The world is becoming more sanitised as political correctness takes hold everywhere. And don’t go thinking Thailand is exempt. It isn’t. But around the world there are some who refuse to surrender to political correctness, heroes whose efforts we should encourage. In the bar industry the Nanapong boys party exactly the same way they did 15 years ago, their irregular dance contests a throwback to a time when having fun was number one.
I managed to secure the one and only press pass at the most recent Nanapong event hosted at the ever popular Club Electric Blue in Patpong.
What I especially like about Nanapong dance contests is that they serve as a sort of bar industry characters reunion. People you never see otherwise, old Asia hands who have since given up on the bar industry still manage to make it to the Nanapong “DC”. It was nice to see old friends like Father T and Farangman. It was also fun to see some of the ladies I had photographed in Pattaya the week before.
But after catching up with old friends, it would soon dawn on me how few people at the event I knew. Captain Hornbag was there, as was the Dirty Doctor who did his best to prove just how appropriate that name is. A handful of others aside, I was amongst strangers.
The last Nanapong event I attended was at the same venue back in 2014. I guess I knew about a quarter of all of the people there – and probably recognised another quarter as regular bargoers. Not this time. There were only a handful of people I knew and not many more I recognised. I’m not really sure what to make of that.
With 20,000 baht in prizes up for grabs, anticipation was high. Even those girls who had not entered were grinning away about the prize money in that infectious way that Thais get excited when they are anywhere near a party or celebration.
Much effort goes in to the organisation of Nanapong events. Just think of the logistics involved with girls from four different bars competing, two of those bars of which are in Pattaya, 150 km down the road, meaning girls had to be transported to and from the event, housed, fed and generally looked after. These girls might be streetwise, but put them in the middle of Bangkok and they can feel lost and very alone. It’s a full-time task looking after a bunch of Pattaya bargirls in Bangkok for the night.
With four bars represented, that’s a total of 16 girls. 4 girls from each of the respective Dollhouse and Club Electric Blue bars in Bangkok and Pattaya.
Even before the contest started the girls were keen to impress, bouncing around the bar and very much reminding us of the days of old.
The Nanapong team knows participants use a lot of energy so they thoughtfully provided nutritious food options for the girls to devour should they require an injection of energy. There were various fruit and vege options along with yoghurt and some less healthy choices including like chocolate sauce, whipped cream and Froot Loops.
Some girls couldn’t wait and even before the contest were helping themselves to the cream.
It was infectious and girls around the bar followed their example.
Nanapong events remind us of an era when dancers were more animated and the atmosphere was more fun. As the Nanapong events have evolved, punters have joined in. That’s all very good and well, but one aspect of the Nanapong events I’m not sure about is audience participation. In fairness to the organisers, they aren’t entirely in favour of it either and announcements had to be made to quell the enthusiasm of some punters.
Recognise this lady from the G Spot photo shoot? Officially, the bars invited to compete were Dollhouse and Club Electric Blue while a couple of ladies from G Spot came along for the ride.
Nanapong operates a classic formula that has stood the test of time. 15 years since the first Nanapong dance contest these events are as popular as ever and the hottest ticket in town in the gogo bar industry.
Those girls who had competed in previous Nanapong dance contests knew the secret to success was to impress the judges sitting ringside, for it was they who would decide just who would go home with the prize.
The bar filled up slowly, uncharacteristic for a Nanapong event where most seats are taken not long after the doors open. But once things got underway it was full, standing room only.
At times it resembled a food fight on stage, novel scenes not ordinarily seen in a chrome pole bar playing out.
After each dance set a maid climbed up on stage and went through a 3-stage cleaning process – first removing the left-over food, then mopping the surface and finally drying it, preparing it for the next round.
Things got wild on stage with a feeding frenzy that would make those who love to gorge themselves at a buffet positively blush.
The girls really put a lot of energy and imagination in to things, some exiting the stage dripping wet, a mess of sweat and food after engaging in a food fight that saw those who had paid a premium for seats at the stage get more than they bargained for!
These days, for me the most fun part of Nanapong events is people-watching. Not the action on stage, but the reaction of the audience, especially first-time visitors. Even watching old hands making an ass of themselves can be humorous, but ultimately when you’ve seen it before it’s hard to usurp the past.
Club Electric Blue is the birthplace of Nanapong and the great bar did a great job of hosting the event. Punters enjoyed themselves, none more so than the judges who paid handsomely for a ringside seat where they were rewarded with being touching distance to the feeding frenzy. And the girls? Well, it was smiles all around.
