Stickman's Weekly Column March 17th, 2019

The Best Is Still The Best


I have regrets from my time living in Thailand. Failing to visit Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and an island or two are amongst those regrets. But that can be fixed and there’s nothing stopping me from visiting any of these places in the future. There are some regrets, however, that can’t be fixed. One of those regrets is not taking the opportunity to do more in-bar photography when I had the chance. I could have shot some of the best bars at their peak, but I never seized the moment. I’m not going to let that happen again. When the opportunity is there to shoot in the best bar, I will seize the moment.

 

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And the best gogo bar in Bangkok is still Billboard.

 

 

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It’s more than 3 years since the current owners took over and Billboard has gone from strength to strength.

 

 

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If you wanted to be picky you could find the odd thing that could be improved, but the total package is hard to beat.

 

 

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The consensus from those in the know is that Billboard is busier than Crazy House and has even surpassed Bacarra, no mean feat.

 

 

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I will of course be accused of favouritism because Billboard is a supporter of this site. I’d happily shoot Crazy House and Bacarra if I had the chance, but I have never had the chance to do so. Crazy House doesn’t allow photography in the bar and has no website nor social media presence and Bacarra has too many girls who are looked after and do not wish to be photographed.

 

 

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The format at Billboard has not changed – and why should it when it works so well?

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The layout of the bar remains the same with a large dance floor which rotates. I still get a laugh when the DJ presses the turbo button and the carousel spins around at such a speed that the girls have to cling on! (Just as well this is not the PC West where that would probably be considered a health and safety hazard and the employer would be in the gun.)

 

 

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And then on the other side of the bar there’s the Jacuzzi with a small dance floor attached to it. That’s where the real perves hang out.

 

 

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It’s not just that there are probably more pretty girls in Billboard than most other bars, Billboard has a vibe and energy not commonly found in the industry these days.

 

 

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Billboard has heaps of attractive ladies and those featured here are not necessarily the prettiest, but simply a selection of those who were willing to be photographed.

 

 

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Miss Milk here has been featured in this column a few times, and looks as good as ever.

 

 

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The beauty from Buriram has had a bunch of Stickman readers venture to Billboard to hunt her down.

 

 

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And Miss Donut here is another who has been photographed before.

 

 

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For those who like slim, Miss Donut is for you.

 

 

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But no bar is perfect. Parts of the bar look a little tatty and could do with sprucing up, such as the Billboard logo on the main stage.

 

 

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I like the idea of a foreign manager on the premises, especially in such a big bar and that’s something I’d like to see implemented at Billboard. Any large gogo bar should not just have a manager on the premises, it should be obvious who the manager is so punters can ask them questions / seek assistance if necessary. Misunderstandings are common and a foreign manager could help to sort out any issues before they escalate.

 

 

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It’s amazing that a bar on the top floor of the plaza is so popular. Remember, many punters wandering around the plaza have no idea which bars are worth visiting and many don’t make it up past the middle floor.

 

 

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In terms of improvements, a couple of very large LED screens will soon be installed at Billboard….more on that coming soon.

 

 

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I didn’t catch the name of the lady here on the right, photographed with Miss Donut. She didn’t photograph that well….in person she’s as cute as a button.

 

 

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It should be noted that all of the ladies featured in this photo essay are currently employed at Billboard.

 

 

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I know I have produced a few photo essays already from Billboard, but like I said at the start, one doesn’t want to have any regrets and if you get the chance to shoot in the best bar in the business, you should take it, right? You wouldn’t want me to be running photo shoots from some of the crap bars, would you?

 

 

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And there will almost certainly be more photo shoots from Billboard featured again later this year.

 

 

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Now we’re talking….this lady was easily my favourite of the ladies I photographed and if I was taking away, this is the lady I would have gone for.

 

 

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With classic central Thailand looks, this mid 30s lady is in her prime. Young Thai ladies might look cute, but too often they are like children. You don’t want a girl, do you? Surely you want a woman who is confident in herself – and with Thai females, genuine confidence takes time to develop, hence mid 30s is the sweet spot, I reckon…..they are confident in themselves and they should still have their looks.

 

 

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And this lady just had an easy smile and a natural cheerfulness that really endeared me to her.

 

 

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Why oh why you would choose a girl in her late teens or early 20s I do not know. But then I know that is what the majority are looking for and I am very much an outlier.

 

 

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Billboard has one of the biggest lineups of girls, some of the most attractive girls and it’s well run. It remains the benchmark by which all other gogo bars are measured.

