The Gogo Bar Wish List
It shouldn’t be long before gogo bars are operating the way they are supposed to operate. No restrictions, no limits, anything goes. Without restrictions the bars are a lot of fun. But they aren’t perfect. Wouldn’t it be great to see some small changes made to make them even better?
We don’t have a time machine to take us back to the days of 70 baht drinks and 400 baht barfines and no such thing as short-time, but there are some things that could be done to make the bar experience that much better. Here’s a few ideas.
There should be a full drinks menu at every table of every bar, with prices displayed. It’s so annoying that so many gogo bars don’t have a drinks menu – or if they do have one, there’s only a couple of copies floating somewhere around the bar. Not everyone wants to order Singha or Heineken. And not everyone wants to pay over 200 baht for a standard drink.
Tilac was the one gogo bar that had a full drinks list with prices. There’s no reason other bars can’t.
Most gogo bars allow smoking inside. Strictly speaking, by law smoking is not allowed in hospitality venues – but the law is not often enforced. Soi Cowboy has a few bars which don’t allow smoking (at least they didn’t pre-Covid), but in Nana and Patpong gogo bars punters are free to puff away as they please.
My best guess is that somewhere between 15% and 20% of punters smoke. The majority do not, and I imagine the majority would prefer it if there was no smoking.
Bars would be better if they had a real DJ. In most bars it feels like little effort is made with the music. The vibe is so much better in bars with a decent DJ – which are few in number.
There needs to be clarity on bars which have ladyboys. Ladyboys mixed in with real ladies is a huge turn-off for some. The odd bar’s reputation has become so tainted from mixing ladies and ladyboys that they should consider renaming the bar and rebranding. For a while, a few bars in Nana Plaza erected signs saying no ladyboys which was good – but it would be better if bars were either all-lady or all-ladyboy. Never mixed.
Reasonably-priced non-alcoholic drinks for non-drinkers would be welcome. There are more non-drinkers these days and while they don’t mind paying a reasonable amount for a non-alcoholic drink, like, say, 120 baht for a small tumbler of Coke or a bottle of water, when presented with a bill of say 180 baht or more – the same price as for a beer or Jack + Coke – it irks.
The whole lady drink concept has become skewed and punters are confused. Is it the traditional small tumbler of Coke or is it a shot of Tequila? Or is it both? Or something else altogether. Offer a lady a drink and she should able to choose whatever she wishes to drink. But if she comes back with 2 drinks, a bill for 480 baht, sits down for 2 minutes and then disappears then there’s a good chance the bar has lost a customer and gained a crap review online.
Ditto, there needs to be greater clarity with barfines. Some bars, like that bar at the end of Soi Cowboy, impose a policy where a lady who is barfined is on the clock and has to return to the bar within 90 minutes of leaving. Failure to do so and the bar deducts money from her salary. Conversely, there are bars which offer a bonus to ladies who returned to the bar after being barfined earlier in the evening.
It’s easy to understand why bars are keen for a lady to return to the bar when dancer numbers are low, but at the same time it contradicts the whole idea of the barfine which is supposed to be compensation to the bar for the loss of an employee for the rest of the night.
More originality in the bars would be welcome. Too many bars feel like a carbon copy of one another.
The Strip in Patpong used to have beach parties which were fun. The girls dressed in sexy beach bikinis, the bar was filled with sand and a lot of the songs had a beach theme.
Dollhouse used to fill the bar with small polystyrene balls for its annual snow party.
How about bars have a dedicated party night each week with a bunch of rotating themes? The girls like this sort of thing and love a reason to dress up. And when the girls are happy, the customers are happy.
Spanky’s in Nana Plaza has come up with all sorts of zany ideas over the years, like the girls throwing a big beach ball around the bar. It sounds daft but it’s something different – and customers respond positively to it. The wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented but trying new and original things would give punters a reason to visit a bar.
I’d really like to see fewer big bar groups and more independent operators. Many of the best bars are run by independents or operators who have just one or two bars. Groups with a lot of bars often spread themselves thin and end up with a bunch of average bars rather than one or two really good bars.
If I had just one wish it would be for bars to invest in the bar and run it like a real business. Business people know you have to spend money to make money. Investing well in a business pays off.
