Stickman Weekly Bar News & Gossip
I'm going to play the Rugby World Cup card again and for the second week in a row, there's no opening piece. With the Rugby World Cup Final next weekend, I'm either going to be feeling elated or depressed so I'd say that the next opening piece I write will appear in the column of November 8th.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken at Soi Rambuttri, in the Khao San Road area. This week's photo is very easy for those who read Thai but please note, I am looking for a specific location – and not a translation of the sign!
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 articles or news from previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Decamping to Sodom on Sea?
Will either Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy still be around 30 or 40 years down the line? I have my doubts. We all know a rationalisation of the bar scene is overdue, and with price gouging reaching its upper limits, demographics unchanging, hands-off ownership and prosaic on-site management, we're in to the dying days. Which will go? Both Nana and Cowboy are valuable pieces of real estate. I would say Nana because the rents are higher so that's where bars will go to the wall quickest, but the number of surrounding beer bars, cheap hotels and guesthouses means there is a higher number of proximate punters. Once the fast-speed rail is up and running from the airport to Pattaya, there's going to be even more single male visitors bypassing Bangkok altogether, and not even bothering with a night or two. And given the bars there have nowhere near the difficulty of attracting new staff – many Isaan maidens genuinely dislike the fast pace of Bangkok – the whole scene may decamp to Sodom on Sea faster than I'd thought likely.
The bar that confuses me more than any other in Bangkok is Cowboy 2, on Soi Cowboy. I don't understand its business model. Every time I walk past there are dozens (sometimes 25, or more) of mostly attractive girls packed onto the verandah outside whose job seems to be not very much at all. Sure, they form a young, generally nice-looking crowd in cute outfits that creates the impression that something special must be going on inside. And admittedly the bar inside is often busy. But I wonder how much of that is really due to the large cluster of "crowd pleasers" parked outside? They generally don't make eye contact, don't try and rope you in to the venue and don't seem interested in much at all besides chattering among themselves. I've sat outside for a couple of drinks on two occasions without so much as a polite inquiry (I get plenty elsewhere so, no, it's not entirely me!) Obviously the hope is they attract enough traffic through the bar to justify their wages. But their sheer numbers don't make sense. All those girls must rack up quite a wage bill, which I assume would require them to rope in at least a few drinks each. But I just don't see the volume of customers needed to sustain it. That, together with the girls' near-total apathy, doesn't sound like a viable business model to me. Of course, having hordes of girls per customer is nothing new, but the legions in Rainbow 4 make no bones about the competition for your baht. And yet the same large cluster of attractive but apathetic girls has been parked outside Cowboy 2, fairly consistently, for years. Am I missing something?
A condition of employment.
I was surprised to go in to one of the Hilary bars at lunch time for a quick drink to find a big queue forming as girls from the entire Hilary Group including the clubs they own, had to report for STI and pregnancy checks. One of the girls explained that it happens every 3 months and is a condition of employment. If they don't report they are let go. I'd heard this before but always thought it was BS. They only test urine. They are mostly interested in whether a staff member is pregnant it seems. Not sure why that is. And the serve staff must do it too. Probably the most organised thing I've ever seen Thais carry out.
Regarding airline prices, I got a new 'low price record' from Europe (Zurich) flying to Bangkok for USD 500 return by Oman Air. The competition is tough with Emirates / Gulf Air / Etihad etc. Prices are incredible, dropping in the last couple of months but this one of USD 500 has peaked out. There is not a single European airline which can compete with these prices. When printing out the price of USD 500, it says that 165 is the ticket fee while 335 is taxes / fuel charges. So in other words, I got a ticket fee of USD 165 divided by 12,000 miles = a mile price of USD 0.01375.
