Stickman's Weekly Column March 20th, 2022

Living On $1,000 / Month In Bangkok


Why do some persist with the idea that you can live comfortably in Thailand on $1,000 per month? You can live in Thailand on $1,000 per month but would you really want to?

This week I stumbled upon some articles explaining how to live on $1,000 per month in Thailand. At current exchange rates, that’s about 33,000 baht / month.

Living on the cheap seems to appeal to the so-called FIRE brigade – a movement of people who pursue the idea of being Financially Independent to Retire Early.

I get the idea of retiring early, but to seriously think you can have a good life on $1,000 per month? That part I don’t get.

Sure, many Thais live on 33,000 baht / month or less – and for the most part they are probably perfectly content with that amount of money. But is that the sort of life you want, the sort of life you want to limit yourself to? In Bangkok, 33,000 baht likely means living in a small condo. You can eat ok in Thailand on a small amount of money – so long as you’re willing to eat like a local. It means watching your pennies at the supermarket. Actually, it means watching your pennies whenever you go outside and for the most part, living like a Thai.

33,000 baht / month just doesn’t go very far in Thailand these days if you wish to enjoy some aspects of a Western lifestyle.

Imagine you’re out and about and you come across one of the many fantastic new cafes in Bangkok. No-one in Farangland thinks twice about enjoying a cake and pastry. If you’re living on 33,000 baht / month, you might have to ask yourself if you can afford it. Is wondering whether you have enough money to enjoy a simple pleasure the way to live?

If coffee and cake aren’t your thing, replace them with whatever rocks your boat.

Purchasing a MacBook Pro or an iPhone or a 65-inch TV will take months of saving, and sacrifice. Forget going to see Liverpool play Manchester United in Bangkok on July 12 (with tickets priced from 5,000 – 25,000 baht).

At 33,000 baht / month, there won’t be much left over for many of the fun things in life.

Dating in Thailand isn’t cheap. It needn’t be expensive but you want to treat your girlfriend / wife to some nice things and special occasions, right? Som tam, grilled chicken and sticky rice under the shade of a tree in a public park might be romantic the first time but she isn’t going to accept that on date number 2!

Forget having children. What if they get sick or have special needs? Even cats and dogs would be a stretch on 33,000 baht / month. If you can’t afford the vet, should you really have a pet?

There is one word that should cause you to abandon the idea of living on 33,000 baht / month – healthcare. The idea of staying in good health to a ripe old age and then one night going to sleep and never waking up is wishful thinking. What happens when things start going wrong? Medical care in Thailand is not the bargain it used to be and medicine / ongoing treatment / operations can be very expensive – even in a government hospital.

And let’s not forget that the financial requirements for a retirement visa in Thailand is either 800,000 baht in the bank or a monthly income of 65,000 baht. Thai Immigration nailed it. 65,000 baht is a good guide for a monthly minimum.

While yes, you can live on a thousand dollars a month in Thailand, but seriously, if you had a choice would you really want to?!

Don’t ask yourself whether you can live in Thailand on $1,000 / month. Ask yourself how great life would be living in Thailand on $10,000 / month. Aspire to retire in style. Forget this $1,000 / month nonsense.

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was too difficult for all of you with not one person getting it right. I won’t say where it is for now and give you another week to see if anyone knows it.

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Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week

A little bit of mainstream to keep the industry alive?

Maybe Nana, Patpong, Cowboy, Walking Street will become more mixed areas. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Perhaps the way to get acceptance for this form of entertainment in a prime location is to attract many people. In Pattaya, some pundits claim all the girly bars will move to Tree Town and Soi Buakhao. That would kill Pattaya and make it look like Angeles City, with the same target group of customers. In its heyday, Pattaya was named Las Vegas on steroids. It was something to return to. And a big chunk of the visitors came to watch other people partying. That should be the future for nightlife areas in Bangkok as well. A little bit of mainstream will help the industry survive.

