Soi Cowboy This Week
I was supposed to be in Bangkok right now but the trip has been delayed. It’s the middle of winter here in Kiwiland and the coldest time of the year but to be frank, I was fine here and really didn’t miss Bangkok. That was until earlier this week when a friend floating around Sukhumvit sent through a bunch of photos he had just taken of the old haunts. They triggered memories of the good times and I started to miss the place….
Was the first time you saw Soi Cowboy from the walkway between the Asoke skytrain station and Terminal 21? It would be for many. Given the foot traffic at Terminal 21, perhaps it’s time a larger neon sign is erected to attract more people to the soi?
The neon of Soi Cowboy is enticing from a distance but the area is not so pretty when you get close. For a place some say is now on the mainstream tourist circuit, it’s all a little tacky and could really do with a bit of a cleanup.
20+ years and still going. Long Gun used to be the best and most popular bar in Soi Cowboy and back in the day it felt more like a bar from Nana or Patpong that had been transplanted in to Cowboy than a Cowboy bar per se. All that money made in Long Gun over the years must have gone in to the owners’ pockets – hardly anything been put back in to a bar which feels much like it always has. I can’t make my mind up if that is a good thing or not. And neither can I make my mind up if I prefer brand new, shiny bars with bright lights and tuned sound systems or classic old bars with a sense of history that evoke memories of a friendlier bar biz.
The neon jungle isn’t looking too busy, is it? Mixed reports have been coming out of Bangkok this year with record tourist numbers arriving but small crowds in the bar areas. The days of bar owners rolling out the old chestnut, “Mate, if you’d been here 15 minutes ago the bar was packed” are long gone and most are in agreement – May, June and July weren’t great.
There’s a certain romance with street food in Thailand. At the same time, there are street vendors and there are street vendors. I’m not sure there’s anything this vendor is offering that I’d be up for.
I wonder whatever happened to the kebab vendor who used to set up outside Tilac? She later moved across to the other side of the soi and then around the corner on to Sukhumvit soi 23 until she disappeared altogether. Her kebabs weren’t anything to write home about but at 50 baht they went down well after a few drinks.
Notice a few short-haired, butch-looking types hanging around the bars? Figure they are in a relationship with one of the girls of the bar they’re hanging around. In much the same way many working girls are involved with a Thai man, so too some have a lesbian lover….and just like those with a boyfriend or husband, many hand their hard-earned over to their butch lover who dominates the relationship.
A timeless Soi Cowboy street scene. It’s 2019 but it could just as easily be 2009. The Arab’s bars have had coyotes forever. I don’t think anyone who has followed the bar industry imagined he would remain in business this long, but he has proven us all wrong.
Wednesday night on Soi Cowboy and the place to be is Lighthouse! The 100 baht all drinks, all night long special continues. A fantastic deal which draws in expats and is a wild success. Why don’t other bars do the same on another night? Or even the same night for that matter? Given the Thai penchant for copying businesses that are successful, why is it that others haven’t followed?
Sam’s 2000, now we’re talking! It’s my favourite spot on Soi Cowboy, and where I like to start the evening. A creature of habit, I always order the same food and the same drink while perching in the same spot and enjoy watching the same stuff on the soi.
My thoughts on tattoos are known. When it comes to piercings, I really don’t care one way or the other. Perhaps it’s that piercings are easily reversible?
The final stop on my pal’s night out in Soi Cowboy was Dollhouse where a few of the ladies were happy to pose.
Farang-owned, farang-run Dollhouse continues to do well and it’s not hard to see why. First of all, Dollhouse has the longest happy hour on the soi, running through until 10:00 PM. Next, there’s a friendly foreigner managing who attracts many regulars. And the lineup isn’t too bad either.
It’s hard to believe that the Dollhouse brand name is now 20 years old. I wonder if this lady was even born when the first Dollhouse opened in Clinton Plaza?!
I think I recognise her from previous visits, and am pretty sure I have photographed her myself.
But I am not sure I recognise her.
If things had gone to plan I’d be in Bangkok myself now. Instead, I have to experience Soi Cowboy vicariously though the photos of a friend who was in town this past week.
How long will it be until I am back on the ground, visiting all the old haunts and playing Stickman?
