K' Road is where Auckland's red light district used to be. An old mate, Nick, was a bit of a pervert who always had sex on his mind and couldn't stay focused on or talk about much else. He was a year or so older than me and had a driver's licence and a car before me. In our teens we would go cruising around K' Road late at night for a look and a laugh. I remember big, hard-looking, ugly women standing on street corners, older women, women who appeared drunk or on drugs, and transvestites. It wasn't pretty and was nothing like Bangkok's naughty nightlife areas….or was it?!
Thailand's naughty nightlife industry was never part of the country's draw when I first visited, but when a mate and I stuck our heads in Phuket's Rock Hard A Gogo in the late '90s – one of the best bars at the time – we were amazed. There were so many slim, pretty, friendly and amazingly, incredibly polite women. This was nothing like the odd strip bar we had been in back home. Not only were the girls all slim and friendly, we were told they would stay with a customer all night long and the cost was negligible. It was easy to see attraction.
The thing is, that was 15 odd years ago and things change.
The same friend I first visited Phuket with in the '90s was in Bangkok recently and escaped the clutches of his wife for a boys' night out. In the bars, he couldn't believe how things had changed. The women were big. Many were rude. Prices were high and that tenderness that Thai women are known for was gone. The women for the most part were hard. He used to see the attraction. But not now.
I don't know what all of the fuss is about with Bangkok's naughty nightlife these days. The industry has changed markedly and it seems to me that the main attraction no longer exists.
I have said for a while that the girls in the bars are much less attractive today and browsing photos I took 10+ years ago, and perusing snaps posted online from naughty boys taken 20+ years ago, one thing's clear. The women working in the bars used to be slim. Many in the bars today are overweight, even the gogo bars which seldom had fatties on stage.
Western men in Bangkok bars are bidding against each other, pushing up prices to silly levels that may exceed what you'd pay in the West. Long-time often becomes short-time and short-time seldom lasts more than 30 minutes. Amazingly a quick bonk in Bangkok can cost well in excess of $100 today, maybe as much as $150 if you include the cost of a few drinks, the barfine, a room, the girl's fee, to say nothing of amortizing the cost of air travel. Where in the Western world can you not find a quick naughty with a reasonably attractive lady for $100? Even in ultra-expensive Hong Kong you can find a stunningly attractive lady on Sex141, the likes of which you simply cannot find in the farang nightlife districts of Bangkok, and spend an hour – a full hour – with her for less than $75 all up.
The industry is growing, but perhaps not for the better. The major growth area in Bangkok's foreigner centric naughty nightlife has been street bars which first appeared in the Nana area a few years back. Opening late, they're all over the busy part of Sukhumvit, from the Nana intersection where they are most concentrated, down to and across the Asoke intersection, all the way to soi 22. Drinks prices on the street are much the same as in bars in the popular bar areas. You get a dirty plastic seat and scary women to keep you company. And there are barfines just the same.
What set whoring in South-East Asia apart was not so much the looks of the girls, or the cost, but the service. Specifically it was the girlfriend experience – where the girl would stay with the customer not just for the night, but for the duration of his holiday, treating him as a real girlfriend would, perhaps even better. The girlfriend experience is all but over in Bangkok, is on the way out in Phuket and even in Pattaya, it's not that easy to find, at least not in the better bars with the pretty girls.
With higher prices for average looking women and no girlfriend experience, what's the point? Without the girlfriend experience there's a real argument that you might be better off in the West!
In the West the price includes the room and there is no barfine nonsense. There shouldn't be any communication issues. And your mattress actress won't be called in the middle of the act by some lovelorn sap half a world away crying on the phone and interrupting your session.
Earlier this week I was sitting outside a bar in Soi Cowboy, watching the world go by, taking a few snaps, just chilling. Sat nearby was an early 30s, good-looking Aussie – judging from his accent – who I'm sure would have no problem getting a nice girlfriend back home. He was sitting with a bird he'd just barfined from another bar. She was fat and ugly – which I'm convinced would be an accurate description in most people's eyes. She was openly making fun of him. She asked where they would be going next, intimating that he should take her for dinner while reminding him that she had to leave him by midnight. And this was a hooker he was paying!
