Every week I bring you the low down on Bangkok's bars. I mention the bars that are doing well, those holding parties or promotions, highlight happy hours and from time to time might mention that such and such a bar has particularly pretty girls. It would be reasonable to expect that as I make my rounds, I might come across a little someone who interests me and with who I might decide to enjoy some private time. But that doesn't happen. I don't barfine girls at all. And no, I am not playing with words here. I do not barfine the girls and I have nothing to do with them outside of casual chit chat in the bars.
There are many reasons I don't barfine girls, some of which are obvious, while others reflect my quirks and personal preferences.
The main reason I don't get involved with ladies of the night is obviously because I am already involved with someone. I would hate to be cheated on and don't intend to cheat on the one I am with.
This is Bangkok and it would be easy to be naughty and the Mrs. would probably never know. But I would, and that's not something I'd be comfortable with.
Then there's the cost. A fling with a Thai bargirl may cost less than a similar dalliance in the West, but it's not cheap per se. The industry is tiered and no frills service is available to those on a budget, but in Bangkok the cost of fooling around can get pricey. Freelancers and beer bar girls may charge less – because they tend to be less attractive and as such, less desirable. Bangkok gogo girls ask for between 1,500 and 2,500 baht for an hour or so of fun. Skilled negotiators may be able to secure a discount and 1,000 baht might be doable, but such prices seem to be a thing of the past. So, 2,000 baht for her. Add in 600 baht for the barfine and to keep numbers even, 400 baht for a room. You're up to 3,000 baht. You can add in a drink for yourself and one for her, another 300 baht, possibly more. That's a total cost of 3,300 baht. $110, £70 or €80 equivalent, a decent wedge of cash.
3,300 baht in Bangkok can get you a fabulous dinner for two. A reasonable pair of shoes. An original 2011 Liverpool shirt. It could be 10 excellent pub lunches at Durty Nelly's…and the list goes on. 3,300 baht for what will likely be no more than an hour's fun hardly seems like good value.
Yep, you could get it much cheaper and if you wanted to go down-market, Pattaya's soi 6 has low prices, and arguably low quality.
But money is not the major concern. On a personal note, women working the bars where foreigners go are just plain not to my liking. Just as in the West I don't care for blondes, in Thailand I prefer a certain look – and women in the bars don't have it. 90% of women working in the farang bars come from a certain part of the country and they're just not my type. Some are gorgeous for sure, but I tend to prefer a different look.
Many girls have chosen to mar their body and tramp stamps are more common than ever. Again, on a personal note, a tattoo is a deal killer. Admittedly, more Thai women outside the bar industry are getting marked these days, but in nothing like the numbers of their bargirl sisters. And a good few bargirls smoke. Another instant turn off.
Some guys prefer the dirty girl look. I prefer the girl next door look, and that isn't easy to find in the bars.
Then there's the reports of bad test drives. On the forums, in the bars, and even from friends, you hear reports of girls promising the earth but delivering little. Whether it's a product or a service, a hamburger or a roll in the hay, it's no fun to order one thing and get another. In Bangkok at least, more and more guys are told they are purchasing one thing, but get another. Nobody's idea of a good time!
The attitudes of bargirls, particularly the prettiest gogo girls in Bangkok who receive massive interest, can be cold. Bargirl behaviour has deteriorated and while I don't mind having a drink with some, I would not want to get any closer to them than that. Those who have been in the industry a while can be coarse, crass and plain uncouth. Speak to them in their mother tongue and you quickly realise that some are as ignorant as they are arrogant.
A friend once said, "You only go for women you could have a relationship with which is why this lot don't appeal to you." Yeah, I want to be with someone I like, someone warm, and someone I could actually come to like.
I admire guys who are able to rationalize trysts with bargirls, arguing that it is just like availing yourself of any other service. One analogy is that sex with a bargirl is like getting in a taxi – you don't pay a second thought to who the previous passenger was. The thought that the girl you're about to leap into bed with and get down and dirty with has slept with 10 other guys – in the past week – is something I would find horribly off-putting.
The general consensus amongst those I know with experience of both bargirls and mainstream girls is that sexually, regular girls may be better. It shouldn't be any surprise really, as they want to be there. Notable exceptions are the likes of the Eden Club and Devil's Den
as well as the fetish clubs, where girls consistently get the thumbs up. While some bargirls may have clocked up serious numbers, when it comes to sexual confidence and skill, they may disappoint. I would speculate that age may be an issue and older women
in the industry tend to get better reviews. A generalisation, of course.
