Stickman's Weekly Column August 25th, 2019

A Beer Bar, 6 Ladies And A Camera



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Beer bars have long been seen as the poor cousin of gogo bars and don’t always get a good rap. And beer bar girls are generally considered to be less attractive than their gogo bar sisters. But not all beer bars are equal and there is the odd beer bar which is very much the exception to the rule.

 

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In early 2015 I spent an afternoon at Strikers on Soi Nana with 6 ladies and my camera.

 

 

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Strikers was a funny old beer bar that never really stood out as it should have. And to confuse matters somewhat, let me refer to it as Strikers V2.

 

 

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The original Strikers – let’s call it V1 – had the best location. It was where Hillary 4 is. The lease was lost, Hillary 4 set up and moved in, and Strikers moved across to the Raja Car Park which is what I call Strikers V2. That’s where these photos were taken.

Today, Strikers sits above the car park and below the pool in the Nana Hotel, which I’ll call Strikers V3.

 

 

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V2 of Strikers was probably the worst of the 3 Strikers locations, while at the same time it was a very well thought-out, purpose-built bar. It was open air for the most part – as most beer bars are – but also featured some enclosed areas where air-conditioning could be turned on so you could escape the heat, if you so choose to. And those air-conditioned areas had walls comprised almost entirely of glass, so you could see everything going on outside.

 

 

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I’ve never been impressed with beer bars. They’ve always struck me as tired. Often featuring washed up women, crap sound systems and a vibe that is more sloth than what I think can reasonably be described as laid-back. Simply, beer bars lack the energy and the vibe of other bar formats.

 

 

 

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Save Stumble Inn where I quite enjoy a quiet drink at the railings and watching the world go by, I’m not the guy to comment on beer bars. But Strikers had something going for it that set it apart from other beer bars. Whether it was a crew that was as attractive as you’ll find in many gogo bars, or that the bar was built to a good standard or perhaps a combination of everything, I just don’t know.

I hardly visited Strikers because, well, it was a beer bar. When Strikers V2 was at its peak, I was in countdown mode to leaving Bangkok. The reason I did a photo shoot was to build up a library of shots of ladies to feature as lady of the week. Hence some of these photos and all of these ladies featured in the column back in early 2015.

 

 

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Strikers was different. The premises were nice. The pool tables were favoured by those who brought their own cue along and the women were nothing like the riff raff found elsewhere. The dirty truth that no barhound will ever admit is that some beer bars are staffed by some of the least attractive women you could find anywhere in Thailand. Strikers stood out ….. because it was nothing like that.

 

 

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The Strikers’ crew weren’t just attractive, they were fantastic and fun to be around. They were as good a bunch of girls as I’ve ever seen in a beer bar. There were quite possibly the best group I have ever photographed and the photo shoot was a buzz.

 

 

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Strikers really should have been right up there with the best beer bars back then and even today, you seldom hear it mentioned. When was the last time you heard someone say something about Strikers? The Hillary bars, yes. Morning Night, yes. Stumble Inn, definitely. But Strikers? It almost feels like it has fallen off the map.

 

 

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Strikers V2 was an oddity. It was sufficiently far down Soi Nana, and sufficiently far set back from the soi proper, that I get the impression many people walked past it and didn’t even notice it – even though it was probably the biggest beer bar on Soi Nana.

 

 

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Perhaps the problem was that it was on the wrong side of the soi? You really want to be on the eastern side of Soi Nana – the same side as Nana Plaza. That side of the soi gets most of the foot traffic and is where most of the bars are.

 

 

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But this is less about the bar and more about the crew.

 

 

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Never before have I photographed a team of girls who were so great to work with, so motivated and so keen to do all they could. Bikinis poolside, coyotewear on the bar countertops, imitation leather, posing on pool tables, ripping it all off and playing together, the girls were really in to it. And they weren’t in to it because they had been drinking all day and were smashed. On the contrary, they were a close-knit bunch who seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company and they saw it as a chance to get some decent snaps for themselves.

 

 

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The sexy six were willing to be photographed in various outfits with the imitation leather my favourite.

 

 

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Is there a single beer bar in all of Thailand today that has this many attractive ladies who look so good no matter what they wear?

 

 

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And as I recall they not only turned up on time, they were ready to start before time which is almost unheard of with bar photo shoots.

Bar photo shoots might look like a bunch of fun – and this shoot was – but most are anything but.

 

 

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Seldom is it like this when photographing in the bars. Just getting the girls to smile can be difficult at times.

