Stickman's Weekly Column July 29th, 2001

Sukhumvit Soi 33 versus Patpong Soi 2



Bangkok's gogo bars eventually lose their appeal and eventually you will find yourself craving something a little different. It's nice to know that there is an alternative, somewhere a little more laid back, where the ladies are attractive – and a lot more pleasant, than their gogo girl counterparts. The obvious farang orientated alternative to the infamous gogo bars is the bars of Sukumvit Soi 33, an area which conjures up different thoughts amongst the minds of Bangkok's bar flies. While some consider it to be the ultimate playground to find the most attractive Isaan girls, others consider it to be little more than a rip-off area, a place that purports to be something that it isn't, all the while charging Western prices in the East.

In comparison with other areas, it's a fact that the soi 33 establishments are a lot more expensive, and indeed price themselves out of reach of many locals – and even some folks holidaying in the Kingdom. But, there is an alternative to soi 33, another pocket of bars with a similar flavour. In Patpong soi 2 there are several bars in a similar style to the hostess lounges of soi 33. Bars such as The Executive Lounge, Cosmos Club, Crystal Palace and the Royal have been there for years and are often forgotten as an alternative to soi 33. But how do they compare with the soi 33 establishments? Do they present a genuine alternative?

ATMOSPHERE: The atmosphere in the various bars in the two different areas is largely the same, though it obviously varies from bar to bar. In both areas, the bar managers make a diligent effort to provide an environment where everything is a lot more laid back and relaxed than the gogo bars and without all of the "buy me drink / pay bar" pressure. In addition to this, hospitality goes up a notch with bars offering a hot towel to all customers as they enter and also providing free snacks. In both Sukumvit soi 33 and the hostess bars of Patpong soi 2, the girls are dressed in evening wear as opposed to the raunchy bikinis of the gogo bars. While they make a decent effort to create an atmosphere of class and sophistication, it is my opinion that both areas fall well short because at the end of the day, we're still talking about poorly educated girls from the country. Soi 33 does have an air of exclusivity about it, which you may or may not like but at the end of the day, the girls are still much the same girls as you find elsewhere. Where soi 33 separates itself from Patpong soi 2 is that it is not frequented by the singlet and shorts crowd that you get in the heavily touristed areas like Patpong so here, soi 33 is the winner. Scores: Soi 33 9, Patpong Soi 2 7.

SURROUNDINGS: The bars of Patpong Soi 2 have booths where customers can sit and relax with the bars in soi 33 offering a more diverse selection of styles. It varies from bar to bar but some of the better bas in soi 33 are genuinely nice. Places like Dali Bar are very nicely done out whereas most of the bars in Patpong Soi 2 are conservative, much how I imagine a typical British gentleman's club would be. Ok for the old farts but for us nippers, not nearly so flash. Scores: Soi 33 9, Patpong Soi 2 6.

THE GIRLS. The most important category of them all, the girls. Well, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the majority of girls in both areas come from every farang's favourite region of Thailand, Isaan. Again, some bars recruit more attractive girls than others but on the whole, they're all much the same. Some of the soi 33 bars such as Monet and Dali seem to have a better selection than others but largely, there isn't a huge difference between the various bars. One bar may have the nicest ladies this month but after they all been whisked off to Farangland, the next batch may not be so pretty. For the real test of how attractive any bar girls really are, observe them in daylight. You might be surprised how unattractive some of the girls from both of these areas are in the harsh reality of the Bangkok sun. Still, the best looking girls in these types of bars still tend to be found in soi 33. Scores: Soi 33 8, Patpong Soi 2 bars 6.

VALUE FOR MONEY. As the self elected President of the Cheap Charlies Club, the idea of affordability to me is an important one and in this area, there is a very clear winner. Both bar areas have a happy hour system when drinks are cheaper before 9:00 PM with the price increasing after that. At Patpong soi 2, the prices are 75 baht for a Heineken (does anyone drink anything else?) before 9:00 PM and after this time the price is increased by a not unreasonable 10 baht, making the regular price an affordable 85 baht. Soi 33 is not known as Millionaires Row for nothing. 80 baht for a Heineken before 9:00 PM and a princely 150 baht after that time and suddenly all of the English teachers have been scared away. These prices are dear but admittedly in some bars you can pre-purchase a few drinks before 9:00 PM at the cheaper prices – and just collect them as you finish each glass. But where soi 33 really hurts the wallet is when it comes to the barfine. The bars in Patpong soi 2 charge the standard 500 baht charge whereas the bars in soi 33 charge anywhere between 1200 and 1600 baht, depending on the bar and the day of the week. In terms of affordability and value for money, Soi 33 scores poorly. In terms of extra curricular activities, there isn't a huge amount it with the girls in each area quoting similar prices. Scores: Soi 33 2, Patpong Soi 2 8.

