Soi Cowboy was the last of Bangkok's three major bar areas I discovered but it quickly became my favourite. It might have been Nana Plaza that initially drew me in, but it was Cowboy that grabbed me tight and refused to let go. When I think back to the good old days, my fondest memories hanging out in the bars were the times I spent in Soi Cowboy.
Soi Cowboy was a ramshackle bar area, a distant third behind Nana and Patpong however you chose to compare them. The lane was in a state of disrepair, many bars hadn't had a lick of paint in years. It wasn't hard to see why it was usually quiet. Think soi 33 today quiet. It was also generally accepted that Cowboy was not where you found the most attractive girls. You found older women at Cowboy. But old would be relative. Rather than late teens and early 20s as was common in Nana, the girls of Cowboy tended to be mid 20s up. And so at Cowboy you tended to find older long-time expats…and the odd young gun like me.
Soi Cowboy was unique in that it wasn't just a bar area but a little slice of Isaan transplanted into the heart of Bangkok. It's only about 10 years ago when pretty much all of the girls working in Soi Cowboy lived above the bars. A small number lived offsite but springing 4 or 5 thousand baht for your own room when you could stay almost free above the bar was considered a splurge. Soi Cowboy used to be its own little community.
Whether the girls really liked those living arrangements I do not know because when Cowboy closed – at 2 AM sharp with the reliability of a Swiss timepiece – they would spill out on to the soi and snack on the various foods offered by vendors that set up late at night. But they weren't just looking for food. It was another shot at a customer. If you walked from one end of the soi to the other you would be approached by up to a dozen girls literally throwing themselves at you, inviting themselves back to your place. There was no talk of a barfine after the bars closed – as there would be today – and discount rates were offered. 500 baht long-time was often what they would pitch at you. It was nothing like today where any girl who tries to go with a guy, irrespective that the bar has closed for the night, would be compelled to either get him to pay bar or face a deduction from her salary. Oh how things have changed.
There always seemed to be something happening at Cowboy. One of the highlights used to be the annual Miss Soi Cowboy pageant held at the start of the cool season. Sadly that seemed to go by the wayside around the turn of the century. Most bars would enter a girl into the contest which was held in Country Road. The contestants would be all dollied up in traditional Thai garb – and looked just fantastic. It was run by Thais for Thais with everything said in Thai and it was never clear just what was going on to the farang audience. Most of us, me included, didn't have a clue what was going on! But that didn't matter, the infectious way the Thais make things sanuk made it a pleasure just to be there. There was a carnival feeling in the air. It was just plain fun and you could not help but enjoy yourself.
One of my best memories from Soi Cowboy was late in 1998 when my boss and I got the crazy idea that we were going to make a video promoting Soi Cowboy that we would sell online. The language school had recently added a video camera to its resources and we commandeered it one weekend and spent a couple of days and nights putting the production together. Neither of us had a clue about video but we somehow managed. I remember sitting towards the back of Long Gun, right next to the entrance to the toilets with the video camera on the counter pointing directly up at the girls dancing on stage. Of course it was recording and there was a bright red light indicating that! Occasionally a waitress would come over and ask us if the camera was turned on, which of course we denied. They'd see the red light and question us about it and we would come up with some silly answer which they would accept. I remember once we said that it was the battery level warning light and we got what could only be described as an unknowing nod! Eventually they cottoned on to it that we were recording the show and we were mobbed. It wasn't that they were mad but that they wanted to check out the recording and see how they looked. This was before the girls in the industry had any knowledge about the internet and its dangers. In fact you only need go back to the mid 90s, admittedly before my time, and you could take photos inside many gogo bars. Again, it's amazing how things have changed. The quality of the recording wasn't good. We had set the camera to night shot mode so while the image inside the bars was sharp and the sound captured clearly, the scene had a sort of ghostly green tinge to it. Even the footage taken outside the bars at night in the soi wasn't that good, partly because Soi Cowboy used to be quite dim and wasn't illuminated anything like the way it is today. Looking back at it now – yep, I still have the footage, it's rather comical. We realised at one point that the light just wasn't good enough but we didn't know how to overcome that. The camera didn't have any sort of manual override and neither of us knew much about photography or video. So we spent time in Cowboy in the afternoon and recorded some scenes in the daylight. Worst of all we recorded a scene with me interviewing a girl in what was really awful Thai that makes me cringe. My boss was the cameraman so to speak and there is a scene where he films me walking down one side of Soi Cowboy and up the other talking about it all, pointing out the bars we liked and saying why we liked them, sort of like a TV presenter. Thank God we never got around to actually selling it! This was perhaps 7 or 8 years before YouTube got going and I bet there would have been demand. The problem was not one of nerves, but rather that we were technologically challenged. We just did not know how to set up a website with a payment system to sell it hence the whole thing fell over. Never mind, it was a lot of fun.
