On the ground floor of Nana Plaza is a bar that feels like it has been around forever. It was a go-to spot for those who liked rock’n’roll and hot dancers. But the glory days are in the past and PlaySkool has struggled for years to find a formula that will capture the magic of the PlaySkool of old.
Back in the day, PlaySkool was right up there with the Rainbow bars as one of the best spots in the plaza.
But PlaySkool has battled for years with ownership change after ownership change. The latest fellow to take control of PlaySkool is a gentleman from Belgium.
So why isn’t PlaySkool a big name bar any more?
The bar was completely renovated a number of years ago – and it has held up well, and still has that newish bar feel.
The team behind the renovation did a great job with the rebuild said to be done to Western standards. One of the guys who oversaw the project was previously employed in the business of fitting out supermarkets in the UK.
But despite the good work they did on the build, PlaySkool never really took off.
It had a decent lineup including a pair of twins who were the star attractions. But the bar never felt like it got traction.
While you never know how well any bar is doing financially, rumours were that the high rents meant PlaySkool struggled to turn a profit.
I always had this odd feeling in PlaySkool that I couldn’t put my finger on. It was almost something sub-conscious….but I knew something wasn’t right.
And on my most recent visit I think I finally worked out what it was.
There is something about the shape and layout of PlaySkool that just didn’t work. I’m not in to such things – and certainly no expert on it – but perhaps there is something about the layout / the design – what some people might refer to as feng shui that is wrong? Being in PlaySkool is kind of like driving on a road where the camber tilts the wrong way. Could there be a design flaw in the layout of the bar?
Large pillars at either end of the dance floor obscure the view from various parts of the bar. But it’s more than that.
Some of the seating is at an odd angle. It’s weird, because the seats are comfortable enough, but it’s almost like you’re facing the wrong way….you’re not, but something just does not feel right to me.
But just what needs to be done, I don’t know. Maybe I have it all wrong and I am going a bit nutty…..but I swear, something ain’t right in there.
But bar shape aside, the very best-looking ladies were made available for me to photograph so if you want to know what the best of PlaySkool looks like, they’re featured here.
This lady was the most attractive, hence she features in more photos than the others.
The seating around the spa pool in the back left corner has been changed since the rebuild and I think the laser system has been removed too – at least when I asked the DJ to turn the lasers on he looked at me like I had asked him to play classical music for the girls to dance to.
Some of the girls were fuller figured so PlaySkool is a good bet for those who like well-rounded women.
PlaySkool fell off the naughty boys’ radar a long time ago and has never really managed to get back on it. It’s one of the least talked about bars in the plaza.
If PlaySkool proper does not do it for you as it didn’t for me, you can always sit outside in the beer bar and watch the world go by.
Last week’s photo was taken of the entrance to the Tobacco Factory at the bottom of Soi Nana. I took the photo from the green walkway, above. A good number of readers got it right and it’s nice to see others enjoy strolling around that part of town as much as I do.
Zach Brodksy has donated a copy of his novel Bangkok Delusions as a prize for the first person in Thailand to get the photo right. This is the last week this prize is offered. If you would like to claim the prize you MUST state in your email that you would like the prize, and you MUST be able to provide a postal address in Thailand.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails of the past week.
Mandarin, back in the day.
There was a time when Mandarin was known for a bit of filth. It was back in the early ’00s, the halcyon days for both Mandarin and Nana in general in my opinion (spanning my 20 years of history – I imagine things must have been awesome in the early and mid 90s as well). This was back when Mandarin’s second floor was always open. Back in those days, the second floor was staffed with spinners in school girl outfits, with nothing under their skirts. That was the appeal of them dancing on the glass floor, so that those below could look up the skirts. The taller bikini girls danced on the lower stage. On that upper level, there were two private booths adjacent to the stage that could be closed off for complete privacy. And things happened in those booths… For over 15 years, Mandarin was one of my favorite bars. Then starting a few years ago, things went downhill. Even though they had closed the upper level, they still had the spinner squad sharing dance shifts on the lower stage for many years. But then all the spinners disappeared and in came the coyotes, along with confusing barfines. It got to the point where I didn’t have a clue what a barfine would cost and had to ask each individual girl. And being coyotes, some were not available, yadda, yadda, yadda. So I essentially stopped going. I’d poke my head in once in a while, but it became rare for me to even bother sitting down. The mamasan in your photo mostly works in Mandarin Table on the second floor, down next to the Mandarin entrance (it appears shuttered in your photo – are they doing renovation work?). Whenever she sees me, she drags me to a spinner she has inside. I guess she knows me well!
