For the last few months Billboard has been the most talked about bar in Nana Plaza, perhaps even the most talked about gogo bar in all of Bangkok, and when I visited a couple of months ago I was impressed. But you know how it is, when Stick and his camera visits, the savvy bar boss gets all the pretty ladies in. I dropped by Billboard again to see if it was as good as my last visit.
It's still early and there's a small number of girls in the bar, a new set of ladies to the last visit. In the Jacuzzi, three ladies gallivant around.
Given how much of a draw Jacuzzis are, it's a surprise more bars don't have them. Unlike short-time rooms, Jacuzzis in bars are entirely legal and they attract the punters. That said, quite a lot of girls don't like them – having to wash off and towel down each time they get out becomes a chore.
Billboard is undergoing renovations inside and out. One of the novel new features of the bar is that the replacement chrome poles are not chrome at all, but some sort of transparent plastic. See how her fingers can be seen through the pole?
What a lovely looking lady although I don't understand the need for two sets of knickers!
One of the tallest (real) women in Nana Plaza, in high heels she towered over me.
She kneeled down for this shot while I was standing. Ok, so I was kneeling too, but if you like tall, you might like her.
I've always said the best feature of Thai ladies is their long shiny black hair, but some wear short hair well.
I wonder how she'd look with longer hair? I guess I could do a mock up in Photoshop if I really wanted to know.
Someone take her to McDonald's….this poor lass needs feeding up! That's way too skinny for me!
Ah, that's a better view.
One thing you notice in Billboard is that the dancers are more attractive than most of the gogo bars in Bangkok popular with Western guys (by which I mean not necessarily when compared to bars popular with the Japanese such as Bacarra and the Rainbows), and that the ladies in Billboard sport fewer tattoos. Is there a correlation between the two – fewer tats and more attractive ladies?
As per my previous visit, I felt Billboard was for Western men – specifically Western men. Few ladies in Billboard have a look that screams I prefer Japanese! That said, I imagine this pretty lass would be popular with Asian men.
But who does she prefer, Western men or Thai men? Truth be told, it's almost certainly Thai men she prefers but we'll save that argument for another column.
The papasan fancies himself as a choreographer and steps in to shepherd the girls and get them to pose and look sexy.
Dyed hair is something the Japanese seem to go for – but again, I don't think it's about trying to attract the Japanese and she hasn't gone overboard with (the God-awful) coloured contact lenses, ultra-long fake eye lashes, overdone makeup and worst of all, surgery to give her more of a Western look which, ironically, appears to appeal to the Japanese.
Where is Dave The Rave? He'd be head over heels for this lady with his preference for large headlights.
They're quite happy to pose on stage but for the candids they get embarrassed and go all coy!
Miss May, a native of Bangkok exudes a mix of elegance, confidence and sensuality, quite the combination!
She's too slim for me, but what a lovely face!
The Thais have long had a preference for luuk kreung (half Thai / half Western) children but when it comes to good looks, I've always thought the mix of Thai and Chinese hard to beat.
Billboard has come along in leaps and bounds in recent times and there's a reason why it is the most talked about bar in the plaza. Ultimately gogo bars are about the ladies and Billboard has plenty of pretties!
Where was this photo taken?
The photo in the last column was Sticky being tricky. It wasn't taken in Bangkok, it wasn't even taken in Thailand, but rather it was taken inside a bar in Blok M in Jakarta! Needless to say, no-one got it right. This week's photo is back in Bangkok.
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.
Why wear a mask?
Have you ever wondered about all these Thai females wearing face masks? My wife and I dropped my wife's her cousin in Central Mall in Udon Thani. A couple of hours later we decided to go out to eat. We bumped in to one of my wife's friends who was wearing a face mask. After they had chatted, she asked me if I knew who it was. I didn't. She said it was her cousin who we had dropped off a little earlier. Why was she wearing a face mask? It's not like there is danger from SARS anymore. Oh, she has a gik and does not want anyone to recgonise her!
Pesky security on Soi Nana.
