Stickman's Weekly Column July 14th, 2019

Bangkok & the Bargain Bonk



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

It’s not that long ago that when Bangkok was mentioned the first thing in many people’s minds was that it was the place for a bargain bonk. Bangkok has largely shaken off that reputation and anyone who thinks that’s what the city is all about is living in the past. But what if a bargain bonk is actually what you’re looking for? Where do you find it?

1,000 baht barfines, 360 baht lady drinks and 3,500 baht short-times. They’ve been themes in the columns in recent weeks that don’t bode well for those looking for the elusive bargain bonk. But it’s not all bad news and it’s time to redress the balance.

The gogo bars of Bangkok still offer a great night out and if you’re looking for a bonk, it’s still very much on the menu. But if you’re looking for a bargain, hmmm, maybe not.

Naughty boys can still have a good time in Bangkok and the bargain bonk can still be found.

If you’re after a few drinks to get you in the mood before the main event, the gogo bars are as good a place as any. Plenty of big name gogo bars run happy hours. Soi Cowboy is the best of the 3 bar areas for happy hours where Lighthouse, Tilac and Shark all have almost their full menu of drinks discounted to less than 100 baht at happy hour. And while Dollhouse’s happy hour has a limited menu, it runs through until 10 PM. Bargain hunters can start in a gogo bar, have a few drinks and get in the mood.

Once you’ve had a few drinks, you may feel like company. Now you have to get a little more choosy if your budget is limited.

For the daring, current reports have it that Soi Nana is crawling with friendly, accommodating ladies. 1,500 baht seems to be the going rate and 1,000 baht may be possible. Bargain. That’s about as cheap as you can reasonably expect prices to be on Sukhumvit.

If you’re not looking for the fully Monty, a trip to Lolita’s or Kasalong will set you back 800 baht for the service they are best known for. I’ve always thought of these venues as I do a one-stop car service outlet where you can get a quick service and a lube job while you wait for $99. Same deal really, it’s a cheap lube job…and if you pay a bit more, the service will include more.

For full-service, the massage shops in the first alley on the left off Sukhumvit soi 24 as well as soi 24/1 are good bets. These are brothels masquerading as massage shops – signs aside, there is no pretension of massage once inside – the going rate is around 2,000 baht all in. A good compromise between price and service quality.

Away from Sukhumvit, there are dodgy massage outlets all over Bangkok where a naughty is available for not a lot of baht. This is where local men part with 1,000 baht, maybe less. The premises may look grim but the service providers are often pretty and spritely. The further you get away from Sukhumvit / where tourists go, the cheaper it gets.

If things really are tight financially, get on the bus and head for Pattaya. Sin City is still a bargain for naughty boys….but you might want to give Walking Street a miss.

Sure, Bangkok is getting dearer but don’t think that a bargain bonk is a thing of the past. Be willing to try out a few new places – which is all part of the fun – and you might be pleasantly surprised.


Billboard Bangkok

 

Mystery Photo

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This week’s Bangkok mystery photo was kindly provided by Mega.

Last week’s photo was taken of the Mahatthai Uthit Bridge at Saphanfa. I used to use the canal boats all the time in my early days in Bangkok as I lived near one stop downtown and a girlfriend lived near another stop out at Bangkapi….fun times. It’s amazing how even today so relatively few foreigners use this fun (but admittedly not always comfortable) means of transport. This week’s photo was taken by Mega.


Nana Plaza

 

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

The alcohol thing.

Some people simply outgrow alcohol. It was fun and all when you’re younger, then at a certain point you realize you don’t enjoy it much anymore. And you WILL find out who your friends are who like you because you’re YOU, and the ones who like you because, well, you’re a drinking buddy.

When water is dearer than beer.

Aside from a couple of nights in college, I’ve never been a drinker, and have avoided alcohol like the plague my entire adult life. Basically all I drink is water. One of those “little things” that has always irked me about many gogo bars in Bangkok is when they have specials or happy hours featuring something, like for example, 99 baht beers, but the special excludes bottled water. So I wind up paying 150 or 160 baht for my water (retail price of 7 baht at 7 Eleven), while the alcoholics get their 99 baht drinks. These specials should apply to all bottled drinks, not just beer.

25 years sober.

