There's no shortage of flavours amongst bars of the naughty variety in Bangkok with gogo bars, beer bars, hostess bars, discos, and a variety of massage parlours all fighting for the naughty boys' baht. While there are hundreds of bars to choose from in downtown Bangkok alone, many have a similar feel. With fewer bar owners, many bars have started to feel like a branch of McDonalds – where everything is the same from the menu, the music, the prices and the atmosphere.
But if you take the time to explore a bit further, there are a few venues that offer something different, some that are almost unique, often occupying a niche of their own. The 4 venues profiled below all offer something a little different from the usual fare, and a couple are even an acquired taste. And in each venue most of the girls are available.
More than 10 metres above Patpong's soi 2 floats Black Pagoda, a venue which has been through various genre changes to arrive at its current format.
Often mentioned in this column, Black Pagoda frequently hosts parties and promotions. Perhaps best described as a gogo lounge, it has an almost unique atmosphere making it appeal to anyone looking for something just a little different.
Imagine a gogo bar set on a small bridge over Patpong soi 2 where the entire sides of the bridge are glass. Inside is comfortable seating, a couple of chrome poles, but the dance floor is absent. The girls roam around, dancing by the window and performing a free show for those below. Often a laser pointer is shone at passersby to get their attention. With no dance floor, the girls are free to flirt with customers and there's greater interaction between the customer and the girls with none of the waiting for the lady you fancy to stop her dance set before she can sit with you. Show interest in anyone and she can join you right away.
While the venue lacks the structure of your regular chrome pole palace, Black Pagoda features a more intimate feel. And if intimacy is what you're looking for, an adjacent building has comfortable rooms where liaisons are possible. This gives the venue something of a Pattaya soi 6 feel, albeit at prices well beyond Pattaya's naughtiest soi.
Drinks prices and barfines are in-line with what you'd expect in Bangkok gogo bars.
If nightlife is what you're ultimately looking for but are keen to try somewhere a little different, Black Pagoda is worth checking out.
One of two fetish bars in Bangkok's foreign bar areas, the other being Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33, Bar Bar offers punters a look at the dark world of fetishism.
Set over a couple of floors, a visit to Bar Bar is like starring in your spicy sex show. You can sit and be entertained in the main entrance area where various fetish paraphernalia is set up.
Bar Bar is not for the faint of heart and the layout of the venue means that shows put on for, and including, others might be enjoyed by you, just as a show the girls put on for you, and invite you to partake in, might also be enjoyed by others. Alternatively you can slip away into one of the dark – both in lighting and theme – corners and explore the world of fetishism.
Should you be overcome by amorous desires, it is possible to get to know your mistress or your slave better off the premises.
Pricing in Bar Bar reflects a concept in which private shows are an integral part of the experience. The first drink will set you back 900 baht although each drink thereafter is much cheaper. If fetishism is your thing or you intend to become a regular visitor, a 1-year membership runs 15,000 baht with a large number of drinks included, as well as greatly reduced drinks prices and many other benefits.
Set down a narrow walkway between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 is Checkinn99 which has graced Bangkok's nightlife for decades. The cabaret style venue with its retro decor, gracious service staff and fabulous house band Music of the Heart takes us back to a time when Bangkok was, as the venue's mamasan, Mama Noi, described it to me, very much about fun for fun's sake.
It has a certain style and much thought has gone in to the policies of the venue. While, for example, they have a large projector & screen, you will never see live football shown in Checkinn.
With a general manager overseeing the operation, Mama Noi looking after the girls, experienced service staff providing old-fashioned personal service and an owner present at the weekend who refers to himself as the caretaker, the venue doesn't suffer from that most common Bangkok bar problem – no-one present to keep an eye on things.
The Philippino band is excellent and Cherry, Grace and Donna could be mistaken for triplets. There's no doubt that they've unintentionally broken a few hearts over the years but don't bother trying – they're professionals, professional musicians that is and they are not available!
Personal service is a big part of the bar's success. The band welcomes each and every person who comes in, the owner often introduces himself to new customers and single guys can be sure that Mama Noi will make sure they are looked after.
