A few weeks back I ran an opener Pattaya, This Week, which was the fine work of Mr. Bangkok Photographer. This week you get another dose with Mr Bangkok Photographer getting a sneak preview of Blondie, the newest bar in Bangkok, a venue which promises to set the standard for gogo bars going forward.
What follows is entirely Bangkok Photographer’s work – the photos, the captions and the comments.
Replacing Nana Plaza’s oldest go-go bar with its newest and most-opulent-ever is not something done quickly. In fact, it’s taken longer than anyone imagined. But on Thursday, June 9, everyone will see that the wait was worth it when Blondie opens in the space that was once Rainbow 1.
Created by the people that have made Spanky’s arguably Nana Plaza’s most popular bar over the past 15 years, Blondie has wowed everyone (mostly other bar owners) who have seen it. On Friday, I was given permission to photograph the interior to give all you readers a sneak peek of the most anticipated new bar in years.
The original plan was to shoot a completed, ready-to-open go-go bar. But, Thai work schedules being what they are, the job was not done by deadline time. So, the photos you see here still reflect an active work site. Plastic is still on the sofa benches and even the padded walls, to protect against the dust still to come. Other items, such as color-changing lights behind the bar and anime on the projector screen, weren’t available on Friday.
Still, what you see here is still incredibly impressive. So impressive one competing bar owner admitted Blondie “looks eight times better than my own bar!”
What’s In a Name?
Before we discuss the interior design, let’s get the origin of the name out of the way. “Blondie” did not come from owner Marc’s assumed fetish for Debbie Harry of the 80s rock band. Nor is it a reference to the ongoing “Blondie” comic strip begun in 1930 by Chic Young. Comics, however, do play a major role in Blondie’s theme; Japanese comics, actually.
Manager RJ – who also manages Spanky’s – said Blondie’s entertainment will be anime-themed, something reflected already on the snazzy, round LED screen above the door. It won’t be family-friendly anime, however, instead lifting pages from Japan’s adult comics, where many of the Asian cartoon vixens have blonde hair.
The plan is to have a good number of blonde-haired Thai girls on stage at times during the night. And an overhead projector will show anime and other video content all night.
Unlike Spanky’s, Blondie will not be a “show bar”, with costumed stage productions. However, there will be performances intended to mix things up and get the audience engaged. Anyone who has been to an Angeles City, Philippines go-go bar will feel right at home when the girls begin dancing in lockstep, clapping and perhaps even singing. To ensure the “semi-shows” are fresh, Blondie has brought in a veteran mamasan who last worked in Nana Plaza with RJ at the original Playskool, before moving on to Soi Cowboy and Soi 11.
While Japan may be the inspiration for the entertainment, Blondie’s interior is something straight out of Caligula’s palace, with burgundy curtains draped along padded cloth walls. The sofa seating matches the drapes, with the same dark red upholstery and black seat backs. The entirety of Blondie’s interior is marble and tiled, from the tabletops to floor tiles to the black-and-gold trimmed restroom walls. Brass handles are sprinkled around the walls and the stage has a large, phallic “monkey cock” that Thai bargirls supposedly believe is good luck.
Blondie also features two large windows, something not usually seen in go-go bars. One window, behind the bar, looks out onto Spanky’s outdoor area and Nana Plaza beyond it. The other allows a view into the spacious and well-appointed ladies dressing room, which features large mirrors and electrical plugs about 1.5 meters apart to allow for the many curling irons and blow dryers (and phone chargers, of course).
These aren’t just any windows, however. Just like the windows on the Boeing 787, they can be changed from clear to an opaque white with the click of a remote. The dressing room window likely will always be opaque, so it serves as the screen for the projector. As for the exterior window? They’ll have to be sure everyone is properly dressed before hitting that button!
As for the lighting, it settles in the red end of the spectrum, with the stage bathed in warm color, accented by swinging LED spotlights painting the pillars and walls with splashes of blue and violet.
Like Spanky’s, the bench-seating area is rather dark – the way many guys prefer it – with only small, dim LEDs above the back row to provide enough light to find your drink on the counter attached to the seat in front of you.
Over the Rainbow
The Greco-Roman style and red lights aren’t the first things that hit you when you walk into Blondie the first time, however. Instead, the first impression is likely to be how big the bar feels when compared to claustrophobic Rainbow 1.