What a truly amazing place Thailand is. Lost my satellite TV today. Call the company which tells me I owe $200 from when the system was installed two years ago. The early bills were paid to the installation company as it took CTH six months to start billing us by mail. Every bill we have received since shows the monthly charge and nothing more, and that is always paid. So, there was a debt kept secret from us, for two years. And that is how Thai companies do business. The other main provider is just as bad. They wouldn't last a month in the Real World. Seems to me that the installation company just pocketed the money, and so we have to fill in a form sent by snail mail (hi-tech Thailand in action) to confirm we paid, and then they contact the company we paid the money to. I asked the supervisor to call me when she has the answer but she says she is too busy as they have a lot of customer complaints. Really? No kidding. Seems I'd be better off getting the same stuff and more for half the price via the internet. Except if a dog pees on the telephone pole the internet is likely to go down as well.
To the reader who commented on Cuba Dave recently, are you mad? You are worried about the authorities picking on poor sex tourists. You complain there is no honour among thieves or solidarity among sex tourists. If you were a local leader, do you think you would want thousands of men showing up every month trying all they can to bed local lasses, therefore increasing local crime and sex trafficking and endangering underage girls all because some fool on the internet is giving out every salacious detail? Think about it. The internet is what brought the whole thing (or is bringing it) down. It's one thing to have a few sites (maybe darknet or passed around by word of mouth) that talk about bars to hang out in at a particular locale. Hell, throw around a price for a potential punter. But to give details about particular girls, pictures, videos, exact activities for exact prices, and to make money from ads and such keeps the whole thing public! Your sister / mom / wife / daughter can look at YouTube now and say, "Look what the boys are up to!" If they were not their own worst enemy with their internet proclivities, a punter could have a site with a private side to it and say, Here are some tips. When you get there chat with this guy or that guy to get the lay of the land. But we wanted to brag and show the world. Now the industry is dominated by hardened pros, spying white women, and accusations of paedophilia or human trafficking supporters just by going to a strip club! All because of "solidarity" and big mouths. Stick over the years even talked about less detail in trip reports and doesn't get into the sordid details. Just gives you bar advice. If you follow it, you can have fun without the who, what, when, where and exact details of things you may not want western females to know. Solidarity and big mouths are to blame, not local authorities trying to keep a lid on things.
Two of the most successful bar bosses today are Dollhouse Darel and Electric Blue Andy. Sky-diving buddies in the US, they came to Thailand and opened the original, ultimately ill-fated Dollhouse in Clinton Plaza. After the premature closure of Clinton Plaza, their next venture was to open a Dollhouse on Pattaya's Walking Street followed by a Dollhouse in the then sleepy Soi Cowboy. Dollhouse Pattaya is long gone and Big Andy got out of Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy many years ago. Big Andy and Darel have remained good mates, but have been doing their own thing bar-wise. For Big Andy, the Dollhouse name has always been close to his heart and after an absence of many years, Dollhouse will return to Pattaya with Darel and Andy joining forces again to open a brand new Dollhouse in Pattaya. The new Dollhouse in Sin City will be opposite BabyDolls on soi 15 off Walking Street. Captain Hornbag will manage it and Club Electric Blue which is in the same soi. With a bit of luck the doors will open before Christmas.
The Den in Patpong soi 1 is now open and it's been getting the thumbs up from visitors. It's similar to the original i.e. very much lounge style. There's not much trade yet but that's hardly unexpected as it's still early days.
In years gone by there was a persistent rumour that refused to die – that Nana Plaza would close because it was going to become a car park for the Landmark Hotel. This rumour dates back to the late '90s and perpetuated right through until early 2012 when news broke that bar group Eclipse had purchased Nana Plaza and intended to keep it operating as a red-light bar area. These days the most common rumour seems to concern Crazy House. The rumour mill has it that Crazy House, which is curiously located on Sukhumvit soi 23, will knock out the wall and expand in to the space that is currently The Old Dutch – meaning Crazy House would finally get an entrance on Soi Cowboy. This rumour pops up every few months and has been overheard up and down soi 23 this week. Could it be that this time it's for real? The bar group which runs The Old Dutch has a lease which runs out some time in the next year…could be a few months, could be closer to 12 – no-one but the boss knows exactly when. Said fellow has basically given up on extending the lease, partly because the property is owned by the family of the gentleman in a tight brown uniform who operates Crazy House. This bar baron isn't getting any younger and doesn't have the same fight in him that he once did. So, yes, it's likely that Crazy House will take over the space that is The Old Dutch which would make it one of the biggest gogo bars in Bangkok. And with an entrance on Soi Cowboy – and not stuck around the corner – Crazy House will then become an even more serious competitor to the most successful gogo bar in the country, Bacarra.
