Billboard’s 7-Year Anniversary Party
A friend was lucky enough to make it to Billboard’s 7-Year Anniversary party. What follows is his brief report of what sounds like it was a great night out.
Too late to meet the deadline for last week’s column, Billboard’s 7-Year Anniversary Party last Saturday, September 10 was, as expected, a massive, hugely successful event. Months of decorative upgrades and behind-the-scenes upgrades had Billboard looking amazing for the party and, this night, the middle section was roped off with each high table set with table cloth, ice bucket, glasses and a rotating-color LED light. Very classy. The first 100 guests received the limited-edition Billboard 7th Anniversary glass and literally hundreds and hundreds of people devoured pizzas piled high in boxes. Everyone appeared to have an incredible time, including the girls who, by the end of the night, were toting around plastic shopping bags full of 20-baht bills from the tens of thousands of baht that were thrown around the bar as tips all night.
By 10 PM, Billboard was honestly shoulder-to-shoulder with not a single seat left in the house. The few groups of guys unaware of what was happening walked through the door, looked at the masses of people, said “f*ck that!” and walked back out! But most people entering stayed and Billboard’s owner remarked late in the evening that, after the past two-plus years, people needed an event like this to just “let loose”.
Billboard’s party was not just good for Billboard, but for all of Nana Plaza. Every single bar reported a huge night, with people who left the Billboard party or decided not to brave the crowd bar-hopping around the Plaza. While the same may be true on Soi Cowboy, at Nana Plaza, parties and events lift all boats. It’s why, if you ask, Nana owners will tell you that they want all the plaza’s bars to do well, because, with the venues so tightly packed, the better the plaza does as a whole, the better each owner does individually.
The pinnacle of the Billboard event was its first-ever Billboard Babe of the Year pageant and, true to its name, there were a lot of beauties. The contest began with 100 ladies taking the stage, 10 at a time. Judges (staff and owners) narrowed that down to 10 ladies, who then returned to the stage individually. Customers then got to vote (along with the ladies and staff) by screaming. The din was deafening, with many of the ladies off stage covering their ears. The three women who garnered the loudest cheers became the finalists. The winner was #93, Jiew, who took home 25,000 baht, plus a crown and sash. Long-time dancer Ploy placed second for 10,000 baht and tattooed Joy placed third for 5,000 baht.
Last week’s photo was taken of the intersection where Silom meets Naradiwas Road, or to put it another way, the skytrain track between the Sala Daeng and Chongnonsee BTS stations. A bunch of you got it right. This week’s photo is somewhere in downtown Bangkok, as almost all featured photos are.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Memories of Lucky Luke’s.
Lucky Luke’s was the first bar I ever went to in Bangkok. I’m a younger guy and first visited Thailand for a month somewhat recently. I remember sauntering in after the security and Covid temperature check at the front, thinking “I’ll just get a drink, walk around and leave – I would never go into a gogo bar!” Lucky Luke’s seemed passive enough, and I enjoying some people-watching. It was also the first place I practiced my Thai in person. One of the lovely ladies there was happy to answer my super-basic questions like “How old are you?” and “What is your name?”. Of course, my initial moral shield crumbled quickly, but I made sure to always drop into Luke’s to have that first beer, to imagine the backstories to the people coming into Nana, and to catch up with the somewhat older ladies there. I was kind of curious as to how a Nana bar with around 10 punters per night could survive, but I guess they didn’t. I’m happy for the dispensary patrons, despite not enjoying the drug that frequently myself – but I can’t help but feel sentimental. I guess this is how a lot of old hands feel about Thailand; things can change so fast.
Where their earnings end up.
Years ago I met a freelancer in Soi Nana. It was a slow night and I think she wanted 1,200 baht. I saw her often over the years. She moved up and had clients paying good money so in the end she lost interest in me. Her dream was to build a new house for her family near Khon Kaen. I saw photos and it looked quite good. Next, the family wanted a new car. Then more land. Then a new tractor and machinery. One time she confided in me that they only wanted to see her when she had money to give them. The younger sister had kids and was the pride of the family but my freelancer friend was looked down upon because of her profession. She has since hooked a European with a wine import business and has become an alcoholic. Prior to that, she didn’t drink. Good luck to her and I hope he looks after her. But for sure, that family will never stop milking her. I can’t imagine how much she has made them.
Cannabis ok, why not vaping?!
Just a thought on cannabis in Thailand. I am totally perplexed as to how Thailand can be tough on hard drugs, relaxed on weed, yet continue to ban vapes!
Cannabis is followed by decline?
Does half of Sukhumvit have a medical issue?
As far as I understand it, the new cannabis laws only allow those with a medical condition to consume it. I suppose you in theory would have to carry your medical prescription in case the police spots you consuming. If not, you are / should be in as much trouble as you were before the law changed. Apparently, half of lower Sukhumvit has a medical condition.
