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Hanging around the bars over the years I have heard some rip-roaring tales, some that really make you wonder. Could they be true, or are they merely urban myths? What follows are a few of the best, and my speculation as to how much truth the story contained. In the better interests of my knee caps, amongst other parts of my body, I'll refrain from mentioning any names or bar names, though it should be noted that some of the people mentioned here have passed away.
The Hiding Girls
In the old days, and we are going back to before the social order crusade began, so before mid 2001, police checks, or at least police raids, on the nightlife areas were less frequent, but the sting was just as severe as these days, invariably a 30 day closure for infringement of any of the laws. In the good old days, when girls could show as much flesh as they personally were comfortable with, the police checks tended to be the search for underage girls, meaning anyone aged under 18. Despite the laws AND the moral issue, there were many underage girls working in the farang oriented bars. Nana Plaza would get raided from time to time and one of the bar owners used to get all of the girls and lock them in what was then an empty area on the top floor of Nana. He would lock them all in there where they would hide and remain silent until the police raid had finished at which point he would let them out, and they would go back down to their bars, strip off, and be back up on the dance floor.
Source of story: A long farang term bar manager / owner.
My thoughts: This one is totally plausible, that much cannot be denied. The guy who told me this story is someone who I trust and frankly, I think it is very likely to be true. One doesn't have to think back too far when there were young girls in the bars, something I personally find sick. Of the bars at Nana one such bar was a bar whose name also happens to be a language spoken in this region. They even had illegal immigrants who were young and who the rumours have it were locked into that dodgy private room that they had upstairs. There are also very strong rumours of one bar having a hidden room behind what looked like a wall. Some bars had hiding places like POW camps but the Nazis were the boys in brown in this case.
The Hidden Camera
Again going back a few years, there was a bar owner who was known as something of a party animal, amongst other things. Rumour has it that in his gogo bar was a bonking booth, that is a small short time room where customers could take a girl from the bar and go and get their rocks off. Nothing unusual in that. But the rumour has it that the bar owner used to have a hidden camera in the bonking booth which was hooked up to a video recorder and all of the action in the room was recorded and the bar manager had apparently amassed a huge collection of tapes of naughty flicks starring his employees and their customers! He did this, so the story goes, merely for his own amusement, and the idea of blackmailing anyone who had spent time with one of his lasses was never the intention. The bar where this purportedly took place has had at least a couple of name changes and been renovated at least once, since all of this purportedly took place.
Source of story: A friend who knew the bar owner in question.
My thoughts: The friend who told me this story was not 100% sure himself because the bar owner in question was such a colourful character and not shy to tell a tall story or two that one just couldn't tell. My friend believes that it was true. Whether it was true in this instance or not may be uncertain, but this phenomenon is far from rare and many, many short term rooms and rooms in various hotels DO have hidden cameras which are connected up to recording devices. Evidence can easily be found with all of the aeb doo (which translated from Thai means watching without others knowing) VCDs available at Panthip Plaza, although the few that I have seen all starred Thais, not farangs.
It is said that the girls in one Bangkok gogo bar, a bar that has been very popular for a long time are all a bunch of jailbirds! So the story goes, the girls who dance there, and let's not beat about the bush here, we're talking a bunch of the finest lookers in town, are all girls who were either in prison or were threatened with prison and who were offered an alternative of hooking in the bars – and presumably passing on the bulk of what they earned to their captors.
Source of story: One trusted friend and several other people, not so close.
My thoughts: One doesn't have to think too hard to realise that this is extremely unlikely. While Thailand is not exactly corruption free, such gross misuse of power is just a little but much to believe. Further, the whole nature of the farang oriented sector of the nightlife industry in that girls tend to go back to a guy's hotel room or even his apartment mean that the so called jailbirds would pose a major flight risk. My thoughts on this are that perhaps one girl had somehow been offered a deal and the story got way exaggerated and then ended up as the story that I heard.