Soi Cowboy has always had a lot of characters and perhaps the most visible of them was Albert, one of Pam of Pam's Bar's sons. There was only one way to describe Albert – enormous! A luuk kreung (meaning half Thai and half other, usually Caucasian), Albert grew up floating backwards and forwards between his father in the States and Pam in Thailand. He was completely fluent in both English and Thai. You would often see Albert wandering from Pam's Bar and checking out girls in other bars, some of whom he dated. He also acted as on-demand security if ever there was a problem in the bars at the eastern end of the soi. I don't think he was the fighting type, but he was large enough that his appearance would intimidate most folks. I once heard that he just stood in the doorway and prevented some guy from leaving until he settled a bill he had until that point refused to pay. Albert really was that big. But I think more than anything, being truly fluent in English – and I always felt that he was culturally more farang than Thai – he could help guys sort out problems simply by liaising between the guy and the Thai staff. It's quite funny really, thinking back, because he was only a young guy, and you'd see him often explaining things about how the industry worked to guys 30 or more years older than he was. I clearly remember him in Pam's Bar telling one guy who went on to run a popular Bangkok website (no, not me!) that the girl the liked had a local boyfriend and that he should only look at her as someone to have fun with and not as something serious! While he was a straight shooter like that, he also asked many customers for a loan and he was never in a hurry to pay them back!
Perhaps the most colourful Soi Cowboy character was Crazy Jack who ran Shadow Bar. He had painted on the windows words to the effect that 'You all know Bangkok's Hard Rock Cafe, well this is Bangkok's Hard Cock bar'! At the back, instead of the toilets being labelled 'Ladies' and 'Gents' he had the identifications recorded as 'Cocks' and 'C*nts'! He further insisted that all his girls danced devoid of pubic hair. There was a short-time room on the premises and legend has it that Jack had set up a closed circuit video and recorded everything that ever happened in there. I heard that from a number of people and never gave it much thought. You hear a lot of tall stories in Bangkok, don't you?! When I was studying Thai I became friendly with an American who I later learned knew Crazy Jack well. This guy was not at all prone to exaggeration or BS and claims to have seen the collection of recordings from the short-time room which he said filled a large bookcase. The whole Crazy Jack legend really went into overdrive after his death, when it was alleged that he was killed by his then wife who got away with it and then went on to marry a guy who was part of the whole Nanapong set up. True or not, I have no idea. A crackdown on bar names a few years ago meant that the bar's name had to revert to that originally registered, namely Cocktail Club, by which it is known today. There is, of course, another Shadow Bar now, next door to Dollhouse.
Another of the legends of Soi Cowboy of old was the source of the girls who danced at Long Gun. Legend has it that Long Gun comprised a bunch of jail birds who were released early on condition that they danced at Long Gun for a period of time – and presumably split the profits with their handlers. That rumour was whispered throughout the 90's but seemed to peter out a decade or so ago. I remember raising the point with a Long Gun girl many years back who would not confirm it, but neither would she deny it.
Another fond memory of Soi Cowboy was the final 20 – 30 minutes of the night at Black And White bar. They would end the night with morlam or lukthung music – and the girls would go absolutely crazy. They would come alive, dancing with vigour and would often try and drag you up on stage with them.
