This week was Songkran, Thailand’s New Year holiday and the biggest holiday of the year. It’s typically a quiet time for the entertainment industry as staff take time off to return home to their family who, in some cases, they may not have seen since Songkran the previous year. Long-time residents and repeat visitors typically don’t venture out with quite the same enthusiasm as they try to avoid the water fights that Songkran has become so well-known for. With all of this in mind, Songkran can be a quiet time in downtown Bangkok. That’s reflected in this week’s column which is lighter than usual. Not only is there less news from around the traps, there are fewer readers’ emails.
This week’s opening piece is a collection of photos very kindly sent in by reader Steve. This series of photos shows how things were around parts of Sukhumvit on Friday night.
Normal service will resume with a full-length column next week.
Last week’s photo was taken of the tiny bar on the right, just metres into Sukhumvit soi 8, not far from the main Sukhumvit Road. Last week’s photo was another photo most readers have been struggling to identify. With that in mind, this week’s photo is somewhat easier. This is a recent photo, taken last weekend.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Like it was 20 years ago.
The return to “normal” is when the government doesn’t dress up the dumping of the test and go program and call it an ATK. The return to “normal” is when they ditch the shitty mask outside everywhere other than your residence rule. The return to “normal” is when hotels and flights stop their price-gouging for the sake of it. The return to “normal” is when it goes back to like it was in 2019, pre-pandemic and we are certainly not there just yet. Not everyone who comes to Thailand is a sex tourist. We don’t like being treated like crap by an un-elected, authoritarian-style government when we’re spending our hard-earned money over there supporting their tourist industry.
The reality of life in Bangkok.
I totally agree with you about how living in Bangkok can shorten your life. The reasons include pollution, Thai food not being healthy and of course, the nightlife is another danger. I know a few expats here who are out at least 2 to 3 times a week and drink a lot. They are young (30 – 40) and don’t see the problem but the invoice will come sooner or later. I joined them a couple of times but to be honest it was boring. Listening to half-drunk people complaining about Thailand, Thai ladies, their own government etc. I had no fun in that. I see my friends playing golf, sharing lunch after that and I’m happy with that. Stress is part of it too, especially when you work and deal with their system day after day. When you retire, if your only option is to go to bars to meet friends then you should consider another place to live.
This Week’s News & Views
There was no news from Sukhumvit soi 7 as Bangkok’s newest bar area remains closed. Rumours abound with some saying that the soi 7 bar complex is done, with the licensing issue too big a hurdle to overcome. Others talk of legal advice being sought which will hopefully lead to a solution to the impasse. Here’s hoping that a solution is found and that the bars do get to reopen soon.
The street bars of Sukhumvit are flourishing again with the area around soi 11 described as vibrant. But the question with venues of this nature must always be: How long will they last? The authorities have a habit of cracking down on them once or twice a year.
Before Songkran, the big question on Bangkok bar owners’ minds was would Songkran be good or a bust. It turns out that it’s been more good than bust. Some say business has been very good. Perhaps the crackdown on water fights had something to do with it?
On Nana Plaza’s top floor, Billboard boomed on Tuesday night, looking more like a Thursday. Wednesday – the first official day of Songkran – was huge. Strong trade continued through Thursday and Friday nights without the expected tapering off.
Nana bar owners were pleased with some leniency being shown by the police. The plaza was allowed to party until 12:30 AM this week. Will it remain this way? Bar bosses and punters alike sure hope so.
Things weren’t great in Soi Cowboy, though, where Friday night resembled a Tuesday, with only two or three bums on seats for much of the night in the outside bars except Tilac, which seemed to be doing well.
Crazy House was described to me as “Thursday-style busy”. On Fridays & Saturdays it has been hard to get seats in Crazy House. But this past Friday night there were seats to be had. Baccara did alright, but emptied out early as the Japanese went home to bed.
With bars like Baccara and Crazy House doing good business in their hidden-away upstairs bars, the question on some lips continues to be why Shark – which has an upstairs stage – remains closed. While there was some rumbling in the bar recently, don’t expect it to reopen any time soon. Word is that the landlord continues to ask silly rents and pre-pandemic levels of key money. Negotiations have been going on for some time but little progress has been made. Shark had one of the same owners as Lighthouse, but almost a year ago all the owners handed back the keys to a landlord that likewise refused to budge on rent and key money.
Corner Bar, which lost its lease after its landlord sold up, has been gutted. The owner of Corner Bar was said to be taking over at Lighthouse but, again due to rent demands, that plan has been put on hold.
Following Wednesday’s pre-pandemic-style Songkran bedlam on Khao San Road (see news story here), cops across the city cracked down, probably after their bosses had their heads cracked by PM Prayut (see second news story here).
The superintendent of Thonglor police station himself walked the length of Soi Cowboy on Thursday night, flanked by a dozen or so officers. They were greeted, according to one bar manager, with waves of wais – and obvious fear. For a change there was no fanfare of the visit, no media contingent on his heels. A few words were spoken at some bars and he left as quickly as he arrived with no corrective actions being taken – there was no evidence of water warfare found on the soi, except a small water gun in the belt of a farang manager.
