Old friends to catch up with, countless new bars and restaurants to visit and a city I know and love to explore anew. There are so many reasons why I am so keen to get back to Bangkok. But I still haven’t booked the trip. What gives?
I really do want to get back to Bangkok for the reasons above and more. But there are some (rather frustrating) reasons why I have yet to pull the trigger and get on a plane.
Most of it is due to Covid. No, it’s not that I am scared of contracting Covid. As far as I know, I have yet to catch it. I’m about as healthy as I can possibly be so all things being equal, I should be fine when / if I do eventually contract it. Rather, my concerns relate to the general hassles of international travel and the chance of catching Covid while travelling and the consequences of that.
A new wave of Covid is raging across New Zealand. Catching Covid before travelling means rescheduling flights, changing hotel bookings etc. A big hassle.
While we could take precautions to pretty much ensure we don’t get it before we travel, that’s not possible once we reach Bangkok where there are lots of people to catch up with and much of our time will be spent socialising.
I don’t like flying, in fact I never really have. While it’s exciting to know you’re about to go on holiday, it’s expensive, boring, and intercontinental flights aren’t as easy to handle as they once were.
The Thai Airways flight between Auckland and Bangkok was bearable. On a near-new Dreamliner, the non-stop flight was 11 hours. But Thai Airways has not flown regular passenger flights on this route since March, 2020, and there are no indications it will resume any time soon. That means using an airline that stops somewhere on the way. The best option is QANTAS but even a brief stop in Sydney pushes the time from departure to arrival out another 4 hours. And one has to wear a mask the whole frigging way! That’s no fun.
Everyone tells me that air travel is more of a hassle these days than previously and the holiday mood has been replaced by something rather more somber. Long queues at airports, last-minute flight cancellations and avoiding anyone who coughs or sneezes, it all sounds like not a lot of fun.
When you get to Bangkok, it sounds like things are a whole lot better. The Thailand Pass and compulsory insurance scheme have been abolished. Full marks to the Thais for removing the barriers that made travelling there less palatable.
Hotel prices are lower and hospitality businesses and the entertainment industry will be very pleased to welcome you. It all sounds very positive.
It’s currently the rainy season and from all accounts, this year’s rainy season has been wetter than usual. If, like me, you roam around and spend a lot of time outside, heavy rain is not a lot of fun.
And then there’s the possible deal-breaker. With rapidly rising Covid cases, there’s a worry in the back of my mind that Thailand could reintroduce compulsory mask use outside. If that happened, I’d postpone the trip.
Finally, for Kiwis flying home, you’ve got to battle through Auckland Airport which is said to be a nightmare. What usually takes 25 or 30 minutes from touchdown to exiting the terminal is said to be more like 3 or 4 hours. After a long flight and still facing a 5-hour drive home from the airport, I just couldn’t face that.
I really am keen to get back to Bangkok. It’s been a long time and there’s so much to catch up on. I’d like to see it while it’s still relatively quiet and before the masses return. But for me personally, there are just too many hassles and too many potential downsides. I hate hassles when travelling and the idea that things could happen that change the holiday equation are off-putting. It’s all really frustrating.
I remain hopeful of getting back soon, but just when that will be, I don’t know. I’ll be back, I just don’t know when.
Last week’s photo was taken inside Amarin Plaza, the tower just a stone’s throw from the Rajadamri intersection, next to the Grand Hyatt and opposite Gaysorn Plaza and the Intercontinental Hotel. I have good memories of that building as I spent my first two years in Bangkok working in a language school there. More than a dozen of you got last week’s photo right – well done! This week’s mystery photo might look obscure but is very much a downtown location….
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Corner Bar memories.
I have not been back to Bangkok since March, 2020, so the sight of the Corner Bar (opposite Country Road) saddened me no end. For me, the Corner Bar was my ‘home away from home’ in Bangkok for 10 years. What attracted me initially to this – never salubrious – place was the band who played there: ‘Pad Thai’. I got to know the guys well over the years and many a beer were consumed in their company. But regardless of how uncouth the Corner Bar was, what it did have – for me – was heart! And the atmosphere late on just about any night was something to behold. It was the place I fell for my first Thai ‘teeruk’, and many pleasant and lasting friendships with the ladies working in the bar would endure. I always received a great welcome, no doubt to do with the cash I would be spending with the ladies and the serving staff. I loved that place!
Nana Hotel, a bucket list item.
I checked in to the Nana Hotel for the first time in my life this week. I guess you could say it was on my minor bucket list. Staff here are very friendly and the breakfast this morning was excellent. But don’t bother booking for two people if you think you’re going to get two breakfast coupons, they’ll only issue them upon check-in with names written in stone. I tried to explain that my guest list may be fluid, but they won’t accommodate that immoral scenario. No, not in the Nana where they have their reputation to consider. Although I arrived very late last night / morning time in Canada and having not slept a wink for 24 hours, that didn’t deter me from having a beer at an outside bar to watch the goings on. I did a walk around all three floors of Nana Plaza, looking for a bar with good music and good girls. You’d think that wouldn’t be such a difficult quest, but it was a case of one or the other, never both. After decades of the gogo bar format, why haven’t bar owners figured it out? It’s little wonder that outdoor bars have become so popular. I don’t care how beautiful the women are, I can only sit so long subjected to ear-splitting volumes of what they’re peddling as music. It’s a combination of a parking lot full of blaring car alarms and a computer gone mad.
Take some time out from time to time.
It’s good to take a few months off from that nightlife scene a couple times a year. I could feel it sucking the health out of me. Where I am now is a more monkish environment with no women, minimal drinking, intermittent fasting, 11 hours of work a day, daily workouts and a good night’s sleep most nights. I’m getting my six-pack back just in time to see it all go to shit again when I return to Bangkok in a few months!
Here’s my two cents about lazy bar girls. Some went home to mama’s cooking and lying in bed, collecting money online from customers from all over the world without lifting a finger. Those that stayed in Bangkok basically did the same thing. They also had local expats they could constantly bother. Despite the pandemic, many ladies did exceedingly well financially, matching their previous salaries. The girls have maintained these contacts even now that Bangkok is open again. They also sense that guys are desperate and will put up with anything. After all, what choice do these guys have? This only empowers lazy girls even more. They also know that bars are desperate to hire them. For girls to dance now for hours on end all night long? Good luck with that. The pendulum has swung.
The staying power of weed.
Regarding ganja in Thailand, I agree there will be a fad element to the new legislation, a bubble of new businesses will all be trying to get in on it. The same thing happened in Canada when it was legalized, with shops opening on either side of the same street. It turned out to be sort of a game of chicken, to see who would last the longest. Whoever won would survive and take over. While many shops are gone, the ones left are here to stay and now feature in even the most prominent, family-friendly areas.
Removing zebra crossings would save lives.
There are often reports of people in Thailand being injured or killed on pedestrian crossings. There is only one solution, and that is to remove them completely. Nearly all drivers ignore them, even going through a red light with those that have them – including the police (there are videos) – and those that don’t ignore them run the risk of being hit from behind. They are even a hazard, as motorcycles race around anyone who has stopped and kill or injure those who thought it was safe to cross. They actually cause death and injury as very few respect them. Removing them would save lives. As so often in Thailand, reverse thinking applies.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
With most bar areas closed for two days this past week due to Buddhist public holidays, there is less bar news this week.
A large sign outside Geisha, on the top floor of Nana Plaza, advertises the sale of cannabis. This is, of course, now totally legal. The bar’s owners are not breaking any laws. As I have said before, I am not nor have I ever been a user of ganja and I am playing Switzerland on this one and staying neutral. Reader feedback seems to indicate that more people are against the idea of weed being used in and around the bars than are in favour of it. That is, the use of it as opposed to the sale of it. It seems that bar owners don’t want to speak publicly on this issue but the one bar operator I could get comment from – who insisted on anonymity – is not happy with the prospect that some customers might light up in the group’s bars. When I suggested they ban smoking (which, funnily enough, is by law not allowed in the bars,) he said he couldn’t do that! I also hear that some bar staff have said they would walk if customers were allowed to consume weed in the bar (while I am sure more than a few girls would be happy to partake). Cannabis in the bars has the potential to be divisive and if I had to guess, I’d say bars which allow smoking on the premises will lose more customers than they will gain. It’s still early days so let’s see how this plays out.
Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy has long had a generous happy hour which pre-Covid went all the way through until 10 PM. It has since been pulled back to 9:00 PM and has been wound back to 8:30 PM. Happy hour drinks run 95 to 110 baht.
Last week’s column featured a photo of the former live music bar at the Terminal 21 end of Soi Cowboy known as Corner Bar, which is opposite Country Road. Word is that Corner Bar will reopen as a live music venue under the management of those behind Long Gun, Penny Black and Cactus (the latter has also as yet to reopen.) Refurbishment work is underway and they plan to reopen on August 1st.
The two popular fetish bars, Demonia in Bangkok (Sukhumvit soi 33) and The Castle in Pattaya (3rd Road), will hold a joint promotion this coming Wednesday, July 20th. It’s nice and simple – buy one drink and receive another drink free.
Tourist numbers are improving each month and running ahead of some estimates as Thailand’s tourism industry makes a strong comeback. The visitor demographic has changed markedly. Pre-Covid, the Chinese made up between a quarter and a third of all visitors to Thailand. Now there are very, very few Chinese visitors. It is Indians who are making up the largest groups around the bar areas, particularly Nana Plaza, and some nights Indians appear to make up around half of all customers. Why are there so many Indians at Nana Plaza and relatively few at Soi Cowboy and Patpong? Probably it just comes back to overall popularity of the bar areas with Nana much more popular than Cowboy which in turn is much more popular than Patpong.
The large number of Indian visitors has not gone unnoticed with many mentioning this to me, from friends to readers I’ve never met to bar industry figures. Indians tend not to spend as much as Caucasians, something many are keen to always point out. Some speak unkindly of Indians around the bars and the odd reader has commented that seeing so many Indians around puts them off and they’ll vote with their feet. I doubt that will have any effect on, well, anything. And this misconception that some hold that the girls won’t go with Indian customers (because they’re stingy / smell / there’s half a dozen of them waiting in a hotel room for her) is nonsense. I won’t go with Indians is much the same as I don’t like Thai men – lip service to appease the punter she is talking with and nothing more.
Big Andy has yet to fill the manager’s position (more a meet & greet / front man) at Dollhouse in Pattaya. Interested parties should drop Big Andy an email at : Dzobkk@yahoo.com
It’s still some months away but already some in the bar biz have made mention of the coming high season. This year, the start of high season coincides with the biggest sporting event of the year, the soccer World Cup, which runs from November 21st through until December 18th. Will this have any effect on visitor numbers to Thailand? It’s a question worth asking as the tournament is being held in Qatar and many Europeans fly to Thailand on QATAR Airways. And many of these Europeans happen to be football crazy. Will they stay home to watch the matches – which will take place at much more sociable hours in Europe – or will they travel to Thailand and follow it while on holiday? Kick-off times for some of the matches could be challenging for all but the real die-hard fans with some matches starting at 2:00 AM Thailand time. Also worth considering is that airfares tend to go crazy around the World Cup. What will happen to airfares, and what about the availability of seats during that period? It’ll be interesting to see if it has an effect on the upcoming tourism high season.
I am told that there’s a nasty bug doing the rounds in Bangkok that is not Covid. I keep hearing about people who have Covid symptoms but when they test for Covid, they test negative. Think headache, backache and feeling very, very tired. Some have been sick for a week. It very much sounds like Covid but it’s not Covid.
It’s not cool to diss someone else’s country, especially when you are a visitor in said country. One needs to be careful that any negative comments or criticisms made are valid and justified – and even then in these woke times your comments might not be welcome. This can be very much the case in Thailand where some people are very sensitive about any negative talk of any aspect of their country. They’re proud and prefer outsiders didn’t mention its shortcomings. But why do some foreigners living in Thailand get similarly upset or angry when another foreigner makes even mildly negative remarks about Thailand – and the comments are accurate and valid. It’s an oddity the way some foreigners wish to be seen as more Thai than the Thais themselves. Is there any other place in the world where this odd phenomena occurs?
There are a lot of good Thais here in New Zealand – decent, hard-working people doing their best to have a nice life for their family. But there are also some real shysters. It’s the number one reason that the other half generally avoids getting close to Thais here in New Zealand. I have been watching the fallout of a recent melee here with a major bust-up after one hacked another’s Facebook accounts. Just how they obtained the other person’s Facebook login I have no idea, they then went on to create a page advertising various Thai products for sale (which they don’t actually have), wait for people to order them, ask the buyers to send money to a local bank account and then run off with the money. This person was clearly not the sharpest tool in the drawer and asking for money to be deposited in to a bank account in their own name made it easy for the cops to figure out who was behind it. It’s amazing some of the stuff Thais here get up to online – and this was just one of many incidents that make me shake my head and wonder. I have often wondered about expat groups in Thailand but the Thais here take it to a whole new level. Some gloat about how they have successfully claimed government benefits they’re not entitled to. They forget that some of their fellow Thais will turn on them and turn them in to the authorities in a heartbeat. While it’s all rather dodgy, there is a core group of users including the admin who don’t tolerate a lot of this crap. Some dodgy posts are deleted so fast they barely get any oxygen. It is entertaining to follow!
Thailand-Related News Article Links
A dreadful scam is being perpetrated in the Khao San Road area on those who find a lost wallet and hand it in at the police station.
An Indian man is arrested after he is found to have removed pages from his passport to conceal a trip to Thailand from his wife!
Thailand is predicted to reach 8 million visitors this year which, all things considered, would be a tremendous result.
Nikkei Asia says Thailand’s misleading Covid numbers have cast a shadow on the country’s reopening.
Thailand’s upcoming tourist fee is in reality a fee on all foreigners entering the country, including retirees and those employed in the country.
A former British soldier turns a gun on himself at a shooting range near Pattaya.
A Spanish woman is dead and a French woman is missing after ignoring swimming warnings on Ko Chang, while on Phuket a Brit drowns as does his Thai rescuer.
Thailand is in the top 10 destinations for expats but remains one of the worst places to work.
Following on from this week’s opener, feedback from readers who have visited Thailand at this time is universal – all are glad they visited. I don’t think anyone has told me that they have gone on to regret travelling at this time. I really hope to get back very soon. As the Thais say, coming soon….
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org