Bangkok's Eden Club is legendary. Operating in the same location since the late '90s, Eden's unique concept made it ultra popular – a house of pleasure where customers had to take a minimum of 2 ladies. Management was so confident of service standards that there was a money back guarantee. At the peak of its popularity the venue kept multiple spreadsheets to manage bookings for girls who would be booked months in advance with customers planning their trip to Bangkok around daily visits to Eden.
When owner Marc sold a few years ago there was concern amongst long-time fans of how things would change and even if the venue would survive. But Eden was Marc's baby and he put in place another charming French manager, Mickey, to ensure standards were maintained. Today the Eden Club is prospering, with close to 30 girls and exactly the same format and service standards. Why change a winning formula?
This week I did something I have never done before, I went upstairs in the Eden Club. Roaming through the venue, I chatted with the girls and explored parts of the club hidden behind the staff only sign.
No camera! No camera! The girls sitting outside shriek as I stride up to the Eden Club. Outside the entrance balanced on stools showing plenty of leg, they keep an eye on the comings and goings of Sukhumvit soi 7/1, or what many now refer to as Soi Eden.
Entering the single shophouse venue you arrive in a dimly lit bar area. As Marc used to say, this is not a place for drinking! At the end of the bar perches Mickey, another friendly and affable Frenchman very much in the mould of Marc. Beyond him is an area where the girls perch waiting for customers, which these days means an IPad play area. Beyond that, separated by a wall, is an area with a large vanity where the girls do themselves up.
It's early Friday night and it appears quiet. There's not a single customer at the bar, but no-one is panicking. Marc's rules are still in place and today, even after all of these years, the Eden Club is still not a place for drinking. One drink is fine, but more are not encouraged.
Customers enter the bar, most don't even bother with a drink. The girls assemble for a line-up, some on one side of the famous line, the rest on the other. The line is no longer on the floor, but runs up the wall, a line which separates those girls who are A-level – the somewhat more polite term used these days – from those girls who are not.
The manager is keen to ensure customers are comfortable. That is essential, he tells me. There should be no pressure and he is happy to explain everything to first-time visitors. As popular as Eden Club is and as long as it has been running, many have yet to try it for the first time.
The clichéd image of girls staring intently at themselves in a tiny mirror is so last decade. Today's clichéd image is that of girls on their smartphone or tablet. The Eden Club is full of both.
It's all about performance, the charming Frenchman says to me. The Eden Cub is not the place to find a Bridget Bardot or a Sophia Lauren, reminding me what such princesses can be like.
"Don't kiss me, you'll mess up my lipstick."
"You want to do what….what do you think I am?!"
"How much longer?"
Such words, he promises, will never be said by his girls.
In the cinema, in taxis, in restaurants and in bars – any place where they will be sat down for a while – Thai women love to kick off their shoes and curl their feet up underneath them.
When it comes to selecting a play pal, the manager tells me that women are like cars. Some are small, fast and nimble, like, say, a Lotus Esprit. Others are bigger and bulkier like, say, a Lexus SUV.
And when it comes to the way we like to drive, he explains, that is when the man's personality can be seen. Some like a sort sprint, a quarter mile drag and it's all over before you know it. Others prefer a leisurely drive over windy, back country roads.
Whatever you are looking for, I am told you can find it at the Eden Club.
I ask him if he has Porsche Cayman I can take on a leisurely drive from one end of the island to the other, stopping for a strong coffee a few times along the way and he looks at me with suspicion.
Smartphone cases are all the rage in Thailand, as much a fashion accessory as a means of protecting one's phone. An Eden Club girl uses the au naturale method of phone protection, a soft surrounding chosen over a hard case.
There are those who like it natural and those who like the upgraded version. From farang-looking noses to enhanced headlights to the original version, Eden Club offers all the options.
Pulling back the curtain opposite the toilets I step over the many pairs of shoes strewn over the stairs and climb up in to the staff only area.
The girls have not been told of my presence and seeing a foreigner taking photos in their bunker is something of a surprise. A few words of explanation and I become invisible, their interest back to their plates and the latest gossip.
