What do food, art, fashion and romance have in common? They’re things close to our heart, and things the French do better than most. And there’s something else that the French excel at and do better than most. Gogo bars. Make a list of the best gogo bars in Bangkok and French-owned bars will make up a disproportionately high number. When I was in Bangkok last month I stopped by Glamour in Patpong. Glamour is French-owned, French-run and glorious!
Glamour first opened on Patpong soi 2, opposite Foodland, in 2010. It was something of an anomaly, a bar of some size that had plenty of money put in to it, while at the same time no-one talked about it. We knew it was there, but we never stopped by.
Glamour was a big unknown. You wouldn’t say it had a bad reputation because it didn’t. Under the original owner it felt like it was almost closed as often as it was open. Walk past Glamour and the odds were good it would be in darkness. It really is no exaggeration to say there were periods when it was closed more often than it was open. Just what that was about I will never know.
When the current owners took Glamour over, it had been closed for months.
Glamour reopened under its current ownership a bit over two years ago, in February 2017.
So with no real pedigree, how is it that Glamour is now generally regarded as the best bar of its type in Patpong – and I’d be tempted to say, in the top 3 gogo bars in Bangkok.
Glamour doesn’t feel like a Patpong bar. It’s much more Nana-like in its vibe – and Nana Plaza in the early 2000s at that i.e. when the plaza was fantastic.
That it is so good now is a surprise because for a long time Glamour seemed to have had perpetual troubles. It would be open one month, closed the next. And bars that close struggle to stay open struggle to keep staff. And a bar without staff is no bar at all.
No-one knew what was going on and that’s why few took Glamour seriously and it was neither popular with the expat regulars or visitors. Someone would mention that Glamour was closed and the inevitable response would be, I didn’t know that it had been open!
Some time after the French took over, Glamour was transformed and a bar that no-one really gave much thought to would become a must visit for gogo bar lovers.
Glamour is open from 7.30 PM to 2.30 AM.
For those on a budget or those trying to convince others that they have a drop or two of Scottish blood, happy hour runs until 9 PM with Asahi beer along with house whisky, vodka, gin and rum all priced at 100 baht.
The rest of the night drinks are fairly standard prices. There is a budget option with Chang beer at 140 baht. For those with taste, Jack Daniels is 180 baht and if you’d like a lady to drink with you, her drinks will run 200 baht.
The barfine is 800 baht but Glamour has a promotion until 11:00 PM when the barfine is just 500 baht. Strange way of doing it.
Glamour is what I’d describe as a fairly standard gogo bar. Enter the bar and there’s a single stage in the middle of the bar, with seats around the outside. Previously there were two stages but not so long ago they joined them up. It’s regular gogo bar dancing and at this point in time they don’t do shows although they are thinking about what they might do in the future.
So far, Glamour doesn’t sound particularly special, does it? But there’s something about the bar that gets under your skin. The attitudes of the girls are great and amongst the best you’ll find in a gogo bar in Bangkok. In many ways, the current team reminded me of Pretty Lady in 2013, which was my favourite bar at that time.
Glamour is actually quite nice inside with a few touches that make it feel a step above some bars, in the same way that Bacarra does. Unlike most such bars, Glamour feels like it’s clean, like the premises are looked after and it doesn’t have the accumulated smells (or at least it didn’t the night I visited) that make some bars hard to stomach. Incidentally, if you’ve ever taken a decent Thai woman in to a random gogo bar there’s a good chance she commented on the smell. Cleanliness is something so many bars pay little or no attention to and some of the best / big name bars in Bangkok absolutely stink. I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re three sheets to the wind.
Glamour is decorated with a light material covering much of the ceiling, draped from the centre and extending outwards which gives the bar an unusual look.
The smiles seemed natural and the staff actually seemed to be having fun which is not the feeling I get in many bars these days.
There’s even a toilet attendant who hands out towels and will give you a massage when you’re at the urinal….if you want it, of course. Now complimenting a bar on this might sound unusual given the way we so often complain about such things, but the guy was not at all pushy – and it shows that Glamour is thinking outside the box and trying things. Maybe the Japanese like that? There were a few Japanese in Glamour which is always a good sign – speak crap about the Japanese all you like, they know the best bars.
