(A lot of time away from Bangers this week)
This week I found myself in Pattaya, so much of this week's column covers news and views from the beachside city of sin.
I've never been able to make my mind up about Pattaya. The first time I went there was very brief, and the second time, a three day jaunt away from Bangkok was fun enough, but I have to admit that back then I felt Pattaya was a bit of a hole, a place where you went to get pissed and sexed, and where there wasn't too much else of interest. With these thoughts in mind, I didn't return to Pattaya for almost 15 months, but since that third visit, I have probably been down there more times than would be considered healthy. For research purposes, of course!
While Bangkok is a great place to live, no one can deny that it is hot, steamy, crowded, badly polluted, noisy, busy, and by Thai standards, it IS EXPENSIVE. On top of all of this, while there are many wonderful people in Bangkok, it is generally accepted that you will find friendlier Thai people outside of the capital. So, while I was down in Pattaya this week, I did a lot of thinking about Pattaya as an alternative to Bangkok. Is Pattaya a viable alternative for people currently living in, or planning on moving to Bangkok?
The first thing that one notices about Pattaya is that it is both cleaner and cooler and this has a very calming effect on one, making you feel instantly at ease, relaxed. It's got that holiday feel and everyone seems to be walking around with a smile on their face. Pattaya is cheap and it's very easy to get around. Traffic jams do occur, but they are nothing like the nonsense we somehow manage to deal with in Bangkok. And of course, Pattaya is the nightlife capital of Thailand, possibly the world. No where on this planet will you find such a huge number and range of bars, brothels and babes as you do in Pattaya. For the hedonist, Pattaya serves up a full course of carnal pleasure.
But for me, this is where the positives end, and a long list of negatives begin. There is a lot more to life than beer and babes and if you want something more, then I wonder if Pattaya is able to accommodate you? In so many respects, Pattaya cannot compete with Bangkok. There is simply too much that you can't do in Pattaya, too much that simply doesn't exist or isn't available down there. From glitzy department stores, and well stocked English bookstores and libraries to concerts and operas, it is suddenly reinforced that Pattaya is a seaside resort, and in so many respects it simply cannot compete with Thailand's only metropolis. While Bangkok is still typically Thai, there is very, very little that you can't purchase, experience or do in this city that is rapidly becoming more modern, more cosmopolitan and more international, as every capital should be.
While there are no doubt many folks in Pattaya who prefer an alternative lifestyle, it seems that a good number of the expats down that way are predominantly interested in two of the three things that Pattaya is most famous for, sex and alcohol. (Golf being the third) Obviously spending a lot of time in the bars of Pattaya means that this is what one is most likely to see! The bar scene is all very good and well but many people crave a little something over and above man's basic instincts. While Pattaya may deliver the sex and alcohol quotient, in fact many would argue that it does this even better than Bangkok, one imagines that this sort of lifestyle has got to get boring after a while.
I love Pattaya. For a short break away, I think it's an absolutely marvellous place. But for an extended period of time, I simply don't know if it would be me or not. It might be, I just don't know. Pattaya is great in many respects, but for a more complete place to live, I think Bangkok is hard to beat.
I'd love to hear from Pattaya residents. Why do you choose to live down there as opposed to Bangkok? Drop me an email.
Pattaya Bay, as seen from the Channel 7
Broadcast Centre lookout point, up on the hill.
This reader has definite views on the current tourism situation. I agree partially, but feel that the tourism numbers drop in the early 1990s when there was the big AIDS scare proves that sex tourists are not THAT loyal.
That is called Nam Jai the word means "Water from the Heart" This manifests itself in genuine acts of kindness or a voluntary extension of help, to someone you know or a complete stranger, without the expectation of anything in return.
Alas there is nothing like it here in Mundania (London). You could drop dead in the street here, and people would walk over you.
I've thought about this a little bit. Why do Thais do this? I don't mean to belittle this behaviour by dissecting it, but I think the root of it may be religious.
Remember, in Buddhism you gain merit when you do good things for others. It's like there is an account with debits and credits, and you earn credits by helping others.
front of you, don't assume that it is JD. This happens a great deal where I am in Phuket with bottles on sale for 350 baht by the case.
This pissed me off. I left the bar and found I had 4 escorts following me. When I got outside they started to push me. I told them to back off; that's when they started "whaling" on me. I ended up with 2 black eyes, a sprained right thumb & knee plus a broken right ankle.
I guess times are tough in Patong Beach at this time; every penny counts!!!
clue: look in the background….