The upstairs area is the same size as downstairs, but somehow feels smaller. Lockers against one wall narrow the corridor which leads in to a dining room, the common room where the girls relax, a room which few men ever step inside.
I pass two signs on the wall near the lockers. One states the uniform the girls are to wear from Wednesday to Saturday. The other outlines health checks, when they must get their blood drawn and have their lady parts looked at.
Some of the staff are long-termers. They have a real affinity for their boss who makes as much effort for them to be comfortable as he does with customers.
Where many bar bosses complain upon receiving police closure orders, Eden Club voluntarily closes most Buddhist holidays and even shuts up at 8 PM on the night of New Year's Eve, not reopening until January 2nd, traditionally 2 of the busiest days of the year. The girls should have the opportunity to spend time with their nearest and dearest says the boss.
The Eden Club is not the dominant name in Bangkok's that it once was, but the service standards are, I am told, the same as they have always been. As the manager is eager to explain, the looks of a lady bear no correlation to her performance.
A fully-equipped kitchen with pots and pans where all the girls' favourite dishes can be rustled up sits just off the side of the dining room.
Even after all of these years many of the dishes the girls eat are unknown to me. Some ingredients I recognise, but the mix and the smell – oh God, the smell – mark them as dishes I don't know and probably won't ever sample. Pla rah (fermented fish sauce) plays an integral part in the flavouring, and the dining room is full of its stink smell.
In the dining room a huge ceiling mirror suggests that food is not the only thing that has been eaten there.
Inflation in the farang venues of Sukhumvit far exceeds official inflation numbers, but not at the Eden Club. Service costs little more today than it did 10 years ago – 4,200 baht all inclusive – one price, two service providers.
Some say that experiencing Eden Club is a like a Bangkok rite of passage.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Wat Rakang, the temple on the Chao Praya River, opposite Ta Chang, the pier closest to the Grand Palace. There are two prizes each week, a 500 baht voucher to use at Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4 and a 300 baht voucher to use at Sunrise Tacos, Bangkok's original Mexican grill with several branches in Bangkok.
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 and ONLY the first answer emailed counts! You MUST specify which prize you would prefer and failure to specify a prize will disqualify you from being eligible to claim one.
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.
Plenty of punters in Pattaya.
Why are some people so tough on Pattaya? You can go back through Stickman for over 10 years seeing reports of Pattaya's demise. But I've just returned to the UK after my latest trip and it seemed to me that it's the same as ever – busy, bustling, full of girls and full of punters. Here's a couple of patterns that I've noticed over the years that have never changed. Every bus journey I've ever taken from the airport has always been full. And Beach Road will always be in gridlock at some stage of the day – hardly signs of a city in freefall! True, Walking Street can sometimes seem like a bit of a tourist zoo, but the clubs after midnight are packed. Insomnia always seems to be full – try squeezing your way from one end of the club to the other, a struggle with all the freelancers and punters. Walking Street can be deceptive and I don't think you can tell how busy Walking Street is by simply counting the empty chairs. A reader said that in Pattaya knifing a tourist is almost a rite of passage, a badge of honour. I certainly didn't see anything like that. My goodness, if a first-timer read something like that, they would be surprised to find the shisha-smoking "Welcome, handsome man" nightlife I saw. I don't wish to contradict anyone and I don't live there, but I think it's possible to fall out of love with a place just like it's possible to fall out of love with a person. Once you start thinking negatively about a place, it's hard to reverse the slide. I see Pattaya a bit like I see Vegas, good fun but I think you would have to be very brave to live there. But it's still a great place to visit. It seems to me that the Pattaya City sign should be updated to read, Pattaya City – reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
CheckInn99 thanks you!
Thanks for the mention about the Philippines Red Cross. We have been inundated with people coming in for mid-week entertainment and in particular Stickman readers referring back to your last few articles directly. We have printed your article with photos and it is quite novel to see people waiting to read the hard copy folder. As you know we have been raising money each night for the typhoon disaster relief fund of the Philippines Red Cross and last night we were overwhelmed again with customer generosity. 20,000 baht was raised in the 4 minutes that Music of the Heart took to sing just one song, "Anak". We count in front of everyone and then match all customer donations, transferring the funds online using PayPal with everyone watching the big screen. Total raised and transferred to the Philippines Red Cross Yolanda disaster relief fund so far is 188,000 baht (~259,311 PHP). I have never seen anything like it! We are also now getting local Philipinos, particularly from Leyte & Tacloban, who have lost family and their entire family housing coming in to thank our customers for donations – as they can't contact anyone or even send money.
