PlaySkool on the ground floor of Nana Plaza was renovated last year to a high standard making it the most comfortable bar of its type in Bangkok. But as nice as the bar was, the PlaySkool had issues to work through. The crew had been around forever, did their own thing and had a deserved reputation for being bitchy. Management knew this all along and renovation was only phase 1 of the PlaySkool improvement. Owned by a couple of football-crazy Brits, they approached it like the rebuilding of a Premier League side – they had to recruit a proven manager. And so 6 weeks ago they enticed Captain Hornbag to the bar, the American manager who did such good things at Spanky's Bangkok, Spanky's Pattaya and Club Electric Blue. The final phase was the part all bars find so hard these days, recruiting pretty girls. This week I revisited PlaySkool.
Many bar staff start the night with bar rituals, often involving a wooden phallus. In some bars a girl runs around the bar naked rubbing the phallus up against girls' private parts. In other bars girls line up with legs astride and the phallus is slid along the floor, underneath their legs. Highly superstitious, the girls believe these rituals will bring them luck. Translated: they hope to get a rich, generous customer!
PlaySkool really is a smart-looking bar, one of few venues where it's comfortable enough that you're happy to stick around not just for a drink or 2, but for half the night. The light system is impressive, there's a Jacuzzi in the back corner and in the words of the boss, PlaySkool has the cleanest shitter not just in the plaza, but in all of Bangkok!
Of course a nicely designed and comfortable bar is only part of it. A bar needs pretty girls. Amazingly PlaySkool has managed to keep the few attractive dancers it had and recruit a bunch of hotties.
Like so many bars today, PlaySkool has a mix of gogo dancers and coyote dancers. The coyotes dance in skimpy tops and the shortest of tight shorts.
The gogo dancers – as distinct from the coyotes – dance in a bikini. The only gogo dancer featured in this photo essay, this lady was rather, hmmm, what's the polite word….animated!
PlaySkool has more coyote dancers than gogo dancers and the coyotes are more attractive.
80% of the coyote girls go. The barfine for coyotes is 1,500 baht before midnight, 1,000 baht after midnight which compares well with some of the other bars in Nana with coyotes where the barfine is 2,000 baht. For gogo dancers, the barfine is 700 baht.
The girls seem happy. Smiles come easy and many are enthusiastic dancers.
Bottled Chang and Leo are 105 baht while most other bottled beers run 145 baht. Top shelf drinks like Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker black etc are also 145 baht, putting prices at the lower end of the range for big Bangkok gogo bars.
All lady drinks are a uniform 150 baht. There's none of this confusing tiered pricing for different types of lady drinks. Whatever she drinks, it's 150 baht.
PlaySkool has some really cute coyote dancers who are fun and seem to enjoy bar life. Put that down to Captain Hornbag, the manager who turned Club Electric Blue around and who has instilled the same fun vibe and atmosphere at PlaySkool. The coyote dancers love working for him.
Between dance shifts the coyotes often sit at the beer bar outside PlaySkool.
Customers on a budget and those who just plain prefer beer bars should note that drinks are significantly cheaper at the beer bar outside PlaySkool than they are inside. At the beer bar, most beers just 95 baht and top shelf drinks 105 – 110 baht.
Live English Premier League matches are shown in full HD at the outside beer bar and Playskool's beer bar is one of few places inside the plaza with a food menu.
PlaySkool is doing everything right. The bar has a bunch of attractive dancers. Drinks prices are fair. The bar is nicely fitted out. Parties are planned after Songkran, and with Captain Hornbag at the helm the operation is really taking shape.
PlaySkool has come along and with all of the negativity in the gogo bar industry in Bangkok, it stands out as a bar worth checking out.
* PlaySkool has been featured a couple of times in this column. The bar is not, nor has it ever been an advertiser of this site. In the interest of transparency, I received no inducements whatsoever to write this review. I was simply given access to the girls and freedom to take photos in the bar. I was offered free drinks – and availed myself of two bottles of water.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was not taken in England as one reader suggested, the fat-assed birds being his clue, but at the Golden Mount, a temple built on a man-made knoll several hundred metres from Democracy Monument. So, where was this week's photo taken from…not what is the building in the background!