It's Halloween next week, one of my favourite nights in the bars and one night I will miss not roaming the Bangkok's bar areas. Bars will be decorated and girls dressed up to look like ghosts and ghouls, some looking even scarier than usual. Angelwitch in Nana is best known for its Halloween celebrations while The Strip has done a good job the past couple of years too. And if you want really scary, Demonia – the fetish bar in soi 33 – has plenty planned for Halloween too.
Halloween at The Strip, Patpong soi 2, 2013.
A street event is planned for Halloween by many of the bars on Patpong soi 2. Girls in costume will wander around Patpong each evening. Each of the participating venues will have a party and / or some type of promotion. The Strip has started already with a Naughty Witches Party held this past week. More decorations will be added, morphing the bar in to a house of horror as next weekend gets closer, essentially a continuous 10-day Halloween party at The Strip.
In Nana Plaza, Mercury is rising with loads of new girls and a Sexy Black Cat party at Halloween with Leo, Chang and Thai whisky 105 baht all night.
People tend to party differently in the different types of bar areas. In the farang bar areas, many folks venture out alone or with a pal and drink beer by the bottle or order mixed drinks like Jack + Coke. The Thais tend to go out to bars in large groups and order drinks by the bottle i.e. a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black along with bottles of mixers and a bucket of ice so everyone is drinking the same thing. In the backpacker areas like Khao San Road and the islands down south, partygoers order by the bucket – a small bucket which contains a 375 ml bottle of cheap Thai whisky like Mekhong or Sang Som in to which the entire bottle is emptied along with mixers. Other concoctions are available and it tends to be the sort of thing politely referred to as house spirits – they're cheap, and frankly nasty. So when I heard that the beer bar in front of True Obsessions towards the back of the ground floor of Nana Plaza has been razed and the new beer bar to be built in that space is to be called Bucket Bar, I cringed. The name suggests that this bar may serve these cheap and nasty buckets of alcohol popular with the backpacker crowd. If that is what happens, can we expect to see more mainstream visitors lingering in the plaza, something which sex tourists are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with?
3 AM closing continues at Soi Cowboy BUT the lights outside bars still open may be turned off and the music could be turned down. Obviously the local coppers know what's going on and are turning a blind eye but I guess there is concern about being too brazen about it. To recap, at this point in time all of Bangkok's 3 major farang bar areas have many bars open through until 3 AM. Traditionally, only some bars in Patpong have been open until that time, and bars in Nana and Cowboy have long turfed everyone out at 2 AM.
Why is it that many girls on Cowboy walk freely up and down the soi in coyotewear and sometimes even skimpy bikinis, whereas you almost never see that in Patpong or Nana? When girls at Nana or the Pong venture outside their bar they put on a large, loose-fitting shirt at the least Even just standing in their bar's doorway they usually cover themselves up. Not so at Cowboy where girls can leave their bar and stroll to one of the convenience stores on the soi to buy supplies or to one of the food vendors who has set up without putting covering up.
Has the last trace of Nanapong's online existence evaporated? Nanapong was originally a break-away group from the defunct Nanaplaza.com. It initially existed as a forum on the then very popular Delphi platform and up until a couple of weeks ago there was still the odd posting to the Nanapong forum. The number of posts had dropped to a handful a week and daily user logins could be counted in single digits, but the forum was still there and you could drop by and search through the archives of posts dating back to Nanapong's heyday and take a walk down memory lane, reading reports from 15 years ago about the original Nanapong dance contests and the antics of what Dean Barrett once described as the possessed men of Nanapong. The Nanapong forum disappeared a couple of weeks ago and there has been no comment as to why. Many classic posts and a lot of memories may be gone forever.