The music selection is good and the sound system is balanced (I am not an audiophile so I just don’t know what other word to use!).
There are lots of nice touches in the bar, like bigger, stylish glasses for mixed drinks and not these tiny, shitty 10 baht tumblers that so many other bars serve crap drinks in. At Glamour, mixed drinks are served in real glasses that give the idea that the bar is a step up from the rest.
Glamour has a nice lineup and while it may not have the same lineup nor number of somewhere like Billboard, the attitudes are so good that it makes up for it. Many of the girls are friendly and playful and I remember commenting to the fellow I was with that it felt like a bunch of sweet, innocent, playful kittens whereas in other bars I often feel it’s more like a bunch of stray cats that have gone feral.
As much as anything, attitudes in the bar come back to management. Some girls will be rotten no matter what, but obviously the management is doing something right and positive attitudes flow down from the top. The girls genuinely seemed happy in their work – and that really makes a big difference. It really was like Pretty Lady back when Swiss Peter was the owner and Mamasan Tukata – now at Billboard – was looking after the girls.
There’s something about French-owned and run bars that sets them apart, something that I cannot put my finger on but you’ve got to hand it to them, when it comes to running gogo bars the French know what they’re doing.
Glamour, Mandarin, Bada Bing, Bacarra….the list of wonderful bars run by French is lengthy. And who can forget Eden Club?! Its huge popularity and success was entirely due to one Frenchman.
What I personally like about Glamour is that they have friendly older – but not hardened – women. You wouldn’t know it, but a few of the ladies in Glamour are well in to their ‘30s (you find ladies of such age in most bars), yet they didn’t exhibit the emotional baggage that older women in the industry struggle to hide. Plenty of younger ones too, if that’s your preference.
I never got the sense in Glamour that those not buying lady drinks and / or barfining were not welcome. That’s one of my biggest gripes in Bangkok gogo bars these days – many girls want you to play by their rules. Buy us overpriced lolly water (and we might charge you for two when you only agreed to one), and you’ll get a smile. Refuse our request for a drink within 10 seconds of us saying hello and we’ll sneer at you like a rabid dog would. There’s none of that nonsense in Glamour. Of course the girls are there to make money but there were none of the mercenary attitudes that have become the norm in so many bars these days.
The impression I got is that Glamour is run by professionals who “get” business, not just the bar business but the concept of running a good business where the staff are happy, customers are happy and the owners / investors are happy.
Glamour did not feel like anyone’s personal drinking parlour (as so many bars in Bangkok used to and many in Pattaya still do). Glamour is a business that is run like a business with standards.
Glamour has the unmistakable feel of being run by foreigners who understand their customers.
I’m not sure that the photos here do Glamour justice. We’d just done a photo shoot in Mandarin and I got better results there, notwithstanding that Glamour is in every way I can think of, a superior bar. (But Mandarin is still pretty darned good, is French-owned to boot, and will feature in the coming weeks)
Glamour has an air of class that sets it apart from other bars, and is for my money the best gogo bar in Patpong, at this time.
Some say Patpong soi 2 is being revamped while others say it’s on its way to an inglorious demise. Forget what’s happening out on the soi, Glamour alone makes a trip to Patpong soi 2 worthwhile.
Glamour is not the largest bar of its type nor does it have the prettiest dancers. But what it does have is fun ladies with good attitudes in spades, a really good vibe and an air of class not typically found in gogo bars. It’s all packaged up in pleasant premises making Glamour one of the best bars of its type in Bangkok. Patpong might not be on your list of bars areas to visit, but Glamour is worth going out of your way for.
Last weeks photo was taken inside Charley Brown’s, the popular Mexican eatery now on a small side-soi connecting Sukhumvit sois 17 and 19. The first person in Thailand to get this week’s photo wins a copy of the first novel by Zach Brodsky, Bangkok Delusions. Please note the prize is only available to readers in Thailand and you MUST explicitly state in the email you’d like the prize.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Paknam from the inside.
