With the end of the column so close that I can almost reach out and touch it, I ask myself what I will miss about it. Honestly, I don't think I am going to miss much at all. These days venturing out to the bars is about gathering gossip and that's about it. I won't miss the bar environment in general. I don't have any favourite bargirls so I won't miss any of the employees, although I guess I'll miss a few bar manager and owner friends. Cheap drinks at happy hour? Nah, I hardly drink these days. Dance contests? Nope, I used to like them but they got kind of grotty. It's hard to come up with much I will miss. OK, there is one thing – taking photos in the bar environment. That's about it.
A few weeks ago I found myself in Spanky's in Nana Plaza and that is probably the last bar photo shoot I will ever do.
Da was 2015's first girl of the week and has had a refresh, dying her hair and going for a new look.
In many bars there is a bucket full of hard stuff and mixers which the girls slurp from throughout the evening. Many Thai bargirls are known to front-load, hitting the drink hard even before they get up on stage.
For some it is a means of dealing with what follows. Others are just plain alcoholics.
If I had yet another criticism of the bar industry – and regular readers know I have many – it would be that so many Thai bargirls have a serious drinking problem. And yeah, it seems to be a Thai problem and is not something you see to the same extent in expat bars in the likes of Cambodia and Vietnam.
What's worse is that bar owners, managers and mamasans do nothing about it. If this was America, bar owners would be looking at massive law suits against them by employees who could make a pretty decent argument that greater care should be taken with them and how the pressure to drink soft-drinks or alcoholic lady drinks is detrimental to their health. Employers encourage them to drink and drink and drink and at the same time are fully aware that many girls have a serious drinking problem. It's all rather sad.
The pick of the bunch in Spanky's the night I was there, she would definitely make the grade as a girl of the week.
Girls don't always smile these days but this lass was positively beaming from ear to ear and enjoyed being photographed.
It's a moot point whether the ladies look better or not these days, but the lithe figures of days gone by are not the norm in every bar. Spanky's doesn't employ fuller-figured dancers so if you prefer a well-rounded lady Spanky's might not be the place for you.
Some of the Spanky's team pose for a group shot. This same shot was taken a dozen times and despite trying to get the ladies to all look at the camera, this was as close as I could get. Some just can't seem to keep still. Umm, errr, the less said about just why that may be, the better!
One of the novelties of the bar industry is the way many ladies will strip off in the bar and bounce around the stage like the Energizer bunny in front of all and sundry, but get them in a hotel room and they drape themselves in a towel which they won't remove until almost every inch of their body is hidden under the bed sheets.
A lovely smile and she knows how to pose.
The number one smile in Spanky's, I thought this lady was the most attractive. Not the most photogenic, mind you, but the most attractive, at least to my eyes.
These are the types of shots I prefer to take, candids. I'm no glamour or fashion photographer and much prefer to shoot natural shots where the subject does not pose or perhaps does not even know there's a lens pointing at them.
Their hair is done, as is their makeup and it's just about time to get up on stage.
The girls are addicted to their mobile phone with Facebook and online games the main draws. Many girls have a Facebook account and a Line account, but curiously many claim not to have an email account and don't even know how to use email – even though I thought you needed an email account for that. When I ask the girls how they want shots of themselves sent to them, email is never requested.
Many comment that mobile phones and the Internet changed the industry – and for a while it did. But these are not the reasons why things have gone in to rapid decline, at least as far as service levels outside the bar is concerned. For once, mobile phones and the Internet are hardly irrelevant.
The reason for the way things are as they are these days is basic economics and the law of supply and demand. Where once the average girl was barfined around 10 times per month, she would treat a guy super nice in the hope that he would barfine her for multiple nights in a row, and if she was really lucky, for the entire duration of his holiday. That way she would make more money. She did not treat him super nice or screw him like she would a boyfriend or a husband because she liked him, but because that might convince him to take her for a longer period. Everything has changed and with fewer ladies in the bars many ladies are barfined multiple times per night. 2 or 3 barfines a night makes the ladies 4,500 – 7,500 baht (maybe more) per night and they have no need to be nice to a guy because they are already making plenty. In fact, they are better off being horrible to him and make him end as fast as they can so they can get back to the bar and get another guy. And at the end of the night they can go back home, either to be alone, with friends or with their local boyfriend or husband. You didn't think they used to screw you like a girlfriend does because they like you, did you? Oh, come on, puh-lease don't tell me you believed that!
