Stickman Readers' Submissions June 29th, 2023

A Thailand Train Trip in February 2020, Part 4

We began Saturday night at Soi Cowboy. The soi was quite lively, though I was to find that several bars were almost empty. Note the little boy running across the soi – what is he doing there?

I’d not been to Shark for ten years, so decided to go there first. There is a medium-sized centre stage, and it was packed with many girls of the right sort. We sat on the right as you enter the bar, and to the left of the stage from where we were sitting, the girls danced in transparent tops and rah-rah skirts, while to the right, they wore patterned bikinis. Customer numbers were reasonable, but there were many empty seats in the bar. The set change revealed another 20 or so pretty girls, so there must be 40 to 50 girls in this bar on any given night. There are not many bars like this now, and it is heartening to see a packed stage. There is something exciting about the sheer numbers – perhaps it is the illusion that the more girls there are, the more chance you have of finding – the one.

He Clinic Bangkok

Of course, I had to show my unsophisticated tilac the famous glass ceiling in Baccara. These days you have to pay for your first drink outside the bar, and the prices are high. A Heineken costs 190 baht. That put me off, so we went away, only to come back again for the sake of Chompu – after all, you cannot visit Soi Cowboy for the first time without visiting Baccara. For myself, I find it soulless these days. Perhaps it is because I have seen it all before – or perhaps it has lost some of its former vibe.

On my last visit in January there was a long queue to buy drinks at the bar on the forecourt. This time there were just three. It was quite busy inside (it always is), but this time there were several spare seats available. It was the usual formula, which has been going it seems forever: two-piece costumes downstairs, navy blue skirts, with no knickers, and white blouses upstairs. I noticed that this was one of a very few bars where the girls were not wearing monster shoes, just normal, elegant, high heels. I pointed out the glass ceiling to tilac, but she was not impressed – the up-skirt view being too much for a Hua Hin girl. There were many Japanese in the bar, including two men sat next to us who looked as though they should have been in school (aged perhaps about 18 or 19) – handsome young men, too. She was surprised to see such young men in a gogo bar (the age profile of the punters in Hua Hin being much older). I agreed, and said that I thought they should be out in the real world looking for real girlfriends.

After a while, I decided to take her upstairs, but my pleasure in the on/off blouses was, once again, spoilt by smokers. In most of Soi Cowboy, smokers have been banished to the bar frontage, but it seems that smoking is tolerated upstairs in Baccara. While we were there, I noticed something I have not seen before (though I guess it has been there for ages); a second glass ceiling – just imagine how much one’s enjoyment would be increased if that were also packed with girls (or if the smokers were sent up there and sealed off!)

CBD bangkok

I would have stayed longer in Soi Cowboy, but tilac was hungry, and I couldn’t find another bar that looked inviting enough. All too often we would go through the curtain to find a stage with a handful of below average girls, and few or no customers. Even Dollhouse, an old-time favourite, seemed a bit forlorn. By contrast, Cowboy 2 seemed to be doing brilliantly, as there were about a dozen girls milling round outside. However, a quick look through the curtain showed that it was just a marketing ploy, as there were only about another dozen girls inside, and not many customers. Perhaps the reason is that the girls are finding it easier to pull customers directly off the soi rather than having to shuffle about on stage in front of empty seats (as the slim cutie to the left of the picture is trying to do).

But low season is looming; judging by hotel pricing, it begins on March 1st (which was the following day), and all the hype about coronavirus is only going to make things worse.

Before going to eat, I said I would like to check out Twister Bar in Nana Plaza to see if there was any link with Twister BKK. As soon as we walked in, I could see that it was a successful bar. There are two L-shaped stages, both full of girls, many young and pretty, wearing thong bikinis and the usual monster shoes. When we ordered our drinks, I asked the waitress if it was under the same ownership as Twister BKK, and she said that it was. As I looked around, I got that deja vu feeling and realised that this bar used to be Rainbow 4, the first gogo bar I set foot in, and which used to have the best selection of girls in Bangkok (or maybe that was just newbie rose-tinted glasses). There were quite a few Japanese in the bar, one of whom, a young man with his hair dyed blonde, got a lot of bargirl attention (at one point there were four clustered around him, and he wasn’t buying them anything). One of the girls even smiled at me (well, it was getting late) but the nicest thing was that Chompu could just laugh about it, and not get jealous.

