This week’s opener was not written by me, but a guest contributor who has produced a great article very much fitting in the Stickman style. Thank you very much, Mr. Bangkok Photographer. What follows is entirely Bangkok Photographer’s work – the photos, the captions and the comments.
A Bangkok photographer bought into the hype and decided to spend a few nights this past week in Sin City to find that, while things have vastly improved since December, Walking Street’s revival is confined to a few short blocks and, at the southern end of the strip, Walking Street bears more resembled to a bombed-out war zone than Thailand’s former red-light Mecca.
There’s been much hype since Songkran about how Walking Street and Pattaya, in general, have recovered. Videos and photos showed shoulder-to-shoulder tourists trawling Pattaya’s famed nightlife strip with headlines shouting about go-go bars reopening, girls dancing and the naughty fun returning.
The good news first: From Soi 15 to the Pin-Up and Baccara go-go bars, things are again bouncing. The cocktail dresses have been dispensed with and girls in bikinis – and often less – are dancing on stage again. The Girl Crisis raging in Bangkok go-go bars is not an obvious problem in Pattaya, with bars like Fahrenheit, Pin-up, Palace and Skyfall fully stocked with dozens of dancing damsels. Pin-up this past weekend was running three teams of dancers, with a total of about 80 girls on hand.
While not all bars are open in this stretch of street, the ones that are operating are very busy. And not just Friday and Saturday. Even Monday night all the bars on the street were doing good trade. Fahrenheit and Pin-up are, right now, the best bars on the strip and Friday and Saturday saw no seats to be found in either bar.
The bad news: Step into the shadows – literally – out of the neon lights of the open bars and you enter a depressed zone that leaves you wondering if Walking Street ever will fully recover.
Starting at the far southern end, near Bali Hai Pier, there is basically nothing left. Thai-owned small businesses that catered to Russian and Indian tourists – think tailor shops, jewelry stores, dive shops and restaurants – are boarded up and for sale. Bistros are no more. The Russo Touristo bar was staffed by two very bored Thais, leaving the few passersby wondering why it’s even open. Crazy Russian Girls is closed, as there will be no crazy Russians in Pattaya for a long time to come.
Both Family Mart and 7-Eleven are gone. If those businesses can’t survive, then things must be very bad indeed.
Soho Square, which was built with the idea of making it an epic nightlife center, never achieved its goal, but did, for some time, have a few go-go bars and a live music club that were worth venturing down to. Now it’s entirely fenced off.
The entire development across from the long-gone Tony’s Disco has been leveled. The iconic Simon Beer Bar complex is hollowed out.
Even the attractive tiled pavement on Walking Street has given out, a victim of the never-ending roadwork that has destroyed the image of Walking Street. The Provincial Electricity Authority project to bury all the overhead power and communications wires and install a new underground electrical grid for Walking Street is still going, five months after it was supposed to be finished. Now the PEA estimates it won’t be done until Christmas.
Venture up Walking Street out of the “Russian area” and things aren’t any better. The constant roadwork and closed bars have left the street in near darkness in some stretches, which is a scary proposition now that ladyboy pickpockets have returned to Walking Street with the increase in tourists.
Living Dolls Showcase (now just called Living Dolls) is closed. Harem, Infinity, Airport Club and more go-gos are done and up for sale. Basically, there’s no reason to go any further south than Pin-up.
On Soi 15 to the North, Sapphire Club is back, as well as Dollhouse and Electric Blue. After that, there’s almost no reason to go further North, unless you need to get a taxi on South Road. Skyfall must feel a bit lonely as the only go-go bar open there. Only The Stones House music bar and King Seafood are there to keep the lights on.
Much of the southern end of Walking Street had died, but the “Old Big Tree” survives. This tree has been on Walking Street since before it was Walking Street. Photos of Pattaya in the 1970s and 80s show this tree jutting out into the dirt road that later would host bars and clubs. Maybe its survival harkens a better future for Pattaya and Waking Street as well.