 


Billboard Bangkok

 

 

Mystery Photo

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Last week’s photo was taken from the Asoke intersection with the Ashton Asoke Condo Building in the background. The angle and the effect of using a telephoto lens meant few people got it right, despite it being one of the best known and most photographed locations in all of Bangkok.

 


Lighthouse Soi Cowboy

 

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

Bangkok pavement-laying madness.

After a night out, I was walking along Sukhumvit Road and walked right across 6 inches of nicely flattened concrete. It took a while for me to register. I continued along and there were no barriers, no bits of tape, absolutely nothing to show this fresh concrete had just been laid. The next day I would see several tracks of footprints in the newly-laid concrete, just like mine. The funniest bit was at the hotel which is a bit high-end. As a mad Westerner I wanted to get my feet clean so I collared one of the doormen and it took 10 minutes to get the cement off my shoes and legs using the garden tap which is directly opposite the entrance, all much to the bemusement of the Japanese guests checking out at 5 AM! I wandered in clutching my Birkenstocks, very wet from the knees down.

Why Swedes are not visiting Bangkok so much.

If we are talking about a reduction in visitors from politically correct countries in northern Europe, there are a vast array of factors in play.
– Exchange rates and inflation in the tourist areas.
– Pollution in Bangkok for sure. The news media in Europe has written about this.
– Thailand is not a democracy. Many questions have been asked regarding the upcoming election.
– Thailand is “old news”. 15 – 20 years ago, Thailand emerged as a holiday destination for families and mainstream tourists. But now most people who like to travel have already visited the country.
Flygskam (flight shame) is a Swedish expression and the politically correct perception is that the effects of long-haul flying on the environment are hard to justify.
– And as societies become less tolerant, it’s even harder for a single male to admit that he travelled to Thailand alone (and the whole sex tourism thing).

Changes.

I am an old git now (add 25 years onto a young man in his 30’s and shit happens), but back in the days, the exchange rate for the GBP was around THB 40 from 1993 to 1997 when things blew up in Asia. The USD was (fixed) around THB 25 from 1990 to 1997. The AUD was under THB 20 from 1990 to 1997. The back-calculated EUR averaged around THB 32 but with more variance. So, actually for Brits, the exchange rate pre-Asian Financial Crisis was about the same as it is now, and other developed countries now get more baht for their respective bucks. In those days the vast majority of bars were small and friendly, played decent music, barfines ran 100 to 200 (from failing memory) and the girls were very happy to have an “all nighter” for around 700 – 1,000 baht. To be honest, I don’t even remember discussing “short time or long time”. It was always assumed “long time”. And a lot of guys would take their new teeruk off for a holiday at the beach. The bargirls did not have a salary and just got a small commission on drinks, so the motivation was to sell themselves. Bangkok no longer has many bargirls, but instead a lot of gogo girls. They receive commission on top of a decent salary so the motivation now is to sell drinks. The stint in a bar used to be seen as a stepping stone to finding a Farang boyfriend, while now the gogo girls see it as a career move. There was no internet and no smart phones to take total priority over the embryonic romance. This has been, IMO, the second biggest killer of the bargirl scene. Without the internet, relationships were essentially one on one, and both would try to give it priority in the hope it would develop, particularly the girl who wanted to secure a future. Now every bargirl has hundreds of contacts in her LINE and Facebook. The punter in front of her is just one in a long list, many of whom are younger, more handsome and funnier. The other scene killer is simply the demographics as rice farmers are not producing 5 kids / woman as they were pre-1970 or so, but more like 2. Somewhere along the way there has been a change as business owners moved from pleasant bars that offered fun and relaxation to large, glitzy gogos with girls performing the Bangkok shuffle to loud, uninteresting music and mamasans tapping my arm, “One more drink for the lady and one for me?” every 10 minutes. It doesn’t float my boat.

Kazy Kozy.

Funny that Kazy Kozy dressed up the girls for opening night without generating any PR about the bar opening. Only in Thailand! I am pretty sure you will hate it when you go there. The music is terrible. There were only a few girls on stage when I looked and there does not seem to be room for many more. Not sure they thought the design through well, although I just had a glance of a few seconds. Nevertheless it was full of customers.

Kiwi guys have it right?

The Kiwi guys have the right idea. On the whole Thai girls can be fun girlfriends in Thailand, but I would not recommend them as wives and then mothers for young guys making a career in Farangland. Sure there are exceptions, but the majority have way too much inward looking “Thai” mentality.