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 – The inmates are running the asylum.
After reading what Andy had to say about bars from the business perspective, I believe the contrast between last week's column and this week's column is simple. The owners / managers are now slaves to the girls' whims because they can't afford to piss them off. Last week you made the perfect case that would most likely bring expats back to the bars. Simply put, the girls are controlling the bars. If you read between the lines, Andy said it best when he said, the bar business is on its way out. He said the winning combination is cold beer, cute girls, cool air-con and a good atmosphere. It appears that the only thing the owners can control now is the air-con.
Bars, the bottom line.
The real key for the bars will always be to recruit and retain attractive, friendly girls. That's the bottom line. Drink promotions and better management are all nice, but if the bars don't have hot women the rest is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and ignoring the iceberg!
Aspiring to be a pimp.
Man, these lines in your latest column just floored me, “…there are some bar owners who are there for the bragging rights to say that they are the owner of place with a bunch of pretty girls. I think there are bars for whom making money is not their first priority. Making their dreams come true is.” Where else, outside of rap lyrics or the farang ghettos of Thailand, would a man brag about being a pimp? Anywhere else a pimp is the lowest of the low. Even in Thai, the word for pimp is mang-da, or horseshoe crab. An ugly, bottom-dwelling scavenger. But in Bangkok there are men for whom being a pimp is a dream come true? How crappy does your life have to be if your dream is to be a pimp? Remember the movie “Taxi Driver?” The protagonist is a dysfunctional, emotionally unstable, insanely violent man who, when he shoots a pimp, is lauded by the whole city as a hero. That's how most of the world sees a pimp. But in Bangkok, apparently they're just another kind of businessman.
Patpong marketing plan.
If Patpong bars want to try and get the Sukhumvit crowd over there they could provide a shuttle. Just modify a songtaew, paint it black with white Patpong letters, put a chrome pole in the centre of the bed with a dancing lady, then troll between Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy picking up people who want to check out Patpong! Start with just Fridays and Saturdays. It would be pretty cheap to do. Yes, I know it's a short cab hop, but wouldn't such a shuttle be a lot more fun? The dancing lady would probably make good tips, dancing so close to travelers. So for the cost of gas and an old vehicle, Patpong would get new customers and advertising.
A monger's pet hates.
As an experienced monger, my pet hates are bad attitudes and deals not done. Mercenary attitudes in the bar – hello mamasans – and the long-time girl getting that call from a friend about some immediate emergency an hour or two after you hit the sheets. The higher asking prices, although always something to debate, is the unsurprising result of more and better alternatives for the local workforce. More and cheaper, if not better, alternatives exist for punters in Cambodia and the Philippines. And in Eastern Europe. Hell, even in Germany with the increasingly popular formula of clubs where an admittance fee covers both drinks and all services as performed by female staff. Starts at less than 5,000 baht for a night. That's competitive. I also think Pattaya wins over Bangers these days for us mongers.
The changing scene.
Though I live in Bangkok I have no interest in the bar scene. I do though go along with a mate when he's here. He's been coming for 10 years and felt, this time, for the first time, disappointed. Nana was ok, but some bars were really quiet. The one he used to like on the ground floor that had a great buzz and showed those ancient sexy cartoons on an old TV has gone, replaced by something, well, boring. He liked a girl in one of the Rainbow bars but she only wanted Asian guys. While the Angelwitch show choreography may have changed the music and basic feel of the show is as it has been for years. Boring. Next night to Cowboy, walking down the soi on a Friday night with no excitement in the air, we put our heads in many bars that had either very few girls, very few customers, or both. No atmosphere. We ended up in one that seemed ok. Two girls grabbed my friend and he bought them several drinks and chatted. He was going to take one, maybe both. Eventually asked about the barfine – 4,000 baht. What?! Oh you're coyote girls, you don't go out of the bar?! Well my mate is a mellow guy so didn't get annoyed but was seriously disappointed and did feel he'd been 'had'. He will never go to that bar again. As for me, I'm glad I don't rely on the scene for my entertainment.