What you described is the drinking habit of a normal person. For those of us who are alcoholic, it’s a whole different story. I spent many of my younger years traveling to Thailand on business. My life was fueled by alcohol, naughty nightlife and great but not so healthy eating. It worked for a long time and I look back at it with amazement. It all came crashing down at age 44. Everything collapsed. It was a long road back but the 25 years since have been very good, if lacking in the intense drama of my drinking days. I won’t bore you with too many details but the road back included a recovery facility for a couple of months and AA. The funny thing I discovered was that the other people in AA were just like me. This is not a sales pitch for AA, but for those who are suffering inside there is a way out. And when you get to the other side you will wonder what drinking had to offer other than an unsuccessful attempt to escape and find happiness. If you decide to publish this you can tell your readers that should they wish to contact me you will forward their email address to me and I will respond.

Double lady drinks.

One of your points in this week’s weekly is one of my biggest pet peeves at present, this double lady drink nonsense. I’ve spent a shit-load of money over the last couple of decades in gogo bars in Bangkok and Pattaya and I’ve never been shy about buying a lady drink, in fact I’m usually very (perhaps overly?) generous in that department. But the spread of the double lady drink annoys me, especially when it’s not announced or advertised. Having said that, it’s only ever been sprung on me once – and I have not returned to that bar since. It could be that with the slow decline in the number of naughty boy visitors and expats and the increased numbers of “normals”, maybe bar owners are happy to rip off one-time visitors at the expense of losing regular punters? From personal observations, the decline of naughty punters is somewhat exaggerated. Sure, the strong baht and perceived rip-offs have led to a decline of western punters, but the good bars are still busy most nights, with plenty of people buying lady drinks and paying barfines. It’s just that a percentage of westerners has been replaced with Asian punters over the last few years.

Rainy season rates.

A girl I know lowers her rates during low season. 3,000 baht short-time potentially goes down to 1,500 baht in times of hardship. If I was a true naughty boy I’d definitely walk along the stretch of Soi Nana from Angels 4 to just beyond soi 6 on the Hillary side. Around 8 PM last night (Saturday) I was both sober and startled by what was available. Many pale-skinned women, slim and well-dressed women were out in abundance. My guess is these may be office types trying to make extra cash. I’ve heard of rates of 1,000 baht short-time from others.

More thumbs up for the Nana Hotel car park.

The Nana Hotel car park and surrounding area is full of freelancers and some real crackers to be had. Whilst not partaking, I was offered long time by a couple of tidy ladies for 1,500 baht which was about what I paid almost 20 years ago.

Nana Hotel car park a winner.

I can add to the pile of evidence of increased usage of freelancers on Soi Nana, particularly those in front of the Nana Hotel. Over the past few years I have increased my patronage of their services dramatically. 1,500 baht versus ~4,000 baht (or more) is a substantial saving!


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok

 

Something is going on inside EQ (what was long ago the Nana Disco). It has always been a great location for a bar so hopefully the next incarnation will work.

Sahara on Cowboy shut down overnight last weekend and have taken up over at Kiss where there are now 2 signs up – one for Kiss and above the door Sahara. The original bar is now a shell. The closure was due to new renewal being offered on the venue as the landlady is said to hate The Arab. Nobody knows what is coming and rumours Bacarra or Lighthouse took it over it are nonsense.

Up the road in Nana Plaza, Mandarin was closed last night which is kind of strange for a Saturday night.

The best deal in years on Sukhumvit continues with the 39 baht happy hour at The Australian, on Sukhumvit soi 11. A reminder, at happy hour from 6 PM – 8 PM, local bottled beers are just 39 baht – and from all accounts it’s as busy as you’d expect it would be.

Soda, the Miley Cyrus look-alike, who developed a following at The Strip and then later defected to Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy was back at The Strip on Friday where she starred in the Tongue & Groove show. There really is something about The Strip which draws people – punters and dancers alike – back. Friday night’s party was described as a great success and hopefully the bar is on the way to turning its first monthly profit since reopening.

Still in Patpong, the gay bar boys on on Patpong 2 have changed their ways and some staff are now calling out at anyone who passes by to go inside for a look which is not to everyone’s liking.

And there are good deals to be had at Fitzgerald’s on Soi Nana where pints of Leo are 99 baht all day and Jim Beam is just 99 baht, all day, from Monday to Friday.

The double lady drinks mentioned in recent weeks are, fortunately, not that widespread. In fact only a few bars do this and even then, it’s only some girls. So while it is sounds bad, most bars don’t practice this crap.

