hard to assimilate, but at the end of the day as long as everyone gets along then everyone is mii kwam suk and life goes on!

On the retirement issue, all I will say is that I think Thailand is a great country to retire to. I know I will retire there, it’s not a question of IF but when. At the same time, if you think retiring at the age of 60 and bringing over $200K thinking it will last you for 20 years supporting yourself and your teeruk, think again. Factors of inflation and unpredictable events health wise as people get old need to be taken into account and you have to seriously do your sums before jumping ship. At the airport on the flight home I met a guy who was saying how so many of his Aussie friends are coming home because Thailand is simply becoming too expensive. How often do we hear that mantra?

 

All the best,

Geoff K

The author of this article can be contacted at : [email protected]