As a frequent visitor to Soi Nana and its delights I'm sure I just witnessed the beginning of the end of this iconic and unique place. On my last night in Bangkok I decided to visit Hooters in Soi Nana for one drink – to see what sort of atmosphere and excitement it has brought to Soi Nana. I ordered a drink and sat myself at the front of the bar to watch the action on Soi Nana – like I have done a hundred times before when it was the Golden Bar. While enjoying a drink, a working lady walking along the footpath decided to talk / flirt with a few males who were drinking next to me. This sort of thing happens all the time in Soi Nana and it is why we love drinking in this street and it is all part of the Bangkok nightlife. A security guard from Hooters – all dressed in black – spoke very sternly to her. I didn't understand what he said but the tone was very clear, "Move on, we don't want the likes of you around here." She quickly moved on, but gave as good as she got to the security guard. I was saddened that this girl was treated like this. Soi Nana is full of working ladies trying their best to trap a potential customer – it is part of the Soi Nana ballet that we know and love. I only hope that this is not an indication of the direction Soi Nana and indeed Bangkok will take in the future.
Crazy stuff at Crazy House.
As of this week Crazy House no longer allows phones out in the bar for any reason. Manager's orders. When I asked which manager and why, I was told the katoey coven behind the service bar insists on no cameras. Let's come to our own conclusions why, shall we? I'm seeing more and more of this padding and the old "double-drink", more "tequila/coking" these days as well. And this is after I've told girls in Thai that there'll be no double drink (and 2 lady-drink chits) and to save it for the tourists. "Bartendee say when you jai dii you not care". The implication is that the flirty bloom will drop quickly from the Rose should the customer not get with that program. The gang of katoeys that run the scam all work behind the bar. Along with padding the bills, when a rascal gets her own drink they tell her to push 2 drinks anyway. In what looks like a low-season sales drive, the rascals are now being urged to push that extra drink on to the customer. They're doing it with such confidence that I figure these practices have come up and have been tacitly sanctioned at their toolbox meetings. On the subject of katoeys, scams and "pushing", one or two of the Crazy House katoeys are taking a poke at pick-pocketing as they skirt and jostle to and fro between the crowded squeeze points and anywhere else they think they can get away with it. Second floor is pretty well an anything goes environment. I told one girl that if a customer speaks a little Thai he is probably aware of all these scams and it's best not to try it. That was too much critical processing for her. The mamasan told her to use her head. The appeal of the place? At any given moment you get 40 or 50 fit young women walking around almost as they would back at the office lift or in the BTS or in MBK except they are all (except for the high heels and a bangle or two) buck naked. You know what I think? It's such an intense working environment that they probably forget they're naked.
Thailand and skin conditions.
Every Thai girl I know who moved to the States had skin issues of some type from just itchy skin, to more serious skin issues that took medication and some between, and the conditions went away once here. This isn't a large sample, just 5 or 6 that I know well enough to know about their health issues. A few months after arriving in Thailand I had bumps on my back that required treatment and they weren't heat bumps. 3 months in the States and they were gone. I've gotta wonder what the pollution levels really were.
Skytrain packed at all hours.
You often talk of how quiet Bangkok is and I agree that hotels, bars and restaurants are not as busy as I remember them on past trips. But parts of Bangkok are busy and where you notice it is on the skytrain and underground which are packed at all hours. Last night (Friday, July 8) I walked through the Asoke skytrain station and the queues to change money and buy tickets at each of the counters were more than 25 people long, and this was at 10:45 PM! I don't know where these people were going or where they had been, but the sheer volume of people using the public transport network tells me that while hotels, bars and restaurants might not be booming, someone out there is making money!
Historic Bangkok nightspot CheckInn99 which closed last weekend has wasted no time in finding a new location. If all goes to plan, CheckInn99 will reopen in its new home in a basement on Sukhumvit soi 24 tonight.
The authorities flexed their muscles and showed everyone who's the boss last night with the 3 major Bangkok bar areas – Patpong, Nana and Cowboy – all closed at 2 AM sharp. Even late night venues like EQ were closed early.
Word from the Nana Plaza marketing department is that some of the bars in the plaza are finally going to take my advice and erect signage stating that they have only real women and are free of ladyboys.
Dr BJ's Nuru and Dr BJ's blowbjob saloon in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 were ordered closed this week. All of the Dr BJ logos and branding material has been removed and the venues have been painted all red. Word is that this is all smoke and mirrors and they will reopen in the next few days under a new name, but with the same owners, same staff and same format. * Perhaps it should be noted that connoisseurs of Bangkok's dozen or so houses of oral relief tend to point to Kasalong (opposite the Crown Hotel on Sukhumvit soi 6) as the best spot to get the bishop polished.
