Stickman's Weekly Column October 6th, 2019

The Museum of Patpong



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

The mooted Museum of Patpong will soon be reality. Talked about for years, the project will finally open to the public later this month. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the museum by the curator when I was in Bangkok recently, and I was hugely impressed.

Creating a museum fitting for what was once – and some may say still is – Bangkok’s most famous street would be a major undertaking. One would need to be familiar with the area, but also have a few clues about museums. The gentleman behind the project fit the bill perfectly. Not only has he operated some of the best known Patpong soi 2 bars, his family just happens to operate a private museum in his native Austria.

The museum celebrates Bangkok’s oldest nightlife area but it is not necessarily a museum for sex tourists. Quite the contrary, the museum is full of history of downtown Bangkok.

Wandering through the museum is like taking a journey in a time machine through Patpong over the years. It all starts with how the man behind the soi came to Thailand from China, how he built a life for himself and how his vision for the area was for Patpong to be the Bangkok CBD.

A large map from central Bangkok in 1881 shows what is today known as Silom Road. Back then was it was farmland. It would be another 50 years before Lumpini Park was born.

The history of the area is chronicled from before the turn of the last century up until the present, including the halcyon days of the ‘70s and ‘80s for which Patpong is perhaps still best-known.

 

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Pink Panther is still open today….will they accept this coupon?!

 

There is some fascinating history, so much I had no idea about. Take, for example, a large map of Bangkok from 1930 (in English!) showing an old tramway network more extensive and with more lines than there are electric train lines today.

Throughout the museum are various interactive exhibits, the first of which allows you to relive the life of those early settlers to Thailand from China and lift rice sacks just like they did in the day. Spoiler: if you’re not a gym bunny you might struggle.

There are lots of original documents in the museum with many providing factual, verifiable information about the original Mr. Patpong (and showing how so much of what is on Wikipedia is BS).

There are so many cool exhibits, so many rare items, so much detail and so much to learn. The level of detail is phenomenal. You can spend an age poring over some exhibits. There is so much to absorb and take in.

There are a couple of scale models of the Patpong area, one of the general Silom area from 100+ years ago and another of the buildings on Patpong sois 1 and 2 today. The level of detail on the model of Patpong today is incredible with broken drainpipes and window shutters amongst the many details faithfully recreated. It’s not just love and effort that have gone in to this museum – a lot of money has been invested too.

 

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Replica signage from the classic Grand Prix Bar.

 

The museum features some interactive exhibits, both conventional and digital. There is a very cool wall of fame where you can wave your mobile phone over the silhouetted faces of famous people. As your mobile phone passes over their face, a profile of who they are, when they visited Patpong and what is known about the time they spent at Patpong will display on your phone. Actors, singers and other household names are featured.

Amongst the photos on display include some of the work of Michael Glawogger, the late Austrian photographer / filmmaker perhaps best known in Thailand for the gritty and raw Whore’s Glory in which working girls in Thailand, amongst other countries, were featured. Glawogger’s displayed works are from a shoot in Black Pagoda several years ago.

There are just too many cool features and exhibits to list, including a collection of some magazine articles about Patpong from various publications over the years and a montage of classic Nite Owl / Bernard Trink columns.

 

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There’s a large montage featuring copies of classic Nite Owl / Bernard Trick columns.

 

I am told that there will be a 3D scan of legendary Patpong soi 1 gogo bar Superstar and a digital virtual reality tour. It, along with some other exhibits, was not ready when I visited.

A collection of paraphernalia from various bars is featured, including the original Patpong bar, Grand Prix. Some of the paraphernalia was found at a store in the United States and had to be shipped to Thailand. Speaking of Grand Prix, a replica of part of the interior of Grand Prix bar has been recreated.

Many figures of Bangkok had input and donated memorabilia. Think bar owners past and present, Bangkok-based author and life-long Patpong fan Dean Barrett, the owner of BangkokEyes.com and so many more.