It was my partner's birthday so I decided to surprise her with flowers. I used a flower service online and it was a complete disaster! My partner lives on the outskirts of Bangkok in a residential area so it wasn't in the middle of Nakhon Nowhere! I organised the service a week before delivery and received an email saying that the delivery was ok and confirmed. In the morning she received a phone call saying that the florist nearby would like to make a delivery and would she be home? The surprise was ruined. Five minutes later she received a phone call from another person asking if she had purchased flowers! Then just before delivery, another person phoned and asked where her address was! This results to 3 phone calls to a delivery which was supposed to be a surprise on her birthday! She was so annoyed that she even asked if she could pick up the flowers herself. Can you believe the incompetency of this bunch? The flowers were not cheap and organised through what seemed a professional website. Why on earth would someone ring up and ask if the recipient had purchased flowers? Wouldn't anyone in their right mind assume the flowers were a surprise? Then again, this is Thailand and nothing seems to surprise me anymore. With stories like this, I have doubts whether I could live there. My partner is from middle class society and after living in the west even she finds the incompetence intolerable sometimes. I can't blame you for wanting to leave – I can understand that after a while, your patience just runs out.
Football and bargirls.
A man's relationship with his football team is the same as the relationship with his bargirl. They both cost money to support, they both give you more heartache than joy and even though in your heart you know you would be better off without them, you can't quite make the decision to dump them.
Girl of the week
Candy, escort exclusive to PureBangkokEscorts.com.
You don't expect girls from far-flung Isaan to have
such lovely fair skin, but it's actually not untypical of many from
Nakhon Phanom and Candy's home province, Sakhon Nakhon.
It can be fun wandering around the bar areas early evening, soaking up the vibe as the girls prepare for the night ahead, share a meal together and catch up on what happened the previous evening. Nana is particularly good in this respect with the girls congregate at the balcony outside the bars. As if proof was needed that Bangkok's bars are hurting, where there are usually packs of girls from early evening onwards scattered around the plaza, this week there were few. And where there's usually a constant stream of foot traffic heading towards the plaza from the Nana BTS as night workers pass hotels they may spend time in later in the night, this week it was just dribs and drabs. Yep, I'm fully aware that I say this just about every week, but it really is genuinely quiet around the bars!
In contrast to the bars, restaurant trade on Sukhumvit has picked up over the past 2 weeks, a couple of restaurateurs reporting a 25 – 30% increase in trade. Bar trade remains poor and hotel occupancy rates low as the tourism market continues to stutter along, not helped by shootings in the north of the city where anti-government protesters were shot and killed this week by suspected government supporters.
Tonight Club Electric Blue starts Rock 'n Roll Sundays. The sexy dancers in Patpong's best bar will do their best to shake their stuff to rock n' roll music every Sunday night. For lovers of rock and roll as much as haters of modern music, it's something a little different from the same playlist you hear in just about every bar.
And next door in Patpong soi 2 at The Strip, bottled Singha beer is offered at 80 baht on Wednesdays, this special price available all night long.
And The Game Sports Bar, located on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 9 and under the Nana skytrain station, also has a promotion on beer – buy 2 bottles of Chang and the third is free.
The biggest match of the Premier League season could be next weekend's match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield, and the best place to watch it is Soi Nana's best beer bar, Stumble Inn, home of the Bangkok Manchester City Supporters Club. Correctly predict the score to win a free beer tower. There's a free drink for each goal scored by your team if you are wearing your team's colours although Thai supporters please note that you cannot change your allegiance and your shirt mid-match! There will be a buffet at half-time. Liverpool fans are cordially invited to enjoy the match alongside City fans.
Security guards posted outside the Sofitel between Sukhumvit sois 13 and 15 are repelling ladies of the night who like to linger on that stretch of pavement in the hope of being invited inside the flash property by a horny guest. The girls now stand right on the edge of the pavement, just centimetres beyond the area the security guards patrol.