Reaching for the sky.
I remember a story about Mandarin back when they were using the upper floor. A friend who liked the younger girls told me that the girls got younger when you went upstairs. My reply to him was that they had a special seat for him up on the roof.
Thai bars over Farang bars.
I agree with most of your commentary on the bars but there’s one area where you have got it totally wrong. You show a very clear preference for bars with farang owners. This is a mistake. There is one big difference between farang-owned bars and Thai-owned bars: Farangs try to reinvent the wheel whereas Thais stick to the tried and tested. Most Thai owned gogo bars have dancers available for takeout with barfines. Oddball shows and silly promotions are unknown. The Thais keep it simple. Contrast that with many farang-owned bars which have tried to reinvent the wheel. And it extends beyond gogo bars to the beer bars. Just take a look at Stumble Inn which is farang-owned to the Hillary bars which are Thai-owned. Hillary wins on all counts, yet from your commentary and frequent compliments of Stumble Inn you give the impression that bar is in your pocket. <To be clear, Stumble Inn is not an advertiser of this column, while Hillary is, yet I have recommended Stumble Inn over Hillary for a long period of time – Stick>
Postcard from Sukhumvit.
In the bars, I would say day trade is exceptionally low this week. I popped into the Biergarten around 2 PM and there were 5 customers and about the same number of freelancers. Speaking of freelancers, the stretch in front of the new Novotel-Ibis on soi 4 seems to be their new favourite spot. Many are hanging about. I guess they are freelancers as they were looking at people and not their phones.
Litter police out in force on Sukhumvit.
A warning for your readers. The “litter police” have been out in force. Around 4 are operating between Sukhumvit soi 11 and Terminal 21. I’ve passed the processing tent near soi 15 a couple of times each day since Tuesday and in all but one time they have been fining someone. Around noon today I was near the Landmark Hotel, approaching soi 4 and 2 Chinese looking lads walking towards me were stopped by one of the littler police with the words, “Where are you from?” After a reply I didn’t hear he indicated the Chinese follow him. They were bewildered, so I mimed dropping a cigarette butt and the nearest nodded. I crossed arms and shook my head he seemed a tad more relieved at this. They were passed over to a colleague near the police box who seemed to take them near to the 7-11 / McDonald’s for processing. Not a good start to the day for them.
We all thought it was the end at The Strip, but the Patpong soi 2 gogo with an almost cult-like following amongst some expats has reopened. A young Japanese fellow has taken over and plans to promote it among Japanese. I am sure the old gang will return too so who knows, perhaps The Strip will become a big name on Patpong again? As a friend walked by The Strip last night, it was fitting that the sound system was blaring out the chorus from Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” The Strip has had its share of both.
The original branch of Asia Books on Sukhumvit Road, not far from Robinson’s at soi 19, closed this past week. With decor from last century, the original Asia Books store has as long as anyone can remember. But in more recent times the original branch was something of an outlier and nothing like the shiny, modern branches found in malls. It may have been the original branch but it was not the flagship. That location is actually a compound with the bookstore in front, and a home and outbuilding at the rear, all of which can be seen when passing by on the skytrain. The area is going to be redeveloped with neighbouring shophouses demolished already or about to be. Word from one of the vendors operating in the area is that a small mall is coming, but that has not been verified. Cue the usual comments about Bangkok changing and how many places that held sentimental value are disappearing.
In response to those who are somewhere between angsty and angry at news that more gay bars are opening up alongside straight bars in Patpong, don’t worry about getting them mixed up. The names of some of the gay bars in Patpong make it very clear who their target market is. Seriously, with bar names like Screw Boy and Sweet Banana, you wouldn’t end up in the wrong bar, would you?!
Bar owners in Nana and Cowboy were informed on Friday that they would have to close at midnight for the next few nights. Within hours they were told 2:00 AM closing would be fine. Confusing last-minute messages are nothing new and are just one of the many frustrating aspects in the life of a Bangkok bar owner.