You hear A LOT of stories of rip-offs in the bar industry and in this instance I am not talking of the girls ripping off customers (or vice versa) but of bar owners ripping off investors. The most common method is selling more shares in the bar to investors than there are shares to sell i.e. a 50% share in the bar is sold to 5 different people. This scam has been prevalent in the bar industry since the early days. Amazingly, most who are ripped off don't pursue it through the courts even when they have a very good case. For a number of years there have been rumours of a well-known Pattaya farang bar owner who is alleged to have taken money from various investors and not paid them a return nor provided them with the proper paperwork which shows that they have a legal share in the business. Amongst those who allege they have been ripped off is a fellow who has since been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. So the story goes, this fellow invested several million baht in the business right at the start when the building was being built. He has not received any returns on his investment in a long time and all communication with the main owner of the business is ignored. Said fellow has sent hundreds of emails to the owner but never receives a reply. The investor is broke and gravely ill. He has, however, managed to find a lawyer in his homeland willing to take the case on. That lawyer has contacted a lawyer in Thailand and will fly from Farangland to Thailand to meet the Thai lawyer so they can pursue the case against this well-known Pattaya bar owner. Obviously I cannot mention the name of the parties / the bar and that must remain a secret.
It was interesting to hear that a no mobile phone policy is being implemented at Crazy House (see emails from readers) and I feel that Crazy House might be ahead of the game. I absolutely believe that in the future there will be an industry-wide policy that mobile phones won't be allowed to be used inside bars, in the same way cameras cannot be used inside bars now. Police attention to the bars is stronger than ever and Crazy House is known as the wildest bar in Bangkok so it's no surprise it is first with the policy.
I understand bars will be closed on both July 19th and 20th as a couple of Buddhist holidays are observed and Dollhouse in Pattaya will undergo a revamp. It will reopen with a party on Friday July 22nd with new girls, a new DJ and new music.
Initial feedback from the recently opened G Spot gogo bar in Pattaya is that it could turn out to be a winner. The red, black and gold colour scheme throughout has been described as fantastic and even the dancers' uniforms have received plaudits. The layout inside is simple and with a prime location on Walking Street there is every reason to think it should do well. Draft beer is 65 baht and at happy hour from 8 – 10 PM it's two for one on some drinks.
Still in Pattaya, Babydolls management has introduced a new promotion on Wednesday nights – buy a lady drink and get a free drink for yourself (draft beer, house spirit or soft drink). The lady still receives the full lady drink commission.
On the subject of Babydolls, uber popular bar manager turned bar host Larry is slowing down and has decided to put a greater emphasis on the enjoyment of life instead of on work. Looking fit and better than ever when we met up not so long ago, Larry will reduce his hours in Babydolls from this week onwards. Friends dropping by Babydolls to see Larry take note, he will be on duty on Monday, Friday and Saturday only.
One of the industry's most popular figures, here's a fact from the Larry files for you. Larry is known as quite the whoremonger, yet has never been with a white woman in his life. He looked at me like I was crazy when I said he was missing out. Larry delights in telling how he lost his virginity in his early teens to a Filipino some 10 years older. Larry is a real character and a great conversationalist who really found his calling as a bar host. He's loves his life and wouldn't swap places with anyone. Way to go, Larry, that's the true measure of happiness.
Larry on holiday in Bangkok, enjoying the view at Big Dogs in Nana Plaza.
Back in Bangkok, if you're watching your pennies, Mercury on the middle floor of Nana Plaza still operates their long-running special on Chang and Leo every night – just 105 baht.
And Mercury's sister bar, Stumble Inn, the 3-shophouse-wide beer bar directly out front of Nana Plaza, has 100 baht pints of Tiger every Friday, all night long.
And if you're wondering where to watch the men's single's finals from Wimbledon tonight, Stumble Inn is showing it live from 8 PM.
I hear rumours that Nanapong refuses to die and the next sex show dance contest will be held in September. More details when they're confirmed / nearer the time.
