Those Holes In The Seats
Whenever I think of Mandarin in Nana Plaza I can’t get those odd-shaped, stage-side seats with holes out of my mind. The awkward looking seats allowed girls to reach under and tickle a guy’s fancy – but did that ever really happen? The steepest staircase in the bar industry also comes to mind. And Japanese punters – lots of them – which invariably meant lots of pretty girls. It had been a long time since I last visited Mandarin so when I was in town recently I decided to rectify that and stopped by.
On the middle floor of Nana Plaza doesn’t sound like such a bad spot for a bar but Mandarin may just about have the worst location in the complex. The bar has no frontage and it’s not even clear where it is. Combine that with a bar right beside it with a similar name and it’s a recipe for confusion.
A design flaw or perhaps by design – who knows – Mandarin is one of few bars where sticking your head in the door won’t get you a glimpse of what’s going on inside. The reason for that is that to enter the bar proper you have to climb the staircase.
Perhaps the staircase dates back to a time when Mandarin really was an upstairs bar with the sorts of shows that necessitated a steep staircase which would slow down any unwanted intruders. Or perhaps what is Mandarin today was once a storage area that was later converted in to a bar. Whatever the history, getting in and out of Mandarin is not like entering or exiting any other bar in the plaza.
Inside the bar, the top of the stairs open out in to a small bar with a smallish stage in the centre. Like Lighthouse and Shark – which are each part of the same bar group – Mandarin features a glass ceiling with another floor upstairs. However, that upstairs stage is not used these days, as far as I know.
When I stopped by Mandarin it featured a slim lineup which stood out compared to many other venues.
Mandarin has never received the same plaudits as the Rainbows or Angelwitch in its heyday. But what you can say is that it has long been as consistent as a Swiss watch is reliable and there has never been any need to promote the bar. Open the door and the Japanese and other Asian customers would pile in and open their wallets.
But good times don’t last forever and since the middle of last year business for Mandarin has come off its highs.
A renewed effort was needed to get punters back. Management was insistent that it had to maintain the spirit of the bar – and that meant nothing too dramatic and nothing corny or gimmicky.
Parties were organised, with two party themes that had proven popular in the parent group’s gogo bars in Pattaya. Wild Wild West and Bunny themed parties were organised and they proved to be a great success.
The first Hot Bunny party in December was the second-biggest night in Mandarin in the last 12 years. The first Wild Wild West party was also massively successful.
The bar made an effort and the punters responded and the mix of punters changed. Today, Mandarin is more popular with Caucasians than Asian customers.
Aware that more and more punters, especially local retirees, are sensitive to price these days, Mandarin took a leaf out of the Lighthouse playbook – its sister bar on Soi Cowboy – and introduced nightly drink specials with a different drink offered each night for just 99 baht.
Mandarin has a fun crew who were happy the night I was there and seemed to have a good rapport with the foreign boss. That said, a few were clearly scared of the mamasan.
Mandarin has some of the best music you’ll find in a gogo bar if, like me, your preferred playlist is a mix of classic pop rock, ‘80s, ‘90s and just a few hits from the last 20 years.
Mandarin eschews the nonsense of corny shows. There is no Jacuzzi. There are no darts. The owners keep it simple – good music and pretty girls.
I thought Mandarin was the pick of the bars in Nana Plaza this recent trip. Not the prettiest girls, nor the most girls, but it had a fun vibe and good music. If I was heading back to the plaza any time soon, Mandarin would be on the list of bars I’d drop by.
The odd-shaped seats with the holes have since been removed from Mandarin and I never did find out what they were all about. Never mind. Now when I think of Mandarin I think of it for all of the right reasons – fun girls and great music.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week’s photo was taken inside The Strip in Patpong soi 2. Only one clever reader got it right. I’ll give you a clue with this week’s photo – it was taken probably no more than a kilometre away from last week’s photo.
Stick’s Inbox – (These emails are from readers in the past week.)
The reason behind Thailand’s anarchy and chaos.
