Accommodation prices at Thai beaches and islands have shot up over the last few years, fuelled by a surge in demand from ever increasing tourist numbers and the perception from operators that a weaker baht means that Westerners don't mind paying more in baht terms. My wishes have always been to have a basic but clean and well located room but this is becoming increasingly hard to find at a reasonable price.
Earlier this year I found myself on Ko Chang, down towards the Cambodian border where myself and a travelling companion got a largish twin bungalow. It was fairly dirty, run down and had most definitely seen better days. There was no air-con, no hot water and power was sporadic at best – you had to tell the office when you were going to be in your bungalow and they would turn it on. All of this was ok, and I'm not one who needs all of life's comforts, but at 800 baht a night, you've got to wonder if they were taking the piss with that price. One could have gone more downmarket and paid 300 baht for a flax hut with a flea ridden mattress and a solitary light bulb, but that just isn't me.
In Ko Samet two years ago, 350 baht got a tiny, basic room, with an award winning bed, that is undisputed winner of the world's "hardest most comfortable bed". As a special treat, the room was in a natural setting with mosquitoes in the toilet, swarms of them. Two years on, this same room goes for 500 baht. 500 baht for what I would consider the most basic of accommodation. These prices were paid outside of the tourism high season. Admittedly, you can get cheaper accommodation away from the busier areas, but staying in a bungalow in the middle of nowhere really is not my idea of fun.
In Phuket, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get anything decent for a reasonable price any time of the year and I hear that Ko Samui is going the same way.
In baht terms, prices have skyrocketed at the beaches and islands in Thailand over the last five years. Back in 1997, which really is not that long ago, 400 baht would still get you a well located hotel room with hot water, TV, air-con and a fridge in Phuket in the high season…but prices have gone nuts since then. Phuket prices are running at 2.5 – 3 times their '97 rates in baht terms and many other locations are running at double their '97 prices.. If you're travelling on $US, its not so bad, but sun seekers from just about every other country will notice that prices have soared since those golden days. Any country who's currency has taken a hammering will find parts of Thailand almost expensive!
But amongst all of the Thai beaches and islands, one can still find a place with accommodation at reasonable prices. The city off sin, Pattaya, is the budgeteer's choice, one of Thailand's last remaining beaches where you can get decent facilities and where prices have yet to go haywire. You can still find a clean room with all of the amenities – cable TV, hot water shower, fridge and air-con for 500 baht.
One could argue that cheap accommodation is available at out of the way places, but my argument is that such places are dead boring for anything more than a few hours.
I maintain that for those who are travelling on a budget and who would consider themselves as folks wanting a clean and tidy, yet affordable place to store their gear and sleep, Thailand hoteliers have gone silly with prices. But it is unlikely that there will be a swing towards visiting other countries in the region. Indonesia with all of its internal problems combined with the backlash against the retaliatory strikes against the Taliban have well and truly scared many travellers away. Malaysia is being stricken of many people's list simply for being a Muslim nation, and the Philippines is another country fraught with internal problems, and worst of all, tourists are being used as political pawns. With all of this in mind, could the prices of accommodation at Thailand's beaches continue to increase?
Karon Beach in Phuket, a cheaper place to stay than
Patong where some hoteliers are asking silly money for rooms.
From last week's column, and the opening piece about the girls working while knowing that they are HIV+, it is important to realise that I purposely did not tell the full story with one of the girls (story B). I had been told that the girl in Pattaya tested HIV+ but what I didn't tell you was that a few days later I was told that upon being re-tested, it was found that she was NOT HIV+. Now this is very interesting given the high number of emails that I have received about this issue requesting that HIV+ girls be named and have their pictures posted online.
What would have happened if someone had named this girl, or any other girl, as being HIV+, possibly even posting pictures of her over the internet, only to find out later that it was a false alarm! All sorts of problems could come about from that. While in the West, court action would be imminent, in Thailand justice is dealt with more swiftly – and more permanently.
And then one must ask the question about what purpose posting the picture would serve – a repository of pictures of girls who have HIV? Does that mean anyone not on the list is free of HIV? Does that mean that anyone privy to the repository would suddenly start going condomless with all girls not on the list? Where do we draw the line? How about posting pictures of all the guys who go bareback and are unsure of their HIV status?
At any time, NONE of us know our HIV status and while 99.9 % of us are likely to be free of the dreaded disease, there are positive people out there. However, I would be far less confident about the STD status of many punters. Remember, it is us as Westerners, who have the superior education and greater awareness of STDs and HIV. The responsibility to do the right thing should fall with us. Guys who bareback are selfish and have NO respect for the girls they are with. I will NEVER post information about girls or guys who are HIV+ on this site so please do not ask. Use a condom.
