In its heyday Nana Disco was the best freelancer bar in town. Packed every night with pretty ladies, it was the late night spot as a mix of freelancers and dancers from Nana Plaza bars swarmed on the venue. But nothing lasts forever and a mixture of greed and increased competition saw Nana Disco consigned to Bangkok bar history. The location on the ground floor of the Nana Hotel in the heart of the city's busiest sex tourism neighbourhood has long tempted investors trying to recapture the glory days of Nana Disco and that continues today. Will Nana Disco, or EQ as it is called today, recapture its glorious past?
It used to be that there were 3 popular freelancer bars on Sukhumvit with white guys. Soi 7's Biergarten was the daylight hours hang-out. From early evening there was a bit of a lull until Thermae opened around 9:00 PM and Nana Disco a little later. The two late-night spots fought it out until the sun came up. And for a time Nana Disco had it over the legendary Thermae.
Ever since the original Nana Disco name was abandoned, the venue which has been through various guises but failed to reach the heights of the early 2000s. It's a long time since Nana Disco was at its peak.
At least 5 different names used in the past 3 years. There was Nana Liquid under G which was followed by Mai Peng (meaning inexpensive in Thai) when Eclipse took it over. Since then it has changed names from Equality to EQ to EQ Late Night Club and if I'm not mistaken, at some point it may have even been, albeit briefly, known as Nana Disco.
Equality was an odd idea with ladyboys and girls dancing side by side. The concept was tweaked, the ladyboys dumped and the name became EQ. That didn't last and now it's EQ Late Night Club. Three different names in almost as many months.
There is a 200 baht entry fee at EQ between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM which gets you unlimited Singha beer and standard drinks (i.e. local drinks, not imports like Jack Daniel's).
The entrance to EQ is not the same as the Nana Disco days when you entered through the lobby of the hotel. Today, the entrance is through a passageway off Soi Nana, down past Hooters.
As per its name EQ Late Night Club, it's open until 5:00 AM, seemingly exempt from the early closing crackdown.
EQ employs a bunch of pretty coyote waitresses who dance, serve and entertain. They are not hookers and are not barfineable.
EQ has yet to set the world alight, which may be partially due to the original concept which many feel was flawed. The idea of ladyboys and ladies together in the same venue appealed to few. There is very little cross-over between the straight and ladyboy scenes and the owners of EQ who also happen to own Nana Plaza should know that the number one complaint about Nana Plaza and Soi Nana in general is the proliferation of ladyboys, ladyboy bars and the fact that to all but those who are right up to date with what's going on, it's not clear which venues are which.
In fact, the owners of the plaza appear to be very aware of this and appear to be making a conscious effort to only promote bars in the plaza with girls, their marketing department conspicuous in the way that venues with ladyboys get zero mention at all, a slap in the face for the tenants operating ladyboy bars who pay the same crazy rents as the bars with girls.
EQ is competing against established venues like Insanity which does decent enough trade and Climax which is positively booming.
So why isn't EQ doing that well?
The problem could be that EQ suffers an identity crisis. Many don't know what to make of it. Is it a club? Is it a freelancer bar? Are there still ladyboys inside?
The owners of EQ promote internationally renowned DJs and rave about the sound system, described as one of the best in town, when I'd expect a venue in Soi Nana to talk more about how they have lots of attractive ladies. For a bar like EQ to rave about the sound system is akin to a rugby team saying they have the most handsome player – who cares?! Cold beer, hot women is the key with good music a distant third. Big name DJs is an instant turn-off to the traditional Soi Nana crowd.
I really don't like EQ's use of the word club. "We're a club", management says. What does that mean? Soi 11 style club? House music? 300 baht drinks? That's what many associate with clubs in Bangkok, all of which alienates your average Soi Nana punter. I'd suggest another name change with the word club dropped.
On a positive note, EQ has a lovely bunch of waitresses / dancers who are as charming as they are attractive. But as lovely as they are, it will take more than their charms to get punters in the door.
EQ does better trade at the weekend than during the week, hardly surprising given that it doesn't get going until late and peaks around 3:00 AM. Typically, late night venues don't do well during the week when gainfully employed expats are conscious of work the next morning. Weeknights at EQ can be quiet.
Where perhaps EQ has not taken off is that it does not seem to have attracted many hookers. None of the ladies employed by EQ are hookers and they are not barfineable; the barfine concept does not exist at EQ.
When Nana Plaza closes for the night, girls don't head across to EQ looking for another customer where they did exactly that back in the venue's heyday. I guess that's a reflection of the industry – most ladies get a customer (or two or three) a night, and don't need to go to EQ as they've already made enough for the night.
