Stickman's Weekly Column August 28th, 2011

The Changing Face Of Walking Street


As an infrequent visitor, the changes in Sin City, and particular on Walking Street, seem to be greater and greater with each visit. It may still have the same flavour but how long will that last? Sex tourists are becoming a smaller minority on Walking Street – at least before midnight – as it is with Caucasians and all white men combined who are becoming a smaller and smaller minority.

We walked up Walking Street in one direction and back the other. We were there for not much more than an hour and I managed to fire off 100 or so shots. Amongst them were a handful which I felt capture best what was happening on Pattaya's most famous piece of real estate last night.

Here are a few snap shots and a few observations from Pattaya's most famous strip of real estate.


Walking Street Pattaya

It is supposed to be the low season. In fact it IS the low season. But Walking Street was packed. From as early as 8 PM Walking Street is tourist central as seemingly everyone congregates on to the appropriately named street where few are buying, even fewer are drinking, but everyone is walking. Just as we did, the masses stroll up and down Walking Street, enjoying what has to be Pattaya's #1 attraction, Walking Street, an icon of Pattaya.

Pattaya farang

Walking Street has more than its share of characters, some of whom have become fixtures over the years. There's the old ladies selling flowers, the legless flower seller, the young female contortionist, the Michal Jackson look-alike and the cowboy magician. Will this guy join their ranks? The Thai text says that he loves his mia noi (mistress). The smaller note says that he is not a jao-shoe – an adulterer – which is kind of novel given that he says saying that he loves his mistress! I regret not engaging him in conversation and finding out more.

Lollipop A Gogo

This sign made me laugh, particularly the use of the word "lick". I wouldn't say things on Walking Street are getting any spicier, but they do seem to be more public. The Thais are comfortable with a sign like this in English, but would be aghast if it were in Thai!

This reminds me of a recent performance by a Thai singer that was big news a month or 2 back. The performer had a really racy dance routine with much sexual gesticulation – and the video of her performing received massive views in YouTube. The Ministry of Culture was made aware of it, got on her case and threatened to ban her performances, notwithstanding that she was performing shows at late night venues where you think there would be some latitude. Common sense ultimately prevailed.

What happens in Walking Street is much racier than Thai venues, because in the eyes of most Thais, Walking Street is seen as a sort of slice of Farangland in Thailand. It isn't real to many Thais.

Black bird Walking Street

I never did work out just what this venue with the decadent entranceway was. The black woman smoking was just one of many blacks walking up and down Walking Street, taking it all in.

There has been much growth in tourists from Eastern Europe, India, China and the Middle East, and if this visit was anything to go by, there are now more Africans (from Africa it would seem, as opposed to the US or UK) visiting Pattaya too.

Pattaya farang policeman

The tourist police seem to have some new personnel, about half of the foreign contingent seemed to be new, or at least new since my last visit to Sin City.

Mistys Pattaya

While Walking Street might be mobbed with folks walking up and down, it seems many have some sort of phobia about checking out the side sois and while there are crowds on the main strip some of the side sois are dead. This photo was taken after 10 PM when Walking Street was packed and the busy soi which is home to Angelwitch, Baby Dolls, What's Up, Beach Club, Shark, Misty's, Sapphire and more bars, it was very, very quiet. Many of those in the side sois appeared to be locals, or at least those familiar with Pattaya. The tourist crowd don't seem to venture far from the main drag.

Walking Street, Pattaya

This was a new sight for me, foreign children – they seemed to be Eastern European – posing to have their photo taken with bargirls and the greeting girls outside naughty bars.

One thing that should be noted is that taking photos in nightlife areas with the Mrs. next to you seems to make the locals feel more comfortable and makes it so much easier than when you're alone. Yep, one party in a couple with a camera is seen as non-threatening but when you have a Thai woman with you who is obviously not part of the industry, it seemed to make the girls more relaxed when the lens was pointed in their direction.

Pattaya magician

Like other performers on Walking Street, this fellow had a huge crowd around him. The Mrs. and I debated whether he was farang or Thai.

It seems that the crowds walk up and down the street, taking in the goings on, and spend a few minutes watching each of the performers.

songtaew Pattaya

But not everyone is on Walking Street to watch the performers. Some are more concerned about finding someone to enjoy their own performance with.