The lights are off, the music is on and another night in one of Bangkok's most popular and successful gogo bars is underway./p>
Having access to the bars and being able to shoot inside gogo bars has been something I have enjoyed immensely and is perhaps the one thing from the bar industry I will miss.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from Maya, the Indian restaurant on the top floor of the Holiday Inn at the start of Sukhumvit soi 22.
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 – A bleak future.I have read with interest your thoughts about the demise of the bar industry, and I agree with most of it. I might be an aberration but for me personally, the price hikes are not the main issue. I have managed to keep up with the financial times and even if Thailand is way more expensive now than it was 13 years ago when I first visited, it's still comparatively cheap for me. So for me it's not about the money. I have no qualms stuffing 10K+ baht in my pocket to spend on a night out if I think I'm going to have a good time, and I am prepared to pay 4K – 5K for long-time. It's not an issue when I'm on holiday. But the key thing is if I think I'm going to have a good time. I'm not an idiot and I won't waste my money if I get no return. The thing is, I rarely have a good time in the bars these days. It might in part be me that has changed but I am dead certain the enjoyment factor is way down. Often I feel hostility, and I am not the type who behaves in a way that hostility is called for. Often I feel like I am just a mark for extortion, like the proverbial walking ATM. Today I'd rather go to Annie's or some such place to get my "release" and then spend the evening in a wine bar or even in my hotel with the mini-bar and my iPad. My spending in nice restaurants is up while my spending in bars is down. And I have cheaper vacations, even if that's not something I strive for. So, if higher prices are driving the cash-strapped away and if deteriorating attitudes are driving would-be spenders like me away, who's left? I believe the future of the bar industry is bleak, very bleak.
Pricing in the Philippines.
In your latest column you mentioned in Pattaya of a guy paying up front for the girls' "services". Interestingly enough, most bars in Angeles City have this policy. I don't think all, but most I've been to. (This was in June last year). You walk in and when you pick the girl you pay for the barfine and the services of the girl which is usually around 2,000 pesos. The peso is worth less than the baht. This is the barfine included and there's no bargaining. I personally don't like the system, because you can't negotiate lower i.e. a fat slimy overweight foreigner pays the same as a young, fairly groomed younger man. Then again, it is fairer on the girls.
Angeles City bar bosses reward regulars
Talking about the downturn in the bar trade, before discovering Thailand and her many charms I use to diet on the Filipina charms.
One thing I vividly remember is that bar owners and managers use to be really good hosts. Not every night, but on a round of bars 3 or 4 bar would throw in complimentary beers on the house. It used to make you go back to their establishments. We weren't big spenders but we weren't nursing beers either. Most of us were 2-week millionaires, not expats. I think if Pattaya and Bangkok bar managers recognised regular customer they would get repeat customers.
More fun in the Philippines.
I'm starting to feel the tears welling up in apprehension of your last column! Thankfully at least I'm no longer holed up in some cold lonely apartment in Farangland anymore eagerly awaiting your column each Sunday evening as my only connection with a place with warm weather, cheap beer, friendly locals and a relaxed lifestyle! Not to say I don't still eagerly await your columns anymore, which I most certainly do, but I would be devastated if I was still in those circumstances! Anyway, if your mates can't convince you to stay, an anonymous reader has no chance! As an aside, I've been spending more and more time in the Philippines for work. If I wasn't Thai-ed here in Thailand by marriage, I'd seriously consider moving as my company has given me the option. I think I can safely say that nowadays the Philippine tourism authority has it right. It is "more fun in the Philippines"! Check it out some time.
A change for the better.