Down in Pattaya, long-running farang-owned gogo bar, Heaven Above, has a bunch of promotions this month. On Monday it’s 25% off all regular priced drinks (lady drinks not included). Tuesday & Thursday are Jack and Black nights with 99 baht Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker Black all night long. Wednesday sees all bottled beer except Corona at just 95 baht. And rounding off the weeknight specials, Friday is Vodka Night with Smirnoff and Absolute just 90 baht all night long.

Rumour has it that the maintenance fees to keep the structure with moving parts that rotate and generate power continuing was one and a half big ones.

The cricket world cup final is being played tonight with England hosting New Zealand. If I was in Bangkok tonight, I’d watch the match at The Kiwi, in the first sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8. The Kiwi was packed for the semi-final between England and Australia so get there early or book a table at The Kiwi’s Facebook page. As for who is going to win, I’ll stand by my pre-tournament prediction….England will be hard to beat.

At British-owned and British-managed Stumble Inn on Soi Nana, tonight it’s a night for the patriots and very much the best of British. New Zealand will be planning to ruin the party when the mighty Black Caps take on England in the cricket world cup final, live from 4:30 PM, local time. At 7:00 PM it’s over to Silverstone for the British GP and at 8:00 PM the Wimbledon men’s singles final with Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic.

A reminder that Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week, July 16th and 17th, are Buddhist holidays and alcohol cannot be sold. As such, I’d expect most bars will be closed for 2 days.

 

nana-hotel-construction

What’s going on at the Nana Hotel? Photo kindly supplied by a reader.

 

At Nana Hotel, renovations are going full-steam ahead. Steel pillars have been erected along the side leading to the main entrance. They are about 6 feet away from said buildings and don’t appear to be scaffolding. The steelwork looks substantial. What could they be?

The ramshackle buildings where the original Asia Books was located near Sukhumvit sois 17 and 19 have been levelled and work is going ahead on the site. At the same time, the long-running, old hardware and tools stores on that same strip are still going – and long may they continue. Part of the charm of Bangkok is the lack of zoning and the way you can have modern monstrosities next to little old businesses that have been run by the same family for generations.

If you are in Bangkok at this time you might have noticed more Middle Easterners around than usual. It’s normal at this time of year. They’re escaping the peak of summer heat in their part of the world for the relatively cool weather of Thailand. Hard to believe some venture to Thailand for the cool weather, but they absolutely do.

Speaking of visitors, The Tourism Authority of Thailand reports record numbers of visitors to Thailand while articles in the press this week have said that Pattaya and Phuket are particularly quiet. What’s going on? Can both be correct? Actually, I think they can. The mistake the TAT makes is publishing the number of visitor arrivals to Thailand without more details. When visitor numbers here in New Zealand are reported, there are 3 metrics : the total number of international visitors and the number of hotel nights stayed which is broken down in two numbers, international visitors and domestic visitors. That’s the missing piece of data in the reported Thailand tourism numbers. While the high number of visitors to Thailand sounds impressive, it doesn’t tell the full story. I’m in no doubt that record numbers are visiting Thailand (long queues at airports, immigration offices, borders and popular tourist attractions are just a few clues that the numbers of visitors are high). At the same time, many visitors are from countries in the region and stay just a few days. I’d really like to see the number of nights visitors stayed in Thailand used as a new metric to supplement the data the TAT publishes. It would provide a much sharper picture of what is happening in the tourism industry.

 

the-bangkok-boys

 

James Brown has published The Bangkok Boys and sent the following synopsis: This high-powered drama takes you inside the corrupt politics of Asia, where hatred, ambition, and greed impoverish millions to the benefit of a few. It’s an adrenalin-fueled international journey through Southeast Asia that tears at the bond between the two brothers. Can their intense animosity be overcome to save both Thailand and their business empire? Twin brothers, Wong and Kaiming have competed fiercely since childhood for the favor of their overbearing father. One rises to become the Prime Minister of Thailand – the other is Manila’s most successful tycoon. Jealousy and betrayal mark their unique kinship. When one is kidnapped by terrorists, will the other look to save him at the cost of the woman they both love?

The fingerprinting at passport control on arrival in Bangkok would appear to be adding to the time it takes to get through the airport. Depending on when you arrive, you might be looking at long queues and a wait of an hour to an hour and a half, as has been reported by a few people this week. A regular reader also mentioned that on departing Thailand this week, he arrived at the airport 2 hours before his flight was due to depart but long queues at passport control meant he almost missed his flight. So keep this in mind if you have a connecting flight on arrival, as well as when checking in when departing the country.

