Once affordable to anyone, prices charged by working girls in Bangkok may not be the bargain they once were. There were armies of girls, fewer visitors and a much smaller expat population. For too long Thai bargirls undersold themselves, asking for precious little while giving so much. Oh, how things have changed!
Up until the late '90s, thrifty naughty boys could find a lady to spend the night with for as little as 500 baht. That wasn't the going rate – but desperate freelancers would often accept a purple if it was getting late. Across town, the prettiest ladies saddled up against shiny chrome poles where 1,500 – 2,000 was the norm. Even 2,000 baht was ridiculously cheap for a lady to spend the entire night, the equivalent at that time of just $50.
It's not that long ago that the most attractive ladies in Bangkok's foreigner bar areas would happily spend the night with a customer, the whole night, with no excuses made soon after she got back to his room. Kicking her out after the business was done would make her wonder what she had done wrong. Long-time is, in the big picture, a relatively recent thing.
In many Bangkok bars today a girl's opening gambit is 3,000 baht. Some may negotiate, some may not.
The rates charged in Bangkok today are all over the map and no matter the number, you'll always find someone who paid less, as well as someone who paid a whole lot more. Today in Bangkok gogo bars many girls ask 2,500 – 3,000 baht short time and well upwards of that for long-time – 4,000 or even 5,000 not uncommon – that is if they are willing to spend all night with a customer. For many girls the idea of long-time is unthinkable. Why spend all night with a guy they don't know and likely don't fancy?
The reasons for the increase in asking prices are as many as they are varied.
In bars with chrome poles, there has been a shift towards coyote dancers. Coyote dancers have the opportunity to make decent money without opening their legs – 35,000 baht per month is doable, 20,000 base salary and the rest in drink commissions and tips.
Mamasans are more involved today in setting prices, stepping in to negotiate with a guy, with the same price for all the girls in the bar. This seems to be particularly common in bars popular with Japanese i.e. the gogo bars with the most attractive dancers. In some cases they are just helping the girls, in others they quote sky-high prices and take a 500 baht commission from the girls if the customer agrees to that price.
Mamasans are often misunderstood. Their primary role is not to help customers, but to manage the girls and make sure they are happy. The best way to do that is to maximise the girls' income.
Another major contributor to wage inflation in the industry is that Thailand effectively has full employment. With unemployment below 1% and a minimum wage level that provides a (barely) liveable wage, there is no need for women to enter the world's oldest profession.
With 9 years school today the minimum (it was put up from 6 about 15 years ago), some women who were almost unemployable now have a range of basic jobs available to them. It's only recent that Thai women from rural areas with a modest education have had the option to make a liveable wage. Prior to that it was one of the three "F"s – farm, factory or the-other-f.
As the poorer regions of the country – the north and the northeast – develop rapidly, prostitution is relegating from one of a few choices to an absolute last resort.
Back to the going rate, who can blame girls who'd rather service 10 guys a month at 3,000 baht than 30 guys at 1,000 baht? It's natural to want to earn as much as we can for our labour, or to do less for the amount we earn – why would Thai working girls be any different? It's natural to seek the most you possibly can for a single job. Where once I would roll my eyes when I heard of girls quoting silly numbers to guys, these days I encourage them to quote sky high prices. 3,000 short-time and 5,000 long-time minimum, I tell them – and not a baht less. And if a guy won't pay it – it's still got to be cheap by Western standards – he's not the type of customer you want, I tell them.
As Bangkok bargirls' asking prices move towards the psychological 5,000 baht barrier – or around $150 – they reach a level at which it may no longer be worth naughty boys holidaying in Thailand. As Thailand continues to develop and as its tourism market further diversifies, its once unenviable reputation for sex tourism reputation will further resemble the old sign outside Nana Plaza, where the neon lights of each letter dimmed, flickered and then slowly went out.
Those who had become used to paying lower rates are moving on. The Philippines has always been popular with naughty boys and now Cambodia is gaining in popularity as more once loved Thai girl types try their luck across the border.