Ladies are available and there are 20-odd girls on the books although this aspect of the venue is so subtle I bet many customers don't even realise the bar employs bar maidens. The only clue is the antique prints of topless Thai ladies on the alleyway to the restroom. Barfines run 500 baht and drinks are standard Sukhumvit prices, quite a deal when you consider there's no cover charge and the house band performs 5 sets each night. You won't find the most nubile nymphets on Sukhumvit and the average age of the ladies on the premises may be a little higher than elsewhere, but from all accounts they make up with it with service levels that see many barfined for a week or longer.
Checkinn takes us back to a more gentle era, when people were more polite, when life was less rushed and when there was pleasure in the simple things of life – good food, great music and charming company – all of which Checkinn has in spades.
You could spend the entire evening in Checkinn99, starting with a good meal from an unpretentious menu, followed by drinks, live music and dancing before you and a new friend waltz off in to the night.
Less than 100 metres into soi 22, Titanium sits in a different niche to the awful beer bars at the mouth of the soi that are an eyesore.
Known for its all girl rock band which the venue claims is the best in Thailand, Titanium has a modern club feel, complimented by staff decked out in dresses similar to Vietnamese ao dais.
What separates Titanium from other venues is the customer base which transcends that found in venues where barfining is possible. Thais and foreigners, expats and tourists, males and females, Titanium gets the full gamut. Titanium seems to appeal to those who would not dare step into the likes of Nana or Cowboy.
You could describe it is a small live music venue with staffing problems – there are too many girls on the premises so punters are encouraged to take them away for the evening! But, and this may be a big but, the girls of Titanium are not a sure thing. You know what you're getting elsewhere, not so in Titanium where some lasses can be barfined, taken away from the venue to be wined, dined….and then put in a taxi home! With that said, the current crop includes a former favourite from a notorious Pattaya girly bar.
You wouldn't call Titanium expensive, but then neither is it cheap. Drinks prices run a little higher than what you find in the gogos or British pubs and barfines are amongst the priciest in town, at a little under 2,000 baht.
Titanium features a very good band who pump the bar full of energy and create a real party atmosphere. It's a fun venue, well worth checking out, especially if you're into live music, but not for those on a budget.
Another bar worth a mention is The Office, the perennial soi 33 favourite, as good for watching sport as it is bird watching. The night shift dress up in seriously sexy outfits, many are available although like most of soi 33, the barfine will set you back more than elsewhere.
The beer bars and gogos of Nana, Cowboy and Patpong can be fun, but the formula hasn't changed and many venues feel like a carbon copy of another. It can get boring so it's nice to know that there are other options.
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the walkway above the Asoke intersection, looking north on Asoke-Montri Road. There is a voucher for Sunrise Tacos and voucher for Firehouse in Sukhumvit soi 11, known for its excellent hamburgers to give away each week.
Terms and conditions: 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! You MUST specify which prize you would like and failure to do so will result in the prize going to the next person to get the photo correct.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Welcome to Thailand!
My brother-in-law has moved from Australia to Thailand because he believes his young son can get a better education in a state school in Bangkok than he can in Perth. I don't know if insanity runs in his family, or if his brain was frazzled by his experience as a freight train driver spending countless hours alone in the Outback. He wanted to rent a car here, so he went online and made a booking. No response from the company so he called them. "Sorry sir, internet not work, we no have your booking." Okay, let's do the booking on the phone. "Sorry sir, cannot. Have to email your information." He offered to give them the information on the phone but that was too simple so the girl had to seek permission from her supervisor. "Okay sir, can do." Then the price he was given was over 2,000 baht cheaper than if he had booked online. In the real world, the internet rate is cheaper, but this is Thailand so the opposite applies. I said, "Welcome to Thailand!"
An open letter to the misogynists!
Does this sound like you? You had bad luck with women and you blame it on feminism. Or your ex-wife. Or Western Society. Or Christianity. Or your mother. You came to Thailand and you think you found the pot of gold, the fountain of youth, paradise on earth. You finally feel like a winner. If that's you here's what I want to say: Stop whining and suck it up. You were born white and male in the First World. You had more opportunities than 99.9% of the human beings who have ever lived on this planet. But you screwed up. You made some bad decisions and you were unhappy. It happens. Get over it. And for Pete's sake stop writing letters and blog posts and books (BOOKS!) about how you're some kind of Superman because you can pay for sex in Asia. Anybody can pay for sex in Asia. It's not rocket science. With twenty bucks in your pocket you can pay for sex ten minutes after you clear Customs. It's nothing special. You're not special. You're just a normal guy who feels sorry for himself and hasn't got the guts to keep on living without liquor and commercial sex. You're boring, so shut up.