Soi 23 and its surrounds were a little quieter back then. I don't remember the pesky motorcycles whizzing up and down the soi early evening although they probably did. There were few office workers in the area and the soi was not the thoroughfare it is today. You most certainly did not see couples and Asian tour groups walking the length of the soi photographing the comings and goings.
Many eateries in the area popular today were just as popular back then. The Ship used to have really excellent roast dinners – the beef was surprisingly good by Bangkok standards – and the Offshore and Fish and Chip shop have hardly changed although in the case of the Fish And Chip shop I am not sure if that is a good thing or not. The Old Dutch had great food back then, the 100 baht giant breakfast was excellent value and their unlimited pancakes for 70 or 80 odd baht – and you could specify a number of different styles – was a bargain. You could request as many platefuls as you could manage. A number of mates swear by the Old Dutch these days and I gather the ribs are pretty good but I preferred it in the old days.
For me Soi Cowboy lost its flavour around the turn of the century although real old-timers would probably (and likely rightfully) dispute that, saying that it changed well before then. I remember when English Mike was managing Midnite in its hay day, which I guess was around 2000 or 2001, and thinking then that the soi had changed – and not necessarily for the better.
The only other foreigner working in Cowboy visible back then was the Dutchman (?) who you'd see scowling at all and sundry while perched outside AfterSkool. While I maintain that, all things being equal, foreign-owned and managed bars are better than venues run by locals, when foreigners get involved venues become more commercial. Cowboy used to have a great atmosphere which I think was largely due to the lack of any foreign influence. That's largely gone these days.
I really miss the old days in Soi Cowboy. I miss chatting with the old-timers who would tell stories of the past and from whom I would learn so much about the industry. I remember girls slowly and patiently helping me learn Isaan phrases. I guess today I've become one of those old-timers and it's me who's telling newbies the stories of yesteryear.
I've never been a huge drinker, never really could reasonably be described as a party animal and have never been that willing to spend a huge amount on a night out. I guess that's why Soi Cowboy of old always appealed to me. As good as Soi Cowboy is today, I find myself unable to recapture the fun I used to have there. It's a different kind of fun in Sow Cowboy these days.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Ramkhamhaeng Road and was very similar to a photo I ran a few years ago. If you're a long time reader you will know I used a shot from the same location a number of years ago. Aheap of people got it wrong, answering Petchaburi Road. This past week many people thought it was the branch at Petchaburi Road, which was wrong! The first person to email with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to correctly guess the photo wins a signed copy of Stephen Leather's superb Private Dancer, which many refer to as "the bible". It's widely regarded as the best novel set in Thailand's bar scene! The third person to get the photo right wins a copy of Jake Needham's excellent "The Big Mango" which is the only book other than Leather's Dancer that I have read twice. PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH PRIZE YOU WOULD PREFER!
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim the book prize you must provide a postal address within Thailand now. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week!
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Time stands still for no-one.
I have just returned from spending 4 days eating, breathing, and living in Patpong. The last time I spent so much time in the area was back in 1996. Back in those days, Patpong was THE place. Nana was starting to get known and Soi Cowboy was basically a deserted area with some upstairs pubs that the girls would take me to after I had barfined them from the gogos in Patpong. There might have been a few gogos in Cowboy at that time but they were frequented only by local expats, most of whom had spent time in Vietnam and never went home. Many of the faces of mamasans, bar mangers, bar owners and vendors were only too happy to talk with me. Some, I swear, I haven't seen in over 12 years. They all seemed to be much older looking than I remembered. And then when I went to use the toilet in one of the King's Group of bars, I looked in the mirror, which had had several more cracks added to it over the years. I looked at the reflection of myself and thought, "Old boy, you've been here in Thailand a long time!"
How to deal with the jet ski scam, advice from a lawyer.
