There is no opening piece and there are no closing comments this week.
Last week’s photo was taken on Narathiwat Road, looking at two newish apartment buildings near the intersection with Silom Road. Just one person got it right. This week’s photo is, I will admit, a trifle tricky, but it’s still in the general downtown area so shouldn’t be that hard for those who know Bangkok….and I took it within 30 miniutes of taking the photo from last week – now that is a big clue!
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
The danger of mixing ladies and ladyboys in the same bar.
I couldn’t agree with you more about how spotty Playskool has been over the years. I think something that has certainly hurt it in its more recent history was the fact that at times it had a number of katoeys amongst the offerings. And that, as you know, quickly dilute the potential customer base if you’re not running a katoey-specific bar.
Greater scrutiny at Immigration.
The past 4 years I have been just visiting Thailand twice a year and staying for significantly less than the 30 days allowed by the entry stamp. Over the last 12 – 18 months I have noticed increased scrutiny of my passport and stamps at Immigration. It may just be a coincidence but it did appear to be younger / more junior Immigration officers. Perhaps having been given instructions to scrutinise regular visitors more, the junior officers are afraid of making a mistake and are taking things a little too far in some cases?
More Immigration hassles.
You reported more non-backpacker type frequent visitors were being hassled by immigration at Swampy. This happened to me for the first time on my recent arrival also. I came in with no visa, the same as my last visit a few months ago. The officer saw I had a lot of previous visits and started digging deeper. He asked me what I do in Bangkok and where I stay even though I had written the address down on the form. I didn’t figure carousing till the early morning hours was a good answer so I said I’m here to do yoga. I said it in Thai which made him even more suspicious. Then he accused me of being a yoga teacher to which I just laughed. He found a 60 day visa I got at the embassy in Vientiane last year and didn’t like it. He said getting a visa there was “too easy.” I couldn’t argue with him there. It was easy and I enjoyed Vientiane a lot. He dug around some more and for a moment I was getting concerned, but he couldn’t come up with anything real so finally he said it would be better next time if I get a visa from my own country. I promised him I would certainly do that. Glad he didn’t ask me for an onward ticket because I don’t have one. That’s the most I’ve ever been hassled at immigration.
TM30 reporting too much hassle.
I’m not going to deal with that TM30 nonsense. Too much hassle and I’d rather just pay the fine if ever required to do so. Plus I give them as much of my address as possible (I run out of space) on the TM6 form when entering the country so I don’t know why that doesn’t count!
Overcome by the heat of the hot season.
It has been so hot that I’ve been in despair. On some days it has been 41 in the bedroom during the day and low 30s at night, and the electricity supply is so weak that it is hit and miss whether the air-con will work. Strangely, the most reliable one has been the biggest, whereas I thought with weak electric the smaller ones would work better. Last week we had no electric for over four hours, and none for an hour the next day. The next day, they had an hour without electric on the other side of the road. During Songkran, I nearly collapsed at a family party and was taken to hospital, where the person before me and the one after were also there because of the heat. Apparently, the nurses’ quarters there also suffer from low electricity supply. In addition to all that we often, as in most days, have flickering lights when a nearby factory revs up at around 7:30 each morning. Just perfect for anyone who suffers from epilepsy. Basically, the entire system is on its knees. Today, my wife spoke to a hairdresser over the road who has three small rooms with air-con and hers works okay, so it might just be our side of the road that has a problem. When there are power cuts, the other side usually has no problem. We are going to visit the local office on Monday to have a word, but I am already thinking of postponing a possible August / September trip to the UK until next April to avoid being thoroughly miserable the whole time.
King’s Castle 1 on Patpong soi 1 was one of the best bars of its type in Bangkok in the ’90s and if the number of visitors descending on it nightly are anything to go by, some may well feel it is one of the best bars of its type in Bangkok today. King’s Castle 1 is frequently packed – but not with the same profile of customer as Patpong in its heyday. Today at King’s Castle 1 most of the customers are Asian, and appear to be predominately Chinese and Japanese. It’s Golden Week so there are a lot of Japanese in town. Word is that King’s Castle 1 has a great lineup of dancers.
On Patpong soi 2 Black Pagoda is the latest bar for sale. It’s not being advertised for sale. Black Pagoda was once called Park Bridge and was a club that for a short period had a strong following and was very, very popular with the club crowd. Given that Patpong is becoming more gay, would revamping Black Pagoda and relaunching it as a gay late night club be an idea?
The lights are out at Dundee. Where’s Dundee?, I hear you ask. Dundee is one of the small, forgettable single-shophouse bars on Soi Cowboy, roughly opposite Tilac. It’s a bar you hear few people talking about because, at a guess, few people go there. It is hard to think of a bar on Cowboy that has gone so long without a renovation or some sort of sprucing up so whatever is being planned for Dundee is long overdue. That said, it’s not what I’d consider the least worthwhile bar on Soi Cowboy to visit. That inauspicious bar, in my humble opinion, would have to be Fanny’s. It’s like someone thought about all the things that customers like in a bar and then set about doing the complete opposite!
Following on from the story in last week’s column about a lady who danced in Tilac and went on to better things, settling down with a guy, successfully completing a degree and now working in a high-end hotel comes the story of another lady who might just have a similarly happy ending. A lady from Billboard – and, yes, she has been featured in my Billboard photo essays – has left the industry after completing a degree in IT. She is currently looking for work in her newly chosen profession. Good luck, Miss Billboard, and don’t ever look back!