Where could this be? Yes, it looks like a temple entrance way
but where exactly? The city is full of temples!
Last week's "where is it" picture was of the Grand Diamond apartment building which is located virtually next to Panthip Plaza on Petchaburi Road.
The whole naughty nightlife industry in Pattaya is huge, and it really does dwarf the farang oriented industry in Bangkok. So much changes that even as someone who pops down several times a year, it is hard to keep up with everything. Bars are forever opening and closing, changing names, and changing ownership. More beer bar areas are popping up left, right and centre, and there are more and more bars popping up around the outskirts of town. What follows is merely a summary of the small pockets of areas that I visited, along with some observations. To report on all of the changes taking place in the industry in Pattaya would be full time work for more than one person.
The first thing I noticed is the fast food joint invasion of Beach Road where just about all of the American fast food chains that are present in Thailand, have a presence on the Beach Road, most in the vicinity of Royal. While some people may moan and groan about folks that eat at McDonalds, citing it as rubbish food, I'd much rather have the choice of whether to eat there or not, thank you. Along with McDonalds, there is Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, Pizza Company, and a couple of Starbucks, all within a stone throw of each other. Royal also seems to have had a bit of an overhaul, no doubt in preparation for the upcoming high season.
I noticed that there is a real happy hour following in Pattaya, leading me to believe that a lot of the locals are very mindful of what they spend – perhaps they retired prematurely? There is literally a convoy of folks who seem to follow a route of going from bar to bar, depending on where the happy hours are. Plenty of folks arriving in a bar a few minutes before happy hour commences wait until the prices drop before placing their order! Quite a few of the gogo bars in Walking Street offer happy hours. The Dollhouse used to offer drinks for 30 baht each during the first hour of business, from 7:30 – 8:30 PM, but they have recently changed their special to 2 drinks for the price of 1. Sexy A Go Go had cheap, cheap drinks at this time, just 30 baht for selected items which is damned cheap for a gogo – but they do not have the eye candy that The Dollhouse boasts. For me, the pick of the specials was the happy hour offered at Vixens Go Go Bar. They offer all drinks at 40 baht from 7:00 – 9:00 PM. There was a very small exclusion list and from memory it was just two drinks, Corona beer and Remy. Now, this bar is relatively small by gogo bar standards with perhaps 20 odd girls working in there, but as The Mad Stockbroker said, "this bar must win the prize for having no fatties on the premises". What I like about this bar is that during the happy hour, not only do they have all of the girls present (some bars have but a skeleton staff during happy hour), and a most attractive bunch they are too, they offer you the DECENT drinks at 40 baht each. By this I mean, you get a BOTTLE of Heineken – or whatever beer you happen to prefer – or if you want a whisky, you are not limited to the dreadful local stuff and can get the decent American stuff. This is a REAL happy hour. Too many of the happy hours in Pattaya are a farce. They charge you one price for a bottle of Heineken, say 90 baht, and then they hold these stupid little placards outside promoting cheap Heineken at happy hour prices. But your cheap 59 baht Heineken is of the watered down draught variety and comes in a tiny glass that is emptied in two or three quick swigs! Deceptive? Misleading? Absolutely! Actually, the culprits for a lot of these cheap midget sized beers are the bars in Pattayaland Soi 2 where your promise of a cheap beer gets you a woman's sized serving, and not a drop more.
Quote of the week comes from The Mad Stock Broker. Enjoying a drink with him in Vixens A Go Go, I point out a girl who I find particularly attractive, to which he replies, "cripes, she is so dark that she just blends into the background"!
Why is it that some bars in Pattaya and Jomtien charge these really odd prices for drinks? 78 baht for a Heineken? 42 baht for a coke? There seems to be no pattern to it and surely it can only create problems when it comes to the bar dispensing change? Or maybe it has something to do with tipping with the bar staff in Pattaya perhaps anticipating somewhat smaller tips than their counterparts in Bangkok?
I see Sexy A Go Go is still up to their old tricks of waving around their Happy Hour prices outside until all hours, deceiving you into believing that you will be getting cheap beer, but when you get inside you suddenly find that the prices are twice what you thought! Frankly, along with the deceptive pricing, the music is too loud, the girls are rude and there isn't one who was that pleasant on the eye. Overall, it has to be said that this isn't my favourite gogo bar. Still, any bar located so close to The Dollhouse is going to struggle.
"All Drinks 100 baht Sorry – No Imported Beer or Special
Drinks Tonight". Could they have come up with anything worse?