What I see in many Bangkok bars these days resembles what I saw on Auckland's K' Road with my old mate, Nick. Yes, you can find slim, attractive girls in the likes of Las Vegas, Billboard and Bacarra. Yes, you should be able to find a girl who is polite and sweet if you come across one fresh from the countryside who has yet to be marred by the industry and poisoned by other girls. You might be able to meet a lady to go to your room for less than it would cost in the West, if you shop around, or you wait until the end of the night. You might even be able to get a lady to spend a few days with you if you really hunt around. But getting all of these? Good luck!
Bangkok's foreigner centric bars have been turned on their head and the state of things has become the elephant in the room. Many women are seriously overweight and many are, let's be honest here, just plain ugly. The prices guys are paying in many cases are higher than what they would pay back home when you consider that they're often getting just half an hour. Many girls are hard, rude, manipulative and just plain insulting. The girlfriend experience will soon be just like Clinton Plaza and Bernard Trink, consigned to bar history. And you know things have really gone awry when there's an argument for the prettiest girls in Soi Cowboy to be found in Cockatoo. A lot of what goes on in Bangkok's foreign bar areas today is just as I remember K' Road. Farangland has been replicated in Bangkok!
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken at the end of Khao San Road, in front of the templeand opposite the police station. 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 new prize, a 300 baht voucher for use at Sunrise Tacos. And if you haven't tried Sunrise's pies, you should. Their cherry pie is sensational!
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The 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 – Sweet girls and foul language.
I couldn't agree with you more regarding foul language. What I have noticed among some well-educated Thai women using Facebook is that they seem to think it's cool to use English swear words when writing online. Words like "[email protected]%k, [email protected], mother [email protected]%ker are common, particularly it seems when directed at ex-boyfriends. I know these people well and I am pretty confident that they would never use similar language in Thai and I've never heard them use it in spoken English. I think if they realised how respectable people view women who use that kind of language they wouldn't do it. One of the offenders is one of the sweetest girls you could ever meet but when I see her use language like that it does taint my view of her slightly.
Another hot head.
I was strolling around Terminal 21 taking in the architecture and the atmosphere. I came up to one of the railings on the 3rd floor near the escalators and stood for a while just to feel the huge, busy urban space. I vaguely noticed a young farang guy with a Thai woman out of the corner of my eye. I was standing maybe 10 feet away from them, minding my own business. As you know, there's quite a lot of ambient sound in there and the acoustics are pretty "dead" so I couldn't hear anything they said, nor was I in the least interested. I did hear one loud "fxxx" coming from that direction, but I ignored it. Suddenly, this furious crop-headed character was in my face, barely containing his rage and shouting, "Will you fxxx off! I was fxxxing trying to talk to my girl!" I was kind of shocked and started to say "Well, I wasn't listening to whatever you were saying…" when he walked away, muttering enraged "fxxxs" all the time. Now my reaction was quite similar to the Thai woman in Benjakit Park. I ought to just dismiss the incident as an encounter with an uncouth lunatic and forget it. But instead I've been mulling it over, wondering if I had actually erred in some way. I certainly have no intention of tracking the guy down and presenting him with a written demand for an apology, but I've decided I was indeed wronged. The incident does bring to mind a few issues, though. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and not only in Thailand. But especially here, he runs the risk of getting his clock cleaned by some big bruiser someday. I made a personal resolution not to use that kind of language in public ever again, because it really does just reflect badly on the person using it. And assuming that the guy was having some sort of intense discussion or argument with his girlfriend, just how much right to privacy do we really have when we're conducting personal business in a public space? If I had been eavesdropping, would that have been so wrong when the guy is airing his dirty laundry in public anyway? If it had been me and I saw someone I thought was listening in, I guess I would have just taken the lady's arm and moved further away. There's certainly plenty of open space and no-one "owns" any of it.
What the F word says about you.
I agree with you 100% regarding the use of the "F" word in Thailand. For me the same applies anywhere in the world. I, like almost every one speaking the English language, have used this word but I do not use it lightly. When I am in Thailand I sense the Thais do not like to hear Farang saying this word. I refrain from using it unless it is once in a while and is in a funny, non-cursing way. The only Thai people I heard who used the F word here a couple of hardened professional Thai bargirls and I avoided them like the plaque. They were just too far gone in the business. I do believe that in many cases, not all, that cursing tells a lot about one's background, education, class and personality.
Changing Pad Thai for Pho.