There will be plenty of readers who write to chime in that Walking Street has been dead to them for years and that Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao is where Pattaya’s real nightlife now resides.
It was certainly true this past week that Soi LK was heaving with customers and is lively and vibrant. But it’s just as true that the go-go bars there – and even more so the beer bars – are extremely cliquey, with locals sneering at tourists and the girls uninterested in trying their luck with someone they don’t know rather than leech off the expats they’ve already softened up.
Tourists often can enter an LK bar excited at the large number of girls and vibe only to sit alone for one or two drinks and vow never to return. For outsiders – and arguably for the survival of Pattaya – Walking Street needs to return to its former self.
Last week’s photo was taken inside the newly renovated Bully’s, between Sukhumvit sois 2 and 4. This week’s photo was kindly sent in by a reader and is somewhere in the zone between the expressway near Sukhumvit soi 2 and the Asoke intersection.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Keen to visit, but for the hassles.
The mask thing in Isaan.
The mask thing is ridiculous. Whether it would stop people coming, I don’t know. It would certainly move it way down my list. I find them very uncomfortable. From photos I’ve seen of gatherings my wife has been to, almost no-one is wearing one outside in my area here in Isaan. There was a music thing, and one out of maybe 50 people in the photo was wearing one. No-one is using the checks inside the entrance of shops anymore, but walk through a supermarket car park without a mask and you get looks.
Common-sense prevails in Pattaya.
Offended by fellow foreigners.
Not wearing a mask is not only deeply offensive to Thais, it is also deeply offensive to other farang. I am sick of the “it is my right” idiots giving me and other farang a bad name. I wish the authorities would start fining them 20,000 baht each. If they have no basic respect to abide by the rules of the country they are visiting, then p**s off. Thailand does not need low-class trash without a brain. And anyway, Covid aside, the mask probably protects the lungs from all the other crap in the Bangkok air.
Will the Thais ever give masks up?
The mask-wearing thing is strange. I’m almost certain that there’s no government mask mandate here. I think I recall quite clearly several months ago that the Minister of Health admitted there was no legal requirement for people to wear masks, but he also said that ‘good people’ always would wear them anyway, which was his response to being told that foreigners sometimes were seen without them. In spite of the lack of a legal mandate, masks are worn universally both inside and out by everyone. I don’t recall seeing a single person anywhere without one. Except…well, me. I never wear one outside or in the car, but I suppose private businesses have a right to impose whatever requirements they like so I generally carry one in my pocket and put it on if I need to go into Villa Market or one of the shopping malls. I forgot once and a guard at the Emporium very politely reminded me, but otherwise I never see them enforce the policy. They don’t have to. Everybody already has a mask on. Everybody. On the other hand, at small businesses like 7-Elevens there is generally a ‘no mask, no service’ sign on the door, but I never bother and no one has ever said anything. I don’t know when any of that is likely to change. People have been so thoroughly initiated here into a climate of fear that even sensible people like my wife won’t leave the apartment without a mask on. What’s more, she and most of the people she knows give themselves an ATK test every other day, more often if they have been in any kind of group such as having lunch with friends. She says she just feels better doing it, and I don’t see the slightest hint that’s going to change anytime soon. We were in the States recently and virtually no one wears a mask there any longer. They are still required on some forms of public transport in some places, and I was required to put on one at an Apple Store and I have no doubt there are other virtue-signaling companies enforcing the same mandate to remind everyone of what fine people they really are. Otherwise… nada.
This Week’s News & Views
Angelwitch is back in business. One of Bangkok’s favourite gogo bars, and perhaps the best known – and the original – show bar, Angelwitch reopened this week. The soft (unannounced) opening was just that with no DJ. It’s been a long time coming – Angelwitch has been closed since the first wave of Covid, for more than two years. Angelwitch did not reopen in late 2020 – and qualified staff are very hard to get and keep at the moment. I am told a DJ will be back in charge of the tunes very soon. Doors open every night from 7:00 PM and most beers run 160 baht. Lady drinks are priced at 195 baht while a barfine will set you back 900 baht. Angelwitch is on the middle floor of Nana Plaza.
