I'd been living in Bangkok for about three months before I first visited Soi Cowboy. An Australian friend said that it was worth a look so we jumped on the number 38 bus late one night to venture down for a nosy. At that time, Nana ruled supreme and Gris, my Australian pal, said that compared to Nana, Cowboy was small and pokey with lots of old, rundown bars, and matching women.
He was right. The bars were small and pokey and at that time, the girls really didn't quite match their Nana Plaza sisters for sheer beauty. But the laid back atmosphere sat very well with me and for a while, Pam's Bar became my home bar, the bar where I would go and slug back those 60 baht Singhas. After dropping less than 400 baht, which at that time was about the limit I'd spend in one night as a very poorly paid English teacher, I'd return home with a horrible headache.
I liked Cowboy. Sure, it was a little bit rundown and some of the girls were a little rough, but it had a welcoming atmosphere – and you always felt that even though you were only there for a few drinks – and usually nothing else, the girls were still happy to see you. During 1999 and 2000 as Nana Plaza boomed, many people argued that there really was no special reason to go to Soi Cowboy. It was merely a short strip of bars which, Long Gun apart, really didn't offer too much different to what was going on anywhere else. Drink prices had crept up, and both the bars and the girls continued to grow old together.
I have always liked the architecture of Soi Cowboy, the way that from any point on the soi, you can see what is going on outside every other bar. Apparently Patpong was like that once upon a time, but the night market has since ruined that. Also, with many of the girls who work in Soi Cowboy also living in the soi, it gives it a real community feel, which seems to make the girls more relaxed and a lot friendlier.
In the last 12 months, Soi Cowboy has really scrubbed up and is home to some of the newest, most modern and innovative bars in the city. Soi Cowboy is home to the only two level gogo bar in the Kingdom with a glass floor / ceiling where you can peer up the girl's skirts and catch a glimpse of you know what. It is also home to The Dollhouse, Bangkok's newest gogo bar, and the only bar that gives you a FREE BUFFET every night. No other bar area offers this. Yet with some of the old bars like Pam's and Joe's still chugging along, the unmistakable old world charm of Cowboy remains.
2001 was a shocker of a year for Nana Plaza. Drink prices skyrocketed, there seemed to be less attractive girls around and those girls were noticeable harder and more businesslike. All of this contributed to making Nana Plaza less fun to visit and with so many people anti Patpong, a lot of Nana customers decided that they'd had enough of Nana and Cowboy became their new area of choice. From mid 2001, business at Soi Cowboy started to really pick up, partially by default that Nana was shooting itself in the foot, and partly because things were looking up at Cowboy. Where Long Gun used to be the only bar genuinely doing a good trade, there are now several bars in Cowboy where you can struggle to find a seat.
Now, the big danger is that the recent success of Soi Cowboy, bound to continue with the arrival of the new Dollhouse, may put pressure on Cowboy by luring more and more customers. More and more customers means increased demand and this might have some sort of effect on the prices. And the greater number of customers, and the girls' greater exposure to more and more customers, might contribute to making them become harder and more businesslike, like Nana. Only time will tell…
Let's look at the check list and see what Cowboy has to offer:
– The friendliest girls of the main gogo bar areas with a community like atmosphere no doubt contributed to by the fact that many of the girls live in the soi itself.
– The cheapest prices, in terms of drinks, bar fines and girls expectations.
– The only multi storey gogo bar with a full glass floor that allows people sitting downstairs to look upstairs too.
– The only gogo bar to offer a free dinner EVERY night.
– Nude dancing girls in some bars.
Does the 21st century belong to Soi Cowboy or will the arrival of The Dollhouse signal a boom in the number of visitors that will eventually contribute to a gradual decline, and ultimately another area that becomes Nana-like? For now Soi Cowboy is THE gogo bar area in Bangkok to go.
Last week's "where is this pic" was of course of the Chinese pavilion in Lumpini Park, very close to the weight lifting area.
Where is this pic?
Clue: Recently renovated.
