Butterflies, Billboard’s Little Sister
On the top floor of Nana Plaza is Butterflies, the little sister of Bangkok’s best gogo bar, Billboard. Last month I spent a few hours in Butterflies, chatting with the girls and taking a few photographs. Here’s what I saw.
Butterflies is owned by the same people behind Billboard, hence I refer to it as Billboard’s little sister.
The first sign of a connection between Butterflies and Billboard is outside the bar where the signage for the two bars is in the same style.
Butterflies is located on the top floor on the right-handside, in a spot where few bars have tasted success. Before Butterflies it was Jailbirdz, the prison-themed Jailbirdz which never took off.
The team behind Butterflies and Billboard once had plans to open a themed gogo bar. They were going to fill a gogo bar with ladies with big boobs! That never happened but there are a good few dancers in Butterflies who would be a fit for such a bar, and more than a few have obviously upped the wattage on their headlights.
Butterflies does consistently well and is amongst the more popular bars in Nana Plaza. And like Billboard, it is yet more proof that location within Nana Plaza is not that important. If a bar is good, word gets out and the punters come. There’s no need to pay the premium for space on the ground floor of the plaza. In fact, looking at the current lineup there is a pretty good argument that none of the best bars in Nana Plaza are on the ground floor!
As popular as Butterflies is, it’s not in the same league as Billboard….but then what bar is?
Butterflies has a fun crew and the ladies were easier to photograph than other bars I shot this past trip, Chili aside which had the best crew of the lot. The girls in Butterflies were friendly, and the vibe was laid-back. I personally prefer Butterflies over Billboard which feels a little more business-like.
Butterflies is large and with heaps of space there is room for lounge seating in addition to the usual tiered, stadium-style seating found in most gogo bars.
Because it’s so big, sometimes half the bar is closed off to maintain an atmosphere. Butterflies has an automated curtain which can close half of the cavernous bar off.
Butterflies features a large tub, a shower set, and a couple of dance floors / stages.
Butterflies is, at a guess, the second largest bar in the plaza after Twister BKK. On Friday and Saturday nights there are around 85 girls on stage. And just like its sister bar Billboard, Butterflies is free of fatties and oldies. It’s amazing that these two bars can recruit so well when many bars have real problems getting staff.
There is a little overlap between Butterflies and Billboard, with mamasan Tukata keeping an eye on things in both Billboard and Butterflies. Some of the girls in Butterflies may have danced in Billboard at one time, and vice versa.
The number one girl in the bar – and, boy, does she know it! The most barfined girl and from all accounts, satisfaction is guaranteed.
She just loved to be photographed and jumped ahead of others in the queue, posing and vying for attention.
If you fancy a lady who is genuinely confident in her own skin – not a quality I have found in all that many Thai women (from any walks of life) – this lady fits the bill.
Butterflies features some very slim ladies – and here I use the word “slim” when perhaps skinny would be more accurate. Skinny as in too slim, at least in my eyes.
Slim Thai ladies tend to look young and that is a worry because in Bangkok gogo bars, ladies who look young attract creeps.
By law, ladies cannot dance in these bars if they are aged under 18. I have always thought that 18 is still much too young. I have previously said that the age should be increased to 20 (which, it should be noted, is the minimum age for customers). It’s one big grey area because technically prostitution is not legal, but at the same time the legal age to work in naughty bars is 18.
Given the way they are raised and the general naivety of so many Thai females in their late teens and early 20s, many aren’t prepared for this lifestyle at 18 – and neither do I think they’re ready for it at 20. Of course you could argue that they are never ready for it. In hindsight, I think 20 is still too young. 23 might be better.
Thai ladies in their late teens and early 20s are for the most part like a deer in the headlights. They just aren’t ready for it. This is not 2018 in a developed country where employers provide all sorts of support to staff. These ladies are in the lions’ den and the bar staff whose job it is to look after the dancers – the mamasans – are mostly in it for themselves and provide little support at all. An older lady might take younger ladies under their wing, but for the most part this industry is cut-throat with mamasans often jealous of the popularity of younger girls, resentful of all the money that they make and often running some scheme or con to extract some of that money from the new girls.
Another young-looking lady, Miss Pair was more like a sweet, playful kitten than a hardened gogo dancer.
The lounge seats are comfortable but the view isn’t nearly as good as it is from other parts of the bar because of the lower vantage point. Still, I guess the idea is that on the lounge seats you’re less interested in what’s on stage and more interested in the lady sitting beside you.
The girls in Butterflies were amongst the most polite and friendly girls I have shot in a bar. They seemed happy in one another’s company and that bodes well for the atmosphere in the bar. Probably only Pretty Lady 2013 / 2014 had a friendlier crew.
Being around these ladies and hearing the way they talk to one another gives an insight in to their lives. They forget that the odd foreigner understands what they’re saying and tend to be quite frank with one another. You hear about all of the shit they get up to from gambling to drugs to making plans to meet dancer friends at the end of the night when the real party begins. Some use really coarse language and, forgive me saying it, their language is so vulgar that they come across as trash. In one Nana gogo bar the girls are so crude that if they spoke that way around their parents they’d get a real spanking. But there was none of that in Butterflies where many of the girls just don’t have the persona of hardened girls. Yes, they’re hookers but that doesn’t mean they’re not nice girls. There was something about the Butterflies crew and the vibe in the bar that you don’t find in many bars these days.
Blow me……a kiss
If you like slim, these two should be to your liking.
Now we’re talking, that’s more like the body shape I prefer.
Unlike most bars where it feels like it’s every girl for herself (which is quite understandable), in Butterflies it felt more like a team effort.
Many of the girls were keen to get their photo taken with friends which in my experience is always a good sign that they’re generally happy and get along well.
My feeling is that the positive vibe in Butterflies has something to do with mamasan Tukata. A long-time servant and sidekick of Peter in Pretty Lady Bar, a favourite bar of mine back in 2013 and 2014, there is a similar vibe in Butterflies that makes me wonder if the one commonality, Tukata, has something to do with it.
Happy, friendly girls enjoying themselves.
I wrote some 15+ years ago that I thought it took about 6 weeks for a girl new to the industry to change. By change, I mean that if she got out before that period of time had passed then she might escape largely unscathed….but if she stayed longer the experiences she had would likely mean she’d never be quite the same again. I wrote that back when the bar industry was much quieter and the girls dealt with much less traffic. These days I guess that maybe a couple of weeks in the bar industry is all it takes for a lady to change, perhaps irreversibly.
Butterflies is a good bar with a fun vibe. You could find much worse bars to stop by.
Well, I really got it wrong last week, didn’t I, suggesting that the mystery photo would be tricky and that it might be so difficult that no-one would get it right. I guess you didn’t like that because about 30 people got last week’s right in a statement that you know Bangkok well! Last week’s photo was taken at the back of Chuwit Park next to Sukhumvit soi 10 of the temple-like building which it is said was once home to Chuwit himself, the massage parlour tycoon turned politician who is not infrequently in the news.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
The Nana Asoke corridor.
I agree the distance isn’t that far between Nana and Asoke to necessitate taking the BTS or a taxi, especially during the daytime hours. To transverse that stretch of Sukhumvit after dark by foot is much easier ever since the City prohibited the vendors from operating off the curb or street-side of the sidewalk. I can recall before when walking that gauntlet, flanked by street vendors it often became a single-file, narrow squeeze, especially when it bottlenecked in certain tight spots. And when a pedestrian stopped to browse the array of brass knuckles, porn DVDs, fake designer T-shirts, butterfly knives, street Viagra, laser flashlights, sex toys, tasers, etc. the entire line came to a halt. It was even more claustrophobic during the rainy season when plastic tarps were set-up overhead, lending it a ‘tunnel’ effect. More than once, along with a few other pedestrians in a hurry, we would actually walk off the curb and along the street. Of course, this was only the nightly norm on the odd numbered-soi side but at night, the even-numbered side was often rife with suspicious ladyboy pickpockets lurking in the dark shadows, if not Burmese beggar ladies cradling a baby.
With regards to Crazy House, a few weeks ago at 8:00 PM I walked in and was immediately asked to buy a beer. In Thai, I said I just want to look first. I was pushed back out the door.
New visitors creating a bad vibe.
Just back in Stockholm after a short holiday in Thailand. On Saturday night, 20-30% of customers in Spanky’s were from India. Billboard had them too. But many of them behaved like shit, and created a bad vibe. I have to call it as I see it. At Spanky’s, groups of Indian guys with a misogynistic attitude of macho strip club behaviour, how to be “a player”, were making loud comments about the girls. A strange group dynamic, and not fun. At Billboard, an Indian grabbed a seat by the shower pool and nicked a half-full beer another customer had left behind and tried to convince the staff that it was his beer and that he didn’t have to buy anything else. It took the staff a few minutes to sort it out and then the Indian was asked to leave. At my hotel, 4 Indians sat next to me at breakfast where a sweet breakfast hostess was not fast enough in giving a guy hot chocolate and he yelled at her without any reason. Don’t the Japanese, Korean and Chinese customers dislike the Indians as well? The north Asians will at some point force the bars to choose what kind of customers they want.
You wrote about buying rounds of drinks and asked for opinions. It’s one of my absolutely pet hates. Imagine the scene: You are sitting in a German “Wirtshaus” (a combination of pub and restaurant in the countryside) and you find yourself at the “Stammtisch” (a big table for regulars). Someone buys a round of drinks for the 10 people at this table. Immediately, the second person buys the second round. Now you have two possibilities: You can buy a round yourself. Normally it’s not too much money, but it is money you didn’t want to spend. If you don’t buy a round you will feel guilty. But if everybody buys a round, you are sitting with 10 drinks you really don’t want. So please, for heaven’s sake: Pay for your own drinks and let me pay for mine!
Going native, a Brit’s thoughts.
Two thoughts on your column on expats in Thailand. One is that I am sure many are drawn to the country because of its lack of law enforcement that borders on total anarchy. Nearly everything in Thailand is treated casually (you mentioned time-keeping, for example), which means that no-one really has to try too hard. That appeals to expats who can’t or won’t keep up to the standards back in their homeland. The result is that, when it comes to expats, Thailand attracts many from the bottom of the barrel, people who would be very out-of-place in other countries in the region such as Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong where not trying too hard and not bothering to obey local laws can have dire consequences. Then two, as you say, many lose perspective on Thailand’s place in the world – which is nowhere. The locals don’t know and would never admit it if they did, but Thailand has never had and does not have now the slightest effect on the rest of the world. It is, in reality, an insignificant South-East Asian backwater with no influence in finance, manufacturing, social affairs, politics or anything else. The country has never invented anything original, with for example so-called Thai success stories such as the silk industry being established by an American and Red Bull, supposedly Thai, just a locally produced brew until the company was bought by an Austrian and marketed properly.
Going native, an American’s thoughts.
I wonder sometimes how native I actually am. I know I am out-of-place when I go back to the USA. I think there is a kind of expat comfort zone. Riding a motorbike here in SE Asia, I suck it up that the locals are gonna do stupid shit and I don’t get angry about it. In fact I pull off some of the same stupid shit as well as it is what the locals expect. I do keep one thought in my mind all the time, however. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is if you’re dead. Also, as silly as it might sound, riding a bike has probably kept me alive as it keeps me in check as to how many beers I can actually drink and never get 3 sheets to the wind. Westerners have rarely paid me back, but I have loaned a substantial sum of money to a local to help her open a bar and it all came back with interest. As a general rule, my buffalo is sick too, sorry. I don’t find it odd that the Thais don’t know or don’t care what happens outside of their borders. I know people in the US who have never left the state much less their hometown and have no intention of doing so. Plenty of US late night comedy shows periodically take questions to the streets and it’s amazing how dumb Americans can be. One show went abroad and asked the same questions in the UK and they answered them all correctly. Kind of embarrassing.
When I look at the photos I took in Nana Plaza recently, especially those taken in day-light, the plaza in general looks a little rough and in need of a refresh. It’s only 6 years since the plaza changed hands and the new owners put a lot of money in to dressing up the plaza and painting it yellow, causing me to call it Banana Plaza. The life of an entertainment complex isn’t an easy one and the plaza is looking sok-a-brok again. The owners’ willingness to invest in and improve the plaza makes me think it won’t be long before they pull out the cheque book again. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think killing the yellow colour scheme (what was the reason behind that?!) would upset anyone.
And I am sure the owners of Bangkok’s newest gogo bar, Geisha, wouldn’t say no to the plaza being tidied up after their new investment opened this week. In a trend that one imagines will go down well with many punters, Geisha – a girly bar – replaced Charades on the top floor of Nana Plaza and what was for many years a ladyboy bar. As the only Korean-owned bar in the plaza, I wonder if the owners of Geisha will target a more North Asian crowd than your typical farang-owned bar? I really should give Geisha a few weeks to settle in before saying anything but one does rather get the feeling that it has not made friends in its first week. Geisha pinched a lot of the dancers who work for the agency which supplies amongst others, Rainbow 1, Rainbow 3 and Mandarin. Last night Rainbow 1 and Rainbow 3 were hit hard with just 10 – 15 dancers in each bar while Geisha had 60+. It may be early days but already nobody likes the Korean owner who has been described as loud, brash, rude, swears like a sailor and drinks like three!
If you were in Bangkok for a dirty weekend you might have been disappointed with the girls being covered up the past couple of nights. Word is that nonsense will be short-lived and everything will be back to normal tonight.
Peter is the name of the homeless foreigner photographed in this column a couple of weeks ago. While I spotted him a few times sleeping under the steps leading up to the Nana BTS station, word is that he actually lives down Sukhumvit soi 9 with some Thais.
And following on from recent comments and conjecture about an entry charge at Crazy House, word is that if you are a regular / are well-dressed then you get in free. Those not known by bar security, Indians and scruffs are more likely to be charged an entry fee.
Shark bar in Soi Cowboy was very good when I was in town recently and a pal tells me it is continuing to do well, so well in fact that if you want one of the lovely ladies to sit with you, your lap may be the only available space for her to plant her derrière.
And following on from my question a few weeks back asking if any bars have bar-themed merchandise for sale, Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy has a selection of shirts and caps available for purchase. I personally wouldn’t wear that sort of thing anywhere in Asia, but back home they make for great conversation starters.
On any given night, what percentage of the Soi Cowboy crowd is made up of Western females? 5%? 10%? It has been suggested that on the occasional night it could be as high as 20%! Most females visiting Soi Cowboy come in groups; few Western females venture to Soi Cowboy alone. Those who do make it to Cowboy on their own often have a plan to leave with company…..so that Western female in the bar might not just be a lookyloo, but your competition, so to speak.
It would seem that Angelwitch has caught the Nanapong bug and a rematch with Dollhouse is already being planned, tentatively for early February. Given that the Angelwitch crew was new to Nanapong, now that they know what is required it will be interesting to see how they tool up for round 2.
Bar4 in Soi Nana is joining in the Christmas spirit. For those who like to start early, Johnny Walker Red, Jim Beam & Bacardi Rum are just 80 baht before 8 PM. And premium spirits like Johnny Walker Black, Jack Daniels, Absolut, Smirnoff and Bombay Sapphire are just 90 baht before 8 PM. All beers are 90 baht before 8 PM too. After 8 PM the same drinks run 120 / 130 baht which is good value on Soi Nana these days. Other specials include Chivas at 140 baht & Grey Goose at 150 baht. For cold beer and warm company. stop by Bar4 where the girls will be happy to join you for a drink – but only if invited, the owner tells me.
Something a friend emailed me this week about Pattaya really resonated – that in Pattaya it feels like most are out to make a quick buck. Contrast that with Bangkok where it feels like business owners are actually trying to build something substantial. This is just another factor which gives Pattaya a rather different vibe to Bangkok.
And word from Pattaya is that the high season arrived this week with an influx of visitors of all shapes and colours.
Have you sent money to a Thai lady who told you that she loved you? Was the sending of money predicated on her saying that she was single when perhaps later you found out that she had lied to you and she wasn’t single at all? Or that perhaps she was single but she was telling the same story to other men who were also sending her money? Conventional wisdom has always been that it was the foreign man’s choice to send money to a Thai lady, no-one forced him to do it and as such he has no-one to blame but himself. But Thailand has some strange laws and foreigners don’t always know what’s real. On Tuesday of this past week I was watching the morning news from Thailand – as I do most days – and there was a story of a Thai woman who had been sending payments to a Thai man who she was romantically involved with and with whom she thought she was the one. Over time, the amount she sent was in excess of 600,000 baht. The man had made out he was single but she later discovered that he was not, and he in fact had a family he lived with. It was reported that the lady had complained to police that she had sent this man money based on what she had been told and as such she had been defrauded. The police accepted the case as a criminal matter and opened an investigation. Then 3 days later another news item ran with a similar theme – a Thai guy had sent payments to a Thai lady totalling 36,100 baht. It would transpire that the Thai lady had also made claims which were later found appeared not to be true. Family of the guy who had sent the money got involved and insisted that if the money was not returned within 4 days then they would make a criminal complaint about the lady and see the case through to the bitter end. Thinking about the (many thousands of) foreign men who have sent money to Thai women who have told them similarly bogus stories, the question has to be asked: how would the Thai police respond to a complaint from a foreign man about a Thai woman who had made false claims to get him to send her money? Would they accept the case? My personal feeling is that oftentimes it’s best just to chalk things like this up to experience, learn from it and move on…..but with that said, it would be interesting to know how a complaint from a foreigner in a situation like this would be received by the cops.
I can’t imagine what it is like for British retirees in Thailand who have seen the Pound Sterling creep lower and lower with the Brexit mess. Brits are getting less than 41 baht to the Pound this week. Will it fall below the psychological level of 40 baht?
