Stickman's Weekly Column January 15th, 2012

The Bar Industry, A Victim Of Its Own Success



The sisterhood was parked up at The Old Dutch, in the middle of enemy territory, glaring at all around them. The young Western females were clearly unimpressed with the carry on, aghast that so many Western guys were having a good time. Older Western couples sat nearby, more relaxed but not entirely at ease. The more daring had ventured inside the bars. On Friday night, I was doing my rounds and sat watching Western couples who in turn were watching some of the spiciest shows around at Sheba's, Suzie Wong's and no doubt plenty of other venues. Watching the Western couples, he was trying not to beam in delight. Who knows what was going through her mind.

Friday night in Soi Cowboy wasn't a one off. As I took in the pleasant weather for a Saturday stroll, catching a bit of sun, hunting for pomegranate juice and taking some time to think about just what I would do for Sunday's opening piece, the deal was sealed when I passed the afternoon crowds in soi 4. A Western grandmother watched proceedings from the Golden Beer Bar while two Western chicks looked lost in Strikers, opposite. Down the road in Bus Stop – admittedly not quite as racy a venue but where some staff are available – Western women sat out front watching the comings and goings on one of Bangkok's most infamous sois.



Golden Beer Bar


The inundation of Western women into Bangkok's nightlife districts is turning popular bar areas into mainstream tourist areas, changing the atmosphere from anything goes to something more like, be careful, she knows. In a country which had an unenviable reputation for sex tourism, nightlife areas are facing a challenge that none of us ever anticipated.

No bar area has changed as fast as Soi Cowboy which just a decade ago was a dirty lane, sufficiently non-descript that it was left to its devices and allowed to operate as it pleased.

Soi Cowboy was where locals drank. Tourists preferred Nana and while the odd stray stumbled through, it was as if Western women didn't exist.

Cowboy was like a small Isaan village with all that comes with it – friendly, happy, laid-back locals with a ready smile – right in downtown Bangkok. It was obviously a nightlife area, but there was a lack of sleaze.



Soi Cowboy


The backdrop may have been crummy, but the service was always friendly. Irrespective of the size of your belly or the size of your wallet, you were always welcome.

Soi Cowboy was gentle and some girls almost seemed innocent. You knew what it was, a nightlife area, or to call it what it is, a bunch of bars with hookers. But it never felt like that. Commercial it wasn't – and as such, there was no appeal to Western women or other outsiders. A tourist attraction it most certainly was not!



Soi Cowboy


Investment poured into Cowboy from 2000 onwards. Venues changed hands, many were upgraded, some bars merged, yet the village charm remained. Most girls still lived above the bars, unlike today.

When Dollhouse opened their second branch and announced their arrival in with the massive sign that survives to this day, passersby on Asoke couldn't resist peering down the visible soi. Cowboy was now on the map.

The erection of that great sign coincided with the accelerating commercialisation of Sukhumvit's bar areas. The internet was no longer for geeks only and it wasn't just whispers from friends in the Orient that brought newbies to Bangkok. Websites lured many. As it started to become more commercial, Soi Cowboy's quaint charm waned. The tourists came in increasing numbers.



Soi Cowboy



As Soi Cowboy became more popular, street vendors became permanent fixtures, the Indian nut brigade and watch sellers arrived along with the other pests that successful tourist areas attract.

The changing appearance of Cowboy was matched by changes in customers. What was mostly an expat area now attracted tourists too. The odd mainstream tourist wandered through, but Patpong remained the hot spot for visitors who wanted a glimpse of Bangkok's famed naughty nightlife.



Soi Cowboy



As the bar industry mushroomed out into the public eye, I speculated about its future. Could it last?

I always felt that one day the authorities would say enough's enough and either put in place new laws, or enforce existing laws making it difficult for bar owners. As I came to understand the industry more, I realised how many people of influence had their fingers in the pie and how unlikely any intervention was. No-one wants the golden goose to kark it.

For those who live for their few weeks a year in Bangkok's bars, the arrival of Western women into your playground may be a worry. Bar areas are becoming mainstream tourist attractions in their own right, attracting a crowd which may make naughty boys think twice about what they do, and how they behave.



