The Spotlight on Lighthouse
It may not have the brand recognition of bars that have been around a long time and it doesn’t have as beautiful a frontage as other bars on Soi Cowboy, but don’t let that put you off. Inside there is a relaxed vibe and a lively crew. It’s one of the few gogo bars I genuinely enjoy stopping by and it is almost always the first port of call when friends from out of town want to hit the bars. Welcome to Lighthouse.
Lighthouse sits between Kiss and Fanny’s in the space that was once Sheba’s. It opened in May, 2013, and yes, the name comes from the bar of the very same name on Walking Street. The original plan was to put a Lighthouse out front on the awning but, to date at least, that has yet to happen.
Like all of the gogo bars on Soi Cowboy, Lighthouse features the gogo bar proper inside with the poles, music and the dancing girls, along with an outside area where you can perch and watch the nightly show out on the soi. The outdoor area is open from 4:30 PM.
The gogo bar proper (inside) opens at 7:30 PM with a decent number of dancers on stage in much the same way as Tilac kicks the night off with close to a full crop.
Lighthouse features the standard gogo bar layout with a single stage in the middle and tiered seating either side of the bar.
There is a second floor which feature a glass bottom so when girls are dancing upstairs, punters can look up, through the ceiling and get an interesting view.
The upstairs area tends to be used at the weekends and on weeknights when trade is particularly good. It can also be hired for private parties, stag nights etc.
It’s a few years since Lighthouse opened and when the doors finally opened many were relieved when it turned out to be English and French-run. When word broke that Sheba’s would be closing, many of us mistakenly believed that the Arab had secured the lease, a rumour that I have to admit I did more than my bit towards perpetrating. We would later learn that the Arab didn’t even know it was available which is just as well because that was around the time he was willing to pay silly money to secure as many leases as he could on Soi Cowboy. But so the story goes, the landlord didn’t want to deal with The Arab as not only does The Arab have a terrible reputation amongst punters and the girls, neither do lessors care for him either.
When the Sheba’s crew moved out and the Lighthouse operators got the keys, they took over a bar which had been destroyed. The whole of the stage, the glass ceiling, the seating, the counter bar area and much of the interior had been smashed up by the previous lessee who, like everyone else, thought The Arab had secured the new lease. And the operator of Sheba’s (who also has Suzy Wong, Shadow and other properties on the soi) has had a long and ongoing feud with The Arab. The funny thing is that the destruction of the interior did the new leaseholder a favour as they were going to gut the bar and completely remodel anyway – so the day they took over the lease they found that part of that job had been done for them already!
While the interior of Lighthouse may look much the same as the old Sheba’s, the new owners undertook a major renovation of the bar. There were three urinals in the toilet downstairs but they decided to change that to one as the door position was described as wrong. It was facing the entrance which, apparently, is bad feng shui.
Lighthouse has a lot of attractive dancers but, to my eyes, the current crop (referring to over a month ago when I took these photos) doesn’t have any real stunners or superstars in the way that say Billboard does. Still, you’d have to be pretty fussy to say no to a lady like this, wouldn’t you?
But there are a lot of good attitudes in the bar and a fun vibe which I personally think is more important.
One of the owners of Lighthouse is often on the premises and he is happy to talk to any customer who has a problem – or just shoot the breeze with anyone who just wants to chat, which is something a surprising number of owners avoid.
On the night I dropped by Lighthouse there were two dance shifts comprising 28 girls and another 5 girls working outside. On busy nights Lighthouse has around 50 dancers.
Management at Lighthouse is well aware of the common complaint these days of agency girls / coyote dancers who are not willing to be barfined and who do not go. Lighthouse tries to make sure that all girls they hire are willing to go with customers.
Lighthouse does have some agency girls but is choosy about who they take. They had a group of girls from one agency recently but the majority weren’t willing to be barfined so they let them go after one night and those girls moved a few doors down the soi. I do hope those dolls are enjoying their new house.
In an effort to attract the best girls, Lighthouse offers a generous salary with gogo dancers paid a monthly salary of 20,000 a month – more than anywhere else on Soi Cowboy, as far as I’m aware.
If you’re looking for company, an agency girl’s barfine runs 1,200 baht while gogo dancers will set you back 700 baht.
For those looking for Miss Innocent or those who are secretly looking for a girlfriend, quite a few of the dancers in Lighthouse are university students. Figure that they are all coyote dancers.
Most of the ladies in Lighthouse sport a look that you would say is more popular with Westerners and few who seem to be trying to lure in Japanese guys.