With regard to the seemingly common Phuket jet ski scam (the operator claiming damage and demanding payment), my suggestion to any foreigner caught up in such a scam would be as follows. 1. Suggest to the owner that the police are called. If a foreigner is threatened at the scene, I think a good way to get away would be to say he needs to go to his hotel to get money (probably he would be accompanied by the operator), speak to the concierge, and then call the police from there. 2. When the police arrive, explain to them that this is a civil dispute i.e. one party claims damage, the other denies it and thus it should proceed to a Thai court for a decision. 3. Request the police to assist in passing details of the foreigner and possible defendant to the owner, and similarly ask the police to identify the owner and pass his details to the tourist, and then after this is done, request the police / hotel staff ask the owner to leave the hotel premises. If the local Thai police are unhelpful, I wonder if the tourist police would help? 4. Once the above is done, I think the owner would be very unlikely proceed with a court case, but even if he did, the worst a Thai court could order is that the foreigner pay for the alleged damage. In the meantime, if the tourist feels at risk of physical harm, he should leave and go to another hotel or part of Thailand.
Off the beaten track.
Have you been to Don Hoi Lod? It's a beach just before Samut Songkram, about 70 km south of Bangkok. I went yesterday for the first time and was impressed. You can take a long tail boat there through the mangroves for 200 baht per hour. That is not per person but for the whole boat! Tiger prawns in the local seafood market ran at 150 baht per kg. In the mangroves I saw a lot of monitors, the largest mudskippers I have ever seen, crabs, naturally growing oysters and mussels, birds etc. According to the boatman, if we come early morning at high tide he can show us places with fish larger than me, and possibly large wild pythons. Strongly recommended.
Any vegetarians in the readership?
I have enjoyed your morality debate. It is ludicrous for some people to suggest that you are condemning everything you ever stood for. It is possible to write about nightlife without condoning prostitution, which any reasonable person would concede is damaging to most women. As I have learned over many years in journalism, people are quick to take offence when you criticise their lifestyle. Just try writing something negative about vegetarians, as I once did, and you will find out!
Road rage in the north.
I have an acquaintance here in Chiang Rai who doesn't seem to be able to drive anywhere without showing his road rage to the Thais. He honks and gives stink eye and drives very aggressively. I keep telling him that one of these days someone is going to get out of his pickup with a machete and that will be the end of that. The funny thing is it seems to me the only ones in Chiang Rai with road rage problems are the farangs. I try to keep my emotions in check as I am not the least bit interested in winning some minor traffic "victory" but ending up in the hospital or worse.
Two buffets perhaps worth a look. The IBIS Nana in was doing a buffet lunch for 149 baht of good quality for the price – great Thai spicy meat salads, main dishes, dry / wet curries and some western i.e. spag bol, 2 types of pizza plus Thai desserts and ice cream. Drinks included were Bale, Rose and / or chrysanthemum juices. In Pattaya, the Deutches House at soi 4, Beach Road corner, 189 baht Saturday and Wednesday German buffet – think soup, stroganoff, roast pork, German sausages, sauerkraut, roast chicken, decent salads, roast potatoes and some Thai curry + sweets.
3G in the 'burbs.
3G might be good in the centre of Bangkok but my wife sometimes has to ring her friend who has an IPhone using 3G with True 2 – 4 times before she gets connected and each time she's charged for the call! Her friend was given the phone by her boss and now with all the complaints coming from customers unable to contact her she's been forced to go back to using her old phone and just uses the IPhone for taking photos and playing games! She mainly works in Nonthaburi, near where I live. Imagine spending 25,000 baht on a phone and now it's useless. Knowing Thailand it will take some time before it will be able to be used properly! What is a worry is that I've actually tested her phone at my place and the signal shows 4 to 5 bars but trying to connect is very hard. It just continuously drops out and True won't give me straight answers, blaming all things from the phone itself (tested and it's ok) to the weather.
90 day reporting and visa extensions.