So, the government this past week announced that with immediate effect all passengers must wear a seatbelt, front and back. And they announced that people would not be allowed to ride in the bed of pickups. That was already illegal but, well, you know, enforcing it is work and the police are smart enough to know that they get paid whether they work or not. So, overnight, nearly every vehicle in Thailand became illegal as most are not fitted with rear seatbelts. And so did just about every bus, proper and converted vans and lorries, which have no seatbelt or which have been completely disabled by tying them up. By the way, what kind of mentality would deliberately disable a safety device, but then this is Thailand we are talking about, where logic and common sense are non-existent. Both these measures sounded great, but in Thailand most cars have windows darkened so much they are illegal (but well, you know….) so the police can’t see in, and tens of thousands of people ride in the back of pick-ups every day, including on school runs. And then the very next day and after people protested that they were no longer allowed to put their lives at risk the authorities did what they do so very often, a complete U-turn saying well, we won’t enforce the pickup ban after all, for now, because we forgot to engage brain before mouth. And then it will all be quietly forgotten. Anyway, Thais are smart enough to know that most laws are unenforceable so they ignore them, but that results in a deeper problem as that then leads to them to ignoring every law, good or bad, if it doesn’t suit them. Ignoring laws becomes routine. And there you have the reason behind Thailand’s anarchy and chaos.
Overdosing on Bangkok.
Your comments on experiencing Bangkok with fresh eyes echo mine. I lived in the city for many years. I enjoyed it, but moved away and now only visit for a couple of days every month or so. And yes, it is different that way, being a tourist, albeit as someone who knows their way around. It’s fun, and now I wonder how I put up with the crowds and pollution before. I guess you can overdose on anything, including Bangkok’s ‘delights’.
I enjoyed reading your analysis on present day Bangkok. I think Bangkok is not as laid-back as it used to be a few years ago. Business districts seem to be busier. My general observation is that people walk faster on the streets, even on weekends. Bangkok is slowly becoming more cosmopolitan. The urban, educated Thai population is showing more global aspiration these days. People prefer a better defined service to over-friendliness of the provider. My guess is that Thailand as a whole will remain a very popular tourist attraction whereas Bangkok is becoming another business hub, and a shopping destination at best.
Respect for elders is real.
I had no idea that 70+ year olds had priority at Immigration in Thailand. A very attractive feature of Thailand (and Asia in general, I guess) is its respect for older people in a very real way indeed, falang and Thai alike. As a 70+ year old working in a commercial environment for the past couple of years with a group of younger Thais educated both in Thailand and overseas, I find they are an absolute pleasure and delight to work with.
Chiang Mai airport thumbs up.
There has been a fair bit of grizzling recently about waiting in long Immigration queues at the airport in Bangkok when leaving the Kingdom. Perhaps one of the many attractions of Chiang Mai is my experience on Sunday. I was flying as part of a code share flight from Chiang Mai to Melbourne, so I could check in through the international terminal. No queues at check in – it took about 5 minutes. No queues at immigration – about 5 minutes again. And I won’t mention the airline, but a very pleasant airside lounge for everyone. And after managing to leave my phone behind at security, a security man chased me to return it. Chiang Mai is under-promoting one of its major attractions!
They can leave any time.
With regard to your comments about Crazy House two weeks ago, you mentioned that the girls look uncomfortable with the ‘attention’ they receive from some punters. But then, no-one makes them work there. With just about every bar screaming out for more girls it isn’t as if they would struggle to find work at an alternative venue.
Know when to walk away.
With regards to Bangkok taxi drivers, unlike you, I have been taken the long route. I picked up a taxi at Suvarnabhumi departures. First he demanded a flat fee and when I walked away he called me back and said he’d use the meter. He did, but drove a long way around so the fare ended up at the rate he originally demanded. Moral of the story – if a driver refuses to use the meter and then says he will, continue to walk.
7 Eleven near Bumrungrad.
I don’t step in to enough of them to be bold enough to claim to know the busiest 7 Eleven but that said, I was a regular at the 33 joint since the days I was smoking 14 years ago (I quit 11 years ago) and if that was busy, I have a basis for comparison. The first 7 Eleven on Soi 1 from Bumrungrad is incredibly busy. There is one further towards Sukhumvit I hardly notice, mainly it is quiet. The one close to Bumrungrad has hospital staff and assorted people from around and probably more than a few patients patronising it. I usually stop over to pay my water bill after a hospital visit, so I’ve been there a few times. Always busy.