Things have moved on from the days when any old punter could drop a couple of million baht and be the proud owner of a medium-sized gogo bar. Bars need a lot of money to get started and plenty to keep going. Think about the two most popular bars pre-Covid – Billboard and Butterflies. What set them apart? Investment. The owners invested in the premises. They invested heavily in the best sound system. They installed the best lighting in any gogo bar. They erected attractive signage. They pay staff handsomely with some mamasans on a monthly base salary higher than many foreign teachers (and that is even before tips and commissions). They invested in marketing. And after all of that they ended up with the two best gogo bars in the country.
Of the 3 main bar areas, Nana Plaza was doing much better than elsewhere pre-Covid – at least partially because significant investment had been put in to the complex.
Too many bar owners run their bar like it’s some sort of Mafia-controlled joint – which in a small number of cases it is. Invest in your business, it’ll probably be a whole lot more popular and you’ll make a lot more money!
It will be great to get back to Bangkok and enjoy the nightlife again, but it would be even better if some bar bosses make a few small tweaks to their respective businesses to make the experience even better.
Last week’s photo was taken at the Ta Chang Pier on the Chao Praya River. Just one fellow got it right. This week’s photo was taken in central Bangkok. The one clue I’ll give you is that it was not taken on Sukhumvit.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
I rather liked Rawhide, silly shows performed well by busty enthusiastic girls and lots of nudity. But the seating was terrible. I hope it stays in the gogo format and does not become something 2022-ish like a cannabis café.
A positive immigration experience.
I know that some folks have immigration issues getting into and staying in the US. My story is quite different. In 2008 my Thai wife and I moved from Phuket to the US. We applied for a green card. With a little help from an immigration lawyer (help = $2000) we got her first 2-year green card. For the second green card, I decided to fill out the paperwork myself. Immigration required an interview, about 2 hours away. The second green card was approved for 10 years. Then when this second green card was about to expire in June, 2022, I applied again, doing the paperwork myself. This time, no biometrics (photo and fingerprints) required as they would just import those from the existing green card. So, no interview, no submitting proof of being a happy couple (like photos), no submitting bills in both names. So smooth, I am waiting for the second shoe to fall!
The hassles of travel at present.
My father had a mild stroke and I had to go to Cambodia to check up on him. Under normal circumstances there would be no chance in hell I would be leaving Sydney at this time, let alone Australia. Given my experience, international travel is off the agenda. It has been an extraordinary hassle going through the rigmarole that being infected entails such as having to quarantine, find a hotel and arrange the necessities of life and then liaise with local doctors to request the appropriate medical certificates to travel home while dealing with changing rules and requirements. There was much prior to my departure. It took me a solid week to plan my trip to Cambodia, apply for visas online and research the requirements for entry as well as transit country and airline requirements which changed during my trip. Then I had to spend two days getting the required documentation together and printing it in triplicate and then deal with the paranoia that if I misread a rule or lacked a document I could be declined at the check-in counter which could cost me thousands of dollars. It hardly seems worth it.
This Week’s News & Views
Bobo is a new nightlife hot spot getting a lot of chatter. Located in the heart of the farang zone, Bobo can be found on the ground floor of Hyatt Regency – which is on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 13 – opposite popular eatery Margarita Storm. Bobo opened for a month a year or so ago. Then it closed for a year. It reopened a month ago and is said to be doing very well. It has been described as a Thai-style club, somewhat cramped and narrow inside with a long runway down the middle. It attracts Thais with money – but there’s nothing to stop foreigners from putting on your finest threads and stopping by. Bobo is open later than most other nightspots are currently.
Reports from the Sukhumvit soi 7 beer bar complex this past week say that it has been positively jumping! One friend who has been living in Bangkok since the ’90s said it had such a great vibe the night he was there (Friday) and was like nothing he has seen in Bangkok for a good few years, even before Covid.
In Nana Plaza, Rainbow 5 is open and some nights has a good number of ladies. A few of the dance crew are even shuffling where they’re not supposed to be shuffling but it’s just that, a shuffle, and unlikely to cause any issues. The current crew can’t be too bad on the eyes with Japanese and Korean punters back in numbers.
Still in the plaza, if ladyboys are your thing, Straps has re-opened and a few ladyboys are hanging around outside and propositioning all who pass by.
And another one for you ladyboy fans (yep, more than a few ladyboy lovers tune in each week), a sign on the door of Obsessions states the bar is open from Wednesday – Saturday. That said, this past Friday it was closed, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.