The steep increase in asking prices is largely a Bangkok thing and around the country things are different. The standard price of afternoon delight on Pattaya's soi 6 today is 1,000 baht, up from 700 baht not so long ago. Apparently you can still find a 500 baht scallywag on Beach Road. Such prices aren't ordinarily found in Bangkok unless you scrape the bottom of the barrel, Beach Road clones and the trafficked girls from China hiding in small rooms up dark stairways in Chinatown.
New escort sites are popping up online all the time with starting rates 5,000 baht or 6,000 baht. Exclusive agencies may price even higher. Day after day these escorts see guys prepared to pay 5,000 baht or more for 2 hours – notwithstanding that she typically only gets half the fee – is going to sew a seed in her mind that guys are prepared to pay 5,000 baht – and she is naturally going to want it all for herself.
The girls are making more – and with the world economy slowly turning the corner and Thailand to hopefully soon move beyond its political crisis, the tourism industry is in for another long, sustained period of growth. More visitors means more naughty boys fighting for a smaller number of available ladies. Price pressure could see the market fragment, where the most desirable ladies will be able to name their price. Will it be long before Bangkok bargirls insist on 5,000 baht?
Where once girls would do things they'd prefer not to for they were genuinely desperate for money – now they have choices. The balance of power has shifted.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the intersection where Rama 4 and Silom roads meet. 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.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Tramp stamps as a marketing tool.
Having seen the recent replies to your article on tattoos, especially the reply that tells of one particular bargirl getting a bar code tattoo, reminds me of a girlfriend I had in Rio, Brazil. She had a large tattoo saying "Made in Brasil" on the bottom of her back which always got her a lot of attention when she went out. If a Thai bargirl got a similar "Made in Thailand" tattoo, baht for baht paid, this artwork would give her greater marketing potential and returns on her investment than any other tattoo.
Thanks for the feature on bargirls and tattoos. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I have half a dozen pieces myself and they always seem to solicit interest from the girls, but in my case all of them have personal and very deep meanings to me. There is a Celtic symbol on my shoulder which is the twin of a now deceased brother in the armed forces, for example. I guess it will always be different strokes for different folks. Personally, I enjoy a girl with some ink, especially well-designed ink. On the other hand, it seems like a common thing nowadays that most people don't actually get ink that means anything to them, it's just something cool which I don't really agree with. I'm still interested in eventually getting a traditional tattoo while travelling through Thailand, but having to find one which holds a meaning to me has kept my money in the wallet.
The protester numbers are down by a large margin. They have closed some stages, supposedly for security reasons, but more likely to consolidate the numbers remaining. This was not the case with the Red Shirt protests of 2010, and here's my theory why. Most of the current protesters are from the young middle class who have jobs and just show up on their way home from work. After a while, again as you wrote, hearing the same old rhetoric night after night with countless false claims of victory gets boring. With the Reds Shirts, the vast majority of those camping out were housewives and grandmothers who would otherwise have been sitting at home doing not very much. Camping out in Bangkok was far more appealing to them, a novelty. Ironically, the people who might be benefiting most from the road blockades are the motorcycle taxi drivers. There are huge queues for them in several places around Asoke, for example. They must be making a fortune. Why ironic? The vast majority are no doubt from the northeast and the very same Thaksin supporters the protesters are campaigning against. Oh, the irony.
Local business practices.
You were absolutely right about there being no hotel deals available in Bangkok, despite visitor reluctance to come because of the ongoing protests. I looked in vain for a deal for my stay, and even though I ended up in a hotel right next to a major protest site at Asoke, no discount was available. It's Thai Economics 102 (101 is putting prices up when business is slow, supposedly to make up for lost income. They don't understand that if someone won't buy at 100 they might buy at 80, but definitely not at 120). 102 is when they think they'll be losing money if they offer a 20 or 30% discount, but when they don't receive any business it doesn't seem to occur to them that they are losing 100% instead!
The two-tier system of 'You and Us' pricing adopted in many places throughout Thailand and much maligned by farangs sorely aggrieved by it should be used during Thai elections and other days when it is deemed necessary to restrict the sale of alcohol. Long-term residents of Thailand know where they can purchase a drink, albeit served in a tea cup or where a bottle may not be shown. However the sight of thousands of tourists parading up and down Walking Street in Pattaya looking at others doing the same thing could simply be overcome by allowing the sale of alcohol to foreigners only. If Thailand insists on having a two-tier system, let it be a fair one.