Rumours do the rounds that bars need to make the odd donation to the authorities to ensure that they are allowed to operate without fear of being closed down nor intervention. Rumour has it that there is a bagman, a person whose job it is to go around once a month and collect payment from the naughty bars. Well, so the story goes, the bagman for all of the bars in Patpong did the rounds and collected all of the money and took it home. He was supposed to deliver it to whoever the funds end up with the next morning. After getting home, he had a huge great argument with his wife which was followed by a major drinking session at which point he fell asleep. So the story goes, he woke up in the morning and his wife was gone. She had disappeared, taken many of her things and also taken all of the money that her husband had collected the night before. So the rumour goes, the bag contained 2 million baht.
Source of story: A regular reader to the site, someone I haven't met.
My thoughts: On one hand, it is plausible that this may have happened. It could happen, but it is very unlikely. First of all, the bagman would be responsible for getting the money to his bosses immediately and keeping it at the family home overnight is incredibly unlikely. Secondly, this amount of money is quite simply far, far too much. Finally, anyone stealing that amount of money from these sorts of people would clearly know the repercussions, and it really would be just like in the movies. 2 million baht is a lot of money in Thailand, and people have died for much, much less. They'd be hunted down, whatever cash they had not yet spent would be taken and theirs would be the next body found floating in the nearest klong.
But, there is one bagman story which is 100% true for certain. A certain bar owner spent a night with a bargirl who sneaked off with an entire nights bar takings – and we are talking a BIG bar here! A nice little earner for the thief that night. She deviously cut a hole into the boss's locked briefcase and took the entire contents of the case, no doubt leaving the fellow both embarrassed and humiliated. Not sure how he explained that one! This was quite a few years ago but it most definitely did happen.
If there is one thing that even the most die hard naughty bar fans simply do not know about, it is the true numbers of STD infections out there. About three years back, I was told that there were two gogo bars owned by a couple of farangs in which there were a total of six girls who had tested HIV+. So the story goes, the bar owners knew about, but chose to do nothing about and allowed the infected ladies to continue working. There was quite a furore at the time amongst those who had been told about it, with some wanting to go public about it and spread the name of the bar and even photograph the girls in question. Common sense prevailed and it was all contained. Had word got out, true or otherwise, quite a stir would have been caused, to say the least. At the same time as this rumour got out, another friend told me how he had been told by a friend of his who managed a major Pattaya gogo bar that they were seeing on average, one girl a week testing HIV+. The girls would get the boot from that bar but the same night would have secured work at another bar which was totally oblivious to their status. The second part of the story is not rumour at all and the person who told me is someone who simply doesn't BS.
Source of story: Someone who was very close to the bar owners, and who was involved in a major Thailand nightlife oriented website.
My thoughts: This story is absolutely plausible and while it all came out during a period when there were a lot of rumours going around, certain comments by other well connected people lead me to believe that it was in fact true.
So the rumour has it, many years ago the girls didn't just get their thrills on stage with bananas, ping pong balls and other objects that were never intended to see the inside of a cave, but there were actually live sex acts, where a guy bonked a girl on stage. So the rumour goes, there were shows with live animals including a fish show and a frog show starring not only a lady, but Mr Frog and Mr Fish. In these shows, a dancer would get up on stage, pluck these beasts live out of a fish bowl, or a box, insert them into her cave before squatting over the fish bowl or box and releasing them. Between inserting and releasing the poor beasts she would dance around the stage, throwing her legs up higher than her head, giving the beasts the ride of their life.
Source of story: My own eyes!
My thoughts: Oh, these are not myths, they are all 100% true. The funny thing is that in the case of the animals, this was all happening as recently as 2001. I had the misfortune to see the frog show. Appalling, but thrilling at the same time. You wanted to avert your eyes but you just couldn't.