Nanapong is a lot of fun but call me a party pooper, I’d like to see the format revised and return to its roots, dirty dancing. A full on food fight on stage is novel and not something you see every day, but Froot Loops and whipped cream don’t really mix.
Where Was This Photo Taken?
Last week’s photo was taken inside Terminal 21, from the large escalator looking out of the shopping mall to the south. This week’s photo is challenging so a general location would be good enough. If you can come up with a specific location, even better!
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.
I have been reading many of your posts about Thailand and how it’s changed. I’ve been going to Thailand since 1996 and from 2008 as a widower. Yes, Bangkok has changed but so has Sydney, Melbourne, New York and Paris. I can’t comment on the bars pre-2008 but I have not seen so much change in the beer bars. I mean to say some girls still try and milk you for every drink they can and their friends, plus the silly way they give you ten baht coins as change instead of notes. I do think beer is getting very pricey in Bangkok now – it’s cheaper to buy a beer in London, New York, Sydney than in some places in Bangkok. But there are many great changes and Bangkok has become a more vibrant city. I have been looking back at my trips to Bangkok. It now numbers 16 trips to the naughty side of Bangkok and 14 trips to Phuket and many other islands with my family. I have enjoyed Thailand and still do but am concerned about the rise in tourists getting bashed by Thais – or is it just better reported now?
Your last Sunday column included an email from a reader suggesting that Patpong might be the safest nightlife area in Bangkok. I’d say that it is by far the least safe. Why? Bearing in mind that such an area would be a wet dream for certain religious terrorists, with not only several gogo bars but a gay street adjoining it (Soi 4), how long will it be before someone drives a large van full of explosives into the car park there to repeat a Bali-style massacre, taking out both Patpong and Soi 4. As far as I am aware there is no security at all in place to prevent it. And before anyone accuses me of planting the idea into the mind of a terrorist, they are quite capable of discovering these things for themselves. It might not be if, but when.
Isaan cost of living.
An Australian reader wrote about the cost of living in Thailand and mentioned a friend who is living in Isaan and struggling to make ends meet with a pension of nearly A$1700 a month. Well, I live in Isaan with a wife and five dogs on the equivalent of A$1000 a month. I run an almost new pickup, have satellite and internet TV, wi-fi, eat well with both Thai but mostly western food and we go out to dinner once a week. Okay, I have no rent to pay for the large house I live in, but I sometimes wonder what people actually spend their money on. I spend far, far less than so many I have long read about on your site, yet I want for nothing.
Being a caeliac in Thailand.
I am a cealiac and have travelled to Thailand 5 times since I was diagnosed. The Australian Caeliac Society provides heaps of info and as a member I find the info useful but one thing which I find useless is the little slips of paper in a foreign language which you can give to chefs in different countries to tell them of your condition and how bad gluten is for you. I say that because as you say, the cooks, chefs and waitresses are completely dumbfounded in Thailand wherever you go and have no idea what you’re talking about! It’s like you’re bringing up something which is completely alien to them. I find the best way to go about things is to be responsible yourself. If in doubt, leave it out. Eat chicken fried rice but rather than asking if the sauce is Gluten free, tell them ‘No soy sauce’. Get a steak with potatoes and veggies. Don’t bother asking if the mushroom sauce is made from gluten, just substitute it for another sauce you KNOW hasn’t got it. That’s the only way to go. The other option is if you have someone fluent in Thai reiterate and be firm about your specific dietary requirements, but that’s still a gamble. The only bad experience I had in all my years was a top notch Italian restaurant. I brought my own gluten-free spaghetti from Australia. As it turned out by coincidence, my misses and me ordered the same dish (I think it was carbonara). However, there’s no surprises about what happened next. When my misses emphasised specifically to the waiter that it was crucial not to mix the two dishes i.e. one with gluten-free spaghetti, one without, guess what? Half way through I found out I was eating the wrong dish!