 


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Business owners finally got clarity this week on the hours they can operate at election weekend. Bars and restaurants cannot sell alcohol for a period of 24 hours, starting at 6 PM on Saturday through until 6 PM Sunday. That means that venues can sell alcohol after 6:00 PM tonight and also from 6:00 PM on Sunday of next week, being election day.

The crazy Korean – as he is referred to by some – who runs Geisha in Nana Plaza is said to have fallen behind on paying for liquor deliveries to the bar. Not a good situation to be in and these are not people you want to be owing money to. Whenever you hear the words crazy and Korean in a sentence in Bangkok you often also hear the words end and badly.

Number 22 in Billboard is covered in tattoos and in her case that is no exaggeration – you’d be hard-pressed to find a lady in the bar biz with more ink on her body. My dislike of tattoos is well-known, yet I can’t keep my eyes off her.

The new gogo bar on Patpong soi 1 in the space that was Radio City and is being developed by a group of Frenchmen is coming along well and should open soon.

Bada Bing in Patpong soi 2 closed its doors on Friday night in an anticlimactic end for a bar that at one time was amongst the best in Bangkok. Many of the girls who danced at Bada Bing can now be found at Glamour, just 30 or so metres further along the soi.

Things are going from bad to worse at the Silom Road end of Patpong 2 with news that one of my favourite gogo bars of all time, The Strip, will close at the end of the month. Since the odd couple gave it back to the master leaseholder, The Strip has struggled to pay its way and the decision has been made to shut it down for good. A 3-day Goodbye To The Strip Party is planned for the end of the month. The Strip had a strong following and was one of few bars operating these days with a genuine sense of family. Some of the staff have been there since the ’00s and the atmosphere in The Strip reminded me how things used to be on Soi Cowboy in the late ’90s and early ’00s, back when many of the girls working in the bars lived above the bars. The strong emotional attachment some expats have towards The Strip cannot be underestimated, and there will be a good few sad faces when the lights go out for the final time.

 

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The sign outside The Strip. Unfortunately, 2019 was not to be The Strip’s year.

 

How are The Arab’s bars doing these days? It feels like he has largely been forgotten about which is probably because many of those that didn’t care for his past antics and the way he runs bars have moved on from the bar scene. But The Arab’s empire continues. As a reminder for those who wish to visit his Soi Cowboy bars, they are Rio, Sahara, Spice Girls, Raw Hide, Deja Vu, Kiss and Midnite.

Word from a major naughty boy forum in the region is that while there’s little talk and not a lot of reports from the likes of Cowboy and Nana, the scene in Bangkok still generates plenty of banter. These days most of the talk is centred around Smooci and the brothels on soi 24 and 24/1. There is little talk about the gogo bars from those who are out there living the life, so to speak.

The market at Chuwit Park that I mentioned in last week’s column was very temporary and lasted all of 3 days. Vendors sold their wares from Friday until Sunday and then the market was packed up and that was that! There is some irony in it – the area was at one time a market before that fateful night in late 2001 when it was raized in an operation that eventually saw the instigators of the operation sentenced to prison.

If there is one question I constantly get asked these days, it is for recommendations for inexpensive, but good accommodation in downtown Bangkok. Can you find something in the 1,000 – 1,500 baht range per night, in the middle of the zone? I don’t know. I do know that you can get one of the older – not yet renovated – rooms at the Nana Hotel which just scrapes in to that price point at 1,490 baht / night – but the Nana is very much an acquired taste and not what I think a lot of people are looking for. If any readers have recommendations for inexpensive accommodation in downtown Bangkok, there are plenty who’d love to hear them.

Word from a reader is that one of the icons of Pattaya has not been seen for a while. The friendly older Thai gent in a wheelchair who sells – or is that sold? – flowers who has long been a fixture on Walking Street has not been seen in recent times. Despite the cruelties of life, he always had a ready smile and his very presence and resilience put a smile on your face. He had a slogan on the back of his wheelchair that went something like: these flowers like me are not perfect but they can still bring happiness to someone. Here’s hoping he’s doing ok.

 

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When talking about Thailand, how do you describe the period it is at in its development? Is it accurate to describe Thailand as third world? Is that term perhaps even derogatory in this increasingly PC world we live in? What about the word developing – would that be a better choice of word? Just how does one refer to Thailand? A developing country? A third-world country? Something else?

