I escaped the madness of Bangkok this week and spent some time at the beach. At Pattaya.
Mere words alone can not capture the flavour and feel of Pattaya so rather than tell you about what I saw, here are a dozen postcards from my time in Sin City.
Pattaya, like Bangkok, was terribly quiet this week. Walking along Walking Street, this enterprising fellow was trying to sell sexy items of clothing to the bargirls. Not an ounce of interest was shown. Obviously many don't have spare cash to spend on such luxuries, their priorities being their Thai boyfriend, their family and ya ba.
Gone are the days when the vast majority of visitors to Sin City were Western men. Today visitors are a much more diverse bunch. That Pattaya is the least expensive of Thailand's most developed beaches and islands has made it a favourite with those for whom value for money is a key ingredient.
You don't have to look far to see that Pattaya's reputation as a popular sex tourism destination remains intact. Even for those who really aren't interested, there's always someone approaching you, offering themselves to you. Beach Road's middle-aged female workforce was there in considerable numbers, some who have been a permanent fixture for years.
And if you're interested in finding some companionship, well, even a blind man could get himself sorted. Irrespective of whatever fashion statements you wish to make or with which football team your allegiance lies, you can always find someone to keep you company. No-one is fussy on Beach Road.
It's the same old story on Walking Street with the masses walking the full length, down to Bali Hai Pier and back again. Few seemed to be venturing inside the bars or restaurants, at least few of the new visitors to Pattaya.
Visiting Pattaya and not visiting Secrets wouldn't quite be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower but with that said, if you like laid-back, stress-free bars with a bunch of pretty girls and a nice atmosphere, then Secrets most certainly fits the bill. Every night in Pattaya, without exception, I start the night in Secrets. The atmosphere is good, the air-con cool, the girls are not at all pushy and the manager the best in the business. It's one of a select group of venues where a couple can enjoy themselves as much as a single guy can.
The maidens of Isaan who make up the majority of the service girls in Pattaya continue to do their bit for international relations. Relations are improving between the Kingdom and countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India and even Africa.
The World Cup is as popular in Pattaya as anywhere and any venue with a TV will be sure to show the matches. Just as in Bangkok, venues with commentary in English have had large signs and posters made up advertising the event. Even this rugby lover found himself transfixed, unable to keep my eyes on the girls in Iron Club, but rather on the giant TV screen as the mighty All Whites pushed Paraguay all the way.
The hello girls out front of many bars aren't fond of having their photo taken, notwithstanding that they are probably photographed hundreds and hundreds of times each and every night. But there are a few venues where the hello girls are keen to have their photo taken. In a most clever ploy, the girls outside Roxy and Airport Club pose for you and encourage you to take their photo. Once you have taken the snap, they grab you and try and frog march you into the bar. It's all done with a smile and from what I observed seems to be quite effective with many punters actually ending up inside! How could you say no to these lovelies?!
Eastern European girls have been a feature on Walking Street for as long as I can remember and seldom is an issue of a Pattaya newspaper published without mention of some being busted for, shock, horror, the crime of prostitution! It seems their Thai sisters just don't like the competition… Where they were once hidden, or at least somewhat discrete, now there are at least two bars with Eastern European girls standing outside, actively encouraging punters inside. "Sand" and "beach" as well as "Newcastle" and "coal" come to mind.
The ladyboys of Walking Street are more placid and much more restrained than their sisters who ply their trade in some of the darker stretches of Beach Road. I didn't spot the famous Emma this week, one of Pattaya's most famous ladyboys, one who I bet has fooled many.
And should you have any bother or troubles, it's reassuring to know that Howard and his team of friendly tourist police volunteers studiously patrol Walking Street and are there to assist. They're a well-rounded bunch so I guess that hot pursuit on foot of the bad guys is probably not part of the job description!
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the sexy lady lamp outside Pedro's Bar, on Sukhumvit between soi 23 and the Asoke intersection. 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 500 baht voucher from one of the very best farang food venues in Bangkok, and the home of Bangkok's best burger, in my humble opinion, Duke's Express. Duke's is very conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre in central Bangkok.
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 – Maybe Thailand still compares favourably.
