I've long thought the best gogo bars in Thailand were in Bangkok but a recent visit to Pattaya caused me to think again. Many of the chrome bars of Pattaya are genuine fun with little of the mercenary attitudes so common in Bangkok. All the Pattaya gogo bars I visited were fun, and one of the best was Dollhouse.
The Dollhouse brand returned to Pattaya last December after an absence of several years. It's hard to believe that the original Dollhouse in Pattaya that was located underneath Marine Disco opened way back in early 2001 and has been gone almost as long as it was open. At one time, Dollhouse on Walking Street was one of the most popular gogo bars in Sin City.
The Pattaya Dollhouse features the same iconic sign found outside Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy.
From the moment you see the large iconic Dollhouse sign floating over soi 15, you just know that the new Dollhouse is operated by one of the original Pattaya Dollhouse owners. Dollhouse is one of three bars run by the same group, the others being Club Electric Blue – also in soi 15 – and G Spot, on the main Walking Street.
There are shades of Soi Cowboy in Pattaya's soi 15 with the short soi full of neon and lined with gogo bars.
Dollhouse is about 80 metres up the soi, the last bar on the left, directly opposite Baby Dolls. You can't miss its bright frontage.
Popular bars in Bangkok typically don't stock draft beer or even offer a happy hour, but the Pattaya market is rather different. Many Sin City punters are price sensitive and gogo bars in Pattaya without an inexpensive draft beer option miss out on a sizeable segment of the market.
45 baht draft beer through to 10:30 PM is a great deal, and for those who prefer the top shelf, it's 2 for 1 on house spirits at happy hour.
One of the many beauties in Dollhouse.
Dollhouse was built in record time and features an all-new interior. It is known as a soi 15 bar – which is the best way to market it given that soi 15 is currently the soi for gogo bars in Pattaya – but it actually has two entrances and you can also enter or exit via soi 14.
Gogo or coyote? It's not always clear.
Dollhouse features a mix of gogo dancers, coyotes and showgirls.
Barfines run 800 / 900 / 1000 baht, the rate depending on whether the lady is a gogo dancer, a coyote dancer or a slip'n'slide girl.
Dollhouse house calls it the slip'n'slide. It's an area towards the back of the bar where ladies soap themselves up and slide around in a sexy manner.
This little lady was everywhere in the bar, from jumping around on the main dance floor to spinning around the slip'n'slide. What she lacks in size she makes up for with enthusiasm.
Dollhouse's "host" is a very affable Brit called Andy who is not to be confused with the bar's owner, Big Andy.
Brit Andy used to be a fixture on Soi LK Metro and had stints at Champagne, Malibu and Crystal Club.
Dollhouse's main dance floor features a pole that leads up through a large hole in the ceiling to the girl's changing room upstairs. Throughout the night, ladies slide down the pole.
Going back many years, I seem to recall (rightly or wrongly, I do not know) that Pattaya gogo bar dancers led the way when it came to being tattooed, and Bangkok girls followed. My impression this past visit is that if heavily tattooed ladies are your thing, you're more likely to find what you're looking for in Bangkok than in Pattaya. OK, so the sample size is way too small to make such a generalisation, but that was my impression. My best guess in explaining this would be that – on average – Bangkok girls appear to make more money than their Pattaya sisters.
Each of the three bars in the group has a slightly different customer base, something which just seems to have happened naturally and I am told it has nothing to do with marketing.
Dollhouse has a British bar host and Dollhouse gets more British customers than the other bars in the group, as well as more Brits than any other group of customers by nationality.
Club Electric Blue is run by Captain Hornbag and the American-managed bar has more of an American crowd.
The third bar in the group, G Spot, is more popular with Japanese and other Asians.
Of course there is plenty of overlap.
Dollhouse has a small VIP room off to one side in the same vein as the room that was once a feature of Bacarra in Bangkok, but which I believe has since been removed. The VIP room has space for just a few people and offers a nice vantage point of the bar's goings on. It features mirrored glass so while those inside the VIP room can see out, those in the bar cannot see (what is happening) inside the VIP room. The VIP room is available to anyone and is not the exclusive domain of big wigs as the name suggests.
One of the more unusual features in Dollhouse is that the bar has free wi-fi – ask any member of staff for the current password.