Pop superstar Ed Sheeran was in Bangkok this week and made the most of his time, seen visiting Soi Cowboy and Patpong. At Cowboy he visited Lighthouse and in Patpong soi 2 he was also seen enjoying himself at Paddy Field.
Down in Pattaya, Soi LK Metro now boasts 17 gogo bars and together these bars have made a dent in trade on Walking Street, especially amongst Pattaya locals and old-timers who prefer LK Metro which reminds them of the Pattaya of old. But word from a Soi LK Metro bar boss is that more of the new wave of visitors make it to LK Metro each night with Japanese, Koreans and Chinese seen in increasing numbers. In the Internet age secrets don’t exist and it was wishful thinking that Soi LK Metro would remain a farang stronghold for long.
Speaking of Soi LK Metro, it’s a prime example of how a night out in Pattaya can be had for a lot less than a similar night out in Bangkok. And I don’t mean cheap drinks and fake brand-name liquor in dodgy back-soi beer bars with girls who have been on the game since the ’90s. Crystal Club A Gogo in Soi LK Metro is one of a few bars on LK Metro with a very decent happy hour. From 7:30 – 9:00 PM, draft beer is just 65 baht and bottles of beer and house spirits are 80 baht.
But if you’re on Soi LK Metro this week you might not see popular bar boss Ricky in his second home of Pandora’s. Rick is currently laid up in hospital. Get well soon, Ricky.
There are happy endings in the nightlife and no, I’m not talking about what you’re thinking. Back in the day, the dirty doctor and I were regulars in Tilac. Two or three nights a week you’d find us there, and visiting often we knew a lot of the girls. This week I heard from the doc about a former Tilac dancer who has had a happy ending. She has settled down and is very happy in her relationship. She has a full-time job in a big-name hotel and has just completed a full 4-year degree. If you’d asked me to pick a lady for whom things would work out after time in the industry, I’d never have guessed her. She was quite the wild child. I’d love to have written up her story as a full opening piece but it’s best that her past stays in the past and she moves on to better things. Unlike the vast majority of girls who enter the industry and eventually come out the other side almost a different (read: often damaged, hardened) person, #27, as I will refer to her, never lost that country girl sweetness.
One of the more amusing news stories out of Thailand this week concerned a local courier company where staff opened a box damaged in transit, to find it contained a dildo. Four employees then photographed themselves with the damaged box and the dildo and posted the photos online. The recipient’s name and address could be seen on the box and said recipient was mortified. The punks who posted the photos have been fired and could face criminal charges. Thailand has a track record of knee-jerk reactions to high-profile news stories like this so I would have expected there to be a crackdown on sex toys to follow – but the opposite seems to have happened. Sex toys for sale on Sukhumvit Road in full display of passersby had disappeared several months back, but just as this story broke they have reappeared again. Will they disappear again? Who knows….but don’t be surprised if there is a crackdown on the online sale of dildos.
Friends in Bangkok have been complaining about the heat this past week. It’s the hot season so this is hardly newsworthy, right? Maybe not. Everyone has been saying the same thing – the hot season this year has been the worst – read the hottest, in many, many years. This was echoed by a friend in Pattaya who found himself in Bangkok. The temperature gauge in his car showed an outside temperature of 44 degrees. Given that Bangkok often feels several degrees warmer than the actual temperature, it sounds hellishly hot in Bangkok at this time.
The Sunday brunch at Charley Brown’s Mexicana which started last month sounds like a great deal. 900 baht gets you all you can eat quality Mexican food. It’s different to most Sunday promotions in that it’s not a buffet in the strictest sense. You order dishes (2 at a time) and they are cooked to order. It’s not a buffet of dried food that sits under a heat lamp for ages. And if you fancy a few drinks, another 500 baht will get you the booze buffet, or as they more eloquently put it, the “alcohol package”. Charley Brown’s can be found on a small sub soi connecting Sukhumvit sois 17 and 19.