Soi Cowboy elephant


Nightlife industry trends tend to start in Bangkok, and follow in Pattaya. This time it's the other way around. Pattaya's Walking Street has gone mainstream already, where the tourist crowd is more cosmopolitan. Naughty boys seem less concerned at being watched by Chinese or Indians or Russians or Iranians.

In Soi Cowboy it's your sisters, your aunties and your female colleagues. They're women from your country, from Farangland! These mainstream tourists aren't passing by, they're spending hours there, eating, drinking and watching you! And in Soi Cowboy The Old Dutch is their preferred spot.

The dynamic has changed. Regular church-going folk are now visiting the Church Of The Bloated Bladder.

How will punters feel gallivanting around with their whore du jour as Western birds watch on? How will they feel when Western women point a camera at them? How will they feel as Western women attempt to capture the money shot, the stereotypical super-sized foreigner arm in arm with a scantily-clad Thai girl young enough to be his daughter, the ultimate Bangkok souvenir for the sanctimonious Western bird!



Soi Cowboy



The influx of Western women poses a challenge for owners. These women represent bums on seats, after all. And for the Thai girls, curious Western women presenting a friendly face are a pleasant change from being poked and prodded. The girls in the bars seem to genuinely enjoy engaging with their Western sisters.

There is a possible solution, a solution that could be implemented at 2 of Bangkok's 3 major bar areas, a solution that would raise eyebrows, cause consternation from some quarters, but which could elevate the popularity of a bar area in the eyes of the hardcore naughty boys, the very customers the bars can ill afford to lose. It won't happen at Patpong for that hasn't been a true nightlife area for 20 odd years. The night market generates far more income than the bars which today are merely a backdrop.



Soi Cowboy



Nana and Cowboy are different. They're nightlife areas, with no pretension of being anything else. And Cowboy looks so good today that it is absolutely worth going out of your way to see.

So what about a solution? The bar areas are private property and owners are within their rights to prevent entry to anyone, which could include non-genuine customers. It has been talked about before – and some bars are already known to bar entry to certain types of punters. Could Western women join that list? It's unlikely.

I personally am ambivalent about the arrival of Western women. I don't participate so it doesn't affect me. But I do see fallout. And what if someone picked up one of the properties around the middle of Cowboy, knocked the front out and made it an open air bar and restaurant with a view up and down the soi. It would be a real money spinner, but would turn Cowboy on its head!

I firmly believe that the influx of mainstream tourists and the number of Western females venturing into the sanctity of Bangkok's bar areas, now seen by many as legitimate tourist attractions, will change the dynamic of the bars dramatically. With the bar areas, and particularly Soi Cowboy it seems, becoming a magnet for mainstream visitors, has the bar industry become a victim of its own success?



*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of the statue of Rama VI out the front of Lumpini Park, near the intersection of Rama 4 and Rajadamri Roads. So where was this week's mystery photo taken?! All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There are 2 prizes this week – a 500 baht credit at the Oh My Cod fish and chips restaurant, and a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues and home of Bangkok's best burger, Duke's Express.

Terms and conditions: 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. 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!

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 – An alternative to marriage.

Old men, young women and marriage. It puzzles me why these older men (I was born 3 weeks after Pearl Harbour) who want someone to take care of them don't just hire a live-in aide. You don't have to support their family, you can arrange for whatever level of companionship you wish, and you can replace them with proper severance if things go south. I do this myself with an older, but still cute, masseuse. She visits me at my hotel 3 times a week during my annual 3-month visit, provides 2 hours of massage which eases my neuropathy-fueled pains, showers me, cuts my hair and nails when needed, cleans the room, does the dishes, drives me to the mall or pharmacy or doctor, helps me shop, and brings a friend along sometimes to provide a 4-hand massage at no extra cost (it's so they can laugh and gab during the massage – I don't mind as they do a good job), and many times brings me a gift of fresh fruit. She does not spend the night and we have never had sex. I have met and dined with her pleasant Aussie husband and they live nearby in a very comfortable condo. All this costs me less than just visiting a commercial massage establishment an equal number of times, especially when you figure in the savings in transportation. She comes out ahead by not splitting her fees with management.

The pool bar scene in Bangkok today.