Wall Street, Goya, Monet, Luciano's and other soi 33 bars.

So, overall it is a fairly close race, with both bar areas scoring 27 out of a possible 40. If you cast value for money aside and you are genuinely loaded, then soi 33 is a very clear winner. However if you demand value for money, then the lounges of Patpong Soi 2 offer a decent alternative. The Patpong soi 2 bars might not be quite as good, but when you factor in price, they are a clear winner.

Sukumvit Soi 33
Patpong Soi 2 bars
Atmosphere
8
7
Surroundings
9
6
The Girls
8
6
Value For Money
2
8
TOTAL
27
27

The few emails I get from Thai females reflect a complete lack of sophistication i.e. they don't care for my writing so the following email came as a bit of a surprise. This is totally unedited, other than a couple of spelling mistakes and text formatting. Interesting views.

My husband reads your articles and likes them. I am a Thai lady living in Farangland for 10 year. Your views on if a marriage to a bar girl works are not really correct. I have come to terms with life here and I can tell you what I did to make it work. My husband get to know my family well and become like part the family He is 'Pu Yai' so help my family as they have nothing. For this he is never forgot. I went to school in UK for 1 year to learn English – meeting many people from Asia, Europe South America who are now friends. You must make friends. I first worked in Thai restaurant where I am busy and meet other Thai ladies. I buy only Thai food. Have Thai music and have Thai things in the house. A lady must work to get money and to keep busy. I am now in training to be a nurse and this is useful for when I go back. Also I have to have 2 trips home at least a year as I must see my family but e-mail and telephone means we are speaking every week. Also my husband has learned to adapt to Thai thinking a little and me done the same to farang. And on internet I read Thai Rath every day at 11 PM UK time, which is 5 AM Thai time which is before my parent wakes up! My money in a good job is 9 pounds every hour – in Thai about 400 baht – same as 3 days in the farm. So, I can send money home, have money to help in the house and save. Farang men have to understand that a lady from a poor family have nothing and most have a good heart as that is how they are with the family. It is the farang who wants everything his way and think we are machines.
The big news from Bangkok this week has been the busts at two firms who have been selling the bogus shares – just as I have been commenting on in this column for the past few weeks. 87 farangs were arrested and subsequently convicted and fined between 5000 and 8000 baht each for working without a work permit. Will anything else happen to these folks? Will they do time in a Bangkok prison or will they get a slap over the hand with a wet bus ticket? My money is on the wet bus ticket. While they are still in the custody of Immigration Police, I predict that they will likely be deported, and if they are really unlucky, they may even get blacklisted – though this doesn't appear to be too likely either. In expat circles, some folks are asking what will happen to the Australians amongst them, who are charged with duping their fellow countryman… Can they be charged for any other crimes back in Oz? Are there any other charges that may get laid against all of them? They really have to worry about charges being laid against them for not filing a tax return and paying tax. If that happens then they could really be up shit creek, with some of the guys getting a nasty tax bill…and most likely being unable to pay it.

One undesirable fellow that I am unfortunate to know who worked in this industry for a while was getting between 95,000 and 110,000 baht a month – good bread in this part of the world. He knew exactly what he was doing – ripping off foreigners. But he also knew that he didn't have a hope in making that type of money legitimately in Thailand so he continued at it.

The problem with cases like this is that it gives farangs a high profile for all of the wrong reasons and there could be repercussions for farangs who are in Thailand, doing an honest days work, all legal. This could contribute towards making things unnecessarily difficult for the rest of us.

Following nonsense comments from the father of the sole New Zealander arrested who claimed that his son was innocent, it really irks me that some of these people claimed that what they were doing was legitimate, especially when you look at some of the following:

– The companies would not provide any of the staff with a work permit.
– All staff had to use a fake name both in the workplace and while on the telephone. They were not even allowed to tell anyone they worked with their real name!
– When calling their victims, they would say that they were calling from Japan or another country.
– Many were under specific instructions not to discuss any aspects of their job outside of the workplace.