The 'C' word.
Thais in general have a poor standard of English comprehension and it always amazes me when from time to time I see inappropriate English phrases on T-shirts or even on large advertising billboards. A billboard that attracted my attention recently is adjacent to the expressway out to Don Meuang. It advertises a canal real estate development and in 15-metre wording states that the estate has "The charming of Venice". However, what blew me away last weekend was an English word on a cap worn by a Thai youth as he lunched with a couple of middle-aged Thai ladies at a Japanese restaurant in Emporium. I have attached a photograph of the cap which you can clearly see bears the word C**T in large plastic letters attached to the cap. A foreign lady was directed to a table behind the youth but when she saw the word she stood up and walked out. I wonder if the guy and his companions actually knew what the word means. If they did they obviously didn't care what other people thought. If someone wore this cap in a "civilised" society they would have been arrested or at the very least asked to leave the restaurant.
Overheard at Burger King.
Seen and heard in Burger King, Nana Square, this evening (Sunday):
#1 Food Paranoia: You know how the guide books tell people not to eat fruit that you have not peeled, only drink bottled water etc? I saw an American family carefully scraping all the lettuce, tomato etc off their burgers, and telling the girl behind the counter 3 times no ice, NO ICE! Do people still think Bangkok is so deep in the third world that Burger King may be unsafe?
#2 An African-American gentleman (or whatever the correct PC label is now) with a long and complicated order that he kept changing, berating the girl for not having good English skills when his Southern accent was so deep that I could barely understand him. I wonder how good his Thai is. How many people flipping burgers down in Alabama have second language skills!
Italian restaurant recommendation on Samui.
I read your comment about Italian food. I too have had many disappointments in Thailand with Italian food, and not just with quantity but with quality also. I have often taken advice from your column and from the readers' submissions that I have valued and now I have some advice for you. If you should ever find yourself in Lamai Beach on Ko Samui, check out the Tropicana restaurant. I have never had a better Italian meal outside Europe, maybe even outside Italy! Affordable, a decent setting and most importantly great food! Be sure to order from the appetizers list. Bruchetta with mozzarella and Parma ham is just great. Their antipasto misto likewise. I can't vouch for the pizza as I never had it but any pasta I tried gets my thumbs up for sure. The house wine in half litre carafes is cheap and quite good. The main chef and owner is Diego from Italy and he takes great pride in his kitchen. I was shown this place by my buddy who worked in Samui and he told me he could pretty much eat there on a daily basis – which sounded realistic to me as I probably could too. Put Tropicana in Lamai on your list and if you ever go there give it a shot!
Girl of the week
Nam, 19, coyote dancer, Club Electric Blue, Patpong soi 2.
She is extremely sweet and unusually polite (for a girl found in a bar).
The future of popular British pub The Londoner is looking increasingly uncertain. The current lease expires at the end of this year and at this stage a new lease has not been agreed on. With that said, it is not expected to close at the end of the year but continue trading. The English manager who was until recently in charge has moved on and can be found at the new Irish pub in Thonglor.
Another corner of Nana Plaza has been plunged in to darkness as G Spot, which I have described a number of times as the hottest bar in Nana Plaza – not hottest as in best, but hottest as in the air-conditioning hadn't worked in about a year – is closed for renovations. The whole bar is to be stripped and rebuilt and that means anything from 4 to several weeks until it's finished. G Spot is a big bar and in addition to the rebuild, the air-conditioning and sound systems also need to be replaced. There's no word at this stage on whether the G Spot name will stay.