I want to add, probably unnecessarily, my endorsement of your decision to go home. I left Thailand 4 years ago with my then 2-year-old son. I left behind his [unstable] mother, my unsold house and my uncollectible court settlement that I had won from the developer who built my house. Despite the losses I absorbed, I have no doubt at all that I did the right thing – for my son and for myself. My boy has thrived in Canada and I have found myself again. I didn't like the person I had turned into – things in Thailand are often in the slippery slope vein – and I am once again the sort of person that I think he can look up to. Our life is far from perfect and certainly not problem-free but it is immeasurably richer and more rewarding. I am no longer a “stranger in a strange land.”
Knowing when it's time to go.
As you prepare for your departure I just want to say thanks for the memories. I was a Bangkok expat from 2007 – 2011 when I decided it was time to pack my bags and move on. It was great when I first visited in 2002 but visiting on holiday and living there was as different as night and day. Being a greenhorn on holiday and looking through rose-coloured glasses was great; being a resident and learning too much about Thailand soured me to the point that I became just too cynical. Nevertheless I'm glad I was there and the million memories will always remain fresh in my mind. Although we never met it was your columns that educated me and helped me survive at times. Now as the marriage to my cute little Thai wife who was half my age fails, I can only smile and think how many people would say to me, "I told you so". But like so many before me she was different. I just wanted to tell you that you made Thailand a better place for many and you will be missed. You'll leave a piece of you behind in Thailand but you'll also remember the old days are gone and they'll never be back.
From a loyal reader.
I'm sure you're getting inundated with thanks and well wishes from many of your loyal readers so please let me add mine as well. Thanks for the many years of fabulous reporting about Thailand. Your reports were always tinged with humor and insights while ensconced with integrity. If you can be defined by one quality and one quality alone it would be integrity, an attribute sorely lacking in the venue and subject matter that you shared your views about. It was because of your integrity that I have been a loyal reader since 2001. I knew I was getting the full scoop, sans the bullshit and self-serving crap. Like many Stickmanites, I stumbled across you initially while I was trying to understand some relationship problems I was having with a Vietnamese woman that I met in the USA. Demands for money, pouting, inherently dishonest behavior and then I found your website and "let there be light". I realized I had the Vietnamese version of a Surin vixen. Because we had a child this relationship has endured a lot longer than it would have otherwise. In fact, the relationship started just before I first read your website back in 2001 and it's about to have its final breath through divorce proceedings around the time you plan to close up shop. I'm not a creature of habit but I don't recall ever missing one of your weeklies plus I've read many of the readers' submissions as well. To get someone like me, a person very much not inclined to follow a routine, is a testament to the quality of the content you produced. Early on you patterned yourself after Trink. The greatest students study their mentors but in the end they ultimately surpass them. Thanks for the memories and I hope that you're as successful in your future endeavours as you have been in your past.
The seedy narrow lane that connects Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 is known as The Tunnel. It's home to hole-in-the-wall bars, a pool hall, tiny massage booths, street food stalls, characters and cretins. The Tunnel won't be of this world much longer and is going to be torn down next month to make way for what is being described as a "market lane". As the Middle Eastern area spreads out beyond sois 3 and 3/1, word is that the market will be targeted at Middle Eastern customers. Construction is expected to take 3 months (which strikes me as a long time so I guess they have elaborate plans) and The Tunnel will be closed for that period – so presumably you won't be able to use it as a cut through between 5 and 7.
Bangkok's prime beer bar strip on Soi Nana is booming. From late afternoon onwards all of the best seats are taken and once night falls beer bars don't have to work hard to lure in the punters for almost all of the seats are taken. To my eyes, Soi Nana's beer bars are doing better than ever. The setup of beer bar after beer bar at the top of the soi from Morning Night down to Hillary 4 all offering a ringside view of the craziness that is Soi Nana provides world class people watching and is a great spot to wile away a few hours.
In fairness to the capital's gogo bars, things seem to have picked up a little over the last week or so. An anomaly or a trend I don't know, but typically in the lead up to Songkran things tend to be slowing down a bit. Not this year, it seems.