I was out for my 90-day reporting today. But here's the thing. My 90-day renewal was due today, but last month I was stamped to check back this Wednesday, the 10th, for my annual visa-renewal results. Well, since I was there for the 90-day bit, I thought I would check on the visa, too. After all, this is only two days early, and back in the Soi Suan Phlu days, I always stopped by some days beforehand with no problem. Uh uh, no more. You must, I repeat MUST, return ON THE DAY STAMPED and no other day. No one would even check on it. This appears to be the new system, helpfully unannounced. Actually, I suppose this will improve efficiency to some extent, because before you had people due on several different days ahead of you. I believe there is something like a 7-day grace period for 90-day reporting, but I would never want to test that, so I would have gone out there today anyway and not waited until Wednesday even if I'd known, but they could have said something before.
One of my favourite bars for a fair few years now, Catz, in the Covent Garden area just off Walking Street, has been renamed Toyz. It's still a fun spot and little has changed apart from the name.
Coyote Apache in Soi Cowboy is changing format. What will be Soi Cowboy's newest beer bar will open before the end of the month. Apparently a venue change for the moment has been decided on by the bean counters who weren't impressed with its performance as a chrome pole palace.
Many an expat's choice in these increasingly health conscious days, San Miguel Light can be had for a very reasonable 65 baht on Friday nights at The Big Mango in Sukhumvit soi 4. And that price is offered all night long.
Bangkok Beat has introduced a few new drops to the menu. Jim Beam Black sounds interesting and as a fan of the regular Jim Beam, I must try it. Maker's Mark is available at long last, a lovely drop only found at some of the better bars in town as well as Bourbon Street. There's also something new available with a Russian name that I cannot possibly write in English as well as Boddington's. More reasons to check out Bangkok Beat.
O'Reilly's Irish pub, located on the corner of Silom Road and Soi Thaniya, at the foot of steps from the Sala Daeng BTS station, will host a quiz this coming Tuesday. It gets going at 7:30 PM and has a jackpot prize of 7,000 baht.
Brian at Crossbar is a patriot and loves all things British and has just had Stowford Press draught cider installed. Tetley's Bitter will also be installed before the end of the month. Stowford Press will be 220 baht a pint and Tetley's 200 baht. Merrydown cider in bottles will still be available at 200 baht and Marstons Pedigree in cans at 200 baht. Drink irresponsibly for the good of the impoverished landlord.
With manager David Bell lured back to Bangkok from Phuket, Charley Brown's has a heap of new promotions. Sunday is family day – bring the kids and you get a free kid's meal. Monday night is sports night so if you are involved in any local sports team, wear the team uniform and get 50% off certain drinks. Tuesday night is half price Margaritas and Sangrias and Wednesday is buy three small dishes – bites and appetizers – and pay for just two. On Thursday it's poor people's night, I mean teachers' night. Bring your teaching ID and get a 20% discount off all food. Charley Brown's is pleasant but for me, Sunrise Tacos next to Sukhumvit Soi 12 is still my favourite Mexican in Bangkok.
Ever wondered about the relationships, friendships and rivalry between neighbouring bar owners? While there are many friendships in the bar owners club and no shortage of price collusion in some bar areas, it's not always fun and games and things can and do get heated at times. One Western bar manager – bar name, manager and bar area not to be mentioned although I will say it is in Bangkok and not Pattaya – told me this week how the local police had been on to him, relaying that a number of other bar owners in that bar area had laid complaints against him. He hadn't been doing anything that the others hadn't and the cops knew that – but that did not stop them grassing him up. It all comes back to his bar doing better than others – and the other bar owners are jealous! Unfortunately this sort of hostility and trouble making is not uncommon in the industry. Fortunately his relationship with the police is stronger than those who grassed him up so nothing will come of it. But it sure makes you think twice about entering the industry as an investor, doesn't it?
Shark bar in Cowboy continues to have a huge following, and from 10 PM onwards most nights it's hard to find a seat. I am not convinced about Shark Bar though. I find the girls, while certainly attractive, somewhat standoffish and the staff can be a bit cold. Good music and some real lookers, but I don't like atmosphere. You just don't have that feeling of fun in the air.
