There is no opener this week.
Last week’s photo was taken from the skytrain of a distinctive building at Phranakhon Rajabhat University. I was pleasantly surprised so many of you got it right – well done! This week’s photo was taken recently by Reader R. It’s somewhere downtown and happens to be the building where I worked during my first two years in Bangkok. So, clever readers, where is it?
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
The choice of beers.
One thing that stands out to me when reading some of the special offers mentioned in your columns, and of course it isn’t new, is the incredibly small choice of beers available in many of the bars. They all sell exactly the same choice of around five beers. I know that if I go to any pub in my native UK I’ll find three or four beers I’ve never seen before, and the next pub would be different, and the next different again. Someone I used to know said that when he was in the UK for a few weeks he estimated he had around 300 different beers. And it isn’t as if there aren’t more than five beers available here and the poor choice can be blamed on independent brewers being discouraged or outright banned. The big brewers have introduced many new beers over the past year or so, but none of my preferred four beers are available in bars – Tapper, Cheers Red (Blue isn’t available either), Leo 8 and Siam Weizen. Is it poor marketing by the brewers, lack of imagination by the bars? My guess is that the bars just can’t be bothered. Those that do have an extended menu sell expensive imported beers, rather than what is freely available in stores in Thailand. Maybe a bar boss or two who read your site might have the answer?
Why you never see his wife.
I met my wife at a beer bar in Bangkok 6 years ago. She doesn’t like to socialise with my farang friends / couples for a number of reasons. She can’t follow fast-paced English conversations very well. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with Thai women who have had lives in the west. She doesn’t particularly like farang food if that is all that is on the menu. She is shy unless she gets a few drinks in her. Occasionally I can twist her arm to go out with me and half the time she enjoys herself.
First impressions after years away from Pattaya.
I’m in Pattaya and these are my first impressions after 24 hours here. I like it! There are noticeably fewer tourists around (day and night time), like a 60% drop in numbers. That actually makes moving around, shopping and dining a pleasure. Personally, I find Pattaya a more relaxed experience currently – that madness just is not there. It really has a laid-back vibe right now. There are still many 7 Eleven branches out of business, even on Beach Road. I am staying in soi 10 and many hotels are either shuttered or moth-balled. We walked the whole length of Waking Street. The first 80 metres looks like business as usual, perhaps just 15% of shops available for rent. However, after those first 80 metres – boy oh boy – 70% of all shops are closed or up for rent. When you see 2 x McDonald’s closed down you know times are bad (one just outside of Walking Street and the Walking Street one).
Him or the company he keeps?
Interesting what you said about where farang men met their wives. You said Pattaya was unique to the rest of Thailand. Having spent a lot of time in Patts, I have to agree. Everyone I know in fun town met their wife / girlfriend in a bar. I can’t think of one person who didn’t. And I know a lot of people. Is it just Pattaya, or the company I keep? <It’s the company you keep – Stick>
Rename the Tourism Authority of Thailand!
Shouldn’t TAT be re-named ATA, the Anti-Tourism Authority, for their latest idea? For a country where face is arguably more important than anything else, it is incredible how, week after week, those in a responsible position spew out utter nonsense which makes them look like idiots. In the latest episode, which quickly spread all over the world and even made business publications such as Bloomberg, the idea of two-tier hotel rates was a perfect example of Thais thinking up an idea while having zero idea of the consequences. One, hotels make their own decisions about pricing based on market conditions, sometimes adjusting rates on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis depending on demand. And two, how would such a policy be implemented by the booking sites?
Back to Thailand.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
At least one bar operator from what we thought was the doomed Sukhumvit soi 7 beer bar complex believes it will reopen, as soon as next week. Word is there will be a car park built in the area to satisfy planning requirements and the space that was previously some bars is being removed to make way for it. Other changes include moving the front bars away from the pavement – it is understood there were complaints people could not walk along the pavement due to bar furniture blocking it. Bar operators whose space has been lost to the car park have been offered an empty unit to relocate to. It is believed that building work has started and there is hope that the front roadside bars can open as early as this coming Friday, July 15th. Bars which were inside may be demolished meaning that if the operators remain they will need to be rebuilt and / or relocated so it will be a phased reopening. Let’s wait and see how this goes.