The serpent is shedding its skin again.

I believe there’s a misconception that Patpong’s history is that of a “gogo bar area”, which is really only half of its actual history. The serpent is shedding its skin once again, and it may very well reinvent itself at its roots of being a wine and dine place with some real naughty bars mingling in between. That’s the Patpong of 1950 – 1970 and that’s how it got famous. The 80’s and 90’s were the heydays as a gogo bar area, and then came the night market which basically ended that era. Ever since then it has been struggling for direction, meanwhile Nana and Cowboy really developed into a cookie cutter center for gogo bars. I firmly believe that authenticity is more relevant than ever and these are the things that people are looking for, the stuff that money and a property developer can’t buy. In that context a rich history is a guarantee for a bright future.  For those that wish “Patpong to be like before”, I’d like to ask which “before”? The 50’s – 70’s? The 80s’ – 90’s? The 00s – 20’s? The Patpong Museum has managed to open the area to the young Thai crowd from Chula, Thammasat and Silpakorn universities. A crowd that’s genuinely interested in rediscovering this piece of urban history and to enjoy, not only the Irish pubs and Vietnam bars but also the gogo bars and the naughty shows. The Patpong Museum won the Thailand Museum 2021 award as best community museum and Trip Advisors Travelers Choice 2021. This year, a joint venture has been signed with one of Amsterdam’s most prominent galleries to open a venue on Patpong Soi 2 by bringing Andy Warhol to Patpong. To me, the main question actually is how relevant is a courtyard of gogo bars in 2022 and how will it stand in the public’s reception over the years to come?

Creating more of a pub vibe.

Years ago, I remember visiting Secrets in Pattaya a few times for lunch. It was fun. Food and chit-chat with bar staff, dancers, and other customers. The Thai staff at the bar during the day were really nice to talk to. Like most Pattaya bars, I felt a different vibe during the evening and it was not as much fun for me. During the evening in Pattaya, I enjoyed people-watching and taking in the nuances. I guess it’s a matter of preference. I am not a big fan of pure gogo bars. My suggestion is for bar owners to create an atmosphere more like a Western pub.

Where is the current freelancer heaven?

I am travelling to Bangkok with a couple of buddies. This has been at least an annual trip for years and we have decided to throw caution to the wind and give it go. In terms of our evening entertainment, the first couple of trips we frequented a mix of gogo bars, the dead artist bars in soi 33 and Nana Disco. By about 2012 with the deterioration of soi 33 we looked further afield to places where we could have a night out in comfort. The gogos were also moving away from a night out, with hourly interaction more the norm. As a result we found ourselves in the likes of Spasso, Mixx and the Novotel at the Siam end of Sukhumvit, or at Oskar and Levels in soi 11. All of these places were frequented by freelancers of many nationalities and for our group these venues catered for a really good night out in comfort. A similar scene existed in the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore. Do you have any info on the current status of the freelancer scene in Bangers and if so at what venues? Like many, I’m ready for a night out and am not into online interaction.

 

Find them at Lollipop, Nana Plaza.

Find them at Lollipop, Nana Plaza.

 

More Readers’ Emails

Who called it that?!

I’ll hopefully be heading Stateside at the end of this month to visit family. I’m willing to jump through whatever hoops are necessary to make the journey there and back. This will most likely mean 10 days quarantine on my return to Thailand as I’m unvaxxed. Do you know what they call the program for the unvaccinated to return to Thailand? “Happy Quarantine”. Whoever came up with that name should be shot… or at least fired as there is nothing happy about having to go through quarantine.

Electing for Sinovac.