There's much mention in this column about katoeys pick pocketing in the Sukhumvit area, especially around Nana late at night. The warnings remain although I have not received any reports recently. You should also be very careful in Pattaya, not just of katoeys on Beach Road late at night but of light fingered thieves plying their trade on songtaews, the pick up truck taxi buses that pick up and drop off passengers along main roads. The vermin usually operate in groups of 2 or 3. One person gets your attention, perhaps engages you in conversation or distracts you while their accomplice is nestled in close to you and attempts to swipe your valuables. Approaches range from a katoey giving you an eyeful of silicone to a pretty girl swapping contact details with you. Be VERY careful on the songtaews and pay close attention to anyone who gets too close, anyone who seems overly friendly and especially anyone sitting right next to you when it is not necessary to be sitting so close. I have found that eyeballing them usually puts them off quickly.
And another ongoing scam – and yes I do term it that, a scam – is the way Westerners and Westerners ONLY are targeted by the rubbish police primarily in the area between Sukhumvit sois 2 and 4, but as far down the even soi numbered side of Sukhumvit as soi 12. Whenever I am in that area I see the coppers paying close attention to Western tourists – and if they see someone smoking they will often follow them knowing that it is quite likely the cigarette butt will be discarded on the road. The victims are almost always single males. The most popular area for the eagle-eyed vultures is hanging around near the bike boys just up from the Nana Hotel side. There's a tall thin copper who really looks like a vulture on a branch. I do not condone littering but to issue you with a ticket, the officer MUST retrieve the discarded item so if you really must litter, throw it down a drain from where it will be too difficult for him to retrieve. If they do not have whatever it is that you discarded they cannot issue you with a fine. Also, the official fine is a very steep (by local standards) 2,000 baht *if* you get an official infringement notice. You CAN negotiate with the officer. Remain polite and smile at all times and you should be able to get it down to 200 baht – which goes straight into his pocket.
I cut down my alcohol intake recently and feel much better for it. But that's not say I have stopped drinking. No way. You can't live here in Bangkok and not drink. This place just ain't the same if you're sober – and you start to see it for what it is! But if I am going to drink, I want to eat too. One of the things I really like about Thailand is the way you can be in one venue and order something from a neighbouring / competing venue. So if you find yourself in Soi Cowboy drinking and getting a bit merry, as I do from time to time, it's nice to have a nibble too. There are a number of food outlets like Sams 2000 and the Old Dutch which will happily deliver food to you in any bar. Just ask the service staff in the bar you're in for a menu and you won't miss a moment of action as she scurries off to place the order for you. You can even get the girls to go out and grab you something from the street vendors like meat on a stick. Don't forget to give her a tip as it is not part of her job. 20 baht is fair – any more would give you instant jai dee status.
It's a bit high end for me but the trendies amongst you might want to check out F Bar which has just opened in the Intercontinental Hotel, next to Gaysorn Plaza. Part of the same organisation, Fashion TV opened a store in Central World Plaza on the 1st floor. Both are part of a chain of 40 opening around the world in the next 18 months with the flagship store being in…Bangkok! No doubt they will attract some of the hottest of the hi-so crowd making it eye candy central.
It looked like we were returning to the glory days of dance contests when the advert pictured here appeared all over the net recently. The dance contests held by Nanapong a decade or so back were fantastic and many of us remember them with much fondness. Many claims were made about this new dance contest including that all of the big bars on Walking Street would be entering girls and it was even being marketed under the good name of Cabbages and Condoms. The whole thing sounded great but something didn't smell right so a well-connected expat went to Cabbages and Condoms and showed them the poster and guess what – they had never heard anything about it and they are now pissed off big time! And they're not people you want to piss off because the patriarch is a former high profile minister of Parliament! I don't think we've heard the last of this…
The 2010 Super 14 rugby season started on Friday and there are various spots around town for rugby fans to catch the world's best rugby players in the world's best rugby tournament. Remember, the matches are NOT shown live True Visions. In the Silom area you can catch matches at O'Reilly's and I imagine the Duke of Wellington will show matches too. In Sukhumvit try Soi 8 Bar, Wall Street, Bradman's Bistro and The Office. There are more but these are my favourites, venues which attract real rugby fans. If you have the Australia Network, as some condo buildings do, most (all?) matches are shown live on that channel.