I was sitting upstairs in Crazy House one evening this week. There are two dance areas, with the girls dancing on both. While I was there a small group of Japanese arrived and sat near one of the dancing areas. In a flash all the girls from the other stage rushed over to pose and dance in a bid to be chosen. Other customers were forgotten. It reminded me of when someone throws down some food and dozens of pigeons suddenly descend. Those who lost out returned to their original position. It must be wonderful to be Japanese.
Failure to finish a face issue for her?
The recent posting about face prompts me to ask where it is a loss of face for a bargirl if her customer fails to climax? For a number of reasons such as medication, age, condom use, sexual activity earlier the same day, disappointment when the clothes come off creating a negative mental state etc, I often fail to climax during sex with a bargirl. This generally creates great concern and feverish, usually counter-productive efforts to encourage me to achieve the, by that time, impossible. Is this a loss of face for the bargirl or does she give a sxxt? Reaction to this point from readers might be interesting.
Candy Land in Nana Plaza, Bangkok's newest gogo bar, opened this week. The bar itself looks good inside but given its size – it's huge – it desperately needs a lot more girls. As it stands, there aren't that many and with so few dancers it makes the bar feel very quiet – and quiet bars can struggle to attract customers. The recruitment manager has a challenge.
Lust in Patpong's soi 1 impressed me with its build and at long last a couple of dancers are shaking their stuff inside. It could do with a good few more and maybe then it will start to attract customers. The bar is beautifully done out inside, but peculiarly it is the outside beer bar with DJ that seems more popular. Maybe Patpong soi 1 is the wrong place for a beautifully done out bar?
Valentine's Day 2014 is this coming Friday but what is usually a big day in Thailand looks like it will be a fizzer this year. The most romantic day of the year happens to coincide with a major Buddhist holiday and while we may not know what that means for bar trade until the night before, most expect that at best bars won't be able to sell alcohol and at worst, many bars will be closed. Old Asia hands, however, know that on such days those who tremble at the thought of a night without a drink can find what they're looking for at Patpong. So if you're desperate for a drink or some company, head over to Patpong.
Some foreigner bar managers have been transferred in a policy that will see three fewer Western managers in Nana Plaza. Where once the Nana Group's management structure saw one foreign manager appointed to keep an eye on the group's venues on each floor of the plaza, these guys are being replaced with an all-Thai management group.
A reminder that the first anniversary party for Insanity will be held this coming Thursday and it promises to be a fun night. If you miss it, don't think you'll be able to make up for it by attending the anniversary party next year because, sadly, it looks increasingly unlikely there will be a second anniversary at Insanity.
Soi Cowboy's Dollhouse will celebrate its 12th Anniversary this Thursday, 13th February. The manager promises fun, games, free shooters and lots more. It's 12 years on Cowboy for Dollhouse, but if you consider the original Clinton Plaza bar, it's 14 years in Bangkok for Dollhouse.
Bar trade is up, down and all over the map. Bars report the odd decent take amongst a lot of very average nights, trade-wise. As best as I have observed, Thursday to Sunday seems to be ok, whereas early week from Monday to Wednesday is crap. This confirms what I have been saying to some bar owners – they need to build up goodwill with expats and do something to separate their bar from the rest. I ranted last week about Bangkok hotels bleating about bad trade but failing to offer a reason for people to visit. That message also applies to Bangkok bars. There are so many specials bars could introduce, from new or longer happy hours, to something new like pay the list price for your first two drinks and every drink thereafter, be it beer, top shelf, lady drink or whatever is 100 baht. If any bars are doing anything special, they are doing a real lousy job of letting people know about it.