I’ve heard this question twice in the last couple of weeks, and it’s been a common query for years in the gogo bars. I was never able to answer it so I finally took the time this morning to look it up. Question: What’s that feint vertical line running between her vagina and her bellybutton? Answer: This line is a normal occurrence, caused by lines of closure of the abdomen / pelvis structures during development when you were a fetus. It’s more visible with darker skinned ladies. A common misconception is the mysterious line is a caesarean or abortion scar. In fact, c-section scars run horizontally and are below the bikini line (depending where her bikini line is, of course). As far as I know, abortions are performed internally and do not result in external scarring, but I have no idea. Some bargirls wear higher bikinis and even shorts but this is mostly to cover birth stretch marks which, again, can be excessive in darker skinned ladies. It’s called “cottage cheese” by Bangkok regulars (One of the most disgustingly accurate descriptions I’ve heard for anything, ever! Yuck.) While I’m on the topic, another common question is why vaccination scars on the upper arm are particularly bad among many Thai women? Some of them are horrid, and can look like a blowtorch was applied to the poor girl’s melting skin! I believe the scarring is called a “keloid” and it’s a reaction against the invasive vaccination. Again, it’s more prominent among darker skinned ladies. Which begs the natural question: Are darker skinned ladies really more desirable?
Girl of the Week
Mulan, escort from BangkokEscort.com
Mulan is an experienced tour guide and can show you the sights of the city.
The BangkokEscort website claims she has exceptional oral skills.
Newsbytes from Sukhumvit soi 33 are becoming fewer and fewer, a reflection of what is (or is not) happening on soi 33 as the number of venues worth visiting can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The few remaining die-hard soi 33 fans were sad when Mojos closed a few Sundays back. It was the only late night spot on the soi and its closure means one less reason to visit soi 33.
No bar in soi 33 has been the subject of as many rumours as The Office. How many times have you heard that The Office was up for sale? – or even that it had already been sold. The latest round of rumours say that The Office is for sale at a price less than this website sold for, with word that if no buyer can be found The Office Bar will close before the end of the year. If The Office does close then what is left of soi 33 will crumble and it will no longer be a destination.
All of this comes after much hope at the beginning of the year when soi 33 bucked the trend of the city’s better known bar areas with business better than at the same time in previous years. The restaurant business in soi 33 is down to horrible lows again – you could say that it’s low season so that’s normal – but soi 33 has never really been a soi for tourists which means it is less susceptible to the mores of the tourism industry. The worry is that the restaurants and the bars feed off each other and as the lights go out in one venue it has a domino effect on the rest of the soi.
Up the road in Nana Plaza, the Jail Birdz renovation was supposed to be complete about now – which would mean that the new owners managed in less than a month what took the previous owners a whole year.
Kiss on Patpong soi 1 would appear to be toast. Closed by the authorities due to the employment of some dancers not of legal age, no-one was sure how long the closure would last. Would it be a month, or the dreaded 5 years? The actual length of the closure is unknown but the venue is now available for rent indicating another long-running Patpong soi 1 gogo bar is confined to the history books.
Friends in the industry tell me that the bar biz has been slow due to rain most nights, hardly unusual given the time of year.
I receive a lot of emails about bars – where to go, which bars are good etc. Which bar do I get asked about more than any other? Believe it or not, it’s not a gogo bar but CheckInn99 – which partially explains why I mention that venue so often. And which bar is the next most popular to be asked about? Again, it’s not Angelwitch or Bacarra or any bar with chrome poles, but Country Road. So FYI, the Country Road bar that used to be in The Tunnel between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 has moved to Soi Nana, about 150 metres down from Nana Plaza, just south of the intersection of sois 4 and 6.
Worldwide A Gogo on Pattaya’s Beach Road is another long-running bar that has just been consigned to history. The once popular gogo bar located on the Beach Road and well away from other chrome pole fun parlours is no more, with the signage taken down and makeshift signs outside showing that the space is available for rent. The photo here was taken just a few weeks ago when I made a flying visit through Pattaya. I have nice memories of that bar from many years ago so for me its disappearance is kind of sad.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, bars struggled to recruit staff and in many bars there simply weren’t enough girls. This was a major contributing factor to girls’ asking prices going up. But the difficulty finding girls seems to have passed and it doesn’t seem to be a problem any more. There are more agencies supplying girls out there and it feels like there are fewer customers about so that means fewer girls needed, I guess. I have to say that I get the impression that the number of girls willing to do work in the bars might have increased. I might be wrong about that and it is just my impression but even if I am right, don’t ask me to explain why because I can’t!
200 baht or thereabouts for a lady drink? Don’t snigger, that’s becoming the norm in rather a few Bangkok chrome pole bars and for a lot of customers that’s just too much, especially when you consider that many girls often slug it back and piss off in no time. My biggest criticism of the bar industry these days would be the cost of lady drinks which have shot up in some bars in recent times. It seems to me that some bar owners have taken a look at their menu and considered what prices they could increase with the least resistance – and lady drinks would appear to be what they came up with.