We rounded off the evening at Gulliver’s in Soi 5 (another old time favourite). We sat outside near the pool (very romantic), and I left it to tilac to order a Thai meal for two. I noticed that a bottle of Heineken costs 115 in this bar. We had an excellent meal with wine for just over 1,000 baht.

wonderland clinic

Years ago, I developed the habit of giving each trip a score. This one gets 10/10. The overnight sleeper was an experience I will never forget. Hua Hin was a real gem, and Chompu is a pearl of price.

After my train trip, I visited London for a week, arriving on March 1st. This was when good old Blighty was playing it cool in the wartime spirit of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. A week later everything had changed, thanks to media hype and bossy politicians and there was panic buying of toilet rolls (!). Not long after, many more countries introduced travel restrictions. For example, Singapore, where I am based, expanded its list of countries at risk to include the ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Anyone arriving from those countries after Monday 16 March 23:59 is placed on a Stay Home Notice (SHN) – so even if I could get into Thailand, I couldn’t get back into Singapore and do my job.

Since then, the lockdown in most countries has got even tighter. The lockdown in Thailand is now so tight that even Thai nationals are not allowed into the country. Only one country has chosen an alternative route – Sweden. The trouble with lockdown is that there is no exit strategy – you come out, and you catch it. At least we in western countries are receiving financial help from our governments, but my heart goes out to Chompu and her fellow bargirls in Hua Hin who have no salary or social security to tide them over the months of lockdown. They don’t make much at the best of times, and with the bars closed, their purses will be empty, and they will have no choice but to return to their moobaan where they will be just another mouth to feed.

What will happen when this thing is over? Back in 2019 I often felt that the whole scene in both Thailand and the PI needed a reset before it became just another Amsterdam (cold, transactional and super-expensive). Covid is the reset. It’s a bit like when you have a problem on your fave device – reset and hope for the best. Otherwise it’s in the bin!


NOTE 2023:

In November 2021, I wrote these post-pandemic predictions based on internet research and information from a friend in Nong Khai, but mainly by gazing in Bangkok Byron’s crystal ball:

  • The UFO’s (Ugly, Fat and Old) will be a thing of the past (or of the outer reaches of the galaxy). The privations of the pandemic will lead to a surge in demand, and the bar bosses will be able to pick the cream of the crop.
  • The GFE (Girlfriend Experience) will be back with a vengeance. These girls will be eager to please. Pre-pandemic the girls had had it too good for too long. They could do what they liked in the bar without getting sacked (and if they did, they could get another job the same day), and they could rip customers off with sky high prices for minimal service – all a result of the girl shortage.
  • BUT prices will be higher. The shock horror 200 THB beer that Stick predicted a year ago will be upped in no time – my guess is to 230 or 240. Lady drinks will top 450. Barfines will be well over 1,000 – I predict 1,500 on average. Short time will be at least 4,000 and long time – I dread to think! The positive side is that girls will have a better attitude, and less likely to make excuses to get away after an hour or so of half-hearted performance.
  • The high prices will be partly offset by an improved exchange rate as western economies recover faster than those in the far east.
  • The customers will flood back. Just think of all that pent-up desire! This will make for a vibrant scene where the bars are humming. It will be great fun again!

On my visa run in November 2022 (you can read about it in my submission, Three Nights in Bangkok), I found that I was wrong on most counts (as usual). This was what I found:

  • The girl shortage is worse than ever and the UFO’s have taken over.
  • The GFE is fading into a barely credible legend told by old timers.
  • Surprisingly, prices were not higher on the whole.
  • Exchange rates are better (but not much) than in 2019.
  • Customers are coming back, but not ‘flooding’ back.

That visa run was only about 6 months after Thailand eased entry restrictions, and I gather from Stick’s Weeklies that things are getting better.

My next dream trip is from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap by ferry on the Mekong River. My plan is to spend a few nights in Phnom Penh to find a Cambodian “tour guide” to take care of me, show me around the tourist attractions by day – and her attractions by night! Alternatively, a friend is trying to persuade me to join him on a cruise to Antarctica of all places – no girls there, only penguins, but it would be the experience of a lifetime. Maybe I’ll do both, and if I do, I’ll tell you about it here. I’ll spare you the penguins, but I’m sure you’d like to hear about my Cambodian tour guide and Siam Reap.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy some of my books about Thailand and the Philippines. Take a look here, here or here. Vampire of Old Siam, is available on free offer until July 3rd..

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nana plaza