A farang explosion? Well, you're on the ground and there certainly is a larger sample than in decades past and the West is getting increasingly unpleasant so perhaps yr right. Then again, we'll see what happens in the next couple of years. I do know people who made a lot of money on Thai property. They didn't plan retirement there, they got the hell out! Look at the new taxes and service cuts in the UK – who the heck would want to live there now? As for my country, they're fighting a war nobody wants for political image (the general in charge made the mistake of saying publicly what most Americans believe, that the bureaucrats fly in to meet with their well dressed puppets and fly back for the Sunday morning talk shows, and will be sacked for being honest), they're permanently broke, and are taking a keen interest in expat-revenues all of a sudden. As for Europe, well Spain may have a good football team but they've also got 20% unemployment and the cuts / taxes are on their way. The Euro now has a price on its head. Australia and New Zealand may be the last civilized place on earth (well, maybe Scandinavia if you can stand bitter cold and biting taxes. So, what sort of farang now makes the move to Thailand? I guess if I knew then what I know now, and was an early-20s stud muffin, I'd be seeing what I could come up with. But 30K baht for teaching? Considering the teacher chicanery I learned about (first and second-hand) from Japan in earlier decades, there are bound to be some scam artists out there and some farang are going to get stung even for those amounts. But if they do get paid, it's a studio at Onut with all the weirdoes you described, instant noodles and girlfriends-with-problems. Still, if I were young, living in Bangkok would be a dream.
A Korat retiree speaks out!
I think I am seeing more and more farangs here in the Korat area. I believe we are going to see more Americans retiring here soon. There were thousands of American service man stationed here during the Vietnam War. These men are just approaching retirement age. Not only do the GIs that were stationed here want to retire here, also many GIs who were stationed in Vietnam have already come here. I happen to have been stationed here in Korat & Talhli in 1965-66. I retired to the Korat area 2 1/2 years ago. I would say that 95% of the Americans retired here are Vietnam war veterans. Also I would like to comment about what a reader complained about a few weeks ago. He said he had a difficult time meeting farangs who were basically not low lifes (not his exact words). I found good friends in the VFW here. Not that one has to go to the VFW, but maybe any organisation such as Lions Club, British or Australian or other countries veteran groups. I have very high quality friends from all different socio-economic levels. I do find myself most comfortable with my own countrymen though. One more thing. You made reference to your opinion that rural Isaan expats were of lower caliber than others. I take offence at that. I am semi rural Isaan. Many of my friends are totally rural Isaan expats. I believe you will find more scum in Bangkok and Pattaya than you will ever find in Isaan, unless you define scum as those with less money.
More young bucks in Thailand.
Young people coming to Thailand could definitely be a new trend. Until the 00s I saw almost no young guys in bars. It just wasn't on. But now, if young Western males are sick of female mates who rule bedroom and courtroom, you better believe they are gonna get the hell out if they can get the info. Hey, there's an Internet now, with lots of info! The other trend of course is that people are living longer and if some guy got taken to the cleaners by his spouse, or just amicably ended a marriage with grown kids, what's he gonna do? Date some 50-year-old Western dame, or surround himself with nubile beauty?
Warts and all, Thailand is still preferable for many.
I largely share your pessimistic view of the future of the nightlife business in Thailand, but I have now developed a new perspective. I was reading your latest, with news of promotions and nightlife surrounding the World Cup, and I was envious of those who are in Bangkok to enjoy it. This may not sound that odd, until you consider I am in South Africa at the World Cup. You think things may not be much fun these days in Bangers. Try a couple of weeks in Johannesburg where the restaurants, bars and cafes near my hotel are shut at night because no-one in their right mind goes out after dark, where there is a constant sense of danger, and where the incompetence of staff makes Thailand seem like Switzerland. Sometimes as residents we are too often moved to criticise Bangkok, and to a large degree I think things there are getting worse. But it pays to remember that in many other parts of the world, things are also getting worse, only at a faster rate. Your main piece documenting the increasing number of westerners who are going to live in Thailand is evidence of this. The fact that westerners are moving in large numbers to Thailand despite a deadly political crisis illustrates just how bad things are getting in our own countries. Sure, there may not be gunfire on the streets, but there is undoubtedly a dystopian future in the west, and many sons of NZ, Australia, Britain, USA etc would sooner put up with some of the day-to-day annoyances of life in Thailand than watch their lives ebb away in their home countries.
The chocolate man is not so sweet.
This case is really a "chocolate man" rather than a regular farang, but still it's not nice. I met a ladyboy at Big C in Pattaya and after chatting for quite awhile, she pulled out a 500,000 Zimbabwe Dollar note which had been given to her as payment for services. She really had no idea what to do with it and asked me for ideas. Went home at looked it up and it's worth, in theory, about 150 baht. I doubt that any sane money changer would take it, even for 1 satang.