It would take balls to open a venture on the other side of Soi Nana. The Nana Hotel, Bus Stop and Fitzgerald’s aside, how many businesses on the western side of Soi Nana do all that well? Ok, there are a few more places that do ok but many of the bars on what I have always thought of as the other side of Soi Nana – it feels like a whole different soi – struggle. I wonder if the rents are a lot lower on the other side.
The official party to relaunch The Strip, being dubbed The Strip 2.0, on Patpong soi 2 takes place this coming Thursday and Friday, May 16 and 17. The theme is sexy black. If I was in town, I’d drop by.
Down in Sin City, the word is takings were down a little this week compared to last as the (s)low season starts to bite.
The big gossip in Sin City this week is that one of the owners of the Robin Hood Tavern chain ran off with not just with the takings, but money that was supposed to be used to pay the rent and salaries too. There’s since been talk about the number of shares sold in the bar and various other stuff. In other words, it’s all a gigantic mess! I haven’t heard too many stories like this for a while, but you used to hear them often in Bangkok in the late ’90s. Back to present day Pattaya, enter The Retox Group who have come to the rescue, and made strides this week to keep the business going, including paying the staff.
The newly renovated Office Gogo on Soi LK Metro reopened this week.
The new Tree Town area, directly opposite well-known Pook Bar on Soi Buakhao, is attracting a lot of punters in the new beer bar complex. It also seems popular with the young Thais with a number of cocktail vans set up.
Just like in Bangkok, plenty of Japanese are floating around Pattaya this week and on Soi LK Metro a number headed for Ninja A Gogo where the owner is Japanese.
Popular LK Metro gogo bar Crystal Club continues to focus on the expat crowd. They know that it is the expats who will be their bread and butter through what is shaping to be another long slow season.
I have been hearing consistently good things about Gallery Pizza and even a friend who was an award-winning chef in his native Germany rates their pizzas highly and admits to ordering a pizza when he has the late-night munchies. What sets Gallery Pizza apart is their hours of business. It is open from 11 AM, through until 4 AM and they deliver right up until closing time. A mate who lives on Soi Nana ordered a pizza at 2:30 AM and it arrived at 2:50 AM which is amazing given that Gallery Pizza is located on a soi off lower Sathorn Road. Admittedly, I have never tried their pizzas and my go to pizza place in Bangkok is Vesuvio in Sukhumvit soi 8, but many people have talked up Gallery Pizza. You can find out more here.
Here in New Zealand we have a terrible suicide rate, and I understand that in certain age brackets New Zealand has the highest suicide rate in the world, at least among developed economies. High-profile Kiwis topping themselves feature in the news frequently which is a worry given what a small country we are. Of course, suicide is hardly uncommon amongst expats in Thailand and reports of farangs jumping from the balcony of their Pattaya apartment were common. Were, as in used to be. Seldom would a month go by without at least a couple of expats reported to have jumped. It happened so often that we almost became desensitised to it. But how often do you hear reports of expats jumping these days? Not nearly as often. It’s one of the positive changes given how common this sort of thing was. Or could it be that the Thai news media has adopted the practice of much of the West in not reporting the details of suicides?
Over the past year or two there have been a lot of reports in the mainstream media about Thais being deported from South Korea. There have even been reports of flights arriving from Bangkok with many Thai nationals on the same flight being refused entry, turned around and sent straight back to Thailand. You don’t have to look very far on social media to see why. There are adverts all over Facebook for Thais to work in Korea. Farm work comprises a lot of the job openings while the other category – you guessed it – is for pretty women aged 20 – 30 to entertain men. These jobs often advertise a guaranteed daily take home of at least 250,000 Korean won (close to 7,000 baht). The number of Thais who have overstayed in South Korea is said to be huge. No wonder everyday Thais comment on being asked a lot of questions at Immigration when they visit South Korea.
Be careful when making the assumption that so many things in Thailand are cheap. Some things may seem cheap when compared to your homeland but are you really comparing apples with apples? Take for example house prices, which a lot of retired foreigners may claim is a whole lot cheaper in Thailand than their homeland. A house and land in provincial Thailand might set you back just a couple of million baht for a brand new house that looks nice enough…..to the untrained eye. Certainly, such a house would cost more in the West. But take a closer look and it might not be quite what you think. What is the quality of the materials used like? Are the materials used right for the purpose? What is the quality of the workmanship like? What about the general finish of the property? (This is one area where I find Thai properties to often be very poor.) I chuckle when I hear some foreigners going on about what a bargain Thailand is. Sure, some stuff is cheap….but don’t think that the quality is always the same. It often isn’t.
Quote of the week comes from a friend, “If every security guard in Bangkok were laid off, the national unemployment rate would reach 10%.”
Reader’s story of the week comes from Kloth, “Dirty Grandpa“.
Fake booze in Thailand is not an old wives tale and really is a thing.
A bunch of Thai restaurants run by Thais in Kiwiland are facing serious charges over a huge tax dodge.
The number of cases of syphilis in Thailand is skyrocketing.
An Aussie-born Brit who barricaded himself in to his rented accommodation in Phuket has been blacklisted from returning to Thailand for 5 years and will be deported.
Famous Maya Bay in southern Thailand will remain closed for another two years.
The new Immigration biometrics system is being tested at Phuket Airport and should be fully operational by the start of July.
There is no opening piece and there are no closing comments this week.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]