I have visited Thailand many times and fully exploited the bar scene and gogo bars. I hadn't visited Bangkok for 3 years and am amazed at the difference. I love a game of pool and a few cold beers and used to frequent both Gulliver's and Hilary Bar in Soi 4 during the day time as there was no shortage of players to have a game with and a chat. If there were no other players normally one of the girls would quite happily have a game. However my time in Bangkok was very different this time. Gulliver's empty all day until 8 PM. At no time were all 3 pool tables in play at the same time, just occasionally used by couples playing privately. Hilary Bar was quiet too. I went in there on 3 occasions and each time the bar staff just played on their own and never approached me for a game. It may be common practice now, but it seems very different from a few years ago. So is this normal, have things changed, are the girls getting lazier and can't be bothered?

Only in Thailand.

Your comments about the streetside bars along Sukhumvit underlines yet another Only In Thailand experience. While the legal bars are forced to close at around 2 AM, or earlier if the boys in brown decide to force them to close earlier for no reason other than that they can, the illegal bars set up along the road can operate with impunity all night long. I've even spotted some of them with the tic-tac-toe game on the bar, and all the 'bars' are complete with maidens who are happy to entertain you nearby at a price. It must make the owners of legal bars furious, and it is just one of many examples of why it is so frustrating to do business in Thailand. One rule for locals, another for foreigners.

Bar Bar Patpong

How a bargirl can double her money.

You mention a certain lass at Angelwitch who was barfined 5 times in one night. I'm reasonably certain that this lass had breast augmentation which has been paid for in spades by the punters. Months ago I was in Angelwitch just before 9 PM and I was talking with one of the dancers when the larger breasted lass returned. The woman I was talking with lamented that "She has already had 3 barfines tonight" and there was no mistaking the envy in her voice. Ah well, it's all semen under the bridge. Although I'm not a big-breast aficionado, the surgeon did an admirable job. Like so many of the other bargirls, if she could manage and invest her sizable income, she would have a very tidy nest egg. So many bargirls have so many encounters but ultimately have very little to show for their work. Even the prettiest ladies have a limited shelf-life and their chosen line of work tends to be detrimental in many ways.

Walking in South-East Asia.

Just what exactly is it with South-East Asians and walking? They have to be the most irritating bunch I ever come across with their uber slow walk. To make matters worse, they also appear to badly suffer from tunnel vision (perhaps mentally too but that's another story!). So often they will walk right into you, or zig zag on the path that they walk. The classic is when some fool is walking so slowly in front of you and you take the other lane to pass them – 9/10 times they will zig zag into your path. A pain in the hole it is – like a bunch of zombies. This is never an issue in North Asia by the way. Just what exactly is up with this lot? It touches on a point I firmly believe in, that most Asians don't have much of an appreciation for their own personal time – hence the slow walks, the long hours in the office pretending to work, staying on until the big boss (who wouldn't last 10 seconds in a western work environment) leaves. Therefore dare I say to 80 – 90% of South-East Asians – get a life!

Non-smokers vote with their feet!

I just wanted to say thanks for standing up for non-smokers. I've often wondered why it is that bars pander so slavishly to the needs of smokers. Recently they've knocked the front out of Hanrahan's, so now I'll have to go and hide in the far corner if I want to enjoy a smoke free meal, and I seldom go Bangkok Beat any more due to the stench drifting down from above.

Staffing challenges in Jomtien.

Our local western-owned and orientated, quiet, small restaurant that we have visited 3 nights a week here in Jomtien since last February has been through 19 waitresses. Only the owner's Thai wife and her auntie are there. Every other week there is a new staff member and I have totally given up trying to remember their names. The others had either disappeared when they hook up with a low life tourist with little or no money or the day after pay day. Not one ever gave the owner any warning or indication that they would not be returning to work the next day. I must say I used to feel sorry for these types of workers but if this is even remotely close to the norm then no wonder they receive such low wages and no benefits.


There's no need to check the calendar – I can assure you it's not April Fool's Day! The flavour of Soi Cowboy will change next month and what I hinted at several months ago will soon become reality. Joy Bar will be replaced by Cockatoo, and with a name like that it can only be Soi Cowboy's first…..drum roll…..ladyboy bar! I believe there is (was?) a ladyboy or two in Midnite but there's no dedicated ladyboy bar in Cowboy so this will be a first.