Face over kids?
After reading many submissions Stickman, why don't people just accept the fact that a farang will always be seen as ATM machine. I have seen while in Thailand, women who marry, have children with farangs, and after years – as many as 10 – 20 years, leave the farang, leave their own children, and go back to their Thai husband. In the course of 10 – 20 years she has siphoned off money like it was going out of style. Thai bar women, and Thai people in general don't have the same love for their children as we do in the West. Money for supporting their parents, and extended family gives them face. Face is more important than their own children. Believe me. It is true. They are crooks and liars. Don't ever make comparisons to things in the West. These bar women have no conscience, and live day to day. It is more important for them to buy a new cell phone than to feed their own children. Believe it.
When McDonald's is a treat.
I made the same uncomfortable observations at Tesco Lotus, Onut. The cheap food court is awash with unwashed semi-destitute 'aliens' and their teeruks. They sometimes go upmarket and dine at McDonalds downstairs. I take a deep breath and rush through that area on my way to the supermarket. Moreover, I noticed a corner of the parking lot is a gathering place for loud Africans prior to their departure for shady dealings in Soi Africa after sunset. Not nice.
July 3 will be July 4 this year when one of the social events of the year, and the biggest day for the American contingent, Independence Day, is celebrated at KIS, Knowledge Inspirations School, which is out near the Cambodian Embassy. Food and drinks will be available from the likes of Sunrise Tacos, Roadhouse BBQ, Bourbon Street and Duke's. Bands will play all day including the Soi Dog Blues Band, Dixieland Band, Peter Driscoll and the Cruisers, Southern Cross and more. The Veterans of Foreign Wars will have a booth grilling American beef hamburgers and the American Women's Club will be doing hot dogs. There'll be games and prizes for kids and adults alike. For more information, check out the official website at: IDayBKK.com.
Bully's will host their annual July 4th BBQ on Sunday July 4 from 5 – 10 PM. It will include Bully's new baby burgers, smothered with bbq chili onions, thousand island and mustard. There will also be grilled brats, baby back ribs, slow roasted beef short ribs, honey ham, grilled seafood, salads, desserts and much more. The buffet includes a complimentary chilled Corona – and all for just 390 baht! Special drinks offered include 290 baht Margarita pitchers, 290 baht Sangria pitchers, premium pints at 150 baht and local bottled beers for 90 baht through until 8 PM.
And if you find yourself in Phuket, Navy League of Phuket is hosting what they promise is a real American-style picnic. It will be held on Sunday, July 5 at HeadStart International School, Kathu, directly across from Makro and will run from 10 AM until 7:30 PM. It's free and everyone is welcome. More info here.
The biggest match of the World Cup so far takes place tonight when England face Germany, two of the heavyweights clashing in a match which will see the loser packing their bags and heading home. Spare a thought for the service staff at Tilac bar, many of whom watch and follow the English Premier League week in, week out. With one of the owners of Tilac Bar a proud German, the service staff often wear the German national team shirt and when Germany plays they feel they are bound to support the Germans. Some service girls tell me that they want to support England as it is English teams they are most familiar with and who they feel an affinity with but they feel obliged to support Germany because the boss hails from there!
Speaking of Tilac, #96, a rather fetching looking, fair-skinned dancer who started Monday this week is a former hotel employee who entered the nightlife industry having lost her hotel job. Many Thai women have lost their jobs since the economic downturn but there really hasn't been an invasion of girls who once had what could be described as more mainstream employment. A few, yes, but not the big numbers that might have been expected. How do all of these girls who lose their job manage to survive? Do they just return to the family home? Given that many come from the provinces or a rural background, where the family often doesn't have much, it doesn't make sense to me.
It's probably not a bad thing that they managed to avoid turning to employment in the bars for they remain quiet for the most part. I spent more time out and about in Pattaya this week than Bangkok where it was relatively quiet. Like Bangkok, those bars screening World Cup matches were doing ok. One bar area which seemed to be really quiet was soi 6. Strolling up and down as I do on each visit to Sin City, that bar area seemed to be really hurting with very few guys around.
The most popular and busiest bars don't always feature girls with the best attitudes but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by the attitude of the girls in one of the most popular bars in Pattaya, Airport on Walking Street. The girls in there have an excellent attitude, all I chatted with were friendly and many seemed to wear a permanent smile. The bar seems to be very well run.