One of the many pretty ladies at Dollhouse, she didn't photograph as well as I thought she would. To my eyes, she was probably the most attractive lady in the bar – and the very first bar lady the manager suggested we photograph. In person, she really is very, very attractive!
There are 15 songtaews (AKA baht buses) running around Pattaya's streets emblazoned in Dollhouse advertising material. If you take a selfie of yourself in one of the Dollhouse baht buses and show the selfie to Dollhouse staff you will get a free shot.
Also, if you check in on the Dollhouse Facebook page on your mobile phone in the bar and show a service girl, that also gets you a free shot. (It should be noted that this applies to all three bars in the group.)
I suggested to the manager of Dollhouse that he run an online competition where you match this butt with a girl in the bar and if you're right, win a prize like a free shot. I wonder if he will implement it?
Dollhouse is a very nicely presented and well run standard gogo with a fun crew. By standard gogo bar I mean that it's the usual gogo format with girls dancing in shifts for a few songs until the next shift takes over. It's not a show bar like say Angelwitch and it's not one of the grotty Pattaya-style gogo bars where girls are doing things on stage which really shouldn't be done in public. The slip'n'slide is novel and a few of the girls like to bounce around but there's none of the nonsense you see in some Pattaya gogo bars where things get rather a little too wild.
Dollhouse is just plain fun and you can go there for a good time without feeling any pressure to barfine a lady, and without feeling that you're not welcome if you have no plans to pay a barfine. That alone separates it from most Bangkok gogo bars.
When it comes to the naughty nightlife, there is a compelling case for Pattaya over Bangkok. Pattaya has more gogo bars and in the greater Walking Street area there are more bars concentrated in one area than any other place in the country. Prices in Pattaya bars are noticeably lower than in Bangkok and it is my impression that the girls in Pattaya are more fun. It wasn't always this way. Many of the complaints you hear about the nightlife industry in Bangkok just don't apply to Pattaya. There are many really good gogo bars in Pattaya and if you're looking for a bar that is well-run and just plain fun, Dollhouse is highly recommended.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on Charoen Krung Road, in the Chinatown area. It is the south side of the road at a point where the sidewalk disappears due to ongoing construction of the extension of the underground.
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.
Miracles can happen!
On Friday night I was in Clubhouse on Soi 23 with friends – all are long-term Thailand residents. We all ordered different meals. Amazingly they brought all 3 meals at the same time and all 3 were piping hot when served. All 3 of us were independently astonished and then all burst out laughing when we all 3 jinxed ourselves by commenting at the same time that all 3 meals came together (never mind that they were hot). Although amusing to long-term residents, it is a reminder of how truly appalling the service here is that 2 days later I am still amazed that this happened. It's probably the first time I have seen this happen in years! I am so used to everyone eating lukewarm food separately.
Being ill in Thailand worse than dying in Thailand.
I would suggest dying in Thailand is not as much a worry as is getting sick in Thailand (or 'Nam, Laos, Cambodia). For pensioners on Social Security, our Medicare benefits are only good in the USA. A lady of my acquaintance recently became ill in South Korea (passed out at the airport) and racked up a $8,000 tab in two days. She wasn't allowed to leave the country until she paid up. Her ex husband bailed her out. An American pal living in Phnom Penh says the healthcare is wretched even when one has the money to pay. I was shocked when presented with the bill for my last visit to Bumrungrad (a head cold). I remember when it used to be affordable. When you're "dead you're dead" but when you're sick, I'll take the USA or any civilized Western country.
I agree that Pattaya has changed dramatically since what was perhaps its heyday as a sex tourist destination for western men about say 10 or 15 years ago. The Chinese and Indian tourists have virtually no impact on the bar scene as they just don't spend any significant time or money on it. And I would suggest that the idea that some put forward that the old scene is now almost dead is rather premature, it has just changed somewhat. I still see plenty of guys out and about with girls and places like IBar and Insomnia are packed most nights. I think the lack of freelancers on your visit could be attributed to a combination of low season and the ungodly hour you seem to get out and about. I'm rarely asleep before 4 AM when in Pattaya let alone out and about at 8 AM like you!