Whereas Rainbow 1 had rows of stadium seating with high bar tables in front of that, leaving little room to navigate through, there are no barstools and no stage seats at Blondie. The entryway to the bar is spacious – for now, at least – and it’s easy to walk through and find a seat. (More seating around a one-girl platform might be added later).
One reason for the “big” feeling is that the stage is much smaller, and lower, than Rainbow 1’s. It’s so low, in fact, there are no stairs for the girls to climb to reach it. But the intention never was to have all the talent on one central stage. Instead, there are four stages to feast your eyes on.
In addition to the smallish center stage, there is the “teacup”, a raised round platform with a half dozen LED lights shining up from the floor, in addition to the overhead lighting. Two or three girls at a time will dance there.
Opposite that, there’s a narrow ledge with a mirror and curtains behind. The “shelf” is only deep enough to allow some side-to-side dancing. One false step forward and “Blondie” may end up in a customer’s lap!
Most intriguingly, next to the “ledge” is a metal ladder attached to the wall that two girls will climb up and down regularly. At the top, two meters above the floor, will be a “playmat” of the kind common in Pattaya in the past, but unseen in Bangkok before. This high perch of a stage will be well lit so that nearly everyone in the bar can look up to see what naughty things happen in the “bunk bed”.
Eventually, there may be dancing outside at Blondie. Like Erotica next door, Blondie has a large patio area. Currently, it’s undeveloped with plans still being debated on what to do with it. Maybe some tables for drinkers. Maybe a couple pedastools and go-go poles. That would be unique, as no bar has ever had girls dancing out in the plaza. (Although, Angelwitch did experiment with outside shows back in 2017.)
The bar’s owners clearly have spared no expense to make Blondie the best-looking go-go bar in Nana Plaza, or Bangkok for that matter. But punters don’t come for interior design and the Blondie team’s main mission is to attract the best-looking women in town.
That’s no small challenge given the “girl crisis” go-go bars are facing. But Spanky’s, which may currently have the most-attractive group of talent in Nana Plaza, shows that it can be done.
Manager RJ says Blondie’s location on the ground floor also is an advantage, as it gets more foot traffic. And, he only half joked, bargirls are lazy; they don’t want to climb stairs to go to work! He believes recruiting hot talent should not be a problem.
While best-laid plans often don’t work out as hoped, all signs point to Blondie being a smash hit, probably from opening night on Thursday, June 9.
Last week’s mystery photo was taken of the Living Room in the Sheraton Grande, on Sukhumvit Road between Asoke and Nana. A handful of you got it right. This week’s snap shouldn’t be too hard…
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Avoiding fellow foreigners.
I concur 100% with AseanNow, after our 2.5 years in Thailand. Other farangs either have no money and want you to pay for everything, or else they try to sell you something, arguing between themselves with others in front of everyone and as soon as your backs are turned they talk about you. They are jealous, small-minded and shallow. I have many solid and reliable friends around the world who I video call and catch up with and that fills my needs.
Once a loner, always a loner.
After 30 years in country, I have made exactly two lasting friendships in Thailand. I did have other friends, mostly short-term drinking buddies, but most I never kept in touch with once they had left the country. Sometimes they turned out to be an undesirable type, and I dropped them like a hot potato. In the past you have noticed that many farangs in Thailand take up with people they would never be involved with back home, and you warned against that. I guarded against that very carefully. Making friends was simply not high up on my list of things to do in country. Mainly I was just interested in fxxxing Thai ladies, and chumming around with my fellow farangs was just time wasted. Plus I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I generally cannot stand my fellow man. I am my own best company and cannot recall ever feeling lonely. If you are the type who thrives on bosom buddies, then more power to you. Personally, I find it very overrated.
I had to chuckle at the appalled Windmill visitor. Not a comment for your sensitive readers but it did remind me of my last visit to the place in 2010. I’ve not been back to Pattaya for a very long time but this sticks in my mind. There were several story-worthy incidents that night but this one in particular I think would have your reader gagging on his beer. Briefly, a group of young lads were in there enjoying the entertainment with a girl and her banana in full show mode, when one of the group had to take a trip to the boys room. One of his mates swiftly offered the girl a fistful of baht and without pause the originals guy’s bottle of Chang was swiftly inserted where the sun doesn’t shine. The bar almost ground to halt in anticipation of his return. Unwittingly, he had become the entertainment. Of course when he came back the offending mate quickly upped the ante and much to our amusement bet the unsuspecting fellow 100 baht that he couldn’t down the drink in one…
Pricey airfares from the UK.