Another new bar looks poised to open soon in Nana Plaza. Signage up this week reveals that Pigtails is the name of the new bar in the space that was previously London Calling and Rainbow 2, the spaces now combined for what should be a rather large gogo bar. The impression from outside is that most of the work has been done and opening can’t be far away.
Police were back in Nana Plaza on Friday night, continuing their crusade against teenagers, albeit less obtrusively. All girls under the age of 20 are now banished from the plaza entirely. From what I can gather, there are no longer any 18- and 19-year-olds working at any bar in Nana Plaza. Funnily enough, that runs contrary to the law (that allows maidens of such an age to work in a bar) – and needless to say, bar owners are not happy. Where have the ladies gone? Some went down the road to Soi Cowboy, even though police there are also on the case. It’s the same old story, crazy things happen in some places. Some also made it over to Patpong.
With uniforms in the plaza, almost all the ladies were covered up. Geisha – recently reopened under new management – either didn’t care, or didn’t get the memo. A shower show was performed in the manner a shower show should be performed, a new landmark on the frontier push toward normalcy. To date, bars that have been showing have been only topless. Geisha was the first to lose their panties.
Still no news from the beer complex at soi 7 this week, which remains closed.
It should be noted that the bar hours are inching later. Current closing times around the city are: Nana 1:00 AM. Soi Cowboy 1:30 AM. Patpong 2 :00 AM.
A troop of deaf girls is back outside the Nana Hotel. Deaf girls have been a feature of freelancer bars and I can remember when I was a new kid on the block a small group of deaf ladies in Thermae who communicated with potential customers by writing in English on a pad and paper. I guess nowadays mobile phones with Google Translate does the job. I’m not sure which girls in the photo below – taken this week by a reader – are deaf.
On the topic of deaf working girls, a couple of weeks back a friend sent the following email which just goes to show that there are a few about:
On Soi Cowboy, Suzie Wong is one of a few bars said to be operating not that much different to how it was pre-Covid. In this respect it stands apart from most other bars on Soi Cowboy.
A few doors along, Long Gun has wasted no time getting back in to the swing of things with birthday suits drawing in punters. Long Gun was closed a long time but many of the familiar faces are back, mamasans and dancers alike. I made a cynical remark in last week’s column about comments made by one of the Long Gun mamasans about how she would have 50 girls within a month. I have to eat my words. Mid-week there were over 30 girls in Long Gun – so they’re well on track to crack the half century.
East End, Soi Cowboy’s newest bar, looks like it will be short-lived. It is up for sale. Apparently a fellow from the Middle East owns it and word is that he wishes to release the capital for a new project. Note that the owner is NOT The Arab.
Walk out of Soi Cowboy at the Asoke end and turn left – and there used to be a bar there right up against the wall of the building. It made that stretch of pavement an obstacle course with little space causing crowds to be funnelled through a very narrow section of pavement, made all the worse by food vendors that set tables up beside it. I note photos from a friend shows that bar has gone. It could have gone any time in the last couple of years, I guess. I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old man, but I’m happy it’s gone. It always felt like a few square metres there would be a fertile breeding ground for pickpockets operating late at night. That said, probably the eagle-eyed motosai boys there would notice if anyone was lingering in the shadows and up to no good.
XXX Lounge in Patpong is hosting an 80s night this coming Friday and Saturday, May 20th and 21st, featuring 70 baht beers and 10 baht Tequila shots.
And also on Friday night in Patpong, the Museum of Patpong will be hosting a beer Olympics. 999 baht gets you unlimited drinks. There will be prizes up for grabs.
If you prefer a different flavour of nightlife, Juicy on Sukhumvit Soi 11 has roared back to life and was described this week as rocking.
