No opening piece this week, I am afraid. It has been a long week for me so it’s just the mystery photo, readers’ emails and news & views this week.
Last week’s photo was a close-up of the large sign outside Glamour Bar in Patpong soi 2. Only two people got it right so this week’s mystery photo is a little easier.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Circumventing class hierarchy.
I have thought about and discussed the rigid class structure of Thai society. I was very aware of class in Asia having had experience with an Asian girl before my move to Thailand. On our first trip back in 2000 my boss brought a dark-skinned Isaan girl from a bar in soi 33 with us to business meetings with Thais. You could see their disdain and what an uncomfortable position it put them in. My colleague and I were totally embarrassed. Even when I got involved and married an Isaan girl myself, I did my best to keep her out of my professional life. Some very respectable Thai women that I worked with were reluctant to be seen with me fearing they might be branded as a bargirl. One of the things I came to realize and discussed with friends was how the majority of Farang expats and others had Thai girlfriends and wives from a questionable background. When they brought them out in social situations and elevated them to higher status the Thais resented this. As you point out, Thais spot them easily. The farangs had circumvented the class hierarchy, and were not playing by the rules. Those Thai women who played by the rules, who had been to college and remained chaste were seeing bargirls with purses that cost the equivalent of their monthly salary. All of this contributed to anti-Farang sentiment that I noticed increasing in my years living in Thailand.
Thais weighing up Westerners.
My interpretation is that the average Thai has no clue which class the average westerner comes from. As you say, the behaviour of the individual and his manner definitely gives the Thais an indication of what our backgrounds are but what the Thais can’t get their head around is that how these individuals pull out thousands of baht and spend up large. I think it goes back to the fact that countries like Australia have one of the highest unskilled labour pay rates in the world. So you could be a cleaner or a garbage collector in the west and still be earning good coin. Don’t even mention unionised jobs where a building constructor can earn as much as a senior professional. The average Thai has no concept of this.
Indians and Crazy House.
I drop in to Cowboy once in a while and bar hop a bit with Doll House being my go to bar. On my last trip about a month ago I wanted to try out Crazy House but I was stopped at the door. They didn’t ask to see my passport but demanded a 600 baht ‘membership fee’. I’m Indian. I was bit surprised as no bar in Cowboy or Nana ever asked me for a membership fee before. When I asked for an explanation they didn’t bother and the bouncer refused entry. Indians being refused entry to some establishments is not so uncommon in other areas but not in Cowboy so that’s why I always go to Cowboy. But this changes things a bit. Just trying to figure out if this is due to race issues or just that they feel Indians aren’t big spenders. I’m not upset about it. I’m just trying the figure out the reasoning. In any case, I just moved on to another bar which was happy to welcome me and my business.
Indian lookalike and Crazy House.
I’m an English guy with a Caribbean ancestry and I have been mistaken for an Indian quite a lot in Thailand. I have had a problem entering Crazy House for a few years now. I have also been refused entry to Rainbow 4 in Nana Plaza. The first thing I usually get told is that it’s a private club for members only, because they think I’m Indian. So I get my passport out and show them I’m from England. I mean you just have to hear me speak and you will know that I’m from south London! It’s happened 3 times in recent years. I’ve had to remonstrate with the doorman and tell him I’m a Liverpool fan before I was allowed in one time. This year, however, he was having none of it. I got my passport out after being told “private club members only.” I said I’m from England, you remember me? I support Liverpool, at which point he said “me Man U” – which is almost enough to make me walk away! Anyway, after a minute or so he said “500 baht!” I found myself walking back to Craft on soi 23 to lick my wounds. I was not happy and it still rankles. So there you go, racism is alive and well in Crazy House. I am not going back to be insulted again and do that dance. Screw that.
Stick can’t count!
In your column “Where Farang Fit In” you said “Did you know, for example, that Nana Plaza has 3 different short-time hotels within the complex?” Unless one has closed since my last visit, there are actually 4 short-times hotels in the plaza. Three on the third floor, and then the one that sits directly above Erotica, accessible via that narrow stairway next to the Erotica entrance.