I was expecting a nice photo of ‘Big Ben’ in the provincial hall grounds by the BTS. Paknam has what probably is the biggest wat fair in Thailand in October. it covers both sides of the river including Wat Pra Samut Chedi on the other shore. Think it’s 4 baht to go over on the ferry but it goes up on fair days. Both sides are jam-packed with stalls and some roads closed off. The other side is more interesting as they have concerts and likay as well as outdoor cinema which you don’t see so often these days. Immigration is not so much stricter as more eccentric, they want 5 passport pages signed to do a 90 day report, enforce TM30 fines and once even told me they did not do extensions and to go to Bangkok, even though we lived in Samut Prakarn!
Thailand a bargain compared to Sydney.
Just a small comparison between Thailand price and Sydney prices. If a guy was to party in Sydney like your reader, it would cost him – 4 girls for 4 hours would be 142,000 baht, tips for the girls to be slightly hands on, and I mean slightly. Another 15,000 baht in tips. Drinks start at 270 baht for a beer 455 baht for a cocktail. Pack your bags for Thailand, boys, you’re getting a bargain.
Thailand not such a bargain compared to Melbourne.
In regards to the 180 baht question – that’s $8 AUD for a drink. Today I went shopping with my Mrs. into Melbourne City. Whilst we were waiting for our favourite restaurant to open I had a drink in a pub in the city and paid $7.70 for a pot. That’s less than a gogo bar in Bangkok. One can argue that gogo bars have women dancing around, while all I saw were a bunch of young, immature girls glued to their phones the last time I walked into a gogo bar in Bangkok. Enough said.
Beer prices around the world.
I have been in Paris for the last few days and beer here in the tourist hot spots ranges from 8 – 9 Euros for a 500ml glass from the tap. Pricey. Best of all was a corner bar at the arse end of beyond near a new building site where I got hit for a whopping 22 Euros (£20) for a beer. In the Quartier Pigallen (sex tourist hot spot) most were around 7 Euros for a pint 500 ml and the ladies were 100 Euros and no barfine or lady drink scams. In the UK in the hot bars where the trendy youths go it’s a £5 pint or off the main drag it’s £4 a pint and an in-call with a lady of choice is around £80 for an hour so it’s official: it’s cheaper to shag at home than abroad. How the world changes! Not that I play away at all nowadays, the only thing Bangkok has going for it at the moment is the food and the fabric shops.
A bunch of girls disappeared from Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy, but they didn’t go far. If your favourite is no longer in Dollhouse, try across the soi in Kazy Kozy. I wonder how long it will take them to realise that they went from a well-managed bar to…..
I might be unimpressed about 180 baht beers in the bars, but I’d be even more unimpressed with the prices of lady drinks if I was a regular bargoer. In Nana Plaza’s newest bar, Geisha, lady drinks have jumped in price from 170 baht to 200 baht. A certain gogo guru always said to me that customers were never happy when lady drinks cost more than standard drinks. 200 baht for a lady drink strikes me as steep, especially when you consider that these ladies can down that shot glass of water (yes, often, that’s exactly what it is) and be gone in seconds.
As people complain about rising prices in bars in the capital, has there been a drift to Pattaya where prices are lower for pretty much everything? I don’t know that there has been. It would be natural for those seeking more reasonable prices to head for Pattaya but I’ve not seen nor heard any evidence of that happening.
More females in Bangkok are going under the knife (and to be clear, I mean ladies outside the bar industry). The question I have to ask is why are so many Thai women getting what I term the witch’s chin?! I know that they like the idea of a chin that looks like some Westerners, but the reality is that it makes them look like one of the evil witches from The Wizard Of Oz, mars their overall appearance and looks completely unnatural.
Why is it that seemingly many chefs in 5-star hotels don’t know how to slice roast meat? Even at the Sunday buffet in some 5-star hotels, too often they hack at the meat the same way a butcher hacks apart different parts of a carcass.