Thinking about weed.
I have been thinking a bit about the weed situation. I visited Sihanoukville, Cambodia, from 2015 to 2019 and weed was freely available. People could smoke it in a lot of the beach bars and no one would take any notice. Despite this quasi-legalisation, alcohol was still the drug of choice for most people. As I understand it, you’ve never inhaled the devil’s lettuce but the effect is to make one lazy, focus mindlessly and develop an appetite. I honestly don’t think Bangkok will fill up with stoners at all. Why would someone spend over $1,000 on flights plus accommodation to sit in their hotel room watching TV and get food delivered? Weed is available and cheaper in Western countries than in Thailand which is asking silly prices. Khao San Road was packed a month ago with weed booths every 15 meters but most of the backpackers were hitting the buckets and beer. I don’t see how weed would be attractive to foreign tourists in Thailand. It’s not a social drug like alcohol. And frankly I can’t see Thai weed being a quality product given the industry is home-based and in its infancy. Hardcore stoners are a discerning lot and if those are the stoners who will be filling Bangkok then I don’t think they will be satisfied with the current product range.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
Reports from the ground is that Sukhumvit soi 11 is buzzing. Many bars have reopened recently and are drawing local party-goers and international visitors alike back to the soi. And there are plenty more venues coming soon. Mulli’s is being renovated and down the road (where Bed Supper Club was) there is a new nightclub being built. Candy x Bobo is a curious name, to say the least.
In addition to all the bars opening up, Soi 11 also has lots of options for cannabis with one reader telling me that at any one time, there’s likely to be at least 3 weed trucks parked up, selling their merchandise to eager customers. I wonder what those with stores in the area make of vendors selling from vehicles parked up on their turf?
I ran out of space in last week’s column to include the photo below of the frontage of DC 10 bar in Nana Plaza. Soon to be renamed B 52, this one is for the archives.
The only bar in Nana Plaza yet to open is Red Dragon, which will be in the combined Mandarin Table Dance and Mercury spaces. The outside of Red Dragon is done and illuminated and the signage is said to look really nice. Those behind the bar had sought special permission from the landlords of Nana Plaza for the impressive sign. Red Dragon had hoped to open some months back, but the new timeline is to open in October. Experienced operators are behind the bar and expectations are high.
If last Saturday did anything, it was proof that Billboard is fully back to pre-Covid normal. As such, the decision was made to drop its pandemic-era 2-for-1 drinks promotion. To drive business, Billboard had offered buy-one-get-one free drinks all night on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That was scaled back this month to a two-hour buy-one-get-one happy hour each night. This past Wednesday was the last night of that promotion.
However, across the way, at sister bar, Butterflies, 2-for-1 drinks continues all night long on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
There are still lots of drink deals to be had at Nana Plaza. Sister bars Tycoon and Whiskey – located just steps apart on Nana’s main stairs – are doing buy-one-get-one free drinks Sundays through Thursdays and, on Friday and Saturday, 99-baht Tiger bottles. Downstairs, Erotica has 100-baht beers and Sangsom on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Down the road on Soi Cowboy, Dollhouse is packing them in with a happy hour that once again runs through until 10 PM. Standard beers and drinks are less than 100 baht and even premium pours like Absolut are only 110 baht. Now back on the job after what he describes as way too long in the U.S., manager Dino is turning Dollhouse around in a hurry, filling the stage with lots of girls, some of whom rushed to work so quickly they forgot their clothes. Both Tuesday and Wednesday night were bouncing at Dollhouse with Dino reporting that, Tuesday night, things really got crazy as two female American tourists – who just so happen to have worked as strippers in the U.S. – got up on stage and lost all their clothes too!
Tourists on stage in a gogo bar is not what many want to see, but naked foreign woman is something most of us can live with. But naked foreign men? No, thanks! And that’s what transpired later Wednesday at Rawhide as one tall, bearded man joined the ladies doing a naked shower show on stage. To the horror of most customers, he was not pushed off stage, but, instead, stripped naked by the girls. I hear that the sudden appearance of male genitalia on stage prompted a sudden, mass wave of check-bins. Maybe Rawhide will think twice before allowing that ridiculousness again.
