Last week’s photo was taken of the girls’ shoe rack in long-time popular Soi Cowboy bar Long Gun. No-one got it right. Proud Westie Brian came up with the best response, “The mystery photo is my ex-girlfriend’s wardrobe, the one who said I didn’t give her enough money to buy shoes!” This week’s shot is a location 99% of readers know, but the creative photographer has taken it from an unusual spot. Look closely at the surrounds and the background and show me how well you know Bangkok by telling me where it is.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Bangkok Facemask Central.
I completely understand your decision to postpone your holiday. I have been in Bangkok for 3 days. Due to Covid it has been a while since I was last here, so I wanted to visit. However, 3 days is more than enough and I won’t be back until the facemask hysteria is over. The vibe is just wrong, I don’t feel comfortable here. Sometimes it feels like sheer madness. During one of my walks I went into Central Embassy to cool off a bit. Knowing the attitude of the Bangkok Thais I had put on a facemask, even if I don’t feel comfortable myself when I do that. When I was inside I saw Thai hi-sos wearing facemasks in an open coffee shop. Many were taking their facemask off and putting it back on between sips of their drink! I really wouldn’t be surprised if soon they make small holes in their masks so that they can drink with a straw and keep their masks on. They are showing this attitude of, “Look how responsible we are!” I wish they had the same responsible attitude towards traffic behaviour and waste management. It’s just so off-putting that you have to think all the time about taking a facemask when you go out, and having to think whether you should put one on or not. It bothers me that I tend to have these things on my mind all the time while in Bangkok. It isn’t my idea of freedom. Facemasks aren’t even mandatory anymore. I can’t figure out why Bangkok is still Facemask Central.
Logic and Thailand don’t go hand in hand.
In the USA we get sick days as work benefits. During the height of Covid we had additional sick days. My understanding is that employees in Europe, Australia & New Zealand all get more sick / vacation days than Americans. Thai workers do not have benefits to that extent. If you are in Bangkok or anywhere in Thailand and see people wearing a mask, just remember that they either work or they don’t get paid. Getting sick and missing 2 weeks means they don’t get paid for two weeks <Totally wrong! Employees in Thailand, be they Thai or foreigner, get 30 paid sick days per year. One must be employed in a permanent role – as opposed to on a day-rate in a non-permanent role like, say, a basic labouring position. If an employee is off sick for 3 days or more, the employer may request a medical certificate, and they are SUPER easy to get – Stick>. Many Thais also have elderly parents at home. I think some expats and some Western visitors whine about things that are none of their business. If Thai people want to wear masks, I suggest mind your own business. You are in their country.
Where is the bar biz going?
India is really close to Thailand and there are many cheap flights. But Indians and Westerners don’t really mix. It should be like in Pattaya where there is – to some degree – different venues for different nationalities and cultures. North Asians and Westerners co-exist much more comfortably. If the bar business has a bright future, two things are required. 1. It must be mainstream to visit these bars – you have written about how it was in Bangkok 20 – 25 years ago. The Hangover movie was the last incarnation of this climate. Japanese, Koreans and perhaps Chinese are important – but ageing, low-income losers make up many of the guys from the West – that’s why a majority of vloggers suck. 2. And there should be a new supply of girls to the bar industry. I think this will happen. Sex and money are connected in Thailand.
I traversed Walking Street last night. What a difference 6 weeks makes. The footpath / street is now newly upgraded and completed all the way down to Bali Hai. Not much has changed in regards to businesses which are open. There are still many For Sale / For Rent signs. With that said, quite a few places are being readied for re-opening. Slightly more foot traffic than 6 weeks ago and even the lower Walking Street McDonald’s has opened.
Changes in Pattaya due to Covid, or had they already been planned?
The section of 2nd Road between Pattaya Klang all the way to the Dolphin roundabout (plus side sois) is pretty much still dead (except soi 6, which has a special status of course), while Alcazar and Tiffany’s are still closed. Not really a surprise, that stretch of 2nd Road mainly caters to Asian tour groups. They haven’t returned and, considering the very rigid approach to Covid in many Asian countries, will not be back anytime soon. Because of this, Pattaya has been hit extra hard and that’s clearly visible, although the last part of 2nd Road, say the last kilometre before the roundabout, looks like it’s being redeveloped. Drinking Street has been completely stripped. And I mean all bars, not just the open air bars in the middle but also the bars in the shophouses on the side. It looks like something big and fancy will be developed there. The same counts for the shophouses opposite the main entrance of Terminal 21. All emptied out and boarded up. Seems to me that the whole stretch around Terminal 21 is going to be “sanitized”. I don’t know if Covid triggered this or if it was planned already. I can say the same about the demolishing of places like Soi Made in Thailand. Just look at what has happened with Pattaya in the last 10 – 15 years or so and you’ll see the pattern. It might well have been planned quite a while ago.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
Deja Vu is open, the latest of the Arab’s bars to reopen on Soi Cowboy. As best is known, the mysterious figure is still behind them.