 

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The late Rick Maynard, founder and proprietor of the classic Grand Prix Bar.

 

As authentic a setting as you can get, the Museum of Patpong is located on the second floor of a building on Patpong soi 2, below Black Pagoda – exactly where the Museum of Patpong should be!

There’s so much detail, so much paraphernalia, so many anecdotes, so much history and so many stories. It’s not that big, but you really could spend hours there poring over everything.

The Museum of Patpong will be open daily from 10 AM until 11 PM and the grand opening is scheduled for October 25. They want to get it right and make sure everything is ready. With this in mind, the opening date has been pushed back a couple of times already so the grand opening date is not fixed in stone. The 350 baht entry price includes a drink.

It was fascinating to learn the history of a bar area I first visited 22 years ago. I think it will be just as fascinating for those who don’t know Patpong and who may visit the museum first and then embark on their own little tour of the area, seeing Patpong through very different eyes than those of us who have known the area for a while now.

The Museum of Patpong will be a great addition to the area, and to Bangkok as a whole. It captures the rich history of the Patpong area, and the romance of old Bangkok. The curator has done a marvellous job and deserves all the plaudits he gets.


Billboard Bangkok

 

Mystery Photo

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Last week’s photo was taken of Duang Phithak Road which runs from Rama 4 Road up to Sukhumvit, just west of Sukhumvit soi 2. It might be close to the main Sukhumvit Road but few people got it right – just 5 of you. This week’s photo was taken when I was in Bangkok last month, one of the few days when the sky was blue.


Nana Plaza

 

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

Hotel pricing explained.

Just to clarify your point regarding hotel bookings; whether to book direct or use an online agent such as Agoda. All the booking sites insist on parity, i.e. they ask that you quote the same price on all sites as well as on your own website. Occasionally you’ll find that one of the sites offers a promotion either instigated by the site or by the hotel but generally you should find all prices the same, so they can all offer a best price guarantee. Most hotels, especially large ones, use software, known as a channel manager, to control this. It effectively allocates prices and availability across all sites. What isn’t controlled are bookings by email. Many smaller hotels will offer a discount for an email booking as they don’t have to pay any commission. A 10% discount benefits not only the customer but also the hotel. Larger hotels rarely do this as they have management teams in place but it’s always worth trying at smaller places.

Hotel price variations between booking company apps and websites.

A few years ago I stayed at a hotel well outside the Bangkok CBD. When leaving, I tried to book direct with the hotel for my next trip (price was most likely not the reason, I just thought it would be easier to book for the next month). Their response was it is better for you and better for us if you book through Agoda. So even with me standing at reception they did not want to take my booking and I was willing to pay up front. Two weeks ago some Thai friends went to a seminar with their work at a resort near the River Kwai. I was told the resort was very good and I should consider going there. I was in Sydney at the time and I used the Agoda app to check it out. The rate per night on Agoda was 2,000 THB. I told my friends it looked ok and 2,000 baht per night was reasonable. Their reply was it’s not 2,000 baht per night, it’s only 1,300 baht per night. I thought my app and location must have had something to do with the price difference. I arrived in Bangkok last week and tried the app again. I got the same result, 2,000 baht per night. I showed my Thai friends who checked via the Agoda app on their phone and the result was 2,000 baht per night. So now I was with a very frustrated Thai insisting the rate should be 1,300 baht per night! I then tried on my phone, not using the app but by going to the Agoda website. The website opens up to say they have lower prices if you use the app. I went to the mobile site and the price was 1,518 baht. So go figure!

Cheap beer sells.

Your comment about when business is bad, “raise prices” seems to be the Thai way. On my last visit to Pattaya I stopped in at a bar I have been visiting for more than 20 years. It’s a bar up front with gogo in back. There were 2 people at the bar (it seats about 20). The owner is a friend. Just 100 feet away was a corner small bar jammed with about 40 customers, which is all it could hold. I was shocked when I found out that a San Miguel Light in the bar I was in was 240 baht. I knew that in the corner bar it was 120 baht. I pointed out to the owner that she had one customer while the corner bar was packed. “They sell beer too cheap”. This is Thailand.