The Moulin Rouge was a nightclub, a dance hall and a bordello ruled over by Harold Zidler, a kingdom of night-time pleasure where the rich and powerful came to play with the beautiful creatures of the underworld. Checkinn99 has been transformed into the Moulin Rouge for a specially adapted romantic jukebox musical performed by its house theatre troupe. Christian, a young poet, leaves his respectable background behind when he moves to the bohemian underworld of Montmartre. Taken under the wing of the absinthe-soaked artist Toulouse-Lautrec, he becomes a regular at the notorious nightclub, the Moulin Rouge, where he falls under the spell of Satine, the most beautiful courtesan in Paris, and the star of the show. However the owner of the Moulin Rouge has promised her to an investor, The Duke. A dangerous love triangle ensues as Satine and Christian attempt to fight all odds to stay together. Gold tickets are 900 baht (reserved stage side seats & 2 standard drinks). Silver tickets 600 baht (unreserved seats & 1 standard drink). You can order online at Checkinn99bkk.com, at the bar, or call Chris on 081-7357617. There are 6 show dates – February 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 Feb and March 1.
There has been much in the press about the precarious financial situation of Thai Airways, a company which many Thais are proud of and the preferred airline for most Thais due, I think, partly to national pride but perhaps more the fact that cabin staff speak their language. A couple of weeks back I ranted about the airline's pricing on international routes, and now it's time for another rant about Thai Airways. For the second time in a year, Thai Airways has missed out on my business because I was unable to make a booking due to problems with their online booking system. You could get all the way to the page where you input your credit card details and then it would spit the dummy. I tried a few times and did all the tricks from changing browser to computer to IP address to using a different credit card – and the same thing happened every time. When I tried to log in to the frequent flyer section that was also down. So I went and booked with another airline, saved 6,000 baht in the process and Thai might just have lost a customer for good. How can an airline expect to be profitable when its online reservations system is frequently down?
Sukhumvit soi 16 is a bit of a graveyard for eateries whose primary customer base is Westerners. Plenty of foreigners live in soi 16 but residents aside, there's no real reason for others to wander down the soi, supermarket shopping at Foodland aside. Soi 16 is not typically used as a cut-through from Sukhumvit to Rama 4 as say soi 22 or Rachada is, and there's really no reason to walk down there, especially as in parts it's narrow and the sidewalk isn't what you'd call pedestrian friendly. The very nicely done out Avenue Steakhouse appears to have closed and the pleasant Italian Pizzazzo isn't doing anywhere near as well as it should – given it has great food and a very nice ambience. I notice a new restaurant and bar has opened in soi 16 called Bath but I don't know that that name will be an attraction and given the lack of success of other establishments in the soi, I wonder how well it will do.
Naughty boys who have burned their bridges on TLL or ThaiFriendly – the best two Thailand-centric dating sites – may wish to expand their horizons and look at other sites. Not Thai-centric but still with plenty of Thai members, TravelGirls and AsianDating are both worth checking out.
It's amazing the number of Westerners who meet in Thailand and quickly go in to business together in Thailand. That mightn't sound amazing, but given the type of folks Thailand can attract, that often they barely know each other, they have never actually met whilst sober, they come from different countries, they may not share the same first language – yet they are about to enter in to a relationship in which they will legally be partners. I can't even remember all of the people here who have sought my interest in going into business with them. Needless to say, it's not an idea I entertain for even a second. If you do decide to go in to business in Thailand, I believe there is much to be said by going it alone. So many business relationships here end badly – and it seems to me that it's often because the partners really didn't know each other well enough at the beginning. I can see why my old form 5 economics teacher said, "Choose a business partner like you would a wife or a husband" – but I don't think he meant that you should go in to business with a sexy bird with waist-length hair and big watermelons.
The recently released flick, "The Wolf of Wall Street" was packed this week, which shouldn't come as any great surprise for it follows the life of a boiler room kingpin – and Bangkok has been a centre for boiler room operations for a long time. You don't read so much about boiler room operations in Bangkok these days – and it's a topic I generally won't go anywhere near. What I will say, however, is that some of the knuckleheads who work the phones in these operations are about as discreet as a bargirl with fxxx me tattooed on her forehead. Wandering around the Asoke protest site as I do most days, a few times now I have seen the same group of 20-something Brits yahooing in public and exchanging ideas and laughing about their telephone scams and the people they have ripped off.