Speaking of Nanapong, the famous old Nanapong poster that had long been a feature at Dollhouse was sold by auction at the Nanapong dance contest two weekends back for 3,000 baht.
Pattaya celebrity Shark has been posting videos on YouTube where he opines about various aspects of modern life including Shark's thoughts on Thai hookers.
After 15 years of Stickman weekly columns, 15 years of readers' stories – many of which outline failed attempts at relationships with bar maidens – I still receive email asking for advice on how to make it work with a barlady. I'm afraid my mind hasn't changed and my observations over a very long period of time is that these types of relationships seldom work. Yes, they can work and no doubt some indignant folks will tell me how the lady they met in a bar has been the best life partner they could wish for. I maintain that this is the exception, not the norm. Think of such relationships the same way you would as going to a casino. The odds are stacked against you and most people know the house usually wins. There are, of course, some people who get lucky and hit the jackpot – but just like relationships with bar ladies, they tend to be the exception. That's about the best real life analogy I can come up with for those who insist on taking the risk of pursuing a long-term relationship with a bar lady.
It's sad to see the demise of the Onut Market and the street food / drink scene that had grown popular in recent years. So much in Bangkok is changing and places that made the city unique are being torn down to make way for just another shopping centre, hotel or condominium. It might be the way of the world but for those of us who were attracted to Bangkok because it was a little different and had its own flavour, the city is perhaps not losing its identity, but is becoming more sanitised.
You may have trouble if you leave a job in Thailand and depart the country without officially turning in your work permit and cancelling your extension of stay which is linked to that work permit. Some border checkpoints (Nongkhai is one where they are strict about this) won't allow you to leave Thailand if you have a non-immigrant B visa and an extension of stay based on working in Thailand which has yet to be cancelled. Some Immigration border points require that the visa be properly cancelled and only then will they allow you to exit the country. There may be a reason why you cannot cancel your visa before you depart Thailand – perhaps you are in a dispute with your former employer or you need to get out of Dodge fast. Don't despair – there is an easy solution. All you have to do is stump up the 1,000 baht for a re-entry permit which you can get at any Immigration office. With a re-entry permit in your passport, Immigration believe you're going to return. If you do wish to return, don't do so until the visa has expired, at which point all will be ok. This is a convoluted workaround and won't apply to many, but for those who get in to a dispute with their employer and don't properly cancel their work permit, this is a solution. It should be noted that even with a visa linked to your work permit, you can fly out at Suwannaphum, no problem. It is just some border points which may prevent you from leaving.
Stereotypes in Thailand are so strong that irrespective of your behaviour and how you present yourself, many have preconceived ideas about others based on such things as skin colour / the way someone looks, accent, and the general way people carry themself. If, for example, a lady from a less privileged background carried a fancy European brand name handbag, many would assume that it was a copy and not a genuine item, purely based on her perceived station in life. How can she afford a 50,000 baht bag, they would ask? Conversely, if a well to do lady had a fancy handbag which was in fact a copy, many would assume that it was an original for which she paid a princely sum! What does all this mean? Irrespective of how people present themselves, most Thais categorise other Thais within seconds. When it comes to foreigners, however, they're often confused because many of us fall so far outside the norms that it's hard to figure us out.
Quote of the week comes from The Big M, "Having a Hooters in Bangkok is like making angels go to church in heaven."
The reputation of foreigners in Thailand deteriorated further when a young Aussie was caught robbing a bank in Bangkok!
A Ukrainian is caught stealing cosmetics from a convenience store in Pattaya.
A UN agency says Thailand's roads are the second most dangerous in the world.
Respected university Kasetsart has put in place a mobile lane for students playing with their mobile to walk in.
A bar in Chiang Mai may be the first bar in the world owned entirely by a group of sex workers.
Thai ladyboys are proving to be a hit in Shanghai where mothers and fathers photograph their children standing next to them!