A dance contest was held last Sunday at TQ2 Bar, just off the Walking Street. I thought his would be a great chance to check out a different dance contest, a non Nanapong dance contest, and see how it compared. Well, approaching the bar, I spotted the sign in the photo above, and really, one has to wonder, could the TQ2 management have come up with anything worse? This sort of sign just puts you off entering the bar completely. To make matters worse, there were no signs outside saying that a dance contest was taking place and you couldn't complain about the promotion of the dance contest – because there was none to complain about! Why not make a bit of a song and dance and actually let people know that you have a competition on? Anyway, to the contest itself. There were a handful of bars with girls competing, a bunch of Pattaya bars along with some girls who had come down from The Dollhouse in Bangkok. The whole event was sponsored by Bodyguard condoms and all of the contestants wore white cut off T-shirts with Bodyguard's insignia printed clearly on the front. One fellow was wandering around giving away free condoms and I was once again shocked to hear some people saying "no, I don't use them". Idiots! Anyway, from what I saw of this particular contest, and it must be said that I didn't stay for the duration, the girls were just dancing as they would at any other time, not really doing anything special to differentiate themselves from the others. The action did hot up a little when The Dollhouse Pattaya girls got up on stage with some Heineken bottles, the contents of which were quickly emptied each others' chests, providing a rather pleasant sight. It just never really got going and it didn't have the carnival, party atmosphere that you get with the Nanapong contests. I don't know what they were trying to achieve but what was the story with that sign that said "dance contestants bar fine 1000 baht"! Hmmm, was this a contest or a chance to make a few extra $$? It seemed to me that the management of TQ2 bar could learn a lot from the Nanapong boys.
The Winchester Club of Jomtien Beach is another local Pattaya resident's favourite, particularly on Sunday when they do the free lunch. This bar recently opened a new bar on Walking Street called Winchester A Go Go. It's a bit on the small side and has a miserable excuse for a dance floor. Is it the smallest gogo dance floor in the Kingdom? But, they do have an adjoining bar, sort of like a slightly more modern Winchester Club, and that is very nice.
The Marine Disco gets busier a lot earlier than it used to be. With the 2:00 AM closing, this bar seems to be filling up a lot earlier and the girls seem to be more genuine freelancers than the girls who drift down there after the bar where they work has closed. At the Marine last weekend, there was some definite fallout from the WTC bombing there when a bunch of liquored up Brits took exception to some turbaned fellows.
One bar that I never made it was Freeway A Go Go who have been advertising an underwater show. Anything a little different is worth checking out and it's always nice to support bars who are trying something a little different, or who have invested a lot of money into something new. But the idea of an underwater show makes me wonder. Part of the reason that the girls dance a go go with the lighting systems that they have in place is that the ultraviolet light contributes to concealing the imperfections on the girls skin, making them all look like smooth skinned beauties. But in water, every little blemish is highlighted and as a lot of the gogo girls come from a farming background, they have lots of small little scars and imperfections which would be highlighted when swimming under water.
For me, one of the best places to do some people watching is at one of the many buffet breakfasts in Pattaya. The full cross section of folks is represented. Smug Western males openly grin at those walking past, happy, even proud, to parade their latest tart. The children of a Western family who mistakenly booked into a sex tourist class hotel enjoy the buffet breakfast, pigging down as much as they can, while their mother openly glares at her husband for bringing them to such a despicable place. The husband in turn is unable to enjoy his breakfast because every other male in the restaurant is glancing over at him, wondering why this poor sucker decided to bring stale bread to the bakery. The bargirls are all subtly trying to outdo each other. One places the very latest Nokia mobile phone on top the table in slow motion so that all of her sisters get a good view of it. Noting this display of wealth and perhaps more importantly face, another girl casually swings her back over her shoulders, revealing a huge gold chain, oversized on such a small, feminine neck. Finally, the girl who ended up with the sole handsome, young guy in the restaurant possessively wraps her arms around him, and all of the girls look in her direction, envious, but wondering just what he sees in her? The Pattaya sex tourist class hotel buffet breakfast, you've got to love it!
Soi Pattayaland 2, the best spot for night time photography
in Pattaya, but for me, this soi is all appearance and no substance.
The rumours have it that Clinton Plaza has been saved, someone came in at the last moment and bought the lease. Word is that the bars that had closed down, predominantly the gogos, will re-open very, very soon. EXCELLENT!