Most of us have a preference for one of the bar areas in Bangkok, which may change from time to time. Patpong has a rich history but there just aren't enough good bars – and not enough farang-run bars – for it to put up a genuine challenge for the best bar area. In Patpong all the best bars are concentrated at the Suriwong Road end on Patpong soi 2 and on Patpong 1 these days you take your chances. That leaves Cowboy and Nana. I am convinced that Nana Plaza will be the premier bar area for a long time to come for the simple reason that the owners are organised and have got their shit together. There is an official General Manager, a foreigner who oversees the complex and whose office is actually on the premises. Any issues with the complex in general are dealt with quickly. There is a foreign Marketing Director who is responsible for promoting the plaza as a whole, something the other bar areas don't have. There is new blood in the plaza – look at what is happening at Billboard, Jail Birdz and Bangkok Bunnies – and no longer is there the unhealthy situation where one group owns and operates a large number of the bars (as exists in Soi Cowboy where the Arab has 7 gogo bars and in Patpong where the King's Group has maybe a dozen or more). Nana Plaza has more foreign bar managers and the Stumble Inn Group has a farang Marketing Director. In summary, Nana has more genuinely well run bars, is better promoted, has more foreigners running bars and you get the feeling that many of are on the same page. The future for Nana looks so good. I expect Soi Cowboy will continue to benefit from the exposure of featuring in Hangover II for years to come and the layout with all of the neon and the outdoor seating may appeal to one-time visitors, but for those serious about nightlife, you can't beat Nana.
The legal wrangle continues at what was once known as New York Gardens – the outdoor eating area at the start of Sukhumvit soi 12 that was home to the original branch of Sunrise Tacos and V8 Diner. V8 Diner is connected to and owned by the same people behind Insanity who refuse to vacate the space despite their lease ending a year ago as they battle with the landlord in court. Not only are they sticking around, V8 Diner's outdoor eating space has expanded as they have encroached over the space that was the outdoor area for Sunrise Tacos.
On the subject of Sunrise Tacos, its sister restaurant, Margarita Storm, at the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 13, has introduced a beautiful new menu. The food photography is so good it just makes you want to order everything! You've always been able to find good burgers in Bangkok, and good pizzas, and good pasta, and even a good steak and good Mexican, but few places do a range of food items well. Margarita Storm has a varied menu and amazingly it's all good. My personal favourites are the cheeseburger and the pepperoni pizza – you'll be hard-pressed to find a better burger or pizza elsewhere in town.
I like Hooters but the branch in Soi Nana is not to my taste. It's so big that it lacks atmosphere and I don't like it being open – even with the air-conditioning blasting it is not what you'd call cool, at least it wasn't when I was there in the hot season. I much prefer the Hooters branch in soi 15 which is smaller, more intimate, has friendlier staff and is cool.
Word out of Udon is that the long-running popular bar with expats, the Irish Clock is up for sale (again). Some say they want 6 million baht for it while others claim they would take half that. It would be a good business for someone who wants to live in Udon – it's an established name and I have always liked the business model of a bar and restaurant downstairs with a hotel upstairs. Income from the rooms covers most expenses while food and beverage sales are the cream on top.
If you are the victim of a crime in Farangland, or if you are involved in a dispute with someone you go and lay a complaint with the police. That may not always the best course of action in Thailand. Seriously, there are situations in Thailand when you need to think very carefully about whether you wish to get involved with the police. In the case of a clear cut or serious crime, yes, you should go to the police and file a report, but in the case of a dispute you might want to reconsider. If you make a complaint to the police in Thailand, they are obligated by law to investigate it. If a person you have made a complaint against disputes it, you could be charged with making a false complaint – which is a criminal charge in Thailand! Dealing with the police in Thailand is a minefield and in the case of a dispute I would not recommend you go to the police without a lawyer or, at the very least, an older / respected Thai, lest you don't fully understand what is going on, what could happen next and unwittingly find yourself in a situation where things escalate or go in a direction you didn't anticipate.
At one Immigration office which shall remain nameless, those extending their retirement visa are asked if the condo in which they reside is owned by them or is rented. If it's rented, they are told that they need to provide copies of the ID card (or passport, in the case of a foreigner) of the owner of the condo. If they cannot provide this, the visa extension is not processed. This can be a great worry given that many owners are absentee i.e. a condo owner may reside in another country, may be away on holiday or simply may not be easy to get in contact with. Of course, what the officer then does is offer an easy way to get around the fact that a document (that by law is not actually required) hasn't been provided. What a nightmare!
