In Bangkok, 5,000 baht gets you a memorable dinner for 2 at one of the city's best restaurants. 5,000 baht will also get you a return air ticket to many neighbouring countries. In fact, 5,000 baht is more than most Thais – and even some foreigners – pay per month for rent. And 5,000 baht will get you a (very) short time with a Bangkok gogo dancer.
In town for a quick visit this past September, the owner of a popular Bangkok gogo bar proudly said that none of his girls will go short-time for less than 3,000 baht. That sounds like a lot to me, but it's worse when you consider that 3,000 baht is not the total cost of the tryst. It's not even close.
Take a dancer from a gogo bar and you have to pay a barfine. 800 baht is common; you could pay more. Dancers expect a drink within seconds of sitting down and many will badger you for more. More drinks means more money and who can blame them – it's their job. And you've both had a few drinks, she might just agree to go with you. Some will pout if you suggest anywhere other than the short-time hotel of her choosing – usually the closest venue to her bar, although she may be willing to amble a little further if it's one of those places which secretly pays a 100 baht commission to the lady. Add it all up – your drinks, her drinks, the barfine, her fee and the cost of a short-time room and you'll be lucky to get change out of 5,000 baht.
5,000 baht wouldn't be so bad if you were happy with the service provided and the experience was one to remember, but more and more reports suggest that's not the norm in Bangkok gogo bars these days.
Once you're in the short-time room, her demeanour likely changes. All sweet in the bar, she said what was necessary to get you to barfine her. It was all about making the sale. Now she may try to get it over with fast, and some of these girls are expert at that.
On the middle floor of Nana Plaza, adjacent to Balcony Bar is the Hollywood Inn, a short-time hotel with 30-odd rooms. A couple of years back, a few of us milled around the cramped lobby and talked about the industry with the comings and goings of one of the busiest short-time hotels in the city our backdrop. Room turnover was fast – it had to be – at times there were impatient couples waiting – he horny, she anxious to get in, out and back to the bar. Most averaged around 30 minutes – from the time they walked in until the time they walked out. When you consider that means getting undressed, 4 showers (each presumably showering before and after), and getting dressed again, the main event was hardly the marathon most tell their mates about, but more like a 100-metre sprint. Some couples were in and out so fast you wonder if either of them showered.
Is 10 minutes of fun worth 5,000 baht? Is getting off – and that's about all there is time for – worth 5,000 baht?
To visitors, the cost might be much more than 5,000 baht. Factor in the airfare, the hotel (the one you sleep in and store your belongings) and the many other expenses, it can really add up.
Whoring in Thailand used to be inexpensive, unrushed and fun. The attraction was that the experience felt nothing like prostitution. It really was like being with a girlfriend.
Given the current service levels reported by many indulging with gogo dancers in Bangkok, is there an argument that you may get a better deal in many other locales, even back in Farangland?!
New Zealand's largest and most respected newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, features adult entertainment ads daily.
Adverts in the country's most popular newspaper show full service here in Auckland can be had for as little as $NZ50. At an exchange rate of approximately 24 baht to a New Zealand dollar, that's 1,200 baht all in. $50 is about as cheap as it gets.
What is perhaps surprising is that many of the $50 girls are Asian students. Some are hot, some are not. There are Kiwis, the odd European and some South Americans – but they command higher prices. Asians are said to be the cheapest, a reflection of local men's tastes.
The ladies operate from a residential address, it's legal (apart from the fact that some ladies are likely on student visas). Shower, do the business, wham, bam thank you, ‘mam – just like with Bangkok gogo girls but for a fraction of the price and on your own doorstep with no need to fly half-way around the world.
I have zero experience of it but I hear it is very much as advertised. There are no hidden costs, nor are there goons jumping out of the closet with a switchblade to rob you. There's no Mafia involvement or anything like that and the girls are independent operators working from home.
It mightn't sound like the best experience in the world but really, is it much different from what you get in Bangkok today?
Yes, you can get a Bangkok gogo dancer all in for less than 5,000 baht if you watch your pennies and yes, Bangkok gogo bars can be fun places to drink and party. But is a quick bonk really worth 5,000 baht?
