It’s been a funny old week for me away from the usual routines. Due to time constraints, I am afraid that there is no opening piece this week. All the usual news, views, readers’ emails, mystery photo and news round-up links are here as usual. I don’t like to publish a column without an opening piece but a few times a year when I am particularly busy it happens. I hope you understand.
Last week’s photo was taken from what used to be known as Somerset Lakeview on Sukhumvit soi 16, and is now known as Shama Lakeview Asoke Hotel. The building on either side of the photo was the Millennium Towers and that shot was taken facing east in the direction of Emporium and EmQuartier. A grand total of 2 readers got it right, so it was more difficult than I thought. This week’s is much easier.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
There have been many changes in the bar scene in recent years which have been discussed in your weekly. Most not for the best for the traditional, old-style punters in my view. However, as someone who is a long-standing and regular customer in the bar scene I still manage to have a great time most of the time. One needs to be very selective which bars and girls you give your custom too. I avoid the ones that operate on the new style you mention of lots of agency girls and a structure that encourages the girls to stay in the bar. And I avoid any girls that my radar picks up any bad vibes or tell-tale warning signs. As mentioned by a reader in the last column, the bars still beat the online model hands down on the critical matter for me of “chemistry”. Having a girl you’ve never met just turn up at your door just can’t compare (for me at least) to an evening’s banter in the bars, building up a rapport with the girls and seeing if there is any chemistry with the girl. A great night out having fun with the girls in the bars is just as important as the bedroom gymnastics. Others may disagree but for me the vast majority of the doom and gloom stories of poor performance etc. come when customers forget the issues above. If you go in to a bar, buy the best looker a lady drink and barfine her irrespective of any vibes, warning signs or lack of chemistry, it’s hardly going to be a big surprise if things don’t go well back in the room, is it?
Everywhere has changed.
Reading the emails suggesting that Bangkok is not what it used to be, I was there twice a year through the ’90s and yes, it was a great time. Times and attitudes around the world have changed a lot since then, not just in the bars of Bangkok. It always has and always will be all about the money. The good times are still there to be had, it’s just that the exchange rates are so bad. I know as I’m from England. If the exchange rates today were the same as they were in the ’90s then I believe that people’s attitudes towards the girls would be a little more forgiving even if they were paying today’s prices.
On the ground in the Pong.
I was with a visitor last night in Patpong from 9 PM onwards and had the following observations. It’s very quiet! The new steakhouse was quite empty. Glamour had no customers. We swung around the Surawong side past the new Irish pub and it was heaving! Nice to see. We ended up sitting outside one of the nondescript bars next to the (quiet) night market opposite one that had live music and here’s the interesting thing. A couple of the girls who were after drinks were Vietnamese. That’s the first time I have seen them there. They were part of the bar team and seem to be accepted by the other Thai girls. It’s a new phase I reckon. I remember Singapore started with Filipinos in Orchard Towers then the Vietnamese came, followed soon by the Chinese. The same happened in Kuala Lumpur at the Beach Bar. I wonder if we will see a wave of Vietnamese now, followed hot on the heels by Chinese hookers!
Sihanoukville off the menu.
I just spent 3 weeks in Cambodia and would like to mention a place to avoid at all costs. I visited friends in Sihanoukville where Chinese construction work on a massive scale has turned a once great little coastal town into a hell hole of noise, dust and pollution. Four showers a day are in order! The place must be 90%+ Chinese now, and the behaviour of the construction workers is appalling. Visitors can expect rip-off prices in hotels and restaurants coupled with terrible manners. $9 US (280 baht) for a plate of fried chicken rice and draft beer in a roadside dump near the market where there are more flies than customers! All visitors can expect to encounter lots of rude yelling and spitting INSIDE restaurants. Heavy trucks have damaged the roads. It’s not safe either with night-time fights commonplace (presumably over gambling debts) and the same goes for drug dealing. The plan is to turn Sihanoukville in to the new Macau with casinos all over the place. Forget the main beaches too. What a mess. My advice for anyone is to use the town ferry as a jumping off point and choose an island with no casino. I’m back in Pattaya and Soi Buakhao is paradise by comparison.
Filling the piggy bank.
