Stickman's Weekly Column September 23rd, 2018

The Life Of Larry


When I stuck my neck out and declared Larry the best bar manager in the business (Stickman weekly column July 26, 2009), I don’t recall any negative feedback nor anyone disagreeing.  It was as if readers were thinking, “Next week tell us something we don’t already know.”  For more than a decade Larry lived the dream, managing the sorts of bars in Pattaya that many men travel half way around the world to spend their annual holiday in, and the rest of the year dreaming about.  Larry retired recently and plans to spend his retirement enjoying all that Pattaya offers.  It felt like a good time to run a few questions by Larry, to learn about what it’s really like to manage a bar, and life in his adopted home of Pattaya.

 

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Larry, for me the benchmark by which all bar managers will be compared.

 

You’re best known from your time as manager at Secrets when the bar was one of the best bars in Walking Street and all of Pattaya for that matter.  How did you end up as the manager at Secrets?  And for that matter, how did you end up in Thailand?

I was living in the San Francisco bay area and was the shipping head for the bay area’s largest independent meat company.  I would go down to Tijuana in Mexico at least once a month for some, well, let’s say, R&R :-).  I ran into another guy from LA and he told me all about Thailand.  I went home and within a few hours of being home booked a week in Bangkok to, ah, see the sights so to speak!

A week in Bangkok and I was hooked!  I ended up making 30 trips in 10 years and decided it was time to make the move.  During my visits I became a regular at the Freelancer Bar and a poster on their web forum.  They later changed the name to the FLB bar.  Owned by an expat known as Pattaya Pete, he is now the owner of the Pattaya Beer Garden.

On one trip he told me he had hired a manager from the UK which turned out to be Ben, now a partner of Secrets, and the main guy getting Secrets off the ground.  I did not know Ben all that well but as I was a very active forum poster on the FLB forum and visitor to the bar, we became friendly.  At the time I was active on a forum that is no longer operating, the Pattaya Chat board.  The Chat board went down for a few days for unknown reasons and during that time I was contacted by Ben and asked to moderate the Steam Room which was a pretty much anything goes section of the Secrets forum.  It was great and I got to know many posters and really took a liking to it.  A few months later I was given moderator status across the whole forum.  I remember monitoring the daily post counts and there were days when we would get 2,000 posts in a 24-hour period in the early days.

Whoa, that’s serious traffic!

Steve, who was an early partner and the first day-manager at Secrets, stayed involved for a while then decided it was not for him and he would be leaving.  It was at that time the day Secrets manager’s job was offered to me.  I agreed and enjoyed my time there very much.  I always saw myself as a customer’s manager first.  Of course I watched out for the business but without the customers we would have no business to worry about.

Secrets wasn’t your only bar gig.  In what other bars did you work in Pattaya?

After about 6½ or 7 years there were some minor issues and I decided it was time to part ways.  Secrets was good to me.  But things change, people change and it was time to call it quits.

I was not going to go back to work but Terry Lee, a very good friend, and his partner Lee, asked me to become involved in Babydolls.  I was offered the manager’s position.  I declined a great offer because I was not interested in the responsibility that came with the job.  So they offered me a position as customer relations manager.  They knew I had a substantial following and figured it would be a win : win for all involved.  So I accepted.  Quite a different venue but I was really happy to be back in touch with the customer base I had developed during my years at Secrets.  In June when I left Babydolls it was in good hands as Paul, who most Pattaya people know as PSP on the forums, who I worked with and one-time manager of the Soi Diamond beer bar Lennie’s and then Misty’s Gogo, picked up where I left off.

I think there’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about just what the responsibilities of the farang bar manager are.  So tell me, what does a farang bar manager do and what doesn’t a farang bar manager do?

The job of bar manager is different depending on the bar.  Some are responsible for every aspect of the operation.  Hiring, firing, inventory control, banking, accounting etc. Some are better known as meeter-greeters.  That’s where I fit in.  Customer satisfaction was always my number 1 concern.  If a customer was not happy the ball had been dropped.  Yes, customer satisfaction was my only concern.  If the customers are kept happy the business benefits.