One of the best bars on Soi Cowboy, Suzi Wong has hiked the price of a bottle of water to 160 baht. A long contentious issue for teetotallers is paying the same price for a bottle of water as drinkers pay for a real drink. 160 baht mightn’t sound so bad until you realise that it’s for a really small-sized bottle that few bars serve, and not the regular water bottle (500 ml?) size.
A friend out on Cowboy last night said that you cannot walk down the soi without catching a whiff of pot. Take that as a heads up if you are sensitive to the wicked weed. I guess it was inevitable.
Another entry for the “how do they get away with this crap” file – a new, lighted sign went up inside the barrier at the Soi 23 end of Soi Cowboy promoting….drum roll…..Crazy House! Is there anyone who doesn’t know Crazy House is just a few steps away around the corner on Soi 23? Do they really need such a large sign with a huge arrow to point them there?
At the other end of Soi Cowboy, the extended Penny Black which took over the space that was previously the Corner Bar opened not long before last week’s column went to air.
Talking of Soi Cowboy, why hasn’t the neon lane been a hit with Indian visitors about? They’re all over Soi Nana but are hardly spotted on Cowboy. Why is that?
Up the road in Soi Nana, a couple of signs that have popped up in Morning Night are worth commenting on. The first is pictured below. Are there really no barfines in Morning Night or, more likely, has this sign been put up to satisfy some obscure rule should the authorities make a visit and management can point to the sign and say there is no barfining. Another sign in the bar says, “No smoking and gunja in or within 3 meters of the building. Fine 5,000 bath“. Yes, “gunja” and yes, “bath“. They’re dreaming if they think they can stop someone smoking right outside the bar. As one old friend in Bangkok said to me in an email this week, “All good here although I am already tired of seeing and smelling weed everywhere I go.”
An absolute coup was pulled off by Mandarin A Go Go this week. In an age where bars are scratching and clawing to get even 4 new girls at a time, Mandarin pulled off the seemingly impossible and, in one day, added 30 new ladies. It seems that a certain nomadic papasan who has worked in all three major bar areas got his nose bent out of shape over changes at a certain Patpong gogo bar & lounge and took 13 of his devoted followers out the front door, and the DJ to boot! He offered all of their respective services to a couple of Nana Plaza bars – and Mandarin won the bidding. At the same time, another 17 (!) girls from the Rainbow bars – many of whom had worked for Mandarin before – suddenly decided now would be a good time to return. Needless to say, everything has changed for the better at Mandarin. New life has been breathed into the middle-floor Nana Plaza bar. On the first night when all the new ladies were in the house, there were literally girls everywhere. The stage was full and ladies were taking up much of the available seating, having to get up as more punters came in – and inevitably stayed. When was the last time Mandarin was so much fun?
Bangkok’s gogo bars have struggled with the whole “chicken & egg” syndrome: You can’t get customers without girls and you can’t get girls without customers. But, as Mandarin’s owner pointed out, once you do get more girls, and the customers come, then even more girls come. So the egg turns into a snowball. Some of the new ladies who joined Mandarin are featured in photos in this week’s column. You can see more of the new Mandarin troop by following the bar’s social media channels:
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mandarinagogo
- Instagram – instagram.com/mandarinagogobkk/
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/mandaringogo
Those who make their living from tourism, nightlife & hospitality are thrilled to have tourists back in numbers that are increasing every month. But for those expats who found themselves the apple of every bargirl’s eye in pandemic stretches where bars were open and tourists were gone, the return to normalcy has reignited old grumblings about so-called 2-week millionaires. And, make no mistake, the fools who are soon parted with their money and don’t give a toss most certainly are back. In Crazy House this past week, a 30-something Italian found a naked lass to his liking and, after having her bounce around on his knee for a while, popped the question. Not marriage, but a night in his honeymoon suite. Before she could propose some outrageous sum he asked, “Is 6,000 OK?” The strumpet stammered a bit, as this greenhorn had offered more than the going rate (5,000 long-time). Before she said a word, the paisan pipes up, “OK, 7,000!” He then went on to tip the service girls 200 baht each and the mamasan 500 baht! The expat sitting alone at the next table who the Crazy girls haven’t wanted to know him since tourists returned just about choked on his drink and thought to himself, “This is why prices have gone crazy!”