Levels, the popular bar on Sukhumvit, reopened this past week. Will it reawaken soi 11? For the past year, Sukhumvit soi 8 is said to have been the “in place” for those keen on a non-gogo style of casual nightlife. While this column has had much talk of Patpong being smashed by Covid, Sukhumvit soi 11 has also been hit very hard. The classy venue Levels reopening is a big reason for crowds to head back to soi 11.
For the third consecutive Friday, rain ruined the party in Bangkok with a torrential downpour starting around 7:00 PM that didn’t stop until after 10:00. Traffic came to a complete standstill, taxis disappeared and GrabCar required a 20-minute search just to get a driver. Needless to say, both girls and customers were in short supply early Friday in the city’s naughty bars.
While Friday was a washout, this past Tuesday could have been confused for a Friday with both Nana and Cowboy doing fantastic trade. On Cowboy, a friend mentioned that Crazy House had just 3 empty seats at 9 PM. Both rows of Rawhide’s seating were full, and there were no empty seats at the stage. It was great until it rained. The skies opened up before 11:00 PM and washed out the rest of the night.
So who were all the people filling seats on Cowboy on a Tuesday? Tourists. They may not be back in huge numbers, but they are most definitely back. Rawhide, about the only bar left doing “p” shows packed them in. There were punters in mismatched shorts and t-shirts, well-rounded farang women getting up on stage to dance with the Rawhide’s dancing matrons older and nearly as wide as them, and all of them clapping and hooting for ping-pong, whistle, candle-blowing and dart-shooting shows. For those employed in the bars, the return of foreign tourists is a welcome sight while some local expats grumble about not being able to get a seat in their favourite bar on a Tuesday night.
Saturday marked one month since the people behind Spanky’s opened Blondie on Nana Plaza’s ground floor, and even they are surprised at how fast the new bar has gotten off the ground. Initially they estimated it would take 2 – 3 months for the bar to take off. But, only a few weeks in, Blondie is breaking its own records every other night, the number of girls has doubled and the formula seems to be a hit. A new DJ is spinning tunes. Live saxophone accompaniment at the weekend adds a unique vibe and girls decked out in sexy stockings and suspenders are convincing customers to stay longer than even in Spanky’s. The new photos here – all taken this week – show some of the current troop who have been given orders to focus less on collecting as many drinks a night as they can, and more on taking care of the guys who walk through the door so they leave happy and tell their friends to go to Blondie.
Still in Nana Plaza, Whiskey & Go-Go – which earlier launched a buy-1-get-1-free drink promo Sundays through Wednesday – is rolling out a promotion I never thought I’d see in a gogo bar, and even one owner admits might be a dumb idea: Buy 1, get 1 free lady drinks! Every Thursday night, the girl of your choice – and it must be one girl, not two – gets two shorts of Tequila or two sips of Coke or two Sangsom / Sodas, instead of the usual one. With lady drinks being the highest profit margin item in gogo bars, is this a daft idea? Whiskey’s owners said they want to shake things up, get people talking and try something not done before. While it may seem crazy, there’s logic behind it: The owners reason that the girl will spend longer with the customer, increasing the odds he buys multiple drinks for himself, gets to know the girl well enough to buy more, and perhaps decides to pay the barfine. After all, one of the biggest complaints in bars these days is about girls who down their Tequila shot and dash off before even asking, “What your name, where you flom, how long you stay?”
When I was asked to resume writing this column earlier this year, I had to think hard about it. There had been a lot of negative energy previously with the bar business full of bad news. I made the decision that this time I would shirk the negative and dwell on the positive. Lord knows the bar owners could do with a break. With that said, it’s hard to say anything good about some of the antics I have been hearing about in a couple of Thai-managed gogo bars. Owners of farang-run bars – and even some Thai ones – are complaining bitterly these days about how – despite being out of work for a year straight and most of the past two-plus years – the girls who have returned to the bar are lazier and more temperamental than ever. One Thai-run bar recently lost seven girls to Twister because they supposedly were too “strict”. That’s strict as in making them actually get on stage, not play with their phone or sit around outside eating all night. Twister, Rainbow and Geisha are winning girls because, basically, the Thai managers and owners let the girls do whatever they want. In the past week, one of the nude shower girls in Geisha was actually vaping on stage. Even worse, she was (jokingly to her) blowing the vape in customers’ faces. Not a word of reprimand from the mamasan or manager on duty. Meanwhile, the same night, in Rainbow 5, one girl stood, without moving, for several minutes scrolling on her mobile phone. Again, not a word from the Thai management. This crap is not unnoticed by customers who vote with their wallet and head to other bars.