One of the most popular Western food venues in Bangkok for well over two decades, Bourbon Street's new branch on Soi Ekamai finally opened earlier this week. I reckon Doug has exceeded people's expectations by creating a venue that is nicer than the original branch. The new branch is a couple of hundred metres up Soi Ekamai on the left. Spread over a number of floors – 3 of which comprise the rooms of a boutique hotel and one of which is the kitchen – guests can choose to dine on the ground floor, mezzanine floor and the top floor. Bourbon Street doesn't quite have a rooftop bar, but the top floor has tables, a bar area as well as an outdoor balcony. Doug has kept the same prices and with a fabulous new kitchen that looks like it would meet the needs of the best chefs, the quality of food should be as good as it always has been. There's a perception that Ekamai is a long way away out, but the new branch is remarkably easy to get to. Walking from the Prom Pong BTS to the old branch took several minutes, whereas the new branch is just a 4-minute walk from the Ekamai skytrain station. There is limited parking outside but plenty more parking nearby. Check it out!

There's a curious new bar on the sub soi connecting Patpong sois 1 and 2 nearest Silom Road, a kind of hostess bar featuring Russian ladies. At last count there was the grand total of 3 Russian beauties – hardly the sort of numbers to call it a Russian bar – and in just what capacity they are employed, I am not sure. It's very much a Thai style venue so expect higher prices than your regular ground floor Patpong chrome palace. It might be that the target market is not foreigners at all, but Thais. Still, if Russian ladies appeal, it might be worth a visit.

The Pintsman is Bangkok's newest expat pub and opened just a couple of days ago. It can be found in the basement of the recently renovated United Centre on Silom Road, just down from the Sala Daeng BTS station, and opposite Patpong. It's not an Irish pub, but is in the style of some of the recently opened pubs with a relaxed pub atmosphere and emphasis on high quality food and a wide range of beers on tap.

The Dubliner has introduced a new lunch menu with several items priced at just 98 baht. The most appetising item on the menu to me looked like the beef burger with fries but I haven't tried any of the lunch specials yet.

Tenderloins in soi 33 is also promoting a lunch set. For 300 baht you get a choice of starter, main, dessert and tea or coffee. I have yet to try it.



So why haven't I tried either of these lunch deals yet? Because absolutely the best lunch deal in town remains Durty Nelly's on Soi Ekamai, next to soi 2. 275 baht gets you a superb 2-course lunch. I always start with the Caesar salad – which is amongst the best in town – and usually follow it with the chicken and mushroom pie. My usual dining companion, Lecherous Lee, goes for the beef burger – which he says is the best burger in all of Bangkok. It's huge and just too much for me at lunch time. The beef and Guinness pie is also highly recommended. The lunch deal runs from 11 AM through until 4 PM, week days only.

Down in Pattaya, Bangkok transplant Spanky's has brought its Bangkok shows so if you're in Sin City swing by and check it out. Spanky's shows vary from what you see in other bars and tend to be more upbeat and fun.

There's a big bash at Black Pagoda in Patpong on Monday, January 23rd with a customer appreciation hour from 10 – 11 PM when all drinks are free!

Typically the ping pong balls that customers can buy in Bangkok gogo bars to throw on stage cost 20 baht each. The girls leap around trying to grab them and then cash them in for 20 baht each, right? No! Actually, the girls only get 10 baht per ball in some bars. What happens to the other 10 baht? Straight into the manager's or mamasan's pocket? Nope, it goes into the tip jar to be divvied up at the end of the night amongst the service staff. That's the policy at Sheba's and Suzie Wong's, at least.

Speaking of Suzie Wong's and Sheba's, why is it that these two bars run by the same group and which feature similar shows and an equally attractive bunch of dancers seem to vary so much in customer numbers? Suzie Wong's always seems to be so much busier than Sheba's. Is it branding? The name Suzie Wong evokes thoughts of a sexy Oriental girl. Could that explain the difference in business? Is the name of a bar really that important?

