Club Electric Blue is one of the big names of Bangkok gogo bars and recently celebrated its 14th anniversary with the same fellow at the helm as the day the bar opened, an eternity in an industry where many venues change name, location and / or ownership annually. But Club Electric Blue is not a Bangkok-only venture and when a lease became available on thriving soi 15 in Pattaya, owner Big Andy grabbed it. In the last of my Pattaya gogo bar profiles, I take a closer look inside the Pattaya branch of Club Electric Blue.
With a blue hue, soi 15 is a good fit for Club Electric Blue.
Club Electric Blue has a history in Sin City, where Club Electric Blue Junior was a wee small bar on Soi Diamond mildly popular some 10 odd years ago. A couple of years before the world economy went tits up, Pattaya was booming but that out of the way location was never the best spot and a tiny bar never struck me as something Big Andy would get excited about so he pulled the plug making Club Electric Blue a Bangkok-only brand.
When an opportunity presented itself in the most happening gogo bar soi in Pattaya, Big Andy grabbed it. Over the past 12 months, soi 15 has boasted quality bars from end to end, not a dud amongst them. Club Electric Blue took over the spot where the troubled Private Dancer had been, and before it version 2 of what is perhaps my all-time favourite gogo bar, Catz.
Club Electric Blue is very much a Pattaya-style bar. In layman's terms this means things can – and usually do – get a bit more wild than they do in other bars around town, and a lot more wild than what is possible in Bangkok. Club Electric Blue has long had something of a reputation for being one of the more fun places in town which is a reflection of the owner who in his day was quite the party boy!
As good as Pattaya's soi 15 is, it shares one thing in common with Nana Plaza (as distinct from the other bar areas in Bangkok) – unnecessarily rude and outwardly aggressive security, some of whom give the impression that they are just spoiling for a fight with a farang. The security staff outside some of the bars in soi 15 are hyper-sensitive and anything but a good advertisement for the industry. Taking the photo above, the security from Imagine got extremely agitated and tried to stop me from taking it, even gesturing that they were going to slit my throat, until security from Electric Blue told them to shut the fxxx up. What was that all about?
Being a party bar, a lot of the Club Electric Blue girls enjoy drinking. Tequila shots, bottles of beer – you name it, they drink it!
The girls have their own little corner in the back, near their changing rooms and the hong nam where they have a small table with their own alcohol supply which they hit – in some cases hard – between dance shifts. It reminds me of Tilac Bar in Soi Cowboy where a small group of girls hit the bottle hard night after night after night in the back left-hand corner, just below the window.
On the one hand I feel sorry for the girls going hard on the hard stuff which, because of their size, can mess some of them up pretty bad. But at the end of the day it's their choice and it's not like they're being forced alcohol by punters.
I do wonder though in the case of girls in the industry at large who drink hard whether they do so because they like to party or is it perhaps because they want to dull everything? It's not a question a lot of bargoers like to ponder. In fairness, this is not an Electric Blue thing but an industry-wide thing.
And as every Western male who has drunk with Thai women (bargirls, Internet girls, mainstream girls, well-to do ladies, Thai females from ALL backgrounds) knows, many become totally uninhibited after a few drinks.
It should be noted – and to quote the manager verbatim, "Club Electric Blue has no lady drink whores!" What he means is that the bar does not tolerate girls bothering customers for a drink and then pissing off 15 seconds after sinking it. Ain't it great that a bar actually acknowledges this is a problem and doesn't allow it? Chalk that up to manager Captain Hornbag placing great emphasis on the importance of the customer experience.
One of the many things that Club Electric Blue in Pattaya has in common with its sister bar in Bangkok is that many of the crew stick around. The line-up is stable and there's not a lot of staff attrition, most unusual in this industry.
I f you're looking for the sweet girl next door type, Club Electric Blue would not be the bar I'd recommend for you! That's not to say that it doesn't have a lot of lovely ladies because it most certainly does. As the manager erupted in laughter when he told me, some customers just can't handle some of his girls and their antics!