 

 

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Some bars are such a disappointment to shoot in that you can see it in the girls’ faces. In some cases the bar has a lot of pretty dancers but those available to be shot are the B team. Many times the whole thing turns in to a cluster-you-know-what because the bar boss hasn’t shown up and no-one knows how to turn the lights on. Or there is a mamadragon organising things who it’s obvious to everyone but the owner that the girls hate her. Few bar photo shoots go smoothly.

 

 

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Wouldn’t it be nice if some bars used a bit more imagination and made a bit more effort with outfits like this?

 

 

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Thai girls love to dress up and dolly themselves up fancy, yet too many bars actually charge the girls for the outfits. A bit more effort, imagination and generosity on the part of some bar owners could go a long way.

 

 

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This was one of the most enjoyable photo shoots I ever did, and far and away the best in a beer bar.

 

 

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Just looking at these photos again brings back good memories of a fun afternoon.

 

 

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Strikers may have changed location and no doubt this crew has long gone. But at Strikers it’s still the same guy in charge so maybe Strikers V3 might be almost as good as V2. I’ll have to stop by next time I’m in town.

 

 

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Shooting the girls of Strikers was a pleasure. It’s hard to imagine a lovelier bunch of girls to work with.


Billboard Bangkok

 

 

 

Mystery Photo

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Last week’s photo was taken on Sukhumvit soi 16, a soi I called home for a few years. This week’s is tricky. The photo was taken in Bangkok, not super central….but then neither is it way out in the suburbs either.


Nana Plaza

 

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

Romanticising farang.

I think you’re romanticizing about Farang in the old days. Pattaya has always been full of sexpats, alcoholics and even outright crooks, and among the English “teachers” there was a not-too-small number of low-lifes who’d spend nights chasing hookers, show up to work drunk and had no business teaching kids. Bangkok was only slightly better. The high-rollers you mention were a minority and not representative, though admittedly there are fewer around. If anything, I think Farang in Bangkok these days are more “normal” – a healthier mix of males / females, a more representative cross-section of society with a wider variety of interests and places they like to hang out (many don’t care for Nana or Cowboy, and never did). I’m not convinced they’re overall poorer on average, although they surely are compared to prices and the income middle-class Thais earn these days. Unfortunately, you’re completely right that the Thais don’t see Farang as wealthy or hold us in high esteem anymore. Back in the day, an average English teacher, or even a low-life western drunkard on a small pension was *comparatively* rich in Thailand. The “all Farang are rich” was a Thai meme, exaggerated even further by wealthy visitors and expats. That’s certainly no longer the case – the perception of Farang as a group has slipped, and it has wide negative implications in a country where appearances and social standing matter so much. Prior to 2010 or so, the attitude of most Thais was that of slight (but notable) deference towards Farang, but now it’s rather neutral, occasionally leaning towards contempt.

Cheap holiday? Head for Australia!

having just come back from Perth, the prices in Bangkok are really sobering. We went to our favourite place on Soi 8, Viva, for lunch and I later realised that after converting to AUD at the current exchange rate, it cost us 20% more for 2 at Aviva than it cost me for lunch in Perth last week for 3. I bought a new notebook in Perth last week which cost the equivalent of SGD$2,178. In Singapore it is $2,699, and in Thailand a whopping 79,990 baht (SGD3,619). So it costs 34% more in Thailand compared to Singapore, and a whopping 66% more in Thailand compared to Australia. A Thai could get the notebook in Perth and a return ticket BKK-PER-BKK for less than the notebook alone sells for in Thailand. Even the 2-bedroom villa I rented for 5 days in Perth with 2 bedrooms, swimming pool, TV room and a BBQ cost slightly less per night than what I am paying for 4 days at a hotel in Bangkok. So if you want a cheap holiday, give Thailand a miss. Maybe next time I am in Perth I should check out some brothels. Would not mind betting the price of women in Australia is now cheaper than Thailand too. Man, things have changed.

The pricey Biergarten.

Before Bangkok was getting expensive, but now it is just bloody ridiculous. I went for an afternoon walk and decided to pop in to the Biergarten for a Jim Bean and Coke – price THB140. I would discover it is not 140 baht any more. The girl showed me the price list and fortunately I did not have a drink or I would have choked on it. THB180 for a Jim Bean and Coke in the Biergarten which is AUD$8.65! I just looked at the girl, and said that price is crazy, forget it, and walked out. Do farang really want to pay $9 to sit and make small talk with ugly prostitutes? I sure as hell don’t. That is absolute madness. I could pay around that for a real quality wine in a beautiful setting in Australia / NZ, or get a superb sake (~200ml) in a gorgeous setting in Japan. So I now officially declare Bangkok nuts!