He'd have to qualify as a big name Bangkok author but with that said his books didn't strike a chord with me. Unfortunately for John Burdett it has not been his week and his latest title is hardly flying off the shelves in the UK. "The Godfather of Kathmandu", John Burdett's latest, sold just 238 copies in the UK in its first month. And to round off a really shitty month, the Hollywood company that was paying him for the film rights to his novel Bangkok 8 has dropped out and there are now no plans to film it. If you bump into Burdett in his beloved Soi Cowboy, it might be you who's buying.
I hate to be a broken record but it was never cool this so-called cool season and it has been awfully hot this past week. Our power bill for January was about what we expect in March – the second hottest month of the year. As a resident you look forward to the cool season…
I make a point of reading Bangkok Post's Guru magazine, the free supplement published every Friday. I don't think it is available online so you need to get the Post on Friday to read it. Anyway, this past Friday's edition had a very interesting article titled, "Trying to Click", an article appropriate for Stickman readers about a Thai lady trying her luck online. The hits & replies are absolutely classic but apparently real!
I wrote not so long ago that there seemed to be fewer younger tourists in the bar industry and I stand by that at the time I wrote it. Now with that said, in the last couple of weeks there seems to have been an influx of younger, wealthier guys who are rather amusing to watch. It's probably their first time here and they seem to be treating the whole Thai experience like a child would a trip to the zoo.
Music Station will have a couple of double acts of live music next Friday and Saturday, that would be the 19th and 20th February. Manager Christoph who is crazy about live music tells me that the two bands were chosen to give maximum of pleasure for the 2 nights. Well, Christoph, some customers might get their maximum pleasure in another spot in soi 33…but I am sure the live music will be great too. Earthquake is one of the most popular Filipino band in Bangkok. 100$ bill are very good modern rock performers. Genesis, new to Music Station, will perform each night at 11:55.
The displaced lord of Highbury who I see a few times every week with his reserved seat in Tilac often uses the word "strumpet" often. It initially raised my eyebrows and damn, now I find myself using it. He tells me that it harks back to medieval times when there used to be buxom, overflowing serving wenches in bars. The strumpets used to be the petite, coquettish lasses. It sounds like olde English for the much more widely understood term, "cock teaser".
I never recommend that you send money to a bargirl – or any girl (or boy) – in Thailand. The money you sent will most likely be pilfered away in record time, often blown on their gig, boyfriend or husband. It might go on drugs, gambling or just be wasted away on silly things like buying the latest and greatest mobile phone. Honestly, sums like 30,000 baht a month may not seem like that much in the West but that's a lot of money in Thailand. If you must send money to a Thai woman, do it as a gift with absolutely nothing expected in return otherwise you will inevitably be let down. There are many ways to send money and it can get expensive with fees and exchange rates that can make you cringe. There's a service online that might appeal to those of you sending money and save a little in fees. It involves applying for a MasterCard debit card and then applying for a second card which is sent to your girlfriend or other chosen recipient. The owner of the accounts can add credit to the value of the second card which is done by transferring monies to the first account holder's card, from a bank account or cash, and then transferring any value to the second recipient card. The transfer is supposedly instantaneous, the exchange rate reasonable and the fee to withdraw up to £250 per day is £2. There is a £10 fee for the first card and £5 for the second card and they are valid for a year after which they are replaced free of charge. It's all in pounds Sterling so I guess it operates out of the UK. More details can be found here.
Reader's story of the week is a situation we expats dread, "Car Crash In Thailand".
An Aussie banker pilfers $7 million and blows a tone of it on Thai hookers.
The Sydney Morning Herald has more on scams in Thailand.
A Thai woman spent 200,000 baht on a ceremony for her stuffed toy!
From The Nation, an American wants to rebrand Thailand.