I was recently online looking at flights between Newcastle and Bangkok using Emirates and noted they were anywhere between £200 – 700 more than I was paying pre-Covid for economy class tickets. I could fly cheaper via London as two of your readers mention but the time and costs to get to these airports can add considerably to the cost(s) and hassle. Whilst this could be money absorbed easily into a long trip, it is an additional and unwanted burden for my usual 10-night stay and it becomes another limiting factor in my mind.
Regarding the various vloggers operating throughout Covid, as time progressed I became increasingly bored with what they were trotting out and in some cases wondered if they could be relied upon to give an accurate account on what was happening and how much clever editing was taking place. The interesting ones were the live walkabouts which didn’t allow for much embellishment. The folk down in Pattaya seem to have been organised into a united body, in many instances centred around the bar scene owners who related how good things were and how people should risk flying over regardless.
Asians and the face mask fetish.
I saw the article about Thailand’s Ministry of Health’s comments regarding face masks, after the initial news the policy would be loosened. It’s not too worrying. Infection numbers are still going down and I think that at least for outside places they will abandon the rigid policy. I’ll wait for a week or 2 before I buy a ticket as I expect it will be clearer by then. I still expect to finally get back in July. Officially abandoned or not, Asians do have a thing with face masks. This week I used the Amsterdam underground for a short ride. The obligation to wear face masks in public transport over here ended a few months ago. I still counted 7 people wearing a face mask. Guess what? They were all Asian. And they didn’t form a group. It was 7 individuals. Many Asians really do have a sort of a face mask fetish, eh?
This Week’s News & Views
This past Wednesday, June 1, marked the official day when Thailand’s bars, pubs, nightclubs, soapy massage parlours and karaoke joints could fully and legally reopen. Of course, most of them have been open for weeks or even months, thanks to arrangements. But, with the government’s foot officially off the neck of the bars, Wednesday was the big day.
Cops from the Lumpini station visited Nana Plaza on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, checking “Stop Covid Plus 2” and “Covid-Free Setting” certifications and enforcing the current legal closing time of midnight.
Bangkok’s newly elected mayor announced he’d be touring Soi 4 on Thursday to inspect the reopened bar scene. A mob of Thai print and television media, along with a battalion of police and soldiers, assembled in the Nana Hotel parking lot. Police then entered the plaza with their clipboards containing the list of bars that had passed their “Stop Covid Plus 2” inspections. Only 10 had. So only those 10 bars would be allowed to open. But not until after the mayor left after 8 PM. At that point, the cops would inspect the second list of “Stop Covid” applicants and they’d be allowed to open. After waiting for 3 hours, Mayor Chadchart Sittipunt never showed up. Instead, his deputy mayor showed up. The 7:30 PM inspection didn’t happen until 10 PM. All the while, 10 lucky bar owners were sitting around with hundreds of ladies and ladyboys waiting to start work. By the time the boys in brown got their act together it was not worth opening as they had to close at midnight so owners sent their dancers home. 15 minutes later, however, the newly appointed district commander appeared and said that the plaza could stay open until 2 AM. By then, however, it was too late, as most had left. Friday night saw Bangkok’s skies open up with a torrential downpour that didn’t let up for two hours, meaning a very average night. This coming week will surely be better.
This past Wednesday was the first night for Butterflies, whose reopening had punters arriving in the plaza as early as 7:30 PM in anticipation of doors opening at 8:00. Thanks to the police intervention, the first night was not quite what had been planned or expected. Only one of two stages were open and the Jacuzzi was dry. And the girls on stage were in cocktail dresses, which supposedly were to be ditched after May 31. The bar was closed on Thursday entirely. But, fear not, management promised that things would be smoothly operating again on Friday, with a big team of girls arriving Friday and cocktails dresses to be banished. Expecting 2019-like operation on the first night was an expectation that could never be met. The authorities’ meddling won’t last long and over the next few days expect the party to ramp up at Butterflies.
Angelwitch is relaunching its popular shows again, which weren’t allowed while it was operating as a restaurant. Expect new shows to begin later this week.
Another reopening bonus: Erotica’s bubble bath is running again, with no cocktail dresses allowed in the tub.