The amount of unexplained foreigner deaths in Thailand is truly frightful. Unexplained too in the sense that the powers that be don’t want the answers known to the international media. As long as the façade has the appearance of being squeaky clean, it matters nothing what lies beneath. Day by day I am tiring of Thailand. Whilst I have no plans of returning to Australia, one day soon I might be changing Pad Thai for Pho.
Treating psychological disorders.
The subject of the treatment of psychological disorders such as depression in Thailand is an interesting one. It has often been mentioned how excellent (and comparably affordable) the treatment of illnesses can be at some of Thailand's better hospitals. However, as it's the case with most developing countries, the treatment of psychological disorders appears to be in its infancy in Thailand. It's a well known fact how quick many doctors in Thailand are to prescribe antibiotics even for minor physical ailments, but what I've personally found really shocking is how this appears to be also true for cocktails of strong sedatives and anti-depressants. Following the instructions of the doctor she had first consulted at a government hospital, my ex-girlfriend turned into a dysfunctional zombie until I convinced her to see a private doctor who totally reversed the treatment, yet still relied on a lengthy treatment involving a strong cocktail of drugs.
On my first ever visit to Rangoon in 1983, the duration of the flight was taken up filling out copious immigration forms on which one had to detail every denomination of cash one had on one, like 3 x 100 baht notes, that kind of thing down to the last detail, coins too, travellers cheques, how many and in what currency etc. The captain came over the plane's intercom to say the time difference between Bangkok and Rangoon was 45 minutes whereas, in reality, it was more like 45 years!
A number of Soi Cowboy bars are currently open through until 3 AM, giving the 100-metre long lane an extra hour to party over the bars in its major rival, Nana Plaza. Some venues are open until 2:30 AM, some later. I guess it's worth noting if you're a naughty boy arriving on a late flight.
At the other end of the scale, early birds should note that dancers were on stage a little after 6:30 PM in Shark bar earlier this week.
The big rumour on Sukhumvit soi 4 this week is that the owner of Hillary Bar, who also happens to be the new leaseholder of the shophouses on soi 4 out front of Nana Plaza come next month, may expand her empire and Strikers Sports Bar could become the 4th Hillary Bar. I don't think this was ever part of the plan and with a very high asking rental price of 400,000 baht per shophouse, she might have bitten off a little bit more than she could chew and be forced to take on the lease and run the venue herself. This would not necessarily be a bad thing though as the Hillary bars in soi 4 have always been popular, and Morning Night Bar – the same owner – has been popular for years.
The DVD vendor who has been setting up a table and selling contraband outside various bars along Cowboy keeps getting the boot and is forced to find a new spot. Just like the other vendors on the soi, he needs permission from the leaseholder whose property he wishes to operate in front of – and no-one is keen to allow him out front of their bar.
The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy will be showing every Euro 2012 football match live on their big screen inside the bar. The venue recently installed a new system that allows them to get UK TV's BBC and ITV live.
The Catalana Tapas restaurant on the ground floor of Prime 11, the condo building on Sukhumvit soi 11 opposite Bed Supper Club, lasted less than a year and has closed its doors. It will be replaced by a 24-hour American style diner.
And further up soi 11, it looks like there will be more change as the soi's transition continues with the rumour mill saying that St. Moritz, the high-end gentleman's club will make way for a K-Village – a funky Thai-style low-rise shopping mall with plenty of decent eateries.
The Game, the newest sports bar on Sukhumvit, below the Nana BTS station, and in between sois 9 and 11, is showing all of the Euro 2012 matches live.
Several months back I reported that freelancing prostitutes were lingering at the porch bar outside the 5-star Landmark Hotel, availing themselves of happy hour prices and making sweet eyes with single guys dining or drinking alone. I was kind of surprised that a high-end hotel would allow the girls to operate there but then it has never had a problem with them in The Huntsman. In fairness to the girls, most are well dressed and not obvious. Anyway, it would seem that freelancers have found a similar location to try their luck early evenings – the New York Gardens on Sukhumvit beside soi 12. They tend to sit on the V8 Diner side of the large outdoor seating area where they nurse a drink until it's time to head in to their primary target market, Insomnia. It's quite clever because V8 Diner customers get entry in to Insomnia for free through the rear door that connects it with the V8 Diner – so the girls avoid paying the 300 baht entry fee – as well as marketing themselves to a different group of possible customers.