I am in the minority that is unvaxxed. I have had the virus so I have natural immunity. I am not against vaccines per se; after all, I have had many in my lifetime from Hepatitis A and B to Yellow Fever and more. I refuse to take a new and untested treatment called mRNA technology. I believe that travel sanctions against the unvaxxed will not be lifted in full; we have shown disobedience to our superiors and that must come at a cost. As a frequent visitor to Thailand, I believe there is a way to combat that. I don’t feel I need any vaccine but if pushed I would take a ‘conventional’ vaccine. The plan is to do quarantine in Thailand and then get 2 Sinovac shots that can be given 4 weeks apart. Until recently that plan would not have worked but in the UK we quietly changed the rules late last year so that any travellers that have taken any shot approved by the WHO are considered fully vaccinated. That applies to foreign visitors so I assume they cannot discriminate against their own citizens.

Covid test required.

You wrote hotels may demand negative Covid tests. It’s happening! I booked (fortunately, only) one night at the Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya. Only after making the non-refundable booking I was notified that a test is needed to check in. And let me tell you, they really meant business. Very sterile atmosphere. Even the T-shirts in the gift shop were wrapped in plastic covers. None of the other hotels I stayed at during the last two months demanded a test. Some restaurants post it at the entrance but it is not enforced. I booked a sightseeing tour in Chiang Mai and they also asked for a test to be presented, but nobody checked.

 

Rainbow 3 returns in a new spot.

Rainbow 3 returns to Nana Plaza, now on the top floor. Photo kindly supplied by reader YY.

 

This Week’s News & Views

What was Enter on the top floor of Nana Plaza, the bar next to Billboard, is now Rainbow 3. Standard beers run 120 baht while lady drinks will set you back 195 baht. The atmosphere is said to be decent, as it should be in a venue that is smaller and more intimate than some of the better known bars in the plaza.

Popular American-style bar and eatery Bully’s, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4, reopened this week.

And down the road on Soi Cowboy, long-running bar Tilac also reopened this week.

There were dramatic scenes on Sukhumvit Road this week when a large contingent of police – variously estimated at between 30 and 60 officers – stormed the soi 7 beer bar complex on Tuesday night. In a throwback to a time that really should have been left firmly in the distant past, one of the Thai-owned bars in the Sukhumvit soi 7 bar complex was busted for employing and offering for sale underage girls. Underage is bad, full-stop, but this was worse than merely “bad”. Not underage as in 17 years and 6 months i.e. 6 months away from being legal; underage as in 14. One girl – yes, girl – of the three found to be underage was just 14 years of age. A 15-year-old and a 16-year-old were also found. The media was with newspapers and television crews present and the planned raid was one of the lead stories on Wednesday morning’s TV news. One of the underage girls was picked up in a short-time hotel on 7/1 after money had been exchanged which triggered the police raid. The raid didn’t go entirely to plan with the police initially entering the wrong bar, only to be directed to the right bar. Once they made it to the right bar, the Thai manager and Thai owner were taken away.

Underage in the bar industry is bad news for many reasons. Aside from the obvious, the fallout can be far-reaching. Within hours of the raid there was conjecture as to whether the entire soi 7 bar complex would be punished. Would all bars in the complex be ordered shut for a period? Could the bar in which the underage girls were found be ordered closed permanently and never be allowed to reopen as a bar? There is precedence for this. Could the shockwaves hit other bar areas? Not long after the raid, soi 7 bar owners were told they would be allowed to reopen as normal the next day provided they had the correct paperwork and licences in place and all staff are Thai nationals of legal age. Within hours, presumably someone higher up decided that this was a big deal and they should not get off so lightly. The entire complex was ordered closed for 3 days being Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and was allowed to reopen on Saturday.

 

Sukhumvit soi 7 was in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Photo credits: John Mango.

Sukhumvit soi 7 was in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Photo credits: John Mango.

 

It really has been all go in soi 7 this week with a couple of other incidents in which the details are hazy. The first incident was something untoward happening in the toilets involving the CEO of a Japanese company. What happened? I don’t know. But people are talking about it. Refusing to be outdone by Team Japan, a Caucasian was found collapsed in soi 7 at around 5:00 AM one morning this past week. Some reports say he died while others say he was taken away by ambulance. Exactly what happened isn’t known and both reports could be right. Excitement is part of the appeal of Bangkok but I think most in soi 7 have had enough excitement for one week.