Inside the plaza, things change nightly and you never know what the night may bring. If a full view is important to you, some nights you will get it, other night you don't. If you want to get an eyeful, head to Cowboy where in some bars it's a sure thing.
What's going on at Dundee where some (all?) of the dancers command a 3,000 baht barfine. Dundee is a single shophouse bar in Soi Cowboy that you seldom hear much said about. What I don't get is that whenever a customer is told that the barfine is 3,000 baht barfine and responds with the inevitable rolling of the eyes or exclamation, it is almost always followed by the waitress saying exactly the same words, Our dancers are special. I can only guess that the owner or mamasan must have coached the service staff to say that. Special in price only, I would say.
The general consensus is that a naughty in Bangkok costs less than a naughty in Pattaya. And in Bangkok, popular gogo dancers are more likely to go multiple times a night than girls in Pattaya. As such, girls working in Bangkok bars probably make more than their sisters in Pattaya. Given that the ladies dancing in Bangkok and the ladies dancing in Pattaya come from the same background – Thailand's Northeast – why don't most girls head straight for Bangkok? They're almost sure to make more money in the capital than in Sin City.
The owner of The Den ought to consider renaming the bar to The Den Of Steroid Users. Almost every time I stick my head in the door I see a bunch of huge – let's be frank here – grotesquely large guys inside, and very few others. As I said even before The Den opened, it's a great concept and very well put together, while at the same time it's fair to say that it's being let down by the marketing department and I cannot possibly see how it could be making money. But then like so many other nightlife venues around town these days perhaps making money was never the intention in the first place.
I can't be the only one whose email inbox gets a regular stream of Indian and Pakistani women offering sexual services. Some are in the Middle East but a few are here in Thailand. Some aren't too easy on the eye, it has to be said!
Condo developments are going up all over the city as Bangkok's middle class grows. Demand for downtown condos is also being fueled by foreigners flocking here. Folks familiar with Sukhumvit soi 22 know that a few hundred metres beyond the hotel previously known as Queen's Park is a large vacant area with not much of anything; the space which houses Silom Sauna. That area is going to be developed soon with five high-rise condominiums planned. Panning regulations restrict the height of buildings to 8 floors but because that space can be accessed from 2 different sois, that regulation doesn't apply. I have heard that some of these new buildings are going to 40+ storeys. Given that these are prime developments and presumably many who move in will have a car, traffic in that area could be even worse in the future.
Despite all the moaning and groaning – and sometimes even despair – at what the bar industry has become, you can still have fun in Thailand with the ladies. There was once a time when the bars were the only game in town, when there were few other genuine options for anyone who wanted to get to know a Thai lady better. These days the bars are just one choice, the other – and frankly the preferable choice – are the dating websites. Many naughty boys scoff at the idea of getting online and it's not for everyone – just as the bars aren't for everyone. There are many dating sites where you can meet Thai ladies but there are two that stand out. ThaiCupid, previously known as ThaiLoveLinks is one choice; ThaiFriendly the other. Each of these sites has its relative advantages so the best thing to do is to sign up for both and see which one works best for you. Thai women are open-minded to meeting foreign men for anything from a serious relationship to no strings attached fun. With the way the bar scene has gone, unless you have very limited time and after a sure thing, give these two sites a go.
What I hate about expats and the ThaiVisa forum especially, is the way many news articles and stories get distorted and what is posted hardly resembles the truth. Recently, a long-time foreign resident of the north found video and pictures of himself on national TV where he was described as a foreigner fighting fires in Lampang province. Within 2 hours of the story being shown on the 6 AM TV news, his wife received a phone call from the military asking the lady and her husband to visit them at their base. It turns out that a general had made a quick trip to Lampang on behalf of the government to give this fellow a small token of their appreciation. However, that was not the story that was posted on the discussion forum. The reposted version featured nonsense from the armchair lawyers that said fellow was going to be arrested, fined, jailed and then deported! Said fellow thought that reading all of those posts was actually quite funny whereas I think it's a really sad indictment on expats in Thailand in general.