I hate to say that I am not surprised that there was yet another reported incident in one of the Arab's Cowboy bars this week. A farang, whose age was put at 60+, exited Sahara bar and was set upon by one of the Arab's security staff, punched and went crashing down to the ground. This is getting ridiculous and simply reinforces why I, along with many other locals, absolutely refuse to enter any of his bars.
Pattaya might have the reputation for being a cheaper party option than Bangkok but prices have caught up with the capital in some venues. There are beer bars, especially those on Walking Street, charging an arm and a leg for lady drinks. I also notice a few venues charge 145 baht for my favourite Jack Daniels + Coke – very much Bangkok pricing. OK, so Pattaya is generally a lot cheaper, but in the better, or perhaps more accurately, some of the big name venues, prices are virtually at Bangkok levels, for top shelf drinks. At least in Pattaya you can get draft beer cheap in most venues, if you can stomach the local draft beer, that is.
But not everyone is as tight with their hard-earned as I am. A Bangkok mate often heads down to Pattaya for a night out where he reckons you get more bang for your buck than in Bangers. In Baby Dolls, his favourite party house, he was throwing back shot after shot after shot with a bunch of the girls. He barfined 4 girls from Ricky's raunchy bar, 2 sets of sisters as luck would have it. They were all having a great time, drinking, partying and being merry. He eventually made it back to his room at 7 AM, having barfined four girls and spending 20,000 baht – and he didn't even manage to get laid! Someone needs to teach this guy how to party!
In addition to value for money and sheer choice of (farang-oriented) bars, if there is one area where the bars of Pattaya have it all over the Bangkok bars it's in the girls' energy levels. In this respect Iron Club excels. The girls in there are like the Energizer bunny, bouncing around full of vigour and life. Their fun-loving attitudes are infections making the bar fun to be in. Whether these energy levels are pharmaceutically enhanced is moot.
A successful Pattaya bar owner is of the belief that one of the major contributing factors to his bar's popularity is the (very reasonable) cost of lady drinks. He rattled off the names of a bunch of bars and beer bar complexes where lady drink prices range from high to insane. His bar, which is a spectacular success, does not gouge customers on lady drinks. I then applied what he said to Bangkok where my favourite bar, and one of the busiest, is Tilac. Lady drinks there are just 100 baht. Is he on to something?
In addition to the "you should have been here 15 minutes ago, the bar was packed" comment that so many bar owners like to make, the other one I hear more and more these days, and almost every bar owner in Pattaya who I caught up with this week said is, "Mate, we've got a great line up of girls at the moment". Not quite sure why they feel the need to say that but many do!
Girls new to the industry can be rather naive. A girl in one of my favourite Pattaya bars has only been in the industry for a couple of weeks. She had done the dirty with a guy and it seemed she quite liked him and was being remarkably frank and honest with him. She went into her purse, pulled out some small photos and started telling him about herself and her family. This is my mother, and this is my father….and this is my boyfriend! She went on to say that he works at such and such a place and she doesn't see him as often as she would like. She then told this fellow that while she used a condom with her customer, she doesn't with her boyfriend. Such candor is uncommon.
A very nice job has been done on the new frontage and sign outside The Cavern on Walking Street, pictured right.
For those in Pattaya on a budget, there's plenty of discounting going on in the Soi Buakhao area with a number of smaller properties offering air-con rooms for under 500 baht. Just walk up and down the street and you'll see sign after sign with low season rates.
The men of colour whose presence has been noted by many in and around Sukhumvit sois 3, 3/1 and 5 have spread their empire out further and there are more and more in Pattaya now, making Pattaya's visitors much more diverse than they were a few years ago.
I received email this week from the owner of ThaiFriendly.com, a new Thailand dating site. The owner explained that while his site has a plethora of female members, there's a lack of males. With ThaiLoveLinks seeing more and more women who work late at night trying their luck, some users argue that it is not quite what it once was. For those of you interested in meeting Thai women outside the industry, give ThaiFriendly a try.
Thanks to all readers who responded to my question in last week's column as to the charge for two passengers on a motorbike taxi. Contrary to what I thought, it seems that the cost is indeed per passenger, and not per vehicle.