Anyway, excerpts from some of the many emails that I received regarding this issue follow. Due to the seriousness of this issue, I have included more submissions than I normally would:
I could register a domain and host it and allow guys to anonymously post the details of girls who are HIV positive. I know that this system is open to abuse but I feel it is something better than nothing. I do not think that girls who know they are HIV should be allowed to spread the infection or play fast and loose with others.
Let me know. I could make this an area where people must register themselves or their email to access to post or read the information or any combination therein.I think some of your readers are mad not to use rubbers; called Russian suicide. On the outside they all look very beautiful and lovely. I have only been with two girls without, one I was in a loose relationship and she was a beginning working girl but has now married a U.S. teacher and has retired from being a working girl prematurely and one girl from FLB whom I know sort of. Have you considered naming and shaming the girl, I find it very strange that someone hasn't done something about this, I mean shouldn't this girl be taken out of circulation? Especially that so many now appears to know of her condition. I know that every one should wear protection but I don't know anyone who hasn't been caught short i.e. too much drink and it will never happen to me! I continue to wonder why there is so much discussion about GETTING AIDS in Thailand and very little said about GIVING AIDS to young girls? From a cognitive standpoint, this causes the discussion to center around issues of bravado and stupidity rather than an issue of very basic morality. Since barebackers can catch (then therefore transmit) any disease at any time, an uncovered pecker in Thailand is about as cool as a drunk in a speeding car. American writer William Vollman, who visits Thailand frequently, said in an interview: “Getting AIDS? Sure there are fears and sure there are cares. But really the worst thing would be to infect another person.” Glad to read your update, but am as amazed as you are about guys who go bareback with prostitutes in SE Asia. A professional therapist here calls that "self destructive" behaviour by people who think somehow that they should be punished for something they did or something they are doing. Who knows? Its either that, or its a combination of stupidity (marked by a belief that nothing is ever going to happen to them) and selfishness that the difference in pleasure between wearing a condom during sex and going bareback is more important than the prevention of disease. While HIV is, by most accounts, very difficult to transmit to a male through vaginal sex, why risk it as well as all the other STDs if you don't have to? Don't you think that if you know a girl is HIV positive and is working in a gogo bar you should let your readers know the bar and the girl. Just using a condom does not guarantee you won't catch HIV from an infected person. If these girls are still allowed to work they are knowingly killing people and need to be stopped. I for one feel it is your responsibility since you know who these girls are to inform your readers and the bars where these girls work to stop them before they kill more people and destroy more lives. This is a very serious matter and I have always respected your views on what you have published in the past. PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING AND PUBLISH THE BARS, GIRLS PICTURES, AND OR NUMBERS NAMES OF THESE MURDERERS SO WE CAN ALL BE A LITTLE SAFER.
This one is too easy…so no clue!
If you've been to Thailand and you read this
site regularly, odds are you will know exactly where this is.
Following on from last week where I mentioned that Hollywood Rock are trying to build up Bangkok's biggest music collection with a huge number of MP3s, the management of The Living Room report that that they have a similar MP3 system and have currently got 6,500 tunes on their 'juke box' which they use between 5 PM – 9 PM daily. The only real problem is that the format is NOT EVEN CLOSE to the quality of CD and therefore can only be used for background music as opposed to a REAL entertainment medium.
A reader writes: "….since Sept. 11th and a travel advisory today in the LA Times stating that westerners have been hassled by Arabs in the Nana area of the capital." Let me state clearly that I have not seen nor heard of any problems in the Arab dominated Soi 3 and 5 area. Remember that the Arabs in this area are largely in Thailand for much the same reason as the Westerners just a couple of hundred metres away are. They are in town for fun, and funnily enough, these particular Arabs who sink piss and chase pussy just like the rest of us are not the lunatics we see in the media each day. Therefore, let me re-iterate that I believe all is well in Bangkok, and I certainly wouldn't cancel my travel plans over fears of hassles in Bangkok related to the retaliatory strikes against the Taliban.
It still remains unclear what is happening at Clinton Plaza. Rumours abound that someone has offered 400 million baht to buy the entire property, 200 million short of the asking price. However, this offer has been on the table for a while and has yet to be accepted… Whatever the case, business continues at The Dollhouse, not a lot going on at any of the other gogos.