Does she love you or your wallet?
I am not a total newbie or oblivious to the realities of bargirls and their ways. I generally treat everyone well until I am given a reason not to and I am willing to drop a few baht on lady drinks regardless of my intentions with a particular lady. I have developed a "friendship" with one of the girls at <Name of large and getting larger Bangkok beer bar withheld – Stick> and tend to treat her well (albeit I go with her only rarely) and she is always glad to see my wallet walk in the door. I generally buy her and her friends a few drinks before shuffling on with my day. But given the lengthy time I have known her (and yes, she outwardly seems so sweet and not hardened), I stupidly let my guard down and did not pay attention to my bill cup until I went to pay. Long story short, my bill was inflated to 8,000 baht from 1,500 baht in just an hour. I reviewed the bills and could not ignore that some were white (customer copies) and some green (bar copies); some were attributable to other tables; some to other dates; and some just pure fiction i.e. double whiskeys that nobody ordered. Caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she fled to the back room while the mamasan apologised and reduced the bill to its proper amount. It is worth reminding readers that no matter how good your friendship, it is always a bad idea to forget the game! I can't believe it happened to me and am now left to wonder how many times it has. I can't believe just how greedy the scam was and that she felt I would not notice (likely why she kept encouraging Tequilas). Egg on my face, I hope others can learn from my stupidity. Always check your bill! Lesson #1 ignored due to complacency. Never again. Chalk another bar off my preferred list.
Why is the third sex so popular in Thailand, but not in the Philippines?
Do you know that in the Philippines you never see ladyboys working in the bars? Why do the Thai bars allow such? I never heard a satisfactory answer from a mamasan. Usually they say something about how some customers don't mind this or seek this etc. My theory is that ladyboys tend to force the women to work for it. Their aggressive style of trying to "out girl" the girls, creates a situation where the real women can't kick back too much if they want to earn any money.
One way traffic.
The reader's submission Give Isaan a Break ignited some thoughts. It's very true that the family must be supported at all costs. I think we all know that. My wife is from Isaan and therefore I know and accept that part of the monthly allowance I give her goes up north. That's ok, we can afford it. The issue I have is for the daughters who go to work in another part of the country and earn 5,000 – 10,000 baht a month and still support the family. How are they ever going to progress in life with such a burden? It's just not fair. I know the way we think is almost the opposite to the Thais but how can any parent hold their head up high and be proud that their kids are suffering (even selling themselves) so that mum and dad can sit around the village all day doing nothing? I would feel pathetic. My in-laws are staying with us as our second daughter was born recently. Not two coins to rub together and absolutely everything has to be paid for or provided by me or my wife. Wouldn't you feel slightly ashamed if you couldn't buy anything for yourself? The financial situation is obviously different with my family but when they come to stay with us it is a regular competition for who is going to pay for the meal, drinks, taxis etc. Upon the birth of our daughter, gifts (even just cards) were sent from friends and family in the UK. Nothing was sent from Thailand. It's all one way traffic when it comes to money.
There seems to be a lot of interesting articles on HIV on the site now. I know my email to you won't be long enough for my 2 cents, but here it is anyway. If there is a 1 in 10,000,000 chance in catching HIV by not using a condom, I am using a condom 10,000,000 out of 10,000,000 times. Of course by then, I'd be dead of exhaustion. But then again, that's not so bad.
Obviously every bar is on a different deal but it seems the threat of rents in the plaza tripling never eventuated and most bars are almost relieved that they are only paying about twice what they were before the previous lease expired. For the time being at least, bar owners in Nana Plaza have refrained from increasing prices. Here's hoping this continues, but then I'm not holding my breath!
The top of Sukhumvit soi 4 is looking worse than it has in years with 5 of the shophouses either side of the entrance to Nana Plaza in darkness.