The difference between the way Foreigner-managed bars and Thai-managed bars are run can be stark. Will we one day see signs erected above bars stating “American-owned and managed bar”, or other Western nationality? It’s getting to be a bit like those bars which erected signage outside saying the bar had no ladyboys. Of course, there are some great Thai-run bars but I also think it’s no coincidence that the best bars currently (most people seem to agree on Billboard and Spanky’s) are farang-operated.
What’s happening with the large bar directly across Country Road on Soi Cowboy? It looks worse for wear and does not look like it will open any time soon. When will someone take over the lease? It really is a prime location.
For those who settle down with a lady they met in a bar and wish for the relationship / marriage to go the distance, consider severing ties with the bar industry altogether. Both of you. No returning back to the bars and no contact with those who have anything more than the occasional contact with the industry. It might sound extreme but in relationships between those who met in a bar, my observation over many years is that the relationship likely won’t last – because one or other of them continues to return to the bar environment. Of course, you could say that anyone married / in a serious relationship should not go to the bars because of all of the temptations. That’s an article for another week!
Not for the first time, dual pricing in Thailand is being talked about. This time it’s a little different. This week, the mainstream media reported that the Tourism Ministry plans to ask hotels to implement dual-pricing whereby foreign visitors are charged pre-Covid prices whereas Thais are quoted discounted rates. The Thai government risks becoming a case study in how to completely stuff your tourism industry.
The Mad Artist is still at it with these scribblings spotted along Sukhumvit soi 71. One wonders what goes through his mind.
Miles for Meals is a fundraising campaign undertaken by Dinie and Kylie who are cycling through Laos and Vietnam for one month to help raise funds for Bangkok Community Help Foundation for meals to be given to the less fortunate. More info can be found here.
At the end of last week’s column I asked whether this ganjamania craze in Thailand would endure. My feeling is that it won’t. I suspect cannabis will be popular with those with whom it was popular before it was decriminalised but for everyone else, I am not so sure. Like I wrote in last week’s closing comments, the Thais love a fad and that is what this seems to be – the latest fad. Fads in Thailand are nothing new. They are all over the news for a few days, big on social media for a few weeks, and then they fade away and are largely forgotten about. Remember recently when a Thai rapper mentioned sticky rice and mango at a music festival in the USA and overnight, mango and sticky rice sales in Thailand went bananas. Less than a month later, people had forgotten all about it. And do you remember several years back when Thailand had that weird Pokémon craze where people were roaming all around the country collecting Pokémon’s. Again, it didn’t last. I suspect ganjamania will go that way too.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Quote of the week comes from a friend, “You haven’t lived until you’ve peed in a khlong.”
Take a walk down memory lane with this video of Bangkok in the 1980s.
Tim Ward AKA Pattaya Shark is profiled in the Daily Mail.
Loosely Thailand-related, here is a good example of someone with little or no talent becoming a celebrity.
And Thailand doesn’t want people to visit who think it’s a supposedly cheap destination.
A well-known TV personality is heading to court after criticising the Thai government’s decriminalisation of cannabis.
From the British Medical Journal, there has been an unexpected rise in STDs in Bangkok.
From The Guardian, an audience with Thailand’s ‘Condom King’.
There was no opener this week. With a bit of luck we’ll be back to a longer edition next week. Or perhaps you prefer a shorter edition than my long-winded, rambling columns which typically get close to or even exceed 5,000 words? Or perhaps there will be no column at all and this is the last column I write? Who knows….let’s see what the next week brings.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org