The top floor of Nana Plaza has been the dark spot of the plaza for a long time, and not just because of the lack of light. Many punters never make it to the top floor, and more than a few bar bosses who ran bars on the top floor have lost their shirt. But a young American couple has not let history put them off succeeding where others have failed. Buoyed by the success of their foray in to the Bangkok gogo bar industry, the owners of Billboard purchased Jail Birdz, meaning they have two of the three bars on the top floor, and the only two with girls. They have set about turning the troubled prison-themed bar around.
To say that Jail Birdz has a troubled past is something of an understatement. Bars in that spot that is today Jail Birdz have hemorrhaged money or been vacant. Under previous names, bars in that spot have been the problem child of Nana, pun absolutely intended.
Before it was Jail Birdz, the bar previously in that location was Lone Star A Gogo. That bar was raided by police in 2013 after tip-offs about underage dancers. Lone Star was ordered closed and the owners told it could not reopen under that name. It sat vacant for months before it was totally stripped – everything, and I mean everything removed. All that remained was a shell and for months it was a black spot, casting a swathe of the plaza in darkness. Eventually it was picked up – some say it was given away without a baht paid. The new owner set about creating a bar similar to Alcatraz in Walking Street, a prison-themed gogo bar.
Jail Birdz is huge, the largest bar in the plaza with a design unlike any other. It has a very high ceiling and there is metal everywhere, making it feel like you're in an old, disused manufacturing facility. It is in fact supposed to be themed as a prison but that doesn't quite work. Inside it doesn't feel like a jail at all.
Like so many bars in Nana Plaza today, Jail Birdz features a mix of girls hired by and employed by the bar, along with a bunch of agency girls who come and go. No longer are the terms "agency girls" and "coyote dancers" interchangeable, rather agency girls simply means they are not permanent employees of the bar. To customers, it's not often clear who is who (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
Jail Birdz features a raised platform in the centre of the bar with a glass dance floor. For the ladies dancing on the glass dance floor, their dress is typical of girls who dance in bars with glass floors.
You can stand below the raised platform with the glass floor and look up.
Jail Birdz was built as a prison-themed gogo bar – a great concept – but like I say, I am not sure that the theme works as well as it could. For one, the dancers' uniforms feature various themes unrelated to the bar. Some are in imitation leather bikinis while others dance in standard bikinis. Others again sport super hero wear, all of which seems to have no connection to the idea of a prison-themed bar.
I'd like to see Jail Birdz dancers dressed in uniforms fitting with the bar's theme, in other words the entire crew in prison wear. Perhaps the mamasans could wear a warden's uniform, the service staff sport guards uniforms and the dancers don bikinis some themed to what inmates wear. There could also be shows with commentary where the inmates are punished. Yeah, ok, it's cheesy, but the concept of a prison-themed gogo bar is a good one and as things are right now strikes me as a missed opportunity. First-time visitors like that sort of thing and Thais love a chance to dress up and act. Anything to set a bar apart from the rest is never a bad thing.
Some say you have to be Superman (or Superwoman) to make a bar work on the top floor of Nana Plaza. The rent is hundreds of thousands of baht less per month than a similar sized bar on the ground floor but that is offset by less foot traffic.
Jail Birdz has some attractive staff, but nothing like the lineup of its sister bar, Billboard….but then how many bars can compete with the lineup at Billboard?
The dancers in Jail Birdz seemed happy for the most part despite the venue still being relatively quiet.
Jail Birdz does have some pretties but could do with a good few more. It suffers from the same problem so many Bangkok gogo bars face these days, there are a lot of plain Janes.
The owners are honourable and were not interested in jamming the bar with pretties from Billboard for this photo essay, insinuating that those girls can be found in Jail Birdz, thus luring customers to the bar, when that is not the case at all. The owners have a great attitude towards the business and I have every confidence that in time Jail Birdz will thrive.
Not ordinarily my type, she was probably the most photogenic of the ladies in Jail Birdz.
She really was very friendly, sweet and struck me as just a real nice lady.
OK, just one more of her!