As far as what a manager should not do, first and foremost, do not cause loss of face to any staff.  It’s important to get things across to them in a calm manner.  Never ever confront them by saying I am the boss, whatever I want is up to me.  Always make them feel that they are part of the team because they are!  I would always ask staff their opinion and how they felt about things.  Try to keep them up to date with things that were going to happen before they happened.

Many people, particularly those who live for their trips to Pattaya, would say you had a dream job managing girly bars in Pattaya.  But tell me the truth, what’s it really like managing a bar?

It was fantastic!  The customers I had at Secrets and then Babydolls were the best.  The staff are all great. Sure, there are exceptions but not many.  I was due in the bar at 8 PM but most everyday you would find me there at 5PM.  I loved going to work!  Most of my customers I considered friends first and customers second.  At Secrets we had a Thai manager who dealt with the day-to-day staff problems so it made my life extremely easy.  I would be willing to bet there was not another bar manager that had it as easy as I did during my days working at the bars and because of that, it was easy for me.

Speaking in generalities, what sort of relationships do you have with the bar ladies you worked with?  The role of a bar manager gives a unique insight in to these ladies’ lifestyles.  Some of these ladies are absolute charmers while others may be anything but.  Some are users, while others get used and abused. It’s an emotional roller coaster for the girls AND for those close to them – so how did you, as a bar manager and by definition someone who is somewhat close to them, deal with the turmoil that is many of these girls’ lives?  I’ve always thought a decent boss takes a holistic approach to their staff but how can you do that without it having a negative effect on your own life?  And how is it rationalizing that some customers might not be so nice to girls when back in their hotel room (or condo)?

Over the years I was close to the girls and I let them know that they could come to me to talk about anything and I would help when I could.  I had guys tell me you can’t be their friend and their boss.  Well you can and I was.  The times I had to put my foot down it was the next day and they never got the hump.  It was never an issue working with the staff.  I appreciated each and every one and made sure they knew it.  Every girl is different and once you get to know them and understand them you know how to better deal with them.  I am convinced I did something right as there is nothing better than having former staff come to see you with their customers and this happened with girls that worked for me often when I left Secrets for Babydolls.

I hear guys say from time to time that the girls that work in the bars do so because they are lazy and it is easy money.  I do not see how they can say that.  Lazy?  Easy money?  No way, as I have said to many customers over the years.  I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, hell, I would not want to go with me :-).

There are customers that treat the girls anything but nice.  Their reasoning behind the treatment is, well, I paid the barfine so she must do as I say.  Not the greatest way of thinking for sure.  Guys that have this way of thinking, in my opinion, at some point in their lives have been under someone’s thumb.  Now they feel for a little baht they can buy someone they can control.  Sad, really.

 

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The position of bar manager has its perks.

 

You’ve worked with a lot of sexy ladies over the years, ladies who make themselves available to almost any man who is willing to pay.  Pattaya has had a few bar bosses over the years who have developed a reputation for fishing off the company wharf so to speak.  How tempting is it?

One would have to be blind to say they are not tempted if they were in the same position as I or any other bar manager here in Thailand have been.  I have never one time gotten involved with an employee.  It is a huge NO-NO!  That said, over the years I have seen some ex employees after they left the bar that I was working with at Secrets and from Babydolls but never while under my employ.

Funny story to do with this, a couple of years ago we had a stunning dancer at Babydolls. On one of my R&R trips to Ban Chang I found her working at a bar there.  A couple of drinks and one thing lead to another and she was interested to see what my hotel room looked like.  Back to Pattaya and to work a week later I get a call, she is asking to return to Babydolls to work.  I am feeling a little uncomfortable having spent time with her and not sure if I should allow her back or not.  I called Terry, the boss, and ran it by him and told him I would tell her to keep quiet about our Ban Chang visit.  He laughed and said not to worry about it and that she would never admit to being with me anyway :-)

You’re a recovered alcoholic.  How long have you been sober?  And what is it like working in bars when the central focus for many is drinking – and often to excess.  Was that a challenge given your background with the bottle?

