We both come from countries of 5 million people. We’re the same age and we each run a Bangkok website with a similar name. Our respective websites have much overlap, covering expat life in Bangkok with a focus on the bar and entertainment industry. This week I put a few questions to Mike AKA StickBoy, the man behind StickBoyBangkok.com.
Tell me a little about yourself, how you came to be in Thailand, and how and when StickBoyBangkok.com started.
I first came to Thailand in 2005 with a mate of mine who stopped off in Bangkok for 2 weeks every other month as he commuted between Scotland and East Timor for his job. Over the next 5 years I visited too many times, eventually taking the plunge to make it home 10 years ago.
I started working after 4 months of moving here at Bangkok Beat on Soi 7/1 and was there for about 2 years. The plan was for me to move to work at company HQ doing websites and marketing work and as part of that role I pitched the idea of a nightlife website. In the end I didn’t make the move and took a break from working but the nightlife website idea appealed to me so I decided to have a crack at it on my own.
Did you have much of a plan for StickBoy when it started, or did you just work away on it and see where it ended up – as was the case with me and Stickman?
Haha, you’re gonna love this answer… my plan was to topple the king – you!!! I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it’s the truth. You were the man to beat as you were the #1 website related to nightlife in Thailand so I set myself the target of knocking you off the top of the charts. Sure there were other nightlife websites on the go but they were amateur hour as far as I was concerned and didn’t hold the prestige and professionalism of Stickman.
When I took the website full time in April 2014 I quickly realised there just wasn’t enough nightlife-related content to talk about so I expanded into day to day news that interested me and felt readers would want to read in a more informal way, like talking to your mates down the pub kind of thing.
I also went big on social media pumping out dozens of updates a day on Facebook & Twitter to get the Stickboy name recognised as a way to draw readers to the website.
I understand that you control various Bangkok websites and social media pages. What are other Thailand pages are under StickBoy’s control?
Stick Media Co Ltd is the parent company that owns Stickboy. And yes, it is a properly registered Thai company which I’m sure will surprise many.
As you know the opportunity to buy Stickman came up a couple of years ago so me and my business partner took the plunge and added it to our portfolio with you back on board doing your thing, which I think has worked out well, don’t you? I ask as many see us as enemies who hated each other but I think we get along pretty well.
For sure, we work well together. I know this will come as a surprise to many but it’s a good working relationship, in fact it’s so good that we hardly need to talk all that much as we both know what’s required and what’s needed – and we just consult together when necessary.
And just for the record, I thought it was hilarious people came out with stuff like that as I’d met you a couple of times at various events and nothing more really. In fact, way back you passed advertisers my way.
When we bought Stickman we also took control of several other Bangkok and Thai-centric websites, made offers for about a half dozen others too with the idea building a network of websites with a broad range of content that we could sell ad packages on plus interlink and exchange traffic to help all of them grow. It didn’t pan out and we returned all but Stickman to the original owners who’d been taken on with a monthly salary to continue writing them.
It was worth a shot but ultimately didn’t work out the way we’d hoped.
The other popular page that many might know I run is the BANGKOK EXPATS page on Facebook. It is the oldest and largest of them all with 98,000 members.
I gather that you engage with readers via social media, Twitter, Facebook and the like. I’m no fan of social media and am a bit of a dinosaur in this respect, much preferring email. At times there seems to be a nasty undercurrent on social media, especially on Twitter, which I just don’t care for. Do you enjoy the banter on social media?
I do enjoy it and love winding people up as the vast majority take it in the spirit it is intended. Banter. But as you say, there are a lot of nasty people out there and I get my fair share of it but I put myself out there so I just put it down to coming with the territory.
OK, so let’s get back to the name StickBoy. Tell me more as I suspect readers would like to learn more about the history.
Let’s go back to 2006. I read Stickman every week and a few other blogs kicking around at the time. Then that crackpot took aim at you and all hell broke loose. If my memory serves me correctly, you were thinking of throwing the towel in. At the time I was running dozens of profitable websites and decided to register the name StickboyBangkok.