The owners of Jail Birdz have done wonders with Billboard, turning it around from what was, let's be frank, utter mediocrity, in to what it is probably the most talked about bar in Nana Plaza, and in the minds of many, one of the best, if not the best gogo bar in Nana Plaza. Now they're looking at working their magic on Jail Birdz. They've just begun and what you see here is not the finished article, far from it in fact. But it does promise a lot. Here's looking forward to what the new owners can do with Jail Birdz and make it worthy of being called Billboard's sister bar.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Soi Nam Thip 2, the soi connecting Sukhumvit sois 16 and 22 with the La Raffine Condo clearly in the background. This week's photo is a once popular Bangkok gogo bar….but which one?
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.
What the Apple Watch was designed for.
It has been a long-standing policy in all of the Suzy Wong venues in Phuket to not allow cellphones for any reason, so I'm not sure you can call Crazy House really "the first". Even known long-timers get told to put their mobile phone away, even if just to check email or scores, etc. Perhaps it is the crowd mentality so you have to just totally ban phones. However, they haven't caught on to Apple Watches that allow for some alerts for emails, messages, alerts, etc. so that is the workaround for now. But you know, these days with GoPros and all that stuff, it is probably pretty easy to get away with. Guys checking their phones aren't usually the ones trying to sneak the pictures.
Streetside beer booths flaunt the law.
I was at a street bar chatting with the girls when 2 uniformed officers and 3 – I assume – plain-clothed officers asked for my passport. I did not have it on me and they were ok about it. They then proceeded to check the girls' ID cards. One girl was taken away. When I asked why it turned out she was 17. A few minutes later a woman arrived and took the girl I had been talking to away. Turns out she was just 16 and it was her mother who removed her! I am now told that this bar has been closed.
Rainbow 4 changes.
RB4 used to have a real problem with not enough seats on weekends. Harried waitresses squeezed guys between people already sitting at a table, guys were walking around looking for someplace to sit, and you felt you couldn't sit back, relax and have a leisurely drink. But they've tossed out that smaller stage near the DJ box and replaced it with 3-tier bench seating. Now it doesn't look crowded, so it's lost some of that vibrant weekend vibe. Also, anyone sitting by the restrooms is far from the main stage, so the view isn't going to be that good.
There's been much ballyhoo about the new Immigration form requesting amongst other things, one's social media accounts. Whilst enjoying my first trip to Chaeng Wattana I was presented with this form. Whilst sitting in the queue for an extension of stay, a nice young lady came around passing the form out. A fellow Yank next to me gave her a bit of guff, which flustered her, and peppered her with specific questions as to the why and wherefore of the form. I thought he was needlessly rough, yet listened intently to her responses which essentially came down to, It's a new rule and she was told to hand them out. It basically is a one-form version of all the info they already have through the multitude of other forms, with the stated optional bit about one's social media accounts and where one hangs out. They also have space for your home country address and your parents' names. Oh and a Thai contact person (friend). It seemed a little odd that the gal handing these out was not in official uniform. Of course, as anyone who has been there can attest, there are any number of helpers milling about, each with their own role, lubricating the machinery of bureaucratic operations there. I put in my name, address and phone, email address, and my long dead parents' names. Don't really have a home phone or address these days thanks. The officer who issued my extension didn't bat an eye at my near empty form, other than to make sure I signed it, with my name, address, and phone being entered also. Ostensibly the form is about being better able to catch bad guys and being also better able to help good guys. More likely, as was suggested by my fellow countryman, this form, brought to us by some General or Captain in the RTP or Immigration corps is simply a cash generation scheme based on selling expats' personal data and info for commercial purposes. Having been here just a little while and seeing how things work, that is easily believable.
Thailand and your skin.
The guy who wrote about skin conditions is accurate about Thai women skin conditions in USA. His sampling of 5 or 6 is the same as mine. My wife and many of her friends all have the same problem of skin problems, many small bumps – mostly on the upper back and arms above the elbows, and the back of their arms. My wife went to a dermatologist who told her that it is the water. Think about what part of the body gets hit by water the most in a shower – back and shoulders, back of arms. There is "hard water" and "soft water". Different areas have different types of minerals in the water, and some areas add things like fluoride. Some houses have their own wells so the water comes from underground. When the Thais come back to Thailand, the bumps disappear over time.
Sensitive to prices.