The Nana Beer Garden is how the operators of the beer bars in the middle of Nana Plaza now refer to them. Nana Beer Garden is hosting an anniversary party this coming Wednesday, November 27th. From 7 PM bottles of Chang will be 80 baht while stocks last. There will be a 9 Ball Couples Pool Competition starting at 7 PM with teams made up of guys and gals. The entry fee is 500 baht per team. Chang is sponsoring the event with a trophy and 5,000 baht for the winners, 3,000 baht for 2nd place and 1,000 baht for 3rd and 4th places. To enter, contact Tee on 089-674-4398.
Nana Plaza is looking good with many new and renovated bars. On the ground floor PlaySkool, Angelwitch 2 and Spellbound are brand new, all having re-opened in the last couple of months. Wild Things on the top floor has a new name and theme and now G Spot is getting the treatment. There are rumours that a smaller Nana Plaza bar is tipped to change hands in the next week and with a bit of luck it too will be renovated.
In comparison, down the road at Soi Cowboy the soi looks magnificent from the outside but inside some venues it's a different story. There is a place for bars from a bygone era, but I don't think the demand is for lots of such venues. Some of the smaller single shophouse bars in Cowboy are old, pokey and really could do with an overhaul.
If this past Tuesday was your first visit to Soi Cowboy, you might have thought you'd stumbled on to the set of a horror movie with the soi over-run with do-gooder NGOs promoting safe sex. I'm all for the promotion of safer bedroom activities, but why oh why do so many of those promoting it have to be fuglies – 100+ kg white women with facial piercings and dyed blue or some other ridiculous coloured hair? One farang manager was beside himself seeing customers head in to the soi, see all the do-gooders and depart, likely heading up the road to the relative normality of Nana Plaza. Needless to say, no records were broken in Soi Cowboy on Tuesday night.
Will the neon sign out the front of Lighthouse ever be finished? Soi Cowboy does a magnificent job of presenting itself, so much so that it's the place in Bangkok for mainstream visitors keen to catch a glimpse of the city's infamous nightlife. It is many months since Lighthouse opened in the space which was Sheba's but still the main sign out front has not been completed. Yeah, I know, it's what's inside the bar that counts – and in that respect Lighthouse is doing ok – but outside it's not a good look.
Stumble Inn is doing a good trade and has the pick of the girls of the Soi Nana street-front bars. It also happens to have a proper menu – listing all the food (yes, they have decent food) and drinks. Having a clear, easy-to-read menu might seem like a small thing, but with the prices charged in some bars these days it eliminates the ambiguity you get in those bars where no-one but the cashier knows the prices.
I notice that girls in Soi Nana beer bars are asking 2,000 baht for short term and 3,000 – 4,000 baht for long time. I am all for the girls making as much as they can – we all want to earn as much as we possibly can for our labour – while at the same time it does seem rather pricey. With some Soi Nana beer bars selling drinks at almost the same prices as the gogo bars, the main reason to go there seems to be the view – whereas in the past pricing was a big part of it.
It's a total calamity at Spellbound, Nana Plaza's newest gogo bar built in the spot which was once Pretty Lady with the animated German porn movies no longer! The hilarious smut has been viewed by 2 decades of customers and even after the refit last year the old VHS machine still pumped out the porn. Now it's gone.
It's almost a year since Private Dancer A Gogo opened its doors in Pattaya in the same soi as Angelwitch, Babydolls and Misty's. Managed by popular bar boss, Ricky, Private Dancer will celebrate its first anniversary with a party this coming Friday, November 29th.
Captain Hornbag parted ways with Spanky's in Pattaya this week, just a few months after taking up a 6-figures baht per month position which came with a number of other benefits and was probably the best package any naughty bar manager was on. Captain Hornbag is going to take a break from the industry, in fact a break from Thailand altogether, and has accepted an employment offer in another country.
Down in Pattaya I hear some bars have implemented a door bell system whereby the entrance to the bar is monitored from within. You press the bell and security checks you out on CCTV. If you look suspect, don't fit the profile that the establishment wishes to attract or are wearing a brown uniform then the door won't open. There are a few – and I stress only a few – establishments like this in Pattaya and most are well away from Walking Street. I can think of only one bar in Bangkok which utilises this system (unnamed for reasons which should be obvious). Will we see more such monitored doorways? Not in the main bar areas for sure, but elsewhere the benefits are obvious, especially with bars feeling the heat when it comes to contributions.