Some of the girls are remnants from Private Dancer, the bar which was in that spot until Club Electric Blue took over the lease, renovated, renamed the bar and took over. That bar, under the watchful eyes of Tricky Ricky, was another bar very much in the Pattaya-style so former Private Dancer staff were a good match for the Club Electric Blue concept.
What on earth is she doing? This was not part of a show or anything, rather she just perched there, suspended herself and grinned! The really funny part was when she wanted to get down and her leg had cramped up and she couldn't dislodge herself without fear of falling so girls had to get up on stage and help her down.
Part of the reason for all of the smiles is the manager. Club Electric Blue has the best bar manager in the industry – and I don't say that lightly. Captain Hornbag has that business mindset you find with Americans more than any other nationality while at the same time he has a better rapport with the girls than any bar boss I know has ever had. Captain Hornbag is the manager of Club Electric Blue and the general manager for the three bars in the group in Pattaya, which include G Spot and Dollhouse.
In some bars, the bosses screw the crew. That's widely known and in Pattaya a good few bosses come to mind. In Club Electric Blue, it is the girls who want to screw the manager! And that ain't a bad thing because it means they really go the extra mile for him.
Club Electric Blue has a particular following with Americans, something I have not been able to get my head around. Is it because the manager is American or perhaps because Americans prefer Pattaya-style bars?
Which bikini do you prefer?
One of the most attractive gogo dancers in Club Electric Blue, she didn't know which bikini she looked best in and insisted I shot her in both.
The Electric Blue crew seem to get along with one another better than girls do in other bars. Part of the reason for that might be the system manager Captain Hornbag has implemented with Line (the smartphone app) groups where all of the ladies in the bar can be messaged at the same time, where they can discuss any issues and it makes them all feel like they are part of a team and not a bunch of individuals operating out of the same venue (which is very much the case in a lot of Bangkok gogo bars, especially those which get coyotes in from outside). The bar can send out messages on Line to tell all the ladies about stuff going on in the bar such as upcoming parties, events etc. The manager feels it's a boon for staying on top of things and helps to build a team.
I'd get rid of those coloured contacts.
What would a bar shoot be without the obligatory reflection in the mirror shot?
Bar bosses cringe when I drag the camera in to the girls' changing room but funnily enough, they never prevent me from going in – and the girls are always totally at ease of a guy with a camera, irrespective of their level of dress.
What sets Club Electric Blue apart from other bars of a similar ilk is that there are naughty girls galore. Both Club Electric Blue bars have never had trouble recruiting and never suffered from a small number of girls.
Club Electric Blue in Bangkok is the closest thing to a Pattaya-style bar in the capital, Crazy House aside, and is known as a bar where, particularly later at night, the girls really get in to the swing of things. The Pattaya branch takes it to a whole new level.
The Pattaya branch of Club Electric Blue is the real deal, a gogo bar very much in the Pattaya gogo bar mould. It's a fun bar but let me say this, at a personal level it's not really my style. I much prefer Dollhouse and G Spot – but we're talking personal preferences here. Club Electric Blue in Pattaya is where you go when you can't wait for Nanapong to come to town, where you go to party with girls who really know how to party. You've been warned!
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Bernard Trink in the foyer of the Scala movie house in Siam Square. A number of readers got it right. Back to a more conventional where was this taken photo for this week.
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.
Bangkok's safest bar area?
Could Patpong be the safest place to drink in Bangkok? According to a security expert who works for embassies, Patpong is the safest place to drink in Bangkok if you are paranoid about security because:
1) There are no cameras so if anything goes wrong there is no chance of seeing your face on the 6 o'clock news. Many people don't want others to know they are whoring around in Bangkok. Nana, for example, has HD cameras tracking every inch of the plaza.
2) Patpong has good security teams hidden away so if there's trouble backup is not far away.
3) Lots of good exits like the car park, alley ways, small sois – all good for a quick and efficient exit, if required.
It is interesting how many people view Patpong at the most dodgy nightlife area in Bangkok whereas those who understand security view it as the safest. I wonder how many incidents there are in Patpong compared to the other bar areas.
Still fun to be had in Bangkok.