Those behind EQ tell me, "Just think of EQ as a modern day version of Liquid or Nana Disco, it is a different generation that we are targeting here so we have to update the concept a bit too."
The EQ crew are lovely, but whether lovely service staff is enough for EQ to recapture the glory days of Nana Disco, only time will tell.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Duang Phithak Road, the road that runs between the expressway and Sukhumvit soi 2. Some refer to it as Sukhumvit soi zero.
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 – Where the owner should be.
The rapid descent of Bangkok Bunnies – notwithstanding the fact they might turn a profit through selling to Baccara – reflects the most common and corrosive problem that too many bars encounter – a lack of hands-on management. It staggers me that people invest that much money in a business and then turn over its day-to-day operations to ex-bargirl mamasans who are often as feckless as they are clueless, and who ultimately don't care if the bar succeeds or not. If I was running a business with that kind of turnover, I'd be there most nights or at least employ a professional manager. The common denominator with successful bars, big or small, is investment of time and effort, and not just money. Whether it be big turnover bars like Spanky's or Tilac, or a niche bar like Sexy Night, you'll usually find the owner there overseeing operations.
Where'd the fun go?
I've heard great things about Bangkok Bunnies, praise after praise after praise. So I finally visited earlier this year, and you know what? It sucked. It sucked big time! God-awful techno music. Ugly girls. Really ugly. A couple of pretty ones, a smattering of so-so ones and a lot of ugly ones. And expensive prices. So to recap: Music I hated, girls who repulsed me, prices that were unacceptable. How did they decide on that business model. I would never go back into Bangkok Bunnies, not ever. And then you mention signs in Dollhouse threatening to fine punters 200 baht for a broken glass, and is there any wonder why I've given up on the bars everywhere? The fun is gone. Simply gone. But despite the owners grumbling and your reports of dire times for the bar industry, very few bars seem to go under. Why is that? Could there be something else going on?
Just a matter of time.
The Patpong Group is sitting on one of the more valuable parcels of land in the city, perfect for high-end hotel / condo development. In walking distance (or short skytrain or subway connection) to the financial centres, it would be desirable to locals, expats and tourists – of the type who don't require minders carrying flagpoles. It seems it's only a matter of time before the owners are made an offer they can't refuse.
Pho in Nana?
We've all seen the poor maintenance of old signs within bars, with missing letters going unreplaced, and there's a classic example in Rainbow 2, where the T and O have come off the end of the No Photo sign. Are we to understand that Vietnamese noodle soups are banned on premises?
Chris Moore's sickness.
The sickness continues to infect newcomers but has what I would speculate is a greatly reduced rate. Fewer come to the country, and those who come here because of the Internet have vastly more information than those who arrived 25 years ago. Not to mention that the nightlife scene has evolved in ways that no-one in 1988 could have guessed. The old timers who haven't died out have settled down or have been inoculated against the sickness. The Big Weird takes place at the height of the epidemic.
Some bars play good music that the girls enjoy and that creates a good atmosphere. It means the girls dance well and the customers pick up the vibe and everybody is happy. But unfortunately some bars just don't get the importance of this which must lose them business. I have on occasions mentioned the music to bar staff but in typical Thai style they smile, nod but do nothing. Recent examples are in Soi 4 where one chain of bars in particular seem to think that the way to attract customers is to play endless American heavy rock at great volume. Personally to me it's just a terrible noise that the girls are not exactly dancing to and gives me a headache after a while. I avoid these bars and do not spend my money in them. These bars need to take a lesson from some of the better gogo bars in Soi Cowboy who play excellent dance music and even some Isaan music later in the evening. Another recent example of poor music is a show bar in Soi Cowboy which plays the same heavy rock music while the girls do the same show they have been doing for years jumping up and down and banging their cowboy boots onto the stage. This seems to be repeated every hour. It's just awful. Bars need to listen to customers and adjust what they offer. Failure will result in less profit and more customers like me even considering a trip to Cambodia or the Philippines for a change.
Bangkok odours, explained.