The long and short of it is you didn’t quit and I just kept renewing the name every year with hundreds of others I’d registered.
In 2013 when I made the decision to start a Bangkok nightlife website I had 2 choices. Use StickboyBangkok or MrBangkok. I went with Stickboy as I had all the cartoons and logos sitting gathering dust since 2006 that I’d paid a few thousand dollars for.
I recall meeting you at an event in Patpong you were photographing and we were introduced. As clear as day I remember asking did you mind me using the name Stickboy to which you replied, no, not at all.
Yep, I remember. It was a Nanapong dance contest at Electric Blue. Now all we need is for you to really hit the big time and get famous and some of those photos I took of you will set me up for life. Just kidding…..but the photos were a blast, weren’t they?
I remember that night like yesterday… and those photos.
At the time did you think Stickboy was just a fad and it would fade away like hundreds of other blogs?
Honestly, I can’t remember what I thought at the time. There have been other sites such as NotStickman, StickmanExposed and others which I cannot remember which came and went. But for sure, the name wasn’t a big deal.
In the past I used to get the odd email from readers who thought it sounded like I had a dream life living in Bangkok, going out to the bars, checking up on working girls and writing about bar life and expat society. Can you run us through a typical day in the life of StickBoy? And in your opinion, is the life of a Bangkok webmaster really the dream job that some people seem to think it is?
I guess people would think it is a dream job when they look at posts out boozing and whatnot but there is a lot more to it than sharing a few photos on social media and adding a couple of galleries every day on the website.
It’s a lot of work and it consumes your life. It is never ending as the way people consume news and content is very different today from say when you started out 20 odd years ago.
On the website I aim for 10 updates a day ranging from news articles, opinion pieces, galleries of sexy chicks, random photos and videos mixed with upcoming events, promos and parties for bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Below is typical weekly post counts on the various Stickboy / nightlife Facebook and Twitter accounts I run.
Anyone who thinks this is a dream job needs to think again. Sure, it is fun to do but you need to be organised and take afternoon naps the same as old Stick does every day.
I suspect the average Stickman reader is older than me and has a long history with Thailand. I say that because many of my readers have been with me for a long time – in some cases around 20 years – and many first visited Thailand when they were in the US military. Most of the people in Thailand I consider friends started out as readers who I met up with, and a friendship developed. I used to meet up with readers frequently, especially prior to 2010. In later years I was less likely to meet up with people I didn’t already know and obviously now that I am living in New Zealand and writing the column from here I can’t meet up with readers, Kiwi readers aside. Who are your readers and what sort of relationship do you have with them? Do you get together with your readers?
The Stickboy audience is really diverse and not what the majority think it is – sexpat central. I never have and never will share porn or nudes, I have no interest in talking about sex with bargirls day in, day out or going on non-stop about Bangkok’s naughty nightlife. Sure, it is part of what I do and always will be but there’s so much going on in Bangkok and Thailand to talk about to keep content mixed enough to attract a wide range of readers.
On Twitter for example, around 40% of followers are female, both Thai and foreign. There’s also diplomats, ambassadors, politicians, policemen, journalists, mixed in with locals, expats and tourists tuning in my daily updates.
During what I deem “office hours” I try hard to keep things “family-friendly” so you can look at Stickboy in the office or on the BTS without getting a red face if something saucy pops up. After about 7.30pm and on weekends it’s a free-for-all. I ran a poll a few weeks ago asking how readers would rate my output and the vast majority went with PG / 12 on the movie scale.
As for meeting people, I’ve done a few meet and greets for bar owners which were okay but to be honest it’s not really my thing. Now and again people will spot me out and about and come over to say hello, take a selfie together and post it on Instagram. That kind of thing doesn’t bother me as it is over in a few minutes and we can all get back to our beer. A whole night of it is exhausting because it is just question after question most of which I either don’t know the answer to or have no intention of talking about that particular person or subject with a stranger.