Small space, big profits.
The tiny 7 Eleven on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 12 has won a BUNCH of the most baht per square meter awards from 7 Eleven. It’s literally a shoe box, but man does it sell product!
Beach-view 7 Eleven.
I don’t know where the busiest 7 Eleven is in Bangkok but I would guess the busiest one in Pattaya is on Beach Road between the Hooters and Starbucks (sois 13 and 13/1 Yamato). There isn’t enough room inside to swing a dead cat but it is busy 24/7.
Girl Of The Week
J-Net, escort with BangkokDreamsGirlEscort
Invite another lady along, J-Net bats for both sides.
Is it finally the end of an era in Sukhumvit soi 12 where it looks like Darling Massage closed for good yesterday. The restaurant awning was demolished and furniture was taken away. Local gossip has it that there was a dispute between the land owner and the family that owned the Darling buildings but just rented the land. Darling has been on again off again in recent years so let’s give it a few days and see if this really is the end.
Is Easy Lick – the name for the gogo bar on the ground floor of Nana Plaza that was once known as PlaySkool – the worst name ever for a gogo bar? OK, so if it isn’t the worst name then tell me what is!
Bully’s has an all-day happy hour from 11 AM to 7 PM on local draft beers and also a new Apple Cider. You can celebrate the Thai New Year with happy hour prices on local draft pints from 11 AM – 7 PM, Thursday through to Sunday. Singha, Heineken & Tiger draft pints are 120++ while Strong Bow Apple Cider is 115++ per bottle.
It’s Songkran this coming week. I don’t think there is any need to go over old ground – we know how crazy it is out on the streets and how quiet it is in the bars. There are a few other things to consider. If you’ve never been in Thailand at Songkran time, transportation can be booked up for a week or so and demand is very high for accommodation in the beaches and islands. Government offices are closed over the Songkran period which means before and especially after the break that the Immigration Department, for example, can be very busy. It’s best to avoid going to Immigration in any of the centres with a large foreign contingent immediately before or after Songkran (or any other long holiday) unless you really have to….which unfortunately you may have to as it’s not like you can pick and choose when to renew your visa. Finally – and this is something I have said a few times over the years – be wary of large groups of Thais partying on the last day of Songkran as some become quite excitable and with enough fire water in them might become unpredictable.
From across the border, Sharky in Phnom Penh is one of the longest running, if not the longest running expat bar in Cambodia. There were rumours in Thailand that Sharky had closed after the death of Big Mike in May, 2016. This is not true and Sharky is still going strong. Last December Sharky celebrated its 21st year in business. Darryl Paxton has been a partner in Sharky for 7 years and took over running the bar after Mike’s death. There is an all new management team in place with new staff, and the bar has been renovated. It’s music video night on Mondays on the new big screen, and Sharky hosts 8 ball & 9 ball pool competitions on Wednesday & Sunday nights. Wheel of Fortune is on Thursday and there are live bands Friday & Saturday nights. Their popular open mic is on Sunday. The most popular night is Fridays when they do the Joker Draw with the prize money up to $US 1,635 this week. Despite all that is going on at Sharky, due to other business commitments, Darryl plans to sell Sharky Bar. Darryl has spent the better part of 2 months ensuring all the paperwork, permits, lease agreement etc are in place. Cambodia is really clamping down on businesses and ensuring licensing and monthly taxes are filed. There is some silliness such as the new fee of $80 if you have a menu in English which sounds like that law in Thailand whereby if you have a sign for your venue in English the sign tax is higher. Yes, Thailand has a sign tax! Anyway, not too many businesses in Phnom Penh are happy about it – but to be fair, they are said to be charging this fee to the local Khmer businesses as well. Any genuine persons interested in buying the bar can contact Darryl on +855 (0) 179-30-360 or email him at :[email protected]
Air BnB is surging in popularity all around the world and taking business away from hotels in the same manner that Uber is really hurting conventional taxis. Air BnB is surging in popularity, even in Thailand where hotel rooms are hardly expensive. Pretty much everyone I know who has used Air BnB in Thailand swears by it and I have not heard of anyone with a negative experience yet. Two questions have been put to Sunbelt Legal in recent weeks about Air BnB in Thailand – and the question answered by Sunbelt last week explained that the leasing of rooms in condo buildings in Thailand for short-term stays is actually illegal because in all likelihood the building does not hold the licence to allow rooms to be let for short stays. Air BnB has no shortage of listings in Bangkok so where is this is all going? We just know how the Thais love their crackdowns! Would you stump up the money to stay in a condo in Bangkok offered on Air BnB knowing that it is, technically, illegal and that in a worst case scenario you could be thrown out mid-way through your stay, or even arrive in Bangkok with an Air BnB reservation only to find it has fallen through? And you know what it’s like trying to get your money back in Thailand. You would think that in a country where tourism is being pushed that the Thai authorities would not get in the way of the excellent Air BnB concept, but then that is exactly what has happened with Uber in Thailand….but then Uber still operates so I guess Air BnB will too.