I popped in to Rewind Bar last night on Sukhumvit soi 8. I fancied a Black Rat cider which is brewed in my hometown in the UK. That will be 176 baht, please. No it's plastered all over the bar that it's 160 baht. Girl said, Service charge! WTF, I said you won't be seeing me or my mates in this bar, fxxkin piss take, picked up my rattle on the way out!
Bars are supposed to be closed this Tuesday and Wednesday, July 19th and 20th, for two Buddhist holidays – but long-time readers know the drill – some bars in some bar areas may open, with alcohol served in coffee or Styrofoam cups. And, yes, it's likely that Patpong will be open and it will be business as usual.
It should be noted that most government departments will be closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so if you have to visit Immigration this week, good luck – I expect it will be bedlam in Immigration offices nationwide on the two days it's open this week – Thursday and Friday – as folks scurry to do their 90-day reporting or get their visa extended before they go on overstay.
It's the low season, bars are quiet and owners worry. Different bars respond to the quiet time of year in different ways. Some put their prices up, thinking that will make up for the lost income. Some are more sensible and advertise on Stickman. In the case of the Soi Nana Hooters outlet, sexy Hooters girls have been seen walking way down Soi Nana, handing out flyers promoting the bar and trying to convince even those down and outers staying in 500 baht rooms to drop by Hooters. Those charged with the same task for Bangkok Beat have ventured beyond the confines of Sukhumvit soi 7/1 handing out flyers. Is this a case of proactive marketing departments or are bars desperate for customers?
Bars being closed at 2 AM sharp is one thing, but uniformed police in SWAT-style gear telling customers You go! has made some feel a little uncomfortable. With cameras mounted on their helmets, one reader said the police officers tasked with closing down Nana Plaza earlier this week wouldn't have looked out of place in a war zone.
And a similar description was made by a long time farang employee of Nana Plaza who described the way the plaza was closed early this week as a uniformed assault on the plaza after it was stormed by the authorities. Some bars were told to close at 2:00 AM sharp, others at 2:45. Why the discrepancy? (Don't bother answering, it's rhetorical.)
Work is being done to improve parts of Nana Plaza. It's not many years since the plaza underwent a major renovation and facelift; wear and tear has taken its toll and work is being done in parts to bring it back up to standard. Still, the plaza is in a much better shape than when I compiled the photo essay A Dump Called Nana in late 2012. It really was a bar area in disrepair. In fairness to Nana, just as I said in last week's column, it's clearly the best and most popular of Bangkok's 3 major foreigner red-light areas at this time.
What do peeled bananas, chocolate sauce, oversized dildos, Heineken bottles (both full and empty) and cans of whipping cream have in common? They're the stars of the show at Nanapong dance contests! And expect them all to make a special appearance at the next Nanapong dance contest which has been confirmed at Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2 on Saturday, September 17. Girls from five different bars will compete: Club Electric Blue Patpong vs. Dollhouse Soi Cowboy vs. Dollhouse Pattaya vs. Club Electric Blue Pattaya vs. G Spot Pattaya.
How do the owners of Lolita's, Kasalong, Lollipop1 and Som's Haven – the blowjob bars on the even-numbered side of Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke – feel about the chain of Dr. BJ blowjob bars in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 being ordered closed told to change name and be less obvious about their business model? Are they concerned that if the Dr. BJ's chain of bars where staff use an inordinate quantity of Listerine were ordered to change the way they do business that they could be next? It's not that many months ago that Lolita's and Kasalong were told that all of their girls could not sit outside and whisper "blowjob" to passersby. The new name for one of the Dr. BJ's bars is Maximum Release Massage, which hardly seems the sort of vanilla name the authorities were no doubt hoping they would come up with.
The renovations of the hong nam (bathroom) on the ground floor of the Nana Hotel is complete and don't they look swanky! Actually, they aren't anything special – it's more a case that the facilities at the Nana Hotel are so old and haven't had a lot of $$ spent on them that the new bathroom stands out as being nice. Spare a thought for the freelancers who base themselves out front of the hotel. They have been expressly forbidden from using the toilets which strikes me as rather mean, especially when some readers tell me the very reason they choose to stay at the Nana Hotel is the availability of these very freelancers milling right outside the hotel's front door.