Agoda.com is popular for hotel bookings, but amongst Thailand webmasters its reputation took a massive hit when it changed the way commissions were paid. It had to do with the cookies. I won't get too technical, but where once a webmaster received a commission if someone clicked on a link to Agoda from their site and booked a hotel within xx days, I have been told that the way cookies are used has changed and some webmasters have noticed a massive drop in commissions. There are rumblings of discontent about what was once a great affiliate program and a good earner.
Bukhara, the Indian restaurant on the main Sukhumvit Road at the start of soi 7 and beside the pedestrian overbridge, is just fantastic. I am really going to miss their butter chicken, vegetable Jalfrezi and biryani.
What's the deal with the grinning farang cop in Pattaya? Two readers have mentioned a farang in tight brown operating with the local constabulary. He is usually seen roadside with Thai coppers pulling over motorbike riders and carrying out driver's licence and registration checks. He has been seen in various spots around Sin City. The question that readers are asking is whether he actually has the legal authority to stop motorists. Interestingly, his duties are not limited to just dealing with foreigners but stopping Thais too! I cannot imagine what they must think. Is he a fully fledged cop? It would appear not as he does not carry a firearm. Can he search people and for that matter, just what powers does he have? Those stopped have said that based on his heavily accented English he might be German. When asked what his role is, he told one reader that he is employed as a Royal Thai Policeman and when asked, he confirmed that he receives payment for his services.
The farang cop in Pattaya. (Photo supplied by a reader)
I would like to post a general warning about the danger of using Craigslist in Thailand, and a specific warning about a German masquerading as an Austrian who responds to Craigslist posts by foreigners in Thailand that may involve something not legal or which falls in to a grey area. The modus operandi varies from case to case, but what seems to happen is that the German – who uses various names, most recently Frank – scans Craigslist and arranges to purchase whatever is on offer. The person who placed the ad meets the German who then gives a signal and a bunch of policemen leap out of their hiding spot! What follows is a shakedown and if things aren't worked out, charges follow. Here's an email from a reader whose case is very similar to MANY others:
My name is Xxxxxxx and I'm a teacher employed in Bangkok. Last month I posted an ad on Craigslist offering to sell some vitamins I had bought on a website. They are all legal products. I was contacted by an Austrian guy in Pattaya who wanted to buy a few bottles. He said he was in Jomtien. This was the biggest mistake ever thinking someone legit would be out there. I went to meet him and he turned out to be a snitch for the police. I didn't believe these guys were police as they didn't show any ID. They wanted me to get in their truck so I was quite apprehensive. Anyway, I pissed this guy off and he turned out to be police, a case was made and I spent 20 hours in jail, and had to pay 90,000 baht to get out. They only gave me a receipt for 50,000. The deal changed. I was originally told I would be given my passport back and this would go away but in the end that's not what happened and they kept my passport. I'm supposedly waiting for a court date but it's been one month (this happened early March 2015). I had a lawyer but I think he screwed me cause the deal agreed upon initially wasn't the one I left with. I need to get my passport somehow. Can you help me? Any help at all would be appreciated. I was set up, mistreated and I'm completely depressed now.
I can only guess that this fellow was targeted as he was breaking some law or other although there's not enough detail to determine which laws he may have broken. My feeling is that the snitch and the cops have gone after him for selling vitamins commercially. Without a work permit specific to selling vitamins he would be in breach of labour laws and it might also be that to sell vitamins they may first need to be approved by the Thai FDA. I'm not familiar enough with the law to comment, but what I will say is that Thai law can be rather ambiguous. I'm guessing the victim somehow pissed off the perpetrators who initially saw him as a mark, but then made things official. The snitch (whose identity is known) has been working with the police for years and I have received a bunch of stories from readers who have been caught by him. If you're posting to Craigslist (it could potentially be any other forum but Craigslist seems to be the one that is always mentioned) and selling stuff that could in any way be illegal i.e. the products are not legal such as a hard-drive loaded up with pirated movies, you are selling anything commercially without the right permits / licenses etc then be careful when dealing with anyone with a German accent, especially if they say they are Austrian!