Last week’s photo was taken of the Rachada / Din Daeng Intersection, right beside the Makkasan Airport Link train station. This week’s is rather more challenging…
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
When a nod and wink will suffice.
I agree that “some boys never grow up”. I’m not old yet, but not young anymore. I have been around the “scene” in Pattaya and Bangkok for 22 years. When I was younger, me and my mates would have a few laughs over beers recounting the previous night’s festivities, but just general stuff unless something extraordinary happened, then details may have been required, but hey, we were young, and not in mixed company. What I can’t stand these days are “gentleman” (many are way older than I, a few younger) who go in to great detail about who did what to who for how much money in a manner for the entire bar to hear, or even in a private table chat. Does anybody need / want to hear how she / he licked wherever and how they were upside down hanging by their toes? As usual, the tale ends with this powerhouse of a man shooting her / him in to oblivion. This is beyond kiss and tell. Keep it to yourself, please! If I ask how you got on last night, a wink and nod will suffice nicely!
Pride in your bargirl banging accomplishments.
The bar biz gossip amazes me when strangers start talking to me about their actions. I’ve had people pull up pictures and show me hookers they’ve banged. The one thing they have in common is a misplaced pride in the accomplishments. They use terms like ‘pulled’ and ‘chatted up’. I’m no more impressed by someone banging a hooker than I am someone hiring a car. In fact, it’s easier to do the former in Bangkok.
Can she stand on her own two feet?
The challenge I faced with my wife when I took her to a western country is the way the government and companies treat people there. They expect them to be grown up and handle their own affairs – to be accountable for themselves. Mine spoke good English and was university-educated but expected me to arrange everything for her. I could do that in Thailand where as close as she got to doing anything was to sign a form I put in front of her. She didn’t like it when we went to the west and normally due to privacy reasons I was unable to do stuff for her. She had to stand on her own two feet. She had to talk to people on the phone about her situation or her account or her need to fix a service that failed. She felt I should be able to do things for her, the same as when we lived in Thailand. Instead, the constant expression used by the person on the other end of the phone call was “For privacy reasons, I need to talk with the account owner.” I tried to explain the difference in approach but she seemed to blame me for it. I said something along the lines of “I have to live with the rules, I don’t make them” but somewhere in her mind I had let her down. This applied to lots of things – government services, official identification documents, bank accounts, phone services, internet providers, health insurance – the list goes on.
Some things better not talked about.
It’s best not to talk about the naughty nightlife to anyone with the exception of those who understand it, and even then only behind closed doors. I don’t discuss it with my family and definitely not with my partner. (Women seem to have a thing where they will bank what you say and later use it against you in a way you couldn’t imagine.) I let some things slip out from my naughty boy days to my Mrs. and regret saying it. The less they know about ‘what you did with whom’ in the past, the better it is for the relationship. As for friends and family, it’s best not to talk about it as it’s simply uncouth. They will judge you on what you say and talk about. More so Thais than Westerners. They’ll automatically catergorise you in the class of ‘Farang who walks around, middle-aged or older, in his singlet, drinking and wasting his life away with Thai hookers’. It doesn’t matter what you do or mean, they’ll catergorise you in that way and then your reputation is tarnished and that is a LOT to lose in a country where image is everything.
Was sat outside a bar on Soi Cowboy last night where there were 5 – 6 Thai police walking around. They approached me. One directly started chatting to me. All very false and friendly, another taking pics on his smartphone. He then asked me in Thai to smile. They clearly wanted a picture of a “happy” farang sat at a bar OR sat at a bar in Cowboy. Perhaps they were Tourist Police? What the pic was for, I don’t know. The policeman seemed like he’d had a few beers. There were literally no farangs with ladies of the night. There were Japanese wandering with ladies / ladyboys. Lots of Indians around with their wives. We’re an endangered species now here!
Bangkok real estate bubble to pop?
I see there was a story this week about a condo development being pulled due to lack of demand, which is the first I’ve read of this happening. In my view, when low-end Chinese investors buy up to 49% of a condo block with the aim of passing it off on Agoda as a hotel – and are prepared to go in to debt to do it – then it’s the surest signal yet that a big fat bubble is about to go pop.