Gay Pattaya

I don't remember this venue on my last visit to Pattaya, a boy bar right on the busiest part of Walking Street! I never did inquire as to whether the boys were there for male or female customers, but I guess it's the same as other such venues around the country where the boys are available to all and sundry, meaning both male and female customers. A boy bar on Walking Street, how things are changing…

HIV test

Last week's photo

Bangkok

Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was of the Siam Paragon shopping centre at night, taken from the platform at the Siam Square BTS station. The first person to email me with the correct location of the photo wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get it correct wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues in Bangkok, and the home of Bangkok's best burger, in my humble opinion, Duke's Express. Duke's is conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre in central Bangkok.

Terms and conditions: The Duke's Express voucher MUST be redeemed by June 2012. The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. Prizes are only available to readers in Thailand at the time of entering and are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week! If you wish to claim a prize, you must state a preference for the prize you prefer, or list the prizes you would like in order of preference – failure to do so results in the prize going to the next person to get the photo right.

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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 WEEKIt's not just a Bangkok thing.

It's not just Bangkok where you get badly short-changed. I went over to the famous Harry's Bar here in Singapore after work for a bite to eat and 2 glasses of red wine. The total bill came to $31. I handed over $35. Change given back – $1. Now I accept that we all make mistakes at the best of times so I bring it to the staff member's attention and slowly back to the till she goes. Now bearing in mind I am due an extra $3 more back, she turns around and gives me $2. The look on my face gives it away and finally I get the $1 back. Straight on to their HR department when I got home quoting the receipt number. At best, absolutely careless. More likely, well, you know what. To try and pull it twice though is really taking the piss big time. Last time I will ever be seen in Harry's Bar in Singapore I can tell you!

Property and respect.

Thais have no respect for other people's property. At my Isaan house we had a shelter in the front, the kind that farmers have in the fields to shelter from the sun. Had, because someone stole it. My wife just found a woman cutting down a bamboo tree on our land and got the usual inane grin when she was discovered. Another time, my father-in-law arrived home to find a complete stranger using our hose to wash his car! People wander across our land and you daren't challenge them because there's a fair chance they might come back and set fire to the place because they've lost face. Already people have tried to break in at the back, requiring us to install light sensors and a steel door.

There are Indians, and there are Indians.

We are regular readers of your column. We tell a lot of our workmates to read your column before going to Thailand and mostly to take your advice, but sometimes colour and origin matter. We are a group of Indians settled in Melbourne for two decades. We work for a reputed firm earning above average salaries and visit Bangkok for a holiday every year. We are 4 guys from the same workplace. Sometimes we follow your instructions and visit certain gogo bars in Pattaya's Walking Street but, to our surprise, upon seeing us approach the guys on the door wave their arms in an insulting manner and tell us that we are not welcome, that the bar is full even though it is early evening! Do they think we are tight? We planned to spend a lot that special first evening and for the rest of our 10-day holiday we stayed in a posh hotel. A mamasan from a beer bar saw this happen and invited us in to her bar with a red carpet. She provided a nice table, made us comfy and asked the girls to look after us. We had great fun, and spent nearly 10,000 baht together, barfining 4 girls from the same bar. We know they all have face masks, so do we. A holiday is meant to be fun. We enjoyed the first night and ended up going to the same bar for the rest of our 10 days. We even took the mamasan of that particular bar to a seafood restaurant and treated her. Now tell me, who played smart? The mamasan or the door boys? Or is it just the origin of the customers that matters in Pattaya and not the money? I know and saw that there are some Indians who ruin the reputation of all Indians.

A stroke of bad luck!

I have been with my wife (born and bred in Bangkok) for 9 years now and feel as if I have just about had enough. We lived happily in Australia but after consulting with her we decided to return to England where I come from. The cloud and grey was calling. However, since we arrived I suffered a stroke which was caused by my wife punching me in the neck. To cut a long story short, the punch came out of nowhere and was out of anger due to her unhappiness at living in England. This resulted in me being taken via ambulance to hospital and spending 8 days in a stroke ward. The doctor told me the stroke was caused by a neck injury and the artery to the neck had been damaged. He asked me if I had recently been involved in a car accident and was surprised that I could not answer. I had a terrible headache and vomited violently which I now know were signs of an oncoming stroke. 3 months after the stroke I am now still taking Warfarin blood thinners but luckily I have been told I can come off Warfarin at the end of August and then I will have to take Aspirin every morning for the rest of my life. I have had more injections than you could poke a stick at and 2 NRMI scans that were a nightmare, claustrophobia for 45 minutes solid! I am still recovering and have been told that whilst my recovery is very good, I take long naps in the afternoons – which is common for stroke sufferers. All in all, the last 3 months have been a time of my life I would rather have avoided. The most important thing that sticks out is that my wife has denied her actions caused the stroke and whilst she did visit me every day in hospital and showed a caring side, she has taken the view that when I was released from hospital I was mostly cured. Moreover, she has displayed a side that has demonstrated massive impatience and anger. I have spent the last 2 and a half months taking it easy with simple walks and slowly building up in recovery mode. This has been the advice from doctors. I have explained this to my wife and at times asked her to come to my GP so she understands the situation but she has refused to. At numerous times she has shown a complete lack of empathy. We will be returning to Bangkok where the plan is to apply for her visa to live permanent in UK. I am very seriously thinking of dumping her in Bangkok and more or less going it alone without her.