On my recent trip to Thailand I bought a box that allows you to watch Thai TV live from anywhere in the world. The box is smaller than a paperback and plugs in to your TV. You need a decent Internet connection and the box connects to your wi-fi and streams Thai TV live. Many Thai TV channels are accessible including all of the most popular channels so you can watch the news in Thailand if you so desire and your Thai Mrs can watch her favourite Thai soaps. I figure it will be especially useful when any major events happen in Thailand – you would be able to tune in and get the Thai news coverage live. The device is called a “Penta box” and we bought it from Se-Ed Book Centre (a chain of Thai language bookstores with branches in shopping malls all over the country). The regular retail price of the box is 3,500 baht and I believe it is currently on special at just 2,800 baht. It works flawlessly and you get Thai TV in full HD. If your Thai other half is missing home or you simply want to catch a bit of Thai TV yourself, it’s well worth picking a Penta box up.
Some tried to start replicate this column in the Philippines 10 odd years ago, focusing on the comings and goings in Angeles City. It didn’t work out and said clown could not compete with the established Angeles nightlife reporter / columnist, Harry The Horse. The Horse has written a monthly column on all that interests Westerners in Angeles City for about as long as I have been putting together this column, but tuning in this month it would seem the Harry The Horse column / newsletter is no longer. Word out of Angeles in recent years is that the environment has changed. For the bar bosses, for the punters and now, it seems, perhaps for the correspondents. Whatever the reasons for Harry The Horse’s demise (if that is what it is), it’s sad that this independent voice would appear to have left the airways. I contacted JC who took over the Harry The Horse column for comment but as at the time of publishing this column I have not received a reply.
I was a fan of the Pattaya Bay Resort up until it closed. The North American owner of the Pattaya hotel did a magnificent job and built up quite a following for what was, at the end of the day, a standard mid-range Pattaya hotel. It was well run with friendly staff, but it was all of the little stuff like the rock-solid stable, free high-speed wi-fi at a time when that was not the norm and the cooked-to-order breakfast included with the cost of your room that really made it a great place to stay. The original owner cashed out and now the hotel is in disrepair. Literally. Today the Pattaya Bay Resort is being used as a car park for those working on projects in adjoining spaces. Oh how the great have fallen.
What do you make of Thais addressing you as “you”. It’s not really what you’d call polite English but actually they are trying to be polite. Referring to you as “you” is, of course, their translation of the Thai honorific “Khun”. Some foreigners in Thailand don’t like this but I don’t see anything in it. When you understand that many Thais’ English is not great and they are actually trying to make an effort to address you politely in your own language (even if they mess it up), that is good enough for me.
I’ve commented previously on Thailand-centric websites that aggregate – a fancy term for copying and pasting news from other sources and running it as if it was your own, all without any citation of the original source. More English language websites in Thailand do this. It has got so bad that one such site copied a bogus article and ran it as real news, unbeknownst that the article that they had copied was actually an April Fool’s Day joke! A once interesting Pattaya news site ran ThaiVisa’s humorous article about Thailand implementing new controls on the sale of liquor based on the Scandinavian model. What a joke.