Word is that a night out in some bars is cheaper at present than it has been in years. In Nana Plaza, barfines average around 600 baht and a beer is typically around 120 baht. It won’t remain this cheap forever so to you lucky guys there on the ground, make the most of it while you can.

Inflation is raging around the world and speaking for my part of the world, prices of many things feel like they’re going up by a lot more than the inflation rate. Looking ahead, will inflation cause prices in the bars to rise? With a bit of luck, no. The big expenses for bar operators are rent, wages and electricity, and hopefully they will remain steady for a while meaning less pressure to increase drinks prices. Will the girls’ asking prices rise? I guess we’ll soon find out.

The Bangkok Funcard entitles the holder to 10% off food and drinks at all bars in the Stumble Inn Group. You can sign up a for the Bangkok Funcard for free at Stumble Inn, Big Dogs, the Nana Beer Garden or Oasis in Soi Cowboy. The discount does not apply to happy hour prices, specials, cocktails or staff drinks. All of the Stumble Inn Group’s bars are open except for Cockatoo and Shadow. More details about the Bangkok Funcard on the graphic below.

 

Bangkok Fun Card.

Bangkok Fun Card.

 

More readers tell me they are heading off to Bangkok in the next few weeks. Yes there are still some restrictions and strictly speaking, venues are supposed to either ask for the results of a Covid test or make you take a Covid test before entering. In reality, this seldom happens. I’d love to be there right now but I reckon getting back to Bangkok is still about 3 months away for me. We will likely never get the chance to experience things like they are now. If that appeals, don’t delay because I reckon within a few months the bars will be buzzing.

In the back of one Patpong bar is where the action is, with dancers either topless or in flimsy nightwear dancing and even performing special shows, like the candle hot wax show. Which bar? Get on down there and find it yourself. You’ve got to do a bit of the groundwork yourself.

Long-running Patpong fetish house Bar Bar will celebrate its 16th anniversary this coming Saturday. The bar is allowing a very limited audience with tickets offered at a very reasonable 2,500 baht. Bar Bar can be found in Patpong soi 2 with the entrance just a couple of steps away from The Strip. More details on the poster below.

 

Patpong's Bar Bar celebrates 16 years.

Patpong’s Bar Bar celebrates 16 years.

 

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The Castle in Pattaya is reopening.

The Castle in Pattaya is reopening.

 

And this week another fetish house reopened after a long hiatus. The Castle, Pattaya’s fetish house, and sister bar to Bangkok’s Demonia, is finally able to reopen after being closed for nearly 2 years. Amazingly, The Castle has managed to retain its staff – which is a blessing given that A) new staff are hard to come by in general and B) getting staff for a fetish house is not nearly as simple as finding staff to work in a regular beer bar or gogo bar. The Castle opens at 4:00 PM daily.

For years it has been mooted that the beach side of Walking Street could be demolished as the dwellings on that side of the street were said to be illegal i.e. they do not have the appropriate permits. And for just as long it has been mooted that the correct licenses will finally be issued for those businesses. If this were to finally happen it would be peace of mind for business owners as well as those overly anxious punters who tremble at the idea that some of their favourite, long-running bars might close. I don’t think it was ever likely that bars on the beach side of Walking Street would be raized, even if there is an argument that it would allow a whole new and potentially much improved redevelopment of the entire area. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to enjoy these bars for years to come.

The popular Pattaya Beer Garden reopened this past Friday. Current hours are 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM. I always thought the name “Pattaya Beer Garden” was a bit of a misnomer. If you’re not familiar with it, Pattaya Beer Garden is the bar and restaurant with a large balcony out at the end of the first pier when you get to Walking Street from Beach Road. I always thought a simple name like Pattaya Bay Bar might be more effective.