On the topic of names you don’t hear much about these days, a friend walked past Snow White (a once very popular naughty massage outlet on Sukhumvit soi 26) only to see it has closed. Like so many venues, it might have closed some time ago. The Covid casualty list is long.
For a few years the lovely dancer in Tilac with badge #95 was frequently mentioned in this column – where we noted she had absolutely the best butt in all of Soi Cowboy. She long ago left the industry and that badge number has probably changed hands a few times since. Miss Ooy is the current #95. No idea about her derriere but perhaps she has one the better racks in Soi Cowboy? You decide.
Down in Pattaya, Fahrenheit A Gogo is getting rave reviews from the fit-out to the music to the top bloke who manages to the great selection of ladies. Drinks run 160 a bottle of beer and 170 baht for a lady drink. Even the seating has been described as feeling like “premium economy” – it’s not cramped as the seating can be in some chrome pole bars in Bangkok. But be prepared to dig deep in to your pocket if you wish to pay a barfine. Barfines on Walking Street can be much higher than in similar bars in Bangkok. Fahrenheit was the first gogo bar to reopen months ago – as a “bistro” with food and ladies in cocktail dresses – and has capitalised on its early lead to become, arguably, the second-best bar on the street. When Fahrenheit opened it had fewer than a dozen women, half of whom had no business wearing a bikini on stage. Now it has more ladies than any bar except Pin-Up, many of them very attractive.
In Skyfall on Walking Street, barfines start at 1K baht and the opening gambit from the ladies is for 4K baht – short time, of course.
Barfines are out of control in Pattaya. But let’s not forget that Pattaya has long had higher barfines at much higher levels than Bangkok since well before Covid came along. 1K – 2K baht is pretty much the norm for “models” on Walking Street. Hey, they’re a model, they once graced the pages of Maxim or another local rag, right? Ah, no. In Pattaya, models tends to be a euphemism for girls who go topless.
I get the feeling that the big challenge for bar owners at the moment of finding girls to work in the bar is going to be a challenge for some time to come. Spare a thought for what pre-Covid was one of the more popular gogo bars on Soi LK Metro. This gogo bar which I have chosen not to name comprises 3-shophouses. One night this past week just 8 girls turned up for work. It’s really hard to operate a business like that.
Club Myst, opposite Insomnia on Walking Street, has been getting rave reviews. Apparently some serious money has been dropped setting the venue up. Currently it is open till 3:30 AM and from all accounts it is doing very well.
There are very few, and will likely be even fewer Russian tourists in Pattaya for the foreseeable future, but the Indian tourists are back in force; at least the Indian men are. Over five days in Pattaya, one reader reported seeing only two Indian women. The rest – and they were everywhere – were packs of Indian men, some sharing rooms in five-star resorts, with rates still at relatively crazy low levels. While the Nashaa Indian Disco, which burned down last year, has yet to reopen, RAAS, a loud and neon-lit Indian club has opened just past Soi 16 in the devastated southern end of Walking Street. There were men milling about outside, but it’s doubtful how many Thai working women were inside to cater to them. Of the gogo bars that were open, none appeared to be turning Indian men away.
Fans of what many believe is Pattaya’s best bar – on either Walking Street or Soi LK Metro – will be devastated to learn that Pin-Up has shrunk! The Walking Street gogo bar that rivals Billboard as the best bar of its kind in the country was, before April, 2021, three shophouses wide. But after bars were ordered closed, the French owner handed back the keys to one unit, took out seating and rebuilt a wall. The door remains in the same place, but the left side of the bar is now very crowded and cramped. “When we opened, we had just 11 girls,” the owner said this week. “We didn’t have a need for so much space.” Pin-Up does now, however. “It’s rammed every night now,” he admitted. And it’s not hype. Every seat was filled, even on Sunday and Monday. But relief is on the way – this week, in fact. While it’s not possible for Pin-Up to re-widen, it is getting longer. The owners acquired a commercial building on Soi VC behind Walking Street and are expanding the back of the bar, doubling it in size. Pin-Up will go from being big and wide, to long and narrow. The new section is expected to open before the weekend.