In last week's column I commented on the Mom + Pa operated convenience stores on Soi Cowboy either side of Dundee Bar. I asked why they hadn't been converted into nightlife venues and added that they could not become gogo bars as no new gogo bar licenses can be issued in Soi Cowboy. To understand why this is, you need to go back more than a decade when three entertainment zones were designated in Bangkok. They were Rachadapisek Road (where many of the city's biggest and most upmarket massage parlours are located). Then there is RCA, – short for Royal City Avenue – a street nestled in between Rama 9 and Petchaburi Roads and not far from Rachadapisek Road home to many discos, bars and Thai nightlife venues popular with a young crowd, read: teenagers and those in their early 20s. Neither of these areas is popular with foreigners. The third designated entertainment area is Patpong. *New* gogo bar licenses can be applied for in any of these designated entertainment areas. Outside of these 3 areas, *new* gogo bar licenses cannot be issued. Irrespective of whether a gogo bar with a current licence is located within a designated entertainment area or outside of it, all existing gogo bar licenses will be extended so long as the application meets the required criteria. Where a licence extension is declined, or the owner forgets to apply for an extension and the licence expires, a new licence cannot be issued. It is gone forever! This is what happened with Coyote Apache Bar in Soi Cowboy a couple of years back when it mysteriously transformed from a gogo bar into a beer bar / sports bar. As Soi Cowboy is not located within a designated entertainment area, no new gogo licenses can be issued and as such no new gogo bars will open. That is why the two convenience stores on Soi Cowboy will never become gogo bars. The same policy applies at Nana Plaza where no *new* gogo licenses will be issued – unless of course there's a law change.
The Strip seems to be holding parties almost every week these days. This coming week the foreign-owned gogo bar at the Silom Road end of Patpong 2 with the unique booths will host the Rock Never Dies Party featuring 3 nights of rock music from Thursday 21st until Saturday 23rd of June.
I get no end of grief, and some particularly nasty emails from the odd reader for being bold enough to suggest that trying to make an honest woman out of a woman who once worked as a bargirl can be a big ask. This is not a lack of respect for the girls as some seem to think. I simply don't see that these girls with all of the damage they incur are the best choice for a life partner. Women who spend time in the industry, sadly, can become seriously damaged and it can be a real challenge to have a loving relationship with a lady who has come to see her body and sex as a way of making money – and nothing else. I remain convinced that forging a genuinely happy, loving relationship with a mattress actress is beyond most. The more I observe the industry, the less chance I will change my mind on this.
Busted in Tilac! #95 was oblivious to the fact that her mobile phone, acting as extra bra padding, was ringing. It was amusing to see her smiling as a bunch of guys stared at her chest which was illuminated by the phone's screen flashing – which she wasn't aware of!
What is it with the Thais' love affair with their mobile phone? A mate was under the knife this week for a minor surgical procedure at one of Bangkok's big name hospitals. A mobile phone rang and the surgeon working on him stopped what he was doing and answered it! OK, so it was a very minor surgical procedure and for all we know it might have been a senior surgeon awaiting an urgent call, but it doesn't do much for your confidence in medical professionals when they take a phone call in the middle of surgery!
Sunrise Tacos will open its first branch in Pattaya proper, in the Big C on Pattaya Klang. The new branch is due to open on July 15th. There's already a branch over the hill in Jomtien.
American fast food lovers have a new choice with Carl's Jr recently opening a branch in Pattaya's Central Festival. There are plans for branches in Bangkok.
A western expat is required to manage a small boutique hotel & bar in the Suhkumvit area. Preference will be given to those with experience. Please apply to [email protected] with a photo and expected salary.
The Indian lucky man scammers are trying their luck at Lumpini Park, and there are some real smooth operators amongst them. I was caught totally off guard by one who approached me in the park this week, deduced where I was from and tried to charm me by saying my country has a good cricket team – which as any keen cricket fan knows is total bollocks. It was only then that he said that I was a lucky man and I realised he was up to no good. I can only speculate that their MO became known on Suhkumvit, or perhaps they were hassled by the authorities – which forced them to find a new hunting ground.
