Sustainability, social responsibility and fairness feel like the buzzwords of business in 2019. Today, some people feel that businesses should put a greater emphasis on benefiting society than on making money. How does the naughty nightlife industry fit with that way of thinking? Can the naughty nightlife industry benefit society? What does it mean for the industry going forward?
I think it’s fair to say that perceptions about the bar industry probably place it somewhere between shady and exploitative. In 2019 that’s not a good place to be as businesses considered shady or exploitative may find themselves shunned. The bar industry is resilient….but just how resilient? Will it continue to operate as it has or will these changing times cause it to reinvent itself? Could ethical mongering become a thing?
The Epstein fiasco was further proof that anything to do with underage sex is seriously bad news these days.
A wildly successful bar owner once said that the quickest way to get rich in the gogo bar biz would be to fill the stage with 14-year olds. The sad truth is that the young / young-looking ladies are amongst the first ladies barfined each night. If the industry wants to be taken seriously, underage has to be stamped out once and for all.
And then there is the problem of foreign nationals.
The problem foreign nationals face is not that they are there against their will – that’s very seldom the case – it’s that they are often pressured in to doing things they’d rather not. Where underage Thai girls can seek help from the authorities, it’s more difficult for foreign nationals who aren’t always treated well by Thais.
Some girls desperate for work may accept a job as a waitress or even dance. The pressure to go with men, along with the financial rewards and false promises of paradise tempt them to make decisions they may later regret. Before they know it, they are doing things they never dreamed of.
Many don’t know how to say no to alcohol and can find themselves plied with drinks. They end up in a state where they are defenceless. The mamasans should look after them but how many do?
Unprotected sex is still an issue. Some long-termers shamelessly boast that they never wrap up. Unwanted pregnancies aren’t common; STDs and other health issues are.
And the false promises of paradise? That is something I just don’t get. Why BS these girls like that?!
Young Thai women from the boondocks are impressionable. Disappointed a few times, they put up a protective front, don’t let anyone close to them and become as hard as nails.
Looking after the girls is the role of the mamasans, right? It should be….yet they are often the most exploitative of all.
And then there are the customers who refuse to wrap up, or boast about how they screw around behind their wife’s back. Do they not consider the implications to their health?
As bad as it all sounds, in many ways things are better than they used to be.
One suspects condom usage is better than it was and while I have no idea about STDs, you don’t hear about working girls having babies to an unknown customer which happened reasonably often in the past.
Wouldn’t it be nice if bar owners and mamasans put some genuine effort in to looking after their girls? Bar owners, of course, will say that the girls show them little loyalty…so why should they?
Will the ideas of social responsibility and fairness ever play a part in the bar business in Thailand? Could bar owners one day proudly say they make a genuine effort to look after their staff and take care of those working a difficult job? Will the business model change one day with the betterment of employees a consideration or is this all pie in the sky talk?
Business is changing….the whole world is changing. It’s sounds crazy to suggest that bars consider operating in a more ethical way but wherever I look, that’s the way things are moving. And the younger generations seem to genuinely support businesses which show a degree of social responsibility and shun – or even boycott – those that don’t. Could ethical mongering become a thing?
Last week’s photo was taken from a boat on the Saen Saeb Canal. The building featured in the middle of the photo was the Berkley Hotel, on Petchaburi Road, in the Pratunam area.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
The old Strikers.
Strikers was one of my favourite late afternoon fueling stations, particularly Strikers V2 as you called it. I enjoyed the view across the wide open space between the bar and Soi Nana. The natural light of that huge open space has been reflected in the photos well, giving the ladies a natural look. It was a great people watching spot. I used to drop by early evening in my work attire, and get my shoes polished while nursing a beer. I think its current spot at the Nana Hotel has more business potential. I visited last week and saw they were hosting live music at the weekend. Who knows, they could turn in to a “Country Road” in Soi Nana. However, the present line-up isn’t as eye-catching as the photo essay. Maybe I wasn’t there at the right time.
Don’t stop the bar photo shoots.
I’m curious, what makes you think that people don’t like the photo essays? Count my vote for continuing them, please. When I’m in Bangkok, I often go to Nana, and I enjoy walking Soi Cowboy (you have to go to Vegas to get a neon display like that, when they’re working). If I’ve seen some nice faces / bodies in a photo essay, that will cause me to stop into that bar. <See closing comments at the end of the column for an explanation on what is happening with the photo essays – Stick>
The ongoing TM30 saga.
Regarding the TM30 stupidity which has been exposed to the world by the BBC, the Thai government just doesn’t get it that people don’t appreciate being treated as a potential criminal. Or that many thousands can’t just pop in to Immigration, which might require a whole day and round trip of 200 kilometres or more. There is surely not any other country in the world with such a draconian law that says a wife can be fined for not reporting to a government agency that her husband has returned to his own house. And don’t talk about doing it on-line, where in typical Thai-fashion it’s a mess. In the real world, the world where wives aren’t fined for not reporting their husband is home, if you register on-line for anything you normally choose your own name and password, submit it to the company / organisation and can use it instantly. In Thailand, you apply and it can take weeks or months for them to give you log-in details of their own choosing, and then often the system doesn’t work. They even admit there are problems. A pity they didn’t sort out the system before imposing it on everyone, same as the 90-day reporting that also serves absolutely no purpose at all. The government will never back down and lose face. But is it possible they might quietly just go back to ignoring the law, like before?