Word from various business owners in Pattaya and Phuket is that Caucasian visitors are becoming seasonal again, replicating the visitor patterns of 10+ years ago when there was a marked difference between the high season and the low season, along with a short spike in late July through August when Europeans hit South-East Asia for their summer holidays. Should much be read in to this? I don’t want to over-think it, but it suggests that perhaps Thailand does not have the same draw it had when many became repeat visitors, making the pilgrimage to the so-called Land of Smiles multiple times per year. Sure, everyone still seems to want to visit Thailand and most people probably enjoy their visit, but as for being so keen to get back quickly, hmmm, I’m not so sure about that.
Black Pagoda in Patpong soi 2 is a machine. In recent columns I have commented on the downturn at Patpong soi 2, despite positive comments about the few remaining gogo bars in the soi. Black Pagoda is an oddity, a bar which in many cases should not really work. From the entranceway which is concealed, dirty, fully of graffiti and really quite dodgy, to the layout of the bar which lacks structure, yet Black Pagoda is a favourite of many expats and consistently makes good returns for its owners and investors. The success of Black Pagoda bugs the hell out of the bosses of the likes of The Strip which have a vastly superior location yet don’t do nearly as well.
From time to time the bar industry is described as dirty. What do you make of that? For me, I would agree with people who say that – but perhaps not for the reasons you might think. I don’t think it’s dirty because of the exchange of sex for money. So long as everyone is of legal age and consents then I am totally ok with that. The dirty stuff in my opinion is some of the stuff going on in the background, stuff that you may not see. Let’s take the example of price-fixing and price collusion in the bar industry which is more prevalent than you might think. So, dear readers, who can tell me which bar area actively practices – no make that actively enforces price collusion? Drop me an email and I’ll tell you if you’re right or not. This is nothing new. When Glenn Bullard was the most powerful figure in Nana Plaza, he bullied other owners in the plaza in to putting up prices with a minimum drinks price in the plaza set at 80 baht. Particular heat went on the friendly American Russ who ran Mercury which at the time had a 65 baht beer special. That didn’t last when Glenn insisted that no bar in the plaza should have prices below 80 baht. So, which bar area partners up to collude on prices?
More and more it seems like the phenomenon of Western guys entering in to long-term relationships or marrying ladies who once worked in the bar industry is becoming a thing of the past. There are many reasons for this and they have been talked about ad nauseum in this column. In town not so long ago, I bumped in to an old friend who was out and about with his long-term lady friend. I don’t know where they met but I suspect it was in the industry. That’s neither here nor there and so long as they are happy together, all power to them. The observation my long-term Thai lass made was that this particular lady avoided eye contact with her and didn’t seem confident in the company of a Thai woman she wasn’t familiar with. It has been my observation that ladies who worked in the bar industry and settle down with a foreigner can struggle to shake their past if they stay in Thailand, whereas in the West many go on to thrive. It’s a broad generalisation but that has been my observation.
Crime drama and police shows are my favourite type of TV show, one of the few genres of TV show I watch. I’ve watched enough police TV shows – and read enough police / crime novels – to have seen many examples where perps have got off things on technicalities, or are never charged in the first place due to, for example, a lack of evidence to get a warrant to search or make an arrest, even when everyone knows they did it. Things in Asia can be rather different when it comes to crime, following procedures, people’s rights and technicalities. In Thailand, I have often thought that the perception of suspicion may be enough to make an arrest. Technically, no, it isn’t, but unlike the West, perpetrators or alleged perps tend not to get off on technicalities. This is relevant because I often hear Westerners in Thailand talking about how they can’t be searched in public or questioned without a lawyer etc. Be careful in applying Western legal concepts to life in Thailand where your rights are significantly less compared to what you may be used to at home. That’s not to say that you don’t have rights because you do, it’s just that those rights are different – and may not always be granted or respected!
The debate rages on as to whether Thailand is the place it once was for Westerners. One of the areas where those who say that things are not what they used to be point to how prices in Bangkok (as opposed to much of the rest of the country) have increased by much more than the official inflation rate. Recently, a mate in Bangkok had a cold that lingered and he thought he’d better get checked out so he waltzed on over to what many regard as Bangkok’s best medical facility, Bumrungrad. A quick chat with the doc was followed by an unpleasant procedure with a ravishing nurse who rammed a cotton bud way up his nostril for a sample to be tested. He was diagnosed with influenza A. (Only!) two sets of pills were prescribed and an hour later his wallet was almost 8,000 baht lighter. Yes, eight thousand baht! Part of the appeal of Thailand was the reasonable costs for almost everything but that’s not really the case any more, is it? Please don’t tell me medical care at the best hospitals is cheap in Bangkok today. It isn’t!