In recent columns I have talked about the challenge facing business owners hiring new staff. MANY restaurants and bars – both of the naughty and not so naughty variety – are struggling to hire staff. What is interesting, however, is that branches in the suburbs don't seem to have the same problem. Restaurateurs with suburban branches report no problems at all. Why is this? Is it that the salaries paid downtown simply aren't high enough to cover the cost of getting to and from work each day? Or could it be that applicants really would prefer not to have to sa-peak with and deal with farang?!
Quote of the week comes from a new reader who just discovered the site, "I have just returned from my 6th visit to Thailand and I have yet to visit a temple!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Talpan Nyody, "Thai Girls Online".
An American school teacher in Pattaya is arrested on suspicion of the dreadful crime of kiddy fiddling.
From The Nation newspaper, sophisticated high-tech cheating is uncovered in the latest police entrance exam.
Not Thailand-related, but an article in The Telegraph about the world's most remote hotels was quite cool, I thought.
A 21-year old Australian woman admitted lying when she reported to police she was raped by 3 Thai men in Phuket.
Phuketwan takes a closer look at tourism numbers in Phuket and suggests that they just don't add up.
A Thai woman is murdered on Phuket after allegedly having an ongoing affair with a British dude.
In a terrible tragedy, two Canadian sisters are found dead in a Phi Phi Island hotel room.
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 Thailand legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I have a criminal record in Thailand which dates back 12 years. I was charged with a very minor offence, the case went to the local court, I pleaded guilty, and paid a 2,000 baht fine. I was also given a 3 month prison sentence which was suspended for 2 years. I was never deported nor has there been any problem since entering and exiting the country, renewing my work permit or anything else. I was wondering what happens to the record. Is it wiped or does it stay there forever?
Sunbelt responds: Your criminal record remains but would only show up were it necessary to obtain a criminal record check from the Special Branch Police.
Question 2: I'm divorced from a Thai with two kids. When we divorced, we signed a contract outlining 50 / 50 custody, child support and other issues, but essentially I have half-time custody of my two children, who hold both Thai and US citizenship. After we divorced I gave up my Non-Immigrant O "Thai wife visa" and have been on a Non-Immigrant B visa tied to a work permit since. Can I get a visa based on the fact that I support my two kids here? If I can, what are the procedures in that case?
Sunbelt responds: If the children live with you and you were married before they were born, you can apply for a one-year extension so long as you have 400,000 baht in the bank or 40,000 baht a month in verified income. However, there have been reports of people who live in provinces outside of Bangkok having difficulties obtaining this kind of extension.
Question 3: I have a Hong Kong registered limited company. I live in Thailand but do not work here (apart from sending the odd email now and again from home). If I was to pay myself a small salary from my Hong Kong company into my Thailand personal bank account would I have to declare this or pay tax on it?
Sunbelt responds: The tax code says that if you live in Thailand for more than 183 days in a year and you earn at least 30,500 baht monthly then no matter what nationality you are, you would have to pay tax on this stated salary from outside Thailand. However, it is rarely enforced if someone states the money transferred is from their retirement funds saved. The local tax people may even reject the payment as there is no work permit from Thailand which has happened in some cases we are aware of where it was stated you need to have a work permit to file a tax return.
Over the years I've highlighted many of the common ruses, scams and general tricks used against Westerners in the hope that it might raise awareness and they can be avoided. Sometimes I get the feeling that no-one is listening. Sure, you don't have to listen to what I say and it's healthy to be skeptical. And I know plenty see this column as little more than entertainment; fair enough – but if you do take on board some of the warnings, it might save you the odd hassle or even some heartache. I am amazed how many guys still believe a Thai woman when she has been out of contact for days and blames it on a problem with her phone. Mobile phones are reliable! The coverage of mobile networks in the cities is excellent and most of the countryside gets a signal. Mobile network outages are rare. Thai women are very conscious about ensuring the battery in their mobile phone is charged and are reluctant to turn their phone off. If a mobile phone stops working, it can be fixed immediately and the cost is negligible. If it's knackered, a new one can be had for less than 1,000 baht. At least every other day I receive email from a guy in Farangland concerned that he has been unable to contact his (bar)girlfriend. If your lady friend cannot be reached for a period, assume she is entertaining someone else. Mobile phones don't mysteriously die and later come back to life. Network outages aren't common and don't last for days. Mobiles can be repaired in less than an hour for a couple of hundred baht. Don't be naive!
Your Bangkok commentator,