Use mobiles to track foreigners.
Regarding the TM30 issue, it’s admittedly an old law that is now being enforced. Can you think of any reason why they don’t just track us by our smartphones instead? We already had to register our SIM cards a few years back, and it would be much more efficient to have us re-register every time we change SIM cards instead of every time we change locations. Just a thought.
Indian food recommendation.
There’s a new Indian restaurant opened in Sukhumvit 15 Residence Building on Sukhumvit Soi 13 entrance. It’s a strange set-up – one side looks high-end and the other is a bright cantina style, but they share a kitchen. It’s called Chowpati Indian Street Food. Once you get past the badly designed menu, it’s worth a visit.
Why fly Thai?
That article detailing the inefficiencies at Thai Airlines is frustrating. Obviously those in power have little incentive to make the necessary changes to compete in the 21st century. I used to be able to fly non-stop from LAX to BKK, about a 16-hour flight. That non-stop flight has not been offered for several years. I now fly LAX to some Asian airport and then on to BKK. The shortest travel time is about 20 hours. When I look at airlines to fly I always consider Thai Airways, but the fare is always hundreds of dollars more. A recent flight search from LAX to BKK on Thai Airways cost around $1500 USD. On other airlines the cost ranges from $600 to $900 with the same flying time. Why would anyone choose Thai Airways?
The sale of Queen’s Park Plaza is on hold. Various parties associated with Queen’s Park Plaza insisted it was a done deal, but it is now September and the second tier bar area on soi 22 remains open. Word is that a deal is imminent and it’s just taking a little longer so the bars have a stay of execution.
Word is K&S Bar on Soi Nana, right out front of Nana Plaza, is hanging on by a thread despite a cash injection from the team behind Strikers. An offer to buy was made but for a deal to take place the owners of Lucky Luke’s Tiki Bar would have to sell too so both bars could be knocked in to one, along with the money exchange booth. A great idea, but putting a deal together looks like it will just be too difficult.
The same rumour was doing the rounds regarding Hillary 4 closing in the near future but the lights won’t be going out there anytime soon.
Word out of all three major bar areas was generally positive this past week. In Nana Plaza they say business picked up and there were plenty of punters about. It was the same over in Patpong last night with standing room only in Shenanigans and pretty much a full house at Glamour. Cowboy was said to have good crowds for low season. So all in all, things are looking up.
A new disco / bar called Flares from the Shenanigans Group opened on Patpong soi 1 on Friday night. There is still some work to be done but the retro theme of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s could be a winner. It’s on my list of places to check out when I am back.
The Old German Beerhouse on Sukhumvit Soi 11 reopened this weekend after the building it sits in underwent a major renovation. Another full house.
Despite business generally being ok, the staff at one big name gogo bar are upset as tips have dropped off this past month. Tips are divvied up amongst the staff at the end of the night and typically it’s enough to buy something to eat and pay for a cab ride home. Word is that the change in the
ethnicity profile of some bargoers is a big part of it.
On Soi Cowboy, what was Sahara is boarded up with sheets of steel. The old signage has gone. It is not known when the new pub will open in its place.
Are there Chinese in Bangkok scamming white men? A friend had an encounter with some Chinese women that sounded suspicious. At the roundabout at the start of Yaowarat near Bangkok Hospital’s Yaowarat branch, two well-dressed Chinese girls in their 20s approached said friend and asked him for cash. They claimed they had lost their ATM card. They were with two equally stylish Chinese guys. He didn’t give them anything – and suggested they ask their hotel for help. Why didn’t they ask any of the many Chinese tourists in the area? One imagines it was a scam but would merely asking for money from a Western guy work? What’s the rub?
Speaking of Chinese, these days many comment (complain?) about the numbers of Chinese visiting Thailand. My old mate Lecherous Lee has an alternative viewpoint. He was having a bite and a few drinks on Sukhumvit soi 11 this week and commented that there were dozens of Chinese girls about. And he was not shy to report that many were decked out in short shorts and tank tops. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?!
Ever wondered what it’s like to run a Bangkok gogo bar? The former operator of The Strip has told his story. 5 Crazy Years: Memoirs Of A Gogo Bar Owner is available now.
Forget the nightlife and the bar scene, my email inbox has been dominated by just one topic these last few weeks – visa issues, Immigration hassles and specifically, the TM30 form. It’s the story everyone is talking about and to be frank, it’s become total overload and is starting to do my head in. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that emails outlining visa and immigration angst have outnumbered anything nightlife-related this past week by about 10 : 1. Amongst them were 3 emails from readers who each said they had cancelled / decided against taking a weekend break away. They just don’t to deal with the hassle of reporting to Immigration upon their return. That 3 different readers took the time to email me about this indicates that many are cancelling travel plans due to the hassles of reporting. That’s less money being spent around the country (in fairness it might mean money that would have been spent elsewhere will be spent in Bangkok / closer to home). It’s a great example of the unintended consequences of the enforcement of this archaic law.