Down in Pattaya, Dollhouse on soi 15 off Walking Street will host a Nanapong-style dance contest featuring their own dolls as well as teams from Club Electric Blue and XXX Lounge. The fun and games take place this coming Saturday, November 17th to celebrate Andy’s birthday party. It’s not an official Nanapong dance contest but rather is being described as an out-of-control event so knowing those behind it, it could be a bit of an eye-opener.
Upstairs in Dollhouse Pattaya, XXX Lounge is going from strength to strength and has gained quite a following amongst Pattaya locals. Do drop by to see what all the fuss is about.
And across town in Pattaya’s soi 6, a couple of new gogo bars have opened. Is this an indication that things could move in a new direction on the infamous soi?
Word from Sin City is that the worm has turned and high season is starting to kick in.
And it’s much the same in Bangkok where the second largest bar group in Soi Nana says that the worst high season in years is over and things have turned around. That’s not to say that they’re booming, but there has been a definite upturn in trade.
Remember the dancer Mauy from The Strip in Patpong who I profiled a couple of years ago in the column who had been attacked by another girl in the bar with a knife? She’s not the only gogo dancer sporting knife wound scars. A dancer in Long Gun has what looks like a nasty scar across her ummm, errr, you-know-what! A clear diagonal cut through the labia is how a friend described it to me….nasty. It’s not the first time Long Gun has taken on a lady who has had a rugged time. Once upon a time there was a dancer in Long Gun who had an eye missing and more recently a poor lady had a hand missing (which looked like a birth defect as opposed to trauma / amputation). Good on Long Gun for taking on these ladies who may not have been given the same opportunities in other bars.
The large, iconic Super Pussy sign towards the Suriwong Road end of Patpong soi 1 is a reminder of what Patpong once was. Or at least the sign was a reminder of what Patpong once was. Today that sign is in complete darkness and in many ways it is symbolic of what Patpong has become as one after the other bars are closing. Sometimes these bars are replaced by another bar, or perhaps by a shop selling tourist trinkets. But increasingly what seems to be happening to bars closing in Patpong – particularly second floor bars on Patpong soi 2 – is that they shut up shop and the space remains empty. Is it that a new tenant cannot be found, or is it perhaps that a new tenant is not being sought – which would raise all sorts of questions if that was the case…
Shark Bar in Soi Cowboy is said to have a really good lineup at present.
There’s a certain charm to the Isaan region. It’s a colourful part of the country from the landscapes to the clothes many of the rural folks wear to the colourful billboards to the colourful people themselves, many of whom really are characters. If you haven’t been to the Isaan region, you can experience that part of the country where the vast majority of bargirls working in the farang bars come from at a party at Mandarin bar in Nana Plaza this coming Friday, November 16th. There will be a free buffet, shows and my pet peeve, a “special” lottery. There’s anything wrong with a lottery but why not come out and say what the “special” prizes are?! Details on the poster below.
There has been an avalanche of reports about the police stopping foreigners in downtown Bangkok. Some of these stops are conducted by two boys in brown patrolling on a motorbike, while others are at major road checkpoints. In the case of the latter, foreigners often find themselves asked to get out of the car they are in and subjected to a search where locals may not be. These stops and checkpoints have been reported at the Asoke intersection, the Rama 4 / Rachada intersection, out front of Emporium, on Sukhumvit soi 23, on Thonglor, on Ekamai…and quite probably they are happening in other central locations too. The aforementioned locations come up again and again. If you walk around these areas (or take a taxi through these areas late at night), don’t be surprised if you are stopped by police, questioned, asked to turn out your pockets, have any bags or possessions searched / checked to include your wallet. It’s happening so much these days it hardly qualifies as news any more….but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
Will the first sub-soi on the right off Sukhumvit soi 8 become known as Soi Kiwi? After all, it has two New Zealand themed spots – The Kiwi and Snapper New Zealand.
And just a little bit east along Sukhumvit Road from soi 8, the saphan loy (pedestrian overbridge) between sois 11 and 13 on one side and sois 8 and 10 on the other is being dismantled. A new bridge will be built connecting the new yet-to-open hotel at the start of 13 with the Nana skytrain station.
Speaking of the skytrain, things are going to get worse – much worse, I imagine – next month when another nine stations are going to come online on the Sukhumvit line, stretching all the way to Pattaya. OK, so that’s an exaggeration and doesn’t go all the way to Pattaya at all, but it does go deep down in to Samut Prakan – which is going to massively increase the number of people who use that line. If there is no corresponding increase in carriages and / or frequency of trains on the Sukhumvit line then it’s going to get even more congested in the carriages. It’s already crazy at peak times and it’s just going to get worse. In the morning at the Onut station – which used to be the last skytrain station on the Sukhumvit line – some friends report they have to wait for 5 trains to come and go before they can get on. When these new 9 stations come on and the massive influx of passengers, it can only get worse – much worse!
With the rainy season done and dusted for another year, it’s cooler in Bangkok – and cool weather means Christmas isn’t far away….and in Bangkok, you know what that means. Yep, Emporium already has Christmas trees and Christmas decorations up outside and no doubt other malls will follow shortly.
The bridge which is roughly at the halfway point along the path connecting Benkajit and Lumpini parks is full of scribblings by the one-man graffiti machine who I have previously referred to as the mad scientist. All along this bridge are literally hundreds of scribblings and indecipherable equations of the fellow whose work I first started mentioning about 5 years ago. Said fellow has been reported to the police on a few occasions but nothing seems to have happened to him and his diagrams can be seen over an increasingly wide area. He has been referred to online as kon ba (a crazy guy) and he’s no stranger in the Thai press.
If you have a history over the years of visiting Thailand you know that the Thai baht’s value has jumped around. At this time it’s fairly strong and most of us don’t get as many baht for our dollars / pounds / Euros as we once did. Do you make mental calculations of every purchase when in Thailand or do you just go with the flow? I know we bitch and moan about the exchange rate but at the end of the day, does it really affect your decision-making that much? Does it change how you go about your holiday? Have the changes in exchange rate caused you to think again about visiting Thailand? For me, the New Zealand dollar is down against the baht over the past 4 years by roughly 12%. I used to always think the Kiwi dollar got around 25 baht but these days it’s more like 22. I don’t like that, but I live with it and I just figure I’ll spend a bit more on holiday. But I have to say that it’s not really had any effect on my decision-making of whether to visit or not. If I spend 10 – 15% more on holiday because of the baht, so be it. For me, it has not moved enough to make me worry about it. Yet.
I know this column is not typically read by first-time visitors or those contemplating visiting Thailand for the first time but if there are any such readers out there, one small piece of advice I have is about elephant rides in Thailand. Don’t! Why not? To start with, they’re not exactly comfortable to sit on. They’re not tall enough to give you any sort of special view. There’s no “rapport” with the beast in the same way there would be if you spent time at an elephant conservation centre like the one in Lampang. And it’s not like you get great photos from up on an elephant. I remember paying 500 baht for an elephant ride in the mid-90s. Oh, man, they saw me coming. That’s probably about the worst 500 baht I ever spent in Thailand!
Reader’s story of the week comes from Baht Man, Golden Age Of The Farang Part 4.
From The Bangkok Post, Thai hospitals may have to list prices online.
Thailand’s newest mega mall in Bangkok, IconSiam, opened this week.
My apologies that this week’s column is shorter than usual with no opening piece. I’ve had a busy week and have been really tired the past couple of days hence there’s no opener. So tired in fact that I still haven’t watched last night’s big rugby match between New Zealand and England. If ever there was a sure sign that I really am knackered, it’s missing such a big match. I don’t like to publish a column without an opening piece but it’s something that happens a few times per year – and this happened to be one of those weeks. I’ll do better next week.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]