Yes, Bangkok is changing but I still find ways to have fun when I visit. Sure, it is more expensive but I find a lot of quality restaurants with excellent food. I love people watching sitting in an outside bar or restaurant. Bars and gogo bars are more expensive too but most of the time I find a dancer who likes to have a few drinks and stick around. If the feeling is not good, I just finish my drink and go to another bar. I usually have the most fun with coyote dancers.
Was it really better in the past?
Of course things felt / seemed better in the old days. We were younger, stronger, fitter, more handsome and young, pretty girls came easier (and usually for free). Sure, prices have gone up but so have salaries. I just checked my salary slip from 15 years back when I first came to Thailand and notice that my disposable income is today 225% higher than back then. Apart from real estate, I am not sure prices have gone up that much. Flights cost about the same.
The cost of living in Bangkok.
I was thinking about your note on living expenses in Bangkok and how US$3,000 per month would be reasonable. I think that a useful "standard of reference" would be the various aged pensions from around the world. My full Aussie pension is AU$842 a fortnight (AU$1684 a month) or about US$1270 (it would be a bit less if living outside Oz). So by your figures, that's about half of the amount needed. A friend living in Isaan is having a real struggle living on the Oz pension, and in his case his wife is also working. I've long released that I can no longer afford to live in Thailand. I can live much more frugally in Oz, plus get free medical care etc. It's been a while since you mentioned expat pensions. It might be a good topic for a column to table all the various pensions, NZ, UK, US military, etc, and how they relate to the cost of living in Thailand.
The price of fun in Thailand.
You closed your column this week with an analysis of how easy it is to live a comfortable life in Thailand if you are single and after you've paid your rent you have a budget of $5K a month. <Actually, that was not quite what I said. Rather, I commented that if one wished to experience the same level of "delight" as expats in the so-called golden age, it *is* possible but will cost more than it once did, and $5,000 per month should do it – Stick> I'm sure that's true for you and many of your readers. But please don't forget those of us who are older and / or not single and on incomes fixed by our pensions and governments. Many of this readership pays half of what you budget for housing and it comes out of the total received. In addition, I am supporting two households, a one-bedroom flat in Bangkok and a piece of a family farm in the northeast (which is not even self-sustaining), along with a wife and until July for the past 15 years my mother-in-law. I also put my wife's two kids from her first marriage through university and still support another individual who for the past 10 years has lived with us and helps my wife on the farm (cattle, chicken and ducks, two fishponds, crawfish pens and a variety of fruit and other crops on top of the annual rice). I'm not complaining. I live a good and happy life. Just keep in mind we are not all so privileged as you seem to think we are. In fact, I bet we make up a substantial part of your demographic.
Friendly Thai police officers introduce themselves to foreigners.
Just to let you know that police stop and searches are still taking place in the Asoke area. My friend was on his way to meet me yesterday (Saturday, September 17th) at 8:30 PM and when he got off the back of the motorbike taxi at the entrance to Soi 22 at the Sukhumvit end he was searched by two policemen. They had followed him for a short distance. My friend showed them a photocopy of his passport, which he said they weren't too bothered about and even carries a photocopy of his work permit, which is out of date, but they weren't interested in that either. He had to empty his pockets and they patted him down and looked through his cigarettes. They were obviously more interested in searching for drugs. They had been waiting on their motorbike at the entrance to the dinosaur theme park and when he went past on a motorbike taxi they became interested and followed him to the entrance of Soi 22 where he got off.
Girl of the Week
Rita, escort from NewBangkokEscort.com
Sometimes, Rita likes to go to the temple and make merit.
Other times, she enjoys chilling over wine and listening to live music.
She loves Thai and Japanese food.
Photo courtesy of reader Zach Smith.
On Saturday of last week i.e. 8 days ago – the night before last week's column was published – the men in green raided Climax at 3 AM. Exits were blocked, the house lights turned on and for almost an hour no-one could leave. No announcements were made. The odd punter was freaking out that they were going to get drug tested but in the end that never happened. When punters were finally allowed to leave there was nearly a stampede but a bottle neck formed where everyone had to present ID on the way out. Apparently the issue is going to go to court – and that means the possibility of a long closure. The raid saw a large number of soldiers present – which means no chance to sort things out using conventional methods. Those in the know completely understand why this particular raid was carried out by the men in green.