Down Phuket way, I hear that Patong Beach is booming. Plenty aren't smiling at the airport though with queues at Immigration taking up to an hour during busy periods and chaos outside the airport at certain times with arrivals waiting for hotel car pickups and what not.
Construction continues in the area below Rock Hard A Gogo at the top of Soi Bangla where new bars are being built. Upstairs in the chrome pole jungle things look the same and it appears the new owners have not tinkered with the look or layout of the bar. However, the girls are not happy with the new music playlist and are complaining they can't dance to the songs being played.
I never did check out Pattaya's Rehab A Gogo, the gogo bar in an odd spot on Soi Buakhao, roughly half way between Soi Diana and South Pattaya Road. And I won't ever make it now that Rehab closed this past week. I heard good things about it in the early days but with that location, a standalone gogo bar well away from other chrome pole venues was always going to struggle.
A Bangkok bar boss grabbed a bird from a Patpong bar and was looking forward to a night of fun. They were in a taxi heading to his place, making the usual chit chat. He asked her if she had a husband to which she replied that she did not. What about a boyfriend? No boyfriend either, she said. But I do have a gig she volunteered (gig is Thai for a friend with benefits). Oh really, said the bar boss. Does he know what you do? Of course, she said, because he does exactly the same work as me – he works at Screwboy (a gay bar in Patpong soi 2)! Stop, yelled the bar boss to the taxi driver! Doing the business with a lass whose fxxx buddy is a male prostitute killed any notions of a night of fun. They parted ways and he went home alone.
You would think that working girls would get plenty of sex and be sexually satisfied, right? Wrong! Chatting with another working girl, this time an escort, she admitted that she too has a gig, a foreigner who she sees for satisfying sex. He has absolutely no idea what she does for a living. If he did, I wonder what he'd think? It might be something to brag to your mates about – this girl sees more pricks than a pin cushion yet it is he she comes to see when she wants to be satisfied sexually!
The height of Bangkok's naughty nightlife blogosphere was probably 5 years or so ago when there were a number of well-written and insightful nightlife blogs. Creating a website is easy, updating it regularly is harder and maintaining reader interest long-term is the real challenge. Nothing is forever and most eventually go by the wayside. Some Bangkok nightlife bloggers / webmasters have signed out with an explanation as to why they're calling it a day, usually citing time constraints or how they are pursuing other interests. Others just disappear. In a few cases they have stopped writing their blog because of threats made against them, often by those who were once fans but who became disenchanted, bitter, twisted and eventually got nasty. I raise this because I see another blog with a nightlife slant just shut down after the owner was threatened. Other reasons were cited. What a shame and what a waste, especially as it has been removed from the 'net altogether.
Passengers aren't the only ones complaining they cannot get a taxi at the departures level at the airport with cabbies joining them in complaining that they cannot pick up passengers there anymore. Savvy travellers arriving in Bangkok have long gone up to the departures area to grab a cab that has just dropped passengers off, negating the need to join what at times can be a lengthy taxi queue. With turnstiles installed and security guards manning them, passengers cannot get from the terminal to the cabs on the departures level making it nigh on impossible to grab a cab there anymore. One cabbie said to me this week that depending on the time of day he might now refuse to take passengers to the airport as once he has dropped them off he might have to drive a considerable distance before he gets his next customer – and that may simply not be worth his while.
Staying on top of your visa is one of the most important things for foreigners resident in Thailand. If you do overstay your visa, it should be noted that from the Immigration Department's perspective there is a distinction between overstays of up to one year, and overstays longer than one year. Those who have overstayed by more than a year must leave the country via Suwannaphum Airport in Bangkok. Anyone who has overstayed by more than a year who tries to leave via any other port or land border should be aware that Immigration officers are under instruction to detain such people and transport them to Bangkok for processing. That might mean simply being questioned and then flying out from Bangkok with the requisite 20K baht fine paid, or it might mean Immigration actually brings charges for overstaying and the case goes to court. If found guilty, the fine is usually in the region of 3,000 – 7,000 baht, the 20,000 baht overstay fee still has to be paid, and then the person is deported. And remember, if you are deported as opposed to leave voluntarily, international agreements state you are supposed to be deported back to your home country and you a need a ticket all the way there. Yes, you are put on a flight to your homeland and not a flight to a destination of your choice which may be a neighbouring country from where you could in theory buy a ticket and head straight back to Thailand. With all of this in mind, if you have overstayed by more than one year, you should book a flight out of the country from Suwannaphum Airport. When you leave voluntarily with an overstay of more than one year, the Immigration officers have discretion as to how they handle it. They could arrest you, detain you and charge you, or they could just let you go with the maximum fine of 20,000 baht. The latter is said to be the most likely scenario.