Bigger bargirls!

I have been in agreement with the recent disappointments of farang who come to Thailand looking for petite ladies compared with the size of so many Western ladies but during a recent 2-month trip back to Europe (after 6 years away), I was appalled at the obesity there now. Perhaps as a result, for my first massage on returning home this week, I selected the most cheeky, cheerful, vivacious lady who seemed to want my money and was prepared to work for it. I was somewhat surprised therefore when, 5 minutes after getting upstairs, I realised this masseuse was really rather large. But compared with most ladies in the West, she still seemed quite petite. I suppose it's all relative, but I couldn't help a wry smile.

A Japanese show in Nana!

I was at a bar in Nana and a Japanese dude walks in and the girls all squeal with delight. Ok, must be a big spender, I think. The girls keep squealing and then, get this, he walks into a corner and REMOVES HIS PANTS! Now he is in a button up shirt and a tie, no less, shoes and socks and his skivvies! No more squealing from the girls. And he sits and drinks his beer calmly and nobody working in the bar says a word to the prick. I downed my brew and split.

DC10 in Nana Plaza is now rock and roll all the time. On Friday they were due to install a foamy bath inside which will make it similar to the increasingly popular Billboard bar upstairs. I have not stuck my head in DC10 in a few weeks but the owner tells me he has some smoking hot girls in his bar at the moment. Also, every Saturday and Sunday in DC10 is Sexy Schoolgirl Night and the rumour has it that the boss has got some really naughty outfits for the dancers.

On the subject of Nana Plaza and the perpetual rumours about its future, which get more interesting all the time because the current leases and the master lease expire at the end of next year. The latest rumour is that the $25 million offer to purchase the land on which the plaza and surrounding shophouses sits will NOT be accepted by the land owners. This alone doesn't mean much, but you could argue that it increases the likelihood – albeit just a little bit – that the plaza will continue in its current format. It is, of course, all speculation and as my good pal, Dave The Rave, said, we probably won't know what is happening until the very last minute, meaning some time in December next year!

Black Pagoda will feature Sax nights – that is saxophone nights – not sex nights on Friday starting at 11 PM. Wander down to Patpong if sax is your thing!

And just in case you thought there weren't enough ladyboy bars in town already, I can confirm that it is highly likely that within a month there will be a ladyboy bar in…Soi Cowboy! Nana Plaza has had a mortgage on ladyboy bars and the plaza could just as easily be called Ladyboy Heaven. But coming soon, a ladyboy venue to Soi Cowboy is looking very likely!

The British pub that used to be in the same small sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 11 as Charley Brown's, The Pickled Liver, will reopen soon on the site of the former Tequila Dragon at the bottom of Sukhumvit soi 7/1.

In that same soi, the renovations in Bangkok Beat are complete. The bar counter used to be on the left hand side as you walked in, but that has moved and drinks are now served from a new bar area at the back. There are tables on a raised area on the left where the bar used to be. On a visit earlier this week it seemed that drinks were cheaper than they used to be. A Jack + Coke only set me back 120 baht whereas I am sure it used to run 160 baht, or more. Not sure if that is a new special, temporary promotion or what?

Some late night venues, Bangkok Beat amongst them, may not be open so late for a while as the authorities crack down on late night venues again forcing most, but not all night spots, to close their doors by 2 AM sharp. There are at least two exceptions – Spicy and Shock 39 are still open late. This late night crackdown seems to be the police flexing their muscles, likely because we have a new government and Prime Minister. Get the tourists to bed early so they get up early in the morning andSecrets Pattaya spend their money shopping and sightseeing like good tourists are supposed to! Also, with the war on drugs as initiated by Thaksin a few years back set to continue, you can be sure that there has been some discussion with and perhaps instructions to the police. To quote one copper, "If clubs open late, there is a drug problem."

The police unexpectedly ordered all Soi Cowboy bars closed at 1 AM on Friday night. One bargirl speculated that it was because Thai men had been fighting with the police at Kiss Bar earlier, although I imagine it is probably more like part of the late night crackdown.