I’ve had a few characters over the years take exception to things I have written. Some were business owners who objected to my opinion of their business. Others were average Joes who took offence to something I wrote that they disagreed with – usually getting their knickers in a twist because I didn’t write something glowing about the bar they frequent. In a couple of cases online spats spilled in to the real world and there were offline consequences. This is not unusual in Bangkok. You’re not shy to say what you think and at times can be quite outspoken. Care to share any experiences of readers keen to have a go?
I have an article titled Butthurt Bar Owners sitting in drafts that I haven’t put the finishing touches to yet that covers this very topic. They can be a touchy bunch as you well know.
Website readers and social media users are really brave behind their keyboards and phones but no balls to stand in front of you and say the same thing. Online I get snide comments and replies daily, rude emails land about 3 or 4 times a week. If people are just calling me a w**ker, carry on, heard it all before. Drunk posts by people tend to disappear the morning after when they sober up and come to their senses. Generally these types are best ignored.
One area I struggled with when I owned Stickman was maintaining relationships with bar owners. I just found I didn’t click with many which is partly because I am just not that good at being especially nice to people I don’t see eye to eye with. How do you find the challenge – and I think that is the right word, “challenge”, of getting along with bar owners – which is a key component of being successful in this business?
Very much so. There are a few big groups with a stronghold on many bars and I get along well with all of them. I’m not in the business of kissing anyone’s ass and just be myself which has seen me good so far. Of course, there’s always going to be times when you say something they don’t like or disagree with and words will be exchanged but it is soon forgotten over a beer.
What I hate is emails from bar owners or managers I don’t know or haven’t met who talk in an aggressive or rude manner which is bad for all involved because I tend to mirror people’s approach and attitude. If you are rude to me be assured you’ll get it back doubled and then it goes downhill fast. When the reply comes back I generally just hit Mark As Read then Archive without reading it. Very seldom do I read and follow up to this sort of correspondence. It is draining and just drags you down.
You still get out and about quite a bit and are known to enjoy a drink or two. Where do you enjoy hanging out – any favourite spots? After all these years, do you still enjoy a night out on the tiles?
I do but my habits have changed somewhat over the past couple of years as I no longer run social media for any bars now and no longer hold the post of Marketing Manager for Nana Plaza which saw me out 5 or 6 nights a week working… and drinking.
My favourite go-go bar in Nana Plaza is Sexy Night. I love that place. On Cowboy it has to be Lighthouse but not for the ladies, it’s where a lot of my mates hang out at the outside bar. In Patpong, Glamour and Bada Bing are my go-to go-gos.
For regular bars I enjoy an afternoon drink at O’Shea’s on Soi 33/1. Evenings try Soi 8 at Viva or The Kiwi. You’ll often find me at Fatty’s Bar & Diner over in Din Daeng or late at night playing pool in the Old Other Office in Patpong. On Soi 4, Morning Night wins every time.
Vlogging seems to be the big growth area these days with more YouTubers than bloggers. Do you have any plans to publish on YouTube? Can we expect to hear a thick Glaswegian as you walk through the bar areas pointing stuff out to viewers?
Not a chance. The vast majority are boring as hell. They take 20 minutes to tell you something that can be said in 60 seconds because YouTube wants long videos. And what most of these vloggers fail to realise is they have nothing interesting to say, little insight and walk about like they are celebrities. They are welcome to it, that’s not for me.
How have you found writing about what’s going on in this most challenging of years?
Tougher than ever but numbers wise it has been a great year. It started off with the tragedy in Korat back in February with the mass shooting. Covid went crazy in March when we had the shutdown. Then in April it was the curfew and booze ban. Big stories like those are great for my day to day output and bring in massive numbers. Over those 3 months, reach for Stickboy on all platforms was in excess of 50 million eyeballs.
