2001 has been a rocky road for nightlife in Thailand. If you'd made a series of predictions at the start of the year, anyone would have thought you were mad had you predicted what actually went on to happen. We've seen all manner of changes with the social order crusade / drug problem crackdown carrying over into a full crackdown on the farang oriented bars. Bars have been forced to close early, some bars have even been temporarily closed. There have been proposed new entertainment zones where bars must operate from, prohibition of girls dancing showing any tit, bum or other and some bars even being raided by police who have hauled out customers while they were in the saddle. On top of all of this, prices have gone up, not just the girls requests for more money but plenty of bars have made steep increases to the costs of both drinks and bar fines. Policy changes at some bars have doubled bar fines. Even the most optimistic of people would be hard pressed to say that 2001 has been a good year.
So, as we look forward to next year, can we expect another turbulent year with a smorgasbord of surprises in store? Somehow I doubt it, but there is bound to be something unexpected happen. After all, this is Thailand so you never quite know what is going to happen next! Looking into my crystal ball, here are a few predictions for 2002.
Patpong. As mentioned in last week's column, I think there could be a major swing back towards some of the bars in Patpong. Many folks are getting annoyed a lot of the nonsense going on at Nana Plaza and Clinton Plaza is all but dead. Soi Cowboy while fun, is a little decrepit for some. Patpong will well and truly return to the sex tourist's map in 2002.
Soi Cowboy. Has been a real winner this year though when we look at why, it has more been because the other bar areas suffered from all sorts of problems rather than by Cowboy actually doing anything new to lure customers down there. There is no reason to go to Soi Cowboy now that didn't exist at this time last year. With The Dollhouse's newest branch due to open in Cowboy next week, the soi will get a much needed kick up the backside with a brand new, shiny, progressive bar with a whole heap of pretty girls. But with this will come the Dollhouse's 110 baht beer prices and you can expect a domino effect as a lot of the other Cowboy bars, formerly sanctuaries for poor English teachers and those down on the luck, to also put up their prices. Price increases amongst the bulk of the bars at Cowboy could ruin any chance that it has to do really well and capitalise on the misfortune of the other areas. Therefore, 2002 could go either way for Cowboy.
Nana Plaza. While it retains the flashing neon and is still easily the best laid out of all of the gogo bar areas, Nana's demise will accelerate if all of the nonsense that we have experienced this year continue. And sadly, it seems that there is no reason to think that these changes and mindless decisions will not continue. Price rises to ridiculous levels for not just the girls, but also drinks and bar fines, and all but the most blind customers realise that there is a lack of any true competition at Nana. Collusion amongst various bar owners will eventually have the effect of scaring Nana Plaza away as people associate it with being a clip joint. Is it possible that Nana Plaza will become the next Soi Thaniya? Yep, very possible. And for a long shot prediction, the Nana Plaza sign out the front will be restored in all of its former glory…..in Japanese!
Clinton Plaza. Will die. Simple as that. It showed so much promise until things went rough around the middle of this year. A shame because there were some good bars there, but as far as I can see, Clinton Plaza is largely history. The beer bars out the front may continue, but for how long, who knows. The gogos will die and I predict that most of the girls from The Dollhouse at Clinton will be shifted over to their new outlet at Cowboy. Clinton Plaza and Thermae do not seem to feed off each other quite as much as may have been expected.
Pattaya. Love it or hate it, Pattaya remains a very real alternative to Bangkok. Over the past two years, a lot of improvements have been made in Thailand's naughtiest beach resort including the entire beach front getting a facelift and the installation of a water treatment plant. Stacks of bars and hotels seem to have done some much needed maintenance work and many of these establishment are a lot nicer than they used to be. New bars, restaurants and vendors continue to open up and there seems to be more and more to do. Now what has NOT happened in Pattaya is an accompanying sharp rise in prices. Unlike parts of Bangkok where price collusion seems to be the norm, genuine competition exists in Pattaya meaning that the punter who chooses to shop around can actually get a reasonable deal. There have been some small price increases, but nothing too drastic. With all of this in mind, my prediction is that 2002 will be Pattaya's year. More and more punters will choose Pattaya over Bangkok.