Why are so many Thai restaurants in Thailand so stingy when you order shrimp dishes – with sometimes just 3 or 4 shrimps served? It’s not like shrimps are expensive in Thailand, quite the contrary actually. Nothing irks me more than ordering a dish like shrimp with broccoli or shrimp with asparagus – which often goes for around 200 baht – and there are just a few shrimps. Order the same dish with chicken and you get perhaps 20 or more small pieces. One excellent restaurant which gives you plenty of shrimps is the seafood chain, Laem Charoen Seafood. Order their shrimp and cashew nuts for example – which is excellent and just 160 baht – and you get a dozen or more juicy shrimps. That’s how it should be.
If you would like to email me about this column, or life in Thailand, or your upcoming trip, or how great the All Blacks are or to tell me why you think Donald Trump is the man, or just about anything at all, my email address remains the same : email@example.com
I have long been happy to include posters in this column promoting events, parties, special events and promotions and bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues. IF you would like something included in the column, please prepare a poster and send it to me. Please note that there is a STRICT cut-off time of midnight Saturday night, Bangkok time. If you miss that time, it won’t make it. No exceptions.
Quote of the week, “I’m sitting in a food court in Sathorn, convinced there are days when every woman in Bangkok takes a ‘pretty’ pill.”
There’s a willingness to promote the south of Thailand and open it up to tourists despite all the troubles there.
Thai police investigating a counterfeit passport syndicate find the dismembered body of a foreign man in a freezer.
A 200 kg Brit checks out of a Pattaya guesthouse by checking out of life permanently.
A massive number of Chinese visitors propel Bangkok ahead of London as the world’s most visited city.
A Bangkok taxi driver returns half a million baht to an Aussie passenger who left the money intended for his wife in the cab.
A visitor inadvertently snaps a photo of a young Thai hill-tribe girl alleged to be stealing his girlfriend’s watch.
A taxi driver is jailed for a month for ripping off Chinese passengers with an outrageously high fare.
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: A friend of mine wants to sell his Forza motorbike. He bought it from a friend of his a couple of years ago as his friend needed the cash for a severe illness, but did not complete the paperwork at that time due to illness. Sadly the friend passed away, although he did inform his family about the new owner. My friend has the green book and has kept the tax and insurance up to date, but now wishes to sell it. All parties are non-Thai, including the family. The bike is about 4 years old so still worth a reasonable amount. What other information would be required to complete this process?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Since the owner is deceased the person transferring the ownership must be the executor of the estate. The executor will need to accompany the current owner and the buyer to the Land Transportation Department with:
1) The will certified from district office where the owner lived.
2) The green book.
3) The tabien baan.
4) Death certificate of the owner.
5) Marriage certificate (if any).
6) Passport copy with visa page of the owner.
7) Certificate of residence of the owner.
If there is no will then an executor will need to be appointed and then the title can be transferred with the above documents.
Question 2: What’s the general definition of probable cause in Thailand? Is probable cause required for a stop and search? I realize a person with a badge and gun can do whatever he / she likes, but what does the law say?
Sunbelt Legal responds: There are two kinds of searches allowed by police officers; search in a private place which requires a warrant from the courts and the search of any person in a public place.
The second search can be made on probable cause i.e. the police has a suspicion based on the situation. It can be a grey area but most people can see what could be deemed as suspicious. Such as a person driving a car makes a U-turn just before a police checkpoint would be considered as suspicious behaviour.
This past week the new version of Stickman was launched. The site retains much the same look it has sported since its inception, while running on a modern platform which brings various advantages including improved functionality such as being able to search within the site. There is also now the option to sign up for a mailing list to be informed when the column goes live so if you are one of the many who have asked to be reminded of when the column goes live, please do sign up for that. One of the key objectives of the new design was to ensure it was sympathetic to the original design and flavour of the site and I’d like to think this has been achieved. No doubt there will be more changes, most of which will be fine-tuning. I guess now is when a good company man stands up, puts on his company hat and explains that this is evolution, a great move and the future of the world will be so much better because of it. I am no company man. I understand that there will be resistance to the new design and even for me, it is taking time to get used to the new version. What I can say is that it is still the same person writing the weekly column with no plans to change the content and general direction that you are used to. I am hopeful that I will grow to like the new version of the site, as I hope you will too.
Still your Bangkok commentator,