Yes, I liked my drink, no question about that.  I had my last drink in August, 1981, so 38 years sober.  I quit drinking 50 times before it stuck.  Did it on my own.  One would think that it would be a challenge but that has not really been an issue for me despite working in an alcohol-fueled industry.  I was a happy drunk, never caused any problems, always happy.  I do not regret my drinking days.  They were good times.  Should a doctor tell me I have just a short time to live you would for sure find me having a drink with friends once again.

Many have told me over the years they don’t know how I lasted so long in the business without drinking and they thought drinking would be mandatory.  I really can’t see how one could do the job if they were drunk all the time.  I can’t think of another non-drinker in a bar manager’s position here in Pattaya.  There may well be but I sure can’t think of any.  I also believe my being a non-drinker helped me over the years with the ability to remember customers’ names as well as their forum names.

I think it’s fair to say that you made your name and gained a profile from your time at Secrets – partly because of your role as bar manager but also because on the Secrets forum you were so incredibly helpful to people.  You wrote in excess of 100,000 posts on that forum!  How long did that take?

The Secrets forum was up and running a year or so before the bar itself opened for business.  This was genius as because of the forum the anticipation of the new Secrets Bar, Hotel and Restaurant was huge.  I will never forget the grand opening night – the turnout was massive.  You would have thought we were giving money away!

My posts and profile were removed after I left Secrets for Babydolls.  It was at that point I stopped posting with about 120,000 posts after about 7 years.  Of those posts ,so many questions were directed to me on the forum that needed a simple answer.  What time do you open for breakfast?  How late do you serve food?  So answers to hundreds of questions required only one or two-word answers and that had a bit to do with the high post count.  I loved my interaction with forum members and have made hundreds of friends over the years thanks to Secrets, their forum and Babydolls.

I am fortunate in that I have a steady flow of friends from the forum that make a few round trips a year to Pattaya and they are happy to take a shopping list of things I would like brought back.

Are you still a regular on any of the Pattaya forums?  I know there are quite a few Pattaya forums these days.  I still look at the Secrets forum from time to time, but not daily like I used to.  Which of the Pattaya forums, if any, are you active on these days?

I think there’s little doubt that the Secrets forum is not the same.  Things change, times change, who knows?  It was at one time the biggest but I think that honor would have to go to the Pattaya Addicts forum now.  I post there, but not as much as I did when I was working.  The great thing about the Addicts forum is all the ongoing trip reports which is huge with guys back home planning their trip and those who miss Pattaya.  Pattaya Talk as well as Pattaya Live are also popular forums.

So you’re living the dream, retired in Pattaya!  After all of the excitement of the last 10 or so years, how do you spend your days?  And are you a regular visitor to the bars now that you’re no longer employed in the industry?

Retirement is great!  Sometimes you just know when the time is right and it was for me.  I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed my time at Secrets and Babydolls.  I almost found my way back as end of August about a week before the Secrets September 1st, 12th anniversary party, I was asked to meet with Paul, a Secrets partner and his son James (great guys) at Secrets regarding me returning to work at Secrets.  During our meeting it was obvious his goal is getting Secrets back on track.  I was impressed with his plans and took his offer home to consider.  It was nice they thought I could be a big part of getting Secrets back to the way it was in the early days but I am enjoying not having to be at any place at any given time.  I do wish them the best of luck with the business.  I was very impressed as I had not been in Secrets in 5 years and it looked exactly the same, it really looked good.

Yeah, I have to admit when I was there recently that Secrets still looked good and the format works well.

My days are busy.  Terry always says I will be bored.  Sorry, Terry, that will not happen!  Too much to do, no time to be bored.  I walk mornings with friends between 3 and 7 miles.  Meet a few times a week for dinner or lunch with guys who have returned to town.  I have thousands of hours of TV I downloaded to watch so I am always busy.

When my old customers come to town I arrange to meet them in Babydolls so I am in there and a couple of other bars from time to time but not a real regular visitor.

I have few regrets about my time in Thailand, but one regret I do have is not getting to know Pattaya better.  I know many parts of Bangkok like the back of my hand but never really scratched below the surface in Pattaya.  I only visited the dark side a couple of times and while there was a time I knew some of Pattaya’s movers and shakers, I never really knew the main players like I did in Bangkok.  I always thought a 3-month stint in Pattaya in the low season would be fun but it never happened, and almost certainly won’t now that the place is undergoing such rapid change.  The appeal just isn’t there any more. What do you say to people who say that Pattaya is changing – and I am one such person.  You’ve been living in Pattaya for what, about 12 years?  How has it changed in your time as a resident of Pattaya?