Described as a vintage pub, Hemingway's is the name of the expat pub in the old building on Sukhumvit soi 14 due to open on August 1st. There are some heavy hitters behind it and plenty of investment has gone into it. A good few expat friends are looking forward to a new pub option on Sukhumvit that promises to be a little different from your regular British pub.
Bar Bar will host a glory hole party on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this coming week. Dare you?!
Plaza Massage, the long-running massage parlour that was nestled between Club Electric Blue and The Strip on Patpong soi 2, has closed. A new tenant has not yet been found for the building but interest is being shown in what is a prime location near three of the best bars in Patpong.
And that is because all of the best bars in Patpong these days are in soi 2. If you find yourself in Bangkok's longest-running farang bar area, you won't find better bars than Pink Panther, Bada Bing, Black Pagoda and Club Electric Blue.
On the subject of Pink Panther, I question the wisdom of management holding a boxing show in a gogo bar. The show features two Thai boxers slugging it out in the ring before making the rounds of the audience, hassling people for tips. And that really is an accurate way to describe it. They go around the crowd and put the hard word on every single individual to cough up a tip. Failure to produce at least a 100 baht results in a steely stare and a nasty look that can be quite intimidating given that the boxers had just moments earlier been bashing the crap out of each other! I wonder about the concept of mixing Thai boxing and dancing girls – and it seems so unnecessary in a bar with so many pretty ladies.
There's a new ladyboy bar on an alley connecting Patpong sois 1 and 2. To confuse things it's called King's Corner, the same name as the most famous of all the ladyboy bars in Patpong. It's about 3/4 shemales and 1/4 the genuine item.
The White Lioness, the lounge style venue in Sukhumvit soi 12 failed for two reasons – its location and high prices. With the exception of the monster Insomnia which is a great success, soi 12 doesn't seem to the right place for a small, boutique style night venue. But that doesn't seem to have put investors off. White Lioness is a thing of the past but a new venue will open soon called Club 12. A sign erected outside states that the venue is taking applications for captains, bartenders, service staff and the good part – coyote dancers.
The German manager who was a fixture at Sukhumvit soi 33's Livingstone's has set up a new restaurant in Patpong soi 2, next to Foodland. Guido was an award-winning chef in his native Germany and had a TV food show at one time. He has long desired to start his own eatery in Bangkok and finally that day has come. Called G's, it features European food with a distinct German flavour. Prices are very reasonable and the beef roulade is to die for.
Speaking of eateries in Patpong, the branch of Foodland in Patpong 2 is set to expand with an eatery to be added. Rumoured to be a sizeable 500 square metres, I presume it means Patpong will get a branch of Took Lae Dee, the diner you find at most Foodland branches which one travel magazine proclaimed to be the best 24-hour diner in the world.
While there are many negatives with the naughty nightlife industry in Thailand, fortunately the odious practice of selling a lady's virginity in bars is not common as it is in, say, Angeles City in the Philippines. With that said, word reached me this week of just that happening in Bangkok – and in a foreign-owned bar in Cowboy to boot. This is the sort of thing I'd expect to happen in a Chinese brothel, not a foreign-owned Bangkok gogo bar, but then in some ways this bar is a Chinese brothel.
It looks like Secrets is going to go the way of a number of Pattaya bars and take on agency girls. Agency girls are typically much more attractive than the girls you typically find in the bars these days, but the downside is that they are usually not available – and those who are have lofty expectations.
There's a dark spot on Sukhumvit at the foot of the pedestrian overbridge between Sukhumvit sois 23 and 25 where 2, sometimes 3 ladyboys linger from around 9:30 or 10:00 PM. Despite their words, they're less concerned about persuading you to take them back to your condo or hotel room. They use the tried and tested method of groping your family jewels with one hand, a ploy to distract you while their other hand rifles through your pockets to lift your wallet or mobile phone.