The formula for success.

It’s pretty clear what Westerners like – just look at the bars that are killing it on Sukhumvit Soi 8: Viva, Invite Cocktail Bar, Monsoon. The formula is simple: outdoor, open front bar, dark wood English / American style modern décor, decent modern music, good food. The formula works. It ain’t rocket science. If I was ever to open a bar here, I would copy one of those 3 bars.

Craft beer in Thailand.

Do you know that if craft beer in Thailand is bottled it is illegal if not sold in-house or you produce 10 million litres a year. I learnt this in the new night market in Chuwit Park in a nice open air bar with a charming boss with fluent English, the perfect host. He sells 10 craft beers at 220 baht each. The bottled ones are funny: due to the legal trouble it is brewed and filled in Cambodia, just over the border. The IPA is great.

Immigration angst.

I think the petition about the TM30 was the wrong battle to choose. There are many thousands of people doing nothing more than living quietly, caring for a Thai family, and they are either allowed in the country for a maximum 90 days at a time or have to jump through hoops and pay a hefty fee to be allowed to live with their family for a few more weeks. It is beyond absurd and borders on an abuse of human rights.


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok

 

I made a giant cockup in last week’s column – and let me be clear, it was entirely my fault. The lead item in the news section of last week’s column was about Safari in Patpong soi 1 which I wrote was changing hands and format, and would become a pub like The Robin Hood and The Kiwi. I got it wrong. What in fact is happening is that the bar that was previously Sahara in Soi Cowboy is changing hands and format and will become a pub…like The Robin Hood and The Kiwi. My apologies to Safari which is still open and still a gogo bar. Things got confused because the email from those who have obtained Sahara was followed by an email from someone else with the subject line “Safari”. And on top of that, the owner of Safari has been in negotiations with others who are looking at it converting it in to a pub. But for now, it’s very much business as usual at Safari. I imagine a pub on Soi Cowboy in the spot that was Sahara will do very well and looking forward to stopping by and checking it out when it opens / I am next in town.

The idea that entertainment areas for tourists be allowed to open until 4:00 AM was raised in the Thai media this week. This is something the Thai government is said to be looking at as a means to stimulate tourism. It was funny seeing the issue being on the Channel 3 news with video shown of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. Whether or not it will happen, who knows. I have to say it’s not something I thought they’d seriously consider. Would the bars being open until 4:00 AM make much difference to tourism numbers? I wouldn’t have thought so. Where once some visitors complained about bars closing at 2:00 AM and other restrictions on drinking / the same of alcohol, I think most visitors have got used to that and their major concerns lie elsewhere.

There is now a bar called Top Light (Lite?) a few doors down from Star of Light on Patpong Soi 2. Format is unknown….but it has been mooted it might be of the same format as the aforementioned bar.

And there are at least two new gay massage parlors on Patpong soi 2 as that soi becomes more, what’s the PC term…..diverse.

Word is that Country Road continues to kill it in Soi Cowboy while trade in other bars on the soi is a bit of a mixed bag. It used to be that, generally, the gogo bars boomed and sometimes you had to fight for a seat, whereas the beer bars did ok and live music venues fought for the left-overs. These days it seems like all of that has been turned on its head.

Stumble Inn, the beer bar at the top of Soi Nana just around the corner from the entrance to Nana Plaza, celebrates its 7th anniversary this coming Saturday night, which coincides with manageress Patty’s birthday. A double celebration is on the cards. There will be live music from 7 PM and draught Tiger and Chang pints @ 100 baht all night long.

 

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Down in Pattaya, Party Girls in Soi Diamond lasted about a month before it closed.

Yes A Gogo has closed. Rumours have it that it will re-open as a boy gogo bar for female Asian tourists.

Miami remains closed with redevelopment work to convert it into a gogo bar making slow progress.

SugarBaby has been sold. The building remains empty and there is no sign of any development by new owners, said to be Chinese.

Lighthouse A Gogo on Walking Street is closed and most staff moved over to Bliss.

The old Secrets bar, which reopened briefly as Scooters at Secrets before closing again for a low-season hiatus, is aiming to open again on September 1st. Presumably it will open with a new crew as many of the old staff have found jobs elsewhere.

