It’s raining in Bangkok, friends on the ground tell me. They tell me the hot season wasn’t all that hot and the rains have come not just early, but are frequent and heavy. No, Stick is not about to become your Bangkok weatherman. What I can say– even from so far away – is that many things in Bangkok are changing, and it’s not just the weather.
Not a lot has changed in my little corner of the world since I last wrote. I continue to enjoy the quiet life, a peaceful and largely stress-free existence and one I would not swap for the bright lights, excitement and general craziness of Bangkok. Of course I miss but I remain contented where I am.
One thing that has changed is my desire to do a little more on this site. No, Stickman Weekly is not going to return but something new is coming.
I don’t wish to immerse myself that deeply in all things Thai while living in New Zealand and that’s why Stickman Weekly won’t be coming back. I wrote the column for more than two years after leaving Bangkok but in retrospect, I don’t think that was healthy. Living in one country with your mind in another, it has to be like that if you want to produce a decent column. There would be email exchanges and Line chats throughout the day from friends and readers in Thailand so I had enough to write about what was happening in Bangkok with a reasonable level of accuracy. It was fun, but at the same time you can forget where you are and don’t enjoy your homeland as you should. That’s not the only reason Stickman Weekly won’t be returning.
Even the most die-hard, hardcore nightlife fans are finally acknowledging that things just aren’t the same. Fewer girls, fatter girls, higher prices, bad attitudes, poor service, nightlife areas over-run with mainstream visitors, police crackdowns, more ladyboys than ever, weak Western currencies and a bad exchange rate to the baht are just some of the factors that have seen bar trade down in all bar areas. Yeah, the odd bar does well but most bars are way down.
Even big name bars have felt the pinch. Angelwitch in Pattaya closed. I’m not sure quite what is going on but one well-placed contact is insistent that it will reopen as a ladyboy bar. Let me repeat I have no idea if this is true or not but it’s certainly plausible given what has happened elsewhere.
Big Andy’s Club Electric Blue in Patpong, a bar I had a long association with, closed a few months ago and a steakhouse opened in its place.
As big-name bars close or change format, so too are some of the genuine good guys moving on –another reason I lost interest in the bar industry.
Larry, who I once suggested was the best bar boss in the business, is about to retire. With more than 10 years working in Pattaya bars, Larry is a hugely popular figure with a real following – when he left one bar for another, the bar he left invariably lost many regulars who followed Larry around town. For the last few years he has been a host at Baby Dolls. Sunday of next week will be Larry’s last day of work as he pulls the plug as retirement beckons. If you’re in Pattaya, drop by this week to wish him farewell. Larry feels home in Pattaya and has no plans to leave.
My old friend and probably Bangkok’s best-known expat author, Jerry Hopkins died a couple of weeks back. Jerry had been in poor health for some time. While his body was letting him down, his mind remained razor sharp. Jerry was hugely supportive of this column, encouraged me to continue despite being in New Zealand and frequently sent observations from the front lines. Jerry lived on Sukhumvit soi 8 for decades and Nana Plaza was just a short stroll from his condo. Jerry was a very reliable source of news and gossip, particularly from the ladyboy bars but from Nana Plaza and the Nana area in general. Jerry Hopkins will be missed by many.
And one of my closest friends in Thailand – and the site’s top reader’s submission writer, Mega – recently made the decision to call it quits on Thailand. As he announced to me over the phone with great fanfare, he was fed up with Thailand – and this time, once and for all, he was doing something about it.
I’m not going to list the many bar industry people who have passed away in recent years, but as old friends & characters leave the industry and others pass away, they’re replaced by a new breed who I so often find I just don’t click with. To do a weekly column well and to stay on top of things and be accurate in reporting, you need to be in regular contact with many of these people. You need to have a relationship with them – and I just don’t have it in me to maintain relationships with people I really do not like.
With the bar industry doing it tough, I wonder if prices will come down – that is the girls’ asking prices. Drink prices and barfines won’t be going anywhere because they are driven by rents – and rents are only going one way in Bangkok. In some areas the girls are hurting. It’s ok for those working in the big name bars in the main bar areas – think Nana and Cowboy – where you have plenty of well-heeled expats and moneyed up visitors and businessmen passing through. (Note, I do not mention Patpong because I am of the belief that it has slipped and while perhaps not yet a second-tier area, it no long compares nor competes with Nana or Cowboy.) In Pattaya and the second tier bar areas of Bangkok I have heard of the odd outlet dropping prices with low-season specials. Take for example the specials on offer at www.ExoticMassageBangkok.com which has introduced low-season specials with fun available for less than 1,000 baht.
I don’t expect to visit Bangkok again until next year but despite that I plan to resume writing. A monthly column is perhaps the way to go. I need to have a think about it first, about its format (it would NOT be the same as my old weekly – the Sunday sermon is a thing of the past) and be clear in my mind that it’s something I am ready to commit to. Keep an eye on the site over the next couple of weeks for something new….I’ll see what I can come up with.
Stick can still be contacted at : [email protected]