When will the naughty bars with websites that aren't updated regularly realise that they are missing out on a marvellous opportunity to promote the bar? Many bars don't have a website at all, and most bar websites feature just a few photos of girls, most of whom worked in the venue at some time or another. Punters don't look at bar websites to see what the neon looks like outside, or to find out prices. They want to see photos of the girls who work there NOW! Not one bar I know of makes a genuine effort to keep their site updated with photos of the girls who currently work in the venue, with their nickname and bar number. It's the same principle as After Dark magazine which many guys buy to use as a catalogue.
I do not wish to be seen to promoting piracy, but I get the feeling that those who enjoy the naughty nightlife as well those with merely an interest in it, would enjoy "Whores' Glory", a gritty look at the lives of hookers in Mexico, Thailand and Bangladesh. This movie-length documentary almost certainly won't see a wide release – and I doubt it will ever be screened in Thailand – so the only way to see it might be to download it. That part you will have to figure out yourself.
I am no fan of food courts and seldom eat at them, but with that said I've had nothing but good experiences at the food court on the 5th floor of Terminal 21. There's a great variety of outlets and all I have tried have been surprisingly good. Prices are incredibly low and the offerings don't seem bland as you often get in food courts. The Muslim food eatery is good – with the likes of massaman and gaeng guree curries inexpensive – and the vegetarian vendor is also excellent. Get there before midday and if you're lucky you might find an empty table at the back where there's a nice view over the back sois of Sukhumvit.
A number of venues on Soi Cowboy used to have rooms on the premises and a good few openly advertised them – for a couple of hundred baht on top of the barfine you could use a room upstairs. Those days are long gone and while the odd bar still has a room upstairs, they are not available for customers' use. It is actually against the law in Thailand for a girl working to take a customer to a room on the same premises and indulge in those activities that couples like to indulge in. Yes, I know, what about Pattaya's soi 6? I guess that is a special case. If you look closely at the odd venue around town where you can take a lady upstairs, look a little more closely. Often it is required that you go to the adjacent shophouse which is NOT connected by a door where the business is concluded, thus getting around the law.
Another Indian story reached me this week from a bar manager. 10 Indians entered a Soi Cowboy bar and ordered 5 drinks, the idea being that they would share 5 drinks amongst the 10 of them. The manager told them that they had to order one drink per person if they all wished to remain in the bar. After a little discussion, 5 of the group left the venue. The 5 left who stayed inside nursed their drinks for a while and enjoyed the show. 3 of them then went outside and played tag team with those who had left earlier who came back into the bar, sitting where their compatriots who had just left had been sitting – and took over their drink, negating the need to buy themselves a drink! This continued until everyone in the group had had a chance to watch the show and then they eventually left.
The Arab, owner of 7 gogo bars in Soi Cowboy, is on a recruitment drive to fill his bars with beauties, but somehow I don't think this lot pictured below were on the way to a job interview. It is yet more evidence though that Bangkok's bar areas, particularly Soi Cowboy, are attracting more and more mainstream visitors.
Is the traffic getting worse in downtown Bangkok? It seems to me that traffic jams are worse than they were just a year ago. Given all the new buildings going up downtown, the increase in tourist numbers and the rapid growth of the Thai middle-class, I guess it shouldn't be any great surprise.
Foreigners aren't shy to let the world know when they feel they have got a bad deal in Thailand, when they feel they have been conned or the one that gets many up in arms, have been charged more for a fixed price item because of the colour of their skin. It's not always like this and sometimes the colour of your skin might work to your advantage. A mate's Thai wife phoned one of the river cruise companies and was aghast to find that the price for foreigners is lower than it is for Thais. My best guess is that foreigners spend more on alcohol and as such foreign customers are preferred. The same policy can be found at certain times of the year on a certain island not far from Rayong where some resorts won't even accept Thai guests. I believe this is because Thais aren't willing to pay the often inflated prices in the resort's restaurant whereas foreigners will.
With Duke's Express in Emporium's fabulous hamburgers now but a memory and the chance of a new branch of Duke's opening in Bangkok looking increasingly unlikely, I bet I'm not the only one who misses Duke's. There was one customer, a middle-aged kind of scruffy looking American I used to see often in Duke's – and despite his ragged appearance he was always with a different girl. He always seemed to order the same thing, a pizza and a salad. Anyway, I stepped into Sunrise Tacos this week and saw they had a burger special on the menu and knowing that Sunrise is owned but the same guy who had the Duke's franchise, I thought I'd try it. For a short time they have certified US Angus beef burgers. With bacon, cheese and mushrooms, it's real good and now I can get my hamburger fix! Maybe I will see the scruffy pickup artist from Duke's in Sunrise soon? Sunrise has also introduced chili to the menu and it's pretty good – and cheap at just 140 baht.
