Stickman's Weekly Column November 17th, 2019

Taking The Colour Out Of Bangkok



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

The column Random Thoughts From The Cutting Room Floor seemed to be well-received so here is another collection of images from my most recent visit to Bangkok, this time with the colour taken out.

 

bangkok-black-and-white10

Looking west, Nana intersection.

One doesn’t typically think of greenery in downtown Bangkok but take a close look at photos shot looking down Sukhumvit and you’ll see more trees than you remember. Bangkok might be a concrete jungle but on a lot of main roads downtown there have been efforts to plant trees and add greenery.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white8

Flags flutter, behind Wittayu Road.

A slum community can be seen from the walkway that runs between Benjakit and Lumpini Parks. It is changing, but Bangkok still has plenty of the classic growing Asian metropolis views as skyscrapers tower over slums and low-income communities.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white7

The Krung Sri Bank, Ploenchit Road.

Bangkok’s skyline has got much more interesting in recent years as more buildings go up with a novel design or something quirky about them. Mahanakon comes to mind and let’s not forget the old Chang (Elephant) Building which was shaped like an elephant.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white9

Construction crew, Duang Pitak Road.

A stone’s throw from the bottom of Soi Nana, a crew works on what will probably be an office building…but so far this one seems to be very vanilla with nothing quirky of note.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white6

Sunbathing, Lumpini Park.

Is he sunbathing or is he sleeping? Or both?

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white2

Feeding the crows, Lumpini Park.

Strolling around, reading a book or just kicking back and watching the world go by, Lumpini is still a great place to spend an hour or two. Not many Thais think so, though. Too hot and too sunny. Lumpini is not a magnet for Thais….and I hope that doesn’t mean one day attempts will be made to redevelop what is a very large, prime piece of real estate.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white1

Low on her luck, Lumpini Park.

Lumpini Park used to have a reputation after dark. I was told early on in by Thais that it was to be avoided. After dark it was where people went to buy drugs or find a low-end hooker. These days you don’t hear so much about Lumpini Park after dark. Has it been cleaned up? There are still a few homeless who call Lumpini home. Back in the day one Stickman reader who contributed frequently to the site under the pen name Statler & Waldorf used to stop by Lumpini late at night for thrills.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white3

Magnificent monitor, Lumpini Park.

Not that the monitor lizards could care who stops by – with the exception of the tessakit (city council officers) who from time to time round the monitors up and take them away for relocation.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white11

Street food, Chinatown.

It’s hard to get your head around what’s going on in Bangkok when what you read in the press and what you see with your own eyes can be two very different things. The end of street food in the capital was announced a couple of years back to be followed by the outlawing of food vendors and effectively, their forced closure. Some areas which had a thriving street food scene have gone, while others continue. Reconciling what is said by officials with what is really going on can do your head in.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white4

Touts, Patpong.

And the same can be said of the nightlife industry where crackdowns are announced with much fanfare yet the average Joe might see zero evidence of said crackdown whatsoever. Crackdowns in Thailand are an opportunity for the authorities to make a strong public statement and get the public back on side after a particular issue had got a lot of bad press and they had to be seen to do something. But whether anything actually happens is another thing altogether.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white15

Night market, Patpong.

With the recent opening of the Patpong Museum, parts of the area feel almost timeless. The market, the oldest farang bars and restaurants in Bangkok, some things have barely changed. In a city where so much is changing, long may Patpong stay this way.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white5

Fetish house, Patpong.

No image seems as fitting in a collection of black and whites from Bangkok as one from Bar Bar, the fetish house. Having spent time inside, I’m still not sure what to make of it. I am not a fetishist and really don’t know if it’s authentic or one big cliché. That said, the likes of Bar Bar and Demonia have their following.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white17

Condos over Soi Cowboy.

Bangkok today, a tall new condo development sidles up to an older condo building and together they cast a shadow over established neighbourhoods, like Soi Cowboy.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white14

Day-light, Soi Cowboy.

Nightspots seldom look their best by day, and Soi Cowboy is no exception. Shall we say the difference is night and day…?

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white12

Spirit house, Nana Plaza.