The homeless Englishman mentioned in previous weeks' columns is still living below the steps leading up to the Nana skytrain station, between soi 6 and Pacific Place. Whenever I see him he is drinking, smoking or sleeping. He's clean shaven and isn't as dirty as you'd expect of someone living on the streets. He's nothing like as grubby as Michael the German was and one gets the feeling he might even have a little money or is the recipient of kindness from passersby. He seems to be missing a few chilies from his som tam and rants incomprehensibly. He needs help.



homeless foreigner in Bangkok



Bangkok homeless



If you're a naughty boy looking for a little adventure, take the underground to Petchaburi station around 11:30 PM, or later. Take exit #1 and walk north just a little to a road with railway tracks beside it. Late at night when the nearby massage parlours on Petchaburi, Rama 9 and Rachadapisek roads start to empty out, many of the girls head to this strip to look for a customer and from 11:30 onwards it's a happening place. The huge number of girls – we're talking hundreds and hundreds – sees an inundation of vendors who wheel along their carts and offer all sorts of tasty treats. Don't be put off by the fact that they are, it cannot be denied, street-walking prostitutes. For the most part these girls are much more attractive than most of what you find on Sukhumvit. Would I? You're asking the wrong guy. I don't do the wild thing with working girls. Odds are you won't have a problem if you do, but nonetheless, I'd suggest that you lock away your valuables and don't drink any drinks in her company and you should be just fine. Very few foreigners can be seen there, that is until the inclusion of this paragraph…!

I am reluctant to slate a business but when it concerns issues of safety, sometimes you just have to say something. I received a report from a very close mate, someone I trust entirely, about a nightmare experience with a well known visa run company that has a name that sounds similar to jackoff. Apparently once upon a time the company used to operate two full-sized buses daily and run them to the border and back, but business seems to be down and they have switched to small minivans. Minivan drivers in Thailand often have a notorious reputation and this is where the problem is. The jackoff minivan drivers are said to be Michael Schumacher wannabes and the drive to the border was so scary that my friend contemplated taking a taxi back. The driver reached 140 km/h at some points, locked up the brakes more than once and overtook when it was not safe to do so. His English was so bad that communicating with him was an exercise in futility. To make matters worse, the handling of the visas was said to be a debacle with no guide to help (not sure what that means?) and some of the customers were left wandering around in the no man's land between Cambodia, not know what was going on. This firm was once much respected and said to run a fine-tuned operation. Whether this nightmare was a one-off or others have experienced similar, I do not know.

Wat Po has doubled the price of entry – an entry price that is only in place for foreigners. This entry price now includes a free tiny bottle of water. Wat Po is a lot cheaper to visit than the Grand Palace and with the reclining Buddha it's still worth checking out.


Black Pagoda


In the last two weeks I have been contacted by a number of expat authors who have asked me to read and review their books, often e-books. I'm totally burned out on expat fiction and unless your surname is Moore, Leather, Barrett or Needham, odds are I will decline the offer of a review copy of your book. Of course, if you went to the trouble of changing your surname to one of the aforementioned, then I would have to review it, wouldn't I?! Seriously though, if you have a book that you want reviewed, send a copy to Bernard Trink at the Bangkok Post.

I know I go on and on about the risks of getting involved with a bargirl to the point that it upsets and irritates some readers, but a story I heard recently just reinforced why it really can be such a bad idea. A fairly high profile expat recently split with his wife, or to be more precise, she left him. He was quite upset at the departure of his wife of a number of years who despite being decades younger than him was, he claimed, his best friend. But what I thought would be the mind fxxx from hell is that she left him to return to the bar. Imagine that. You're married for a number of years and your wife leaves you not for another guy, who may be younger, or more handsome, or wealthier, but rather leaves you to offer herself to all and sundry. Thailand is home to many mentally fragile Western men. It's easy to see how this sort of thing might send some to join the flying club.

What is your trigger point? What is the point at which you would execute your exit plan and depart Thailand? You do have one, don't you?! It doesn't matter whether you are retired, employed, self-employed or just existing in Thailand, I reckon we all need an exit plan. It could be that we need to get out in a hurry because of a major problem such as a natural disaster, or it could be that our personal situation dictates it. Most I know who have a plan mention a trigger point that is a number i.e. their bank balance drops to a certain point at which they feel it would be prudent to go home. My trigger point is a little different. For me, it is going 3 months in a row earning less than I am spending – and not seeing signs that things will turn around. That's the point at which I would bail. It's not about waiting and waiting and waiting….until one is almost broke. To do so seems to me like madness. I am amazed when some in Thailand tell me they are down to their last few thousand baht! What is your trigger point?