Regarding those pesky odours one writer finds himself smelling in hotel rooms, laundry, fabrics and sundry other places; there are more than a few factors behind these olfactory offenses. If you find it in bathrooms, the likely reason is the type of drain traps used throughout much of Asia. Traps used in the west are shaped like a horizontal “P” which allows for a constant amount of water to remain in the bottom of the loop, creating a barrier between the drain and sink, shower or bathtub. The typical Asian drain trap is shaped more like a horizontal “T” (great for recovering a small item that fell in to the drain but not for blocking odours). The other reason could be the lack of air vents on the drain side because installers failed to follow plumbing codes or where codes are deficient. And in periods of low water levels in municipal supplies, the growth of vegetation and poor water treatment can result in telltale odours that don't exactly leave a fresh smell. I can't recall ever noting that particular odour in the nether regions but I don't rule out that a more diligent detective could.
Photocopying your passport.
There has been a great deal of publicity recently as the authorities crack down on over-stayers and making people obtain the correct visa etc. It has also been stated from on high that people need only carry a photocopy of their main passport page and their visa, not the actual passport. As I was planning to be in the 'danger zone' of Asoke / Sukhumvit where those in power have been parading down Soi Cowboy and setting up tables to check on foreigners, I made photocopies as recommended. And then it struck me as totally pointless, because neither page they ask for shows the period I am permitted to be in the country, given the stamp they put in your passport as you enter the country. As far as I am aware that page has never been asked for by the authorities. So am I missing something, or is this yet another pointless and ill-thought through exercise?
The construction team is back in Bangkok Bunnies on the ground floor of Nana which is undergoing renovations for the umpteenth time in the past couple of years. Amongst other parts of the bar, the Jacuzzi is being worked on. Bangkok Bunnies remains open for business.
And word is that at this stage there are no plans for Bangkok Bunnies to be renamed or rethemed as Bacarra, despite the Bunnies dancers described as wearing Bacarra-style outfits.
It's bad enough in Nana knowing which bars have ladyboys and which don't – and if my email inbox is anything to go by, for many punters that is a big deal – so when Rainbow 4 and A Fairy Bar had a role reversal it was confusing for everyone. A Fairy Bar – which was for a long time the bar known as G Spot – now houses all of the Rainbow 4 girls; the dancers are all female. It has been renamed to The Four. The bar that was Rainbow 4 is now where all of the ladyboys are and the sign outside says R & B Bar. Word is that the switch came about due to an ongoing issue with the boys in brown. Signs are being changed so it looks like the switch is permanent. How this will affect trade is anybody's guess. G Spot is very long so if you're at one end, it's hard to see ladies dancing at the other end – although Rainbow 4 is not that different in that regard. I guess it does not really matter where you sit in either of these bars, each is so big that you're only going to get a decent view of about half the dancers on stage.
Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy's happy hour has been cut short. It used to run through until 9:30 PM but now happy hour pricing (95 baht for local beers and standard pours) stops at 9:00 PM.
Dollhouse in Pattaya has a new manager with Andy who used to run Club Malibu in Soi LK Metro keeping an eye on things which means the Hornbag can concentrate on Electric Blue.
Speaking of Soi LK Metro, word is that Club Malibu's sister bar, Champagne A Gogo, is relocating.
Back in Bangkok, popular American style eatery Bully's, between Sukhumvit sois 2 and 4 on the main Sukhumvit Road, now has live music.
Not one bar owner was happy with trade this week and all seemed to be in agreement – it was quiet around the farang bar areas. And don't expect things to change greatly as now we're in April, one of the quietest months of the year.
The Strip in Patpong soi 2 has a promotion of a free beer before 9:00 PM. THERE IS NO CATCH! Some readers don't believe it, but it's true. Get there before 9:00 PM and the first beer is on the house.
There are enough charges added to bills in Thailand already, the odious practice of imposing a service charge on customers even when the service is lousy, as well as adding tax to the bill and not including it in prices on the menu. Titanium on Sukhumvit Soi 22 has a policy of charging a 5% surcharge when credit cards are used – but this surcharge only applies to Friday and Saturday nights. What's that all about?
Thanks to a friend in Bangkok who answered a question I asked in last week's column, sending a photo of a McDonald's sign in the Thai script. It seems some branches of McDonald's in Thailand have signs using the Thai script while others don't. Why are there differences? Is a Big Mac different from branch to branch?
In the food court in Terminal 21 there is a khao gang vendor where you choose a couple of varieties of pre-cooked food on rice. They have some interesting dishes and the food isn't bad. What makes me laugh is the information panel beside the display unit with the food where there is information in Thai and English about the history of the outlet. It says how long they have been in business and how they have outlets in various high-end malls around town. It also goes on to say how the food is prepared by skilful, experienced chefs with at least 10 years experience, while right beside the display unit is a young lad doing his thing with a wok, who cannot be a day over 20. I guess that chefs start young in Thailand.