Update: Smooci has been a real game-changer for the Bangkok scene, bridging the gap between escort girls, gogo girls, and freelancers. Creating a level playing field and all-in-one services, girls who normally cost 5,000 Baht can be found for 2-3,000 on Smooci.
Last week's photo was taken on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 24/1 and soi 26 which motorbike taxis use to ferry folks to and from the BTS. The alley is full of massage houses. This week's photo is a little more challenging…
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 F word is not the N word.
Another aspect to the 'Do-they-hate-us' debate that gets me is those westerners that believe 'farang' is a derogatory term equivalent to 'nigger'. Having heard this term from thousands of people over the years to describe me, I can't believe that those who like / love / respect me are in on this secret conspiracy to call us all 'nigger' and not a single one has ever given the game away.
Getting along with the Thais.
The Thais don't hate us – and by us I mean people living here legally, working here legally, contributing and integrated or at least trying as best as possible to be integrated and making an effort. I have been in Thailand for 11 years. I studied at a university, found work, got married and now have a kid. My Thai is way above average, but not fluent. I live with my wife and kid in Phrakanong and all the locals here are friendly. We help each other out and always have a friendly chat with people, be it in Big C or the local mom and pop shop. I agree where you say that if you joke around, be friendly etc. with Thais, especially in the Thai language, that they are super friendly and want to learn about us as well. I have met people who have been here longer than me, but I cannot and can never understand when they can't speak Thai, or even count to ten! How can one live here and expect all to be great when you can't communicate in the local language? You also mention visa regulations which have pissed off many foreigners living here. They have started enforcing the rules and of course people who have been living here on back to back tourist visas aren't in fact a tourist. How can anyone be upset about not being able to use tourist visa as a mean to live permanently in another country?
Daggers in their eyes.
I'm someone who believes that many Thais hate us. I've seen dagger eyes directed my way many times for no reason. It doesn't stop me from going to Thailand regularly, but I try to be aware and friendly in my demeanour.
Them and us.
I can't definitively state that Thais dislike farang. Every nation has its own solidarity, and often individual tribes within agreed-upon borders. To what extent does the confluence of the Lanna and Angkor kingdoms create nation-states? There's a question, eh? Japanese people are more xenophobic than Thais but were "treated" to US occupation and either Kindly-Elder-Brother or Stockholm Syndrome. That's made them more accepting of "foreign" stuff ON THE SURFACE. And all that happened long before Thailand became popular, let alone the Internet. Koreans are xenophobic…most people are, at least at mass-level. So yeah, all the stuff you noted is true of other countries but farang are something else to Thais, and exactly what, I dunno. I sense a subtle differentiation. Sure, they rip each other off, well, that happens everywhere. The amount of scams in China dwarf Thailand – they're just not being committed against tourists (a recent trend towards the "police" scam where Hong Kongers are threatened for stuff they may / may not have done in China, some people got stripped of massive $$$$).The ultimate irony.
It's amazing some of the nonsense the bar stool know-it-alls come out with sometimes. It particularly amuses me listening to a certain type of my fellow Brits who generally make no attempt to learn Thai even though they live in Thailand, probably on a dodgy visa assuming they've got one at all. And no work permit if they're working. Sitting, eating English food, they go on about how there are too many foreigners in the UK (which is a separate issue) who make no attempt to assimilate. The irony is totally lost on them!
How to make a point, Thai-style.
The most interesting thing about that taxi video is not that a Thai scammed a Thai, but that the scammed Thai was upset that the taxi driver scam was bad for foreign visitors. Over and over, the passenger berates the driver on behalf of foreigners. Would that happen in Farangland? No. A passenger gets scammed by a New York cabbie and it'll be a physical shouting match about "I was ripped off" and not a calm "You jerk, you're going to scare tourists away from New York and our wonderful country." The video is a lesson in how Thais deal with confrontation: explaining the issue calmly and asking how we are going to settle this.
Asian airport chaos.
Yes, Suwannaphum is overstretched. So is KLIA – they just opened KLIA2 and it's a nightmare, huge signs warn it may take FIFTY minutes to walk to your gate, and it's the case. Changi has three terminals now, but that's Singapore. Hong Kong opened a second terminal and has delay problems; they're building a third runway. Everyone wanted to be the Asian hub, but now, they ALL are and it's causing problems across the region.