No question things have changed here.  But what some do not understand is that no place remains the same.  Things and places are changing everywhere.  Prices are up but where do the prices stay the same?  A good example is the condo where I live.  The monthly maintenance fee is 300 baht and has been for 10 years.  The complex is requesting a 150 baht increase and people are going crazy not wanting to pay more.  Really?  How many people are making the same money today as they were 10 years ago?  Of course if they were doing nothing to the place then fair enough but they have been doing a lot of upgrades to the common areas so the increase they are asking for is in no way out of line.

The bar industry here is changing for sure.  Years ago the girls needed their jobs and thus needed the bars.  Well, that has changed.  They just do not need the bars anymore.  Social media has replaced the need for girls to be employed by a bar.  We had a girl at Babydolls a few years ago that when her time to dance ended she went out back, got dressed and left.  What the hell?!  I asked the mamasan at the time what was going on.  Well, it seems she got a message on her phone and a customer wanted to see her now, not after work but now, so she left.  We had the mamasan tell her don’t bother coming back.  On the Addicts forum a few weeks ago a member was complaining about the girls being unfriendly and such and the managers should set them straight.  Years ago maybe that could be done but not today!  Any manager who gives the girls a stern talking to risks losing them as any good-looking girl can walk out and go to work at any bar they want.  The bars need the girls.  The girls have the upper hand.

Other than that, I really don’t see that many other changes which may be because I live here and the changes are gradual so they do not stand out as much.

What do you say to those people who say there’s no energy in the nightlife areas these days and the vibrance and general atmosphere isn’t what it was?  We’ve shared emails in recent times where you’ve said that things aren’t what they were.  Where do you see things going?

One bar closes, another takes its place.  This is a regular occurrence in Pattaya.  I was out a couple of weeks ago in 3 bars on Walking Street from about 10:00 to 11:30 PM, and there were not 10 customers in them all, in total.  All the years I was working guys would say, “Oh, man, worst low season ever” when in fact the figures were not much different from previous low seasons.  This low season, from my perspective, I would agree is the worst I have seen.  Of course there are bars doing very well this low season but I am sure they are in the minority.  There are many tour groups up and down Walking Street but they are not putting any dollars in the nightlife venues and Walking Street years ago did not have groups like these.  In the past Walking Street was busy with the customers that the bars wanted and needed.  That is not the case anymore.

I see the trends shifting from the gogo bars to soi 6, gentlemen’s clubs and massage venues.  Customers have to be more thrifty as exchange rates go south.

I feel in the next 5 years or so more Skyfall, Happy, Baccara type bars will emerge but overall there will be less gogo bars.  No one really knows for sure.  Time will tell.

 

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Happy Larry almost always has a smile on his face.

 

You were in the thick of the bar industry towards the end of the most recent golden period (which I think came to a rapid end around late 2009 / early 2010).  You’ve seen the industry change a lot.  What would you say to those guys who have long dreamed of living in Pattaya, perhaps as a place to retire, as the place undergoes massive change – and quite possibly changing in to something rather different from what they envisaged for retirement.  If a guy was, say, 55 years old, and planned to retire in his early or mid 60s, would you say battle on, stash the cash and stick to the original plan, or would you tell them to throw caution to the wind, cash out now and make the most of it while they can, while some of the Pattaya of old remains?  I doubt there will ever be another Pattaya.  I do think there is still something of the old Pattaya to be experienced – but you’d better be quick because things are changing.  The rate of change is only going to increase and the Pattaya of old will rapidly become but a memory.  What do you say to that?

I still find Pattaya very affordable.  A few years ago I said to those who asked me if they should retire here, Yes do it – you will not regret it.  My opinion on that is still the same if they are looking for an affordable lifestyle.  Too many guys come here to retire and they do not get out of party mode and end up doing a crash and burn.  Don’t burn bridges back home and come here for 60 days and live on a budget you will live on if in fact you do retire here.  If you are happy after 60 days, you are ready for Pattaya. Guys have to get out, make friends and join groups.  There are many things to keep you busy here.  But if drinking is your main hobby, Pattaya may not be the best place for you.