While a decent roast is not always easy to come by in Bangkok, great burgers are everywhere. And my new favourite is Bad Burger (Sukhumvit soi 20) where the burgers are fabulous and there’s none of the ++ nonsense you get elsewhere on Sukhumvit. While eating in at Bad Burger is very casual, you get the impression that they genuinely care about the customer experience. They have something else which seems innocuous enough, but which is a nice touch. Free water. Just like at so many casual eateries here in New Zealand, customers at Bad Burger can help themselves to water from a water cooler. At the risk of being labeled cheap, I resent paying 60 baht ++ for a bottle of water in a basic restaurant which can, for example, push up the total bill for a hamburger on Sukhumvit to close to, or even over 500 baht. Bad Burger eschews the practice of so many eateries which gouge customers on water. In fact Bad Burger is the only eatery I know that offers free water and makes a mockery of these overpriced outlets where the bill is no cheaper than, and may even be more expensive than a similar eatery at home.
I think a reasonable person understands the reasons behind many of the recent changes to Thailand’s Immigration policy and visa rules. There’d been such widespread abuse by foreigners for so long that something had to give. With that said, I think that perhaps things might be going a bit far. A few weeks back the then head of Immigration announced that the department is looking at massively increasing the fines for those who fail to report foreigners staying with them. According to Thai law, it’s not just hotels & guesthouses who must report to Immigration every time a foreigner checks in, but everyday Thai citizens are required to do so too. What that means is that a Thai family is required to report to Immigration when any foreigner – could be their son-in-law – stays with them. If you live with your Thai wife in her home, she is also required to report your arrival to Immigration. Every time you are away for more than 24 hours and subsequently return, the householder is responsible for reporting your arrival to the nearest branch of Immigration. And if you own your own condo then you have to report to Immigration yourself. Apparently this law has always been on the books but has seldom been enforced. What is being mooted is that a change in the law will see a 10,000 baht fine levied for failing to report the arrival of a foreigner. (Currently it seems those who fail to report are fined 1,600 baht (and only some branches of Immigration enforce this.)) Basically, it seems that Immigration wants to know where you’re staying, all the time. Is this really necessary?
Speaking of visa matters, did I write about the refusal of entry of a foreigner trying to make a visa run from Australia to New Zealand? I cannot remember if I did or not, but in light of the fact that plenty of foreigners stay in Thailand using back to back tourist visas and visa waiver stamps with visa runs in between, I think this is worth mentioning. On the New Zealand TV show Border Patrol, a European who had been living in Australia flew to New Zealand to make a visa run. They would presumably spend a very short time in Kiwiland and then return to Australia where they would get another 90 days permission to stay. What is interesting is that the Kiwi authorities flat our refused entry to her, saying she was not a bona fide tourist because she was making a visa run. In fact the program gave the definite impression that – in the eyes of New Zealand Immigration – making a visa run is a very grey area and almost bordering on a crime, and the idea of that someone would fly to New Zealand as part of a visa run is a big no-no – and grounds for refusal of entry. While I don’t see that happening in South-East Asia, more and more reports outline the problems faced by those based in Thailand making visa runs every 2 or 3 months to stay legal – and it seems more are being refused entry when they return to Thailand, the place they consider their “home”. One would not want to be staying in Thailand on these types of visas these days.
Quote of the week, “I honestly believe most Thais would think Westerners are mad to pay the quoted prices in the nightlife areas.”
Reader’s story of the week is a lengthy account of Dr E’s relationship with a Thai lady whom he refers to as, “Chubby Girl“.
A Brit who kicked his Thai wife to death because she refused sex dies in prison.
A mumbo jumbo article in the Independent says we should stop visiting Khao San Road.
A 28-year-old Brit was attacked by his knife-wielding Thai wife at their apartment in Pattaya and suffered serious injuries.
What crazy thoughts went through the mind of an American who set up a platform off the coast of Thailand thinking he could make a new country?!
An Aussie is stabbed multiple times in a bar in Khao Lak while trying to defend a local woman from a local man.
Songkran is the quietest time of the year in the bars as even the hardcore tend to stay away and avoid the water wars. Little going on means less to write about and shorter columns. There was little in the way of bar news and goings on in expat society this week. If previous years are anything to go by, from now through until the end of May things will be reasonably quiet. I always do my best to keep on top of what’s going on, but for the time being it seems not a lot is happening.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]