Work is due to begin next month on a feature film set in Bangkok starring Antonio Banderes and Lucy Lui. It's a Warner Bros release and will be the first English language film by a Thai director named "Kaos". It's a shoot'em up spy thriller to be filmed entirely in Bangkok and you're sure to see signs of the filming clogging streets and small sois in and around the greater metropolitan area. Should be fun to see how the Warner Bros people who haven't worked with Thais before get along. Rumour has it that some of them are already frustrated – and they're still in Hollywood!
What is it with the hello girls outside each of the two Dollhouse bars? It seems to me that any girl wanting to apply for that job must be no more than 155 cm tall, must look great in a mini skirt and must look like she is 18 years old. (Actually, while they may look young, they are all over 18.) But perhaps most important of all, she must have the most revered of all looks, she must look innocent. Great marketing because these sexy Dollhouse hello girls DO entice guys into their bar. Amusing to compare the girls promoting The Dollhouse with some of the other girls outside other bars, particularly in Pattaya where there are some real dragons… Ah well, The Dollhouse is farang managed so I'll put it down to that.
Nick Nostitz's superb book "Patpong: Bangkok's Twilight Zone" is on special this week at Bookazine only 495 baht, down from the regular price of 995 baht. If you don't already have a copy, this book by a hugely talented photographer is a must for anyone who has even a slight interest in the city's naughty nightlife.
The latest local offering from Asia Books is a title by the name of "Sleepless in Bangkok". Flicking through it, I was put off by the fact that while it is a little over 300 pages long, this is made up by over 100 chapters! Personally, I find books with such short chapters to be a bit disjointed and not to my liking. A couple of friends who have read it were not so fond of it, but hey, you might like it.
What's the story with the new karaoke machine that arrived in the Thermae this week? Sitting right next to the jukebox, could the management be on the verge of trying something new in an effort to get back all of the customers who have left since the introduction of 2:00 AM closing? The jukebox was off on Saturday and the karaoke machine on, though no one seemed to be paying much attention to it and I can't see how it can really do anything to add to the atmosphere of The Big T. Incidentally, Thermae is still closing at 2:00 AM, or thereabouts. The jukebox or karaoke machine is turned off at 2:00 sharp and the house lights usually follow 20 or so minutes later. Thermae is definitely a fair bit quieter at the moment than it was even a month or two ago. Is it due to the low season, the early closing times, or perhaps both? I note that Nana Disco seems to be a lot busier. Visiting there on Friday night, the DJ announced that they would be open until 4:00 AM. Is this killing off the Thermae?
What's the story with English teacher training schools in Thailand? They seem to be opening up at a hell of a rate. This year we have seen the arrival of TEFL1 and Via Lingua and now there's another! The newest kid on the block is TEFL Teacher Training International, which is not to be confused with TEFL International. One could be forgiven for thinking that the new outfit is actively trying to confuse people into thinking that they are actually TEFL International, Thailand's leading English teacher training school. The names are more than a little similar. This makes the number of teacher training certificate (certificate = full one month course – not shorter, less worthwhile courses) providers to SIX. But, the big question which must be asked is: Is this new school Text'n'Talk in a new guise? After all, Text'n'Talk is the school where Eric Rosser, international paedophile and on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted list" was caught. Any school with such a black mark against their name would no doubt want to reposition themselves, would they not?!
Is it me or have there been less power cuts this rainy season? Their seem to be less and less every year, touch wood.
As we come towards the end of the rainy season, I find myself eagerly looking ahead to the cool season. The end of the rainy season means the end of the rains, with the weather cooling down for what we hope will be the most pleasant few months of the year. The skies will be blue, ideal for getting out and about, even if the girlfriend hates the sun on her skin, and its ideal weather for photography too. But with the great weather come hoards of tourists, descending on our fair city. The bars fill up, places get busier, and the number of touts and commission seekers around the city soars. I used to be a rainy season type of guy, preferring the idea of quiet bars over blue sky days but I've changed. You can always find a quiet bar and now it is the cooler weather that I look forward to. What about you other local expats? What do you prefer – cool season or rainy season?
Mahboonkrong at night.
The most photographed place in Bangkok in the evening?
I see that SF Cinema City on the top floor of Mahboonkrong offers a special price to movie goers who choose to go to the flicks after 8:30 on week nights. They have discounted the price to just 70 baht a ticket, good value given that the cinemas in MBK are amongst the most modern and comfortable in the city. But exiting out of one of those cinemas late at night is not fun. Mahboonkrong becomes a labyrinth as most of the exits are blocked and you can literally spend half an hour walking around, trying to find your way out. A fire would really make things interesting.