I am one of those guys that say Pattaya was better 10 years ago and I do believe that, but the guys making their first trip today will be telling their friends in the future how much better Pattaya was 10 years ago as well.

I know you were a big fan of Angeles City in the Philippines and the jungle drums were beating a few years ago that you were moving there and if I remember right, you had a job offer to work there but didn’t take it.  Would you ever genuinely consider relocating to what I guess is the Philippines equivalent of Pattaya?

Ah yes, “A.C.”, boy, the trips there!  Over 50 trips there since I came to Thailand.  I have taken at least 20 first-timers from Pattaya to “A.C.”.  I remember trying to convince Terry to go and it was like pulling teeth. Well, he came back from that trip and went again weeks later.  It was a fantastic getaway place and may still be.  My last trip to Angeles was at Songkran, 2015, and I was unimpressed.  I had an A.C. bar owner in Babydolls and he agreed that it has changed – and not for the better.  I did have an opportunity of employment a while back but passed on it.  It is not western enough.  The medical care is nowhere near as good as we have here in Pattaya.  In Pattaya there is nowhere I feel unsafe walking at night.  I cannot say that about “AC”.  Despite having many friends there I will never relocate to “AC”, not after having lived here in Pattaya.

So what of the future?  You’re now officially retired.  Congratulations!  Is it Pattaya until the grave, or do you plan to return to the land that is becoming great again?!

I am here till they put me in the fire!  Not going back to the States or should I say I have no plans to do so.  I have been back 2 times since I moved to Pattaya to see family, 20 days in total.  The kids have both been here to see me a number of times.  They know my plans and if I am happy, they are happy.  I have a good friend who coined the phrase, “Once you are retired you eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired regardless of what time it is, day or night”.  It is nice to be able to do just that!

 

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The golden age: Larry managed Secrets when it was one of the best bars in Pattaya.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Photo

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Last week’s photo was taken on Soi Phra Chan, in the old part of the city, which leads from Sanam Luang down to Thammasat University.  Only a few people got the general location right and only one person was able to actually name the street.  I have another challenging photo for you to have a stab at this week.  I wonder if anyone will get this week’s photo right?!

 

Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.

The company you keep.

Your two Khao Yai dining companions’ claim that most Western men living in Bangkok are poor is probably based on observations of and hearsay concerning Western men on Khao San Road and aboard budget flights in and out of Bangkok, and hence reminds me of Western sexpats in Bangkok who observe Thai women in the red-light districts of Bangkok and then conclude that most Thai women in Bangkok are poor and work in the industry.  Both groups commit the fallacy of hasty generalization, and both ought to keep better company when it comes to foreigners of the opposite sex.

Why take on a liability?

Lecherous (Gourmand) Lee here.  I enjoyed your opening piece about the trip outside of Bangkok with your Mrs and her friends.  When they said that they didn’t need a rich guy and just wanted a boyfriend who was responsible and not a liability a bell went off in my head.  So many foreign guys in Thailand choose a girlfriend who is a total liability in every way!  Uneducated, unable to make more than minimum wage at any legitimate job, bad with money and having parasitic lazy family members with their hands out.  If men had the same attitude as those women you conversed with, 95% of the problems we have read about in your column the past 20 years would be avoided.  Guys, choose a woman who isn’t a major liability and your chances of happiness will improve exponentially.

Women are the same the world over.

I read with interest your trip with your other half and her pals.  These women are looking for what most women are: a successful, attractive guy with a good job and baht in his billfold.  Nothing Thai about that, most women everywhere want the same.  The difference is that these gals are in their mid 30’s.  My thoughts are that the train may have already left the station without them, especially in Asia where guys are up for young cuties.  60 Minutes ran a piece where in China, mothers in panic mode advertise in parks for husbands for their daughters who are in their 30’s and still single.  My own Thai wife used to say I would dump her when she reached 30 because she’d be too old.  She’s 40 now and we’re still together.  I love her more than ever but then I’m American, not Asian.