I have been in Pattaya since mid-June and have never enjoyed my time more. Certainly the beer bars are all on the wane and quite frankly I couldn't care less. Overweight ladies glued to their smart phones and 500 baht barfines the norm now, blaring music and obnoxious tattooed pigs of Westerners acting like 3-year olds. By contrast Beach Road comes alive between the hours of 8:00 PM to well after midnight. If a raid is imminent, a motorbike zooms ahead of the authorities beeping their horn and calling out, warning ladies of the night who simply cross the road and blend into the alleyways and lanes. Certainly the Beach road ladies have their fair share of derelicts but I would estimate only about 30% are on drugs / alcohol. There's no buying lady-drinks, no barfines; just a quick negotiation on what they will and won't do and how much. Always short time; few if any go the whole night and I have yet to encounter one who charges more than a thousand baht. The vast majority are sick and tired of the poor treatment from beer bar bosses and many get way more customers. For a well-groomed Farang who speaks basic yet respectful Thai, many are delighted to come back to my room.
I have been in Malaysia for 10 months and don't miss Thailand one bit. My Thai wife is the same. Was back there last week for meetings and couldn't wait to get out of the place. Spent most of my down time in Clubhouse, an Australian-owned bar down soi 23. It is owned by a good friend and in my opinion one of, if not the best sports pub in town. Malaysia is way better than Thailand in so many ways. Granted, as a married man with kids I was never into the gogo scene. But Malaysia is so much cleaner and nicer to live. You can buy land, own your own home, get a loan / mortgage if you want, get credit cards and generally do a lot more than you can in Thailand. The work permit/visa issues are effortless and work permits are for 2 years at a time. You also get an ID card (with a work permit) and do not have to carry your passport around. Looking at Thailand last week was an eye opener. The place has lost its soul.
Visa issuance irregularities.
In one of your news items you wrote that many honorary consulates no longer issue multi-entry visas. But it isn't only consulates, is it. Only one – ONE – office in the entire region that I am aware of issues multi-entry visas for those married to a Thai without the need to show money in the bank. Sawannakhet does, but Vientiane – in the same country – does not. Why? I assume that there are rules laid down by the government that dictate the requirements for each type of visa. So why do some offices work to the rules and others make up their own? Why does Sawannakhet do one thing and Vientiane another, if the rules are there to presumably be followed by every embassy and consulate and anything in between? Surely there must be a list of requirements, and if you satisfy them then you should be issued the visa. No ifs, no buts, no go somewhere else.
Headed for a hole in the temple wall.
You asked if anyone has given any thought to where they would prefer to die, Thailand or back on home soil. Having been in Thailand for close on 25 years, and having spent 10 years before that constantly on the road for work, I can't really say that dying outside of where I grew up concerns me. I've been to several family cremations at my local temple and watched as the smoke rises from the chimney, and it has crossed my mind that one day that will be my smoke. It doesn't bother me. I have considered whether I'd like my ashes to be scattered back home in the UK, and I would choose a cliff-top on the Isle of Wight, but that probably wouldn't be practical or worth the expense, so I'll probably end up in a hole in the wall at the village temple with a pole somewhere on the grounds with my name and expiry date on it.
Girl of the Week
Koko, escort from NewBangkokEscort.com
A lady with a mature mind, she loves Japanese food and som tam.
Koko is not just a great shag, she gives a very good massage.
They say that once you've had black there's no going back but would you really want to get intimate with some of the African ladies lingering in the shadows on prime Sukhumvit? African birds are floating around the lower Sukhumvit / Nana area in greater numbers than ever, making a mockery of the authorities' supposed crackdown on foreign nationals and human trafficking. Slam me for being non-PC, but it's pretty obvious this lot aren't Thai! Competition on the street is fierce and some have taken to hanging out in freelancer bars with a good few African hookers to be found in the resurgent EQ on the ground floor of the Nana Hotel.
Perhaps the presence of these African birds is no bad thing for EQ where trade is on the up, which begs the question – could it be partially due to the presence of aforementioned Africans? This is nothing new and Bangkok has a history of foreign working girls adding variety at certain freelancer bars. Once upon a time, part of the popularity of CM2 (disco popular with freelancers in the basement of the Novotel Siam Square) was the many Russian hookers who blended in with the crowd.
Bangkok's oldest bar area had a lean August and things have gone from bad to worse at Patpong with police and army visiting some bars multiple times a night, insisting the doors are closed and lights out at 2 AM, meaning the last hour of trade is lost each night.