Quote of the week comes from a mate, "For the boys in brown, the streets of Bangkok are paved with gold!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Phrakanong Pete, "Would I Have Been Happier in Thailand?"

A holiday boat trip in Phuket almost turns into disaster for some Aussie visitors.

Australian Federal Police and the Thais investigate claims of the fake rescue of children from sex slavery.

From the UK's Daily Mail, a Thai man holds a hatchet to hostage's throat in a desperate bid for hospital treatment.

From the Birmingham Mail, a Dad's frantic Thai search for his son is to be made into a Hollywood film.

A Thai government official's questionable behaviour at Bangkok Airport causes an uproar!

Apparently Slovaks are Thai sex workers' most preferred customers, Swedes the least.

Official figures released show tourist arrivals to Thailand leapt last year to almost 20 million!

The BBC reports that the US Embassy in Bangkok has warned of a possible terrorist threat in Thailand!

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: In Pattaya, to get a one year extension on my non-immigrant "O" visa (marriage), I have to wait about 4 months while they process the paperwork in Bangkok. Is there an Immigration office in Bangkok that I can go to speed up the process?

Sunbelt responds: You must apply for the extension where you reside and you must be able to provide proof of residency. Additionally, Immigration may want to visit or interview your neighbours. However, it should not take 4 months to process a marriage extension. The normal processing time is 30 days.

Question 2: I've recently set up a business in Chiang Mai and am trying to get a work permit but we're getting the run-around for, of all things, a food license. The business is a bar, but we also sell a bit of food (Thai & Western snacks and meals). Does every venue selling food, even a hole-in-the-wall noodle joint, require a food license? Or is it possible to argue, say, that we are too small a venue to need one, or we don't need one because we're not a restaurant, just a bar that happens to offer a bit of food?

Sunbelt responds: If your company objectives on the VAT application state that you are selling food then a food license is required in order to obtain a work permit. Sunbelt Asia can help you obtain all necessary licenses including food, alcohol and tobacco for a minimal fee.

Question 3: We are a farang / Thai couple, legally married abroad and have a mutual daughter, 7 years old who was born in Thailand. We have not and do not want to register our marriage in Thailand because we have a prenuptial agreement from abroad which favors me in case of a future divorce. My daughter's Thai grandma / papa has a chanote on a 28-rai land, rice field which they want to sign over to my minor daughter as a gift – not a sale. The family agree that the chanote is put in my daughter's name and the grandmother is the major person who takes care of my daughter's interests, renting out or the family making rice on this land. What persons need to go to the land office and what papers do we have to take along?

Sunbelt responds: Since your daughter is a minor, her mother must go to the Land Office with her and provide the following items:
1. The chanote (title deed) of that Land.
2. Birth certificate of daughter.
3. House registration of mother, daughter Grandmother and Grandfather.
4. ID card of mother, daughter, Grandmother, and Grandfather.
5. A letter of consent from your wife, the girl's mother.
6. You should prepare Government fee for transfer this case.
7. All documents must be copied and a signature on each copied page.
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience with land transfers and can handle the transaction for you at the Land Office.



motorbike taxi


It is not my intention to speak ill of bar managers or bar owners, but if you want to know what is going on in a bar, you're often better off observing what's going on yourself rather than asking those with a vested interest in a venue. I have mixed relationships with bar owners and managers and with most, I'd say the relationship is pretty good. With a few it is strained and then there's the odd character who doesn't care for me. From time to time readers tell me I have got this or that wrong and I should have talked with the owner who will put things right and tell me what is really going on. If you want to know about one particular bar, asking the competition is probably going to get you more truth than asking those running the bar itself! Who is going to come out and say, "Business is terrible because we have a bunch of hounds on stage", or "We had a great weekend until the cashier ran off with the takings when the bar closed on Sunday night" (as happened in a Pattaya bar recently). If you really want to know what's going on, the staff in competing bars, the nearby street vendors or even the local motorbike taxi rider will probably be able to provide a version of events not far from the truth.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick