The explosion of new Indian restaurants in downtown Bangkok and Pattaya is not due to locals developing a taste for Indian food. And bars with names like “Exclusive India” are not for Thais or Farangs. The Indians are coming and Thailand is ready to welcome them.
Geographical proximity, a rapidly growing middle class and an economy on fire has the number of Indians visiting Thailand set to take off. 1.5 million Indians currently visit Thailand annually, compared to almost 11 million Chinese. I’d expect to see double-digit growth in the number of Indians visiting Thailand for years to come, possibly even decades. And given the structure of Indian society, don’t be surprised if the majority of Indian visitors are men.
Sex before marriage is generally not accepted in India. Could there be an avalanche of Indian men with pent-up sexual frustration descending on the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya? That’s exactly what some bar hounds think – and they aren’t happy about it.
Amongst the holidaying Indians will be many first-time international travellers who have little idea of the dos and donts in a foreign land, in much the same way as has been seen with Chinese travelling abroad for the first time.
Many Westerners say that Indians are tight with their money. Even if they are, why is this anyone else’s concern? If they have no money or don’t like to part with it, they won’t get the girls.
Some foreigners claim Indians smell. But is this any different from Westerners in Thailand? Ask the average everyday Thai what they most dislike about Westerners in Thailand and the way they smell and their strong body odour will be right near top of the list.
Some punters love to tell the story of an Indian inviting a working girl back to his room only for her to get there and supposedly find half a dozen of his mates licking their lips and waiting their turn. Is this common? I doubt it. Has it happened? Sure…but it has happened with Caucasians too. If this sort of thing really was common amongst Indians, word would spread amongst the girls and they would insist on Indian customers using short-time rooms where there could be no such surprise.
Clutching at straws as they desperately try to discredit Indians, some complain that Indians in the bars make a ruckus and jabber away in their own lingo. Some Westerners actually have the gall to complain about this. Seriously? Any group going hard on the booze and becoming animated may not be fun to be around, depending on your mood.
I keep hearing that Indians carry sexual diseases and don’t use condoms. Even if it was true – and I very much doubt it – what does it matter?! All that matters is that you use a condom! Probably 90% of bargirls have at some time had unprotected sex with a customer so you’re throwing the dice if you don’t wrap up. Very few bargirls are totally vigilant and only a small percentage can claim to have used a condom every time. If customers refusing to use a condom is a concern about other punters in the bars, expats aged over 60 should be banned. They are the most likely to refuse to wrap up. Don’t concern yourself with the behaviour of others – the onus is on you to wear a love glove.
Yes, granted, there are some girls who refuse to go with Indians. This is real, but at the same time it’s not an issue for other punters and not something Westerners should be concerned about. I’ve heard far more bargirls say they won’t go with black men than say they won’t go with Indians. You’re just as likely to find ladies in the bars who refuse to go with a white guy as refuse to go with an Indian. This is particularly prevalent amongst some popular gogo bars where some ladies prefer – and may only go with – Japanese and Koreans.
And amazingly, some punters actually say that they would not want to go with a bargirl who has been with an Indian – just as some Japanese won’t go with a girl who has been with a Westerner. Do you think about – or even care – who the last customer was in a taxi that you’re about to get in to? Try and think about bargirls the same way – it’s just a different type of ride.
As has been featured in the news section of this column in recent months, some bars don’t allow entry to Indians and some attempt to discourage them with an entry fee.
I have had exchanges with Ken, a long-time Indian reader and friend of the site who commented in an email recently on this very issue, “Unfortunately, a small number of people rather indulge in painting all Indians travelling to Thailand with the same brush of their own perception, and act accordingly whenever they come across any Indian traveller, or share those perceptions about Indians in public forums and social media. Imagine what it would look like if every Caucasian male is stopped at the gate of a football stadium to verify which country he is from, to demand additional fees, or to turn him down at the gate stating that “it is a member only stadium.” How would the gatekeepers or the stadium management justify their action in such a case? Would they claim to be preventing a perceived possibility of hooliganism in a football stadium? Doesn’t this hypothetical situation sound absolutely ridiculous?” Well said, Ken.
Asking bar owners about Indians / which group of customers they like the most and the answer is clear – customers who spend and who don’t complain, rock the boat or cause problems. And press them to a choose a nationality who make the best customers and one group stands out – the Japanese. They’re decent spenders and they seldom complain. (If they’re not happy in a bar they tend to leave and never return.) So long as customers are spending and not causing trouble, most bar owners are fine with Indians. Those Indians who are said to order one drink for the group will very soon get the message that it’s one drink per customer.
As the number of Indians visiting Thailand increases, I believe bar owners will start to value them more. This is already happening and a couple of bar owners in Soi Cowboy commented to me in November how they had seen an uptick in Indian customers who spent up large.
Something for bar owners – and the tourism industry in general – to consider is the time of year Indians visit. Remember, September and May are usually slower months in Thailand with April and October not that great either.
October is festival month in India, and school holiday time. On some specific days in October, airfares from India to Thailand double or even triple in price as Indians seize the chance to travel. Bar owners should attempt to capitalise on this as Indians may provide a boost in what are traditionally the quiet months, in the same way Bangkok bars do very well from Japanese visitors during Golden Week in late April / early May, another quiet time. Bar bosses need to be more sophisticated, recognise the opportunities and market their venue accordingly.
I guess one possible downside for Westerners if Indian visitor numbers jump is that some bars might choose to stock more fuller-figured women. It certainly seems that Indian gents don’t mind a larger woman. The traditional Western customer base won’t like that.
Away from the bars, India has a high percentage of vegetarians and as one Bangkok restaurateur said to me, that’s great for restaurants because the profits are much higher on vegetarian dishes.
Indians travelling to Thailand don’t go only for the naughty stuff. They love to travel to Bangkok for shopping. Anyone who has flown from Bangkok to India knows Indians have a thing for buying large-screen TVs in Bangkok. And Indian merchants flock to Platinum Market and other malls in Bangkok buying stuff in bulk which they ship to India to resell.
For Indian couples, a honeymoon was not a concept many were familiar with but things have changed and Phuket has become the honeymoon destination for Indians. The market for organising big fat Indian weddings is thriving and Thailand has a whole industry catering to wealthy Indians hosting marriage parties in Thailand. This will help to change the image of Indian travellers as relatively low spenders.
It’s not that long ago that Indians were mostly concerned about making ends meet and international travel was but a dream. Today, the Indian economy is growing faster than China’s. Where once the most travel Indians did was visiting their aging parents in the provinces, now international travel is within reach. And given geographical proximity and a surge in the number of budget airlines operating flights between India and Thailand – remember, it’s only a 3-hour flight from Kolkata to Bangkok – expect Thailand to become a preferred destination for Indian travellers.
The bar industry is facing trouble and the arrival of Indian men should be seen not as a threat but as an opportunity. Fewer naughty boys spending less money spells trouble for the industry, especially when you factor in higher labour costs and soaring rents. There is a very real risk of the industry morphing in to something more for mainstream visitors than the traditional customer base – figure cheesy shows, 300 baht drinks and no such thing as a barfine. A surge in customers from a new market like India could help to keep the industry viable in its current form.
Last week’s photo was taken while standing on the pedestrian overbridge which is next to The Lakes condo on Rachadapisek Road, just up from Benjakit Park. Only a few people got it right. This week’s photo shouldn’t be too challenging.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
How high is high season?
I went to Walking Street on Tuesday and at 2 bars I visited I was the only customer! This was between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM which may have been part of the reason. I was still expecting more customers for “high season” though.
Walking Street 2019 is a novelty for tourists.
Walking Street has priced itself out of the reach of most expat drinkers with Bangkok prices. I normally go to Pattaya in the low season and some bars away from Walking Street have bottled beer for 60 baht; some gogo bars in Soi LK Metro have draft beer for 75 baht. Some nights are very busy, others not so. Walking Street is just a novelty for tourists who love to have a look without spending money. Chinese busloads and Indian perving groups.
I was in Pattaya last week, and I must say I have promised myself to try a new holiday place. Pattaya has become dirty and empty with a sad mood in the air in general. Just a reflection from a long time reader.
You pay first?
I was at a Soi Nana bar popular with freelancers a few nights ago. A lady approached me, seemed quite enthusiastic and eventually proposed that we adjourn to my apartment. We agreed a price of 2K baht for her company. She initially asked for 3K, which I negotiated down. When we reached my room her enthusiasm appeared to dim and was in inverse proportion to her desire to get the deed done ASAP, perhaps so she could return to the bar for another conquest. Sensing for a way out of the impending fiasco, I told her that I was not in a hurry and hoped she was not either. Whereupon she demanded payment upfront thereby releasing me from any qualms about marching her out of my apartment bahtless. That did not stop her from asking me for 100 baht for taxi money. After a short interlude, I returned to the bar where I relayed this story to a freelancer acquaintance of mine who promptly offered me a wai for my response to this woman. From what I hear, it seems that this is a trend of late where freelancers are asking for cash upfront. Needless to say: never acquiesce to this tactic.
Where the Chinese are.
I am staying at the Belle on Rachada & Rama 9 and I haven’t seen so many Chinese people since I left Vancouver! I went to Rot Faai Market and they were absolutely everywhere. At the Belle’s swimming pool, there is a lot of tai chi going on and a lot of the restaurants in the attached mall are catering to the Chinese.
High season report.
I have just spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and 2 weeks in Pattaya. In spite of what many of the bar owners and managers have told me here, high season has been a bit of a fizzer. As always, the good bars are typically rammed and everywhere else appears fairly empty. In particular, Pattaya feels very quiet and although bars like Windmill remain busy, most bars have been deathly quiet even over the peak period at Christmas / New Years. Even Soi 6 was fairly quiet with foot traffic way down despite what some would have you believe. Last week, I even managed to get a table at Beefeaters Steak House on Soi Diana as a walk in. This is unusual for a Saturday night in peak season. The key thing seems to be in both Bangkok and Pattaya that there are few western travellers on the ground. Hardcore mongers are still coming but those on the edges of the scene are not. Yesterday at midday I walked from Nana to Asoke and I think I only walked past 3 westerners throughout the whole walk. It is definitely noticeable. However, I’ve never seen so many Indians (in Pattaya) before and there is definitely some changes coming to that town with the huge amount of restaurants and services catering to them springing up all over.
Hazardous pollution levels in Bangkok.
I have just left Bangkok. The pollution is at very dangerous levels. It’s disgusting and almost as bad as Delhi. I will not return. I blew my nose after walking around the city and the shit that came out of it was frightening. I was in Delhi for a few days and it’s really bad there but Bangkok is not far behind. How people walk up and down Sukhumvit all day I don’t know. Honestly, I felt ill after walking around.
Encouraging punters to stay in a bar.
Having a quiet San Miguel Light at a bar in Pattaya I quickly purchased another one at 6:59 PM because happy hour was about to finish at 7:00 PM. I was told by staff that I could purchase more beer at the happy hour price before 7:00 PM and just leave them in the fridge and gradually drink them. I wonder how many other bars allow this? <Actually, quite a few bars allow this and the staff in bars without an official policy may allow you to pay for drinks during happy hour and bring you those drinks you have “prepaid” as your glass / bottle empties – Stick>
One end of Soi Cowboy resembles a building site as the construction team work on Crazy House 2. They are aiming to open in February but looking at the progress, that might be rather optimistic. The building is currently a shell, and has been gutted from top to bottom. Some breeze block walls have gone up on both the soi 23 and Cowboy sides.
Speaking of Crazy House, in recent columns we have discussed the door charge at Crazy House, which is levied on some, but not on others. This week I heard from 3 different people who were each asked to pay 100 baht before entering. One fellow laughed and was let in without having to pay, while the other two paid. The 100 baht entry fee did NOT get the two who paid a free drink and was essentially an entry fee.
Still on Soi Cowboy, for the second Friday in a row bars were closed at 2:00 AM sharp. No reason was given. If you like to party late in to the night, the Nana area might be a better choice at this time….although these things change so it can be a bit of a lottery. The positive to take out of this is that if one area is closed early, often bars in one of the other bar areas will still be open, business as usual.
Would it be fair to say that changes the bar industry is going through are at least partially due to changes in the customer base and things that bars cannot reasonably control? The bars still offer the same product / entertainment and operate using the same format. Sure, prices have moved up but have they really moved that much beyond, say, the level of inflation? OK, so attitudes in the bars may have deteriorated but I do wonder if much of the change is being driven by the changing – read: diversification of the – customer base. The days when customers in the bars were predominately white, middle-class, middle-aged males are over. Today, bars have to accommodate a new set of visitors – and it’s still not clear just who those visitors are and what they are looking for. What your typical 2-week millionaire is looking for may not be that different to an expat whose alarm clock will go off at 5:45 AM the next morning but throw in backpackers, groups of young Western females, Indians, retired Western couples and Chinese tour groups and you have a diverse customer base that is both a headache and an opportunity for bar operators.
In Nana Plaza, Lollipop will celebrate its anniversary with a party next weekend. Details on the poster below.
In last week’s column I ran an email from a reader who liked the idea of a doctors and nurses theme for bars. There was in fact a chain of Bangkok bars with that very theme. The Dr BJ trio of blowjob bars in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 had staff decked out in nurse uniforms. The three bars were forced to change their name, but whether the uniforms changed I have no idea as I never stepped inside. Really.
If you follow the local Thai news you know there are A LOT of stories where a guy brutally murders his wife / girlfriend / mia noi, and in some cases also murders members of her family too. This week a Thai news channel reported that there had been 11 such incidents reported nationwide in the first 17 days of the year. Why do Thai guys have a propensity to brutally murder and in some cases butcher the one they loved? Is it because she wanted to end it with him – and he couldn’t handle the rejection? Did he lose face and explode? That is the wisdom you tend to hear in expat circles. The other half and I discussed this and in her opinion, while yes, Thai guys do have a propensity to flip when they are spurned or rejected, that’s not necessarily the reason. She feels that it’s not so much about the relationship breaking down and the guy being dumped. Rather, it is more likely that he is furious that he supported her well financially – and might have even supported her family too / looked after them financially for a period of time – and he feels that having been rejected it is like she cheated him / took money from him without keeping her end of the bargain. That, the other half opines, is often the reason behind these brutal murders. It should be noted that if you follow some of these cases in the English language media you miss out on the background and details, whereas the Thai news coverage tends to go in to much more detail which helps you to understand not just what happened but perhaps why. As a sidenote, if you really want to know what is going on in Thailand and get a feel for the mood of the nation, the Thai language media is infinitely better than any English language news source.
The Australian Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11 will celebrate Australia Day on January 26 with a free barbecue, drinks specials and live music. Buckets of Leo Beer will be just 199 baht all day long and there will be a free BBQ from around 6 PM.
There’s been a lot of chit-chat online across the border in Cambodia amongst Western expats, some of who have had trouble crossing a land border in to Thailand – and in some cases have been refused entry. What’s that all about? As part of an ongoing crackdown on expats residing in Thailand (and possibly working) while on tourist visas and visa waiver stamps, immigration rules were tightened up. You can enter Thailand at a land border twice per calendar year without a visa, i.e. enter on a visa waiver. After two over-land visa waiver entries in a single calendar year, you have to either get a visa or try your luck at an airport where there is no restriction on the number of entries without a visa. Further, the land border crossing at Poi Pet (Cambodia side) / Aranya Prathet (Thailand side) has become “difficult” in recent years. It used to be the preferred land border for those living in Bangkok to make a quick out and back in visa run. Word is that the combination of a high volume of travellers – which means long queues at the border point – and the Immigration officers being difficult at times, this particular border crossing is to be avoided, if possible.
For some expats the time comes when you have to consider leaving Thailand. It might be due to poor health or perhaps it might due to (a lack of) finances. I heard recently about a Thailand personality whose followers most likely think he is doing fine, while the truth is anything but. Said fellow doesn’t even have money to put credit on his SIM card. He can only be reached by calling him using the LINE app – and only when he is within range of free wi-fi. Is it time to go home? Amazingly, many manage to survive for years living on the bones of their ass – but is it really worth it?!
Pollution is the hot topic in Bangkok at the moment. The first of the two photos above was taken in August of last year and featured in my Benjakit Park photo essay. The air looks fine in that photo. The second photo was taken in November and featured in my report, 2 Weeks in Bangkok. I commented in that article about how bad the air quality was some days. For the last couple of weeks the mainstream media in Thailand has been reporting on the air quality which has been amongst the worst on the planet. The question I have is how does the pollution in Bangkok now compare to the past? Is it worse than in previous years, or is it simply getting more press due to social media and a greater emphasis on healthy living these days?
It’s not that easy to find decent, authentic, inexpensive Thai food in lower Sukhumvit – no great surprise given the area has become ultra touristy. If you’re looking for somewhere quick and easy to grab a light bite in lower Sukhumvit, drop by Pantaree Restaurant in the first alley on the left off Sukhumvit soi 8. It’s laid-back, cheap and authentic. Most dishes are under 100 baht. Also, the long-running Suda in soi 14 which has a following amongst foreigners is another decent choice. Suda does a tasty yellow curry.
And in the lower Sukhumvit area, I always enjoy hanging out on Soi Arab. Great food and great people watching. But most eateries in the area share something odd in common – they have terrible menus! For starters, the English in the menus is often so bad that you’re not entirely sure what some menu items are. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the Thai is often equally ambiguous. And I can’t read Arabic. Many menus feature photos of dishes that bear little resemblance to the food that comes – but then usually the food is better than how it looks in the photos. I have a few favourite eateries in the soi and a few favourite dishes and tend to stick with them. I’m not adventurous enough to divert too far from what I know as a lot of these places are big on offal and I don’t fancy goat’s lungs or heart, or worse. One big plus with Soi Arab is that prices have remained stable for years and there has been nothing like the price increases of so many eateries on the main Sukhumvit Road that have seen some places reach Western prices. If you like Middle Eastern food, Soi Arab gets a big thumbs up.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, “Thais drive like the gas is free and the vehicle won’t ever need to get the brakes done.”
Pollution in Bangkok reaches dangerous levels as the Prime Minister urges people in the capital to stay inside.
Bangkokians don face masks in response to the appalling pollution in Bangkok.
A Brit with 22 years in Thailand is looking at big trouble after being caught with drugs.
For Aussie readers (about 10% of the Stickman readership), Emirates is pulling out of the Sydney to Bangkok leg from June of this year.
It’s unusual to see a Westerner make the news for being deported from Thailand after being caught overstaying her visa.
Is Bangkok prescribing short-term fixes for the long-term problem of pollution?
A young Swiss man captured on CCTV stealing a Thai lady’s handbag was caught, found to be on overstay and will be deported.
Long-term readers may remember my trip report from a few years ago visiting Kolkata. Indian food is my favourite and I enjoy the company of Indians who I generally find to be both interesting and engaging. Needless to say I am all for Indians making up larger numbers in the bars – and I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you think. I’d also very much like to hear from Indian readers whose numbers are creeping up all the time. As per usual, I’ll include the most interesting emails in the next column.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]