This coming Friday, August 26th, Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33 will host a Ladies Night Party with free entry and 4 free drinks for all ladies. For regular male punters, entry will set you back 1,500 baht – which comes with free-flow drinks and all the fun and games for which fetish house Demonia is known. Details below:
Naughty bar owners are gearing up for what they hope will be a relatively good high season. All signs point to larger and larger increases in western visitors over the coming months. The optimism comes from not only official government tourism projections, but from real-world, every-day interactions with punters around the world informing the bars of their imminent plans.
As such, the owners of Billboard and Butterflies in Nana Plaza are working from, literally, 5 AM some days to upgrade and improve the two bars. The fruit of all that labour will be on display September 10 when Billboard hosts its 7-Year Anniversary Party, the first bash the bar has thrown in three years.
There will be special, limited-edition gifts for the first 100 guests to arrive, a free buffet and, to crown the evening, a Billboard Babe of the Year contest. It’s not only Mandarin that has done the impossible at Nana Plaza: Billboard now has nearly 100 ladies working on weekends, a number no other bar can match.
Away from the chrome poles for a moment, as The Old English Pub in Thonglor prepares to move to its new, super-convenient location 25 paces from the Thong Lor BTS station, the bar is offering current customers a couple of great incentives to visit now … and later!
First, if you visit The “Old” English, you can enter to win a FREE keg of beer. That’s 50 pints of your favourite local beer to share with your friends. The winner will be drawn at The NEW Old English after it opens around the middle of next month. In addition, every bill at The “Old” English now comes with a 250-baht coupon to be used at the new location – so get in there and get your discounts to use at the new bar.
As we await the opening of the new Buddy’s Bar & Grill on Soi 8, Buddy’s Soi 22 location will hold its monthly BBQ Night on August 26 at 7:30 PM. For 300 baht you get BBQ pork ribs, BBQ chicken, hot dogs, chili, potato salad, hash browns, garlic bread, spicy Italian sausage and corn on the cob. That’s a heck of a deal for BBQ fans. Get a map, address & phone for the Soi 22 venue here: https://buddybarbangkok.com/locations/soi22/
The Huntsman Pub in the basement of the Landmark is one of those venues that feels like it has been around forever. Or should I say felt like it was, as would now be the case. I’m showing how long it is that I have been away from Bangkok when I report that apparently The Huntsman closed some time back due to Covid – and there are no plans to reopen. What a shame! The Huntsman was a really nice spot, very spacious and a place I always felt was one of the most relaxing venues of its type.
So many long-running venues were killed by Covid, but one very long-time venue remains. For those who crave a bar that proudly maintains the friendly service of old and the tunes to match with none of the techno music that mars rather a good few more modern gogo bars, Sexy Night in Nana Plaza is still going strong. Two readers commented on the classic old Nana Plaza bar this week, each saying it was a breath of fresh air. It continues to be run by the same lady and much of the same old crew. Said lady who runs Sexy Night has been there for 40 years and I won’t embarrass the owner by mentioning her age so let’s just say she’s no spring chicken.
While Sexy Night in Nana Plaza is open, the other classic old gogo bar, Safari in Patpong remains closed. Will it reopen? Fingers crossed that one day it will.
The toilet with the turnstile at the soi 7 bar complex has been the focus of much chatter, or rather its 10-baht fee has. Bar staff in the area squeeze through the turnstile together 2 or 3 slinky ladies at a time, for 10 baht, saving one another a few baht in the process and providing laughs for on-lookers as the girls contort themselves and shriek at one another as they try to squeeze through!
I really appreciate all the emails from those of you on the ground in Thailand, whether you’re a long-time resident of Bangkok or someone just passing through. The general consensus seems to be that each week things get a little bit busier in the bars and around the traps popular with Westerners. And while things might not be back to what they were, again, people seem to agree that there’s most definitely a good time to be had so don’t put off traveling out of concern that it won’t be fun!
A friend who recently spent a couple of months in Thailand between Bangkok and Pattaya made an observation about the state – or should that be the shape – of many of the massage shop ladies. From the knock-shop massage shops on the likes of soi 23 to soi 22 to the many massage outlets dotted all around Pattaya, massage ladies are getting bigger – and in some cases a lot bigger. Could it be that some have relatively few customers and little work so they spend their time sitting around, grazing because there’s not a lot else to do? Or could this perhaps be partly due to the Indian influence? As I understand it, Indian men are not so concerned about big girls (Indian readers please feel free to let me know about this).
Pookie, a long-time favorite at Top Secret, on Sukhumvit soi 20/1, has opened her own small bar on Soi 7, aptly named Pookie Bar. The official grand opening is tomorrow – Monday, August 22, Pookie promises a bunch of girls, fun and environment.