There were two very nice readers' stories posted this week. From a young South African, "1 Year In Thailand – Lessons On Business, People And Love" and from Korski, the superb "The $100 Rape of an American Feminazi".
A New Zealand doctor's phone is stolen in Thailand and she returns home to find a $6,000 phone bill.
There are some nice photos in a report from Australia about Thai youngsters training to be Muay Thai boxers.
A male model throttles his Thai girlfriend after she allegedly had sex with another dude in the toilet at a swingers party!
The BBC looks at drug smuggling into Thailand.
The Thai army claims Cambodian troops shot at a Bangkok Airways flight.
A Spanish guy in Bangkok posts on Facebook about committing suicide, and then goes through with it.
Bangkok's international airport received stinging criticism this week in Asian Sentinel.
Phuket police are holding a New Zealander's passport as he cannot pay his $25,000 hospital bill.
A Thai woman who beat her 77-year old English lover to death is sentenced to life behind bars in the UK.
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 am a foreigner resident in Thailand and receive 300,000 baht of interest income from my account with Bangkok Bank each year. The bank automatically deducts the tax from this interest. I live in a house owned by my wife, but I also have a private condo in my own name, the chanote is in my name and I have been using it for a long time because I do not like staying in a hotel. Now I want to rent the condo out. The yearly income will be about 120,000 baht, and certainly under 150,000 baht. Is this income from the condo tax-free? If personally owned by me, if I have to pay tax, what is the present percentage of tax I have to pay off the income?
Sunbelt responds: Renting out a single condominium that you own does not require you to have a Thai work permit. According to the Labour Department's Work Permit Division, renting out your property is not considered "working" in Thailand and would not require you to have a work permit. However, as you are earning income, you are responsible for the payment of income tax on the rental income. You are required to declare the income derived from property rental(s) at the end of the year. If you are renting this condo to a juristic identity (i.e. a limited company), they would be responsible to withhold 5% from the monthly rental payment as a Corporate Withholding Tax. If you rent the property to an individual that individual (your tenant) is not required to withhold the 5% as a withholding tax.
Question 2: I am currently in Thailand and have bought 5 baht of gold in gold ingots. Can I leave Thailand with this and pass through Customs at the international airport OK? Do I need to declare or fill out any forms?
Sunbelt responds: 5 baht of gold is around 120,000 baht, well under the officially allowed $10,000 allowed by Thai Customs but be aware the country you take it into may consider it legal tender and charge duty on arrival.
Question 3: I lease a unit in a condominium complex. Some other residents do the same, but most units are rented out as apartments on a monthly basis. The property owner provides some services for the rented units, but lets the lessees take care of things on their own. Recently, I wanted to install a satellite dish on the roof of the building. There is ample space, and some other disks (for use by the 'regular' renters) are operational. Technically there are no problems, and a technician surveyed how it can be done. However (while an initial request was granted), when asking permission to install the equipment, it was denied by the management of the building. Since the owner owns the building and the lessees form just a minority, there is no 'judicial person' or something likewise to jointly decide to install satellite dishes, or to let individuals do so. Do I have any other options in this matter?
Sunbelt responds: The lessee should send an official request letter to the owner of the building asking for permission to install the satellite dish and inform him that the lessee will pay all fees for installation by himself as well as pay the building owner for any damages which may occur during installation.
I'd really like to have more nightlife news to report and some salacious gossip wouldn't go amiss either, but there just doesn't seem to be much newsworthy going on out there at this time. I am not sure if it is the time of year, the wet weather or something else, but there seems to be a real lull in the nightlife industry, news-wise at least. It's funny as I make the rounds, wandering around to see what's going on, and dropping by say hello to various bar owners and managers. Usually it is me asking them what's happening in their area, but these days they're asking me. Yeah, it really is quiet!
Your Bangkok commentator,