They say that London has more cameras than any other city on earth – but I wonder if Bangkok is all that far behind. It feels like there are cameras everywhere in Bangkok from on the streets to inside shopping malls, restaurants and bars. Sometimes I wonder if the likes of Lolita’s and Kasalong have them inside too….. Anyone who follows the television news in Thailand knows that many news items – especially those about petty crime / incidents on the street – show clips taken from CCTV cameras. Even out in the barn nok, there are many cameras. So I guess the message here is that if you are a bad boy who does things he shouldn’t, do consider that you may be caught on camera. And if you are the victim of a crime, the good news is that there is a very real chance the crime has been caught on camera and the cops will have enough to pursue the perps.

 

wednesday-special-heaven-above-pattaya

One of the concerns over the past year or so that has been highlighted in the forums is the number of travellers refused entry in to the country and turned around by Immigration. There are enough such reports that anyone with a history of travelling to Thailand ought be aware of what is happening but at the same time, don’t be too concerned about it happening to you. What the scaremongers often fail to say is that 99.99% of visitors to Thailand have nothing to worry about. Almost all of those who are declined entry at passport control are either visa runners or people who have a recent history of staying in the country on back to back visas. Their visa expires, they exit Thailand, enter a neighbouring country or other country in the region, get a new visa and race back to Thailand as fast as they can. If you’re flying in to Thailand from your home country, the odds of being turned around are very low. If you haven’t been in Thailand for a while, the odds of being turned around are very low. Being declined entry. as I say, mainly happens to those with a recent, questionable visa history. If that’s not you, don’t worry!

The currency crisis facing expat retirees on a tight budget could see some psychological barriers passed. Brits felt the pain when the number of baht they get for their Sterling fell below 40. Will Americans soon be getting less than 30 baht for their greenbacks? And Kiwis will very shortly be looking at their Pacific Peso getting less than 20 baht, with Aussies not far behind. The baht’s march seemingly knows no limits.

A friend purchased a luxury Bangkok condo in the heart of downtown off the plans but has decided Bangkok is not for him after all, so the as yet uncompleted unit is now up for sale. The developer is Noble and the expected completion date is August 31st next year. It will be fully furnished. The project is Be19, and the building is located at the far end of Sukhumvit soi 19, approximately 600 metres from the Asoke BTS & MRT stations. The unit is on the northeast corner of the 31st floor, and is a 50-square-metre corner unit i.e. a prime spot. It is a freehold title in a foreign name. The full purchase price is 12,508,000 baht. As of June 30th 2019, 3,860,655 baht (30.86% of the full purchase price) has been paid in installments. There are no more installments required until the completion date. At completion and the day of signing ownership contracts, Noble is offering a special discount of 728,000 baht. My friend is looking for someone to pay him the deposit he has made (3,860,655 baht) at which point they then take over the ownership of the unit and will be responsible for the final payment upon the building’s completion. Anyone interested can contact Mark (aka Mega) at: [email protected]

 

300x300-discount-promo

 

Reader’s story of the week is from Geoff K, a very nice trip report with thoughts on visiting Thailand today, Bangkok Update, June 2019.

Quote of the week comes from a Pattaya gogo bar owner I won’t name and shows how bad things are, “We are in need of traffic, this is a horrible low season with the exchange rates in the toilet any push you can give us would be greatly appreciated.”

Indian visitors are taking up the slack as the number of Chinese visiting Thailand drops.

The strong baht has been blamed for a dramatic drop in the number of Europeans visiting Pattaya.

A British-Thai model has her baby snatched from her in Phuket by her estranged husband.

The Thai man who raped a German in April and killed her by smashing her head with a brick is sentenced to death.

 

aussie-bar-39er

The best drinks deal on Sukhumvit can be found at The Australian on soi 11.

Enough has been said about the state of the industry already and everyone knows that times are tough. And that goes for everyone, from the business owners to the staff to the punters. Readers have asked where to find a bargain hence this week’s opener and there seems to be more emphasis on seeking out places (everything from hotels to eateries to bars) where there is true value for money. If you have any favourite spots where you’ve enjoyed good times on a budget and are willing to share, drop me an email. Many would like to join you there.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]