When British pubs just don't compare.
I would have to disagree with one of your readers complaining that beer in a Bangkok a gogo is now more expensive than in a pub in England. In some cases it is (I assume he can't live in London), but you just can't compare having to wait 10 minutes to get served in an English chain pub by one of the 2 bar staff to the instant service you usually get in a Bangkok gogo whilst watching the dancing with a lovely in a thong sitting on your knee!
It's been a roller coaster ride for the respective crews at Lolita's and Kasalong, the blowjob bars in the sub-soi opposite The Kiwi on Sukhumvit soi 8. As reported last week, Bangkok's two best known houses of oral relief were ordered closed last Wednesday. They reopened on Saturday, closed again on Sunday and reopened again on Tuesday. One report had it that they were closed because a 17-year-old was found to be working there, but that doesn't make sense – why would two venues related only by sharing a similar concept be closed when one allegedly had an underage oral technician and the other didn't. The next and equally unlikely rumour for the closure had it that the boys in brown didn't know that blowjobs were administered on the premises and when they became aware of this they closed the venues accordingly. The most likely scenario seems to be that the constabulary punished the two venues for the way the girls sit outside and make lurid gestures and comments inviting passersby inside. Lolita's and Kasalong reopened Tuesday with staff told they could not sit outside and holler out to passersby so to anyone passing by, they look closed. As of this past Friday, everything had reverted to normal and 800 baht blowjobs were back on the menu. Those in the know say Kasalong is the better of the two.
Nana Partners, the operators of Nana Plaza, has commandeered a mobile ID card reader (I'd never heard of such a thing) which they use to check girls in the plaza at random as part of their measures to prevent underage girls working in Nana Plaza. Now those underage girls using fake ID won't slip through the cracks. Nana Partners' management told me this week they were getting in touch with "the organisation which tries to prevent underage girls" (their words), which just goes to show how seriously the issue of underage is being taken these days (or perhaps shows how paranoid owners are of being closed with high season around the corner).
An estimated 200 police and army personnel, including senior figures from the Royal Thai Police, visited Nana Plaza on Monday night to reinforce the message that the area is officially designated as a tourist safety zone. A large press contingent covered the visit. This follows a large police presence on Soi Cowboy the previous weekend where brochures outlining the rights of foreigners stopped in the street by police officers were handed out.
On Thursday and Friday the Ministry of Health were to send in a team to Nana Plaza for a meeting with Nana Partners about how they can provide sex education for the girls and also to discuss the possibility of conducting routine health checks which would be free for the girls, including a blood check for other stuff including cholesterol levels.
In last week's column I mentioned mamasans negotiating the price for a girl's services directly with the customer in the bar and clipping the ticket as her reward / commission. It would seem that things are even worse than I mentioned last week. In a certain bar just around the corner from Soi Cowboy, a mamasan was caught charging a customer 5,000 baht for a short-time with a girl to whom she handed just 2,000 baht. Said mamasan got her marching orders.
When I ask those working in a particular bar area how business is in the area generally, most will say it's great. If I say trade is poor in an area, I increasingly receive irate email from owners in the area disputing it. Some owners would say trade is great even if the cops closed them down. So to get the low-down on how trade really is, I turn to trusted friends. A pal went along to check things out in Nana Plaza on Friday night and in his words, Nana on Friday felt like a decent night in low season i.e. not nearly as busy as you would expect for this time of year. He added that in his summation, 25% of the girls in Nana are lookers, 50% have what he termed Tequila tummies and the remaining 25% should ummm, errr, find other employment.
Billboard on the top floor of Nana is doing very well and there's more of an eyeful in the Jacuzzi than there has been for some time.
Bangkok Bunnies on the ground floor of Nana Plaza is an impressive bar and the largest in the plaza but it's still not finished. Bunnies features heaps of transplants from up and down Sukhumvit, including some who once called Tilac and Dollhouse home. Bangkok Bunnies is still a week or two from finally being completed – expect to see the hot tub in the back left corner up and running soon.