Where could this be? Actually, it is not that difficult…
unless of course you are Khun Sanuk who never gets them!
Thai + English = Thainglish.
It sure seems to me that the bottom has dropped out of the teaching market in Thailand, but what I don't get is why I don't read anything about it! People continue to come (I live in Banglamphu so I met plenty of would be applicants), but don't find jobs anymore! Even experienced people with degrees and certificates are having trouble (me for instance).
Its the pace of BKK. Its the overwhelming feeling of all the traffic, the noise, the bars….the sun, the heat, the humidity, the previous night's outing all of that combined into a soup of 2-cycle and diesel fumes mixing together is a recipe for getting something. It's that you body cannot cope with all of the assaults on it.
So, that's why it is SO important to ESCAPE the city at least for one day during a person's visit. Get out of the Sukhumvit area, go see the crocodile farm or something like that. However, I always tell folks that it is not a food borne thing that will get you all the time, it's all the small things that add up to totally exhaust you without you realizing it. Once, I slept for 1.5 days because I was so tired. I woke up and found I had lost a whole day. But, I felt rested and back to my old self again.
Look at the size of that thing! The Dollhouse's new
sign towers over Soi Cowboy and announces their arrival!
After numerous delays and missed deadlines, the Dollhouse's new bar in Soi Cowboy opened last weekend with the management going all out to show the world just how a bar opening should be done. The new location features the same decor as the other two branches but this particular branch has a feel more like a club than a bar, especially if you are sitting upstairs. Its almost like a new generation gogo. As you enter, the first thing you see is a huge video screen and business must be booming if they could afford to install that. The main gogo stage is on the ground floor, but there are also a few spots upstairs where girls can dance, with a similar, albeit small glass floor, a la Bacarra Bar. The much hyped free buffet is also located upstairs and does NOT feature my pet hate, a snorting pig on a spit with the accompanying tuktuk drivers fighting over who is going to have the honour of hacking it up and dishing it out. The buffet features a good selection of dishes from gaeng keow warn (green curry), khao put (fried rice), penang (red curry), a salad bar, plus much more.
Like Midnite Bar just a few doors down, the barfine is 500 baht (most of Cowboy is 400) but this includes an hour in one of the three short time rooms on the premises. With a good number of girls working at The Dollhouse, don't expect to get a room straight away – so you might have to whisk her off elsewhere. The girls dance in these sexy little skimpy wrap around skirts and tops with no knickers or bras which is just enough to the imagination to make them downright sexy. As the skirts are so short and they have no kickers underneath, dancing seemed even more subdued than normal with girls appearing to be somewhat concerned about giving the customers a money shot. From Friday 8th, it will be 10 baht Tequilas every hour for the first week – so get down there and start throwing back those Tequilas! Truth be told, the girls are not nearly as attractive as the Dollhouse Clinton Plaza girls, vintage early 2001, but they are nice enough. Overall though, the bar is very well laid out, there are a lot of girls, fair prices (Carlsberg draught 85 baht and all other beers 95 baht). This bar will do very, very well. Of that, there can be little doubt.
The next big name bar to open in the city is the new Crown Group bar, Cascade. How will it compare with the Dollhouse?
Following on from my opening piece in last week's column about medical care in Thailand, a lot of email came in this week discussing the quality of care at Thai hospitals. The general consensus was that the quality of medical care and treatment in Thailand was very high, with many people relaying very positive experiences.
There's another crackdown going on at Panthip Plaza. On Saturday, EVERY outlet selling copied software was closed with no-one in attendance. When it happens like this, it can be more than a few days before things return to normal.
I notice that the footpath on Rama 1 Road, running from World Trade Centre to Siam Square, has been re-done and is a whole lot better than it used to be. Walking along this path used to be a real shoe killer, so the improvements are very welcome.