It's not only Patpong where things are slow. Neither Nana nor Cowboy bar bosses have been bragging about trade recently and don't expect them to start any time soon. It's September, the quietest or second quietest month of the year – and there's no reason to think it will be any different this year.
Red Dragon in Patpong soi 2 is struggling to gain traction and it doesn't help that it's not entirely clear just what the venue is all about. Is it a bar? Is it a restaurant? Or is it something in between?
Despite the downturn in Patpong, The Strip on Patpong soi 2 has various improvements planned with cracked mirrors to be replaced along with the Perspex of the shower booth which in its current scored state does a mighty job of preventing punters from seeing the action inside.
Jool's on Soi Nana was at the peak of its popularity in the '90s when owner Big Dave held court. Known for good English food and a cliquey crowd that was not always welcoming to newcomers, Jool's was never the same after Big Dave called it a day several years ago. The bar's closure this week will be followed by relocation to the old part of town; new beginnings and a new customer base.
Scott Lawson's departure has put the future of The Tavern very much up in the air. Now Jool's has gone – and let's not forget that the second iteration of Striker's was leveled just a few weeks ago. If you haven't strolled Soi Nana recently you might notice a lot of changes. Amongst them are two large developments on either side of the soi, one where Strikers was and the other on the corner where Sukhumvit sois 4 and 6 intersect. The board mounted on the wall on the project at the corner of sois 4 and 6 says it will be a hotel. The board posted on the walls surrounding the development in what was the Raja Hotel car park where Strikers once was says in Thai that it will be a 3-storey plaza, something which has the imagination of some racing. I expect it will probably be a low-rise shopping mall with booth-like outlets. Maybe bars will set up there but I wonder about the location and can't see the bars further up the soi sweating at all if it turns out to be some sort of new beer bar complex.
In Nana Plaza, the owners of Jail Birdz have embarked on a renovation. I'm interested to see what they come up with as the bar is huge and gives the owners all sorts of options. I am told we should expect both a new theme and a new name. Jail Birdz will remain open throughout the renovation although part of it might be closed off.
What has happened at RB2, previously known as Rainbow 2? Once one of the most popular gogo bars in Nana Plaza, it was particularly popular with our Japanese friends. Dancer numbers in RB2 are at an all-time low with just a handful of dancers most nights. Punters stick their head inside, see few dancers on stage and quickly scamper back the way they came! It's almost as if the owners of this once great bar have sacrificed it. What's the back story?
Speaking of Thai-owned bars, at least one Thai-owned Nana Plaza bar insists customers pay the barfine and the girl's fee upfront before leaving the bar, which goes against convention. Refuse and you will leave the bar alone. The concern when paying the girl upfront is that she does a runner or does not perform her side of the bargain. A reader submitted a report this week about how he paid upfront but then missed out on any action. The best advice is simply to not pay upfront.
Speaking of crap deals in naughty bars, if you're watching your pennies keep an eye on the lady drink prices in a certain Soi Cowboy bar where the girls are increasingly going for a Leo beer as their choice of lady drink which sets customer back a lofty 280 baht (but is only 165 baht if sir orders one for himself).
My favourite Bangkok English-style pub, The Londoner, finally reopened at its new location on Srinakarin Road after the original venue closed on Sukhumvit soi 33 more than 2 years ago. The Londoner relocated across town to a building the venue's operator owns so they won't face the same issue as soi 33 where the landlord tried to increase the monthly rent to 850,000 baht. That was the point at which The Londoner said enough is enough and left. So what is the new branch of The Londoner like? One word: FABULOUS – even better than the original! Set over a couple of floors, the beautifully done out and decorated venue feels less like an English-style pub, more like a high-end gastro bar that would not be out of place in any capital city. OK, so the location is a little awkward for the old Sukhumvit crowd to get to and while it's less than 7 km away from soi 33, traffic at peak hour can see a journey from Sukhumvit take an hour to get there. But that hasn't deterred old customers who are making the trek across town. In a situation that mirrors that of Bourbon Street which left Washington Square after 25+ years and moved further away from the centre of town, The Londoner now attracts more of a Thai crowd and the spend per head has doubled. It's still early days but the owner is delighted.