Despite their diplomatic comments about how tenants are free to run bars of any theme of their choosing, don't take this to mean that the owners of Nana Plaza are happy about all of the ladyboy bars in the complex. They're not. I believe the way management of the plaza manages the complex and the way the ladyboy bars operate is a problem. Many customers don't like the idea of ladyboys in the plaza at all, but the demand for ladyboys is there and unlikely to disappear. But the problem many have is being accosted or groped by ladyboys in the plaza. I am of the opinion that the problem is mainly with one bar. Nana Plaza management ought to do something about the ladyboys of the plaza's original ladyboy bar, Casanova. It is the ladyboys in this bar who are largely responsible for the bad impression so many customers have towards ladyboys in general. Who is happy being accosted when walking around the plaza? It is the pesky ladyboys of Casanova – specifically Casanova – that is the problem. They linger outside the bar and near the staircase at the back of the complex and just love to grab the manhood of those passing by and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Nana Plaza management really ought to deal with this and, yes, it is specifically a Casanova problem. Walk past Temptations opposite, for example, and the ladyboys are for the most part behaved and you'll get little more than a Hello, handsome man, said in a deep, gruff voice.
From Monday to Friday, The Crossbar on Sukhumvit soi 23, will have a 2-hour happy hour – from 2 PM to 4 PM pints of Tiger will be 100 baht and pints of Asahi and Heineken will be 120 baht. Normal happy hour prices will be from opening time to 2 PM and 4 PM to 7 PM. Also, for groups of 5 or more booking tables, you are eligible for happy hour prices all night long.
Agency girls are having quite an effect on the bar industry in Bangkok. In years gone by, many agency girls were simply gogo girls who had been recruited by an old biddy who made (often false) promises to the girls about looking after them and increasing their income. Said old biddy would rent these girls out to bars for 700 – 1000 baht for a night and pay them 500 – 700 baht, making a nice little cut for herself. The use of the word agency is a misnomer, and the extent of an agency is usually nothing more than one person and a list of girls and their phone numbers. Bars really struggle to recruit these days, especially foreign-owned bars and in many, around half of the dancers are employed by the bar and the rest are agency girls. This is part of the reason why bars in Bangkok are generally much busier on Friday and Saturday nights. That's the nights the agency girls tend to work. Why Friday and Saturday? Some of the agency girls are university students who have studies during the week. Go back 15 years and the dead artist bars on Sukhumvit soi 33 were where you found university girls. Now you have agency girls working in the plaza – and, yes, some are university students. There is a difference between the agency girls of today and the agency girls of a few years ago. Not so long ago, the term agency girls was usually interchangeable with coyote dancers – slim girls who really could dance and often weren't barfineable or would only go for a premium. Agency girls these days are often worse dancers than regular gogo girls! And agency girls often have higher expectations with regard to remuneration, many quoting numbers which some punters won't pay or can't afford.
A friend has a condo offered for sale or rent. It's a fully furnished, spacious, 54m2 corner unit located less than 10 minutes walk from the airport rail link line. It's situated in a peaceful yet easily accessible area on Srinakarin Road, near the BTS yellow line (approved and due to begin construction this year). The bedroom has ample space for a double and single bed partitioned off. Flooring is granite throughout and the unit comes with a recently re-fitted kitchen worktop. Facilities include access to 2 swimming pools, fitness room, patio areas, saunas and off-street parking. The sale price has been reduced to 1,800,000 baht or you can rent it at 11,000 month baht on a 6-month minimum contract. Note, if you choose to rent, you will have no problem getting your deposit back, that much I can absolutely guarantee. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other day I had a bunch of '80s music videos running in YouTube in the background. It soon struck me that music videos from the '80s, especially those from the first half of the '80s, share much in common with modern day Thailand. Almost everyone in the early '80s videos was slim – as many Thais are (although that is changing). There's so much colour in the early '80s music videos (especially in the first half of the 80s (things got a little dark in the second half)) just as there is in Thailand where no-one thinks anything about wearing colours and styles that tend to be the domain of gay guys in much of the West. And in those '80s music videos, many men were mincing around like a bunch of queens and looking very camp – which is hardly uncommon in Thailand. There was a lot of showiness amongst the singers and groups, with overdone makeup and hair and a real emphasis on the way one looks, just as there is with Thais today who love to do themselves up. In so many '80s music videos, band members often jostled to get prime position in front of the camera – just like Thais do when taking selfies. But more than anything, there was the cheesiness about '80s music videos that is prevalent in Thailand, almost like everything is one big act and nothing is actually real.