Rainbow 4 may be back in business with a new name, but dancer numbers are down.
For those who like to party late, despite the authorities trying to close some venues early, popular late-night spot Hillary 2 in Soi Nana opens nightly until 4 AM.
Fans of Newcastle United and Liverpool will find next Sunday's game showing live at Stumble Inn. Over recent years this particular fixture has thrown up a few classics. While Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are experiencing an up-turn in fortunes, the opposite can be said for Steve McLaren's Newcastle. However, with Newcastle having the home advantage and in desperate need of points to kick-start their season, this fixture could be a thriller. The game kicks off at 11 PM and free bottles of beer await those turning up sporting their team's colours, alongside Stumble Inn's famous 'predict the score' competition where the lucky winner(s) receives a 3 litre beer tower of Draught Chang. Stumble Inn is the second bar on the left as you enter Soi Nana and is a great party bar, featuring live music nightly and serving up some great home-cooked Thai and Western dishes, plus all the usual extras that Bangkok beer bars are famous for. If you're new to Bangkok, stumble in to see Gavin, the bar's manager, who is always happy to give Bangkok newbies advice about the local nightlife and will arrange a fun tour of his group's gogo bars for any interested parties, provided Liverpool aren't on the telly at the time!
The Strip in Patpong soi 2 will be hosting another of their parties this week, the unimaginatively named sex and beer party. In fact, what would really be newsworthy is a week when The Strip does not host a party!
Bargirls used to play the long game. They'd latch on to a guy and not let go until he'd left the country. They'd treat him like they were boyfriend / girlfriend, be his tour guide and do everything for him – and often he'd end up spending his entire holiday with her. The long game is largely a thing of the past and even long-time – having a girl stay all night – is less common. These days it's all about what she can make today. Some girls work a few days a week only, go hard each night and try to cram in a few short-times. They then enjoy the money over the next night or two and when it has gone they return to the bar and the cycle starts again. Many girls are less interested in a salary as they refuse to give up their freedom. With controlling mamasans and odious rules to follow in the bar, they prefer a day rate and know that most of their money comes from doing short-times.
Auspicious dates are a big deal in Thailand – even in the bar industry, and even when the bar is foreign-owned, it seems. The new Dollhouse in Pattaya was scheduled to have its soft opening on December 6th until it was discovered that this was not an auspicious day, in fact it is a most inauspicious date! It was explained to the owners that December 6th is a dreadful date to start a new bar, hence Dollhouse in Pattaya is now scheduled to open on the 7th.
Darel and Andy have hired Woot, the former TQ2 manager, for the new Dollhouse in Pattaya. Speaking of the new Dollhouse, a huge billboard is going up on Second Road in Pattaya and will point down the soi towards Club Electric Blue and the soon-to-open Dollhouse.
Following the closure of the On-Nut Night Market and the bars there that were popular with the some expats, Kaeng and Jaep from Cocktail Bar – probably the most popular bar with expats – have moved up Soi On-Nut to near soi 16. Also, a new bar / food centre has opened on Sukhumvit 81, a few hundred metres around the corner from the old market.
My mother reads this column and mentioned that there were fewer photos of girls. Duh, Mum, I'm not in Bangkok so it's kinda tricky to do a girl of the week! She went on to say that between her trips to Thailand and looking at photos in this column, Thai women are getting bigger. I agree. More income, more money spent on food and more fast food options are just the start. I noticed it most when I went to neighbouring countries – in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, you don't see nearly as many porkers.
Some of the younger expats in Thailand, especially those not legally employed nor married to a Thai, remind me of hackers in the way that they are always trying to find a way to beat the system. With the new multiple-entry tourist visa now an option – but with tighter conditions than the double and triple-entry visas it replaces – younger expats are looking for a soft touch, an embassy or consulate where the requirements aren't stringent / where the letter of the law isn't firmly followed. I imagine it won't be long before somewhere in the region starts issuing this visa without the need to meet all the criteria. Best guess would be either Vientiane or Sawannakhet – both of which have traditionally been a soft touch. If – or is it when – such a consulate is found, how long will it last?