What was Sahara in Soi Cowboy remains empty. Would-be tenants apparently still can’t find the landlord to try to do a deal with. So for now, what was Sahara remains a dark spot on the soi. One of the big signs from Sahara has been moved over to Kiss meaning there are signs for two different bars at one location. This is a big no-no – partly because signs are taxed and the rate is calculated according to the size of the sign and, curiously, whether the text on the sign is all in Thai or in other languages, the latter of which attracts a much higher tax rate, naturally.
The feeling that the soi is darker than usual is exacerbated with Cockatoo also closed temporarily as the original Soi Cowboy ladyboy bar undergoes renovations.
A couple of doors along, the party was rocking last night at Kazy Kozy, the Soi Cowboy bar from the group which runs Crazy House. A reader reports a decent line-up as Kazy Kozy follows Crazy House’s footsteps with hands on action. Last night it was buy one, get one free on drinks (spirits and beers) which ran until closing, at 3 AM. That effectively meant drinks were just 90 baht each, instead of the usual 180 baht. Is this a new promotion or was it a one-off for special event? Whatever the case it is (was?) a great deal.
The sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8 known to some as “Soi BJ” after Lolita’s and Kasalong was filled with men in tight brown uniforms on Friday as the houses of oral relief were inspected and closed. The interruption didn’t last, the next day it was business as usual, and it was all like nothing had happened.
I am told there’s been a noticeable increase in British tourists around lower Sukhumvit, not surprising given the time of year. It’s the traditional summer holiday months in the UK and the lads are out in force doing what they do best AKA making an arse of themselves.
The new sports bar above Shenanigans in Patpong finally opened after a small setback. It’s a decent place to hang out and play pool if you find yourself in the Pong.
If you are looking for your favourite dancer in Patpong and don’t see her in her usual bar, just stick your nose in a few others and odds are you will find her. It’s musical chairs in the bar industry as girls’ are attracted by better salaries and the promise of more customers in other bars.
Lollipop in Nana Plaza is to extend its drink all the beer you can deal for 5 hours to 7 nights a week. At 499 baht, it’s a bargain, especially when you consider the standard price for a drink in Nana Plaza these days is 180 baht. Hours are likely to be 4:00 – 9:00 PM – expect confirmation next week.
A sign went up at the new bar on Sukhumvit Road mentioned in last week’s column between sois 11 and 11/1. Lek’s Last Stand. Cool name for a bar, and a great spot for people watching. Not much is known about the bar and its format – it looks like food is available, but my best guess is that staff are not.
I know prices going up is normal and I have to be careful not to live in the past, but I can’t help but do a double take when readers report current asking prices. It’s generally accepted that down Pattaya way most things cost less than Bangkok. But has that message reached the ladies in the chrome pole bars of Sin City? A long-time reader tells me that many of the gogo bars he visits on Walking Street and Soi LK Metro have a 1,500 baht barfine before midnight which drops to 1,000 baht after midnight. And most girls’ remuneration expectations? 3,000 baht, short time. Factor in a few drinks for each of you and short-time could run close to $US 200.
The Aussie Bar in Sukhumvit soi 11 is continuing its 39 baht happy hour. It started in June, then we had July and now it is being extended through until the end of this month. To recap, bottles of Singha, Chang, Tiger, Heineken and San Miguel Light are all a ridiculously low 39 baht / bottle from 6:00 – 8:00 PM every night.
Crystal Catz in Soi LK Metro, Pattaya, will celebrate its anniversary this coming Friday, August 9th. You can enjoy free food including a roast pig.
For retirees from the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who rely on a pension from their homeland every month, things are getting tighter with currencies from all these countries down even more against the baht this past week. It’s not quite so bad for single guys who may be able to tighten their belt by eating less Western food, drinking less, going out less, downsizing to a smaller apartment etc. For single guys who abhor the idea of leaving, the good news is that in Thailand it’s always possible to spend less. That isn’t the case for those supporting a Thai wife / family. Those guys must really be feeling the pinch. And if your wife does not get exchange rates and struggles to get her head around the idea that there is less money coming in each month, I imagine some awkward conversations are being had.
Craft, located on Sukhumvit Soi 23, offers Bangkok’s largest selection of craft beer. There are more than 40 brands on tap with many more bottled brews from 20 countries available. Craft also serves burgers, pizza, Mexican food from Slanted Taco, plus Thai dishes. This coming Thursday, August 8th, Craft will introduce Thirsty Thursdays with discounts on selected beers which changes form week to week.