Lighthouse has some great drinks special with the Wednesday night special when all drinks are 100 baht all night long the pick of the specials. I personally also like the Thursday night special when Jack Daniel’s is 100 baht, again, all night long.
All standard drinks in Lighthouse are 90 baht until the end of happy hour at 9 PM.
A standard bottle of beer is 155 baht after happy hour.
Drinks at Lighthouse are the most reasonably priced of all of the larger bars on Soi Cowboy.
Lady drinks run 180 baht for alcoholic drinks and 140 baht for Coke / soft drinks.
Lighthouse makes an effort with nightly drinks specials and reminds me of what you find in British pubs with different drinks specials on different nights. It’s something more gogo bars should do.
Given the upbeat tone of this photo essay and the fact that I have written a number positive comments about Lighthouse over the past year, let me get in a word about my relationship with Lighthouse. The bar is not, not has it ever been, an advertiser, and certainly there were no inducements for me to write a positive review. I was offered drinks when I was taking photos and the owner chuckled when I chose water. I had never met the owner before I shot in the bar and was introduced to him by Dave The Rave who arranged for the photo shoot to take place. Seeing how Lighthouse was one of the few bars I genuinely liked, it was a win : win situation for everyone.
What would a Stickman bar photo essay be without a tattoo rant? #501 has a tattoo of SpongeBob SquarePants on her stomach. I never knew what (or is that who?) SpongeBob SquarePants was until I did this photo shoot which just goes to show that you can learn the strangest things in the most unlikely of places!
What I like about Lighthouse is that it is remarkably similar to one of the most consistent bars on Soi Cowboy, Dollhouse. Both are farang-owned and run and both are particularly popular with Westerners. Both have a second level upstairs. Neither has a selection of stunning ladies, but each consistently has a fun crew, a good vibe and a decent happy hour.
Lighthouse is very consistent and draws a good crowd night after night after night. With business good, there aren’t any plans to tinker too much with the formula. Possibly there will be some theme nights introduced in the future but for the time being it will be more of the same.
Lighthouse hasn’t been around long enough to build up the sort of brand recognition that the likes of Bacarra, Tilac and Dollhouse enjoy, but it more than makes up for it with a fun vibe and a crew who seem to genuinely enjoy themselves. On your next trip to Soi Cowboy, Lighthouse is worth stopping by.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week’s photo was taken of the overpass above Rama 4 Road, beside the Klong Toey market. Not a single person got it. This week’s photo was taken in the heart of downtown and features one of the city’s best-known expats – so if you’re really clever you might know where it is and who that is!
FROM STICK’S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.)
Email of the week – When the bullied become the bully.
Last month there were two horrific cases of small kids being savagely beaten at school by their female teachers. One was supposedly beaten 99 times (who counted?) for leaving the classroom without permission to go to the toilet, another for not answering a question correctly. Such action, which rarely results in an arrest, is not uncommon. Why? My take is that every Thai, except at the very top, has to watch their every move and know their place in society. And all their life they are sh*t upon by someone supposedly higher up the social scale. No wonder, then, that they in turn take out their frustration on others who are deemed to be weaker. The bullied become the bully. Not rocket science.
Thailand’s road carnage.
Yet again there has been carnage on the roads during a holiday period. And it doesn’t matter what the authorities say beforehand, it makes no difference because it is impossible to discipline a Thai. Whatever you say, no matter how good the intent, they will always do exactly as they want. It is deeply ingrained in the culture, and might partly be due to so many stupid and unenforceable rules being introduced by officials who can’t see beyond their nose which Thais then ignore. Like, for example, not selling alcohol from 2 PM – 5 PM in the afternoon. All but the major chains ignore it. The problem is that ignoring some rules leads to ignoring them all.
Bangkok live music quality.
Lousy live music scene in Bangkok? I can’t agree with that. Climax and Hillary have two great house bands (maybe more) Bravo Band and Elizabeth that do a good job keeping the party going. Top 40 stuff with classics, but they keep the crowd happy and are a welcome relief to a DJ turning a volume knob. I have a friend who is a professional drummer who is on contract in the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit and they do great jazz. There is another place up Soi 11 that delivers great jazz as well. Get off the tourist circuit and get to the Rock Pub at Ratchatewi and although the venue might be devoid of customers, they have top bands that do great covers of not your run of the mill stuff, such as System Of A Down and Alice In Chains. Take it to a more local level and Tawandaeng never disappoints. There are also top name concerts that roll through. How to get that mix in tourist circles is a tough nut to crack and I hope Bangkok Bunnies can do it.