Bourbon Street’s Christmas buffet will be available on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On the 24th, you can make reservations for the buffet between 5 – 10 PM. On Christmas Day itself, reservations can be made from 11:30 AM until 4:00 PM from which time it is first come, first served. Bourbon Street is well-known for its buffets, from its Tuesday Mexican buffet night to its anniversary buffet to Christmas and the best-known of them all, its Thanksgiving spread. Personally, I wouldn’t fancy going to a buffet at Christmas – but that’s me. But if the idea of gorging yourself on Christmas favourites for not a lot of money appeals, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Bourbon Street.
What happened to the price of Beer Lao in supermarkets? A small bottle of Beer Lao in Foodland is now 58 baht. Compare that to local beers which go for a bit over half that. OK, so Beer Lao is imported so that means higher transportation costs, import taxes etc. but the factory is only just across the border from Thailand so transport costs shouldn’t be significant. Not that long ago, Beer Lao was just 42 baht a bottle in local supermarkets so the jump in price seems steep. I’ve long maintained that Thai breweries fear Beer Lao – a far superior brew to anything made in Thailand – flooding the country and causing sales of local Thai beers to fall.
I commented a few months back about the shrimp Pat Thai dish at Foodland jumping in price from 95 baht to 139 baht. What I failed to note was that where before they gave you 3 medium-sized prawns, now you get 4 big ones. I have to admit that I ordered it a couple of times this past trip – and it was as good as ever. Pat Thai is one dish they just don’t do well here in Kiwiland – and I cannot for the life of me make it well either.
Another Christmas dining option is Steakhouse Co on Patpong soi 2. Many restaurants and bars put on a Christmas spread and prices are often cranked up to silly levels. Christmas dinner for 999 baht is reasonable by Bangkok standards.
Heaps of bars and restaurants will do Christmas specials and there are just too many to mention. I imagine most (perhaps even all) of the British / Aussie / Kiwi pubs will have a Christmas deal of some sort, be it a buffet or a set menu sort of deal. Apologies to all those venues which emailed info about what they have on offer but which didn’t make it in to the column. The good news for readers keen to enjoy a Christmas pig-out is that there’s heaps of options – just ask at your favourite pub or restaurant what they have planned.
The wife of a friend is a tour guide in Bangkok. Recently her job was to travel from Bangkok to the port at Laem Chabang (which is about half an hour from Pattaya) where she would meet a group of cruise ship visitors who had booked a day trip to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. She would be their guide on what would be their one and only activity for the day the ship was in port. The visitors were collected at the ship, herded in to a minivan with my friend’s wife giving them commentary about Thailand along the way. Traffic was bad that day and it took over 3 hours to get from the port to the Grand Palace. But things don’t always go to plan in Thailand, do they? When they finally reach their destination, they discover that it is closed that day (not closed as in a tout said it was closed, but genuinely closed to the public). And so the minivan turns around and they make the slow trip back to the cruise ship in what must rank as one of the worst day trips ever organised for cruise ship passengers anywhere in the world!
A friend joined a visa run trip last week and the minivan ended up going to Myanmar instead of Cambodia where, apparently, the authorities are more relaxed about visa runners coming and going. However, it was not all fun and games and just before the minivan left Bangers, a representative from the visa run company got on the minivan and made an announcement about where they are going, and warned that there are no embassies there so if for any reason you could not get back in to Thailand you’d be on your own. (It was not explained why one may be able to enter Myanmar but then not return to Thailand.) At that point one person got off the minivan. Things aren’t as easy as they used to be, it would seem.
Quote of the week comes from Bangkok Barry, “Whether something is illegal or not has absolutely no relevance in Thailand.”
Reader’s story of the week comes from Kloth, Soi Saiyuan.
The mystery of the body of a small-framed lady found in remote hills has people wondering just who the Thai bride is.
Bangkok’s iconic Dusit Thani Hotel will close its doors for good next month.
The head of Immigration says the crackdown on overstayers is here to stay.
What would this handsome devil make of Bangkok? (Answer: he’d hate it!)
Some readers and even some who contribute stories in the readers’ submissions section think they know me better than I know myself, suggesting I’d rather be in Thailand than New Zealand. Some have even said that I am miserable in New Zealand which I can only guess is them projecting their own feelings about themselves being away from Thailand. I still enjoy visiting Thailand but have no plans to move back. And even if I wanted to move back – which I don’t – it wouldn’t be easy. When I first moved to Thailand I was young and single. Today I am neither. One of the many complications of such a move is what I would do with my pets. Taking them to Thailand would be easy, but from Thailand you can’t take them back to New Zealand. My pets are my family and just like me, by being born in New Zealand they won the birth lottery. My pets are not going anywhere – and neither am I. So dream on those of you who like to speculate about others and who really don’t know what you’re talking about.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org