And the final piece of bar news from Pattaya, Le Pub in Soi Diamond, has an unusual one-off promotion tomorrow, Monday 26th, with spicy Piri Piri chicken burgers, Becks Beer and cocktails all half price. The owner tells me that it has not been bad this month and he doesn’t share the doom and gloom of other commentators in Pattaya. He seems to be replicating what Larry of Secrets once did – being very helpful to people on the Pattaya forums which entices them in to his bar, where he is a great host.

 

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Have you ever rung the bell in a Thai gogo bar? I haven’t. I could never see the point. Over the years plenty have rung the bell and many years ago some bars used to have a wall of fame listing the people who had rung the bell and the date. What about these days? Does anyone ring the bell these days ? I can’t remember the last time I saw a customer ring the bell.

At Patpong this week roving male fruit vendors were balancing their wares on trays perched atop their heads. This is an Indian and Burmese way of carrying goods and the best guess would be that these fellows are Burmese. It’s something new and brings a bit of colour to the area.

I love Indian food but I have to ask the question why are there so many average Indian restaurants in Bangkok? Not bad, but average. The Indian restaurants that are good tend to be quite pricey. Bukhara’s on Sukhumvit Road near soi 7 is probably the best somewhat reasonably priced Indian restaurant downtown but even then, most dishes cost more than what you would pay at a similar venue here in NZ. Anyone have any recommendations for good Indian in Bangkok at reasonable prices? And yeah, I know Little India is cheap but let’s be frank, it’s not the most pleasant dining experience down there.

The farang beggar mentioned in last Sunday’s column has been spotted in the same place by another reader who pulled up the column on his phone and showed him his photo. It turns out that the beggar is a Russian who is travelling around the region and trying to get to Vietnam where he plans to teach. Said reader noted that given his current state of hygiene it is hoped that the classroom he ends up in has excellent ventilation.

 

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Craft on Sukhumvit soi 23 will throw a Kill Beer Weekend Party this coming weekend, August 29th – 31st, 2019 from 6 PM until late. Craft is a little different to a lot of the bars featured in this column and attracts a more diverse crowd, more expats than visitors and is best known for a great selection of craft beers.

If you plan to apply for a tourist visa, be aware that the Thai consulate in Savannakhet, Laos, which has long been considered a soft touch, is tightening up. Recent reports have it that people are being declined due to having either too many tourist visas in their passport already, or simply having spent too much time in the country. There are no specific guidelines as to how many visas or how long spent in country is too much. It’s the usual story with visa and immigration matters these days – it’s as clear as mud.

The sin sot (dowry) issue in Thailand has long been a bone of contention for foreign men who are uncomfortable with what feels like a price to pay for a wife. But not everyone feels that way and there are plenty of foreign men married to a Thai woman who defend the practice. One big change I notice in Thai society is that when this issue comes up these days, many younger urban Thai men are strongly against it. They argue that it is not relevant in this day and age. The next time a foreigner tries to defend the practice and makes the claim that all Thais getting married pay a dowry, put them right. NOT all Thais pay and the practice is not necessarily seen in the same light as it was in the past. And I for one think that’s a great example of progress in Thailand.

 

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Quote of the week comes from a Thai in Kiwiland, “A person with money is a good person.”

From the Bangkok Post, there’s ongoing concern about the Immigration Department’s requirements for Thailand-based expats to file the TM30 address forms.

A YouTube video shows how a manhole in an entertainment soi on Ko Samui is causing people to frequently trip and wrench their ankle.

Thailand’s economic growth is slowing and at is now at its slowest for 5 years.

The New York Times looked at Thailand’s dangerous roads and how they can be particularly bad if you’re poor.

The Foreign Ministry is not in favour of granting visa-free access to Chinese and Indians.

A Brit who got caught up in a fight on the streets of Pai in Northern Thailand finds himself locked up after fighting back.

ThaiTiger looks at the business model of Thai Airways and how it has squandered opportunity.

A Norwegian kills a Brit after a late-night argument in their Phuket hotel.

 

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The Stick bar shoot at the short-lived EQ Night Club.

 

This week we made the decision to reduce the number of bar photo shoots we publish. The reason is simple – bar photo essays aren’t that popular. They were once, but I think we’ve done them to death. We have to acknowledge that where once many readers tuned in almost exclusively to find out what is going on in the bar scene, things have changed somewhat and these days it is topics away from the bars that generate the most feedback. We’ll always feature news from the bars along with my views on what’s going on there, but at the same time expect more topics away from the bar industry.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]