Welcome to the 21st century, traffic law infringers.

In reference to cameras catching speeders, the rules have recently changed.  Those who do not pay their tickets will not be able to renew their auto registrations at the motor vehicle department.  Anyone trying to renew with outstanding unpaid tickets, will be instructed to pay their ticket with the traffic police and return with proof of payment.  Also, for each speeding ticket received, points will be attached to your license.  Too many points and your license will be cancelled.  Welcome to the 21st century.

A rainy night in Bangkok.

In my view, the Bangkok nightlife industry is dying a fast death, at least in terms of its original description.  I arrived here in 2001.  The nightlife was fun.  Many girls were ‘innocent’, naive, affable and flexible in terms of payment for services rendered.  I can remember some free late-night stands. Indeed one late night in Sukhumvit Road on a particularly stormy night I remember the flood waters getting deeper as I stood under my umbrella on the steps of a closed store, trying to shelter from the rain, and taking progressive steps backwards up the steps as the water got deeper.  A lady of the night joined me in this endeavour.  We became silently united in adversity.  I was living at the time in an apartment building near Siam Square.  A taxi with its wheels virtually underwater sauntered slowly into view.  I hailed it and in an act of chivalry beckoned to my sodden associate to join me.  She surprisingly agreed.  We sloshed to the taxi and dived in.  There was little or no conversation in the cab.  I asked to be taken to my apartment address and the driver acquiesced without argument (times have changed).  30 minutes later we arrived at my apartment building.  Still no constructive conversation had taken place between me and my accomplice – the air-conditioning in the taxi was very cold and we were huddling together to prevent the imminent onset of pneumonia.  We disgorged from the taxi and fled into the lobby of the apartment building, taking the lift to the sixth floor.  With hardly a word spoken, hot showers ensued, dry towels, a double bed and great, great sex.  Next morning she got up, showered, dressed and gave me a thank you kiss on the cheek.  Not a word about money….and then she disappeared into the throngs of Siam Square.  I did not even know her name. Welcome to Thailand!

Food.

Thais seem to travel long distances, even hours, to get to a place they know has good food.  And it’s not just the younger generation either.  When I mentioned this to my partner she said her parents do the same.  I have the same experience as my partner is also middle-class and every time we go out with her friends they don’t allow me to pay, saying, ‘You’re our guest’.  I guess I am a guest in their country so it is a pleasant experience when they put in for the bill.  I do the same if any of her friends come to Australia and we go out to dinner.  One time when we were passing through Isaan on the way to Laos, we had dinner at Sizzler.  Next to our table was a farang with about 10 Thais and when the bill came he made a snide remark about paying it.  I told my Mrs. that’s a perfect example of how the farang gets looked at being a cash cow.  Her response, ‘Well, no one’s putting a gun to his head.’  How true.  It seems us farangs put ourselves in that situation and then blame the female for letting it happen!  When I thought about it, it’s so obvious it made me laugh!

 

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A new bar opened last week on Soi LK Metro in Sin City, called Kink.  The owner is a shareholder of Baccara in Soi Cowboy and he has reportedly spent a truckload on the new venue.  Every hour part of the ceiling mechanically descends from the 2nd floor revealing a special show.

The latest on what was Angelwitch in Pattaya – which closed some months ago – is that the owners are desperately trying to sell the bar….or what is left of the bar.  Since it closed it’s no longer a big-name bar, merely a space to lease in a thriving soi for a new bar to open up.  If it hasn’t sold within the next 2 months, word is that the owners i.e. the current leaseholder will possibly reopen a ladyboy bar in that space, something which has been mooted for a while.  These guys have expertise with ladyboy bars in Bangkok so it would probably be a good decision, commercially speaking.