I never knew it until I was researching today's column, but these shows that were super popular in Nana a few years back actually originated from Patpong. Amongst the menagerie of beasts that have been used were catfish, snakes, birds, other forms of fish and the infamous frogs. In what was once known as Hollywood Royale downstairs in Nana, the "Animal Magic" woman used a snake. One evening it just got pissed off being shoved up that place and turned around and bit her you know where! She ran off stage trying to fight off the pissed off python! Another true story was the back store room in Hollywood Two which at one time was like an abattoir, full of various species of animals. There were so many birds, fish, frogs, and snakes, that for a period of time it was known as the Hollywood Zoo. One evening the Animal Magic showgirl kindly informed the manager that one of her pet snakes was missing. They were very cautious for a few weeks when entering the store room to check the stock, but Percy the python never reappeared. Still, the girls in most bars report seeing snakes most nights…
So come on, spill the beans, what interesting stories have you heard? Knowing Bangkok, most of the stories that are going around have been so heavily distorted, but where there is smoke there is usually fire…
WHERE IS THIS?
It was near the Emporium.
The Canon ad has been there forever…
Last week's pic was taken standing outside the Emporium and looking straight across the road at the sportswear shop. Each week the first reader to correctly state where the pic is by email to me wins a 500 baht credit from Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Please note that the credit MUST be claimed within two weeks. So, to claim that prize, you must be in Bangkok at some time in the next two weeks.
FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX
Avoiding the thieves!
A suggestion how to avoid the police thieves of the expressway: I use the Ring Road on my way to and from Korat and beyond. Basically 3 advantages: no trucks and bikes, no police checkpoints and less traffic overall. It took a couple of attempts to figure out which direction to take (east or west branch) but now I have it down pat.
Regarding shakedowns at the toll booths, I was with a friend once and he just kept on driving even though the officer waved at him to pull over. He said he always does that, and we certainly weren't chased that time.
Avoiding the thieves Part 2!
Your description of the highway police enrichment program going on at the toll plaza north of the airport is spot on. I have probably driven through that spot 15 times in the day time in the last two years. I have been stopped 15 out of 15 times, for no reason (I know better than to speed and warnings are on other websites too). Always my papers (insurance, international license, license, registration…) have been in order. I have seen that every farang that goes through toll booths is stopped while I have been waiting for them to get to me. I for one will not take the tollway past the airport any longer and get off at the stop before, or drive it after 8 PM. What they are doing is so blatant and patently wrong, I am surprised that no one has told them to knock it off. In six years of travelling on that specific portion of road, I have yet to even see a minor accident on the toll road. Why are they even there when most of Bangkok would be better serviced by having more police officers downtown.
Good advertising, but at a cost.
As I suspected, every US TV channel and news radio is full of news from Thailand. Very little is being reported from India, Sri Lanka or Indonesia. It's Thailand, Thailand, Thailand. I think most all Americans were like me. They thought of Thailand as the Land of Siam – very mysterious, without a clue that they had a thousand miles of beaches and sun. They're getting a zillion dollars worth of advertising – at least here. If it just wasn't so sad.
What's wrong with Thai music?
Unfortunately as a part of this Christmas / holiday display they have huge speakers pumping out American urban black hip hop music complete with objectionable lyrics. As far as I am concerned this is the final nail in the Thailand coffin. I do not save my money and wait to fly half away around the world to Thailand to hear American urban hip hop black music. Good bye the Thai experience. It used to be that when you went into a bar in Thailand that there were about 6 signature Thai songs that told you that you were back in Thailand. Now I do not hear even that anymore. Now the music in the bars is mostly or completely American rock music. What happened to the bragging nationalistic jingoistic Thais so convinced that Thailand was special? More empty talk. Thailand is not special when they do not even play their own excellent pop music in the bars. Too bad.
It's all about the money…
It all comes down to your job and the money you make. I work in Bangkok as an investment banker, a full expat, great salary and bonus. All the hi-so girls love me. It is all about cash and prestige. The women are beautiful, but I found Tokyo and Hong Kong upper class women much more of a challenge. As always in Thailand it all comes a bit less expensive (they are looking for cash and a chance for travel). No reason to beat around the bush.