All of the vendors in Mahboonkrong who used to sell copied Sony Playstation and Sega Dreamcast games have stopped dealing in this contraband. You simply cannot get bent game system software in MBK any more. Some vendors have erected signs in both English and Thai stating that they no longer sell such software. Wave after wave of raids by the police convinced the most die hard of vendors that they would be better off dealing in mobile phones or other more legitimate items. For game system fans, I'm sure you can still get the games somewhere else, but cross MBK off your list if games were all that you went there for.
Last night, The Nanapong Group – oooh that sounds so formal doesn't it – held DC8 (Dance Contest #8) at The Dollhouse in Clinton Plaza. I'd missed the last one as it was held on a Sunday night, but the good folks at Nanapong adhered to many expat's wishes and scheduled this one for a Saturday evening. The show started a little late, closer to 9:00 PM than the planned 8:00 PM due to a bit of confusion amongst who would actually be competing. It seemed that some bars called in to say that they would be pulling out so the poor Nanapong guys had to run around like headless chickens at the last hour trying to arrange replacement dancers. But as their replacements were arriving, the bars that had cancelled started arriving too, despite their earlier cancellation! Oh dear, no wonder the Nanapong boys get stressed on dance day! While I missed the last contest, the word is that it got totally out of control, and resembled Thailand's biggest on stage orgy. Last night's contest had a very nice balance between a dance show and something a little bit spicier. Hey, this is Thailand and we like it spicy, yeah?!
As per recent dance contests, the contestants not only came from Bangkok but also from two bars in Pattaya, the awesome Dollhouse in Pattaya and also Bubbles from Pattayaland soi 2. Bangkok gogo bars represented were Playschool, Midnite, DC 10 and of course, The Dollhouse. The eventual winner of the contest was a dancer from The Dollhouse Pattaya. Now, I can't remember this girl's name, but I have got to say that she is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen in my life. She was stunningly beautiful and had this huge grin that you couldn't help but warm to. The Nanapong Dance contests are quite frankly THE BEST SHOW IN TOWN. Thank you Nanapong for treating us to yet another super night out. Why did I miss the last one….?
It must also be said that The Dollhouse deserve a big pat on the back for helping put on a fantastic show, and re-affirmed to me that they still run the best gogo bar in town. On top of everything else, it was good to see DJ Darryl fighting fit after being out for the count not so long ago. Like the contest in Pattaya a week earlier, Bodyguard Condoms was a sponsor, and one of their representatives was kindly handing out free samples to the crowd.
But there was one very sad issue at the contest. The details were relayed to me by the Nanapong guys last night, but I didn't quite get the full story but nonetheless, it goes something like this. As has been the system at each of the previous dance contests, the Nanapong guys pass around an alm between the first and second rounds for which the audience is asked to make a contribution to the large cost of running the show – and it is VERY high. This task is usually delegated to a couple of the girls. It seems that last night the task ended up with one of the girls from Angel Witch Bar in Nana Plaza. Apparently she knew the routine and jostled to be the one with the alm. All along she had a plan, a very devious plan. Along with a couple of katoey friends who also work at Angel Witch Bar in Nana Plaza, they went around and collected donations from everyone, a considerable sum of money. Once the money had been collected, they somehow slipped out of the bar and legged it, not to be seen again. So, to the management of Angel Witch Bar, step up and do the right thing. Help the Nanapong guys find this girl and recover what is left of the money. While you, the management, may not be responsible, you are in the best position to actually help sort out this mess. It was quite frankly a #$%&^$ DISGRACE and like it or not, it does reflect negatively on your bar.
Speaking of Nanapong, their 2002 calendar is due out shortly, and having seen a preview of it, I can confirm that it is utterly superb. Somehow, I do not think their print run will be enough to satisfy everyone so get in quick! The girls featured are gorgeous and the photography of these lovelies is quite simply sensational! This is will make a fantastic souvenir for all lovers of Thai ladies, and the icing on the cake is that the absolutely gorgeous young thing that won the dance contest last night is featured in it, Miss May! If I can get my hands on them, I'll be buying several copies.
Nanapong will be in charge of the next dance contest at The Dollhouse Pattaya next weekend. If it is half as good as last night's spectacle, it will be fantastic. So much for the idea of spending next weekend relaxing around the apartment in Bangkok….I'm off to Pattaya again to enjoy the show!
That's all for this week. More emphasis on Bangkok as opposed to Pattaya, next week.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Thanks go out to The Mad Stockbroker
and Heenah for contributions to this week's column.
Special thanks go to Stef and the guys at Nanapong.