In last week’s column I mentioned receiving 2 separate reports of a Thai woman being approached in sois between the Nana and Asoke intersections by two guys on a bike who claimed to be cops but were not in uniform. I asked what this might be all about. An explanation from a reader may well answer this question. For some time there has been a bunch of Vietnamese ladies on Soi Nana doing what many ladies do on Soi Nana. At one point there were a couple of dozen or more Vietnamese ladies plying their trade; today there is less than half that. Some have been described as veteran sex workers while others appear to be doing it out of necessity. It is suspected that police – or possibly impostors – are targeting these Vietnamese ladies to extort them. All quite plausible.
In some Nana Plaza bars, either the stage is taped off or girls in dresses are sitting on stools spinning round in circles. Even at those bars in the plaza which do push things just a little, the threat of a police raid is palpable, with one bar keeping stools on stage so the girls can quickly sit should the plod enter the plaza. Nana Plaza is either the strictest-controlled bar area in town, or has the most law-abiding bar owners, or both.
Despite the relatively staid atmosphere, however, Nana remains the most popular bar area. On Friday of last week – the last Friday of February and the day many expats would have received their salary – the plaza was buzzing. Every seat at Billboard was taken at 11 PM when they had to pull the plug on its best night since reopening. But on that particular night Billboard didn’t suck all the air out of the plaza. Random, Erotica and Lollipop were also packed. There may not be a lot of skin on display at Nana, but punters are out in droves.
East End, Soi Cowboy’s newest bar, opened this week. It had a few people including some ladies but this past Friday night was described as pretty empty. It doesn’t appear to have any gogo poles so the exact format isn’t clear. It was probably empty because it has few girls. It’s early days of course so let’s give it a bit of time and revisit in a month or two.
And the party is all go at Soi Cowboy too with a few bars staying open until 1 AM. Late-night club Penny Black has been partying until 3 AM some nights. Strictly speaking, closing time should be much earlier but no-one is complaining.
Customers at Penny Black aren’t the only ones dancing in Soi Cowboy. Girls are up on stage in some gogo bars, some in dresses, some in negligees and, at one bar long-known for such carry on, in skirts with no panties. But nothing compares to the craziness going on upstairs at one bar which really lives up to its name. One friend who spent time on Cowboy this week said it almost felt like the pandemic was over.
The antics allowed in some Soi Cowboy bars have infuriated the management in others, where one bar manager raged about how the authorities basically prevented a dancing damsel from even setting foot on stage in his bar while the bar at the end of the street could do whatever it wanted.
So Nana and Cowboy are doing well, what about Patpong? Compare the crowds at Nana – and the increasing number of people on Cowboy – with Patpong and you might get whiplash. Despite some valiant and costly efforts underway to promote the Silom bar area, it remains a ghost town. Patpong 1 is especially bad, in almost complete darkness when the sun goes down and feels like it has fallen off the map completely. Only one of the King’s bars is open nightly. The rest of the soi? Dead!
The name of Whiskey & Go Go, on the middle floor next to Random, is not the only odd thing about the small bar that replaced the Chili ladyboy bar. Since its initial opening more than a year ago, it has always cast itself as more of a lounge than a gogo bar, dispensing with the usual high bar tables or bench seating in favour of low sofas and end tables for drinks. The bar has never employed more than a dozen or so dancers – currently about 10 on a weekend night – and am told some are quite the lookers. Quality over quantity has been the rule for European owner Sasha. The drinks menu is not close to being the cheapest in the plaza – although a 99-baht Tiger currently is on offer – but it does have some high-end whiskies you won’t find elsewhere. And, at least one night a week now, entertainer Lee Shamrock plays live, bringing his following of decidedly non-gogo types to Nana Plaza. This odd mix of live music, cute girls, top-shelf booze and swanky layout have made it a favourite for a number of people. Whiskey & Go Go is now open seven nights a week from 7:30 PM and is worthy of stopping by for a drink or two.
One of Billboard’s unique draws was its massive screens. The owner has further upgraded the system and is showing live sports on a 100-inch screen on Saturdays and music videos on the 300-inch screen. The videos sync to the music on Billboard’s top-notch sound system. The sports, meanwhile, add a new dimension to a gogo bar during a time when it more resembles a hostess lounge. This coming Saturday, Billboard will be showing the Six Nations rugby match between Italy and Scotland at 9:15 PM. Surely, watching with a Billboard babe is better than sitting with a bunch of old codgers at the pub! The two-for-one drink specials remains on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – and applies to all local bottled beers and house pours.