It hasn't been a good week for the Hillary Group, the operator of Climax, with their popular late-night bar / disco / freelancer bar raided and now Hillary 1 has been stripped with word that it will be shut for 2 months due to building work in the Raja Hotel car park area where a new 3-storey plaza is being built.
And the men in green seemed to get a taste for Bangkok's farang party zone and ventured out in the night very early Thursday morning with Soi Nana their target. The party was curtailed at 1 AM with venues ordered closed. On Soi Nana, all of the legal bars like those in Nana Plaza were closed at 1 AM while all of the street-side booze booths which have zero licenses, which are mooted to sell dodgy alcohol and which pay money to certain influential people to operate when they are in breach of several laws were not even looked at. September, along with May, is one of the quietest and thus most difficult months for businesses in the bar / tourism industry making these visits by the men in green particularly unwelcome.
And it doesn't stop there. Early Friday morning a late-night bar on Sukhumvit soi 3 popular with our African friends was raided by the men in green in full body armour and with their automatic weapons at the ready. Everyone was drug-tested and one farang tested positive despite being a non-drug user who is tested regularly at his employment Stateside. He appealed this on the spot, the officer took pity on him, retested and the second time it came back negative. He was one of 18 partygoers given an invitation they could not refuse to spend some time at Lumpini Police Station, all for the heinous crime of not having his passport on him.
Since cliquey Soi Nana bar and eatery Jool's closed the lights have remained out, the shophouse vacant. A sign erected outside says that the space is available for rent. The reason for Jool's closure was the usual – the landlord hiking rents to a level that the business owner felt like they were working for the landlord and not for themselves. With rents soaring in prime areas, we need to prepare ourselves for further rounds of price increases. To give you an idea of how silly it's getting, the odd landlord in the Nana area of Sukhumvit is asking for 600,000 baht / month in rent for a single shophouse. Just how many bottles of beer or burgers or barfines does a business need to peddle to cover the rent at those levels?
Work is progressing in the car park of the Nana Hotel where a staircase was being built this week, leading up to a section below the swimming pool where version III of Strikers Sports Bar will be located.
If the girls in your favourite Bangkok chrome pole bar's Jacuzzi are in bikinis and showing less flesh than they were on a previous visit, put it down to men in brown uniforms making regular visits.
If you're tempted by a ladyboy, make your way to Nana Plaza's smallest ladyboy bar this coming Wednesday, September 21st when Temptations celebrates its 4th birthday. All beers are only 100 baht all night long. Will you be tempted?!
One of the themes in this column in recent months has been the ebb and flow of old and new bars and bar areas, and how a number of long-running and in some cases iconic Bangkok bars have closed. One survivor has been CheckInn99 which lost its lease in their home of 60 years between Sukhumvit 5 & 7 back in July. It should be noted that nothing has happened to the vacated space – despite various rumours of it being turned into a hostel, a designer bar or even demolished to make way for an Arab trinket market. Their departure from the original location over to soi 24 came with much hope, but turned out to be but a temporary solution lasting just 6 weeks. The honeymoon turned sour due to unexpected issues and CheckInn99 vacated with very short notice. Being adrift with no venue only lasted a couple of days and they were contacted by Zak's Wine Bar on Sukhumvit soi 11 where they were offered a lease on the vacant upstairs function room and terrace. Zak's has a lot to gain from the deal as Checkinn99 is a real draw with older – and often cashed up – punters and the two venues could prove to be complementary, driving customers to each other's respective business. The food menu will be provided through Zak's and Checkinn99 can provide top class live entertainment. The owner tells me the new location is starting to get the feel of the old CheckInn99 and they have been able to bring most of their old junk and fittings with them. This looks to be a better partnership and certainly soi 11 is a superior location to soi 24 for a bar. Three locations in 8 weeks, it's amazing what you can do when your back's against the wall.