I mentioned that the owner of Sexy Night in Nana Plaza has been in the business for 40 years or so and the bar is still going strong. In Pattaya, another popular bar with a local lass at the head for 40 odd years, Tim Bar, is history. Tim’s Bar might have been known as a gogo bar but it was actually so much more than that. It was a multi-faceted bar that had been around forever, a bar that anyone who was a regular in Pattaya must have trundled through at some point in time. Add Tim’s Bar to the growing list of Covid casualties. On the one hand I’d love to see a list of all the old favourites that have been killed by Covid, but on the other hand such a list would feature many old favourites, making it a bit of a horror show.
Down in Pattaya, Frogland, the beer bar complex at Walking Street was to open this past week.
At the other end of the market in Sin City, what is it about barfine rates in some Pattaya gogo bars? They are ridiculously high. Who would pay the asking 3,000 baht at Pin Up? And if you pay 3,000 baht to the bar, how much does the lady expect to be paid? Pattaya is hardly known for high-rollers, yet the barfines in some Walking street gogo bars are crazy-high. Amongst Pattaya locals, Bangkok nightlife is generally considered to be expensive but barfines in the capital are much more reasonable.
There was a period during Covid when some working girls’ respective asking rates was lower than it had been in years, perhaps 20 years. The bars were closed, there were few tourists and girls were obviously struggling to get any customers – and income – at all. One gets the feeling that girls’ asking rates are back to where they were pre-Covid.
The number of Indians about has dominated barstool banter in recent weeks. It’s not just Soi Nana and Walking Street where you find large groups of Indians. Down on Ko Samui, the Green Mango is catering to our Indian friends with around half the music played described as Indian dance music. Now I am all for Indians in the bars, but when half the play-list is Indian music I suspect many non-Indians won’t find that to their liking and will head elsewhere.
The thing with Indians visiting bars frequented by Westerners warrants further comment. Many readers aren’t happy about this – which seems to be born from the fear of what is happening at the Green Mango happening in their favourite bar. Some readers have made particularly harsh comments about our Indian friends. My feeling is that your experiences / observations of / interactions with Indians have been with those who may not be that worldly and may even be on their first adventure outside their homeland. As such, they may carry on in a way that is acceptable in their homeland but not so much in Thailand or developed parts of the world. Mingle with middle-class or more well-to-do Indians and you might find your impressions change. However you feel, you had better get used to it because some indications are that Indian visitors will be like the Chinese pre-Covid – visiting in very large numbers. When will the number of Indian visitors to Thailand reach 10 million per year? 2030? Earlier?
The Tourism Ministry has been lobbying for bars to be allowed to open through until 4:00 AM. Sounds like a good thing, right? You might be surprised at some of the people who are not in favour of it. Amongst them are some bar owners. Just the crowd you thought would be all in favour of it right? For some bar owners, that’s not the case at all. The bottom line is that opening through until 4:00 AM would mean longer hours for staff – and that is a problem when many bars are not busy enough to justify extended hours, some weekends aside. It is difficult enough finding enough staff as it is, there are bar owners who fear that the longer hours of operation could work against them if ladies are compelled to stay in the bar through until 4:00 AM. This could be a problem in some bars where barfines are paid. In other venues like discos, nightclubs and those bars which already open late, it would be a good thing knowing they can legally open until 4:00 AM.
No weekly column would be complete at this time without mention of cannabis, which seems like it is available on every soi corner. I struggle to get my head around some of the prices being charged by vendors in Thailand. Priced by the gram, you can pay from a few hundred baht / gram up to well over 1,000 baht / gram – which seems an awful lot to me. Hard drugs (which I don’t have the same ambivalence towards) can be much cheaper. Meth, ecstasy etc. are considerably cheaper. Yes, I know the market is different but even so, some of these prices for weed strike me as high. In a country where 1,000 baht can go a long way, that’s a lot of money for a very small portion of a dried plant that from all accounts is easy to grow in the tropics. I don’t get it!
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Reader’s Story of the week is Bangkok Revisited, an anonymous submission.
Backpackers won’t be happy if cannabis sales on Khao San Road really are deemed illegal as is being talked about.
She got a tattoo in Thailand and 2 years later it looks a little different.
A budget hotel in Chiang Mai has reduced its rate to almost zero to attract visitors.
Tourists piling in to Thailand are pushing up the value of the local currency.
There is continued hope that nightspots will be able to legally remain open until 4:00 AM.
To really confuse matters, the Thai health minister is now saying pot-smoking tourists are not welcome in Thailand.
Where you used to get 30 days permission to stay in Thailand, from October 1st it will be 45 days – but only through until March….duh?!
I will get back to writing an opening piece or two soon. I’ve got a few ideas of things to write about so will put something together. Maybe next week, or the week after. Even without an opener I hope you still enjoyed this week’s edition.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com