Only one sign above the front door remains to indicate that Erotica now inhabits the former Playskool bar. The big Playskool sign over the front has been replaced with an Erotica sign in English and Japanese, and the outside bar is humming with business from early in the evening. With a full menu of Thai and Western food and an opening time of 6 PM, the owners are trying to attract the after-work crowd with the pitch you can come for a meal and drinks before starting the night in earnest. The inside bar remains closed, but the outside bar area is proving popular. Erotica has about 15 friendly ladies in slinky dresses – or less – and sounds like another fun spot to grab a bite and spend some time.
Demonia, the fetish bar on Sukhumvit soi 33, has launched a unique body sushi dinner called The Nyotaimori Experience. It costs 500 baht per person, with a minimum of 2 people. 24 hours advance booking is required so the sushi can be prepared. Details to make a reservation are on the poster above.
Walking Street really ought to be renamed something like Beach Road Extension. Word is that there’s not a lot of walking on Walking Street these days, day or night – and anyone walking down the middle better watch out for motorbikes and cars driving by.
What’s happening at Pattaya Immigration, which technically is not Pattaya Immigration at all, but Jomtien Immigration? It used to be that when you dropped your passport in for a renewal of your extension to stay (what some people call extending their visa), it was handled that day and an hour or two after handing in your passport and documents you got your passport back. One long-time reader mentioned that it had been that way for years but on his most recent visit he was told to return to collect his passport the next day. Not only is that a minor hassle, with hordes of people at this particular Immigration branch long queues, and let’s not forget Covid raging, some people would prefer to limit their time away from home and especially limit their time around large crowds of people.
Ladies Night is back on at The Old English Pub on Thursday nights from 5 – 11 PM. Ladies are offered buy 1 get 1 free house wine, cocktails and standard drinks, as well as 50% off all appetisers on the menu. The Old English is a bit of an oddity among Bangkok pubs. Struggling in 2019, the bar reopened after the first lockdown in 2020 and drew bigger crowds than it ever did. That has continued into 2022 with the only British-style pub in Thonglor now attracting a solid crowd most days – about 80% Thai – due in large part to its outdoor patio, which can seat 50, and it’s 2 – 6 PM “Pound for a Pint” promotion, which offers draught pints of Leo for just 45 baht. The Old English is in The Maze (Tops Supermarket) complex on Soi 55.
There was a time in Thailand when it felt like any white guy who was reasonably presented was super popular with the local ladies. Even those who really didn’t have much going for them could do very well. It really felt like all you needed was to be white and have a cheerful demeanour and you were in business. I don’t think it’s quite as easy as it once was, although many guys will still do much better than they would in their homeland. For a while now Thais have had an interest in all things Korean from K-pop (Korean music) to K-drama (Korean TV), Korean products (especially cosmetics), Korean fashion & brand names and of course, Korean food. So it should be no great surprise that with all of this exposure, Korean men just happen to appeal to Thai women. Not all Korean men, mind you, but younger Korean men with a certain look. A young, clean-cut Korean guy is all the rage with a lot of Thai women these days. With so much interest in all things Korean, there has been an explosion in Korean language schools in Bangkok, and some long-operating language schools have added Korean to the language courses on offer. And whadya know, the majority of those studying the Korean language are Thai women. One popular place to learn Korean is King Sejon Institute Bangkok which receives support from the Korean government. Those who study 120 hours+ at this particular institute don’t have to pass the language requirements when applying for a marriage visa at the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok. Some joke that as much as being a Korean language course, it’s a course for Thai women keen to find a Korean husband!
There are no plans at this stage to resurrect the old Girl Of The Week section, at least not at this point in time. Each week I will try to include a photo or two featuring ladies who are currently employed in the industry. No details about the lady other than where she can be found. If you see someone you like, you know where to go.
Links To Thailand-Related Articles
Reader’s story of the week comes from Kloth, “Goût Et Couleur“.
A South African woman convicted for drug offences in Thailand wants to be extradited back to South Africa.
Hotels and hospitals have been asked to issue refunds to travellers due to the new entry requirements.
Popular author Steve Rosse was interviewed again on YouTube this week.
One of the greatest cricketers in the history of the great game, and one of the true personalities tragically died of a heart attack in Thailand this week.
Bangkok’s illicit craft brewers risk arrest under draconian laws.
Last year, three people I knew in Thailand died, all due to liver failure or liver-related issues. I received more bad news this week with word that yet another friend in Bangkok had passed away. Super nice guy, he succumbed to a heart attack at the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi Nana one morning this past week. It’s been a tough couple of years with Covid. Friends are passing away. There’s the war in Ukraine. More than ever I am reminded that we really have to seize the moment and make the most of life. You just don’t know when it might come to an end.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com