There is a new vendor operating amongst the street vendors who ply their trade on Sukumvit out in front of Clinton Plaza and the Thermae. This particular vendor has chicken shawarmas for sale at 50 baht. That makes them 10 baht cheaper than the two vendors in Nana Plaza – and the shawarmas sold outside Clinton are both bigger and taste better too.
They are still playing musical chairs at Rock Hard in Nana Plaza and the amicable manager Ricky, is still around, though he doesn't seem to be the manager any more, rather some sort of consultant. Cornering him and asking him about why he had planned to return to the UK, he advises that he still plans to leave, but is just helping out in Larry's absence…could Larry actually be coming back after all? Also, I note that they are now playing more classic rock in there, and less pop. Even though they are under new management, Big Bill's feeding frenzy is still going strong…just get to the food before Bill does!
Amongst the huge numbers of emails I receive every week, I notice many trends, and along with making my general rounds, this contributes to letting me know just what is going on. But there is one trend that I have noticed over the last few months, and I've never really quite figured out why it is going on. A lot of guys meet girls in Ko Samui and shack up with them for more than a few days, often 2 or 3 weeks. A good number of these guys claim that apart from paying the bar, they don't give the girls any money – apart from picking up the usual expenses of food and day trips. What gives? Is it that Samui is full of a bunch of nymphomaniac bar girls who want little more than a good bang and a plate of rice? Is it that the guys going to Samui are Brad Pitt look alikes? Is it that Samui still gets its fair share of backpackers who really don't have much money? What's the story?
Apparently the reason that there are more girls in Midnite Bar is because the bar was sold to Grant who actually owns (or runs?) Clinton Plaza. Midnite continues to be very busy. Twice this week I stuck my head in the door and every seat was taken.
For the non alcoholic English teachers who still enjoy a good perve, note that Midnite bar still charges just 50 baht a coke ALL NIGHT!
Soi Cowboy at night. There seems
to be more neon down there these days.
ABAC, the prestigious English language university suffered a very serious loss of face on Monday when The Nation newspaper published on the front page a story about how a couple of expat New Zealander paedophiles were amongst their teaching staff. What I found quite unusual about this particular article is that it took so long to make it to Thailand. Much of the article in The Nation was a re-print of an article in the New Zealand newspaper, The Sunday Star Times, published way back on January 13. Now an interesting note about this particular article is that there was a fellow advertising for teachers to work at ABAC on a Thailand nightlife message board recently. Positions at a number of ABAC schools nationwide were advertised and the ad stated that candidates had to be New Zealanders. Why was such a preference given to NZ'ers? And given what has been said, would ABAC ever employ another NZer again?!
If one ends up as a teacher in Thailand, the international schools offer the best positions. A very high salary – well over 6 figures – and a professional environment to work in. However, without teaching experience back in Farangland it isn't easy to break into that sector of the industry. Some of the demonstration schools (high schools attached to universities) have international programmes with almost comparable salaries, in the 70 – 120K range. Getting a job on such a programme is probably the next best thing, salary wise, to teaching at an international school. Now the word on the street is that there are several schools around the capital who are looking at starting up such international programmes. With a salary band two to three times higher than what the average English teacher earns, these jobs will be highly sought after. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities.
I hear a rumour that two of the English teacher training schools in Thailand are about to merge…but which two? Are TEFL International and Text'n'Talk about to pool their resources? Or is TEFL1 going to get intimate with ECC and the RSA boys? Or perhaps someone else is involved? Now that would be telling…
One teacher training school rumour which can be confirmed is that TEFL International, the English teacher training school that started in Thailand, is well and truly expanding on the international stage, and can truly call itself "international". New branches are opening in Rome and Barcelona with courses due to start before the middle of the year.
While the bar scene in Thailand is very laid back, the fact that a lot of people drink a lot of alcohol means that from time to time, some punk is going to drink more than he can handle and get a bit silly. Such a fellow decided that he would try and play funny guy at the food court opposite the BeerGarden on Soi 7 early evening Friday. He was abusive and loud and started attracting a lot of attention. Next, the clown decides that he is going to go around puling girl's hair. A bad move, for there was one fellow in the crowd who decided that he was not going to sit back and watch the show. A 24 year old Kiwi stepped out of the pack and with one decent punch, sent the asshole flying. The crowd, predominantly Thai, let out a cheer and the asshole made a quick escape, most of his teeth still intact, but his pride well and truly gone.