A reminder that the popular Pattaya bar, Secrets, will celebrate its 5th anniversary this Thursday night. Secrets parties are a lot of fun so if you find yourself in Pattaya later this week, swing by. If you're a Secrets virgin, it can be found on soi 14, the first soi on the left off Walking Street.

I never cease to be amazed at the talent at the Thermae and a flying visit this week was no exception. Honestly, there are more pretty girls in there than most of the other freelancer venues on Sukhumvit combined, but with that said, whiteys are not what most Thermae girls are looking for. The farang contingent there the night I was could be counted on one hand.

A mate who does the rounds of what some foreigners consider the higher end establishments in town, meaning the likes of Spasso's, CM2, Bed Supper Club and Q Bar where you find anything from a sprinkling to a serious assortment of working girls tells me that a lot of the girls – the Thai girls no less (these venues often get foreign hookers too) – are starting to quote their nightly fee in US dollars. Why they would do this I have no idea. I can only surmise that quoting, $200, for example, sounds less than 6,000 baht, even though it is almost exactly the same amount of money.

Phnom Penh guesthouse
Guesthouse Phnom Penh Cambodia

Soi 8 Pub has commemorative Rugby World Cup shirts for sale at 450 baht. They feature the pub's Soi 8 logo as well as the Rugby World Cup logo and are of a decent quality. They prescribe to the Henry Ford scheme of colours – any colour so long as it's black! Well what did you expect, Soi 8 being a Kiwi pub and NZ's rugby team play in a famous black jersey! When it comes to rugby jerseys, are they any other colours? Soi 8 will show all the Rugby World Cup games live and with its large Kiwi following, expect it to be busy.

In recent columns – and I am not talking months here, but years – I have touched on the fact that I don't think the end of the foriegner-centred sector of Thailand's naughty nightlife would be a bad thing. Of course the industry ending is very unlikely to happen as so many people including some of considerable influence, have their fingers in the pie. There is perhaps one thing we should consider though. Despite protestations from some participants that the industry has not changed, pretty much everyone I know with the exception of those who are heavily addicted to it agrees that things have deteriorated,Soi Cowboy Bangkok and that it has become much seedier than it was. There was a time when you could wander through the main farang nightlife areas and observe without being noticed. These days, being within cooey of not just Patpong, but also Nana or Cowboy will get you grabbed by all and sundry. These changes can probably be tracked back to 2001, when the first Thaksin-led government came in to power. The last decade has seen massive change and it has reached the point where what the Thais, and the Thai authorities, once tolerated is becoming more of a challenge to overlook – because it is so public. Let's take parts of Sukhumvit Road, for example, particularly the area between sois 3/1 and soi 5, where prostitutes from all around the world (Thailand & neighbouring countries, Eastern Europe, Africa) line up in skimpy outfits and proposition passersby around the clock. Day and night they are there. And it's not just pedestrians who see them, but well-to-do Thais who drive past every single day. They would not be thrilled at what they see. Can this level of deterioration continue? If it does, it's hard to see this lot – who really are very conscious about face and reputation – allowing it to continue without some sort of genuine intervention and a first for Thailand, a real crackdown!

The pricing of water and other non-alcoholic drinks is a sore point for punters who prefer not to drink alcohol. Prices vary wildly and in some bars water will set you back the same price as beer, notwithstanding that a bottle of local beer costs the bar around 34 baht and a bottle of water about 5 baht. The two busiest bars in Soi Cowboy are Bacarra and Tilac, but they have vastly different pricing for water. Bacarra charges 140 baht for a 300 ml bottle of their own branded water bottle especially bottled for sale at Soi Cowboy. Tilac charges a very reasonable 30 baht for a 500 ml bottle of Singha water. Quite a difference.

Bangkok has a shocking rodent problem! I remember wandering around Siam Square at night during my early years and seeing monster rats running around. I have noticed on nights out on Sukhumvit that there is still a massive rat problem here – and it's not hard to see why. Many street vendors shovel scraps of food into the drainage system, providing a veritable feast for the rodents to dine on. In some sois off Sukhumvit in and around the main farang nightlife areas are armies of rats. It makes you wonder about the possibility of Bubonic Plague, which it is worth remembering wiped out 1/3 of Europe's population!