I am told that Andrew Drummond's excellent Thailand expat news site is once again viewable in Thailand, at a new web address : Andrew-drummond.news. Andrew's site was blocked in Thailand about a year ago. Expats in Thailand familiar with proxy servers or VPNs continued to read the site but most missed out. Now everyone can enjoy Drummond's site again.
One of the curiosities of the Thai community in New Zealand – and something which I have also noticed with other communities, such as the Persians – is the private money exchange and express money transfer services that operate out of standard businesses, often travel agents, but also some food outlets and restaurants. Signs say that they send money to the home country, with rates lower than a bank for a faster service – they guarantee that the money will be in an account in Thailand within 15 minutes. If you want to make a telegraphic transfer from a bank in New Zealand to an account in another country, you'll get a mediocre rate for any currency other than USD, AUD, GBP and a couple of others, and will be hit with a $25 fee. The Thai exchange service has lower fees and a vastly superior rate. So how do they do it? It's actually really quite simple and not sophisticated at all, while at the same time is very effective. The person who operates the exchange service simply goes to the Super Rich website and offers that rate. They then levy a $10 or $20 charge for the fee, depending on how much money the person wishes to send (invariably it's small amounts, up to around $500). When the Thai person hands over the NZD, the exchange service lady logs in to her Thai bank account online and transfers money to the recipient's bank account in Thailand and bang, it's there! It's ideal for Thais who frequently send small amounts of money to support family back home as the fees are lower and the money goes through immediately.
I have come to realise that one of the benefits of living in Thailand – at least for people who lived a similar sort of non-permanent lifestyle as me and I guess most expats (meaning not purchasing property, and long periods without a car) – is the way you can lead a simple life that in some ways insulates your from a lot of the BS that seems an inherent and in many ways unavoidable part of life in the West. You don't have to deal with the real estate industry, insurance companies and dealings with the government are kept to a minimum. If there's one thing I miss about Thailand, that simplicity might just be it.
Reader story of the week comes from Charles, "The Barfine Era Will End".
Pattaya Police arrest a gang of Nigerians in Pattaya who have been stealing from hotel rooms in Sin City.
A lengthy article about the sex industry in Thailand appeared in Vice magazine.
There seems to be a spate of robberies on the streets of Pattaya these days, according to Pattaya One.
The Bangkok Post looks at the pretties phenomenon and the kerfuffle caused recently by motor show models.
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 bought a condo in 2013 for 2 million baht. I applied for a 15-year loan with a Thai bank. As you are aware, the property market is quite bad at the moment and there are few buyers. I now owe the bank 1.7 million baht for the condo + 200K for an interior decoration loan. What would be the consequences of walking away from both of these loans – let's call it a 'strategic default'? I have another mortgage for a house in Bangkok which is 90% paid for, with another bank. Is this house at risk to be taken by the bank if I default on the condo loan (but if I still keep paying instalments for my house in Bangkok)?
Sunbelt Legal responds: As with every business decision, homeowners should carefully consider the financial consequences of a strategic default. Walking away from your mortgage harms your credit substantially. A voluntary foreclosure can impact a homeowner's ability to qualify for a new mortgage for years to come.
Homeowners who want to get rid of their mortgages should to try to get a loan modification or reach another agreement with the bank to minimize the impact on their credit score. Consider a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, which involves turning the property over to the lender without going through the foreclosure process. Requesting a short sale, when the lender allows the homeowner to sell for less than what is owed on the mortgage, is another alternative.
A foreclosure will not directly impact your primary residence or any other property since residential mortgage liens are only attached to one property. If a bank forecloses on your investment property, it cannot place a lien or otherwise make any claims on the other house. Even if both properties are financed by the same bank, your primary residence will be safe. That said, there are serious consequences to letting a property go into foreclosure. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that it should not be used as anything but a last resort.
What's up with Thailand expat sites abandoning the publishing of original content in favour of copying and pasting news and views from other sources? Copying content from other sources and publishing it as their own, even having the gumption to claim copyright on it, is rapidly becoming the norm. They scan Thai language news websites, Facebook, and English & Thai language forums looking for anything newsworthy / related to expats and copy it, rewrite it (or translate it if it was originally published in Thai) and publish it as if it was their own. Comment on news reported by others by all means, or make mention of what is being reported elsewhere and credit the original source, but to publish as your own is pathetic. There is so much going on in Thailand that all one has to do is go outside and walk around – and you will have material to write about. But to copy something from another source and write about it as if you were there and it's your own words? Is that what things have come to? Sad.