For those who read Afrikaans (and perhaps readers in Holland and Dutch-speaking Belgians), an indie ebook titled Dagboek van 'n Thaise jintoe-C.Charlie has been released, which the author tells me is the diary of a Thai whore (tut tut, we try not to use that word unless it's absolutely warranted). It's available at smashwords.com for $4.
Thailand fiction writer John Daysh says that the best expat fiction writer in Thailand is James Newman. I've met James but I've never actually read one of his books which says more about me than his books – I stopped reading expat fiction a while ago. Fun City Punch is set in the near future in a fictional town called Fun City, loosely based on both Bangkok and Pattaya. Surveillance is rife in the city, cash has been outlawed, and an attitude adjustment program known as the Punch is pulling civilians in for character readjustment. This is the fifth in the popular Joe Dylan series.
Quote of the week comes from a Patpong tout directly to the man in a Western couple visiting the area, "Come back alone!"
A customer of Showgirls in Pattaya gets beaten up over what appears to be a disputed bar bill.
Walking Street restaurant King Seafood was inspected after a German complains the lobster he ordered was rotten.
A Pattaya condominium popular with low-rent foreigners is raided by Pattaya's finest looking for overstayers.
A giant monitor lizard strolls around a supermarket in central Thailand.
The Minister of Tourism says he wants Thailand's sex tourism industry gone.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I have a property in the UK which I rent out, the rental income from which supplements my pension and helps finance my life in Thailand. With rental rates flat in the UK and the pound plummeting, I am considering selling my property in the UK, transferring the money to Thailand and buying a couple of condos to rent out here in Pattaya. Financially, I think this will be a good decision but I wonder about the legality of it i.e. can I as a foreigner rent out condos here to other foreigners legally? What are the implications of this and is there anything I need to be aware of?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors called the Bangkok Labour Office to determine if any government policy has changed recently in light of some news reports out of Phuket that juristic managers of condominiums were requiring work permits. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors' source in the Bangkok government stated that there has been no policy change by the Thai government and no announcement from the government that such a change was made. According to our source in the Thai government, the owner of a condo does not need a work permit to rent out his or her condo in Bangkok at this time. However, there are requirements on purchasing a condo and requirements on remitting the money to Thailand that need to be met. Additionally, due diligence should be done on any condo before purchase. There are also tax implications on income from condos. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has extensive experience in assisting foreigners to purchase condos in Thailand and would be happy to consult with you on this before you start the purchase process and to discuss any tax implications.
Question 2: I was married to my Thai wife in Thailand in 2006 in a Buddhist ceremony at the house of her cousin. We never registered the marriage at the town office due to a dispute about a financial agreement presented to me after the marriage. She presented several demands to me – I declined to sign the agreement, and she refused to register the marriage. In 2007 I returned to the States while my wife remained in Thailand. I am still here and she is still there. I have visited Thailand three or four times for periods of 3 – 4 weeks at a time during the past 10 years and I am supporting her daughter who I am putting through university – she is starting her 3rd year next month.
1) Are we legally married now? Do I have any legal responsibilities in this case?
2) If a judgment is issued by a Thai court against my wife in Thailand am I at risk as well?
Sunbelt Legal responds: The only legal marriage recognised by the Thai government is the one that receives approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and takes place at a District Office. If you were still cohabiting, she might have some claim on assets acquired while together but as it has been nine years since you were together she would have no claim to anything of yours.
Upcoming columns won't all be bar photo essays.
A couple of bar photo essays in a row might be getting boring, I know, so I won't run another for a few weeks, even though I have a few in reserve. Bar photo essays are relatively easy to put together, and are the sort of material I can build up when I am in country. Next week I have something a little different, profiling a girl who went to hell and back in a column that really ought to have a disclaimer about the graphic nature of some of the photos.