The TM30 requirement by Thailand Immigration – having to report your address to Immigration within 24 hours of arriving back home after a trip to another province / out of the country – is causing all sorts of angst. This nonsense is all over the forums and I have received a few emails about it. Thai Immigration has released an app which allows you to self-report but apparently the whole thing (the app or the system?) is buggy and many report problems with it. You need a login to self-report and it would appear the login has to be issued by the local Immigration office. In Chiang Mai, a long-term reader tells me that he got a username and password from the local Immigration office within 2 days while friends in Bangkok have been waiting for 2 months and have yet to get anything. You’d think the system would be a centralised system and one’s location wouldn’t come in to it but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It seems to be another area where individual Immigration offices do things their own way.
And still on the immigration issue, which along with exchange rates are the two big talking points for expats these days, last Sunday I included a link to a petition put together by some expats based in Isaan asking the Thai government to review its current immigration policy. I included a link to this petition because it was newsworthy – and I would include it again. At the same time, I really don’t think this is the way to go about seeking change in Thailand. Petitions might be a thing in the West where the public mood and by definition, democracy, is everything. In Thailand, those wish to see major change tend to seek the assistance of sympathetic, like-minded people of influence who have the ear of those in power. A quiet word is had and if there is a mood for change or suitable motivation offered then change may follow. I don’t, however, think that a petition by foreigners will achieve anything in Thailand. That said, I do wish those behind it luck and would be very happy to be proven wrong!
More underground train stations opened this week. The underground train no longer terminates at Hualumpong but continues down to the river, passing Chinatown and Little India on the way. These new stations are currently open for a limited service, from 10 AM – 4 PM in what is being described as an extended trial period. That mightn’t sound that useful but it still gives you plenty of time to get down to the river, go for a wander down, grab some lunch and get back to town before service ends at 4:00 PM. Where once you had to endure a taxi or bus or walk, now you can get down to the old part of the city with relative ease. And that’s great because it’s the best part of the city, in my mind.
The other half has been telling me about the reward system in place for those who snap a photo of a motorbike (or other vehicle) riding / driving on the footpath. Snap a photo, upload it and you might get 500 baht for it. Once you register on the government website (which is entirely in the Thai language), you can login and post photos of those who ride on the footpath. You have to detail where and when the photo was taken – and the registration plate must be clear. The offender will receive a fine in the post. If the offender pays the fine – which has been increased to 2,000 baht, you get a 25% cut / 500 baht. If they don’t pay the fine, it escalates to a more serious case and, unfortunately and a little peculiarly, the person who reported it doesn’t get a cut. Some Thais are out there snapping like crazy! I’m not sure quite what to make of it and have mixed feelings. On the one hand, motorbikes riding on the footpath are a bloody nuisance and anything which puts a stop to them is a positive. On the other hand, neither am I comfortable with the idea of reporting people to the authorities and profiting from it. I have yet to hear of any foreigners trying to claim rewards and I imagine foreigners would be deemed ineligible. That said, a foreigner’s wife or girlfriend wouldn’t say no to a string of 500 baht deposits in to her bank account.
Reader’s story of the week is worthwhile for those looking at spreading their wings, Thailand Expats Considering Vietnam.
Quote of the week is short and sweet, “Thailand is more enjoyable if you don’t live there.”
The Brits are taking a pounding as the exchange rate gets even worse for them.
2000 foreigners’ medical records are available to be viewed online after a Thailand data leak.
The strong baht is all causing all sorts of jitters in Thailand’s tourism industry.
The Bangkok Post looks at the major face lift coming to Khao San Road.
The dreaded TM30 form requirements by Immigration got more bad publicity this week by way of an editorial in the Bangkok Post.
Three people were injured after several explosions in Bangkok on Friday.
I had Indian one day this week for lunch and it really hit the spot. I hadn’t had Indian for a few weeks and missed it. It had been too long between visits to my favourite Indian restaurant. In some ways I feel the same about Thailand. I felt myself missing the place this week after a friend sent a bunch of photos and suggested I use them in the column. That collection of photos triggered memories and reminded me of what I’m missing. I guess Indian food and Thailand have something in common – they both hit the spot and are to be enjoyed…..in moderation.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org