Girls have an incentive to hustle drinks and the bar owners make a killing as a result. It’s a win : win for bar owners and girls. Thailand was a place where men came looking for love, but how many 50 dollar arrows can one shoot before hitting a target? And when the target is attained, there’s another whammy on top of that. Forget what he has lost in his quest to find his damsel in distress. And to continue what he has found….economically impractical. Lose : lose for the punters. The Rainbow 4 lady drink scam is a classic example. A wasted arrow. Gone are the days when I rolled into Tilac or the late Classroom in Pattaya, sit down, enjoy a drink, see a number I like and bought it. Usually no money hustle, affordable barfines and no drink to engage conversation. Just eye contact to say we were compatible and leaving and spending the night, that is the whole night. Oftentimes it was here’s the barfine for tomorrow, pay bar and come back or we’ll pay bar in the next few days when we make the rounds. Said victim would love to spend the day, hit the beach, and get me good deals in shops. I must have filled a piggy bank by now.
The initial report from Kazy Kozy on Soi Cowboy that the girls were dancing in dresses was accurate, but it was also just a one-off. The girls are now dressed as you’d expect them to be in a Soi Cowboy bar. And the word is that when the second floor opens it will be very much what you’d expect for a bar in the Crazy House group. A sign outside Kazy Kozy says Kazy L1 and Kozy L2 which indicates there could be different concepts on each floor of the bar which sounds intriguing, not that the second floor has opened yet. And the second floor can’t open soon enough for Kazy Kozy could do with some more space.
One of the best bars in the late ’00s was Apache Coyote. Most of the girls that worked at Apache Coyote eventually ended up at Shadow bar. And now that Shadow Bar has become Shadow Ladyboy Bar, the few remaining Apache Coyote crew have moved next door to Dollhouse.
A reminder that the general election will take place the weekend after next, and advanced voting takes place next weekend. The upshot of that is that the sale of alcohol will be prohibited from 6 PM on Saturday through until midnight on Sunday over each of the next two weekends, which effectively kills the next couple of Saturday and Sunday nights in the bar areas.
But how strictly will things be enforced after 6:00 PM on Sundays 17th and 24th? I’ve heard that a blind eye might be turned after 6 PM when voting booths close and with a bit of luck, alcohol may be available from a bit after 6:00 PM onwards. This is not official, but many are hopeful that commonsense will prevail. And with next Sunday being St. Paddy’s Day, it is almost unimaginable that Irish bars across the land could be dry.
Speaking of Irish pubs, Hanrahans on Soi Nana changed hands recently and as was expected, has changed name. Hanrahans is now Fitzgerald’s and you can find out more about the pub on the spanking new Fitzgerald’s website.
A market has been set up at Chuwit Park making good use of this most prime real estate in the heart of Sukhumvit. The immediate area feels more like a concrete jungle than ever, especially since the demolition of the New York Gardens robbed us of one of the few outdoor eating areas in the busiest part of Sukhumvit. A market in Chuwit Park is a welcome change although I imagine it’s very temporary. What a nice change an outdoor market would make there although given the value of real estate in the area and the pitiful return the landowner would get from such a market, any thoughts that this could be something permanent are awfully fanciful.
Large sections of the pavement on Sukhumvit Road between Nana and Asoke are still a right mess and a nightmare to walk along. For the last few months readers have been complaining about how long it is taking to get the job done. There are piles of bricks waiting to be laid and great mounds of dirt too. It really is a terrible mess and most unseemly for such a busy area. Some projects in Thailand get done in record time but others move at a snail’s pace – and this one is very much of the latter.
And still in the Sukhumvit zone, business has been miserable recently – and we’re talking not just bars but restaurants too. This is all rather unusual as March is usually a very good month – probably the 4th best month after December, January and February. Why is it so quiet? Could it be that the terrible pollution which blanketed Bangkok and was widely reported 2 / 3 months ago put some people off visiting?
Maybe a prolonged quiet period in Bangkok might help wake up some business owners? I can remember being told in my first year in Bangkok how the Thais’ attitudes towards foreigners improved greatly when the Asian Economic Crisis AKA Tom Yum Goong Crisis really bit. Up until that point in mid 1997, Thailand had experienced massive economic growth and some expats who were around back then said that locals’ attitudes had soured and business owners had become complacent with some treating customers pretty ordinary. But then things turned to shit, expats left, locals stopped spending and they had to change their attitude. All of a sudden visitors were better treated as business owners were desperate for custom. I wouldn’t wish ill on the Thais and suggest that should happen again, but improved attitudes wouldn’t go amiss in a lot of businesses serving the foreign market.