With so many different sexual partners combined with lackadaisical attitudes, disease has to be a concern. Survey after survey on the naughty boy forums indicates that the majority of guys have, at some point, done the dirty with a Thai bargirl without protection. Even guys who are vigilant with protection have the odd condom break. The chance of catching something from a woman who has had many partners would be a concern for me.
The availability of regular Thai women outside the bar industry means that there are other options. Older, traditional and conservative locals will tell you that the only Thai women available to Western men are of the paid variety. It might have been true 20+ years ago, but isn't now. The proliferation of Thailand-centric dating sites means there is an alternative. The Internet has been the game changer.
If they offered a discount, provided exemplary service and looked like they had just stepped out of a salon at Paragon, would I be up for it? Nah, I don't think I would. I wouldn't want to be like those Westerners who gloat about all the Thai women they have been with who would in fact be a Thai virgin if they had never paid for it.
Thai bargirls are a great match for those who are lonely, those seeking a lot of sex or sexual variety, those with kinky fetishes and those who prefer the lack of complications that can come with relationships.
If you are happy and she is happy, great! But between the sheets, bargirls hold zero interest for me.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Christies, the first bar you come to when entering Sukhumvit soi 33. 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 WEEK – Will Westerners ever learn?
A lot of the problems caused by foreigners in Thailand are due to the lack of being discreet. And not only in Thailand, but also in Angeles City, where the mayor has asked bar owners several times to reduce the number of door girls to a maximum of 2 and to be more discreet in their dress. It worked for a few days then it was back to 'normal'. No wonder the locals are fed up with farangs. I remember when I was at Immigration at Jomtien and a farang came in with his teeruk. It was very obvious that she was not wearing a bra and she was kicked out of the office like a dog. Look at the clubs run by Russians at Pratumnak or North Pattaya which are much more discreet. They seem to be smarter. And also the bars run by Koreans in Angeles with no crazy door girls! When will Westerners learn?
Border town shame.
I flagged a cab on Petchaburi Road and the cabbie was not from Isaan but from Hat Yai. He asked me about my country once I said I was Malaysian and we talked about the border trips by Singaporean and Malaysian men for their share of fair and lovely Thai women. The cabbie was unhappy that his country's women were being used for sex. In Hat Yai, we are tolerated because it brings money and work. Discretion is evident in the many resorts found on the outskirts of Hat Yai but the border town, Sadao, is like Sukhumvit 22, or Soi 7, there without any shame. I left the taxi and the gentleman from Hat Yai with many thoughts.
A bit of respect is needed.
So many of us seem to forget that the general public in Thailand are a reserved lot and the industry of which we speak is frowned upon. It may be a cash cow, but it is still looked down on. We will still come and visit in our droves, but I feel that we should play our part, and treat these girls with some respect. The way some of us carry on is disrespectful and at the very least demeaning to these girls. Walking around bare-chested or worse, once I saw a Nana Hotel resident sitting in the Golden Bar wearing a pair of budgie smugglers and a singlet. I can't think of a bar outside of Jamaica that would let you do that! We should remember that this is just a job for these women, a job to which some are drawn to out of desperation and purely for the money. It is just a job and they work long, hard hours. Maybe the way forward is to take a step backwards and do as they do elsewhere and keep the industry to a confined area? Enforce a dress code or even go as far to remove the street girls?
A secret plan to send things to Pattaya?
I've got this theory that there was an unspoken, unannounced plan started under Purachai to cut back the farang style nightlife in the capital and shove it on down to Pattaya, thus the endless closing hours confusion, the high rate of peepee tests that went on, the closing of the gogo area that had started up near Thermae, the donning of bikinis at Patpong and Nana and for a while at least, at Soi Cowboy. Not on moral grounds, just to get the public display and accompanying riff raff out of Bangkok to a place where it would make no difference – Pattaya. Meanwhile, Asian-style nightlife in Bangkok, especially around Rachada and the thousands of small massages places expanded quite a lot.
Homeless in Sin City.
A Thai told me that the guy you photographed sleeping on Beach Road cannot go back to his country because the police are looking for him. Some Thais told him to stay in a temple which would be better than living on the streets of Pattaya, but he refused. He would like to find work but how can he be accepted by an employer? Some people support him, but for how long I wonder. And the crazy German is still hanging around Soi Buakhao and Soi Diana. Policemen walk by but just ignore him.