There’s something about black and white that captures the grit of a moment, especially if the images are of things seldom celebrated. Unless you really want to show the industry warts and all, black and white doesn’t present the bars in anything like its best light.

 

 

bangkok-black-and-white13

Youngster, Nana Plaza.

And neither does black and white showcase the girls well either…

 


Billboard Bangkok
 

 

Mystery Photo

myserty-photo56

Last week’s photo was taken about a kilometre or so up Sukhumvit soi 22 from the main road. A reader mentioned it’s a soi he learned that if all he wants is a genuine massage to seek out women in pants. This week’s photo is rather more difficult and what’s the bet that no more than 5 people get it right?


Nana Plaza
 

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

What’s true in Thailand mightn’t be true elsewhere.

Your line: “These days you just don’t come across that many bargirl / former customer relationships” is, I’m guessing, based on those living in Thailand. I know in the UK 90%+ of Thai / farang relationships would be with ex-working girls, from my observation!

BTS & MRT station names explained.

Regarding your reader’s comment about BTS / MRT station names, in the early days the BTS and MRTA operators were rivals, so they deliberately chose different names so that passengers on one system might not be aware of the other system nearby so they wouldn’t use it. On many BTS city maps, the MRT is depicted as a faint, broken blue line you might need glasses to notice. And in the early days announcements on the trains never used to tell you that you could interchange with the other. They’ve grown up a bit since then.

Postcard from Bangkok.

I’m in Bangkok at the moment so thought I’d pass on a few thoughts and observations. There seem to be plenty of people about, not huge numbers of Chinese but plenty of Indians and Arabs. Whilst one sees plenty of Indians hanging around the streets I rarely see them in the bars. And the few I do see appear to be nursing draught beer. Speaking of the bars, Cowboy is noticeably busier (not surprisingly given the time of year) than when I was here in May, but it’s not rammed. Speaking to a service girl I’ve known for a while in Dollhouse, she said it was definitely worse this year than 2018. The bill padding topic came up with her mentioning 2 bars in the soi. Nana Plaza seems busy. One of my old haunts, Sexy Nights, is up and down and Spankys always seems busy when I pass by. Billboard and Butterflies are packed with girls and punters, as usual. I actually prefer Butterflies as I find the atmosphere more fun.

Postcard from Pattaya.

It’s good to hear that Pattaya is waking up at last from the low season slumber. While there are many expats and tourists who would like nothing better than a recession to lower prices for ‘entertainment’, there are many ordinary, working-class Thais who rely on money flowing down from naughty boys to the bargirls to make a living. It is a hard scrabble existence at the bottom of the heap with no social security net. It makes me thankful I was born in a Western country which provides some security should something befall me. Many of us don’t realise how little some Thais earn and the long hours they put in.

Hooker / john relationship dynamics.

I had plenty of failed relationships in the West long before I came to South-East Asia to continue the trend. I remember when many luk-kreungs were from bargirl / farang hook-ups and were sought after for movies and soap operas. Back then it was ok to lock down a Westerner. With many hooker / john relationships, you find that regardless of what paths they have taken they have that intimacy bond that going extra-marital is no big deal. Where’s the harm in that? They met before, have a friendship and they already know the intimate details. They might even find comfort in spending time so they can speak honestly and have an open ear about their husband or wives.

Who earns more – you or a bargirl?

I bet I’m not the only one who looked at average salaries within their country on reading the amount the good-lookers in the bars can make. Gross on an average month I’m ahead but net I’m just below, if we regard the THB at 38.5/GBP – as I doubt theses lasses pay any taxes. That said, my earnings will always grow whilst the lookers only have a short window to capitalise on their looks.

Semantics.

Why is it we dress up the women’s roles in such fancy words anyway? Is the term sex worker too telling and stained for use? God forbid anyone uses the term “whore pour” in place of “Lady drink” as some wit once Christened them.

The plaza good, the bars not so.

I went to Nana Plaza for the first time in a long time. The changes on the ground floor make quite a positive difference. I like it. Unfortunately that was about it for the positives. Went to a popular bar full of girls, some attractive. And quite a few guys too. What was striking through is that in the entire bar – yes literally, the entire bar – there was not a single lady sitting with or otherwise “entertaining” any guy. They might as well build a glass wall down the middle of the bar and keep the girls on one side and the guys on the other – it would make no difference. I sat and had a drink while watching 20+, maybe 30+ girls on stage. Not a single one would make any eye contact as hard as I tried. Not one. Maybe I am just old now and with that damn ugly, but nevertheless this is not the Bangkok I remember.


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok
 

 

always-bar-soi-nana

Always, in the spot that was Bar4 on Soi Nana.

 

Always is the new name of the Soi Nana beer bar previously known as Bar4. Some say Bar4 was sold and has a new owner, others claim the old owner took on a new partner. And then are those who say the old owner is still in charge. Emails to the old owner have gone unanswered so while I cannot comment with certainty on the ownership, what I can say is that Always looks like a better version of Bar4 i.e. more of the same.

The new beer bar complex under construction in Sukhumvit soi 7, next to the Biergarten, should be open by the end of the month with a food area and night market to follow.

At long last, bars in Sukhumvit soi 22 have admitted that what has been mooted for months is true and the bar area will close in January. One bar owner in Queen’s Park Plaza has called it coincidence that this column announced almost some months ago Queen’s Park Plaza was coming to an end. A coincidence, he tells me, a lucky guess :)

If you cannot see your favourite Dollhouse dancer upstairs or down, pop a few doors along to Lighthouse where you may well see her on stage after a number of dancers changed “house” this week.

It’s a couple of weeks since Oasis, the newest watering hole on Soi Cowboy, opened so the staff should be settled in and the venue should be buzzing. Oasis starts the day early with the doors open from 10:00 AM – and you can grab a full English breakfast there if that takes your fancy. Oasis serves both Western and Thai food and for drinkers, there are 9 different draft beers. In the spirit of Cowboy, happy hour runs from 3 – 6 PM with all draft lagers just 100 baht. Oasis also has a selection of tea and coffee. The attractive venue has two floors with a balcony on each level for you to sit and watch the world go by. Or you can catch live sport on the 17 large screens throughout the bar. Contrary to earlier reports, Oasis is not an English-themed bar. The ground floor is done out in an industrial loft style and the first floor has 3 brand-new Rhino pool tables – free to play on – and a balcony area. There is live music every night. Important note: the staff are not barfineable and there are no lady drinks. Think of Oasis as a regular, no hassles boozer. Good concept in a great location – I reckon they’re on to a winner.

Good trade continues and word is that the 3 main bar areas were busy this week. That said, the bars weren’t full of naughty boys. The impression was that many were tourists checking out what all the fuss is about and ticking the likes of Nana and Cowboy off their things to see list.

 

lighthouse-soi-cowboy-drinks-specials

 

A reader reports an anomaly on Sukhumvit soi 8 where he has observed Fridays seem to be one of the least busy nights of the week. This past Friday there were many empty tables in many venues, not what you expect on what is usually the busiest night of the week in Bangkok. A one-off or is this the norm on Soi 8? And if it is the norm, why?

What works in Thailand might not work across the border – and that would appear to be true when it comes to Thai bar owner mentality – you know, where the girls are promised a decent salary only to find at month’s end that their salary is cut for every conceivable – and inconceivable – infraction leaving staff with much less than they expected. From a bar in a neighbouring country operated by a fellow who did well in Thailand before making the move comes word that staff have been leaving due to salary cuts they don’t agree with. They felt they hadn’t done anything yet suffered endless cuts to their salary. It’s not Bangkok, the scene is small – and word spreads fast. Will this bar have difficulty finding new staff? Probably not….but neither will it help them.

Black Pagoda produced a beautiful poster for their dirty disco night – see the poster below. The thing is, they only told me about it a couple of days before the event which was too late to let you know about it before the event…so I include the poster here because I really like it, while at the same time I know it isn’t exactly helpful in letting you know about the event!

 

transition

 

My estimates of bargirls’ earnings from last week’s column have been called in to question. A few readers pointed out that what I wrote last week contradicted comments made a few weeks earlier about how little some lookers make in top-flight gogo bars in Pattaya. I’ll try to explain the contradiction. There is a huge range in the money the girls make and it’s not necessarily the prettiest girls who make the most. The best earners are the girls who work the system best. After cuts and expenses (getting their hair done daily, taxi to and from work etc.), some barely make enough to live on, let alone have anything left over to send to family. Few girls work every night, most break various rules in the bars for which their salary is cut, some don’t meet drinks quotas and increasingly some choose not to go with customers. These ladies might make as little as 15,000 baht in a month which given personal expenses, travel expenses and accommodation leaves things tight. Ladies who work hard and are savvy at working out who the most generous customers are can make in excess of 200,000 baht / month. This is not the norm, but some do make this amount (and more).

Have you ever caught anything from a bargirl? I don’t necessarily mean an STD, but other health issues like say a cough, a cold, fungal infection? Thais do pay attention to personal hygiene but at the same time the lifestyle these girls lead is anything but healthy. Drug abuse – both recreational and pharmaceutical – is rife and that along with heavy drinking, frequent high-risk sex with multiple partners and irregular sleep patterns have many coughing, sniffling, sporting bad skin, blood-shot eyes, fatigued and looking generally unhealthy. Have you caught any nasties from them?

 


 

Infrequent exposure on social media and even in the mainstream Thai news has not had any effect on some officers who insist on carrying out road-side urine tests of foreigners at police traffic checkpoints. The most infamous location is at the corner of Rama 4 Road and Rachada, where you would turn left heading up towards the Asoke intersection / Sukhumvit Road from Rama 4 Road if you were coming from the Silom area. There were more reports this week of foreigners hauled out of taxis, frisked and told to flop their manhood out for everyone passing to observe and pee in to a beaker, all while being held by an officer in a brown shirt who may not have had adequate reason to stop them in first place, let alone request they undergo a drug test. Will this nonsense ever stop?

Do you like Thai style desserts? I didn’t use to but they grew on me and over time I came to rather enjoy them to the point that when I am in Bangkok I seek out a couple of old favourites. If you have a sweet tooth, give lot chong a go. It’s the chubby green mini-noodles on the left, in the photo below. Most vendors selling Thai-style desserts have it and it’s cheap as chips. The sweet tooth comment wasn’t exaggerated – many Thai desserts really are super sweet.

 

thai-style-dessert

Lot-chong, on the left, is my favourite Thai-style dessert.

 

This year’s Ploenchit Fair will be held on Saturday, November 30, at Bangkok Pattana School, the closest BTS station to which is Bang Na. The Ploenchit Fair was one of the events of the expat calendar but these days it seems to be losing its lustre somewhat. That’s not to say it won’t be a fun day out, but no-one from the crowd I used to hang around with has been to the Ploenchit Fair in years.

Amongst the small number of Thailand-related websites I monitor daily is one which shows the air-quality index (AQI) in Bangkok. I note that the AQI has been getting worse which probably shouldn’t be a surprise because when I was in Bangkok at this time last year I bitched about the quality of the air. That said, whether it’s worse than previous years or simply that we’re more aware of air quality these days, who knows?

 

he-clinic-new2

 

Quote of the week, “Given Bangkok’s inexorably increasing air pollution, will multinational corporations once again deem it a hardship posting?

A South Korean stabbed on Ko Samui puts a 100,000 baht bounty on his attacker’s head.

Three people die in a courtroom battle after a retired cop pulls out a Glock in court, gunning two down before being shot himself.

The Park Hotel, between Sukhumvit sois 7 and 11 is demolished in this video.

A French tourist dies while taking a selfie at a popular waterfall on Ko Samui.

Two arrested for attacking and robbing an elderly German expat.

A wine lover tastes dozens of bottles in a supermarket before buying one.

An American was arrested after an abusive rant in Chiang Mai.

A pub is raided on Sukhumvit and 60 hookahs are seized!

Thailand says it will have bullet trains up and running within 4 years.

 

bangkok-black-and-white18

Influx of boy bars, Patpong.

I’ll write a full-length opener next week and not rely on my photo collection. Recently it feels like when I have tried to write something I am not happy with the end result so rather than publish something I’m not happy with, I figure it’s better to post a collection of photos. I have been keeping busy and Bangkok has kind of slipped from my mind. I need to get back in to Thailand mode, so to speak….time to turn on some Thai TV to get my mind back over there…

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]