The Punters. Probably not much change here, except I think we will see a sharp upward spike in the number of customers compared to 2001. The September 11 thing has put more than a few people off travelling and the crackdown may well have kept some people at home too. Anticipating that it will not continue forever, I think we'll see a lot of people return to Thailand in 2002 and it'll be a good year for bar owners.
The Girls. I didn't anticipate too much change here. Girls will come and girls will go. Buffaloes will die and mother will be in hospital again. Alzheimer's might strike at a young age as some girls sell their virginity several times. Attitudes will remain largely as they are now, good in some bars, not so good in others.
Other. But where I think the big change will be is farangs from afar coming to Thailand to search for regular non bar girl Thai ladies. Yep, that is where I think the big growth area will be. A lot of Westerners have already made the decision that they want to marry a Thai lady, but sooner or later, many come to the conclusion that a bar girl is not really what they are looking for. Regular Thai girls might get approached and propositioned a bit more often and watch as the internet becomes a big meeting place for all of these folks.
But there will be another side to this, and we are already seeing it now – but I predict that it will really boom. Regular Thai girls will start to realise that there are a lot of farangs out there who are prepared to send them money. These better educate Thai girls in the internet cafes who write bogus letters and emails for bargirls will start to tell their friends about what is happening and there could well be an explosion of girls searching out foreign guys as purely a source of income. I bet you'll hear lots more stories of girls requesting that guys send them money for a ticket to Farangland, and they'll come up with all sorts of other dodgy stories too. These will be regular girls, girls with jobs, who speak good English, and perhaps a few girls on the fringe.
Overall, 2002 is shaping up to be good. There might be a bit of turbulence in the first few months, and this high season may be forgettable as far as some bar owners are concerned, but beyond that, things look good. But with this being Thailand, whatever happens, don't be surprised.
Last week's where is this picture was of course of the Cafe Di Roma which is half way along Patpong Soi 2. Shame on you if you did not get this particularly easy one right!
Where is this pic?
clue: too easy AGAIN!
Where was this pic taken? Special thanks go out
to Smitty jp for kindly providing this nice picture.
Nana Disco might be the place to go, at least until the rogue Nana gogos reopen.
etc etc. The next stage is for Thailand to become a Republic and part of the 'Asian Union' although this is some way off.
Well, I have a partial answer. I work in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands and one place they end up is here. Why? Because they can use their Medicare, because it doesn't cost that much to get here from mainland Asia and because they can get certain Federal public assistance payments here.
It is actually rather pitiful to see these worn out guys show up. Most are wasted from years of alcohol abuse and no exercise and are desperate for medical care. Many of these guys have been bouncing around Asia for years and long ago cut off ties with their Stateside families. I'm sure it must be a rude awakening for them to discover that the money that was sufficient while they were healthy doesn't cut it when they need more
Christmas decorations around Central
Department Store, next to the Chidlom BTS.
The four bars that have been closed at Nana remain closed and will re-open on the 28th of this week. While four of the biggest bars have been closed for business, this has had an unusual effect on things at Nana. Fantasia, a smallish bar that usually has around 25-30 girls on the premises each night became a veritable menagerie of chicks, as the girls from Carnival joined their Fantasia sisters (both bars are in the Crown Group) and suddenly this small bar became home to 80 + girls and amongst them some real beauties. Walking into this bar, and receiving a huge amount of attention from a high number of girls who are literally fighting over customers to be barfined, reminded me of the sort of attention one used to receive at Nana just a few years ago.
And another one bites the dust! Angel Witch in Nana Plaza has been closed down for, get this, not two weeks, but four! It seems that the boys in brown really are trying to send a message to all of the other bar owners and show them that they are quite happy for their punitive measures to decimate the bar's high season. Actually Angel Witch was fairly unlucky to get busted. There were a couple of cops in the bar nosying around just doing random checks and all of the girls were dancing in their old fashioned bikinis as they have been told to do. And then one really stupid girl quickly pulls up her top to show the punter she is sitting next to her tits and BANG, the bar is closed for showing! Who will be next?!