An Aussie is arrested across the border in Cambodia after robbing a Brit.
Police in Hong Kong police arrest dozens of Thai women in raids on girlie bars.
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 previously lived in Thailand and am a frequent visitor. I am also a photographer and have many photos of various places and people in Thailand. I am currently working on self-publishing a photography book that will feature photos of various places in Thailand, as well as photos of ordinary people in Thailand. These are not "compromising" pictures of people, but photos I've taken of people in public places like street markets, at Hualumpong station, in parks, and so on. I think it's fair to say that these are just photos of ordinary people = there is no nudity or naughtiness, and because they were all taken in public places, no real "expectation of privacy". I am a US citizen currently living in the USA. My question is this: What are the legal considerations involved here? In the US, generally speaking it's highly advisable that in order to use photos of people for commercial ventures, one should have a signed release form from that person. Although it's unlikely people will discover their image used for a commercial product like a book, it does happen and there have been cases of legal problems. What is Thai law on this matter? Or, what would you recommend in this situation? I do not have any sort of release forms for these people and would not be able to obtain them. Thank you.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Generally, the law would allow you to take pictures of unknown third parties in public places as long as:
1. They did not refuse or inform you that they do not wish to be part of the picture; or
2. The pictures would not affect their reputation.
3. The photographers are not invading their privacy i.e. shots taken through windows or when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
4. The pictures are not related to nudity.
These pictures would be considered as your property, but when you using them for commercial purposes the situation does change as the people in the photos would have a right to claim for a share of income from what you have earned from their pictures should they find out they have been published for commercial purposes. This is why we recommend to anyone who plans on using photos for commercial purposes to have the subject sign a release or waiver form.
Question 2: Regarding question #1 last week, those considering putting a property purchase in the name of a girlfriend / wife might consider the risks. It would be difficult to guess the percentage of these arrangements in general which go sour. However, would Sunbelt Legal be kind to reveal an (estimated) percentage of girlfriend / wife ownerships done in your office which need further legal attention?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors have had only a few issues out of thousands as we always recommend to our clients that they get a usufruct, put the house in their name and then retain the chanote title of the land in their possession. However, things can go wrong and we did have one client who ended up in hospital quite ill and became disabled. His wife came to him with a power of attorney form to sign so that repairs could be made on the house that he owned in his name on land to which he had a legal usufruct.
However, he did not have the power of attorneys translated and it turned out that he had unwittingly signed away his rights and his wife was able to sell the land and house since she had the correct power of attorney signed by him. She never told him that was what she had done and instead told him that repairs on the house were taking a long time. However, when she was away he hired a taxi to take him to the house to find out what was taking so long and found a family living there having legally purchased the house from his wife who had done so with the power of attorney he had signed.
They did end up staying together since he was quite disabled and he passed away some time later from cancer but it just goes to show that even if you do everything legally in the beginning, if you sign over your rights later on those initial contracts won't protect you. We can't come up with a specific percentage as we have not actually had many cases like this but there are stories we have heard of signatures being forged, or of couples getting divorced and then the husband finds himself in “enemy territory” as it were, surrounded by his wife's relatives and wanting to get out.
In addition to the usufruct and the full ownership of the house, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors always recommend to our clients that they consult with a legal advisor before signing any legal documents in Thai, especially regarding their property or a power of attorney.
So what's the deal with no opening piece last week, this week and most likely, nothing next week either? Last week it was as I wrote – I was too busy following the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. This week, I could have finished off any of a few opening pieces I have been working on but it was a beautiful day, a long weekend and I just wanted to be outside. Next week is the Rugby World Cup Final and hopeful of a win, I don't think my mind will be on putting together an opening piece. But I could write it in advance, right? I can, but I like to re-read and edit the column on Sunday because things change during the week – and I really don't think Bangkok is going to be on my mind next Sunday. So there will be a column, and I'll have all the latest bar news and gossip and my thoughts on life for expats and frequent visitors to Bangkok and whatnot, but I'm sorry to say there probably won't be an opening piece until the column of November 8th.