Refusing to open their wallet.
I believe economic forces already prevail which is why some bars keep Indians out. I've seen countless groups of Indians over the past year or two walk into a bar and refuse to order a single drink. Maybe I'm just seeing the exceptions, but it seems mamasans are getting wise to them. I work for an IT company that employs some 1,500 Indian engineers, and I get to hang out with them occasionally on overseas jaunts. They are reasonably well-paid, but to a man they are pretty much the same tight-fisted bunch I see trying to score a free hour of eye-candy in the Bangkok bars. If I owned a bar I would screen them out too, purely on economics.
A health warning.
I have no patience for people who tell me how the obesity epidemic in Thailand is caused solely by Western fast food. After all, as you've noted before, Thai food is far from healthy, what with all the sugar, sodium, and deep-fried dishes. Not to mention the ubiquitous use of palm oil, coconut milk, chicken skin, eggs, and fatty cuts of meat. Add in the industrial and traffic pollution in Bangkok, the noise pollution present throughout the country, a fatalistic approach to road safety, and the risk of contracting STDs, and you could justly conclude that living in Thailand will likely take years off your life.
Another health warning.
Many farangs worry about STDs and HIV and those of us with a moral conscience have a check up when we meet a new partner. I was clean on both accounts but was shocked to learn that I had the classic Asian virus, Hepatitis B. My gastrologist stated that most people that had it as acute as my levels usually also contracted liver cancer. I only had a sight infection but needed immediate treatment. He could not give me anti-virals to treat it due to my alcohol consumption so I immediately stopped drinking. After drinking every day for 33 years, culminating in approx 8 pints of beer and half a bottle of Vodka / day, the sudden cessation came as a major shock to my system and less than a week later I came to intensive care having suffered a heart seizure. Once over the seizure I made the decision to seek professional advice for alcohol detoxification and am now 4 days in to a 10-day program as an in-patient at a very professional hospital. It is turning out to be a lot easier than expected. I would advise readers to test for Hepatitis B. Most hospitals and clinics don't test for it and it can be a killer.
There was much speculation in this column several months back about the future, or lack of it, of the Checkinn 99, that venue with a cult following which is reached by a narrow walkway off Sukhumvit Road, not far from soi 5. It can be confirmed that the venue is still going and from all accounts is doing ok.
I'll no longer be able to refer to Wall Street bar in Sukhumvit soi 33 as the Kiwi consulate on Sukhumvit with the bar about to change hands and the Kiwi connection no longer. A brave man it is who buys a bar on Sukhumvit soi 33 where few bars seem to be doing much trade these days. I wish the new buyer every success.
The rumour mill had it that Bull's Head would soon be under the management of another group of bars, and it was even said that a note posted on the door verified this. I went along to the site of the Bull's Head and can confirm that the venue has been stripped, all of the signs for the venue removed and the only notice on the door is a court order against the Bull's Head!
Readers have challenged my comments and reasoning where I dismissed the idea that there will be a Nana Plaza II, the nickname given to a possible replacement complex for the existing Nana Plaza which may be no longer come the end of next year. I dismissed the idea that a complex of new gogo bars could open up in that neighbourhood, as Nana is not a designated entertainment area so no new gogo licenses can be issued there. "But this is Thailand", readers say, intimating that a deal could be done under the table! That sounds all fine and dandy in principle, but it won't happen. And why not? Existing bar owners with a gogo licence paid a premium for a property with a gogo licence, and would be most upset if such a complex started up and new gogo bar licenses were issued when they shouldn't be. Ratting out the competition to the authorities isn't unknown in this industry – and for that reason, and that reason alone, there is no chance any new gogo licenses will be issued, and therefore no chance of a replacement gogo bar complex being built in the Nana area. Don't misinterpret what I have said. I hope Nana stays in its current format, I really do.
Some are hoping for a rather less auspicious end to Nana. Some condominium building owners in Sukhumvit soi 4 hope that Nana Plaza will be pulled down, the night spots up and down the soi disappear and the area's reputation change, all of which they anticipate will result in the value of their property shooting up.