The final Nanapong dance contest for the year was to have been held tonight. Huge plans had been made with many girls from many bars to be represented including many of the winners of the 11 dance contests so far this week. And with a first prize of 50,000 baht, there was bound to be a lot of action. But that was the problem. The organisers simply cannot keep a lid on the girls as they try and do all that they can to impress the judges and compete for that huge first prize. A lot of guys will be very disappointed that the contest has now been cancelled, with many having planned their trip around being here for this particular contest. The crackdown strikes again!
One rumour doing the rounds is that the reason some NEP bars put up their bar fine prices is due to a 25% rent increase. Now is the time that some of the bars are re-negotiating their leases so who knows?
Sexy A Gogo in Pattaya is now but a roof and two poles. The former Walking Street gogo bar has been totally stripped and if you had any hopes that it would re-open, I can assure you that it won't. Frankly, it looks like a bomb scene.
The latest on the enforcement of the 2:00 AM closing times is that there will be a minor reprieve, with bars allowed to open until 6:00 AM on New Year's Eve. One day only folks, so make the most of it. But pity those poor gogo girls who will now have to dance all the way through to 6:00 AM – some dancing since 6:00 PM the previous night. Some girls have told me that they will not be going in to work that night, notwithstanding the 1,000 baht fine!
On the subject of Clinton, the most recent 'tale' going round is that the hotel next door has put in a bid for the place… No real evidence to support the story though.
The very popular Living Room bar at Clinton Plaza will feature Soi Dogs Blues Band playing EVERY Saturday.
During their forced closure, G Spot are taking the opportunity to upgrade the bar and work seems to be going on down there each and every day. From what one can make out, and it must be said that they are damned secretive about it all, they are stripping out a lot of the chairs and replacing them with new ones. Is there any truth in the rumour that the upgrade of the premises would allow them to justify yet another price increase?
The longer I live in Bangkok, the more I notice that the guys that get scammed are the guys that can afford it. Now of course this does not make it right, but I notice a very interesting correlation between wealth, and the number of times – and the amount of money- that people get scammed for…
At the Nana BTS station, freelancers are being innovative. Instead of waiting for guys to wander down to the nearby beer garden in soi 7, or other similar seedy establishments in the area, the girls descend on obviously single guys the moment they guys exit from the ticket barrier. I shouldn't expect this practice to last very long at all and can see the girls being told to get lost by the BTS staff.
Christmas lights outside the Ploenchit Centre.
What language school is jokingly referred to as Little India? This school has just 4 native English speakers out of 18 foreign teachers…and it seems that the parents of little Somjai and Jintana are not at all happy at the lack of white faces in the classrooms. But what is perhaps interesting is that this school is considering the introduction of a new pay schedule that would see genuine native English speakers paid a higher salary to reflect their expertise – approaching 40K baht per month. The next tier would be for white faces who teach English although it is not necessarily their native language – folks like the Dutch and the Scandinavians who speak English extremely well. The last tier would be for other non native English speakers such as Indians and Filipinos, of whom there are many teaching English in Thailand. Don't be surprised to see this model replicated at other schools, notwithstanding that soon it may become a lot more difficult for non native English speakers to work legally as English teachers.
Whenever a Thai girl next opens her purse, steal a glance to see what she has in it. You'll likely see a not so small collection of photos….of herself! Why do they have so many photos of themselves? What do they do with them? And no, its not necessarily the bargirls that do this but seemingly most regular Thai girls.
While the Thais do their very best to capture the Christmas spirit, Christmas in Bangkok never really feels like Christmas. A time that is traditionally spent with family is not the easiest thing in the world to recreate half way across the world without the rest of your family. But, if you want to go out and celebrate, there are unlimited options in Bangkok. While most don't mind splurging at Christmas for that special lunch or dinner, it must be said that prices seem to go through the roof at this time of year. Are the hotels and restaurants cashing in or what? At the top of the list, Le Normandie, the French restaurant at The Oriental which is supposedly the best French restaurant in Asia, will have a set menu dinner at, get this, 8,000 baht per head! And I'd put money on it that that price is ++ too! Sure, the food would be out of this world, but 8,000 baht? Well that really is just a little bit steep, is it not? Plenty of hotel restaurants have a buffet special in the 1,000 – 2,000 baht price range. Personally, I'd rather go somewhere like Bourbon Street which has an Xmas deal on at a far more reasonable 600 odd baht ++. Further, your fellow Christmas revellers will predominantly be other locals and not tourists with their screaming rug rats.
And on the subject of large sums of money, a certain shopfront sized bar on Sukumvit Soi 4 had a cracker of a night earlier this month. It was the big boss's birthday and somehow, the bar managed to take in 180,000+ baht in one day! Now this is way more than any of the gogo bars in Nana average, and even the biggest gogo bars struggle to reach these lofty heights on their best days. Three punters had bills around the 20,000 baht mark and there must have been some really nasty hangovers the next day.
And on the subject of prices being jacked up, I was surprised to see that some Thailand hotels are continuing with this nonsense "compulsory dinner" on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. What shocked me was that it is not just the bigger hotels, but many of the sex tourist class hotels in Pattaya are doing it too! My eyes just about popped out of my head when my old Pattaya favourite, the Apex, had signs up stating that a compulsory Xmas Eve and New Year's Eve buffet must be purchased by all guests staying in the hotel those evenings. Somehow, I think many of the guests at that hotel would rather eat something else for Christmas…perhaps like the girl here?
"A Bargirl's Christmas Dinner" – The best
photo sent in by a reader recently.
As Christmas approaches, beware that some bars will be jacking up the barfines on Xmas and New Years Eve to 1,000 baht. The question that must be asked is whether paying the 1,000 baht bar fine play in the back of the bar owner's minds and make them decide to increase them to 1,000 baht permanently. A scary thought.
A new ten pin bowling alley has opened in the Ploenchit Centre, at the top of Sukumvit Road between the JW Marriott and Soi Zero. From Monday – Friday there is a special opening promotion with games costing just 20 baht per person. At the weekend, a game costs 60 baht. Worth checking out if you are a bowler on a budget.
Remember the submission from a reader in last week's column about an outrageous charge for a party held in one of the suites in the Penthouse Hotel, Pattaya? Well, the management emailed me, apologised for the incident and stated that they have taken appropriate action. Good to see!
Is it about time that the BTS started adding on an extra carriage (they currently have three carriages per train) to the sky train at peak times? As the sky train becomes more and more popular, not only can it be difficult to get a seat, but standing room can be cramped too. Time for them to either lengthen the trains or increase the frequency of trains at peak times, methinks.
How can I go about starting a campaign to train Thais that it is best to look in the same direction as which you are walking?! It is incredibly frustrating when walking along the street they bump into you and bounce off you, all because they were looking one way, and walking in another. And to cap it all off, they look at you as if you are the devil – it was your fault, after all!
Never afraid to write about shoddy service that folks receive at various places in the Kingdom, it is about time that I told you about one shopping centre where consistently good service seems to be the norm – at least if my friends' experiences are anything to go by. Several people that I know have had computer problems in Thailand that they have been unable to fix themselves. In virtually every case, they have been forced to return the machine to the shop where they bought it. One shop where I have had consistently good service, and where I refer anyone to who is interested in picking up a machine, is IRR Computers. First referred to me by a colleague, this shop provides very good after sales service. Virtually any problem will be fixed there and then with no charge for the labour! Top notch service!
That's all for this week. Its time to eat, drink and be merry. I wish you and your family all the very best for Christmas, and hope that the New Year brings you all that you dream of.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Thanks for news for this week's column go out to Stef, ItsMeDave,
Baronbonk, and The Living Room of Clinton Plaza.