The big news this week from Nana Plaza is that from tomorrow, Billboard will open on Mondays. This means that, for the first time in 2 years, Billboard will be open seven nights a week. Opening has been pushed back to 7 PM and the three-times-weekly “2-for-1 Drinks” promotion will move from Tuesdays – Thursdays to Mondays – Wednesdays.
Still in the Plaza, Mandarin (upstairs) will finally reopen on Wednesday. It has been closed for two years, not having reopened during the 2020 break between Covid-19 waves. Mandarin Table Dance and Mercury next door have long been gutted and remain empty.
On the other side of the plaza, the old Erotica Bar, now renamed Taxi Bar is still not open.
A small correction to drinks prices at Erotica in Nana Plaza. At the outside bar, it is 100-baht on a selection of drinks, on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 6 – 9 PM. Inside the bar, it is buy 2 get 1 drink on select drinks on Mondays and Tuesdays from 6 – 9 PM.
Over in Patpong soi 2, Bada Bing sounds like it might be one of the more happening places in town with a couple of very positive reviews from readers. And you don’t even have to rush to get there early either….if you know what I mean. Sounds like it could be just what some people are looking for.
A regular reader I frequently chat with on Line told me a farang was recording the goings on in a particular gogo bar. No-one did or said anything. Said reader was in his line of focus and gestured to him to stop. Said fellow recording the video walked over to said reader and explained what he was doing, trying to get some sort of artsy shot. Said reader was pissed off as he felt his privacy was being invaded, which is fair enough. It does seem that with little in the way of antics or showing, bar staff didn’t seem concerned about someone taking video. Whether this was particular to that bar or would be the same in other bars, I do not know.
In last week’s column I included a snap a friend sent of the big breakfast he enjoys at the Robin Hood pub at Sukhumvit soi 33/1. I invited readers to send in photos of their favourite breakfast and a couple of readers sent in shots, one from The Kilkenny on Soi LK Metro in Pattaya and the other from Irish Rovers, just a stone’s throw away. I’ll feature those two photos in next week’s column. In the meantime, if you happen to have a good pub breakfast anywhere in Thailand this week, please do take a snap and send it in. I’ll run all the British pub breakfast photos next week.
Popular entertainer Lee Shamrock performs at Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub (just around the corner from Soi Cowboy) on Thursday and Friday nights, and can also be found at Suzi Wong’s on Soi Cowboy proper from 8 PM on Saturday nights.
Parts of this site were not available when we relaunched, namely those weekly columns and readers’ submissions published between September 2018 and January 2021. Everything is slowly being put back together. The previously missing weekly columns are for the most part back up but the formatting is off and many of the images are missing. It’s a large job and at some point I will have a go at tidying things up so those columns look how they did when I first published them. If you should happen to go back and look at the old columns, that’s why some of them – only those published between September 2018 and January 2021 – don’t look quite right. As for how this happened, now that’s quite a story… Maybe one day it will be told, maybe not.
This past week the other half’s sister, brother and sister-in-law contracted Covid. (Sister and brother had not met and contracted it from different sources.) Two readers in Bangkok told me they had contracted Covid to add to one the previous week. These are very small numbers and probably coincidence as much as anything, but I wonder if perhaps Covid might be peaking in Bangkok around now? Previous to the past two weeks, I know few people who contracted Covid in Thailand.
It’s a lot easier to get a Covid-19 vaccination now in Thailand than when the vaccine rollout kicked off. Back then, the system seemed rather convoluted and not entirely user-friendly. It’s all a lot easier now and you can wander in to MBK without an appointment where you have a choice of either the Pfizer or Astra Zeneca vaccines. Whether it’s your first dose or your second booster (4th dose), just rock on up and you’ll be taken care of. I am not sure what documents you need to take with you but I’d make sure you have your passport with you along with any previous Covid-19 vaccination records. I know that Covid and vaccines can be a polarising topic – and I don’t wish to get in to a debate over whether to get a vaccine or not. I have received a few angry emails about vaccines and to be frank, I am not interested in engaging with anyone on this topic. As I have previously stated, I had two shots of Pfizer and I won’t be getting any more. What you do is entirely your choice and I won’t be making any judgment. The information about where to get vaccinated is included as a public service – and it’s helpful that MBK is known to most foreigners and very easy to get to. To those who insist on emailing me crap about vaccines and Covid generally, if you dig deep down into a rabbit hole, reversing out won’t be easy.
Thailand-Related News Articles
Quote of the week comes from a Thai who was complaining about the crowds at the airport at Songkran, “Thailand 4.0 or Thailand 0.4?”
Does Thailand have little choice but to open up the country to tourists to save the economy?
Did Thailand need to be shamed to reorganise what was described as mayhem at the airport?
Thai Airways is yet to process refunds to many customers for airfares dating back 2+ years, yet it just took delivery of two new Boeing 777 aircraft.
A strange assault was reported in Pattaya where an American claims he was set upon by another foreigner and a Thai woman.
On Khao San Road, revellers – Thai and Western alike – ignored the no water fight ban.
Following Wednesday’s craziness, on Thursday the cops cracked down on the revelry with a large show of force in various hotspots.
The water fight craziness that Songkran is so well-known for sounded like it was rather muted this year. I never thought I’d say this but with a bit of luck it will be back to the usual water fight mayhem next year – which would signal the pandemic is finally well and truly behind us.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com