Converting a bar to a ladyboy bar is not something fans of this column / the nightlife industry like to hear, but it’s a genuine option for bar bosses when their once successful business is no longer paying its way. Converting girly bars to ladyboy format is nothing new and there are numerous examples where this has happened – and the bar owners are delighted with the outcome.  Think about Nana Plaza and what has happened over the past several years with today, what, around 9 bars that are either all ladyboy or at least partly ladyboy?  You don’t have to go back that far and Casanova was the one and only ladyboy bar in Nana Plaza.  Now, as I say, it’s closer to 10.  Successful bars don’t stay successful for ever – even the best bars eventually go off the boil.  But how many ladyboy bars can you name that have failed? Honestly, off the top of the head I can only come up with one.  Just one!  Darkside, in Sukhumvit soi 33, was always going to be up against it from the outset and its location in a small sub-soi deep in soi 33 didn’t help, neither did it being the only bar of its type in what was a dying bar area.  Darkside is the one and only ladyboy bar in Bangkok that I can remember that didn’t work out.  Even super popular bars and big names don’t boom for ever.  Spanky’s in Pattaya is a classic example of a big-name bar which closed and reopened, rethemed and renamed as Ladyboys Are Us.  If you are going in to the bar business to make money – as opposed to opening a venue for a bit of fun / as a hobby – a ladyboy bar would not be such a bad idea.  Ditto with ladyboy websites and ladyboy escort services – they’re booming, or is that boom-booming?!  And if you ever find yourself in the company of the managers or owners of the likes of the Nana Group or the Stumble Inn Group, ask them which bars make the most money AND are the easiest to run.  Let’s just say that it ain’t the girly bars!

 

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From the archives, Darkside, the short-lived Sukhumvit soi 33 ladyboy bar.

 

A reader pointed out why punters carrying bottles of water may be refused entry at the security checkpoint in Nana Plaza if they’re not willing to discard their bottle.  Said reader once had a pub in the UK where some customers would enter the bar with a water bottle…..which was actually filled with Vodka or some other white spirit.  Now I understand why some of the el cheapos may refuse to bin their 7 baht bottle of water.

For Aussies in Bangkok, next weekend is a big one sports-wise.  On Saturday, the Wallabies play the Springboks in the rugby championship.  Unless you’re a die-hard rugby fan you may want to give that a miss because I think there’s a good chance the Wallabies will get hammered.  Instead, you might want to watch the AFL final on the same day – and the place to do that is the Australian Pub on Sukhumvit soi 11. 1,600 baht gets you free-flow beer and wine, along with an Aussie lunch – meat pies and sausage rolls. Alternatively, it’s just 1,400 baht if you buy your ticket before the big day.  It all gets going from 9 AM. On Sunday, The Australian Pub will have live coverage of the NRL bogan ball grand final.  The Australian pub is about 2/3 of the way up Sukhumvit soi 11 on the left-hand side / about a 5-minute walk from the Nana skytrain station.

That same venue, The Australian Pub on Sukhumvit soi 11, celebrates its 9th anniversary this Thursday, September 27th, with an Aussie BBQ themed bash.  All are welcome, even sheep shaggers (but be nice to our Aussie pals on their big day and do not mention the rugby!)

 

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On the topic of rugby, every Thai woman I introduced rugby to went on to really enjoy watching it – and a few later commented that compared to football – that would be soccer, for you Americans – how much more exciting rugby is.  These Thai girls obviously do know a thing or two about sports.  Just sayin’…!

Further to my comments about how the terminal at Bangkok’s main airport can get rather hot inside, apparently it has been this way since day 1.  The word is that it is OK in the morning (I guess I have never happened to be there in the morning) but late afternoon the outside temperature catches up and the terminal can get rather toasty.  So maybe they should change the hours of the airport and close it during the hot part of the day and schedule flights through the night?!

One of my pet peeves living in Bangkok in the few years before I left was the police searches of Westerners in and around the Asoke area.  After years of writing about the issue in this column, it finally made the mainstream press and not long after that the Thonglor police station commented on it – and even produced a brochure in English outlining the rights of foreigners stopped by police in the street.  That looked like it would be the end of the issue.  It wasn’t.  It seems it’s business as usual and the stop and search is happening again with the very same MO – two cops on a bike ride slowly in the left lane along the main Sukhumvit Road between Emporium / Phrom Pong BTS Station and the Asoke intersection, or up and down sois in the area with the officer riding pillion eyeing up foreigners walking in the area.  When they see someone who fits whatever profile it is they have in their mind of someone up to no good, they stop and search him right there on the pavement.  Word is that they’re not looking just for drugs but also for e-cigarettes which are illegal – and for which the fines are hefty.  I’m always interested in reports from the ground so if you see or experience this happening, do drop me a note.