The BRT, not to be confused with the MRT (the underground), is the new bus service that runs from the Sathorn / Narathiwat Road intersection, along to Rama 3 Road and for several kilometres down that road. It connects with the Chongnonsee BTS station via a walkway. The whole idea of the BRT was to provide a rapid transport option for that area, connecting to the skytrain and to reduce traffic on Narathiwat Road which can be very busy during peak hours on weekdays. However, the new project is being painted as a great failure by pretty much everyone I know in the area. The BRT requires a dedicated lane, meaning that one of the lanes on Narathiwat Road is now BRT only and private vehicles cannot use it. As such traffic has in fact got worse!
I note that the skytrain is busier than ever, uncomfortably busy and at certain times of the day the skytrain carriages resemble Bangkok buses – it's difficult to get on or off. Since they extended the skytrain over the river, resulting passenger numbers swelling, has seen it get much busier. That said, the Silom line doesn't seem to be as bad as the Sukhumvit line.
Users of a certain small Thailand nightlife site became nervous earlier this week when some users trying to access it from within the Kingdom found that it was blocked with a warning from authorities stating that it had inappropriate content. It did not last long and the site can be accessed again. It is every Thailand webmaster's nightmare, being blocked within the Kingdom. I guess that is why some have more than one domain name.
It seems to me that despite anti-smoking laws, more and more venues are allowing punters to smoke, perhaps in the hope that not too much business is lost in these tough times. The problem is that there are plenty of us who simply walk out if there are people smoking inside a bar. I used to be open-minded and tolerated bars with smokers but having experienced the difference I cannot stand being in a smoky bar. If there are smokers there, you can say goodbye to me – and to many others. Yes, bar owners, it IS that bad for us non-smokers – who make up a much greater number of your customers than smokers do.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Some of the specimens I've seen in Pattaya would be stopped by police in most cities just on looks / demeanour alone."
From the Financial Times, Luang Prabang in Laos is going upmarket!
From the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Aussies are injured after two speedboats collide in Thailand.
From the UK's Guardian, drug smuggling into Thailand soars.
Asia's sex industry is profiled by France24 Reporters in this YouTube-hosted video. That said, when they describe Pattaya as being on the South China Sea you have to wonder.
The Telegraph looks at expat medical care in Thailand.
Thieves in the baggage handling department at Phuket Airport are caught.
From the FT, it looks like it will be a long time before Vietnam mounts a serious challenge to Thailand in the automotive sector.
CNN highlighted some of the best wine bars in Bangkok.
Ask Mr. Stick
If I receive any interesting emails to which I think the answer could benefit other readers, I may include the question, and my response, here.
Question 1: Just an observation from one of your photos. Now that isn't at all an unusual sight 5 old guys, presumably Pattaya retirees sitting on Beach Road. You may not of noticed this, but I spotted something significant. I can assume at least 4 out of the 5 are poor / living on very little money. Assumption is based on 4 not wearing watches. Now this may just be me basing an assumption on my western understanding, but if you are even modestly well off in the west you will own a good watch as a status symbol as a Thai may wear gold. It may be something you have noted before or may be something you want to look out for. I'd be pretty sure that 99% of farang men in classier places will be wearing a watch, probably one in the $1000+ Swiss variety range. I've noted people on Stickman often refer to how people dress as to their class. I'd argue that this is a great assumption. In the UK it's often a sign of success when you are no longer stereotyped on dress code so easily. In the last 5 – 10 years we have seen a change in dress code rules. It used to be a requirement for you to be wearing shirt, trousers and shoes to get in. Now you are more likely to get into a posh bar of club wearing T-shirt, jeans and Prada trainers. I'd be interested on your thoughts on this.
Mr. Stick says: I am not so sure about your assumptions. People who genuinely have money may wear a nice watch, granted, but for many people, even those with no shortage of riches, they may guffaw at spending $1,000+ on a wristwatch. Given that much of the attraction of Thailand is that you can travel or live cheaply, the country does not always attract the wealthiest Westerners and so probably only a small percentage of foreigners here can be seen wearing a (genuine) Swiss watch.
This past week has been particularly busy and I have not been so efficient running the site. There were no readers' stories posted for a few days and I am sitting on some emails that need a reply. If you emailed me and have yet to get a reply, you will have one within the next 24 hours. And as far as the readers' stories go, they're now back to being posted every day. But hey, irrespective of whatever challenges I face, I will move heaven and earth to make sure that the weekly column is always published by 6 PM. It's Sunday, it's six, it's Stickman!
Your Bangkok commentator,