Angelwitch, Pattaya's best known show bar, has taken on a new choreographer. The bar which cost more to build than any other gogo bar in Thailand features new shows described as both dramatic and theatrical.
The rumour mill was going wild late last year with talk of the demise of The Londoner. But nothing more has been heard and things have gone quiet with not a peep about any changes at the long-running English pub which still has arguably the best grub of any English pub in town.
Recent columns highlighting the state of Bangkok's bar industry have seen various ideas raised to save what many now acknowledge is an ailing sector of the industry. Some ideas are radical, some nonsensical and one while unworkable, has merit. With fewer girls and fewer customers, there's an argument that there are just too many gogo bars in Bangkok today. Could the 3 major Bangkok gogo bar areas be consolidated in to 2? When one bar area closed all the girls and staff would move straight across to the other bar areas, and customers would follow. The net effect would be that each bar would have more girls and more customers while their fixed expenses would remain exactly the same – meaning a better chance to be profitable. More girls would mean a better vibe and more competition amongst the girls would mean better attitudes and with a bit of luck, an improved customer experience. The question then becomes which bar area would be sacrificed? All 3 are prime real estate although Soi Nana is a little less desirable than Asoke and Silom. Patpong has the most history, an established night market and is the most sprawling area and very unlikely to close. Soi Nana features satellite bars along the soi so odds are that wouldn't go either. That leaves Soi Cowboy, but logistically that would be the most difficult area to close. Where Soi Cowboy differs from Nana Plaza and Patpong is that the shophouses that comprise the bars are owned by various people, making a single buy out difficult. Consolidating the 3 main bar areas into 2 is a good idea in theory, but it's very unlikely to happen.
Checkinn99 will host two nights of Dutch Swing Fever with the touring big band B2F on Friday April 11th and Saturday 12th from 8 PM. House band Music of the Heart band will perform alternating sets. A 200 baht cover charge includes one standard house drink. Bookings can be made at Checkinn99Bkk.com.
Next week is Songkran, the biggest holiday of the Thai calendar. The 3 official Songkran holidays are 13th – 15th April, and many businesses will close from at least a couple of days before until a few days after. It's the time of year migrant workers travel to their family home in such numbers that intercity road traffic jams can be hundreds of kilometres long. It's the hottest time of year and the once traditional way of celebrating by sprinkling a few drops of water on to another's shoulder has become morphed in to wild water wars. In Bangkok the water fights are particularly popular in areas where you find foreign visitors and they can be hard to avoid. Songkran is a love it or hate it thing – count me amongst the latter. Water fights are a dreadful imposition on those who wish to go about their life but are prevented from doing so by those who see Songkran as a licence to bother those who don't want a part of it. There are often (usually foreign) assholes with powerful water guns keen to drench all and sundry – and those who intimate they don't wish to partake are often the first targeted. If you don't want to get wet, avoid the bar areas, avoid Silom Road, avoid Khao San Road – and expect your pleas to be spared to fall on deaf ears!
The bar areas can be bedlam at Songkran and for those who venture out after dark, getting to bars dry can be a mission. If you feel like a drink, consider the local 7 Eleven. And if you have an itch that you absolutely must scratch, there are plenty of Bangkok escort services to choose from.
Forget staying dry in Nana Plaza with the Nana Beer Garden declaring water wars. Over the 3 official days of Songkran free water cannons (and presumably ammunition) will be provided to customers at the Nana Beer Garden (the beer bars in the centre of the ground floor). It used to be that there were a few sods at the mouth of Nana Plaza who squirted those entering the plaza but once inside the plaza it was usually dry. That was until last year when the a group of bars issued their staff with guns, closed their bars and the staff ran amok around the plaza causing chaos and infuriating those girls who wanted to make money but couldn't. Down the road, customers who braved it to Cowboy found it was basically dry after sundown. It seems that this year Nana Plaza will go the same way as Pattaya and be one big bar fight. If you really want to go to the bars over Songkran and don't want to get wet, Cowboy and Patpong are better options – but there are no guarantees.