Carlsberg draught has been available in Thailand for some time now. The good news is that bottled Carlsberg is now also available. And better still, it is selling around the same price as locally produced beers! Bar4 is one of the first to stock it and is selling the imported brew for just 65 baht until 8 PM and 85 baht after that. A fair price for a fine drop!
The snooker legend himself, and one of the most attractive players to watch, Jimmy White is expected to be at the opening of the Jimmy White Sports Bar in Jomtien. When you hear of such a famous name being associated with a venue in Thailand, it's easy to think something untoward is going on and the person's name is being used without his permission but Jimmy is associated with the new venue and will be there himself for the opening. The bar will be above a new English pub in Jomtien which it is hoped will open around the middle of next month.
One of the financial advisor set will have to work doubly hard this month after his life mirrored the world markets this past week and he took a financial hit himself. No, it wasn't the markets that he succumbed to, but the charms of a country girl! This Brit (why is it that almost every "financial advisor" in Thailand is a Brit?) took his chosen tilac back to his place and awoke to find 9,000 baht had been removed from his wallet. The girl wasn't stupid and took steps to make finding her difficult, deleting her photo from his mobile phone. While he might count himself lucky that the phone didn't go too, I wonder if he knows how easy it is to undelete deleted photos from a mobile phone. I bet she doesn't know how easy it is! Time to run an undelete program and go back to the bar where he found that little tilac.
It used to be that guys told industry girls their problems and the girls would sit there patiently and listen, nod their head at the right time, smile, make all of the right noises and generally show some sympathy. That might still happen, but what I see happening just as much these days is that it is the girls telling the guy about her problems – read: the service provider telling the paying customer of her problems. And just as she once did, he sits there patiently, nods, listens and offers his sympathies! It's nice to learn about people's lives, but is it not her job to entertain? I don't know why some guys put up with this, I really don't!
Speaking of Cowboy, does anyone remember #2 from Tilac, that tall, attractive but completely bonkers bird?! She may have been pretty, but as her reputation for being a party animal spread, she didn't get barfined as often as you'd expect for such an attractive lass. She can now be found at Rainbow 4 where her reputation has not caught up with her yet, and her barfine rate is through the roof!
Whatever happened to William, the chatty, football-mad Brit who for many years was a fixture on Patpong soi 2 outside Super Queen, where he was the greeter? I had hoped to interview him but never got around to it and the next thing I know, a few months back, all of the bars in Patpong soi 2 where he used to work were torn down! I did the rounds of Patpong this week looking for him and could not see him anywhere. William can be seen in the photo below in the blue shirt and black trousers.
You have to laugh at crackdowns here in Thailand. On page 3 of Wednesday's Bangkok Post was a report with an accompanying photo outlining a raid carried out the previous day on vendors selling sex toys and copied ED drugs on Sukhumvit Road. Those selling the contraband had been raided, the contraband seized, and it was implied that the problem was no longer. Walking along that stretch of Sukhumvit at lunch time that same very day, I counted more than 20 vendors offering the ED drugs for sale. There were also about a dozen with adult toys on display. Others were advertising porno DVDs and touts offered to take you to a massage parlour. Has anything changed?
And I notice the adult toy trade has made it over to Patpong where they are offered by some vendors on Silom, between the skytrain station and the night market. The range is staggering with far many different models available that are not openly on display on Sukhumvit!
Maximilian Wechsler, the guy behind a number of investigative reports that ran in the Bangkok Post last year, who first wrote about the crap for sale on Sukhumvit just seemed to disappear and his excellent writings that ran in the Post's Spectrum section on Sunday were missed. Maximilian is writing for the Big Chili and there's a most interesting report by him in the July issue about the Eastern European women who ply their trade in the Nana area. The Big Chili has always been a good read.
Novels in print might not sell in the same numbers today as they used to but obviously they still sell reasonably well because the local English language bookstore chain, Asia Books, recently sold for 40 million. That's US dollars, not baht!
Cherry's Restaurant in Pattaya is celebrating its 5th anniversary on Sunday, August 14, with a special 590-baht dinner that serious diners should not miss. The menu includes hors d'oeuvres, crab meat salad, smoked duck, chicken liver parfait, smoked salmon, parmesan cheese cream, lobster dumpling with champagne sauce, lemongrass sorbet, beef tenderloin and goose liver or baked monkfish with risotto, chocolate soufflé and coffee. The Third Road restaurant, which is opposite the big X-Zyte nightclub, also does an international buffet on Wednesdays and Saturdays for 325 baht (no ++ bullshit) that offers fantastic quality for the price. Included are some interesting dishes such as osso bucco and braised duck in addition to the usual carvery and Thai offerings.