I reckon it'll be a gogo by the middle of the year…
I knew something was going on in the Old Dutch, as the food quality declined during the last couple of weeks. One of the staff informed me that they have a new owner. This new owner replaced the famous "reading corner" with 2 tables, and squeezed another 6 or so in on the ground floor. It now reminds more of a food court than the Old Dutch. Yesterday, the menus had been reprinted, and with the neat new homemade-design, all prices went up 30 to 50%! In one day! That's the most outrageous price increase I have ever seen for no evident reason; but at least the increase is related to the new quality and atmosphere – inversely related though. Sure enough, I left the restaurant I used to visit 2-3 times a week without ordering anything. I had planned to spend 200 – 250 for my lunch, not 400. At least, unlike other people, I did not bother insulting the staff. I'm not sure about the beer, if the mug was 75 or 90 baht before, but now it is 150. I’m quite certain that other regular expats will be just as deceived as I am. That will possibly be a lot of tables for the low season to come…
A young population.
Interesting discussion about how most Thais seem to be youngsters. I also noticed this and checked into it. I am not sure car ownership has a lot to do with it. The average household income is only about 16,000 baht a month, very hard enough to run a car on. There probably are several other reasons. One is that Thailand does indeed have a younger population than Western nations. The median age is about 30.5 years old, compared to 38.7 in the UK, 36.0 in the USA, 36.3 in Australia, and a geriatric 42.3 in Japan. Thais also usually look a lot younger than they are, partly because they always stay out of the sun. It also probably is due partly to entrenched attitudes about youth and resulting hiring policies, particularly in the tourist industry. In Thailand, newspapers describe a 50 year old as elderly and many women say that marriage after age 30 is very difficult. Job ads often specify a maximum age of 35, illegal in some Western countries. A newspaper report some weeks ago discussed some workers aged between 35 and 45 about to lose their jobs due to a closure, who would find it hard to get another at their advanced ages. So, the workers that tourists are likely to come across and see travelling to work are more likely to be young. When did anyone last see an elderly Thai air hostess as can be seen on United Airlines? I eventually learned to discount that oft-used quote from page 1 of The Bargirl's Handbook about how she prefers much older men.
The newly opened Boss Hogg's in Nana remains quiet. There seem to be only a small number of girls working there which has attracted only a handful of customers. Real nice looking bar though, even other bar owners are commentating that he has done a good job on it, but it desperately needs some more girls in there if they are to do any decent trade. I'm sure the Boss is conscious of spreading some of his lovelies around. Like his self named bar in Nana, Bully's isn't doing perhaps as well as it should, given its location and very nice lay out. I'm picking though that both will turn around and soon be popular spots.
Nana Plaza has been quite busy for the last week. I heard reports that Angel Witch was extra-packed while other popular bars have been doing very well. Bargirls are slowly but surely returning to work in Nana Plaza and early January looks to have made a brisk start. All bar staff will be hoping this surge in trade keeps up, but perhaps it is also something to do with the Phuket situation. Maybe there is a much larger amount of people in Bangkok than usual.
Mandarin Bar has a new farang manager. An American has taken over as manager fairly recently. Can he bring business back to what was once a good bar that did a good trade? Residents still complain that the katoeys in Mandarin are a menace and put them off, but the management says the katoeys do good business. If like me you are not so fond of the katoeys, it might be best to give it a miss.
I reiterate that as per reports in the last few columns, Pattaya is VERY crowded, subsequent to the tsunami that effectively scared many tourists away from Phuket and other beaches on the Andaman Coast. Tourists and working girls alike have apparently
chosen Pattaya as the prime replacement option.
And still in Pattaya, hotels report capacity or near capacity bookings. Beer bars are doing a booming business, better gogo bars are packed, and owners of even run-of-the-mill gogo bars are dancing with delight. Not that the beauty of the talent is drawing the crowds. In fact, if anything, the cream of the crop seems nowhere to be seen in Pattaya’s gogo bars. Many top dancers still linger in Isaan on their extended New Year’s holiday. But newcomers from the Northeast and from Phuket are filling in the gaps.
An inordinate number of tourists to Pattaya hail from Russia, the Ukraine and other former Soviet Bloc countries. Ditto for working girls strolling Beach Road, Walking Streets, shopping malls and select discos in search of Johns. The going rate for these big blondes reportedly is 1,500 to 2,500 baht for short time. Not much to ask of their predominantly Asian clientele (usually Chinese and Korean) yearning for white ladies. Pattaya’s finest busted one not blonde Russian lady and her pimp this week. They were arrested, quickly deported and barred from ever re-entering the Kingdom. They were not charged with prostitution or soliciting, but rather for working without a valid work visa.
A brochure being handed out on Beach Road.
Well known Pattaya publican Kim Fletcher has left Shenanigans and is about to open up his own establishment, Jameson's The Irish Pub, at Nova Park, Pattaya. The brand-new Jameson's is still under construction and you can follow its progress online. I wonder how Shenanigan's will be with Kim's departure? It is no secret that it is one of my favourite Western style bars in Thailand.
I don't make it out to the bars so often these days, but when I do, there always seems to be some sort of commotion. On Friday night, I was in a Nana Plaza bar, just enjoying a few drinks with a few mates. It was show time and there were two sets of girls on stage doing a simulated lesbian show. On girl in each pair was laying on her back while the other girl was laying on top of her, pretending to kiss her – but was actually about 6 inches away. Before we knew it, some white assed plonker leaps up on stage absolutely starkers! He mounts one of the girls who is on top of her friend in middle of the show and simulates sex with her for a few seconds before jumping off the stage and back down to his mates who had cheered him on. What was the reaction from others in the bar? Well, if this sort of thing had happened in Pattaya, I imagine the whole bar would have erupted and cheered the fellow on. But it had quite the opposite effect in Bangkok. In the space of 3 minutes, half of the punters in what had been a full bar upped and left! The manager of the bar looked quite concerned, knowing that if such an act had been seen by the boys in brown he would have been closed for a month. The self-appointed porn star and his mates were soon asked to take their drinks outside, finish them and leave. They were subsequently banned from that bar for life. These guys just wanted to have a good time, BUT, I don't think they realised quite the effect it would have on others in the bar. As the bar manager said, "We were full 3 minutes ago and now everyone has pissed off. They've probably ruined our Friday night take."
Despite the high season crowds flocking to Nana, there have been more reports of low levels of bargirls with even the bigger bars like Rainbow 2 and G Spot were well below their normal levels. I suppose that it is only natural that we will have to wait until the girls decide to return from their home provinces. It's frustrating for bar bosses but you can't demand that they return or you will just piss them off and lose them. Of course, more than a few have been spotted down in Pattaya. Some will be with customers or boyfriends, but others have definitely migrated down to Pattaya where they say the bar scene is really "happening" on Walking Street. We have even had the reverse happen and some bargirls have returned to Bangkok, because they said that the money wasn't as good. Although they expected lower salaries and bonuses, they said that they were shocked by the large numbers of "cheap Charlies" compared to the more generous farang customers in Bangkok. Being offered only 500 baht led them to believe that these farangs were still living in the '90s! The Bangkok bargirls refused their meagre offers and wondered how Pattaya bargirls made a living. This is especially true when you also consider the vast number of working girls who are in competition with each other.
Apparently, there are several gogo bars in Thailand for sale on Ebay. I did a quick search and couldn't find them, but from all accounts, Electric Blue, Dollhouse and some others can be found on there. I am not really familiar with Ebay so not sure about how to effectively use the search function. My best guess is that the bars are there just in case someone offers an outrageous price – from all accounts, these bars are not on the market as such, but as with everything, they are for sale at the right price.
A certain chain of English language schools with a three letter acronym name has been closed, apparently due to low profitability. I cannot say I am surprised. The market for English language institutes seems to be getting awfully close to saturation point…
Following the success of their pork sausages, Big John's in Soi Thonglor are now making beef and lamb & mint sausages. The prices are as follows – pork 180 baht / kg, beef 200 baht / kg and lamb 250 baht / kg. On Australia Day, Wednesday 26 January, all pies will be discounted by 50% and you'll be able to get a pie or pasty with mashed potato & gravy + VB or Fosters or pork, lamb or beef bangers & mash & gravy + VB or Fosters FOR only 195 baht. Fosters & VB will also be buy 2 bottles get 1 can free.
Many thanks from Steve Leather to all who sent him feedback about the cover of his soon to be released novel, "Private Dancer". The cover below will be used. Readers who responded to Steve voted in favour of this one by a margin of 3 to 1 over the other choice.
A lot of people have been asking about the status of hotels in Phuket and in the south in general. A few sites have information but the best advice outlining the status of all of the individual hotels seems to be here at this page at the leading online Thailand hotel reservation provider, Farangs.com. Let me re-iterate what I have said before. While Phuket may have suffered some damage, a lot of it has been cleaned up and anyone planning on going to Phuket shouldn't be concerned about changing their plans. I'm sure you'll still have a great time and besides, it would be great to support all of the businesses – and thus the people of the region – some of whom have experienced unimaginable suffering.
Ask the Sticks
Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about.
Question 1: Why do Thailand girls not seem to understand that lying (even if perhaps trying keep face and peace) is worse than telling the truth? Truth always has a way of coming out amongst friends and lovers, and it will always create anger and feelings of betrayal. In the West lying (and cheating) is a big offence, not easily forgiven, and it will always create a sour taste in a future relationship. Thais seem to think it is "better" to not to always tell the truth. Why is this? I would like to understand this Thai culture. Please explain.
Mr. Stick says: I just finished reading the book "Thailand Fever" which is a guide to Thai Westerner relationships. All I can say is read that book because this question is answered much better there than Mrs. Stick or I could ever answer it.
Question 2: I expect to be milked for as much money as possible by the bar girls I meet, but not by my work colleagues. I work for a large company in Bangkok and I have many Thai male and a few Thai females working under me. Although they are all pretty well paid in my view, they often ask me for handouts? Last week a guy asked me for 1000 baht as he wanted to buy some of the staff a beer as he was leaving the company? I may be senior to him and on a better salary but I feel this can not be normal. Also just yesterday I got the impression I was going to lose some money when another guy asked me to come shopping with him as he wanted to buy his mother a gift for new year. I declined to join him for this reason. Can you explain.
Mrs. Stick says: I don't see this sort of thing in the workplace as normal. Borrowing money for things totally unrelated to you or work is not normal. Next time I'd jut ignore them and pretend you do not know what they mean. Perhaps you are seen as a generous guy in the company who has leant a lot of money before – and they are perhaps trying to take advantage of you. Most Thai people with a good salary will have a credit card too so why not suggest he could use that. Except amongst very close friends, it is not usual to borrow money like this in the workplace. I'd let them know that lending and borrowing money amongst colleagues in the workplace is not something you want to be involved with. You're farang so you can talk straight and they'll understand that. As a senior member of staff, perhaps you need to keep a bit more distance from your staff. Unfortunately, some Thai people don't know what is proper and might not give you the respect your position should get.
Mrs. Stick has a question for the readers this week and would very much appreciate a response to it! She has obviously asked me already and I told her what I think, but she is looking for a few more responses, and is particularly interested in responses from Brits.
Her question: Is it normal in the workplace for a guy to swear in front of female colleagues, using strong words like "cunt", and basically swearing all the time. To clarify, we are talking a fairly decent office environment. Any thoughts would be very welcome.
So what about your own Bangkok bar stories? I bet you've got a few good ones. Send them in – others would love to read them!
Your Bangkok commentator,