Strikers Sports Bar, the large open air sports bar in the Rajah Hotel Entertainment Complex on Soi Nana, about 100 metres down past Nana Plaza, has something different planned for Songkran with a live international DJ concert free for all starting at 6 PM on each of April 12, 13 & 14 inside the parking area. The car park will be cleared of cars those 3 days and opened up for the party. The event is being primarily organised, promoted and arranged by the owners of G Terminal Disco and Strikers. G Term is located where Ball in Hand used to be in the Rajah Complex and the source of the many DJs performing. Staging will be built and attached to the front of Strikers and all venues in the complex are being invited to have booths in the parking area and make it easy for partygoers to grab a drink.
The worst place in the country for Songkran revelry – or the best, depending on your attitude – is Pattaya where the madness lasts a week. Many Western residents of Pattaya become refugees and flee to neighbouring countries – Angeles City in the Philippines the first choice for many. Angeles City business owners gear up for a busy week and LaBamba / Rhapsody offer 20% discounts off the entire bill to Songkran refugee card holders. The card can be picked up at Tequila Reef Cantina in Pattaya's soi 7 after April 8th, and is also available at Tequila Reef Cantina in Angeles City upon request.
Americans – specifically Americans as opposed to any other nationality – may have trouble opening a bank account in Thailand, even at branches known as being farang-friendly like the Bangkok Bank branch on Sukhumvit Road near soi 8, the Siam Commercial branch on soi 11 and K-Bank in Central Festival in Pattaya. The US government has placed onerous reporting requirements on banks worldwide as part of the new Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and banks are obliged to report the details of all and any accounts held by American nationals. The implications could be widespread, given that you need a bank account if you work here, if you wish to apply for a retirement visa, if you wish to buy a condo or you wish to do any of the many other things that residents typically do. So far I have heard from 2 Americans who have been unable to open an account in Thailand, specifically because of these new laws.
On the subject of banks and the possibility of your Thai bank account being accessed by unscrupulous characters – something you read about often enough in Thailand for it to be a genuine concern – some banks allow customers to set up a notification service whereby every time a withdrawal is made from your account an SMS alert is sent to your mobile phone. It won't prevent crooks making one withdrawal but it should prevent your account from being cleaned out – assuming your account balance is significant enough that more than one transaction is needed to clean it out!
Brits aren't happy about the new rules for applying for a new passport in Thailand. Brits are now required to visit the British Embassy in Bangkok in person not once, but twice. This is part of a new security system and it is said that there are strictly no exceptions to the rule. Irrespective of where you may live in Thailand, your personal circumstances, your health – you could be infirmed – you need to make two visits.
Google Translate is popular with Thai women keen to meet a foreign man but who don't have a great command of English. While automated online translation systems do a decent job between English and most European languages, when it comes to Thai the results are not so good. Often what the translation system comes out with is mangled. So if you're communicating with a Thai lady online and her English seems to be for want of a better word, funky, odds are she is using an automated translation service, so be patient!
I notice more foreigners driving in Thailand – no surprise as more foreigners reside here today. What does surprise me however is that many are driving some really nice cars. I'm not talking merely nice Japanese cars like say a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry, but genuine luxury models from Europe, vehicles which cost 2.5 or 3 times the price here that you would pay for the same model in Farangland. Late model, high-spec BMWs seem to be particularly popular. Some foreigners must be doing very well for themselves, but what gets me – and forgive me for saying this – is that some look like bogans. Bogans in late model BMWs? Just what are they up to?
Only a few readers were fooled by the April Fool's Day prank I ran earlier in the week. In what has become a regular thing, this year I wrote the bars would be prohibited from opening beyond midnight. The article was totally over the top but some still believed it. I can only guess that there is so much BS about this year that some people will believe almost anything.
And certainly not a joke, do keep an eye on the news coming out of Bangkok as tensions have once again ratcheted up as the political situation threatens to get spicy. I won't make any comments about whether you should visit or not, suffice to say that things feel more heated than they have for a few weeks.