Down in Pattaya, I-Rovers in Soi LK Metro calls itself Pattaya's home of sport. I-Rovers is a sports bar catering for all sports fans and shows live sport including rugby, cricket, English football, Aussie rules and bogan ball. It has developed a growing reputation as the home of American sport in Pattaya and broadcasts NFL & NCAA (college football) games. With so many screens around the bar, I-Rovers can show many matches at the same time, as proven last Sunday night where dozens of Americans watched all 8 NFL games simultaneously. They also cater for NCAA fans and had a good crowd on Saturday morning watching 6 games at the same time. So, if you find yourself in Pattaya and the All Blacks or Liverpool or the Black Caps appeal over an afternoon in the Pump Station or an evening in Dollhouse, do stop by I-Rovers Sports Bar. And don't be shy when in the bar to let the staff know that your team is playing on another channel and get them to change the channel for you. I-Rovers is located in Soi LK Metro. For more info, check out I-Rovers.com.
Right next door to G Spot on Walking Street, the gogo bar featured in last week's column, is Sugar Baby A Gogo. The popular chrome pole bar has major expansion plans and will open a new upstairs area soon. I don't know if this means there will be a glass bottomed dance floor upstairs or not but whatever the final product, it's encouraging to see bars expanding and putting money into improvements. Is this a sign that bar bosses' confidence has returned after a shocking high season last year?
More and more naughty bar owners understand the importance of marketing and more and more bars have an online presence. Increasingly, bars are setting up a Facebook page – which has various advantages and disadvantages over a conventional web page. One thing that I think some bar owners may not have considered is that there are plenty of bar customers who are older guys who don't do Facebook. So to bar owners with a Facebook page, consider having a website too.
Have you noticed that these days some Thais – particularly urban females – can be rather more coarse with the spoken word than in the past? I am not talking bargirls, but just regular everyday ladies. The number of times I heard e-dock said in Thailand recently made me cringe. Sure, languages evolve but the Thai language used to be so politely spoken with nuances, riddles and innuendo used to make a point rather than the sort of crass profanity preferred by many native English speakers.
Dasa Book store is regarded by many as Bangkok's best second-hand book store. Located on the main Sukhumvit Road just a couple of hundred metres from Emporium, now would be a good time to drop by as they are offering 10% off all books until the end of September. More info can be found at their website, DasaBookCafe.
Some people have food allergies and eating certain types of food might cause them distress at best, and serious illness at worse. Others just seem to want to jump on the latest fad diet bandwagon. For those who wish to avoid certain types of foods, I hate to break it to you that telling food servers in Thailand that you have a food allergy or are a celiac or have any other food intolerances may get a nod and a smile and a ka, but it might not make any difference to the final product delivered to your table. Most Thais just don't get the food allergy thing and requesting that certain ingredients are not included can be lost on them. I hate to say it, but if you have any genuine, serious food intolerances or allergies related to food, you are very much on your own in Thailand. Even someone like me who doesn't eat pork gets funny looks and occasionally even rolled eyes when I tell servers I don't do pig. I remember a few years back dining with a friend in Chiang Mai in a decent, foreign-owned restaurant where he carefully explained that he was a vegan and insisted that he did not want any animal product in his meal. The request was made politely, clearly in both English and Thai and repeated with the server acknowledging it – and still he received food containing animal products.
Speaking of food containing animal products, is this the best hamburger in Bangkok? With so many burger joints in Bangkok these days and so many eateries with burgers on the menu, there are lots of options for us hamburger lovers. So to select one from the crowd and pronounce it the best burger in Bangkok would be a big call. I have long lamented the closing of Duke's Express in Emporium which had what I thought was the best burger in town. But Margarita Storm's offering might be even better. Made with Australian Wagyu beef which gives it a strong beef flavour, it's nothing like the watered down sausage-like flavour that many of Bangkok's cheaper burgers suffer from. The burger patty is a good size – 200 grams of Aussie goodness so this baby fills you up. The bun comes from a foreign-owned bakery and they are delivered fresh each day (why do so many burger jaunts have the cheek to serve near stale buns) and there is attention to detail with every ingredient. My other gripe about many Thai-owned burger outlets is the way they smother burgers in tomato sauce making it look like the aftermath of a knife fight. Margarita Storm's burgers are served with hand-cut, skin-on fries – none of these out of the packet supermarket-bought fries some venues serve. OK, so it's not the cheapest burger in town, but when is the best ever the cheapest? Give it a try and let me know what you think.