I am highly cynical of foreign reporters based in Thailand who can’t speak Thai. How are they supposed to know what is going on in Thailand – what is really going on – when they can’t speak the language? The week before last a political party was forced to dissolve and its members were banned from politics for a period. At the press conference held in Thai – this is Thailand, after all – a pesky foreign correspondent kept bleating out “in English, in English” to the leader of the party who was making a statement to the press. I have no idea which news organisation this woman was from but it sounded just stupid! How on earth do these correspondents report on things like politics without having any command of the local language? I can understand that there are stories that they can report on just based on what they saw with their own eyes, but politics is not one of them. At the very least, they should have someone fluent in Thai and their own language to translate for them. I remain ever cynical about foreign correspondents operating in Thailand and this is one area where I very much agree with many Thais: too often foreign correspondents in Thailand get things wrong. Seriously, if you want to know what is going on in Thailand, follow one of the Thai language news outlets.

Jake Needham released a new novel this week titled, “And Brother It’s Starting To Rain”. This is Jake’s twelfth book overall and the fifth in the series featuring Inspector Samuel Tay of Singapore CID. The book has gotten a really good reception so far. Within one day of its publication, it hit #1 on Amazon’s best-selling list of Asia-related fiction. A good portion takes place in Pattaya so it should appeal to readers. The book is available in both paperback and e-book editions from Amazon worldwide. Here are some direct links to order the book online: Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon GermanyAmazon Australia.

 

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Generally businesses in Thailand do everything they can to get customers – be they Thai or foreign – and cynics may feel that some businesses put more effort in to getting a customer than to actually satisfying them once they have secured them, but that’s another story. But there is an exception – and that is the banks of Thailand. It’s easy to get the idea that some Thai banks don’t want foreign customers. These days it’s tricky for foreigners to open a bank account in Thailand, due partly to banking and anti-money laundering regulations but as much as anything, due to the attitudes of bank staff who seem to put up obstacles to foreigners who want to open an account – and it can sometimes feel that these obstacles have been invented on the spot. Rather than try to work through any issues and requirements to secure them as a customer, the attitude of so many bank staff seems to be to get the pesky foreigner out of the branch as fast as possible! For those of us with Thai accounts already, no sweat, we’re in the system and all is ok, but for those who wish to open a new account, it is getting more difficult. It makes me wonder why the banks in Thailand don’t have dedicated migrant banking units as the banks here in New Zealand have had for at least the last 25 years. The migrant banking unit is staffed by people born abroad and they deal with foreign customers, doing everything from helping those who want to open an account, through to all their banking needs. Large branches in major centres might have a migrant banking unit. It’s a shame that something similar doesn’t exist in Thailand. In a country where foreigners at times can feel like they are only welcome for the contents of their wallet, it surprises me that banks don’t try harder to accommodate foreign customers. If any Thai bank sets up something like a migrant banking unit and makes the effort to serve foreigners residents in Thailand they could really corner the market. These days there must be a good few hundred thousand or more people from developed economies living (working and retired) in Thailand these days. That’s a sizeable enough market to be attractive to a bank, surely?

Sunrise Tacos has long been my favourite Mexican eatery in Bangkok and they have tweaked their menu and added a few new items, one of which is Carne Asada Taco. Three tacos are loaded with grilled steak, a creamy guacamole salsa, grilled capsicum and more. It’s a tasty meal that I’ll definitely order again

 

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Carne Asada Taco, at Margarita Storm and Sunrise Tacos.

 

Quote of the week comes from Lecherous Lee, “Why go and live in another country and then choose to live somewhere like Bang Na?!

Reader’s story of the week comes from Dublin Duck, “Four Bars And The Nature Of Change“.

Centres have been set up to track down foreigners who skip on hospital bills and recover the money owed.

Thai Smile is launching a new flight route between Bangkok and Kolkata.

An American tourist is attacked after stopping a local thug stealing a visitor’s belongings.

A Brit in Phuket in a dispute with his landlord has been barricaded inside his rented room for 2 months!

 

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A blonde python was the star of the snake show which ran for a few months at The Strip in 2016.

Count me amongst those who were a little sad to hear that The Strip in Patpong soi 2 would close at the end of the month. I spent many nights in The Strip over the years and have many memories. I remember hanging out there with one of the owners the night Michael Jackson died and that Friday night turned in to Michael Jackson tribute night. There the zany parties, the snake shows, the bonking booths, the beach shows where the bar was filled with tonnes of sand, the featured girl of the week, “Miss First” who had Stickman readers spontaneously booking an air ticket and flying in from other neighbouring countries specifically to meet her. There are so many great memories from what really should have been a small, nondescript bar but to many, was a whole lot more. The Strip is one of few bars I followed closely from almost the beginning until, failing any sort of last-minute intervention, what will be the end. One bar closing is not the end of an era, but the closure of The Strip very much feels that way.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]