Here's a 2-minute clip from inside Carousel in Nana from around 2000 or 2001.
I've never heard it referred to as Blade Runner alley before, but this video between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 is fun.
Newsweek magazine quotes PM Apisit as saying there will be no civil war in Thailand.
CNN produced a very nice piece on the legendary Wong's Place, a long-running eclectic bar in Bangkok.
Ask Mrs. Stick
Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.
Question 1: How can I refuse small-talk with taxi drivers or waiters, but remain polite? I do speak basic tourist Thai and it is very useful to properly instruct taxi drivers, waiters or sales people. But in recent months, said drivers or waiters start to talk back to me all kinds of things in rapid Thai. 1. I don't always understand them 2. I am rarely in the mood for a chat and 3. it is sometimes very rude staff (one taxi driver complaining 20 minutes long how ALL non-Thai customers are undesirable one way or the other). I have started to talk English only, so they had no reason to chat away in Thai. But instructing in Thai is much more reliable. So – how can I instruct them in Thai, but still avoid being their helpless Thai chat victim after that? Claiming "mai khao chai" (I don't understand) doesn't help. Do you have a strategy here? Thanks!
Mrs. Stick says: I think if you pretend you don't speak Thai the problem is solved. Actually, I don't understand why I see farang always want to talk with taxi drivers and waitresses (not the pretty ones) and other people Thai people never have conversation with. Why do you do that? You just make your order and say no more is the best way. If you are in the taxi you can pretend to sleep and then I think they will not talk with you.
Question 2: I'm 29 and I came to Thailand about four months ago. I started to date a hotel manager. She's the same age as me and quite the business lady, having a travel agency business and a restaurant to her name as well as her beach hotel.
As far as I can tell she has never been affiliated with the nightlife scene. She and most of her female friends drink and smoke, and most of them have had past boyfriends. My former flame herself has told me of one former western boyfriend (who
in fact I have met) who she dated for two years, and a Thai man who broke her heart when she was around 21. She has no children but she has an adopted son who is aged eight. The girl herself is a strong Buddhist and is very superstitious. Sadly
we split last month after an extended holiday romance. Being a Thai lady she was somewhat cagey about certain aspects of her past and she always gave me a very vague answer to this question. She has a small tattoo of a butterfly behind her right
ear. What does it signify? She did tell me that she had the tattoo when she was 21, being about the same time that she split from her Thai guy and also when her adopted son was born, give or take a year. What could be the significance of the butterfly
tattoo? Three possibilities have crossed my mind.
1 – It could be related to some former involvement in the bar scene.
2 – It could have been a response to her broken heart…"damn men, from now on I am a butterfly".
3 – It could be related to her adopted son.
Mrs. Stick says: I don't know why someone gets a tattoo. Maybe it is the reasons you say. Actually, it is not good for us to have a tattoo. It makes us look like low class citizen. I never wanted one but if I got one and my Mum saw it she would throw me out of the house. Sure! It's a big problem for us. It is not common for Thai ladies to smoke. Even Sukhumvit ladies don't smoke so much. I think normal farang ladies smoke more than Sukhumvit ladies. So if all of your girlfriend's friends smoke then I am not sure what sort of families they come from.
It's nice to know that a lot of people tune into this column every week. From around 5 PM on Sunday there's a very noticeable spike in website traffic which peaks later in the evening with numbers running very high for around 24 hours or so. On the odd occasion when the column is published late, complaints start almost right at 6 PM. In recent weeks I have had a number of emails from readers complaining that the column had gone up late – which wasn't right. Every week the column goes up on time and I cannot remember the last time it was late…probably a couple of years back. In fact in recent times I have usually had it up around 4:00 or 4:30 PM. What I believe is happening to those who think it's late is that some ISPs (internet service providers) have cached a previous copy of the weekly index page and are showing that which would lead you to believe the column had not been published – when it fact it had. I take the 6 PM publication time very seriously and if by any chance the column is going to be late or God forbid, not published, I will announce it on the main index page of the site.
Your Bangkok commentator,