Herrity's, the new Irish pub in the building that until recently was The Dubliner, is supposed to open tomorrow. The format sounds like it will be much the same as The Dubliner with a bar on the ground floor and rooms for rent upstairs.
Disaster has been averted with an update from Dean Barrett on the serious issue of Baby BarBar's disappearance as was mentioned in last week's column:
Great News! Mistress Jeab (Baby Chick) is already back at BarBar. The Case of the Disappearing Dominatrix is over. The owner said she suffered from the Dean-Barrett-Withdrawal-Syndrome. She discovered that torturing other men was not as much fun as torturing me. You see, I told you women find me irresistible!
What came first, Thailand or alcoholism? More than a few expat retirees are alcoholics. Were they that way before they arrived in Thailand or did their (lack of any real) life in Thailand cause them to become alcoholic?
Spare a thought for a popular former Bangkok bar operator who now works in Iraq. He was in Hua Hin the other week when the bombs went off and had people calling him in Thailand from Iraq and asking if he was safe in Thailand! It's a funny old world.
From one professional services company which helps foreigners in all manner of situations comes word that in recent weeks they have helped more foreigners in Thailand go through a divorce than foreigners who wish to get married. Whether this is a trend or just an anecdote from one firm, who knows?
Another trend coming out of Bangkok at this time – and this one is a trend, not just an anecdote from a single source – is that realtors who find condos for newly arrived expats are struggling and some have given up on the business completely. The word is that Bangkok's expat population continues to grow so what's going on? It could be that those moving to Bangkok are not looking for properties in the upper mid range or higher. For many agents, it's just not worth their while to help someone with a limited budget as the general rule of thumb is that the agent's commission on matching someone with a condo is one month's rent. On a 60,000 baht per month property it's worth their while, but on, say, a 15,000 baht per month property, it is not.
When Westerners tell you about their troubled relationships with a Thai woman, often you hear that the lady grew up in a dysfunctional family and / or was abandoned by their dad when they were very young. With that in mind, is one of the reasons foreigners have relationship problems with Thai women due to daddy issues?
Chatting with a long-term Thai expat this week, we debated when we thought the golden age was in Thailand for us. We felt between 2000 and 2003 was when Thais were most welcoming to outsiders, when prices were low yet service levels were high, development was sufficient that the place did not feel rustic. For us, that was the golden age. The late '90s was fun period, but not without its problems and maybe the early 2000s were even better. What is interesting about that period is that it was when a certain Mr. Thaksin was in control, the Prime Minister who is now living in exile. Ask a lot of Thais when business was best and when they made the most money was and more than a few will say that same period…
I get all sorts of emails asking for advice on various things in Thailand, and one of the most common is about doing business with Thais or doing business generally in Thailand. My first piece of advice is "Don't!" If I am asked to explain, I always say that you should not accept promises that things will be done in the future. If you're the buyer, only pay when the service or goods have been delivered. If you're the seller, wait until you have the money in your hands before parting with the goods or delivering the service. Yes, it sounds cynical but it has been my observation over a very long period of time that promises in Thailand, in business and in life in general, count for squat.
Down in Pattaya, visitors are robbed at knife point right behind the police station!
The Sun makes its annual pilgrimage to Pattaya for the usual salacious report.
The land on which the British embassy in Bangkok sits is up for sale.
A Brit is caught on video stealing the belongings of a Thai woman in a Chiang Mai temple.
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.
There were no questions received for Sunbelt Legal this week.
The food of the north-eastern region.
Feedback to columns subsides after a few days with most comments to a column coming within 24 hours of that column going online. The column I put together a couple of weeks ago about a visit to Udon Thani where I spoke highly of the north-eastern centre as a place to settle really upset some Udon-based expats. Many emails from Udon Thani-based expats came in more than a week after the column went live which suggests the article was linked to a forum read by Udon expats some time after it was first published. More than a few Udon expats were most displeased that their secret hideaway had been exposed. I thought that part of expat culture had gone by the wayside but obviously I was wrong. Even now, in 2016, insecurities plague many foreign residents of Thailand who are scared that the arrival of more foreigners could somehow have a negative effect on their lives in Thailand. Still, is this any real surprise with xenophobia and protectionism rearing its ugly head all around the world.