Charles Pangham has written a short story that is the first in a trilogy called "Killer Ladyboy". Set in Bangkok, it is a lurid and erotic thriller focusing on a sex and murder-crazed ladyboy seeking revenge. It is currently available on the Kindle at Amazon here. Charles would like to offer a free copy to the first dozen readers who email to him at : [email protected]
Quote of the week comes from a customer in an Angeles City gogo bar, "I know all of the girls on stage, know their names and every one starts with a T – a big capital T for 'Trouble!'"
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "Living on the Fringes".
A young Kiwi is behind bars in Bangkok after stealing a Bangkok taxi driver's phone.
Despite all of the ongoing political issues, Thailand's share market is up and the baht has strengthened.
A 70-year old Indian businessman who has lived in Thailand since age 5 may be deported for protesting.
A Pattaya hotel receptionist goes to sleep and safe deposit boxes at reception are ransacked of 1 million baht in valuables.
The popular and highly respected Aussie journalist behind Phuketwan faces court and possibly jail this coming week.
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: A friend who had conducted business in Asia passed away some 15 months ago. Ultimately his wife undertook a buying trip and all suppliers were most helpful except for a Thai trader who took her order and $5,000 but defaulted on sending goods. When contacted he was 'sick in hospital' and needed $2,000 [which she sent]. Presuming she can still find him, is there any recourse through the Thai legal system considering the amount involved and the fact that she doesn't reside in Thailand? She was understandably hurt, humiliated and angry due to the circumstances.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: There are several steps that need to be taken when trying to claim money from someone in Thailand. First, she would have to notify her supplier of the breach of the agreement and request the money be paid. The next step, when the money goes unpaid, is to retain a lawyer to issue a formal demand letter to the company or man. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has experience in issuing such demand letters and finding the registered address of the debtor. Sometimes the sight of a letter from a lawyer is enough to convince the person to pay the bill, but not always.
If the supplier still refuses to pay then she would need to formally appoint a lawyer using Court documents to represent her in court and issue a statement of claim on her behalf. She would need to be in Thailand to appoint the lawyer as well as file the case with the Civil Court unless there might be factors that would make it criminal i.e. evidence of fraud.
The demand letter is a fairly straightforward and inexpensive process that can easily be done via Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors while she is overseas. However, the rest of the process could prove costly and may end up costing her more than the $7,000 owed.
Question 2: I am an American with a 4-year-old son who has Thai / US citizenship. Can I buy a commercial property in his name and take back a 30-year lease to operate it in his name without having to set up a Thai company? Any other input from Sunbelt is welcome.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Although there are no restrictions on minors owning property in Thailand, it is important to note that Land Department would ask as to the source of the funding. If the funds come from the foreign parent then the officer would assume that the Thai national is acting as a nominee in holding the land for the parent. It is up to the officer's discretion but it is less likely that the officer would allow the sale to go through. If he or she did allow the sale to go through, it would require the permission of the Courts before the property could be sold so long as the owner is a minor child. Also, it is important to note that a 30-year lease or usufruct could not be registered on the property so long as the owner is a minor. This is to protect the rights of the child, that no lien can be bound to a minor, including his property.
Question 3: My condo is adjacent to a restaurant undergoing renovations. For quite a few months the noise from the work site has started at 6 AM and has gone well in to the night, 7 days a week. The workers are housed on site. Is there any legal recourse on restricting work taking place that produces noise outside at acceptable hours for a residential area?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: While there are usually Municipal laws on this, the company may have applied for and received clearance to work late from the authorities. In applying for this clearance the contractors would have had to clarify the scope of their work as well as show the safety levels of their work including control of the noise the work would produce.
You can complain to the police directly during the night hours or you may wish to approach your juristic manager if you live in a condominium to have him / her act on your behalf. You can also file a complaint (or have your juristic manager do so) with the District Office (Amphur) in the District that your condo or your house is located. The District Office would have originally issued the building permit.
For the Chinese this might be the year of the horse, but for me it's the year of the jet plane. I've got a heap of travel plans this year, revisiting places I've enjoyed visiting in the past and checking out a few countries I've yet to step foot in. I have been away from Bangkok for the past few days and put the finishing touches to this week's edition from far, far away. The political situation aside, not a lot seems to be going on in Bangkok. Next week's column will be a travel report on the place I currently find myself, a place I should have visited long before now, a place that really is incredible.
Your Bangkok commentator,