If Pin-Up is the Pattaya bar at the top of everyone’s list to visit, Windmill Club and its sister bar Annabelle’s have fallen not to the bottom of the list, but off the list of a large number of punters. Why? Management of both bars insists that every customer who enters take an antigen test, making them the only bars on Walking Street or Soi LK Metro to do so. The tests are free, but customers still have to wait the 15 minutes outside for the results. Desperate touts and door staff are pleading with customers, saying that the tests are needed to protect the girls, even though far more bargirls than punters are still getting Covid-19. With plenty of other – arguably better – options now, any bar requiring an ATK gets a hard pass.
While those two bars’ ATKs are free, that hasn’t stopped touts from neighbouring bars telling customers that Windmill and Annabelle’s are charging 100 baht and that they should come to their test-free bars instead!
If Walking Street is being revived, one bar truly back from the dead is Heaven Above or, as it’s now called, Heaven Club. Located in the same spot at the top of the stairs above the long-gone Super Baby, Heaven Club hopes to trade on the former bar’s popularity, but under new ownership, a team of Australian and Thai operators. The layout remains the same, but Heaven Above’s all-white interior has been stripped out for the usual dark colours, making the small space seem even more cramped. Prices are par for the course for Walking Street, although the bar’s menu is unreadable due to the small print and busy background.
Soi LK Metro’s best gogo bar, Kink, on Wednesday reopened its notorious second floor. Kink was packed Saturday night, but with everyone confined to the bottom floor. With easy access to the street, the ground floor always has been rather staid, with fully clothed girls literally dropping in from above every 30 minutes. Currently there are no shows. Upstairs, however, was always a different story, with birthday suits the standard uniform and hands-on action the norm, with many of the girls having learned their trade at Windmill Club.
Nudity – and the quality of the talent – are the two biggest differences right now between Walking Street and Soi LK Metro. Nearly every bar on Walking Street features topless dancers. The women on Walking Street – especially in bars like Skyfall, Palace and Pin-Up – also are younger, slimmer and more attractive than those on stage in central Pattaya.
Some say Kink is the best bar on Soi LK Metro, but, right now, that title arguably could go to Champagne. Now in its mind-boggling 17th year – an eternity for a gogo bar – Champagne is open and has a sign that no-one entering the soi could miss. It’s massive stage is filled with lookers from end to end.
Laos is reopening to visitors, dropping all entry restrictions except for the requirement to be fully vaccinated.
Vice looks at the current situation with cannabis in Thailand.
Thailand will give away one million cannabis plants next month.
Covid may be declared endemic in Thailand soon, but face-masks look set to stay under the current Health Minister.
Police shut down a poop-eating cult in Isaan.
More ridiculousness from Thailand this week with the Health Minister insisting masks be worn even after Covid is declared endemic.
The last news article in this week’s round up of links starts with this line, “A key committee within the Ministry of Public Health is looking to make sure that the public, including foreign tourists, continues to wear face masks even after the virus has been declared endemic in the coming months which may still include some sort of mandate or legal provision in certain circumstances.” What the fxxx?! This past week, the other half and I talked about visiting Bangkok and the mask requirement. For us this might just be a deal-breaker. We visit Thailand to enjoy ourselves. One of the simple pleasures for me in Thailand is roaming around the city, exploring new neighbourhoods, taking photos and just seeing where I end up. I enjoy the heat, even if it’s 35+ degrees – but I am not sure I’d enjoy it quite the same if I was required to wear a mask. Including my morning walk at Benjakitti Park, I may do 15 – 20 km / day – and under current rules I’d be required to wear a mask. No, thanks, that doesn’t work for me. I suggested to the other half that perhaps we do have a couple of very short stays in Thailand en route to somewhere else i.e. take a trip to Europe instead and just have a few days in Thailand on the way up, and again on the way back. Masks are not required in much of Europe. The mask thing really is that much of a big deal for us – and from emails I know we’re not alone.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org