Another Thai tongue twister.
Try getting a Thai lady to say “Volvo” as in the car manufacturer. Hilarious!
Reading your bit about the irony of True Visions and True Internet, it’s not what it seems. True Online’s best offering — fibre to the home via DOCSYS cable modems — is basically useless for those trying to use any foreign streaming service. (To my knowledge, True’s slower ADSL is unaffected.) The reason is that True Fibre uses “DNS hijacking”, meaning even though you use a VPN to disguise your real geographical location by connecting to a DNS server in the US/UK/etc., True “hijacks” the DNS request and feeds a bit of it through Singapore. Services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. see the “DNS leak” and realize you’re using a VPN and then block their service. Prior to Netflix launching in 260 countries worldwide, including Thailand, they didn’t care if you used a VPN. But now that they have contractual obligations to restrict content by country, they do. After weeks of trying to fix it, I finally accepted the “pros” conclusion there was no way to circumvent DNS hijacking and cancelled by VPN and am now unable to stream US services. So, as it turns out, True is indeed protecting its satellite cable venture by ruining the online streaming experience for its cable customers.
Karma for a British ex-resident of Pattaya
Do you remember the British expat in Pattaya who ran a series of money exchanges (Soi 6, Pattaya Tai, Jomtien) and bars named “Lovejoys” in Jomtien? Let’s refer to him as “PG”. PG stated that the money for these operations came from the success he had buying and selling gold. Flaunting his supposed success, PG persuaded approximately a dozen people (who did not do their due diligence) that if they invested with him in various ways, he would pass profits on to them in the form of interest payments. It was not long before the investors realized they were defrauded. Around 2010, five of them (who had about 16 million baht invested) teamed up to take him to court. PG repeatedly avoided showing up in court, always sending his lawyer with an excuse; meanwhile he was getting his affairs in order prior to doing a runner. On February 10, 2012, the Pattaya Provincial Court issued a criminal warrant for his arrest for “absconding to avoid appearing in court to testify in his defense”. The warrant is good for 10 years. However, PG had by then done a runner to Cambodia. Karma. In February, 2015, PG was arrested in Phnom Penh on drug charges and held without bail pending sentencing. In December, 2016, PG was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $1,500 fine. The Thai warrant for his arrest does not expire until February, 2022, but it is probably too much to expect Thai authorities to attempt his extradition upon release from the Cambodian prison.
Manners, Chinese vs. Thais.
When I am back in the UK working, I deal with Asian tourists of all varieties. The Chinese I encounter are unbelievably polite and incredibly easy to deal with. I have never come across a single rude Chinese tourist here. I really haven’t. They are incredibly grateful just for any help or directions given. I am well aware that the Chinese tourists who can afford to fly to the UK and stay in our ridiculously overpriced hotels are unlikely to be the ‘zero dollar tourists’ that Thailand has to contend with sometimes! That said, I tend to find that your average Thai national (who is married to John down the road and is well aware of her rights once the UK has given her that coveted little red passport) can be far more obnoxious and rude than Mr. & Mrs. Cheng from the motherland! As a footnote though, I would also add that respectable Thais that I meet in the British tourism industry tend to have impeccable manners also and could put a lot of Brits to shame. As you say, good manners are taught at an early age and have no bearing on whether they are expected in a situation where someone is perceived to be of a higher status.
Girl of the Week
Whitney, escort, BangkokEscort.com
Whitney is the first girl of the week to ever feature twice.
She is one of the sweetest escort ladies and having photographed
her and interviewed her a few times over the years
I am amazed how she has changed little and the sweetness remains!
Last Saturday night – New Year’s Eve – was one of the best nights of the year in Bangkok’s naughty bar areas – as you’d expect it would. Many bars were open through until 5 AM and one Soi Cowboy bar boss said that the vibe was just like the old days.
Wouldn’t it be nice if bars were open to 5 AM every night? Actually, on the contrary, I think it would be terrible! Bangkok takes on a darker vibe after midnight and around 2:30 AM the atmosphere changes again when things become almost sinister. Call me a party-pooper but I think 2 AM closing works just fine.
From across the border in Phnom Penh, what a difference one day makes. Word is that it was really happening in the zone on the last day of 2016 as Cambodians, expats and tourists alike came out to party, but 24 hours later it was a different story. It was quiet on New Year’s Day and the next night it was so dead you could hear a pin drop.
