Stickman's Weekly Column September 20th, 2020

Time To Move On?



Auckland has traffic that rivals Bangkok. House prices in Auckland are up there with New York and London. Auckland has way more rainy days than any city considered a good lifestyle choice ought to have. So why am I seriously considering moving back to Auckland?

When I returned to New Zealand the plan was to be in Auckland. But things didn’t work out that way. It all came down to property prices. The housing market had gone bonkers and Auckland just wasn’t affordable. So we moved to Napier instead.

Napier is a 4-hour drive to Wellington and less than 5 hours to Auckland. It boasts arguably the best weather in the country and being provincial the people are friendly, there are no traffic jams while you still have most everything the average person needs.

It sounds good, right? It is, if you want a certain type of lifestyle.

But in recent weeks reality has dawned on us. As nice as Napier is, is this really the lifestyle for us?

Napier really should be the best place to live in New Zealand. Great weather with long, dry summers that are more like Australia than New Zealand. A beautiful location on the coast with beaches on our doorstep. Little industry, almost no pollution….and affordable housing.

Napier is pleasant, peaceful, and offers an easy life. But is that what we want at this stage of our life? We’re too young for the quiet life. Life is for living, doing things you enjoy and creating happy memories. And we haven’t been doing a lot of that recently.

Maybe we moved here too young? Or maybe Napier is just too provincial?

I grew up in Auckland, the biggest city and New Zealand’s economic engine. And I spent a long time in Bangkok. Wherever I have lived there has always been plenty going on.

It’s not just that Napier is quiet. Too often we have been let down and disappointed by others, sometimes when it really mattered.

One of my cats suffers from cystitis which is a bladder and urinary tract problem. It took multiple visits to multiple vets and thousands of dollars before we finally found a vet who told us what was going on. The incompetence we had to go through until we found a vet who knew what they were doing. Yeah, my cynicism about the medical profession isn’t just confined to those who look after humans.

A few months ago I bought a new car in what has turned out to be the worst consumer experience of my life. It’s a new car but it rattles like a broken bed post in a Bangkok short-time hotel room. Ok, so not every item that comes off the assembly line is perfect and I was the sucker who drew the short straw. But three visits to the dealer and they couldn’t manage to fix it. They tried and they failed. When I went back after three failed attempts to repair it they told me the problems with the car were in my head! Fortunately consumer protection laws in New Zealand are strong which meant a full refund. Would this have happened in Auckland or Wellington? Not likely. And I doubt it would have happened in Bangkok either.

Whenever something goes wrong here, it’s the start of a new nightmare. I hate having to hunt down a serviceman to get something fixed because it just always seems to get messed up. I took my lawn mower in for a service to the official dealer and they sent it back to me without servicing it. They did, however, replace a part that didn’t need replacing. It wasn’t that big a deal and they did put it right, but it meant yet more wasted time. It all really wears you down.

When you need to get things done it’s a real lottery. Even the most simple jobs get messed up. We’ve had terrible luck getting things done.

I suspect part of the problem is that because there is no university here, anyone bright leaves – and most don’t come back.

We haven’t made any lasting friendships and despite our best efforts, we’ve never really clicked with people here. We speak the same language, support the same sports teams and even share the same beliefs and vote for the same political parties – yet it still feels like we have almost nothing in common!

Good friends in Napier? We don’t have any. None! When we leave I don’t think we’ll stay in contact with anyone here – and that’s really quite sad. For sure, it doesn’t help being a mixed race couple here. Some people look at us with suspicion.

The local hospital – which means the next town – has the sort of reputation you expect in a much less developed country. We’re the biggest centre in the country without our own hospital. Anything serious and the ambulance is carting you off down the highway. We don’t even have a 24-hour police station here.

The other half has started using the term “barn nok”, a mildly derogatory Thai that perhaps best translates as country bumpkins.

I could go on but I don’t want to get overly negative. It’s not a bad place and the people are friendly. The weather is fabulous and the environment is typically New Zealand. I guess part of the problem is that I have come to realise that I am a big city boy at heart.

We miss the almost unlimited, affordable ethnic dining options – Auckland really is world-class in this respect. We miss the buzz and excitement of a city that has been growing at breakneck speed over the last 10 years.

What about moving back to Bangkok? The desire just isn’t there. Bangkok is a great place to visit and hopefully we’ll be able to resume visiting regularly around this time next year but living there again? Not at this point in time.

The world has been turned upside down by Covid as we consider whether now is the time to make such a big decision. We’re keen to create positive memories, spend more time with close friends and have more options of things to do.

We were charmed by Napier, the friendly people, the fantastic weather and the laid-back lifestyle. But there is more to a happy life than that, especially when you’re still relatively young. We don’t regret the time we’ve spent here but we’ve come to realise that at this point in our lives, there’s more to life than what you find in small-town New Zealand.

 


Billboard Bangkok
 

 

Mystery Photo

mystery

Last week’s photo was taken of the toilets at the PTT petrol station at the top of Soi Nana. Only a handful of you got it right while the typical Stickman reader has probably walked past there 100 times or more.


Nana Plaza
 

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

The visa run around.

Last week I made the decision to do my visa application myself, up here in Isaan. I had asked 2 agencies for a quote to process it for me. The first quoted 33,000 baht, the second 58,000 baht. The first I was willing to engage, the second – that did seem to be over the top. In hindsight, I should have used the agent because that day at Immigration was probably the worst I’ve had in Thailand. The documentation has to travel to Khon Kaen apparently, and in 2 weeks I’ll go back to the office to have the visa applied, a ‘non-O’ I think it is. Then within 3 months I need to go back and apply for the marriage visa to give me 12 months. So I figure it’s the same procedure as pre-Covid19 except that there was no need to leave the country and return. Who invented this system?

Royal President over the Nana.

You should certainly stay at the Nana Hotel once, for the experience. Do it more than once, and you probably need your head examined. Full Disclosure: I stayed there a few times, because it looked to be a lot less expensive than Royal President. Then I ran the numbers carefully, including the real numbers for Internet access, and the Royal President won. The Royal President did a better job of taking care of me and taking care of business, and Royal President now has the exclusive on my business. They’ve been doing a great job for years.

Pattaya today.

Pattaya was once known as a bustling city with bar complexes scattered all around town. Most of those complexes are now deserted and there are only three main areas still alive: Walking Street, Soi LK Metro including the surrounding Soi Buakhao, and Soi 6. Large sections of Walking Street are totally dark. A few agogo bars, a few beer bars, the big nightclubs and a lot of kebab restaurants are open. Most everything else is closed. Many of the big names gogo bars like Skyfall, Sapphire, Baccara are closed. Walking Street has now also been transformed into a driving street with cars, taxis and sometimes speeding bikes sharing the street with drunks. Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao are quite different to Walking Street with most places open and a good vibe. However, the part of Soi Buakhao south of the intersection with Soi Diana and north of Tree Town is pretty much empty, even though most bars are still open. On Soi 6, more or less all bars are open and the soi looks much the same as it always has. All other bar areas and bar streets around town are totally deserted: sois 7 & 8 are totally deserted. The bars on sois 10 through to 13 (the sois between Central Festival and Walking Street) are all deserted. Some massage shops are open. Soi Diana and Soi Honey are empty although some bars and smaller massage shops are still open. The bar areas in North Pattaya are totally deserted and most bars are closed. On the deserted sois, it is not just the bars which are closed, many other places are also closed including convenience stores, pharmacies, hotels, massage shops etc. The same goes for Beach Road where many places are closed and large sections of the Beach Road, as well as large sections of other main roads, are without street lights. It has been like this since the start of the lock down in March, and it has taken its toll with road accidents. Dark roads combined with speeding bikes, road works, stray dogs, potholes etc. is a dangerous combination.

Life without farangs.

One thing that disturbs me slightly is that Thais are seeing their country without farangs – a first for many I imagine – and perhaps they like it.

Bangkok dating during Covid.

Without any tourists and a big reduction in the number of residential foreigners, it certainly isn’t very difficult to get dates. But I’m kind of hoping I can find someone to settle down with again. I sometimes feel stupid complaining about dating three different hot girls a week but it is certainly second choice to having one special person in your life. Even though my friends in America would die of envy.

What’s it really like on the ground?

I would be interested to know as, I guess, many of your readers stuck outside Thailand would be, what is happening within the bars. I mean what is the actual experience for someone who visits a bar? Is there any sort of check before you can enter the bar? A temperature check for example. Do you have to wear a face mask before you can go in? Is there a maximum capacity inside the bar? Are you separated at all times by at least two meters from anyone else? Would security at the door turn away paying customers if social distancing wasn’t possible? And what about the girls? If you invited a girl to have a drink with you, does she have to wear a mask and sit two meters away from you? And what if you invite her back to your hotel? Are there any checks on the girl before she is allowed to your room, apart from leaving her ID at reception? But the biggest thing I wonder about is how does one attempt socially-distanced sex? My guess is there are no checks at all and the bars are packing in as many people as possible. But I might be wrong.

 

Girl Of The Week

Night, Billboard, Nana Plaza, No. 202

Night is 162 cm tall and weighs just 43 kg

Night, aka DJ Night,
is a club DJ who dances at Billboard part-time.
She’d love it if you came in and gave her a spin.

 

gotw4

 

 

gotw2

 

 

gotw1

 

 

gotw3

 

Bar 8 opened on Sukhumvit soi 8 this past Friday, just up from and opposite Viva. There was zero fanfare. Not what you would expect from a bar owned and operated by the Hillary Group, right? Opening nights, anniversary and birthday parties are a big deal and the boss is always around with her lovely smile, making a night of it. So why didn’t she appear at the grand opening of Bar 8? Simple. Despite rumours and even members of staff saying it’s part of Hillary Group, it isn’t!

Long popular Soi Cowboy gogo bar Baccara has never really been to my taste despite it being one of the best and for a long time, the most successful bar of its type in Bangkok. Baccara became known as a hangout for Asian men and long-time readers know what I think of that – get yourself over there because the Asian guys have much better taste in women than your average white guy. Baccara is doing ok and in the Covid era has been described as a mini version of itself. There are far fewer ladies – as is the case in all bars – but it’s said there are many lookers amongst them. Baccara isn’t close to full but which bar is? I hear there is a more even balance of Asian and Western customers these days. Perhaps best of all, the ladies are said to be less choosy these days (In the past some had a strong preference for Asian gentlemen.)

And while we’re talking about Baccara, the Pattaya branch of Baccara in a prime spot on Walking Street will reopen this coming Friday, September 25th. It has been closed for 6 months and word is some of the loveliest ladies who danced there pre-Covid will be back.

There’s still no sign of life in any of the Arab’s bars – which comprise about 1/3 of all of the bars on Soi Cowboy. They are locked tight and earlier this week there were security guards outside each one.

Mulli’s on Sukhumvit soi 11 has teased that they are set to announce a new location in the coming weeks. Where could it be?

No sign of the new bar on Soi Nana that was once home to Hillary 4 sticking the sign up and opening the doors…and who can blame them for holding off given how trade is on Soi Nana?

The new bar in Nana Plaza where Casanova used to be looks very familiar on the outside. An odd choice to make your bar look much like another bar, one floor up.

Today Soi 8 Bar at the mouth of soi 8 continues to do well and is one of the popular spots at this time.

For fans of fetish venues, The Castle in Pattaya has closed and most of the girls who worked there can now be found at Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33. Demonia will host a cocktail night this coming Friday, September 25th – more details on the poster a little further down the column.

Stop by Spanky’s in Nana Plaza on Sunday night where it’s happy hour prices all night long. The popular boss of Spanky’s said to me that it feels like he has gone back 11 years in time and is starting all over again. He’s switched on and understands that rebuilding isn’t just doing the same as before, but trying new things to see what works.


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok
 

For some time it seemed like every other week I either started the news section or ended the column with comments about how the bars were quiet / not a lot was going on / how many bar owners were waiting for high season. Such comments appeared in the column consistently, well before Covid-19 came along. I could make similar comments today but to suggest visitors will be returning any time soon would be remiss. This week the New Zealand government commented that the borders here might open at the start of 2022. Comments out of Australia indicate they are looking at late next year. Realistically, a vaccine is still some time way away. All the while, reports from the nightlife hotspots around Thailand are really grim. Even Soi Nana which they tell me is faring better than others is dead during much of the week and only really comes alive on Friday and Saturday. Photos and videos of dead sois and many of the lights out don’t lie.

If you drop by your favourite bar mid-week and find it closed, don’t fret. It might simply be that it is closed mid-week and will open at the weekend. Over the past week or two a number of bars have made the decision to close during the week and open at the weekend only. It makes sense given many customers are expats who have to work during the week.

It is getting so bad in some bars in Pattaya that there are ladies working without any salary. Some bar owners have just come out straight and told them they don’t have the money to pay them. If they would like to work out of the bar and make money from lady drink commissions and private liaisons, they are welcome to do so. Even in bars where ladies are being paid, many find at the end of the month they receive very little. With so few customers about they cannot meet the drink and barfine quotas and their salary is cut heavily with little left to collect at the end of the month. It’s tough for bar owners. It’s very tough for the girls. But the truth is that it is good for customers. Ladies are making more of an effort and may not just be going through the motions as it felt like many had been doing in recent years.

 

oasis-soi-cowboy-covid19

 

Oasis on Soi Cowboy reopened this past Wednesday. I am looking forward to visiting Oasis when I finally make it back to Bangkok. Oasis opened late last year and is the latest venture from the Stumble Inn Group. It’s a nicely decked out pub in the heart of Soi Cowboy where you can perch, enjoy good food and watch the show out on the soi.

The original Stumble Inn on Soi Nana deserves a mention. It has a strong following amongst Brits and fans of the English Premier League. Every EPL match is shown live in the bar – so long as the match is played during business hours. Stumble Inn still has its popular Cheer With A Beer promotion with pints of Tiger just 100 baht until the final whistle of every televised match. The free to enter Predict The Score competition continues this season – get the final score right and you win a voucher for a 3-litre tower of Chang. Note: you must be in the bar at the final whistle to collect it.

Bourbon Street celebrated its 34th anniversary yesterday. There can’t be too many Western restaurants in Bangkok that have been around longer. Madrid comes to mind. Are there any others?

Blue Boar on Sukhumvit soi 18 have outdone themselves with some very generous free food offers.

 

boogie-nights

 

Over in Angeles City in the Philippines, a couple of gogo bars reopened. Word is they needn’t have bothered. Word is that some gogo bars in Angeles City are being converted to beer bars and some are changing format completely, from bar to restaurant. Whatever the format, without foreign tourists how can they make money?

One of the Angeles City gogo bars that reopened was Carousel, in Walking Street. It reopened and then closed again the same day. The rumour mill has gone in to overdrive about just what happened. Some say it wasn’t closed by the owners, but by government order due to lack of social distancing. Some say that a government inspector paid a visit, saw some customers too close to the girls and ordered the closure. But is that really what happened? A blogger called Philly in the Philippines posted online that he was going to get Carousel closed down. A day later he posted again, saying the previous post had nothing to do with him and his account had been hacked. Best guess is that Philly is another tool who pounds his keyboard when drunk. Posting shit like that is beyond dumb and there could be consequences if he really did have something to do with the bar’s closure.

ServiceD is a new platform that allows users to share social media posts on their Facebook, Line and Twitter timelines that will earn a few baht every time those links are clicked. Despite graphics that make it look spammy, it’s not a scam and it is in fact run by a reputable company in Bangkok. You won’t make millions from it but some beer money is possible if you give it 30 minutes per day or so of your time. For business owners, it may also be an avenue worth considering to promote your business with one launch partner getting hundreds of clicks to their website and dozens of extra orders over the course of six hours, all for a 1,000 baht spend.
Get paid for posting on your social media timeline.
Promote your business across social media.

 

demonia-cocktail-party

 

Thailand introduced a new class of tourist visa this week. It allows foreigners to resume visiting Thailand from next month and to stay in the country for up to 270 days. The visa allows for an initial 90-day stay and can then be extended twice in country for 90 days each time without the need to exit the country and return – giving a possible stay of up to 270 days. There are various conditions, amongst them flying in on an organised charter flight and completing 14 days of quarantine. This visa is designed to entice visitors back to Thailand while Covid rages around the world and kills international travel. Wouldn’t it be good if this tourist visa stayed beyond Covid? Many visitors would love to be able to stay in Thailand for several months without the hassle of making a visa run.

Talking of visas, the visa amnesty ends this coming Saturday, September 26th. Foreigners in Thailand with a visa which has been automatically extended to this date as part of the visa amnesty must either leave the country or apply to extend their visa. To extend, they need to show medical grounds or get a letter from their embassy stating that there are no flights back to their country and they are unable to leave. I am amazed that so many people on the visa amnesty are holding out in hope that another extension will be granted before the 26th. I wish you luck but I just can’t see that happening.

At 1,650 baht – that is over $US50, is the burger pictured below the most expensive burger in all of Thailand? You can find it at The Raw Bar at the Erawan Mall. I wonder how many customers actually order one.

 

lobster-truggle-burger-bangkok

The most expensive burger in Bangkok?

 

This Week’s News-Feed / Thailand-Related News Articles

Quote of the week comes from a Bangkok business owner, “My Dad really likes Pattaya’s soi 6 – it’s where he meets all of my step-mums!

Reader’s story of the week comes from Anonymous, Thailand Re-Enchanted.

Thailand is counting 8 billion baht per day in lost tourism earnings.

Thailand has come up with a new tourist visa for foreigners keen to visit from next month.

Thai Immigration is suing a Twitter user for saying foreigners can enter the country without undergoing a 14-day quarantine – when they cannot.

A Frenchman is charged with raping a British woman on Phuket.

Walking Street is in a sorry state as seen in this video taken one night this past week.

A national park in Thailand is posting litter left behind by visitors back to them.

A prisoner is caught on CCTV escaping prison in Petchabun by wearing a guard’s uniform!

Drone footage from Friday night shows how Covid has killed trade on Walking Street.

 

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Night, this week’s girl of the week.

If you hear anything Thailand-related that you think is good news, drop me an email. Maybe you met the most lovely lady in Bangkok and she rocked your world? Let us know! Perhaps you’ve discovered a new super tasty Thai food outlet you’d like to recommend? Maybe you have found a new discount service, or a shop that sells quirky items or perhaps you have discovered a new bar in the suburbs? I’d like nothing more than to run some positive stories in the emails section of the column. There’s just too much bad news out there. Good news stories are desperately wanted!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]