Quote of the week, "You know you are old in Thailand when they no longer call out 'sexy man' but call you Papa!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Bangkok Real, "I Missed A Bullet".
A Thai escort hits the jackpot when a British fraudster
gives her £1 million over the course of a year.
Another foreigner joins the Pattaya Flying Club after his Thai wife left him.
Thailand's lax enforcement of copyright is slammed by the Wall Street Journal.
The Sydney Morning Herald looks at some of the things that only happen in Asia including dodgy ED visas in Thailand.
This week the UAE advised its citizens against travel to Thailand, after other countries have softened their travel advisories.
Scrap metal workers in Bangkok try to dismantle a 200 kg World War II bomb with disastrous consequences!
Pet dogs are being stolen in Thailand amid growing demand for golf gloves made from dog testicles.
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: My girlfriend mortgaged her house to start a business that subsequently failed. The bank is going to seize her property. Her house is the legal address of 6 family members. I have a few questions about this situation.
* If I pay off the loan, I want a 30-year usufruct to: 1) Prevent her from taking out new loans on this property, 2) Become the boss in the house, and in case of a serious conflict, be able to compel family members to move out.
* Considering these two goals, do you think this plan is good, or do you have a better idea?
* Can I secure a usufruct when paying back the loan?
* What would the process be to compel a troublesome adult family member to move out?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Banks will not offer a mortgage or loan to any land that has a usufruct or any kind of lien on it. Banks in Thailand will only offer a mortgage if the collateral properties are free from all liens.
It is possible to register a usufruct (not only for 30 years, but your lifetime), if you settle the loan with the bank on your girlfriend's behalf. Please understand that being the grantee of a servitude does not give you the same rights as the owner of a property.
The responsibility to remove troublesome adult family members would lie with the owner of the property (which is your girlfriend) and in that case you will need to bear in mind that in Thai culture, responsibilities towards family members may not coincide with that of your own culture.
Question 2: Can someone who is on the executive committee of a condo building also be the building manager?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: So long as the rules and regulations of the condominium do not prohibit an individual from holding two roles then it is possible. You will need to check the bylaws of your condominium.
Question 3: A Thai lady has bought a house from a Thai man friend who is legally married to a Thai lady. She has the chanote in her name now and previously only his name (the seller) was on the chanote. She knows the family and let them live there for free as she bought it as a future investment. The Thai man who sold her the house has since died and his Thai wife has still been living in the house rent free. The Thai lady (buyer) now wants to move her Father into the house but the Thai lady, widow of the previous owner, refuses to move out as she is claiming as the wife she is entitled to live in the house until she dies even though her name never appeared on the chanote. Is there any basis in this as it seems a bit strange that you can sell a property then still live in it rent-free.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: It there is no Lease Agreement or any type of superficies imposed on the property that enable the Seller and his family (previous owner) to live in the house, then you would be able to evict the previous owner but you must follow certain procedures first:
Sending registered mail to her to relocate from your property.
If she refuses you can then make a police report, so that the officials would enforce the charges.
Proceed to court action, by filing a lawsuit against her for trespassing and for her to evacuate from your premises.
Please be aware that Thailand does have squatters rights, in that if the owner allows a person to live rent-free unhindered for more than 10 years then the person living in the property may be allowed to lay claim to the property. So, for example, if the widow remained in the home for 10 years under the new owner then she would have a claim to the property.
And there you were thinking I had abandoned the girl of the week after the last 2 columns had neither a girl of the week section, nor a single word of explanation as to its omission. Emails have been less than flattering about some of the girls featured recently so I have moved away from the bars for the time being and have a bunch of Bangkok escorts lined up for the next several weeks and the girls pictured here are a preview of what's to come. The 3 girls on the left can be found at PureBangkokEscorts.com and the 3 girls on the right are from BangkokEscort.com. Expect to see each of these ladies featured as girl of the week in the column over the next month or so.
Your Bangkok commentator,