Quote of the week comes from Thai Lover, "Thailand is like a girlfriend you fell in love with only to find out they don't love you."
The boys in brown round up a bunch of so-called undesirables on Pattaya Beach, fine them and release them to go straight back to where they were found.
A labour organisation wants the minimum wage in Thailand to increase from 330 to 360 baht per day.
A WHO representative in Thailand is accused of keeping his Ethiopian maid in slave-like conditions.
A Russian who tries to sexually assault a bar maiden finds himself on the wrong end of a beating.
Bloomberg reports that visitor numbers to Thailand jumped in February by 30% when compared year on year.
The Bangkok Post looked at what happens when a foreigner is arrested in 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 have a 17 year old step-son with me in America who remains a Thai citizen. My question concerns Thai military service. Does my son need to register his name with the military? Will he have to serve? Are there exceptions for living abroad?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds: Since your step-son was born in Thailand, most likely he is listed on a house registration book or tabien ban as it is called in Thai. If he were not registered on a house registration book then his name would not be submitted to the authorities for inclusion in to the draw.
Thailand does not automatically draft young men, rather it is a lottery system where he may or may not be chosen for military service. At the age of 17, he must enroll in the Registrant List with the Military Registrar [known as Sassadee] at his District Office. Once enrolled he would be given a Sor Dor 9 Form. As he is not in the country, he could have a representative (usually his parent or relative) to enroll on his behalf. At the age of 20 he would have to revisit the District Office to see the Military Registrar to collect an appointment slip for the lottery (Form is known as Sor Dor 35). However, living and studying overseas does provide a temporary exemption from the conscription lottery.
His parents will need to present a letter of confirmation issued by the educational institute he attends, a letter of confirmation issued by the Thai Embassy / Consulate in the country that education institute located at, the Sor Dor 9 (previously obtained), a Sor Dor 35 (if any), and house registration. Such exemption will only be available to him until he reaches the age of 29. If he were to not return to Thailand at the end of his schooling but chose to stay in the US he could still move back to Thailand and, at the age of 30, apply for an exemption based on age. If he moves to Thailand after university it is important to note that if he has a degree and volunteers on conscription day, he'll only have to serve 6 months as opposed to the 2 years if you are chosen in the lottery. If he doesn't volunteer (but has a degree) he'll still do the 2 years.
Question 2: I'm wondering if a debt collector / creditor from the US has any power overseas, in particular in Thailand. I have student loans in the US that I never repaid, and the debt has been sold to a debt collector in the US. The debt collection agency sent a letter to my parents' house stating that if I don't repay the loan, that they can garnish my wages. They got the info about my place of employment (including an address) from social media (I'm guessing). Is this just an empty threat? I would think that a US debt collection agency has absolutely no authority or jurisdiction in Thailand, but perhaps I'm mistaken.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds: In general, government agencies would have jurisdiction only within their own country and for them to able to garnish your wages in Thailand they would need to file a lawsuit against you in Thailand and to have the Thai court make the decision to proceed. But what could be done by them is to circulate notifications to the embassy to restrict your ability to renew your passport, get it certified or other such embassy-related services.
I am so much looking forward to taking a long break. Putting this column together week after week, month after month, year after year has taken it out of me. Running a website is not hard work per se, but it's always on your mind and you seldom get much of a break away from it. You are constantly checking email and monitoring website stats to make sure there are no issues. And then just as I was getting ready to say goodbye….the phone rang. Up popped a familiar number, but what that conversation concerned was not a familiar topic. It's not easy when you have made your mind up on a big decision and then someone puts something to you which causes you to rethink, to potentially go back on something which had long since been decided. It's the classic mind-fxxk. There are at least two more columns to go. Note use of the phrase at least. I cannot say anything more, at least not at this stage…
Your Bangkok commentator,