For many Thais, the most important part of a mobile phone plan these days may not to be the number of free minutes included but the data allowance. I keep hearing about the AIS plan where for 488 baht / month you get 200 minutes free calls and 10 gigabytes of data. Increasingly, Thais call friends using the free call feature on the messaging app Line (thus using their data allowance and not their free minutes). As such the amount of data mobile phone plans come with has become more important. Oh, if only we had plans with that much mobile data in Kiwiland at that price!
A Stickman reader has published an ebook, "Is That Snake In Your House Dangerous? Identify Deadly Thailand Snakes in Under 5 Minutes!" It's a 113-page PDF file and covers all 35 of the deadly snakes in Thailand with specific advice on what to do if bitten including preliminary first aid, as well as the exact anti-venom and where to get it if your local hospital doesn't have it. The author consulted with some of the top venom experts on the planet, and the photos were taken by some of the top snake photographers to make identification as easy as possible. It's a good resource for expats in Thailand living in areas where snakes are common.
And speaking of snakes, the snake returns to The Strip in Patpong 2 this coming Friday with the bar doing an about-turn on its decision to give the snake a break. All beers at The Strip are just 99 baht before 10 PM on Fridays and at that same time, 10 PM, the snake will make its much awaited return.
Quote of the week comes from the Thai manager of a ladyboy bar in Patpong, "It's so hard to recruit ladyboys these days that I've had to resort to filling the bar with real women!"
Another Pattaya ladyboy tricks another Chinese tourist with a fake online profile.
And then the shoe is on the other foot as a Pattaya ladyboy is herself assaulted and robbed!
A tourist from Hong Kong posted a video of a motorcyclist stealing his bag while he was riding in a tuktuk.
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: Although not a legal question, I am hoping you can help me. My girlfriend smokes ya ice. Last night she said she wants to quit but needs help. I went to an international hospital in Pattaya, but they had no information about treatment facilities. And I am concerned about going to the police station to ask for help. Are there rehab facilities for ya ice in Thailand? Are they effective? Do they report to the police? What are the best treatment facilities? What is the approximate cost?
Sunbelt Legal responds: We don't recommend that you report her to the police as that could result in imprisonment for her. If you wish to admit her to a rehabilitation centre there are several, mostly private. Ones we have heard of (but you must investigate them for yourself, we aren't recommending anything specific) are the Sirindhorn National Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Inspire Rehab Centre or Hope Rehab Centre. There are others you can also find online.
Treatment facilities and cost should be investigated first and consultations with the staff should be made before admittance to determine her addiction, age etc.
Treatment is definitely effective, but it's only half of the rehabilitation process. Another half will depend from how strong mentally and physically patient is. We would not think that rehab centres would report their patients as that would be in violation of medical privacy laws.
Question 2: I am a US citizen and plan on semi-retiring in two years at age 55, and plan on spending the winter months in Thailand (3 – 4 months per year). I have two questions. 1) What type of visa should I consider? I've been looking at the 90 day non-immigrant or a retirement visa. 2) If I do work remotely for companies in the United States (20 – 30 hours a month). Does this cause any issues?
Sunbelt Legal responds: One option would be to either get a tourist visa valid for two months, extendable for another month or the second option would be a single entry non-B visa for three months, both obtainable from the Thai Embassy in your home country. Technically, working on a retirement visa or tourist visa is illegal but we have not had many reports of people working strictly online having issues.
The story of Gary Salmon, the fluent-Thai-speaking American who came to Thailand and ripped off his boss before fleeing to China is the most popular column of the year to date. The last known location of Gary was Kuala Lumpur. It is not known how he exited Thailand and for that matter, whether he entered Malaysia legally or not. I had always believed that if you entered a country illegally you would be returned to the country you had come from, but apparently under international law that isn't correct. If you are found by the local authorities to have entered their country illegally, once you have faced any legal action and been dealt with by the courts, you are supposed to be deported back to your home country. This is very interesting because what it means is that if you are charged with a crime in one country and flee to another country, you could be deported back to your own country and not face the charges in the original country – so long as that country hasn't initiated extradition proceedings against you. Should you make it back to your homeland, you are effectively away from danger and the odds are the country in which you are facing charges wouldn't know where you are so initiating extradition charges would seem less likely. This is all very interesting when you consider how many foreigners get themselves in bother with the law in Thailand.