 

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I see that the escort booking service Smooci has expanded and some days there are more than 100 ladies online, keen and ready to visit whomever wishes to book them.  Smooci has also expanded geographically to include Manila, Hong Kong and Singapore.  What surprised me when I was having a sly browse through the listings is how much the Filipino ladies ask for.  Their rates are, on average, a lot more than what the ladies in Thailand charge.  I had wrongly assumed that the rates charges by Filipinos would be lower than the Thais given that the country is poorer and that Angeles City where the main bar district for foreigners is located is regarded as being cheaper than Pattaya.  I was wrong.  It seems bargain hunters may be better off in Bangkok.

Lecherous Gourmand Lee has got his grubby mitts on one of Dean Barrett’s most prized possessions, a polo shirt from the official March 2003 StickmanBangkok.com party.  It is described as being in perfect condition.  Previously owned by expat author Dean Barrett, Lee’s eyes light up at the thought of what it might go for on EBay.

I enjoy browsing the Pattaya forums every few days and my favourite threads are those featuring street photography.  Some forum users are avid photographers and stroll the streets of Sin City and take lots – and I mean LOTS – of photos and post them on the forum for all to enjoy.  A favourite photographic subject appears to be Thai women on motorbikes and Thai women sitting outside massage shops.  And the impression one gets of Thai women from these photo collections?  Overweight!  Making it worse, most of these women appear to be aged in their 20s yet they are rather plump.  Oh, how the shape of working girls in Pattaya has changed.

 

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If you’re looking for a good steak in Bangkok, I’m told you should drop by the Steakhouse Co in Patpong soi 2.  I’m yet to try it but will put that right the next time I am in town.  Call me crazy, I tend to eat more Western food in Thailand than Thai food these days.

The entrance fee at Wat Po is to double from 100 to 200 baht.  I used to always recommend it as the temple to go to – it was never anywhere near as busy as The Grand Palace meaning it was more relaxing to visit, and the entrance charge was always a lot cheaper.  Not that long ago, it was only 30 baht to get in to Wat Po, before it went to 50 baht then 100 baht and at the start of next year jumps to 200 baht.  OK, so 200 baht still isn’t a lot of money, but the way the entrance fee doubles in price is just another indicator that Bangkok is not  the bargain it used to be.  The highlight of Wat Po is the enormous and impressive reclining Buddha.  I wonder how much entry in to the Grand Palace is these days?

Back on the subject of Thai women, I scratch my head when people call them gold diggers, something that admittedly I was as guilty of in the past as anyone.  What I have come to observe as I have moved away from the bar life is that some Thai women are extremely generous when it comes to their partner – be they Thai or foreign.  A Thai female friend of ours floored me this week when I learned what she had bought for her Kiwi husband for his birthday.  A brank-spanking-new Tesla.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, the price tag of a new Tesla is about the same as a new Porsche.  Great lady, great couple.

 

anigif

 

Quote of the week comes from a forum post, “Old cars become collectors’ items, old bargirls don’t!

The most prolific readers’ submission contributor of all time, Dana, brought us up to date with his life, “Cancer in Bangkok, Cancer in Boston“.

A Kiwi doing business with a Nigerian in Bangkok is looking at a long stretch in jail.

A Thai woman chomped on an Indian man’s lip after a fight broke out on Walking Street.

 

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Larry, enjoying retirement in Pattaya.

 

There are a number of bar industry figures who I have long wanted to interview but whenever I ask they have always turned me down.  Some have explained that the reason for declining is the worry in the back of their mind about their profile being raised and the legality of what they are doing.  Even with a work permit, some find themselves in a bit of a grey area.  Larry was a great person to profile – and there are plenty more I’d like to interview.  I know, however, that there is a good deal of paranoia out there and most people I ask to interview turn me down, which is a shame.  If you know anyone who you think would make a good subject to profile and interview – and they are up for it – let me know.  I think interviews work well as an opening piece.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]