Sunrise Tacos will open 2 new branches early in the new year. A Khao San Road outlet will open at the start of February and a new location at Siam Square should start serving fine Mexican food around March 1st.
Various restaurants are doing something for Thanksgiving, this coming Thursday, November 28th. The perennial favourite is Bourbon Street which puts on a fabulous buffet feast every year. I note that due to its popularity a 2-hour time limit has been put in place if there happen to be people waiting and reservations aren't accepted. Bully's, between Sukhumvit sois 2 and 4, also has a buffet, but is a little more low-key. If you prefer a set menu with a choice of main that includes American prime Angus beef or turkey, the original branch of Sunrise Tacos is the place to go. Finally, if you'd prefer to have Thanksgiving at home, but don't fancy doing the cooking, Sunrise has a great deal with a roasted 6 kg turkey and accompaniments for 8 people all for 3,295 baht. Details on all these deals can be found below.
Quote of the week, "As child-like as many Thai women are means to expect child-like behaviour at the first sign of difficulty."
Reader's story of the week is the provocatively titled, "The Despicable Retirees of Thailand".
The trend of increased ATM fraud and skimmers installed on ATM machines in Thailand is a concern.
A 21-year old Scottish girl falls 30 feet from the balcony of her hotel in Phuket and survives.
Budget airlines are increasing flights between Bangkok and other major centres in the region.
The Tourism Council of Thailand estimates the country will receive 28 million tourists in 2014, up 8% from this year.
The Bangkok Post looks at a new term being used in neighbouring countries, Don't Thai to me , and explains its relevance.
From The Nation, scams and accidents are said to be scaring some visitors away from Thailand.
Ask Sunbelt Asia 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 want to pack my Hookah / Shisha pipe in my luggage on my next trip, but I'm not clear on the Thai laws regarding it and don't want any trouble at the airport. Let me be clear, I never have and never will be into any form of drugs. The shisha pipe will at worst contain tobacco, which is for personal use. I was hoping you might have or might know someone with a clear answer.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Importation of shisha molasses or tobamel or any tobacco must be approved by the Ministry of Public Health, and Excise Department. Any shisha molasses brought in to the country without the approval of both departments above, will be considered illegal. The Department of Public Health defines the hookah and its components and substances within as dangerous narcotics.
We have heard of people who have previously brought in a hookah, and it was confiscated. Buying it locally or through an online service of the local supplier would be more cost effective.
Question 2: I have 2 children, a daughter, 10 years and a son, 5 months, together with my Thai wife. I want to take care of their future by building up a property rental business, buying a lot of condos. I am fully aware that I have to report this and pay tax to Thailand from income generated here. I stay in Thailand for more than 180 days every year. At the same time I also have a property rental business in Norway. For the income generated from that, I pay the full tax on it in Norway. That tax is more than I would pay in Thailand. My question is this: Do I have to report to the Revenue Department in Thailand everything about my business in Norway, if I start a rental business here in Thailand? I am afraid to get in to too much paperwork with two countries and asking advice for how I can relate to Thai law only.
However, if you are leaving the funds in Norway then you would not need to declare it here.
It might not be the end of the year yet, in fact it's not even December, but Christmas trees started going up around downtown Bangkok this week, tricking the mind in to thinking the next year is just around the corner, causing it to reflect on the year that's been and think about the year to come. I can't help feeling that 2014 is going to be a year of change, both for Bangkok and for me personally…
Your Bangkok commentator,