 

He's still going!

He’s still going!

 

The one I refer to as the mad artist is still going! A reader spotted these fresh scribblings while out and about recently.

A fellow fan of Indian food says the Indian restaurant opposite Juicy (what was the old Aussie pub) on Sukhumvit Soi 11 may be one the best Indian eateries in Bangkok at present. It’s on my list of places to visit.

I’ve never got my head around the fact that a (admittedly very small) number of foreigners in Thailand avidly follow the local Thai football league. Whenever I have seen highlights of matches the standard seems very average. As I said to the other half recently, if you can’t sleep then turn on TV and watch the replay of a local New Zealand football match – it’s so slow and boring that it will put you to sleep. Same same Thailand, she said. Anyway, that’s a lengthy lead in to a video I wanted to include of an incident that happened in a local Thailand football match last week. In this YouTube video, fast forward to 4 minutes, 40 seconds and you can see multiple replays from various angles of a brutal elbow punch thrown by a footballer in a lower league Thai football match this past week. The player who was punched was knocked out cold, admitted to hospital with concussion and needed 22 stitches. The other half was quite blasé about it, saying this sort of thing is not uncommon – although the brutality of this particular incident far exceeds your average soccer match melee. The beautiful game, they call it?!

The Nest (El Nido) by Peter Towney is a travel suspense novel based on a couple of young Aussies who go to Thailand expecting to make a quick buck. Things go awry and to say much more might be a spoiler. Readers are welcome to go to Passport Bookstore and collect a FREE copy of the book. Passport Bookstore is on Phra Sumen Road – best to Google it for the exact location.

 

Find her at Whiskey & Go Go.

Find her at Whiskey & Go Go.

 

Thailand-Related News Articles Links

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

Tickets for the Liverpool vs Manchester United match in Thailand will go on sale soon at outrageous prices.

The Thai footballer who delivered an elbow punch to an opposition player is fired.

All Carl’s Jr fast food outlets in Thailand will close this month.

Thailand’s so-called death island, Ko Tao, gets more negative coverage in a new documentary about Westerners who have died there under suspicious circumstances.

From The Bangkok Post, it really does look like Thailand is opening up.

Vietnam’s borders opened up to travellers this week.

The soi 7 bar complex bust was covered in this 3-minute clip on the Channel 3 morning news. The Bangkok Herald also covered the raid.

An Irishman who allegedly failed to pay his bill at a bar in Treetown in Pattaya is chased by security, falls over and suffers bleeding from his skull.

Buzzin Pattaya produced this great, clear video walking around Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao this week. It looks reasonably busy!

 

Tilac, Soi Cowboy, open last night.

Tilac, Soi Cowboy, this week joined the list of bars that have reopened.

I moved to Thailand in early 1998. I knew about the Asian Economic Crisis but didn’t know quite how bad things were in Thailand until I arrived. For locals and expats alike, Bangkok was in a state of flux and felt like a city going through major change. Many expats had left and many who remained were out of work. International companies were closing their Thailand offices which in turn caused some expat bars and restaurants to shut down. It was tough for those who felt they had no choice but to leave a country they had called home for many years.

For me, 1998 was a great time to arrive in Bangkok. Over the next few years the country went through much change and I was there to experience it first-hand. Despite the terrible economy, it was a great time to be a new expat. For those of us who arrived around that time – late ’97 to late ’99 – it felt like we were part of a new expat generation.

I get the feeling that in some ways late ’90s Bangkok is not all that different to Bangkok today. Expats have been leaving and some foreigner-focused businesses closing. It’s sad for those who have to go home while at the same time it feels like it’s all part of the expat cycle, out with the old and in with the new.

A new generation of expats feels a little like the changing of the guard. The late ‘90s and the first few years of the new millennium were a brilliant time to be a new expat in Bangkok. Is this 1998 all over again?

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com