As the year has went on borders remain closed, there are no tourists here, and things being generally quiet has made writing tough as I don’t want to make matters worse by saying bars are empty day in, day out. That’s not helpful. I always try to stick with if I’ve nothing good to say then it’s better to say nothing at all. Pre-covid that was easy to do but definitely not the case now.
I also miss the tourists because there was never a week that went by without a few silly stories to cover. Easy and entertaining content for sure.
What about the future? Is StickBoy part of your long-term plan? Do you plan to stay in Bangkok or at some point will you return to Scotland? Working remote is all the rage these days and it really is possible to write about Bangkok from anywhere in the world. How does life in a charming village just outside Glasgow with season tickets to Rangers or Celtic sound?!
As long as Thailand and Bangkok will have me, I’m here to stay and have no plans to return to the Costa del Clyde for village life. As for the footie… Inter Milan all way.
Stickboy’s website is www.stickboybkk.com
Stickboy’s Twitter is https://twitter.com/stickboybangkok?lang=en
Stickboy’s Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/StickboyBKK
Last week’s photo was taken outside what was the old Tina Bar, in Sukhumvit soi 22. It is now closed. Tina Bar was known for hands on fun where, I am told, almost anything was possible. Some of the girls who used to work there can be found in bars in the next soi over. Just three readers got last week’s photo right.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
The dreaded visa run.
I hated visa runs. The service I used in Pattaya picked up everyone from their place of residence. Living in South Pattaya meant I was picked up first in the morning and dropped off last in the evening. Along the way I always seemed to be seated next to someone who liked bragging about the women they had been with. To me, talking about being with 2 women at once is about as impressive as telling me you ordered 2 hamburgers at McDonald’s. Yawn! At the border you had to worry about pickpockets. It seemed someone always got taken by them each trip. Then there were the delays. The trip was always extended longer than necessary due to people wandering off shopping, gambling or Immigration processing the idiot who had overstayed. The worst and final straw was a Korean who thought he had 90 days but was only given 30 days on entry. He’d overstayed almost 60 days and had no money for the fine. We were there for hours before they decided to send one of the 2 vans back to Pattaya. I’m not sure what eventually happened to that guy, but that was the end of living in Thailand on tourist visas for me!
Brown envelope negates the need for visa runs.
Fortunately, I never had to make a visa run. In the early ’80s I was hired in New Zealand from Bangkok by a seismic survey company, Western Geophysical, now defunct, for a two-year contract in Isaan. I was told to go to the Thai embassy in Wellington and get a 3-month tourist visa. While I was there they asked me what my plans were. I told them I had 2 years’ work as a driller, and was promptly informed I needed a work visa – and once landed in Thailand it was virtually impossible to get one. Always one to think on my feet, I politely asked for the 3-month visa. Once in Thailand it was my employer’s problem. After 5 weeks work, I went to Bangkok on my first break. From our head office, next to the Dusit Thani, I went with a rep to Immigration. I literally never said a word, handed over my passport, signed a form, while the rep slid over a brown envelope. I got my passport back with a stamp and I was good to go for two years. Everything was so uncomplicated; those are the days I miss about Thailand.
How long will the good times last?
I’m not surprised at Dollhouse doing well since reopening. They have a following and they’ve been closed for a long time. But my prediction is we will see happen there what has happened everywhere else. Busy for the first couple of weeks, especially as they are doing crazy cheap drinks, and then it will drop off.
Rushing back to Thailand.
Barfine 3,000 baht. Hotel room 8,000 baht / night. 1,000 baht for a foot massage. Sound crazy? Once general travel starts, demand will soar. Expect the Thais to make up for lost time. Many are sitting on a ton of cash after not being able to spend for a year, while markets continued to reward massively. The time to get to Thailand is Q1 or Q2, before the mad rush.
A quick trip to Bangkok.