There have been a lot of reports in the forums and on social media recently about people getting questioned by Immigration when entering the country. Most reports come from those who have been living in Thailand on back to back tourist visas / visa waiver stamps. They are essentially gaming the system, using visas intended for short-term stays to stay long-term. But they aren’t the only ones being hassled. There have also been reports of legitimate visitors who visit frequently (but don’t reside in the country) being stopped and questioned by Immigration also. A 67-year old Brit retiree friend of a friend flew in to Suvarnabhumi this past week. He visits Thailand twice a year, each time for a bit under a month. This time, the immigration official tells him he cannot visit so often without a visa. Said fellow replies that he thought he would get 30 days permission to stay and explains that he was a legitimate visitor. He opens his bum bag to show the £5,000 pounds he has brought for a month’s stay. He insists that he was polite and calm. Said Immigration officer (a female) says this is the last time he can visit without a visa and next time he must apply for a visa before he travels otherwise he will be denied entry. That there have been many similar reports makes me wonder whether someone has instructed Immigration officers to inform frequent visitors to apply for a visa before they visit (which, strictly speaking, is not required). Is there a number of visits at which point the computer alerts the officer to inform the traveller that they apply for a visa? Adequate funds to fund your stay, a return ticket departing the country within 30 days and a hotel booking confirmation should be enough to satisfy Immigration. After such a long flight this is not a very nice welcome to the country.
What’s going to happen to the number of Westerners retiring in Thailand in the future? It seems that Thailand just does not have the same lure and people don’t visit again and again like they used to – or at least not in the same numbers. Many foreigners who have already retired to Thailand were once frequent visitors. Will fewer frequent visitors now mean fewer Western retirees in Thailand in the future?
This issue with the Immigration TM30 form and the requirement to report one’s address to Immigration needs further explaining. It’s kind of complicated so I’ll do my best to keep it as simple as I can. According to Thai law, foreigners are required to report to the Immigration department where they’re staying i.e. where they sleep. Hotels, guesthouses etc do this automatically (at least they are supposed to) so tourists do not need to do any reporting themselves as it is done for them. For expat residents (those who stay in a house / apartment / condo), either you or the property owner needs to report your address to Immigration. This can be done at the nearest Immigration branch. So when you arrive in Thailand, you are supposed to report your address to Immigration within 24 hours. It is recorded in the Immigration computer system. Now, if you go away, say to an island or a branch for a few days, the hotel / resort will notify Immigration that you’re staying there. When you return to your residence, you need to report to Immigration again! What happens if you don’t? That’s where things get tricky. Let’s say you live in Bangkok and you went to Pattaya for the weekend. The hotel in Pattaya will report you to Immigration that you’re staying there. If you don’t advise otherwise, Immigration will think you’re still staying in Pattaya. So if, for example, you go to the Immigration Department in Bangkok a month later to extend your visa, they will see your address in their system as being in Pattaya. You will need to notify Immigration in Bangkok that you are back at your residence – and they may well fine you notifying them late. Fines tend to be 800 baht or 1,600 baht. Once you’re in the computer as currently being at your Bangkok address, then and only then can you extend your visa. As things currently stand, if you have already filed a TM30 form at your local Immigration office and travel outside the country, most Immigration offices do not require you to update them upon your return in to Thailand. However, some offices require you to report every time you return from out of province travel. It’s a crap shoot on what the local Immigration office requires! But strictly speaking, according to the law you have to advise Immigration each time you stay somewhere new. I hope that all helps to explain it, but then perhaps I just confused you even more!
Quote of the week comes from reader’s submission writer, Jimmy, “Everybody dies but not everybody lives.”
A farang who barricaded himself in his condo in Phuket in a dispute with the landlord has finally been removed from the condo and will be deported from Thailand.
The Chinese are buying up large in Thailand’s condo market.
There’s just one more bar photo shoot to run from my last visit to Bangkok and then we’re done with them. I like to mix column openers up and don’t like to run column openers that are too similar back to back. At the same time I don’t like to sit on bar photo essays for too long because the girls jump from bar to bar, and girls featured in a photo shoot from a few months previous could very well be dancing somewhere else now. Unless they’re being presented in a historical context, bar photo shoots are somewhat time-sensitive. That’s why I ran the PlaySkool bar shoot today rather than sit on it any longer. I know there have been a lot of bar photo shoots run recently and I don’t want to overdo it so the remaining photo shoot from Dollhouse can wait a few weeks.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org