Are gogo bars for you?

The last time I was in a go-go bar was some years ago – Baccara on Soi Cowboy. I had some fun times there. This time I went with a friend who simply can’t fathom the idea of going out without alcohol. Upstairs, yes: dancers who completely ignored us and chatted with each other, not bothering to dance. And at that place, you’re right up against the stage. Employees roaming about interacted with us, but not these tattooed blinged-up curly-blonde-hairdo princesses. That was YEARS ago. I just assume it’s gotten worse since.

Postcard from Pattaya.

I am in Pattaya given the horrific pollution levels in Bangkok. Particle levels reached 250 microns today when the safe level is 50 so I can’t see any positives about going there at the moment. Pattaya is dreadfully quiet as your informants have said. I talked to some locals and they say it’s dire. The beer bars are lucky to have 3 customers at night and many are empty. Not sure about the gogos since they aren’t my thing. The only western orientated eateries which do well are those in the budget category. The more expensive ones are empty. Soi Leng Kee appears to the thriving but only a couple of the bars such as Billabong appear to be doing well consistently while the rest have only a smattering of customers.

TM30 not the same as registered sex offenders.

I would like to comment on an email. The person who wrote that the TM30 keeping track is much like the USA uses for registered sex offenders, well not quite. In the US when a registered sex offender moves to a city there is a notice in the newspaper with their photo. The TM30 does not do this.

Calling it what it is.

The ++ bollocks annoys me greatly. I used to think it was an American thing but I’ve noticed even the likes of Bully’s applies it.


Demonia Bangkok

 

It can finally be announced that Soi Nana beer bar Bar4 has been sold. It will shut down this weekend for a full renovation which is expected to take 3 or 4 weeks. When it reopens it will have a new name and no longer be known as Bar4.

What’s happening to the awnings over the bars on the left-hand side of the ground floor of Nana Plaza? They were being removed this week. Assuming they are not going to be replaced, it should add to the feeling of space inside the plaza.

Fans of houses of oral delights know there are more bj bars in Bangkok these days. They may not be as ubiquitous as the chrome pole bar variety and they aren’t sign-posted, but new bj bars are popping up in small sub sois off Sukhumvit. And where once the girls would give you a coy look as you walked past, these days they are more likely to mimic the specialty of the house as you saunter by or even whisper the main offering on the menu.

The impression I got on Soi Cowboy this past trip is that the average age of dancers would be a few years higher than in Nana Plaza. If you’re looking for more than just a beer or two, I maintain you’re better off with a lady with a few more years on the clock….

I have to comment on all of the gay bars that have sprung up in Patpong over recent months. I’m all for being inclusive and have no issues with gay bars, but at the same time Patpong’s identity is becoming even more confusing. Is it a nightlife area? Is it a night market? Is it an entertainment area – and if it is, what is its focus and who is its target market? Patpong really does have something for everyone. Given how inclusive is fast becoming the buzzword of 2019 and there is this idea that everyone should be welcome, you could argue that Patpong is ahead of the game.

 

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In Patpong, boy bars and girly bars can be found side by side.

 

If you are a non-smoker and sensitive to smoke or to people smoking around you, head for Soi Cowboy. Most bars on Soi Cowboy are strictly non-smoking…but not all.

I know that providing sweet-smelling bars is not first and foremost in bar owners’ minds but someone has to say it: there are a few bars that absolutely stink. Shark (otherwise one of the better bars in town with a much better lineup than most) had the most awful smell when I was in town. That such a bad smell lingers in a bar is surprising for a few reasons. First of all, Thais are very sensitive to bad smell and I am surprised the staff have not said something, or even taken steps themselves to rid the bar of the smell. And as per the previous paragraph, Soi Cowboy is the one bar area where no-smoking rules are enforced for the most part. But obviously the smell was not that big a deal because I spent more time in Shark than any other bar this past trip.