One of the concerns I had living in Thailand is that problems are identified but that does not mean they will be solved. The same problems that existed when I first visited Thailand still exist today, for the most part. And this can be said for the bar industry too which is again facing a serious problem – and one to which I think there is no easy solution. The big problem MANY bar owners are facing is dwindling girl numbers and great difficulty in getting new recruits. This issue is nothing new but in recent times most Bangkok bar bosses had been upbeat about it, suggesting girl numbers were not a problem. Now that it is high season and there has been something of an increase in punter numbers, bar bosses are pulling their hair out because they cannot get enough girls – and fewer girls means fewer customers. Not only are naughty bars struggling to get girls, when they do manage to find someone they often find she does not want to dance all night – and with barfines so high in some bars, dancing all night long is pretty much what the job entails! The issue is complicated and there is no single solution. It’s great that there are heaps of decent jobs out there where girls can make a livable income without having to sell their body. What bar bosses are increasingly finding is that many girls do not want to be locked in to the contracts of old – where many girls found they were paid little at the end of the month after all of onerous penalties have been deducted for every little infraction. The old model no longer works and for too long bar bosses have mistreated staff. The word is about amongst the girls that these monthly packages are complete bullshit and very much in the employer’s favour. They worked when the economy was in the toilet and girls were desperate for work but with employers crying out for staff, today the girls have many choices. For bar bosses, have the chickens finally come home to roost?
Word from a Pattaya bar boss suggests not all is well in Pattaya and the bars aren’t feeling the love this high season. To quote him, “It seems high season is over. Yes, it has been slow since New Year’s Eve and that’s unbelievable because it’s always been busy through until at least the first week of February but that is not the case this year.” This has been verified by another bar boss who suggested that bar trade is so bad for this time of year that Walking Street should be declared a disaster zone!
Still in Pattaya, the gogo bar Moon Club has closed and it is rumored to be something to do with the key money.
Amethyst on Soi LK Metro has undergone a refit and changed name to Gold.
Armageddon, the beer bar and guesthouse on Soi LK Metro, is being turned into a gogo bar but it’s slow going.
The old Beach Club gogo bar on Pattaya’s soi 15 was sold, renamed to Spicy A Gogo and has since been renamed again to Shark.
The French group that has Fahrenheit and Glass House along with a number of other gogo bars has bought the classic old Abbe’s bar that has been on Walking Street forever and it too is being converted in to gogo which will make it their 9th or 10th chrome pole bar.
The photo above might have made a fun where was this photo taken shot, but perhaps would have been a little too difficult and I would not have got it right myself. It is the space on Sukhumvit soi 16 where the beautiful old colonial building that was until recently Hemingway’s once stood.
Some street vendors are back on the busiest part of Sukhumvit, between the Nana and Asoke intersections. A court case scheduled for next month will decide whether they can legally return or not – which is kind of funny given that many have returned already.
The owner of Bangkok Bunnies worked his ass off to have the new live music venue ready and rocking this past Friday night. But the staff had a message for the boss, “We cannot open tonight because not lucky day!” And so the new venue has been delayed, yet again, until this coming Wednesday. The good news is that this coming Wednesday is a most auspicious day and the staff insist it will be lucky and the new bar will thus have a bright future. The boss thought WTF but gave the Thais what they wanted. With a smile, he said “Sure, that’s a very good idea, thank you for helping boss!” It makes you wonder just who runs the bars?!
As mentioned in the opening piece, Lighthouse has a great deal every Wednesday night with 100 baht drinks all night long. The exceptions are lady drinks and the three “C”s – Corona, cider and cocktails.
There can be a sort of peer pressure in the bars as well as on the few remaining nightlife forums about behaviour in the bars – and some of this concerns what one should or shouldn’t do when it comes to lady drinks. Some revel in shaming others who do not lavish lady drinks upon lasses who merely look at a customer. But what makes me really laugh is that some of those who seem to enjoy shaming those who are not willing to lavish lady drinks upon the girls often go the other way when it comes to actually paying the ladies. Some appear to think that overpaying i.e. being generous with ladies is a crime, which I interpret as them being concerned that a lady who is paid well may adjust her price expectations for future customers accordingly. I find it amusing that the same folks who insist people should throw lady drinks around try to insist that others don’t pay ladies too much. Just do what you’re comfortable doing! If you wish to spend more than a few minutes chatting with a lady, there is an expectation of a lady drink. If a lady treats you well in your hotel room she deserves to be rewarded accordingly so pay her well.