Back in the '90s, when reception staff saw a foreigner walking towards the entrance of their clinic or hospital they'd be on the phone to the doctor who dealt with STDs to expect a patient before the foreigner even got to the counter. That was the reputation foreigners had in Thailand just a couple of decades back. The photo below from the Stickman archives is a great example of that. I came across it and laughed when after all this time the penny finally dropped. In English it clearly says VD Clinic, whereas in Thai it says clinic or what we might call in English, polyclinic i.e. not a dedicated VD clinic at all but a facility which treats all ailments. There are few dedicated STD clinics in Bangkok. There used to be a clinic in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11 near Charley Brown's known for STD treatment although whether it was actually a dedicated STD clinic either, I don't know. I don't recall seeing anywhere else with a sign like this which suggests it specialises in the treatment of STDs.
Why don't you see more dedicated STD clinics in Bangkok?
I enjoy engaging with readers and always do my best to answer any questions, be they about places to go / things to do in Bangkok / dealing with a troublesome girlfriend etc. One topic I am reluctant to answer questions about is hotels and places to stay. Part of it is simply that I have not stayed in many hotels in Bangkok, and also that many new hotels have sprung up all over Bangkok in recent years – many of which are superior to places I once recommended. If you cannot decide on a hotel, the best thing to do is check out the hotel reservations websites and browse the reviews. Sites like Agoda only allow those who have booked and stayed at a particular hotel to write a review. I'd always consider a new hotel over an old favourite, especially if it's a mid-range or budget property. At the higher end you needn't worry as those properties are generally well run and rooms and facilities are frequently renovated and modernised.
And while we're talking about places to stay, the best deals on long-term condo / apartment / house rentals are not necessarily with agents. Agents can help you find a place, but the best deals seem to be found by pounding the pavement and door knocking, especially when it comes to house rentals, but often with condos too. Bangkok is a funny place when it comes to expat accommodation and prices vary greatly for similarly specced buildings in the same area. A 70-square metre condo in a good standard building might go for 60,000 baht a month, while a 100-square metre condo in a similar better building / location might be just 25,000 baht a month. The rental accommodation market in Bangkok is all over the place so do shop around.
It took Thai society a long time to get their head around, accept and ultimately adopt the Internet. It was a long time until the Thais saw the Internet as something to be taken seriously. Things have long since changed, of course. Now I find myself wondering how long it will be until two other concepts catch on in Thailand. The first is teleworking and the second is being a digital nomad. Teleworking and digital nomads are concepts the Thais have yet to get their heads around and I wonder what changes we will see when they do. The digital nomad concept is especially interesting because of the way so many foreign digital nomads choose to live (and therefore work) while physically in Thailand. Will the Thais one day come to embrace the digital nomad concept? Encouraging digital nomads to stay in Thailand could bring economic benefits. It took the Thais a long time to embrace the Internet – how long will it take them to embrace teleworking and digital nomads?
Quote of the week comes from a friend, "Reality becomes distorted due to not living in a real world." I'm not sure whether his quote refers to expats in Thailand or those of us in the West!
It's getting scary in Thailand where criticising a policeman online can see you facing years in jail!
An American woman in Phuket goes to police because her Thai neighbour's chickens wake her up in the morning!
Northern Thailand's party town Pai is profiled in the Aussie press.
The BBC asks if Thailand can teach us all to have more fun.
The reputation for the foreign police volunteers takes another hit as another is arrested in Pattaya.
A Swede who murdered a Kiwi in Pattaya gets just 18 months jail time in his native Sweden.
The boyfriend of a massage parlour girl in Pattaya is charged with attempted murder after slashing her throat with a knife.
A 35-year-old Irishman doesn't have enough money for a ticket home so jumps to his death at Suwannaphum Airport.
The best editorial in the Bangkok Post in a long time was published yesterday.
An update on the property market in Pattaya suggests it's very much a buyer's market.
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 : Is an international driver's licence valid in Thailand? I have checked online and the website says that such a licence is accepted in Thailand, but I have come to be untrusting of much in Thailand, hence my question. From time to time I might drive my girlfriend's vehicle and I want to know that I can do so legally with the international driver's licence together with my Australian licence. Also, with this license am I covered for insurance assuming the car is insured for all drivers?