For budding English teachers, the chances of finding work is all of a sudden going to be a LOT more difficult over the next couple of months as what could quite well be 1000+ financial con artists start applying for work as English teachers! Many of these con artists are actually former teachers and it will be very interesting to watch the bottom end of the farang expat job market as a surplus of people start searching for employment. In fact some of the advertisements in the Bangkok Post for these jobs started off saying "sick of teaching…"! Remember that a Thai interviewer will often put presentation over substance i.e. a well presented applicant might have more chance at a job than someone with specific teaching qualifications and experience. A well presented financial con artist might get a position ahead of a teacher. A disgrace! I'm glad I'm not looking for a job at the moment!

Isn't the girl on all of the Panasonic billboards advertising mobile phones at the BTS stations a bit of all right? Wow! I wonder if she is interested in making a bit of extra money on the side?

The Panasonic girl….what a babe! Is she Thai or Japanese?

Blu Bar BQ Bar, located in one of the little sub sois on Sukumvit soi 33 just next to Wall street Bar, offers beer at 80 baht a bottle. This is the regular price, all night, every night. With so many bars in 33 charging twice this after 9:00 PM, the owner of this bar has got to be unpopular with the proprietors of all of the other establishments in this street. And it seems to be paying off. Blu Bar BQ is busy!

Following on from last week's piece about the fellow selling international drivers licences in Bangkok, I can confirm that these do not appear to be genuine as the following email suggests.

Regarding international driver's licenses: I called AAA (American Automobile Association) here in the U.S. and the lady I talked to said there was no such organization as the "North American Automobile Association". She tried to look it up in a book she had of all the organizations throughout the world. She said international driver's licenses must be issued in conjunction with a domestic driver's license from the country in which it is issued and can not be valid for any longer than the domestic license is valid for, although it can be valid for a shorter period. The lady at AAA emphasized that an international driver's license is not valid without a corresponding domestic license and you must have both with you when driving in a foreign country.
As one reader said, these licences have as much integrity as the ISIC (International student ID card) that you can get on Khao Sarn Road i.e. they are about as good as a $3 note. In the fellow's favour, he does give a refund if you are not happy with your card. Another reader confirms that he bought one of the licences believing it to be genuine and he went to use it in Australia but they wouldn't accept it! I emailed the fellow issuing these licences but he failed to reply…

The software crackdown mentioned in last week's column seems to have been on games – applications software wasn't effected. I imagine that you could still buy dodgy software in the heavily touristed areas such as the Patpong night market and Sukumvit Road.

Remember my comments about Durex condoms available in Australia being made in Thailand? Well, a reader writes:

I was employed in Thailand for 4 years, came to set up the Durex factory in Chachoengsao as it happens – and I can tell you the Thai condoms made here are the best available and are sold in UK and USA under the Durex brand.
Central Chidlom is my favourite Department store and it is even better these days now that one can walk straight in via the BTS walkway. Straight off the BTS and straight into the store. However, this walkway seems to suffer from Sukumvit syndrome as the BTS has leased out all of the space on it to vendors, almost blocking access into Central and making it difficult to get through. Well, with passenger numbers on the skytrain only half of what they expected, I guess they have to try and get revenue through other means.

I prefer The Nation over The Bangkok Post for it's editorial coverage, editing and the way that it makes more of an effort to tell you what is really happening in Thailand. But one area where The nation needs work is at the printing stage. The Nation often features blurry text which makes it a pain to read whereas the Bangkok Post is always well printed and much easier on the eye. It might sound petty, but when you read both papers every day it does get a bit much.

A definition for "gone native" – buying different coloured faces for your mobile. For teenage girls, they are just about acceptable, but for grown up farangs, they are just one of many indicators that you have well and truly gone native – and it's time to go home!

Shirtz Bar in Soi Cowboy has now changed its name to Fannys. Mike at Midnite Bar is sure that that name is going to get some stick and it's hard not to agree!

The new sign outside the old Shirtz Bar.
Photo kindly supplied by Mike at Midnite Bar.