Has Elon Musk bought a Nana Plaza bar? A burned-out “S” in the Twister BKK sign this week turned the ground-floor bar into “Twiter BKK”. The missing T probably helps avoid the trademark infringement suit!
Does Billboard have a genuine challenger? For years, Billboard has been widely regarded as the best bar of its genre, sitting atop Nana Plaza like the king of the castle. Billboard is still excellent but there are another couple of bars in the plaza that more people are talking about. Some say that Twister, on the ground floor of the plaza, has some of the most attractive women in the bar scene – and as such is worth checking out.
The other bar getting plaudits is Geisha – on the middle floor of Nana Plaza in the space that was for so long G Spot. It reopened under new management and the feedback has been very positive with some saying it’s right up there with Billboard and Twister BKK. Stick your head inside and check it out yourself next time you’re in the plaza.
While more bars have opened up, the short-time hotels inside Nana Plaza complex remain closed. It’s been this way for a month or so. Two sets of reasons have been given for their closure. One is the soi 7 beer bar complex and the underage bust which closed said bar area – but that really doesn’t make sense. The other reason is, of course, Covid. Having couples engaged in close relations without masks comes with a risk of spreading Covid-19. And as short-time hotels cannot obtain the “Stop Covid Plus 2” or “Covid-Free Setting” certification, they must be closed. When they will open is anyone’s guess. The closure of these short-time hotel rooms in the plaza is really pissing off girls in the plaza who loved the convenience of being able to take a customer to a room just a few steps away from their bar, do the business and then go straight back to the bar to find another customer. Currently, the closest short-time rooms open are in a side soi further down Soi Nana but due to limited supply and increasing demand, oftentimes all the rooms are full meaning there is a queue of people waiting for a room.
Friday’s Free Flow Party in Demonia was a great success, so much so that Demonia – the fetish house in Sukhumvit soi 33 – is going to run this promotion every Friday. Free flow of drinks all night long will set you back just 1,500 baht. The owner told me that customers who chose this promotion felt more free and confident because they knew in advance how much their evening was going to cost them and they were no longer pressed for time. Those who are not interested in the free flow promotion can still visit and pay drink by drink.
Down in Soi Cowboy, more bars opened this week including ladyboy bar, Cockatoo.
Crazy House now has both floors open. While Crazy House had taken liberties with the dress code over the past few months, now that bars can legally open as bars (and not restaurants in disguise), clothing has been done away with again and fully nude girls are walking the floor and sitting with customers. Even the service staff has done away with the masks. Covid? What Covid?
The Arab is back on Soi Cowboy with one of his bars, Spice Girls, reopening this past week.
Jungle Jim’s now has dancing inside while adjacent Moonshine Joint is still closed, apparently due to a lack of staff.
Dollhouse’s current happy hour is proving popular and runs from 6 PM – 8:30 PM with happy hour drinks priced between 90 and 110 baht. Happy hour menu includes all local beers and house pour spirits.
Kazy Kozy in Soi Cowboy has been going gangbusters Monday to Thursday with the 90 baht drinks all night special proving to be a winner.
Feedback from Cowboy is that it almost feels like 2019 again. Hardly anyone is wearing masks on Soi Cowboy or Soi 23.
The Sukhumvit soi 7 beer bar complex has become a major frustration for those bar owners who still have the physical remains of a (dead) business in the closed bar area. There has been no progress and many doubt there will be, including some of the bar operators who have sought new locations elsewhere, giving up on the complex. When asked a direct question about whether the soi 7 complex will reopen or not, those in charge this week said, “It will definitely reopen as all correct paperwork has been submitted but no time frame can be put on it yet.” One gets the feeling that those operators who sought new premises elsewhere have made a sound decision.
It’s not just the major bar areas where business is improving. Minor bar area Sukhumvit soi 7/1 is picking up and popular nearby sports bar The Game has had good crowds.
The Japanese-centric bars on Soi Thaniya are not a part of the nightlife industry generally covered in this column but just like elsewhere, reports have it that the Japanese lovers lane looks like it’s back to normal with groups of ladies outside the doorways that lead in (and often up) to the various bars littered throughout buildings along the soi.