In an email published in last week's column, a reader complained about getting 3G enabled on his mobile phone using DTAC. Apparently DTAC staff said that it was only available to those who had purchased their phone from DTAC, as opposed to those who merely used a DTAC SIM in their phone. It seems that either the staff were wrong, or the situation has changed, because for anyone who uses mobile Internet with DTAC and has a 3G-enabled phone, it is simple to get 3G enabled. You simply dial *3000# on your phone and within a minute it will be enabled – assuming 3G access is available in your area. It does NOT matterThailand motorcycle taxi where you purchased the phone from, be it DTAC themselves, within Thailand or even abroad, and it does not cost you anything more than GPRS / EDGE. It should be noted that 3G internet access with DTAC is very cheap. There are various plans, including 70 hours 'net access for just 199 baht. And remember, you can use this Internet usage either on your mobile phone, or with your mobile phone tethered to your computer. Unless you are into downloading large files, it's probably fast enough for most people to use as their primary Internet connection if, for example, you cannot get an Internet connection at your house / condo.

On the back of news that tourist visas to Thailand will require further documentation provided as evidence that the applicant is indeed a bona fide tourist, so it seems other long-stay visas are becoming more difficult to come by too. For unmarried guys under the age of 50 who don't have legal employment in Thailand, but who wish to stay in the country long term, one of the challenges is how to stay on top of the visa game and remain legal. A common strategy has been to apply for a one-year multiple entry Non-Immigrant O visa which essentially allows the holder to stay in the Kingdom for 15 months with the proviso that they must exit the country at least once every 90 days. One consulate often talked about as being a soft touch was the Thai consulate at Hull in the UK. Not any more! They now state that those applying for a Non-Immigrant O visa either need to be over 50 (and thus qualify on the grounds of retirement) or be married to a Thai or visiting a family member in Thailand. This change in policy is no surprise; in fact the real surprise is that it was as easy as it apparently was for so long.

A nice, affordable condo on Soi Thonglor is now available for rent. It's tastefully decorated in classic Thai style and close to the BTS. There is a gym, pool, restaurant and massage spa in the building too. For full details, photos and price, please look here. No agencies, individuals only please.

The floating market is almost certainly not the first thing you think of when Pattaya comes to mind, but the city's floating market really is well worth going out of your way for. Called the "4 Regions Floating Market" because it encompasses food and crafts from each of the country's regions, it is a very pleasant place to spend a couple of hours strolling around, and like I say, there is heaps of good food available! I won't quite go as far as the Mrs. who said that the floating market is the best of Pattaya and Walking Street the worst, but I will say that it is worth checking out for sure, and makes a nice change from the craziness of downtown Pattaya.

Pattaya floating market

Quote of the week comes from a female Thai friend, "Love is giving", which on its own is hardly quote of the week, but coming from a woman trying to score a farang to take care of her, it is highly appropriate!

Reader's story of the week is another gem from Mega, "Bar Girls, Bimbos and Bitches ".

From Bloomberg, Thaksin has no immediate plans to return to Thailand.

A well-known New Zealand sportsman and sports administrator is robbed and killed in Pattaya.

A British woman is killed in a freak accident in Thailand at a waterfall.

4 red shirt protestors get hammered with lengthy prisons sentences for their parts in last year's protests.

A 20-year old Brit was electrocuted in Phuket this week in an accident that frankly should never have happened.

CNNGo highlights Bangkok's top end private clubs.

A broke Brit is being fed in Pattaya by charitable beer bar girls.

Ask Sunbelt Legal

Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.

There were no questions for Sunbelt this week!

Farang


I cannot impress enough on readers the care you must take when you comment on things in Thailand, especially if it is a medium that is recorded or can be viewed / heard / read again, such as TV, newspaper, radio or here online. The levels of freedom of speech that exist in the West, where you can talk about anything so long as what you say is factually true, is not quite the same here in Thailand. Here, not only does what you say or write have to be factually correct, if you are to avoid legal troubles, what is said has to be deemed to "be in the public good", an arbitrary term that really is quite fuzzy. I bring this up because of a brouhaha going on at the moment over comments made on national television about the residents of a certain province in Thailand (note: I won't even name the province!) that are known for eating dog. While this is true, obviously not everyone there eats dog and no doubt many within the province are neither dog eaters nor in favour of the consumption of canine meat. Anyway, it seems that the citizens of the province have come together en masse against the person who made these comments. He has since apologised for what was said, notwithstanding that it appears to be factually correct, and for all I know it may have been said in jest. But the story does not end there. There's a possibility that this could end up court and that the fellow concerned could find himself in very hot water. It's all rather unsavoury. With all of this in mind, please understand my restraint when putting together this column, and why I may be reluctant to include emails from readers, or full length articles from readers in the readers' submissions section, as I seek to exercise a greater level of care about what is published. Even just a throw away comment on a local discussion forum or a less than complimentary photo, like the one above, could result in problems.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick