Covid-19 has brought the nightlife business to its knees and bars are desperate to find new ways to make money. Visitors can’t go to Thailand so some bars are taking the bar experience to customers. Live, interactive video streaming from Pattaya beer bars has taken off and each week more bars are jumping on the bandwagon, streaming what’s happening in the bar for the world to see. This week I spent some time watching live streams from Pattaya bars and taking a closer look at the phenomenon.
Streaming predates Covid-19. A Belgian known as Steff Traveller appears to be one of, if not the first person to stream live from bars in Pattaya. Others with names like Cheap Charlie Chronicles and Chuck Wow soon got in on the act. They were the pioneers, but most have since gone by the wayside.
Seeing the potential to make money, bars soon followed. Today, a number of Pattaya beer bars stream live and for some, it’s a very much part of their current business model.
From the comfort of home, anywhere in the world, you can tune in after dark Thailand time and watch Pattaya bargirls doing their thing.
Many of the streams can be viewed on YouTube. You get the video and a side bar where you can type in a message which is seen by the girls in the bar along with everyone watching the stream. You can post messages and interact with the girls. It’s almost like being right there in the bar, right? Hmmm, not quite….but we’ll get to that later.
Streaming is profitable. Viewers are encouraged to buy lady drinks. Clicking on a link takes you to a page where you can buy a lady drink and pay by Pay Pal, credit card etc. Standard lady drink prices apply with ladies getting the usual 50 or 60 baht commission for each lady drink. With no international visitors, this is a God-send for the ladies and the bar owners.
Perhaps the bar best-known for its own livestream is Sexy Bar, on Soi Made in Thailand. Apparently it was the first bar to start regularly streaming – and was doing so even before Covid came along. Streaming has raised the bar’s profile and it now has quite a following.
You know streaming has really taken off when the biggest group of bars in Pattaya, The Night Wish Group, got in on the act and streams live from 13 of its bars.
Streaming is relatively new, but a real sub-culture has emerged amongst the Westerners involved.
Some of these fellows are quite open about who they are and what they are doing and seem to really enjoy being part of the show and including themselves in the stream.
But one wonders if that is a good idea.
Some do some really daft things, others are antagonistic. One fellow said some unkind things about an expat on a stream that were potentially defamatory and rather than face legal action chose to settle out of court.
Some of these streamers are heavy drinkers and later in the night anything goes. Some come across as barely functional.
It’s raw and unedited and while at times you don’t want to watch it, it can be hard to stop as you wonder what the idiot in front of the camera is going to do next.
One fellow appeared to have a breakdown while live-streaming and video showed him self-harming. Others seem to delight in abusing locals, from girls in the bars to everyday Thais. One fellow on Walking Street got up close and filmed a distressed Thai lady crying and was set upon and beaten up by a street vendor.
Some of the streamers lack class and their antics are at times beyond distasteful.
One particularly successful streamer who gets a hard time online goes by the name Barfines And Powerlines. A young Brit with a penchant for fast food and ridiculing locals, he is considered by many as the villain of Pattaya streaming. The level of disrespect he shows towards the girls, at times humiliating them on camera has some questioning how he has been able to get away with it for so long. At the same time he is clearly very good at what he does and has made a lot of money.
Live streaming is just that, an unscripted live view of a real Pattaya bar. That’s part of the appeal, but it’s also part of what I see as the big problem with these streams.
Much of the time the girls sit around looking bored. Often they are on their phone. Girls sitting in front of a camera feeding their face is no fun to look at. Girls screaming out “Hello, darling” in a raspy voice, over and over again, or “I want to drink” are funny the first and second time but before long they start to grate.
I found I could only watch a stream for a few minutes until I was bored. Because the girls are obviously bored.
But plenty of people enjoy it and when the streams start up each night Thailand time, loads of guys tune in from all over the world.
This is very much a Pattaya thing with streams from beer bars, hostess bars and soi 6 knocking shops. Hardly where you find the best-looking girls.
There is potential here and I get the feeling that a pro could come along and really make a killing. Imagine a live stream from one of the best Bangkok gogo bars – a bar with a professional lighting system, dozens of hot ladies and all carefully managed. That would be worth tuning in for – and could potentially have a much wider appeal, beyond fans of Thailand’s nightlife.
Live-streaming from Pattaya beer bars appeals to fans of Pattaya beer bars. As things are at the moment, I’m not sure I can see it growing beyond that.
So just how popular are these live streams?
When I tuned in this week, there would be up to 70 people viewing a live stream at any one time. That’s enough viewers for the bar and the ladies to make a reasonable return. How many Pattaya beer bars could accommodate 70 customers at one time?
But in terms of YouTube videos, these numbers are nothing to write home about. Some Pattaya YouTubers’ post videos which can get 100,000 views within a week or two. So while the live streams have a following, they are not getting anywhere near the eyeballs as slick, edited videos from popular Pattaya YouTubers.
You’d have to be a real hardcore fan of Pattaya bars – or really bored – to tune in to these live streams regularly. Perhaps if I had a few drinks while I was watching I might get excited but the time difference means these girls are doing their thing live on cam as the sun is rising in Kiwiland.
The bars have always been a safe haven and few punters are ok with the idea they might be captured on video in a bar. These streams are not hidden behind passwords or located on naughty websites Joe Public would never come across. They’re on YouTube so anyone can come across them. What happens in the bars should stay in the bars.
Will live streaming from Pattaya bars become the next big thing? Could some bars make more from streaming than from regular customers in the bar? I’m not sure I can see its popularity extending beyond existing fans of Pattaya beer bars. To use a Thailand analogy, these streams feel rather like a shopping trip to the Pratunam markets; this is no relaxing afternoon spent hanging out at Siam Paragon.
Streaming from Pattaya bars is a phenomenon and it’s a great way for the bars and the girls to supplement their income. Full marks to those who got in early and have done well from it and hopefully the streams bring in enough money to keep the girls and the bars going. Personally, I’ll stick with my morning newspaper while eating my bowl of muesli. Bored bargirls for breakfast is not for me.
If you can’t find any live streams yourself, here are a couple to start with:
Last week’s photo was taken of the Siam Museum from an entrance / exit at the Sanam Chai MRT station. It’s not far from Wat Po. This week’s photo comes from a downtown Bangkok bar – but which one?! Those prices are decent, aren’t they?
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Thai women in America.
From what I see in the U.S., there are 2 characteristics which make it difficult for Thai women to make non-Thai friends. #1 – They grew up in Thailand and left the country as adults. #2 – They are religious and go to the temple regularly. Thai women who left Thailand as adults have the odds against them, in my opinion. They are in a foreign country for whatever reason but in their heart, they would rather be in Thailand. They don’t tend to put in the effort to assimilate. They pretty much live a Thai life in a foreign land. If they are religious, they seem to only associate with other Thais. I don’t know what is taught at the temple, but family is first and the temple seems to be second. They listen to and trust what the monks say, for the most part. There isn’t any need for non-Thai friends. They have trouble maintaining a real friendship with non-Thais because pretty much the only thing they can speak deeply about is Thai food, Buddha, or temple matters. If they have both characteristics, then forget it, there is no chance!
A Korean in Canada.
Your column on mixed marriages is right on. People like being with their own kind as there is a certain comfort level in that. My Korean wife has a lot of Korean woman friends which I encourage. I know she would not be happy otherwise. She is generally happy with her situation but the gossip and backstabbing within the Korean community here in Canada can be vicious. She has made few Canadian friends which I think this is due to racism and fear of the unknown on both sides.
Thai women in England.
Older English women often hate Thai women. They’re pleasant enough to their face but as soon as they get the chance, out come the daggers. There are usually one of two tacks they take. The first is the concerned friend who trots out the tropes about Thai women only being after your money and how untrustworthy Thais are. The second is outright bitterness from people you don’t really know: She’s young and pretty so why would she be with you?….which I find rather offensive. I think what’s really going on is this that most women in England have gone to seed by 30, yet they run rings around the blokes and always have plenty of options. Thai women threaten their dominance. The idea that they can easily be replaced by someone younger and prettier doesn’t sit well with English women at all. Add in the tendency for them to be anything but lady-like and the sweet, demure, Asian lady you just appeared with is guaranteed to make them feel bad about themselves. This doesn’t seem to be the case with younger English women though. I guess they don’t feel threatened.
Working girls feeling the pressure.
Pattaya was packed this past weekend. In the bargirl world, however, things are really being shaken up. Few are doing well, and it is testing friendships as those who borrow from a friend cannot repay or refuse to do so. It is also testing family relationships, as those back home in Isaan don’t seem to realise that it is not business as usual. The demands for money haven’t ebbed, and this adds extra stress to bargirls already worried about paying rent and buying food. Also, some gogo bars only square up with the girls upon completion of their ‘tac’ <‘Tac” is bargirl-talk for the 10-day contracts popular in some Pattaya gogo bars – Stick>, so there’s no daily pocket money from lady drinks. That leaves some girls short of food and commuting money while their ‘tac’ is ongoing. There are also cuts for everything from failure to meet quotas, arriving late, talking too much on stage while ‘dancing’ or being caught giving out their LINE ID. Stress is everywhere, and ‘panda eyes’ is a term now bandied about by bargirls, as many are having trouble sleeping. It shows on their faces.
Alcoholic lady drinks, yes or no?
Dunno if you have addressed whether lady-drinks should contain alcohol or not. It is a divisive topic. I don’t like drunken girls. They can become unpredictable, vomit, collapse in a coma, have accidents, become violent and are more likely to engage in unprotected sex. There is also the long-term destructiveness of regular alcohol consumption, both physical and mental.
Girl Of The Week
Cake, Spanky’s Nana Plaza
27 years old, from Korat
Cake loves older men and taking them for a long ride.
In Nana Plaza, the bar that was previously Erotica was acquired some months back by T, the gentleman behind Twister BKK. Signage is up for the new bar and the name of Nana Plaza’s newest bar is……drum roll……Taxi Bar. It’s open now.
Diamonds in Nana Plaza had been closed for a short while and has undergone renovations. It will reopen tonight.
The original Nana Plaza ladyboy bar Casanova closed earlier this year when all bars closed due to Covid-19. The space that was Casanova is being worked on and it looks like reopening can’t be too far away. New signage outside features three lines of script in one of the Asian languages. No idea what it says!
Nana Plaza is the one bar area where bar operators fight to acquire new properties. It is the one bar area where investment is being made and new bars are being built. Despite the general doom and gloom due to Covid, it seems that bar owners in Nana Plaza are looking long-term and don’t seem to be greatly discouraged.
From various accounts a great night was had in Nana Plaza last night with bars celebrating Halloween, Loy Krathong and some bars celebrating both. An old friend roamed the plaza last night and sent through this selection of photos. It looks like it was a fun night!
Hunt around Nana Plaza and you will find a few more happy hours and drinks specials than you would have pre-Covid. Lollipop is one such bar with 69 baht bottled beer before 8:00 PM. Traditionally, Nana Plaza bars haven’t been big on happy hours and even those bars in the plaza which did have a happy hour never seemed to promote them as bars in Cowboy traditionally have. I think this is one reason why early evening Soi Cowboy would often be busier than Nana Plaza.
I wonder how the ladyboy bars are faring, generally. No, I have no personal interest in them but I do wonder how they have been affected due to Covid-19. It sounds like the ladyboy bars have been hit even harder than the gogo bars that only have ladies born female with most ladyboy bars closed. What does this mean for the ladyboys who worked in those bars? No doubt some will be doing their thing online. For others who are bored and without an income….look out!
Roaming around lower Sukhumvit at night sounds akin to a night out in Vientiane where you traipse from neon-lit venue to neon-lit venue through areas in darkness. It almost sounds like the Bangkok I first visited in the ’90s. Two things stand out about downtown Bangkok back then – there was much less lighting, and much more rubbish.
Spanky’s in Nana Plaza has a new manager. Kay is Thai and was raised in Singapore. He speaks Thai, English, Malay, Mandarin and Cantonese. No doubt the latter 2 will prove to be very useful in the years to come. I am told Kay is fun to chat with and even more fun to drink with.
Beyond Thailand’s borders, bars across the region are struggling. As reported in previous columns, Angeles City bars have to comply with regulations which specify bars must have a kitchen and a food menu. Some of the better known bars have reopened as a restaurant + bar. Amongst them are Baccarat, Shooters, Angelwitch (which has moved to the premises that was previously Voodoo, Club XS, Xanadu (reopened in its original spot and renamed Level 3), Lollipop, Monsoon and Carousel (was called Centuro). Insomnia is going to open once a refit is done. That’s eight well-known bars open and another planning to open – so nine venues for expats to choose from.
Across the border in Cambodia, Phnom Penh is much quieter without international visitors – obviously – but things are still ticking over. To use a Thailand nightlife analogy, bar trade is less like Nana Plaza, more like Day Night, up in Udon. Places that cater primarily to local men are said to be doing well.
Back in Thailand, Shark A Gogo in Pattaya has reopened. I thought it had closed permanently some time back, which I guess just goes to show how out of touch I am.
The week before last I featured some photos a friend took on Soi Pattayaland 2, which I called a bar graveyard. Said friend sent more photos this week, this time from sois 7 and 8. These two sois have struggled in recent years while they retain a place in the heart of many Pattaya bargoers. We can add sois 7 & 8 to the list of bar graveyards. Today in Pattaya, bar graveyards outnumber vibrant bar areas.
One Bangkok-based reader who enjoys weekends in Sin City claims that ladies in Pattaya are more fun to be around and generally more upbeat than the girls in the bars in Bangkok. In his words, “The girls in Pattaya are smiling, having fun, really making customers feel happy, jumping all over us. This does not happen in Bangkok where they are stand-offish.” Is this just one man’s experience or is this a fair comparison? If you have been out in both Bangkok and Pattaya recently, let us know what you think.
Speaking of Pattaya, anyone arriving at Soi LK Metro after midnight can be forgiven for thinking the street closed early. As elsewhere, neon lights go off at midnight (when the bars are supposed to close) and a dearth of streetlights means the soi can be almost pitch dark. Bars turn down the music or, in the case of Pimp, close the first floor. To those who don’t know better it looks like the soi is done for the night. Don’t be put off. Venture in to the soi and you’ll find most gogo bars going strong until 2 AM.
If there is a silver lining in the protests taking place in Bangkok, it is that the damage to businesses popular with international tourists is not as bad as it could be. The start of November is when visitor numbers typically start to ramp up. If it weren’t for Covid, the Bangkok protests would be getting greater exposure in the international press than they currently are, drowned out by Covid and Trump vs. Biden. But it’s all academic and for the time-being it is essentially impossible to visit Thailand as a short-stay tourist.
I never cease to be amazed by what some Thais get up to here in New Zealand – and I have no doubt that much of what I see or hear about in the Thai community here is also happening in other Thai communities all around the world. One thing I have become aware of is Thais who seem to have two identities. It only takes 5 years to get a New Zealand passport and it seems that when some Thais are granted Kiwi citizenship, they change their name. In some cases they abandon their Thai identity altogether so, for example, Kanakporn Sittikorn (made up name) becomes Sally Smith. Kanakporn Sittikorn essentially no longer exists – she left Thailand and she never returns (at least not under that name). It seems the reason they do this is to bury something in their past. In other cases they use one identity in the West i.e. their new legal name of Sally Smith, while in Thailand they use their original name i.e. Kanakporn Sittikorn. We know of two ladies who have essentially abandoned their old life in Thailand and in both cases, no-one knows what their original Thai name was. What are they up to? Are they hiding something?
20 odd years ago, small signs appeared in the median strip along on parts of lower Sukhumvit and Rama 1 Road that said no jaywalking, fine 2,000 baht. These signs were only in English and this caused consternation amongst foreigners at the time as it felt like we were being targeted specifically. I cannot recall anyone actually getting fined for jaywalking and the signs didn’t last long. Signs with a similar message have reappeared, this time in Thai, English, Russian and Chinese. And again they’re in an area popular with foreigners – Pattaya. It’s good to see that the Pattaya constabulary are only charging 1,000 baht for law-breakers where 20 odd years ago Bangkok police threatened jaywalkers with 2,000 baht.
This Week’s News-Feed / Thailand-Related News Articles
Reader’s story of the week comes from The Turtle, “Three Asian Women In Farangland“.
A Thai policeman known as Jimmy Hi-So lost control of his BMW and collided with a street vendor, killing him.
A Thai man who had previously been deported from New Zealand over kiddy porn is allowed back in to the country.
Tokyu department store will close after 35 years as an anchor tenant at MBK.
The protests and the counter protests taking place in Bangkok could almost be seen as a war of the generations. And in some ways that’s what they are. The main protester group is predominately younger people with what I guess could reasonably be called a modern take on things, whereas the counter protesters as I call them – those often in yellow – tend to be much older and traditionalists. In some ways it’s a snapshot of what is happening in various places around the world. Here in New Zealand I notice increasing disagreement between Boomers and Millennials on all number of matters – although it’s nothing like things are in Thailand with protests or anything like that. But for sure, the view of the world young people have and their ideas about what sort of place the world should be going forward are quite different to that of many older people. Interesting times we live in…
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]