While many go-go bars have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, almost none are on Tik-Tok, despite it being the fastest-growing social media platform. The first Nana Plaza bar to put down a foothold on the short-video platform is Erotica with this video. A first look may leave one unimpressed, especially when compared with the high-quality photos and professionalism of many bar accounts on Facebook, etc., but Tik-Tok is a different animal. It’s almost impossible for an outside marketing agency to do a gogo bar Tik-Tok account, as the videos really need to come from the girls, mamasans or owners themselves. In this case, Erotica’s Thai owner is running the Tik-Tok account. Yet, despite the poor quality of the videos, viewers are eating it up, as it provides a genuine, unvarnished video peek into the bar not usually available online.
Regular readers know that my pet peeve is the requirement to wear face masks in many situations where it makes no sense – such as when you’re outside. There was a rule change in Phuket this week and it was announced masks would no longer be required outdoors in places where people are able to be 2 metres apart. And then a day after news broke about that the policy was rescinded and the public was told that mask requirements remain. What total nonsense – both the policy and the frequent flip-flopping.
The Mad Professor has survived Covid! The vagrant whose street art I have made frequent mentions of for over a decade has not been spotted – but his scribblings have. Reader Don noted the Mad Professor’s distinctive works in the Prakhanong area.
A regular reader in the bogan heartland of West Auckland reported this week that he had received a travel voucher from Thai Airways for the air ticket he purchased way back in 2019 which he has not been able to use because of Covid / Thai Airways not flying between Auckland and Bangkok since March, 2020. The travel voucher is good until the end of 2023. Is Thai Airways rolling out these vouchers around the world? Have readers elsewhere who booked a fare on Thai Airways that they have been unable to use also received a voucher (or a refund, by chance)? In the case of this Kiwi who received a voucher, while he was happy to receive it, I wonder how useful it is given Thai has not resumed flying between Auckland and Bangkok – and neither has there been any announcement about when it will do so. And to make matters worse, when they do return I cannot imagine that the fare he paid in 2019 – for which he has a credit – will cover the new fare which is likely to be significantly higher.
A new law came in to effect this week called the Personal Data Protection Law. The basics concern protecting people’s data and ensuring it is not used in an inappropriate manner. There has been a lot of chatter about this new law in Thai language forums and in social media and how it relates to one’s privacy when it comes to photos, videos and especially vlogging and live video. There is much speculation that the law gives those in a public place a clear right to refuse to be photographed / filmed, notwithstanding they are in a public place. If one requests that they not be filmed by a vlogger and said vlogger still films them and publishes that work, they have options to seek compensation. There has also been much banter and speculation about the use of images and video of people in a way that might not show them in the best light. Coverage of the new law in the English language press has been focused more on customer data collected by companies whereas the banter in the Thai press looked at it more from a personal point of view with photography and video much of the focus. How this will all play out remains to be seen but certainly it’s something for photographers and especially vloggers to be aware of.
Aside from cheap drinks and hot girls, the thing many expats – particularly the Brits – crave is food from back home. Finding the likes of Colman’s baked beans or tartare sauce is a never-ending quest. But it just got a lot easier in Bangkok. ZippBike, which made its name home-delivering every kind of beer, cider, spirits and Swedish snus, has launched ZippBike Pantry, stocked with popular British sauces, side dishes and tea bags. Get your Branston pickles and PG Tips here.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
8 years after committing the heinous crime, a Brit confesses to murdering a Nana Plaza working girl.
Don’t get any silly ideas about being able to wander around Thailand mask-free any time soon.
A Thai woman is arrested for growing a single cannabis plant, just one week before growing cannabis is set to be decriminalised.
A YouTube video looks at the current economics of Soi LK Metro.
The new Bangkok governor talks about plans to remove the mask mandate and extend bar hours.
The Bangkok Herald looked at what has changed – and what hasn’t – with bars now allowed to open until midnight.
The expansion of Bangkok’s main airport is set to resume.
Phuket has revised its mask-wearing rules with a reprieve for those at beaches and parks.
Did the Russian model jump, or was she pushed from the balcony of a Phuket apartment?
Another week has passed by, another week where most everything is trending in the right direction. May and June are often the two quietest months of the year but things feel like they really are much brighter for the bars and the industry as a whole. When will things get back to where they were pre-Covid in terms of all the bars being open, customer numbers, bar staff numbers, and total turnover? When will all landlords revert to charging full rent again? (Many bars are still paying only a percentage – often 50% or 60% – of the full rent.) Will things get back to where they were in 2019 before the end of the year? Or will it be another 18 months or so and the high season at the end of next year? When do you think things in downtown Bangkok will reach the point that there will be no argument and things are back to what they were?
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com