I may not care for them but I know there is still demand for ping-pong shows and balloon and dart shows. They’re a little like bj bars – you don’t usually see them heavily promoted. But Suzy Wong in Soi Cowboy is actively promoting these shows with girls sitting outside holding up signs. I can only guess they are a hit with first-time visitors.

Lek’s Last Stand, the open air bar on Sukhumvit Road just along from soi 11 has an 80 baht happy hour. Great people watching spot and no problem getting a seat, at least when I was in town.

I was never a fan of Sukhumvit soi 8 in the past but I’ve changed my mind and these days I find it very much to my liking. There’s a nice mix of venues and soi 8 is as much about food and atmosphere as it is about drinking. But soi 8 has one major downside – it’s a terrible soi for pedestrians. There’s no sidewalk and while the soi doesn’t get that much traffic – it’s a dead-end soi – it can be a bit hairy with Thais on motorbikes whizzing by.

Conventional wisdom says that being on or very close to the main road is better than being down the soi – but does that apply when we’re talking about Sukhumvit soi 8? The space at the start of soi 8 that was until recently India Today – and which has changed name, format and owners frequently in recent years (none of which seem to have tasted success) – reopened in its latest guise on Friday night. I wish the owners well while being conscious that that particular spot is, for whatever reason, a tough nut to crack.

 

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Early evening on Sukhumvit soi 8.

 

I keep hearing good things about Pin-Up on Walking Street, said to have a ton of hot girls and possibly the best lineup in Pattaya. My old friend Dave The Rave who spends more time in Pattaya these days insists Pin-Up has the hottest dancers in Pattaya, with a lineup even better than Sapphire – and that is saying something.

And I gather that just inside Pin Up near the door is a list of the biggest bar bills. The top figure is a whopping 212,000 baht, or around $US7,000.

Over in Soi LK Metro, Queen Club has lost a lot of girls and trade has taken a dip.

One of the criticisms some have of Pattaya these days is that in some places it feels like Bangkok prices, especially in some restaurants. Could it be a reflection of the growth in Pattaya and its surrounds as a weekend getaway for Bangkok Thais? Middle class and wealthier Bangkok Thais won’t blink at seeing the same prices in Pattaya they’re used to in the capital.

There is one sector of the bar industry that is booming in Pattaya – the curiously named gentlemen’s clubs. It’s a term that always makes me laugh because it must confuse those who don’t know what takes place inside these clubs. In Pattaya, the term gentlemen’s club means brothel. The format is usually premises with a bar area – sometimes a very nice lounge area – where ladies loiter, most of whom are available and can join a customer in private in one of the rooms on the premises. Gentlemen’s clubs are located all over town and lower prices and better service levels have made them especially popular amongst local farang residents.

Which begs the question, why aren’t there gentlemen’s clubs of this variety in Bangkok? If the format is a winner in Pattaya, surely the concept would be a hit in Bangkok? It’s an issue of law enforcement. What you can get away with outside of Bangkok is not always the same as what is possible in Bangkok.

The author of 5 Crazy Years: Memoirs Of A Gogo Bar Owner is looking for people to add a review to the book on Amazon. From October 6th to October 16th, the price of the e-book will be reduced to $2.99 in the hope that you might choose to purchase it and write a review.

 

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Gold kiwifruit fried rice…sounds horrendous!

 

Gold kiwifruit from New Zealand is very popular across Asia, Thailand included, and is sold as a premium product with a price to match. But the way we eat kiwifruit in New Zealand would seem to be rather different to how those marketing the product in Thailand suggest it be consumed. On the back of packs of gold kiwifruit being sold in Thailand comes a recipe suggestion for….gold kiwifruit fried rice. I cannot imagine that! I like fried rice and I love gold kiwifruit but mixing the two together is an horrendous idea. And what about green kiwifruit? The recipe suggestion on the back of packs of green kiwifruit is to slice up your green kiwifruit and throw it in tom yum goong! I know Thais can be adventurous in the kitchen but these recipe suggestions are appalling.

Movies and TV series with a Thai connection are often of interest and I notice a new TV series started recently called Airport 24-7 Thailand. It’s a British TV series that takes a behind the scenes look at Phuket Airport. You can download it from your favourite torrent site or try this link.

Getting a visa for Thailand used to be so easy for Westerners but widespread abuse has seen things tighten up and getting a visa for Thailand these days is trickier, particularly if you apply for a new visa soon after your last visa expires. But spare a thought for Thais visiting your country. It’s a major headache for Thais travelling abroad who need a visa to visit most developed countries. Even just a standard tourist visa to somewhere like the UK, Australia or New Zealand can take close to a month to be processed. A good friend has just had to change travel plans to the UK after the tourist visa application made in Bangkok for his Mrs. took much longer to process than previous visas had. It might not be as easy for a Westerner to get a visa for Thailand as it once was, but it’s still much cheaper and faster for us than it is for Thais going the other way. A New Zealander who wishes to get a tourist visa to Thailand pays $NZ50 and the visa is processed overnight and available for pickup the next day i.e. within 24 hours. A Thai who wants to visit New Zealand has to pay a fee of $NZ265 and the current processing time is estimated at 25 days!

 

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Reader’s story of the week comes from Kloth, “Helmut“.

Quote of the week comes from a friend, “Here’s hoping the Western press labels Thailand the land of smog.”

Could Thailand move the capital city as Indonesia recently announced it would?

Pollution in Bangkok reached such dangerous levels this week that the Prime Minister said that people should wear masks.

Bloomberg reports that Thailand’s surging baht has shattered the retirement dreams of some Westerners.

A South Korean is caught in Pattaya with a whopping 25-year overstay!

A judge in southern Thailand shoots himself in the chest in court after accusing his superiors of interfering with his verdicts.

Six elephants have died trying to save one another at a notorious waterfall in Thailand.

 

hooters-bangkok

Hooters in Silom is still open and it’s business as usual.

I hate it when I get things wrong. Unfortunately, it happened again in last week’s column. I wrote that the 3 Hooters branches in Bangkok were closing. That has since turned out to be wrong. I had previously heard and written the rumours of imminent closure of at least one branch of Hooters. These rumours were well-substantiated and came from staff in two Hooters outlets, Silom and Sukhumvit soi 15. I would later hear from a trusted friend, a well-connected Bangkok business owner who has given me more gossip than anyone in the history of this column that all 3 Hooters branches were closing. I was in town at the time so I wandered up to the Sukhumvit soi 15 branch to take a look for myself. And yes, Hooters in Sukhumvit soi 15 was closed. Word was the other two branches would close at the end of the month, a few days after I left. I wrote byebye, Hooters, in last week’s column. But as at month’s end the Nana and Silom Hooters branches did not close…..and then I heard that the Sukhumvit soi 15 branch would re-open. What was going on?! It turns out that the soi 15 branch was temporarily closed so modifcations could be made to the kitchen. I’d heard from multiple sources that Hooters was closing and had even checked and verified that soi 15 had closed, but in the end I still got it wrong. I’d made reasonable efforts to verify everything but alas, it was not enough. As soon as I found out that I had things wrong I pulled what was in last week’s column, not too long after first publishing. I do everything I can to get things right but sometimes there are hiccups. I could of course just wait for things to happen and write about them after the fact, but that would make for a slightly more dull column. If I hear about stuff that is going to happen I will make every effort possible to check it and then tell you about it. If I cannot verify it, I will clearly state that it is a rumour. I hate it when I run things like this in the column and they later turn out to be wrong.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at: [email protected]