Sunbelt Legal responds: While the Thai Land Transport Department does issue international driving permits (IDP) that allow driving in other countries, it is important to check each country where you plan on travelling to ensure they will accept a Thai IDP. If you wish to obtain a driver's license in another country based on your Thai issued IDP then that country will still most likely require that you take theory tests.
If you have an IDP from your home country then Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors strongly recommends that if you are living in Thailand you obtain a Thai driving license. The International Driving Permit is intended for temporary visitors.
Whether or not you would be covered would depend on the insurance policy and if it has a specific named driver or will insure any driver with a legal driving license.
For insurance coverage, usually they would stipulate in the insurance policy that the driver who causes an accident must hold a legitimate driver's license. You will also need to look at the type of insurance policy coverage whether they are the policy that has fixed drivers' name or unanimous.
Question 2: Is there a time limit for when a company can bill and demand payment for a service? I ask because the forums have been alive in the last month or so after CTH sent out demands for alleged non-payment of sums going back to when people took up their service over two years ago to receive English Premier League football coverage. There had been no previous demand for the money, just a lump sum suddenly appeared on bills. And what action can the company take to recover the debt? Some claim to have been billed up to 20,000 baht, although my 'debt' is a more modest 8,000.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Usually the service sector is allowed two years to claim payment for their services. If you are not sure if you have an outstanding bill then you should contact your provider to enquire about the status of your account. If the service was rendered over two years ago then you would need to confirm that with the provider.
Question 3 : I have a motorcycle rider's permit for Australia, but would like to be able to ride in Thailand. I am aware that many people don't bother with licenses, but for insurance purposes, it's a must to have a licence.
1. What is the procedure for converting my Australian motorcycle rider's licence to a Thai licence?
2. Is there any more testing required?
3. Where do I go to get it organised? (I will be in Pattaya initially.)
Sunbelt Legal responds: In order to obtain insurance coverage, check around with providers as they all have different options. To obtain the driving license with an already valid Australian license you will need a medical certificate (these are easily obtained from any GP – just make sure they realize it is for a driving license).
You will also need a letter confirming your residential address. Usually your embassy issues this but some Immigration officers will do so as well. Best to check ahead.
Your International Driver's Permit or the valid license from your home country. You will need to check with the Land Transport Department if they will accept an Australian driver's license.
Please be aware that you can only convert a foreign motorcycle driving license to a Thai motorcycle license and a foreign car driving license to a Thai car driving license.
For someone who already holds a foreign driver's license, you will need to take an eye sight / eye color test and reaction test.
If you are taking the test as an unlicensed driver then you will need to attend a driving class, and take the practical and theory tests in addition to the other tests.
As you have mentioned that you will be in Pattaya, the closest Land Transport office in the Banglamung area is the Provincial Land Transport Office of Chonburi Banglamung Branch (link provided), but please be reminded that this may depend on your confirmed Thai residential address issued by your embassy .
Friends and people I trust reiterate week after week that Soi Cowboy is the most consistent of Bangkok's farang bar areas.
My plan was to end this column a couple of weeks after I left Bangkok but a last minute deal on the website meant I would stay involved from afar. I never even thought to set up a team to assist gathering news and gossip but fortunately friends, contacts and bar industry figures have come to the party and been very helpful. Of course, it would be preferable if I was there to see things with my own eyes but that's not the case. But even when I was living in Bangkok, it was not like I was out and about all the time and have long received assistance from others when it comes to newsbytes. My absence is now being used by some sensitive owners as a way to discredit me. How can I say how busy or quiet a bar area is, they ask, when I am not there. I raise this point as some bar owners – and they all come from the same bar area – are proving to be very sensitive about reports that a particular area is not doing that well. I have received reports from unknown email addresses trying to influence what I say. Amateurish. Needless to say, I take no notice of what they say. I only use material from people I know and who have a history of being reliable. Yep, it would be better to be there but as I have already said, that is not going to happen. To thosefolks sending me fake reports – you know who you are – there are reasons your bars aren't doing so well. Stop blaming others and take a good long look at yourselves and the way you operate.