On the topic of the TM30 reporting, a friend who has been all over this issue sent the following:
The main point about TM30 is that it’s the landlord’s responsibility; not the tenant. HOWEVER (AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT): A foreign tenant cannot register for the online option; only a landlord can. Many people are getting this wrong, including the media. In fact, this is the single biggest problem with TM30, and is also the most misunderstood.
Therefore, best-case scenario is having a landlord who is willing to comply with the law, in which case the process is relatively smooth. Every time you return from a journey, you notify your landlord, who reports you within 24 hours using the online option. Even better, your landlord can also give you their online password and you can do it yourself. All well and good.
However, if your landlord is uncooperative and won’t give you their online password or, worse, refuses to comply with TM30 at all, or you don’t know who your landlord is or where they are, then your only options are to report yourself 1) in person (or use a proxy) or 2) via the unreliable registered mail method within 24 hours of your return from a trip, every single time. BUT A TENANT CANNOT REGISTER FOR THE ONLINE OPTION.
Consider the worse-case scenario of “John”, a tenant who travels several times a month for business. If John’s landlord refuses to report John’s movements then John has no option but to report himself. John cannot register for the online method (which is available only to his landlord) so he must either report himself via registered mail or stand in the queue for a half a day at Chaeng Wattana immigration office within 24 hours of his return. Let’s say he lives 1 hour away from Chaeng Wattana. John could end up spending a full day at Chaeng Wattana several times a month!
Think about what this means for a second…
The ramifications are enormous as tenants travel less, impacting domestic tourism and the economy. Landlords will avoid renting to foreigners or the expat market will simply dry up, making it harder for multinational companies to attract top overseas talent. Immigration officers will drown under a mountain of paperwork. From recent coverage, it appears these deeper impacts are not fully appreciated by the government.
ThaiBusFoodTour sounds novel and worth a try for those who like something a little different.
In last week’s column I mentioned comments I had read on a Thai-language Facebook group by Thai men who object to the idea that they have to pay a dowry to the family of the lady they wish to marry, saying that the practice doesn’t have a place in modern day Thailand. There were more interesting discussions in the same forum this week, with Thai men commenting on finances in relationships in modern Thailand. A number of Thai men – who for the most part seemed to be modern, urban, middle-class men – feel that Thai women need to bring more to the table. The expectation that they will share the expenses if both are working is much more common these days. Many Thai men were against the idea of keeping a woman, paying for everything and giving her money. Some used the Thai word bling (= leech in English) to describe women who expected to be kept this way. For genuinely wealthy Thai men middle-aged and older, I don’t get the feeling that much has changed and they seem happy to pay for everything. But for the younger guys, especially those aged up to about their mid 30s, things do seem to have changed somewhat.
Some claim you find fewer Thai women hooking overseas these days because they can make great money at home without the need to leave Thailand. That may be true but even more can be made abroad. Once again my trawling of Thai-language Facebook groups has come up with some insight. A massage parlour in Sydney has been spamming the forum advertising for staff. They have more customers than they are able to handle and desperately need girls. Staff currently make $AUD 700 – 1,500 per day, tax-free. The ad goes on to say that ladies can save the equivalent of a million baht in no time. The parlour describes itself as walking distance to both Central Station and Thai Town. With one Aussie dollar today getting just 20 baht, I guess Aussies prefer to do their shopping at home.
Reader’s story of the week comes from Anonymous, “Not Smiling In The Land Of Smiles“.
Predictions are that the Thai baht will continue to strengthen against major currencies.
The government has ordered an increase in Immigration booths at the 2 international Bangkok airports.
At a school reunion, a 69-year old Thai man shoots dead a fellow who bullied him at school.
The family of a Scot who died on Ko Samui are questioning how their son died.
New boutique cinemas are popping up all over Bangkok.
The Supreme Court rejects an appeal by the two Myanmar boys previously found guilty of killing two Brits on Ko Tao in 2015.
Immigration have finally acknowledged that there are issues with the TM30 and a fix is on the way.
A Thai man goes fishing on a flooded road as Storm Podol strikes.
A 2-year old boy is mauled by a leopard on Ko Samui.
For this week’s closing comments I am going to refer to last week’s closing comments. Last week I said that we had made a decision to cut down on the number of photo essays we will publish in the future. I first started running photo essays from the bars at a time when few people had access to shoot in the bars. I was publishing stuff others weren’t – and I think that was the main reason bar photo shoots were popular. Today bar owners understand the value in photos of their most attractive staff being posted online and some are quite open to the idea of photographers shooting their girls. Just take a look at the Facebook pages of some bars and there are zillions of photos. But that’s not the only reason. Many of the most attractive ladies aren’t willing to be photographed and if you’re not careful you can end up snapping a bunch of plain Janes which is no fun to shoot, doesn’t show the bar in a great light. Note, I didn’t say we are not stopping photo essays completely. We’ll still shoot bars if we feel they’re worthwhile / where the ladies are attractive and easy to work with. So there will be the odd photo shoot featured going forward – and only when we feel a bar is worth shooting in.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org