Khao San Road and its surrounds are not an area I get a lot of news from, but this week a friend who is very respectable and usually very well-dressed was stopped by two Thai cops on a motorcycle in an alley next to Khao San Road. He was patted down and asked to show his passport. He didn’t have the original on him but when they saw the copy they were ok with it and that was the end of it. Despite the issue of police stopping foreigners in parts of Bangkok getting a lot of press a while back and promises that these supposedly random stops where it very much feels like some are targeted because of the colour of their skin would end, that has not happened.
The announcement by Thai Airways this week that the baggage allowance in economy class will be reduced from 30 kg down to 20 kg has been received very, very badly by many Thais here in New Zealand – and I suspect by many Thais all around the world. Thais often prefer to fly on Thai Airways even if it means paying more than they would on other airlines and the generous baggage allowance offered by Thai is something they leverage to make money from. Many Thais travelling between Thailand and Farangland have 10 – 15 kg spare which they utilise to carry items between the two countries for other Thais – at a cost. The standard rate here in New Zealand is $15 / kg – and there is heaps of demand. Let’s say they carry 15 kg for others going out and 15 kg coming back – and they charge $15 / kg, that’s $450 – and that can be around half of the price of their air ticket. A lot of Thais do this and there are posts offering to “hiew kong” (carry items) every other day on the local Thai language Facebook group. And it’s not only the Thais that aren’t happy about this – I am not happy about it either, not that I carry stuff for anyone. It’s simply nice to have a decent allowance to be able to bring stuff back from Thailand as I often do.
If the idea of filling your belly on grilled crocodile isn’t for you but you’re still curious as to what crocodile meat tastes like, dried crocodile meat can be found in many souvenir shops. How many poor crocs are being slaughtered to serve the burgeoning Chinese visitor market?
The Thai baht has dropped in value a couple of percentage points against the US dollar over the last couple of weeks, having gained about 4.5+% over the first several weeks of the year. I think few foreigners would complain if the baht fell a whole lot more. The drop in value in recent weeks helps to make visiting Thailand that little bit more affordable, but it is still negligible in terms of the big picture. Why did the baht fall? It would seem someone intervened in the market and sold the baht off….
The Malaysian Tourism Minster came out this week and said there’s no homosexuality in Malaysia. When I first read the news report I actually thought it was the Thai Minister of Tourism and I hollered out to the other half in the other room. She had already ready it and explained that it was in fact Malaysia and not Thailand. She came back with something like this, “If they tried to make homosexuality illegal in Thailand the consequences would be even worse than if Thaksin returned to Thailand!” From reader feedback over the years I have learned that there are a lot of gay haters amongst the Stickman readership and while I respect your right to your beliefs, you might want to keep those thoughts to yourself when in Thailand. Spouting off about how you hate those who aren’t straight might not go down well with the average Thai who really doesn’t give a rat’s about anyone’s sexual orientation. Thais are very open-minded and tolerant on this matter and many are surprised that others get too upset about it.
Reader Derek in Pattaya spotted the sign below this week, photographed it and sent it through. What’s wrong with the sign?!
Reader’s story of the week comes from Farang Dave, “More Proof That JM Cadet Is Right“.
Quote of the week comes from a friend, “The day that airlines ban fish sauce and Mama noodles from all luggage is the day that Thais traveling abroad never again have to pay excess baggage charges.”
Two Thai Immigration officers are dismissed after they had been stamping folks who they knew were using fake travel documents.
A wealthy durian farmer / trader in Thailand offers 10 million baht to an eligible bachelor who marries his lovely daughter.
In Pattaya, a naked foreigner falls two storeys after trashing a hotel room bathroom.
The authorities are working to stop tourists taking selfies at a beach near Phuket Airport.
A road rage incident in Thailand has gone viral after a motorist whose driver side window was smashed with a concrete slab fights back!
Once again, my apologies that there’s no opener this week. Normal service resumes next week.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org