Following on from last week's review of his new book "Minor Wife", Chris Moore advises that the proof editing errors have been fixed and a new print run is scheduled to be delivered next week. Also, try and pick up a copy of the book in Thailand as opposed to Stateside if you can. A reader emailed me, saying that his copy Stateside cost $US 16 = 700+ baht!
Beer Lao, regarded by many as the finest brew in South East Asia, a statement that I'd just about go along with, is very hard if not impossible, to come by in Bangkok. OK, there is probably some back alley place somewhere that stocks it but I must admit that I don't recall ever seeing it available here. Is there some reason why it isn't available here? I guess the obvious one is that the Thais would have to import it and they are not shy at slapping on one hell of a tax as a disincentive to you buying the imported product – and not buying a competing Thai product. I'd suggest that if Beer Lao was available here then some of the local breweries who have the cheek to churn out their various forms of poison may suddenly find business a little tough…
Quote of the week from a reader: "Like salesmen and their sales, 80% of shagging is done by 20% of the available would be shaggers (approximate figures, I have no research data to back this up, but I would stake money on a similar result if put to the test)." I just wonder how many people realise that most of the 20% live in Thailand.
Do you remember the piece about dodgy international driver's licences that I discussed in this column some time back? Well, it seems that the guy who was issuing them got into a bit of hot water recently over them. The problem was NOT that they were dodgy licences, but rather that they used the UN's official seal on them without permission. The company producing these licences issued a public announcement / apology in the Bangkok Post on February 6. Does this mean that the new licences that the company will be producing, without the UN seal, are valid? Valid I said, not genuine.
Is the Indian nut man stupid? You can be forgiven for thinking to when the plonker tries to sell peanuts to people already eating the complimentary nuts provided in the Golden Beer Bar. Would someone tell him that it is not such a good way to market one's product.
What a gorgeous little nipper….but she misses Daddy.
Does this child look familiar? Well, she might be yours!
What an adorable young girl. But it is a fucking disgrace that this child may never know her father. This baby, born to a former bar girl, has been abandoned by the father… Who could the father be? Well, I know who he is….or at least who the mother purports that it is – and I have every reason to believe her. So Stickman Weekly readers, its time for me to ask for your advice. Imagine that a former bargirl came to you with a young child that she had had to a former customer who went on to be her boyfriend for a period of time. She is struggling to make ends meet, and even just buying milk for her child is a financial burden, let alone all of the other expenses that having a child entails. Now, imagine that you have been informed who the father is, and because you are the anal type and have the odd investigative skill, you did a bit of background on him… The guilty party is a youngish English teacher, on a relatively low salary – even by English teacher standards. What would you do? Genuine responses would be very much appreciated. Hell, the guilty party may even be a reader of this column… I do not like to stick my nose in where it doesn't belong, but sometimes, just sometimes, being an innocent bystander doesn't sit well with me.
If there is one common criticism that people make about not just this column, but the whole site, it is that I have, over the past few months, appeared to be jaded, and that my negative comments about prostitution in Bangkok are a bit too strong. What can I say? This is simply how I see it – and I feel that I have a responsibility to report it as I see it. It is after all, *my opinion*. But for anyone who wants to hear something a bit more positive, read the opening piece about Cowboy. Cowboy remains a great place for a fun night out. On top of that, let me say that I truly believe Pattaya is a whole lot better than it was four years ago, when I first visited. The environment is nicer with the beach cleaner and the city area is generally a lot nicer on the eye, with plenty of businesses spending money on renovations and other new places opening too. On top of this, if you are looking for friendly girls who will treat you nicely, then Pattaya is most definitely the place to go.
Your Bangkok commentator,