It's common knowledge that Thais pay a lower price at sites and attractions that price according to nationality, but it may comes a surprise that Thais themselves do get ripped off by the taxi mafia, sometimes even by people from their own part of the country! A Thai arriving by bus in Bangkok for the first time may well suffer major culture shock and disorientation at arriving in this great concrete jungle, considering it more akin to Farangland than the Thailand they know and love. Jumping into a taxi and asking to be taken to Great Uncle Somchai's house, they simply don't know that the modus operandi is for the driver to turn on the meter. Arriving at their destination, they are shocked to be asked for a few hundred baht, a small fortune to people who may well live on less than a thousand baht a month. Yep, it's not just us farangs who have to put up with this nonsense. Many Thais rip off their own kind too.
Wondering where to catch a Thai working girl during the day? Try outside the Dutch Embassy! No, its not that there are hordes of Thai girls going to Holland, at least no more than to any other country, but those clever folks at the Dutch Embassy decided that their new reception area for inquiries, both for Dutch and non Dutch nationals should be OUTSIDE the embassy. So now people queue and wait outside the embassy in the heat, and at times, in the rain… Some one made a real balls up there!
An example of service at its very best in Thailand. Looking for a new pair of shoes, I wandered into a shop wearing an older pair of shoes, the same brand as the new pair I was looking at. While I was trying on the new pair, the old pair was whisked away without me even realising it. I declined to buy the new pair as they didn't suit me and when I got the old pair back, they had polished them for me! Quite unexpected!
I've finally figured out why 7 Eleven charges a fraction more for most things than other similar shops and minimarts. They blast the air-con all day in 7 Eleven stores at the coolest setting, which uses more power, so they have to charge more for everything to cover the air-con bill. But seriously, with the cool season coming up, I'm dreading that late night trip into the icy 7 Eleven store.
Get your mobile phone and your written Thai skills ready because in the next week or two, beer gardens will start springing up all over Bangkok. These have to be the very best places to meet decent Thai girls. Now, it is not a case of just wandering over to these girls and asking them if you can pay bar. Sorry, a somewhat more refined approach is required. To do it Thai style, you would hand a note to one of the waiters to deliver to her, along with your mobile phone number. Remember how I said you really need a mobile in Bangkok? Anyway, she'll have a mobile for sure and after stealing a look at you, she may call you… And if you can write her a note in Thai, wow, the odds shoot up astronomically!
The World Trade Centre will be packed every night with
pussy in party mode… Take your mobile along and get busy!
I'm always being asked which bars I think are the best. Well, I previously mentioned that Dollhouse was #1 and while it is still fun, of the more attractive girls have disappeared so it now longer gets my vote as #1. The top two bars in Bangkok at the moment in my opinion are G Spot in Nana, followed closely by Playskool. You may well disagree…
As I have talked about before, Pattaya is a bit of a love it or hate it place. One of the things that can be off putting in Pattaya is that a lot of the beer bars are really grotty. I was wondering are there any really nice beer bars in Pattaya, say like Hillary Bar down Sukumvit Soi 4, about 200 metres down past Nana hotel on the same side. Very nice beer bar with a few pool tables, and the girls are pleasant too.
It was Condom Night on Tuesday at Nana as Mr Mechai and his accomplices stormed Nana between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM in an effort to educate the girls on the danger of AIDS, and the importance of using condoms. I don't know what the answer to the situation is, but I'd pout money on it that there were lots of girls there who heard what was said, received some of the free give away condoms, and then went back with a customer and went bareback THAT NIGHT. I have noi idea what the solution to this problem is… But what scared me most of all was the doorman at Fantasia who was looking at a condom wrapper with curiosity and suspicion, as if it was an item from Mars!
Loy Kratong collided with Halloween on Wednesday and many of the bars celebrated both holidays together. I found myself doing the rounds at Nana, marvelling at all of the waitresses who in most bars where dressed up in traditional Thai dress, a look that I find most attractive. In Rainbow 1, the management struck me as being more than a little cruel by dividing the service staff into two very obvious groups – the attractive waitresses who were all kitted out in traditional Thai dress while the less attractive waitresses were decked out in Halloween kit along with crudely applied face paint, a look that did little for their looks.