Since early in the week, Suzy Wong's Bar in Cowboy has been closed. It seems that all of the staff from Suzy Wong Bar have gone over to Juke's Bar. The rumour is that Wong's is still up for sale, but there are many problems in selling it because the land lady and the owner of the building are always arguing. On top of that, it has to be one of the grottier bars around and anyone contemplating buying it would be forced to fit the bill for a total refurbishment, a cost that would take quite some time to recoup. I'm picking this one to stay closed for quite a while. It may even get converted into something other than a gogo bar. Yep, in Soi Cowboy, there are quite a few other businesses, but these shops usually close early evening and are seldom noticed by punters who's only interest comes in a glass or is hanging off a girl's chest. Walk through Cowboy during the day and you will see a clinic, a couple of general goods stores, a hairdresser and even a shophouse that stores and distributes beer!

A lot of Japanese and Korean tourists have been seen in Cowboy recently. Why are they crossing over to the farang scene, away from their designated areas? And was that Mike from Midnite Bar spotted exiting the local Japanese language school?! Also, the Arabs are running amok all over Sukumvit, poor Arab husbands gazing away at all of the lovely young Thai girls while in their company of their overweight, veiled Arab wives. Why are they all here at this particular time? Did Saddam let them out for a week?

Twice in the last week, I have been told about apartment buildings in the capital that are full and are increasing their prices for the current tenants. One put the prices up at varying levels and the other increased prices by a flat rate of 20%. I've never heard of this happening before and I'm not sure how they could do it, given that most people have a contract stating the price of the apartment. I just wonder if the "we reserve the right to change prices at any time" clause of ambiguity has been effected by these unscrupulous owners…

From Hollywood Strip and Hollywood 2 bars on the top floor of Nana Plaza comes the release the girl from her indentured labour scam. Alongside the prices for drinks is this announcement: "To buy a girl out of the bar, speak to the manager for a special price". Interested in how much they charge, I called over the manager, Australian "Cat", Bangkok's king of peroxide. (How many bottles do you think he used to get his hair that white? My guess is about 7.) He quoted me a special deal of 10,000 baht to take away a girl and when I started asking him if it was one big rip-off, he disappeared… If you do foolishly fall in love with a bar girl, just take her away form the bar after she has collected her pay at the end of the month. Many of the bars (though not all) fine the girls for the smallest things and a lot of the bars (though not all) do not treat the girls that well. This release fee is therefore little more than a ripoff. It does however get complicated if the girl has sisters (real sisters not just her friends) who continue to work at the bar… Some bars have been known to make life difficult for the girls who stay on, after one girl has left. The same Hollywood bars are offering a special of a 100 baht discount for every five bar fines. Not sure what it means as the offer is not clear – do you get 100 baht off the girl's nightly price?! Incidentally, some of the bars give the girl a cut of the release fee – one bar in Cowboy gives the girl 40% of the 10,000 baht fee that they charge.

Many hotels advertise prices as being net, including tax and service charge. Hang on a moment, isn't net supposed to be before you add on tax and service? Something got lost somewhere in the translation!

I've heard two reports of scams at a beer bar in Patpong Soi 2. Just as the sun is rising, a girl will start screaming and yelling and from nowhere the police suddenly appear. The girl then claims that the nearest guy tried to paw her, assault her or do something else unmentionable. Off to the cop station they go and a settlement is reached. Nasty situation this, as it becomes your word vs. hers. A drunk vs. a prostitute. What are the cops supposed to do? Twice in a week makes me wonder if it is a coincidence – or otherwise?

Last week's question about the number of King's Group establishments in Patpong presented six possible answers, the correct answer I thought being 14. In their advertisements in The Nation, The King's Group advertises 14 places, but on their website, they advertise 16. So if you got 14 or 16, give yourself a pat on the back.

The next Nanapong dance contest will take place next week on Sunday August 5th at The Dollhouse in Clinton Plaza. Always trying to improve on their last effort, DC 6 (Dance Contest #6) has been dubbed as Bangkok vs. Pattaya with the contestants coming from Thailand's two favourite playgrounds. If the popularity of the last competition was anything to go by, it would pay to arrive early. The official start time is 8:00 PM and hell, I really can't wait! Like other dance contests, entry is FREE!

So you got last week's question right and you think that you know Bangkok fairly well? OK, tell me where the following place is? It is NOT somewhere obscure, stuck down some lane somewhere but rather is in an area that could be considered fairly central. Where is it?

Where is this?

The final word this week comes from Whosyourdaddy. "In Hollywood Strip, if you're paying by the kilo, #31 represents this week's bargain". Yep, she sure is a whole lot of lovin'.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick



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