I went to Bangkok on Tuesday evening and stayed at the Nana Hotel. At reception, it was like a morgue, so quiet. All the inside shops including the massage are closed. I was the only person checking in and saw no other farangs whilst I was there except for a small group sitting in the lounge area chewing the fat, late in the evening, presumably long-term residents. It was the same story on soi 4 itself. You could safely cross the road blind-folded! Nana Plaza was very quiet (apart from the music) as was the street and the street bars.
Random police stops out of control.
“Random” stop and searches have risen drastically this year. Some stories are outrageous. One guy on Sukhumvit soi 16 photographed the cops. They tried every avenue to extract cash and failed. The guy’s Thai lawyer girlfriend showed up at the Thong Lor Police Station to free him. The police demanded that he delete the photos in front of them. The phone battery had died so he couldn’t comply. Then they warned him that if those photos appeared online, he’d be arrested for defamation – and they even mentioned the Koh Chang hotel debacle. In the photos their name tags were obscured, caps pulled down low and face-masks up high. I doubt their own mothers would recognise them!
Girl Of The Week
May, Playskool Erotica, Nana Plaza.
May says she likes cooking and working.
Be quick, guys, this one is marriage material!
The CCSA (Thailand’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration) told police to instruct bars to shut down early last night. The Lumpini Police were on to it promptly and on Soi Nana it was lights out at midnight. Business is tough enough at this time without disruptions like forcing bars to close early on Saturday night.
On Friday night it looked like all of the girls in the Thermae had facemasks on most of them were wearing them as they are supposed to be worn – covering their mouth and nose. Only a few ladies – estimated at less than 10% – had their mask lowered i.e. sitting around or below their chin. Facemasks weren’t seen last week in the Thermae but all the girls were sporting them this week. Is what is happening up in Northern Thailand where the virus made a return worrying some maidens in the capital?
This begs the question: What sort of experience will a punter get if he invites a facemask-wearing lady to a short-time hotel or his condo? Would she be happy getting close to him? Would she even take the mask off? One wonders…
Word is that Kiss Bar on Patpong soi 1 will close. That mightn’t sound so bad until one word is added. My source says the closure will be permanent. What a shame that would be if it turns out to be true. The worry with bar closures these days is that the bar mightn’t ever reopen (even if at the time of closing for a period the owner has every intention of opening again).
Word also has it that the King’s Group will close King’s Corner and consolidate the girls from King’s Corner into King’s Castle 1. That would leave King’s 1 as the only gogo bar open nightly on Patpong 1.
XXX Lounge in Patpong soi 2 has joined the long list of bars offering buy one drink, get another free. This special is available on all customer drinks, all night long, on Sunday and Monday nights.
Despite things being genuinely grim at Patpong (much more so than they are on Sukhumvit), King’s Castle 1 – often referred to as just “King’s 1” – on Patpong soi 1 has a line-up that could be compared to the king of bars, Billboard in Nana Plaza. If you only have a short time in Bangkok and / or you find yourself in the Silom area, King’s 1 is worth stopping by.
The venue at the top of Sukhumvit soi 11 that was previously Marshmallow is now Hillary 11, the newest bar in the ever-expanding Hillary Group. Marshmallow had a nice interior so I imagine it’s much the same in Hillary 11.
What happened to Hillary bars 5 through to 10? Hillary 5 will be the next cab off the rank with a location secured right at the start of Sukhumvit soi 5 for Hillary 5. Will Hillary 6 to Hillary 10 open at some point in time? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Popular Sukhumvit soi 11 nightclub Insanity was visited this week by the authorities. That in itself is not unusual, but what was unusual was the high profile coverage it received in the mainstream media which despite being on the scene got things horribly wrong. Perhaps the most ridiculous report of all was published in The Bangkok Post which headlined the article, “After-hours nightclub raided, 150 arrests”. In fact, the total number of people found with drugs in their system was 3 – out of hundreds of people tested. If you carried out random drug testing anywhere you’d probably find as many or more people with drugs in their system. Other spurious claims were made as the mainstream media’s scandalous coverage plunged to new lows. The Nation newspaper claimed Insanity was selling drugs to customers even though no drugs were found in the club. Some people were so outraged by the negative press that they came out in support of the venue, amongst them residents who live in the area and well-known anti-corruption activist, Chuwit. Insanity is currently closed of its own volition. To be clear, no closure order has been issued. Expect an announcement from the management of Insanity in the next week.