The dancing girls themselves were in their regular outfits and there didn't seem to be any difference there. The big question that must then be asked is WHY oh why do the bars insist on doubling the bar fine on Loy Kratong night to 1000 baht? (a few of the smaller bars set it at 700 baht). I simply can't see the justification! There doesn't seem to be any visible reason for the higher prices… Given that the better managed and run gogo bars do make a very handsome profit, any extra costs associated with doing something special on Loy Kratong night should in my opinion, be absorbed by the bars. It should be noted that a lot of the bars were not that busy on Wednesday night, prompting me to winder whether it was that favourite old Thai pricing policy in place whereby the increase the prices when sales are down….gotta make some profit from somewhere!
AIS may want to have a look at their mobile network. Roving around Bangkok on Wednesday, the day of Loy Kratong and also the last day of the month (= pay day in Thailand), there were major problems trying to use mobile phones and many people keep getting a network busy error.
Nick Nostitz's super "Patpong: Bangkok's Twilight Zone" book has been bought by, and is being studied by, several photography students at Rangsit University!
For those who don't drink alcohol and who like to nurse their drink, Playskool is the bar for you. Instead of getting a small amount of Pepsi with your glass of ice, this bar gives you a glass of ice AND a full can of Pepsi, proving that they are not the penny pinchers that many other bars are, some who don't even fill the glass to the top!
The Grand Palace is nice, but with the crowds
and expensive admission, is Wat Po a better bet?
For anyone looking for a job, the following Stickman Weekly exclusive ad may interest you. Legal Work Available: Summarise depositions over the internet. Excellent English skills and computer required. Earn 450 – 1000 baht per hour. American legal background a plus. Email [email protected] for more info.
I always knew there were a lot of English teachers in the Thermae but a certain English school's web site has a photo of their staff on it and at least half of them are Thermae regulars!
There is concern amongst some in the Bangkok farang expat community that Mike, former Midnite bar manager has come a cropper. Not seen by anyone for some time, Mike had put a lot of time and money into a new bar in Sukumvit soi 23 that was due to open a month or two back and then he just disappeared… Is it time to dredge up the klongs?
Chris Moore's next book has a cool title, "Minor Wife", and will be available in December.
Should the Winnebago character from Jake Needham's superb "The Big Mango" ever leap into the real world, I swear that the waitress with the #208 disc in Hollywood Rock gogo bar on the ground floor of Nana would be ideal for him.
Not Thailand, but still sort of in the same region, word is coming out of Nepal that the country is getting a bit of a reputation as a sex tourism destination….for Western women! Yep, one local company that arranges guides to take folks up in to the mountains has confirmed that about 20% of Western doing these treks want more than a trek, if you know what I mean <nudge, nudge, wink, wink>!
Your very first time in a Thai gogo bar can have a profound effect on you. Perhaps used to a Western strip joint where one old hag lumbers from side to side, removing one piece of clothing per song to reveal a predictably dull body, Thai gogos are the complete opposite. But after you have seen 30+ nude slim and trim girls gyrating on stage in a genuinely sexy manner, you become ruined, unable to appreciate anything less. Have you already experienced the ultimate? No! 100 times better than a gogo bar is any area where a number of university girls hang out. More attractive, innocent and demure, plus knowing that even if you wanted a bit of hanky panky, you can't get it, makes these girls far more alluring…
Small blue and white signs as pictured below have been erected outside all of the bars in Cowboy in recent weeks. It's such a shame that what is stated on them is a load of horseshit. There are STACKS of girls aged under 20 working there, and sadly, there are some under 18 too. I really don't know what the purpose of the signs is… In Thai, it basically says that the bar is a drug free zone and that you may have to show your ID card to prove that you are over 20…
This sign is outside every bar in Soi Cowboy.
Such a shame that what it says is a load of horseshit.
As work progresses on the new Dollhouse, Cowboy feels particularly quiet. Directly opposite what will be the new Dollhouse is Suzy Wong which has been closed for a couple of months. With two big bars directly opposite each other closed, and no neon from wither location illuminating the soi, it contributes towards making Cowboy feel really quiet. Last night, apart from a couple of bars, it was surprisingly quiet with few people around. But with the high season about to kick in, things should quickly change. Contrast that with the Thermae which last night was packed…
A drastic situation calls for drastic measures. One of my colleagues finds it impossibly difficult to meet university educated Thai girls has come up with a shrewd scheme to meet some. Thailand doesn't have any laws about discrimination in employment based on sex, age etc. Therefore, what he wants to do is place an ad in the newspaper for an English speaking university educated girl and conduct interviews at a bogus venue. Believe it or not, this is real!
Your Bangkok commentator,
Thanks go out to Nick Nostitz and Crown Group management
for help and / or contributions to this week's column