There are many reasons to choose the Scala cinema in Siam Square over newer, more modern multiplexes. Probably the two main reasons are that the cost is lower – at Scala tickets are just 100 / 120 / 140 baht whereas at Terminal 21 it's 200 baht and at Emporium and Paragon it is 240 baht up. What I like about Scala is that it's a proper movie house, not just a modern box. And another thing I like is that the movie starts within minutes of the advertised time, so unlike the cinemas on Sukhumvit you don't have to sit through *more than half an hour* of advertising and trailers first.
Simple Simon's in Jomtien have put on a meal specials that include the first drink free, a great deal especially when you see how cheap the meal deals are. Details on the poster below.
Reader's story of the week comes from GB and is a first-hand report of being caught up in a bar bust in Bangkok.
Quote of the week comes from an immigrant in New Zealand, but is just as relevant to expats in Thailand, "The most difficult step is to leave your home country, but once you are an immigrant in another country it does not require much to move again."
A Brit traveller claims he spent a week in detention at a Bangkok airport due to spilling hand-wash on his passport.
A well-meaning ex New Zealand police force cop is working on cracking the human trafficking problem in Bangkok.
A Pattaya shop owner erects a sign outside her shop saying she was forced to close due to a raid by police without a warrant to search.
Just like in Bangkok this week, a number of Pattaya bars were raided by the authorities.
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 am an unmarried American citizen. I apply for and receive a non-immigrant O-A "long stay" visa and move to Thailand. Two months later I marry a Thai woman and decide that I want to open a business. The conditions of the original visa do not allow me to work but if I had an extension of stay based on marriage I would be allowed to work. Can I apply for an extension of stay based on marriage right away, or do I have to wait another 10 months at which time the O-A visa would normally be renewed. As an American citizen, are there any special conditions that apply to me if I want to open a business?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Once you are married it may be possible to convert your non-Immigrant OA to a non-O based on marriage to a Thai national in Thailand but that will depend on the officer's discretion. The officer may choose to do the conversion in Thailand or may require you to leave the country and obtain the non-O visa in another country.
If the officer will not convert the visa then you will need to travel to another country and apply for the non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national. However, they usually will not grant it unless you have been married for at least 6 months.
Once you have been married for six months and obtain the visa from a Thai embassy or consulate, you will be allowed three months to remain in Thailand. You can extend that to one year on a year by year basis by having 400,000 baht in a Thai bank in your name. You can also obtain the extension by having income of 40,000 baht a month – so the second year you can show you have a work permit and are paying taxes on income of at least 40,000 baht a month and get the extension that way without needing 400,000 baht in the bank.
You will need to apply for the one-year extension at least 15 days before the non-O visa expires.
Once you have the marriage visa / extension you can obtain a work permit in your own business. As an American you have two options to open your own business – a private Thai Limited Company in which at least 51 percent of shares must be owned by Thai nationals or a private Limited Company formed under the Thai – Amity treaty which allows American citizens to hold majority shares in the company and there is no requirement for a Thai shareholder.
There are certain special requirements for the Amity treaty company, like a higher registered capital requirement than the Thai Limited Company but the greatest advantage to an Amity registered company is that it allows you to maintain full control of your company as the majority shareholder.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has an experienced team that can help you through the visa process and in forming the company that best suits your needs.
One of the many beauties in Billboard, on the top floor of Nana Plaza.
Three bar photo essays is plenty and probably a bit of a bore for those with little or no interest in the bar industry so there are no plans for any more for a while. Unfortunately there won't be a column next week as I will be travelling and putting together this column is a pain when I am on the move so I am going to take a week off and just enjoy my travels rather than worry about what I am going to do for an opener and chasing up with people to gather news and gossip. Regular service resumes on Sunday, October 2nd.
Your Bangkok commentator,