The vibe in Crazy House has changed due to the pandemic, for the better. The odd customer was barked at in the past when using their phone in the bar (using their phone quite legitimately / not doing anything wrong like making secret recordings). There was even the odd threat to throw out punters seen using their phone in the bar. Now you can play around on your phone in Crazy House as much as you like. It’s a sign of the times.
Both Billboard and its sister bar Butterflies have expanded their 2-for-1 weekdays to include Thursdays. That means it’s 2 for 1 at these two bars on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The Rainbow bars have joined the list of bars closing on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Rainbows 4 and 5 were dark on Tuesday this past week, and back to life on Wednesday.
At Nana Plaza’s newest gogo bar, Whiskey A Gogo, Lee Shamrock will play on Sunday evenings. Lee Shamrock is a great entertainer and live entertainment is very much a reason to go to a gogo bar – but I’m not sure if that is the sort of live entertainment most punters have in mind.
From Pattaya comes word that some locals are actively avoiding bars which are live-streaming. It’s partly that locals don’t want to appear on a video stream but it’s also that locally based Pattaya expats have found that in bars where streaming is a thing the girls are less interested in them and instead seem more interested in engaging with guys around the world – who I suspect are more generous with lady drinks and donations. What effect this will have on these bars going forward and whether it will last or not is moot.
Ladies come and ladies go from the bars. If they get a big pay day they may choose not to work for a few months. Maybe they hook up with a customer who becomes their boyfriend and move in with him for a while. Maybe they travel to another country and chase the big bucks (although that scenario is most unlikely at this time). Maybe they spend time upcountry overseeing the building of a house….or helping with the rice harvest….or with their kids who have been looked after by family members. There are many reasons why ladies come and go, and may not be seen for many months. Miss Blondie of Billboard who was featured as girl of the week on September 27 has had a few readers hunting for her – but she wasn’t to be seen. I can confirm that the blonde beauty is back in the bar. Be quick, she might be gone again before you know it!
The Big HE Clinic in Thonglor which is popular with expats finally got approval to sell cannabis oil (CBD and THC) for medicinal purposes. They have to follow a strict protocol laid down by the government but visitors can stop by, see the doctor and get a prescription on the spot. It’s ironic that in the UK there are said to be over a million people currently taking this treatment for pain relief and it’s not even legal there. I hear amongst other benefits it helps to give a good night’s sleep.
This Week’s News-Feed / Thailand-Related News Articles
Reader’s story of the week comes from Anonymous, “Has 2020 Really Been An Annus Horribilis?”
A video shows the moment a bunch of Thai beauty queens cause a bridge to collapse as they all fall in to a pond.
A foreigner was abducted in broad daylight in the Phrom Pong area this week.
Tourists from anywhere can fly to Thailand, so long as they are willing to do 14 days in quarantine.
In the UK, an ambulance service chief is in trouble after responding aggressively when discovering his estranged wife was with another man.
Authorities claim to be looking at overpriced taxi prices in Phuket but the cynic in me thinks nothing will come of it.
The new 100 baht bank note which looks awfully like the 1,000 baht bank note has people confused.
Multiple times I have written that I no longer own this website, but it’s something that some readers perhaps didn’t understand or in the odd case, actually seemed to dispute. I still write this column and choose what to write about. The one thing that may dictate what I write – or perhaps what I don’t write about – is geography. I really hope this week’s opening piece helps set the record straight on that. Stick is still Stick!
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]