If you have ever wondered what the Thailand nightlife scene was like back in the 1980s, then why not take a look at the new e-book book, “Bangkok Naked”? Between its pages are a collection of true, uncensored, no holds-barred stories from the golden era, featuring three of the founding members of the infamous Bangkok Pussy Hounds. The team of Diamond Jack Hughes, Flash Gordon and The President originated from the London advertising, legal and travel industry and the dodgy trio were prowling the Bangkok red light areas back in the day. All were determined to grow old disgracefully by spending inordinate amounts of time in the massage parlours and bars of Patpong and Sukhumvit. Just recently published, “Bangkok Naked” is available as an eBook from Amazon.
Quote of the week comes from a friend, “Thai cats are like Thai people, they can sleep anywhere.”
Reader’s story of the week comes from The Olmec, “Homage To The Nana Hotel“.
A Belgian leaps to his death from the top of a hotel in Hua Hin.
A Bangkok taxi driver who stole 500 Euros from a foreigner is finally caught, a year after the theft.
From the New York Times, an ancient Khmer temple’s restoration draws tourists to a little-known corner of Southeast Asia.
Pattaya City Hall is changing the rules for beach chair vendors again which will mean two days a week the beach will be free of chairs and umbrellas.
Academics have slammed the draft Thailand Cybersecurity bill as an unaccountable, all-powerful tool to enable mass surveillance.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Legal AdvisorsSunbelt Legal Advisors is here to answer any questions of a legal nature you have about life in Thailand. Feel free to send any questions you have to me and I will forward them to Sunbelt Legal to answer.
Question 1: Me and my Thai wife have been married for almost 20 years, and live outside Thailand. We have two children. Recently my wife created a couple of bank accounts in Thailand, to which she has transferred a significant sum of money.
She has by herself drafted a last will in which she states that the money she has on these accounts shall be divided between me and the children (50% – 25% – 25%) when she dies. She added me as the executor of the will.
In the event that my wife dies before me, can we legally get the money as written in my wife’s will? What is the procedure to get the money should this event occur?
Sunbelt Legal responds: A foreigner can be the executor of a Thai will, however, it is important that the will is registered in the Thai legal system before the writer of the will passes away. Once the will is registered and then ratified after the owner passes the executor can have access to bank accounts with the certified will, marriage certificate and death certificate. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has extensive experience in setting up Thai wills and ensuring they are registered and legal and can assist your wife in this matter. Please have her contact us for a free initial consultation.
Question 2: What is the legal status of street photography in Thailand? I’m thinking specifically of hidden-camera, video photography. I’ve been told that it’s both legal and illegal! If this is legal, how might it become illegal? If it is illegal, why is there so much of it on the web (posted from outside Thailand, in particular)? I’m also interested in how legal the same hidden-camera, video photography is inside a freelancer bar, specifically one that does NOT have a “NO Photography” sign visible (like The Thermae…) I’ve seen someone quoting Thai law about how posting such pictures / video may constitute defamation of character, possibly criminal.
Sunbelt Legal responds: The law allows pictures of unknown third parties in public places under certain conditions; the subject of the photo did not refuse or inform you that they do not wish to be part of the picture; the pictures would not affect their reputation. Also, if the photographers are not invading the subject’s privacy, for example taking a photo through a window or when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Finally, if there is nudity the photos are not legal.
If the photos fall within these guidelines the photographer can consider them personal property but if the photos are being used for commercial purposes the subjects of the photos would have a right to claim a share of the income from the use of the photos should they find out they are published for commercial purposes.
I am aware of the many benefits of social media but that part of cyberlife is just not my thing. Other than looking at other people’s photos and videos of their cats and dogs, not a lot appeals about social media to me. With that said, increasingly I am made to feel like I am an outlier when I tell people I am not a social media user. I am not against it…it’s just not my thing. With that said, this site now has a Facebook presence. This is very much a case of dipping our toes in the water and seeing where it goes. I am not really sure what we’re going to do with the Facebook page but I imagine it will grow over time. At this stage I prefer to engage with readers via email so if you have any thoughts on the column, or questions or just simply have something on your mind or something you want to get off your chest, email is still the way to reach me. And yes, I do respond to all emails.
Your Bangkok commentator,