From time to time you might come across a white woman not shy to say what she thinks about the stuff white guys get up to in Thailand. Don’t take her comments lightly. I am increasingly of the belief that white women are every bit as likely to behave questionably in Thailand – they just don’t do the same stuff that white guys do. If you get any grief from white women about what you as a white guy do in Thailand, point out to her that many sisters are hardly the pure and innocent angels some make themselves out to be.
Quote of the week shows a perceived difference between punters in two Bangkok bar areas, “People in Cowboy think in baht, people in Nana think in their home currency.”
The fireworks go horribly wrong at the New Year’s Eve party on Ko Phangnan and many foreigners suffer burns and other injuries.
Thailand tourism operators are convinced Chinese visitors will return.
Anonymous declares war on the Thai government over the new Computer Crime law.
The new Bangkok governor talks of getting tough on motorbikes riding on the footpath.
Knight Frank comments on Bangkok’s economy and the Bangkok condo market.
A Thai woman tricked by her Nigerian boyfriend in to trafficking drugs in to Cambodia is sentenced to life in prison.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors is here to answer all of your legal questions related to Thailand. Please feel free to send any questions to me and I will put them to Sunbelt and run their response in the next column.
Question 1: I have a question about buying a condo here in Bangkok. I have the money in my account to pay for the unit, but my research online suggests that when purchasing a condo in Thailand foreign buyers have to transfer the money in to Thailand from abroad. Surely, this cannot be true. If I do this it will make the effective cost of the condo around 10% more than if I used the money I have here in my Thai bank account, money legally earned and saved in Thailand! I have worked here legally since 2005. I have had a work permit since my very first day on the job. All of my savings in Thailand – that is every single last baht I have here – was earned here legally with all tax paid. Is it really true that to buy a condo I have to transfer the money in to Thailand from an account outside of the country? The condo I wish to buy is 3.4 million baht. Surely that doesn’t mean I have to send the entire amount of 3.4 million baht to my account in the UK, exchanging it in to pounds and losing a few per cent on the transfer, and then send it back to Thailand, exchanging it back in to baht and once again losing a few percent on the exchange rate, while also paying the bank’s transfer fees?! If true and this is in fact what I have to do, it is the epitome of ridiculousness! I assume that for someone like me who has done everything right and is legal in every respect is not subject to this lunacy that, worryingly, my research points to. PLEASE tell me that I misunderstand it and the requirements are not as crazy as they appear.
Sunbelt Legal responds: According to the Thai Condominium Act Section 19, Aliens (foreigners) and juristic persons regarded by law as aliens (foreigners) may hold ownership of an apartment if they fall in one of the following categories:
* Aliens permitted to have residence in the Kingdom under the Immigration law; (this would be a Permanent Resident).
* Aliens permitted to enter into the Kingdom under the investment promotion law; Juristic persons as provided in Section 97 and 98 of the Land Code and registered as juristic persons under Thai law;
* Juristic persons which are aliens under the Announcement of the National Executive Council No.281 dated November 24 (current section 4 Foreign Business Act), B.E. 2515 and have obtained promotion certificate under investment promotion law;
* Aliens or juristic persons regarded by law as aliens who have brought in foreign currency into the Kingdom or withdraw money from Thai baht account of the person who have residence outside the Kingdom or withdraw money from a foreign currency account.
So that means you do have another option; you can open a non-resident foreign currency account and a letter from the bank to submit to the Land Department. But you will have to convert the baht to the Foreign Currency at the bank. Different banks will have different requirement on opening such an account and not every bank will offer it.
Question 2: Can a lone Thai policeman fine you if he stops your motorbike i.e. for riding on a wrong part of the road, or must there be at least two of them?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Yes, a single police officer can stop someone who is in violation of the law. The requirement for two officers is only for safety protocols at a checkpoint. An officer has full authority to stop and fine a biker if an illegal act happens in front of him.
I’ve shirked writing a column with predictions for the year to come, partly because I’m not really sure where things are going. I guess it’s become a cliché to say that Thailand is at a crossroads and it’s really not clear which way things are going, but in all honesty I think that is more true than ever. The one prediction I will make about Thailand is that tourism will continue to boom – as it is all over the world, trouble spots aside – and I would not be surprised to see Thailand celebrating reaching the milestone of 50 million visitors annually within 5 years. As for other things, I’m not really sure. What about you – what do you see happening in Thailand in the future? When will there be an elected government? Will the bar industry go in to further decline? Will corruption be stamped out or will it get worse? Will visa regulations tighten further? Whichever way you think things are heading for foreigners in Thailand and the country in general, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Your Bangkok commentator,