New condos are going up all over Bangkok and it is often said that there is a glut of available condos for rent. You'd expect rents to drop, but they haven't. Owners seem to be asking what can only be described as silly money for rent. Some condo units have been vacant for years because the landlord won't drop their asking price just a few thousand baht a month. Seems a little silly to me.
Speaking of which, a long-time reader is looking for an apartment and would appreciate any leads, or contact from landlords with a unit to rent. He is looking for a condo within walking distance of a BTS station between Ploenchit and Ekamai. As a former landlord himself, he is a reliable tenant who will pay fair rent for a 2-year lease on an over-sized, unfurnished, 2-bedroom unit with a city view, balcony, pool, gym, and good kitchen, ideally on a high floor. Agents will be considered but the deposit will only be handed over to the actual owner! You can contact him by sending email to me which I will forward on.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Bangkok's famous nightlife is still being used for marketing to make Bangkok seem like an "exciting" destination, but it is actually less than Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and even Singapore!"
A Brit left to die in a Thai prison has finally returned to his homeland.
Illegal drugs continue to pour into Thailand, with a new route over the Mekong River.
An expat's throat is slashed as he is brutally murdered in Phuket.
An interesting question and answer ran in the Bangkok Post this week about an expat who married a Pattaya hooker.
CNNGo reported on the arrests of the fake sex drug pushers on the streets of Bangkok.
Those busy boys at EnterThaiment ran an interesting interview with me this week.
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.
Question 1: I set up a legally formed limited company, carried out by a "lawyer", and after it was formed I obtained through the correct channels a business visa and a work permit. Unfortunately due to a poor exchange rate and the need to employ 4 staff and have a fully furnished office – which I never needed – to obtain my work permit & business visa, it all came to a head in April 2010 when I closed my company. I paid what I feel was a lot of money to close my company down, which I believe was carried out correctly by the same lawyer who formed the company. My question relates to how I know that this was done correctly. When I next enter the Kingdom, I do not want to be faced with a massive fine or even worse, arrested for say tax arrears or something not having been carried out correctly in the closure of my company. Is there any way of checking this which would put my mind at rest knowing that when my Thai wife, who was also a director of my company, and myself enter Thailand, it will not cause us any problems.
Sunbelt Legal responds: The lawyer would have obtained a letter of closure, and he should have given you a copy. Additionally, if you are unsure you can confirm it at the Department of Business Development.
Question 2: I am a doctor in the USA who has taught a specialized technical course at well-known government and private universities in Bangkok for several years. I enter Thailand using a tourist visa, stating that the purpose of my visit is to see friends. I teach 10 – 20 hours over the course of about two weeks in Thailand, and then return home. When I have asked officials at the universities that employ me about the need for a work permit, I'm told not to worry. Is my current arrangement putting me at great risk of legal problems? If so, how best may I reduce this risk in a practical manner? Do I need to declare my income from teaching to the Thai government upon leaving the country?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Since you are working under 15 days you may apply for a work permit exemption which allows for "urgent and essential" work for up to 15 days. Apply for a Tor Thor 15 signed by both yourself and the Director of the company or school. This would allow you to work legally for the short period of time that you are in the country. You would need to apply for a new one each time.
As a keen follower of the international markets and economics in general, I have been glued to my computer screen and engrossed in various newspapers and business / economics news websites, soaking up everything I can to try and understand what has been going on over the past few years, and what will happen in the near future. I am no expert, merely someone with some degree of understanding of what is going on and I cannot see any way out of this mess. Without a massive, co-ordinated effort, are we just buying time before some really bad stuff happens? I have to admit I hold real concerns for the future. Applying this to Thailand, I have noticed a drop in retirees from the likes of USA and the UK, two countries which have been hit harder than most, countries with serious financial issues. Some time ago I wrote that the Thailand retirement dream would become a challenge for many due to rising costs in Thailand, but the way things are going makes me think that the issues these financial superpowers are battling within their own borders may have an even greater impact on whether their citizens can retire abroad or not. Will there be fewer Westerners retiring in Thailand in the future? And is that just one aspect of the pain that is to come….?
Your Bangkok commentator,