Angeles City: Same Same But Different Part 1
I am often asked by my fellow Thailand aficionados what it is like in Angeles, and I usually reply by referring to that popular Thailand T-shirt with “same same” on the front, and “but different” on the back. They nod understandingly and then ask me for the low-down. This is what I tell them, and show them on my phone, usually in a bar, over a few beers, interrupted by Thai girl gossip.
What we refer to as Angeles (or AC) is a northern barangay of Angeles City called Balibago. The entertainment area is centred around a street called Fields Avenue officially, and Walking Street informally. It is closed to traffic in the evenings, and there is a barrier and a flat arch with a Walking Street sign at either end. It is much smaller than Pattaya, being only about 500 yards from end to end, though the entertainment area continues for about 200 yards beyond the western barrier, and along Real Street which is parallel to Walking Street to the south.
HOW TO GET THERE
If you can, fly into Clark as it is a short, cheap taxi ride from Fields Avenue. This shot of the departures board shows the destinations currently served by Clark which, unfortunately, do not include Bangkok.
If you can’t get to Clark, you will have to fly to Manila. You can get a taxi from there, but it is a long and expensive trip, and the traffic is so bad that there is a real danger you might miss your return flight. There is a bus, but I prefer to pay more for the comfort, convenience and safety of a taxi.
WHERE TO STAY
I usually stay in the Royal Amsterdam Hotel which is right in the middle of the entertainment area around Fields Avenue. I have also stayed in Swiss Chalet, which is also a good hotel.
You can book these hotels direct online. Both hotels organise airport pick up, so you know you are safe and will not get ripped off. The Royal Amsterdam has the disadvantage that it is a long, thin hotel between Fields Avenue and 21st St., so few rooms have outside windows, most being lit by a central light well. However, this is compensated for by the efficiency of the front desk. They often reply to my emails within the hour, and once, when my flight was delayed by five hours, they kept in touch with me and made sure that my taxi was there to collect me. The hotel is right in the middle of the entertainment area – indeed, it is about 10 paces from one of the most popular bars, Viking. The hotel is girl-friendly: you will find towels for two in your room. IDs are not checked when you bring the girl in, but they phone your room when she leaves (to check she is not doing a runner or stealing your stuff).
HOW IT WORKS
The entertainment area consists mainly of gogo bars, massage parlours, discos, and KTVs. There are no beer bars, but there are freelancers hanging around everywhere. I only go to the gogo bars, so if other forms of entertainment are your thing, you need to find info elsewhere. Most of the bars are old and run-down, like the bars in Soi Cowboy before it got glitzy, though there are a few newer and renovated bars.
The bars work in much the same way as bars in Thailand. Order a drink (there isn’t a wide choice of beers, but fortunately, the local San Miguel brewery produces a range of very palatable beers) and your tab will be put in a little bin on your table. Choose a girl, either by signalling her yourself, or asking a waitress to bring her to you. Unlike Thailand, they don’t have to wait until the set finishes, and can join you straight away, nor do they have to return to the stage while they are in your company.
Lady drink prices vary, but most will go for the “double lady drink” (300 PHP) which is usually a San Mig Light. It’s nice when they drink the same drink as you, as it’s more like dating than mongering (what was it that Plato said about illusion?). Then give her the interview – but that’s the same as in Thailand and is, in the words of our favourite breed of bargirls, “up to you”.
Expect to pay 3,000 PHP (some are asking 3,500 now – it’s creeping up) for long time (all night). I don’t barfine very often these days, but when I do, I want some kind of connection with the girl, so I am only interested in long time (more illusion! – maybe I’d do better in Plato’s cave than a gogo bar). In my opinion, if the girl will only go short time, she just wants to get it over with, like having a tooth out.
Unlike Thailand, the barfine is paid to the girl after the big event and she has to split it with the bar. A tip is expected. 500 PHP is usual, 1,000 for making all your dreams come true.
Bars change from month to month, from day to day, and even from hour to hour, so it is difficult to give accurate information. However, if I were showing you around tonight, this is where I would take you.
The Filipinos spell this “Baiking” (the Old Norse is víkingr) – which sounds silly and detracts from the effect of the Viking ship positioned outside the bar. It makes it sound like a bikers’ bar full of hairy bikers in leather jackets. An (almost) nice touch is the shieldmaiden placed in front of the ship – but this is another miss, as the cowboy hat rather spoils the effect. Viking is a typical Angeles bar. The girls are ok, but there are some who are overweight, and there are not enough of them. There were around 12 on stage on my last visit, but the stage needs about 20 to make it look full.
Visitors to Thailand will know its Soi Cowboy namesake, but there is no connection, and no glass ceiling. However, this Baccara is just as good. The only reason it is not first on my list is that it would set a newbie’s expectation so high that every other bar would be a disappointment.
Baccara is Korean-run, and they recruit the youngest, hottest girls. On my last visit, I counted 36 girls on the stage – so many, that they were three rows deep in places and a few had to dance on the steps at either end. A waitress told me that there were 100 girls working in the bar (I was told something similar about Rainbow 4 in 2005). The bar was jam packed with customers (mainly Korean) and the only places left to sit were the stools at the stage. Upstairs was a stainless steel mezzanine gallery where there were more customers. Opposite was another mezzanine, which the waitress said was sometimes used for dancing. The atmosphere was electric. This was how most bars used to be back in the day – packed with girls and customers, and with a great vibe.
This is also like an old-style gogo bar, though in a different way, because it is an old-style gogo bar. Lollipop looks as though it was fitted out in the 1980’s and never refurbished. It has that old-style look, with a low ceiling, lots of coloured lights, and the names of guys who rang the bell painted in luminous writing on the mirrors. The seating and tables are well worn and the toilets looked as though they needed a thorough scrub (as is often the case in Angeles bars) but the atmosphere made up for it.
On two recent visits there were so many customers that I had to sit at the stage. If this happens to you it’s not so bad as in Thailand, as the stages are recessed, so you are eyeballing a sexy stomach (hopefully, flat), or a curvaceous butt, rather than a pair of ridiculously high shoes, and you don’t get a crick in your neck trying to see their faces. There were 10 to 12 girls on stage on my visits. A few more would have looked nice, but among them were some real lookers with plenty of curves in the right places (and a few with curves in the wrong places), and their thong-style bikinis showcased their assets. There was a mix of customers, western, Korean and Indian, which made the bar feel welcoming to all.
The main feature of this bar is a large round stage in the centre of the bar. Actually, it is a carousel, and it used to go round, though rather slowly, making it seem like an age before the girl you were interested in came round again. My guess is that it stopped working a few years ago, and rather than fix it, they just renamed the bar (it used to be called Carousel). Once again, not enough girls, though some pretty ones amongst them.
After Centauro you are not far from the western Walking Street barrier. There are about another 200 yards of bars beyond the barrier, but I think the above four would be enough for the first night out. However, if you have not met the love of your life thus far, and want one more bar to round off your evening, I can do no better than recommend a bar called Old Club at the far end of the entertainment area to the west (I think it is the very last bar). This is a small bar, with a small stage where five or six girls dance in white, tasseled bikinis. There is one row of customer seating quite close the stage, which gives it an intimate feel, so there doesn’t need to be many customers for it to feel vibrant. I have adopted this bar as my “local”, and I make a point of popping in there for an hour or two on every visit. (See you there, maybe!)
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