It’s time for a reality check when it comes to Patpong: There’s been some hype in recent weeks – including this column where I have had reports from people with interests in the area – about how Patpong has rebounded, bars are doing better month-on-month and that the explosion of marijuana sales in what many of us refer to as “the Pong” has drawn flocks of new visitors. If this past Friday night was anything to go by, Patpong cheerleaders have been smoking too much wacky baccy. Here’s an on-the-ground report from a friend who was in Patpong 2 on Friday night: From 8:30 – 10 PM, the total number of customers in Pink Panther, XXX Lounge, Black Pagoda, Bada Bing and The Strip was less than the number of people in just one Nana Plaza bar – Billboard – at 10:30 PM. XXX was doing the best of the bunch, with about 9 customers between 9:40 and 10:15. From 8:30 to 9:40, Pink Panther had, at most, three customers. The Strip was doing buy 1 / get 1 free at prime time on Friday night and still couldn’t fill seats. The unvarnished truth about Patpong is that it’s mostly a ghost town, even on the busiest night of the week. And the vibe? What vibe?! Step into the likes of Dollhouse or Billboard and you’re drawn in by the sheer energy in the bar.
And, sadly, there’s another reason not to venture to Patpong, at least for the time being – the disastrous and dangerous condition of the footpaths on Silom Road. From the exit of the Sala Daeng BTS station closest to Patpong up far past Patpong 1 and 2, the pavement has been mostly demolished, with pools of standing water making even flat ground impassable and poor lighting creating tripping hazards, especially for those who have been enjoying a few drinks. The condition of the footpath puts to shame the shoddy work that was done on Sukhumvit a couple years ago.
Club Black, the back room, at Black Pagoda, remains closed after the entire troupe of dancers, 2 papasans and the DJ left for Nana Plaza, where they now strut their stuff at Mandarin. With the sorry state of business in Patpong, it’s no wonder that Nana and Cowboy bars find it so easy to get girls from Patpong bars which continue to do miserable trade. And if any bar is ripe for being pilfered next, it’s Pink Panther. While there is virtually no one there to see it, Pink Panther has a couple of dozen dancers described as anything from attractive to stunning, dancing in pairs or triples on the bar’s signature pedestal stages. None of the women could be described as fat and some are just plain beautiful. When asked why they continue to dance only for the mirrors, one lady said she stays because her friends are there and she doesn’t have any friends at Nana Plaza. What happens if all the friends decide to leave at the same time?
Away from the chrome poles, The (New) Old English Bangkok opened on Friday. New location, new name and new logo. The new bar, located 25 meters from Exit 3 under the Thong Lo BTS station, is larger inside than the old spot with a brand-new, regulation-size Rhino pool table and massive new television to join the previous six. Outside, there are four tables plus rail seating but the traffic noise and fumes are greater than they were way up Soi 55, so, unless you’re smoking, the outside tables will have less appeal than they did. Inside, however, the air-conditioning is top-notch, the sounds well-balanced and The Old English still serves pints of Leo for just 45 baht every afternoon starting at 2:00.
I don’t often look at the (few remaining) Thailand forums. The feeling I get as a casual spectator is that they are dominated by bored retirees who must have really shitty lives because I cannot understand why they are so incredibly negative. At the same time, I can’t deny that these forums continue – to some extent at least – to provide a barometer of where people’s thinking is at on many issues. And there is one clear trend that is getting lots of oxygen these days – the value proposition of seeking out gogo girls for sex, or otherwise. To be clear, this is not a Bangkok thing but (very surprisingly, to me at least) a Pattaya thing. In some Sin City gogo bars, barfines rates are much higher than what is being asked in Bangkok. Add together drinks, lady drinks, barfine, the lady’s fee and perhaps a short-time room and the final number is really getting up there. You’re getting some private time with a hot looking lady, but when the reality in the hotel room is so often that said sweet girl now turns off the sales pitch and turns in to a starfish then it would seem these forum users are questioning whether it’s all worthwhile. To reiterate, these complaints are very much Pattaya-centric. Whether it’s a Pattaya gogo bar thing, a Pattaya retiree thing or a combination of both, I really don’t know. That said, fret not, naughty boys, if you Pattaya boys find prices high then jump on the Sex Tourist Express and 2 hours later you may well find lower prices in Bangkok gogo bars. Oh, how things have changed!
Another new cannabis dispensary is coming to prime Sukhumvit. Wonder-something – I don’t know the full name – will be located on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 5. You get the strong impression that the iconic neon weed-leaf will feature on a lot of Bangkok visitors’ social media over the next year or so.
My impression of Thais here in New Zealand and Thais living abroad generally is that most still very firmly see themselves as Thai and their stay abroad, even if multi decades long, is most definitely temporary. For most Thais here, their general interest remains in all things Thai and what’s happening back in Thailand. They tend to mix among themselves within the Thai community – and many never have a single genuine friendship with a non-Thai. They prefer to speak Thai, eat Thai food and prefer to be in the company of their fellow Thais. Some get very uncomfortable in the presence of Kiwis (or other non-Thais) when there are no Thais around. When they need to get things done, be it the services of a tradesman to do work around their home, professional services – could be anything from legal to medical – they actively seek out a local Thai in that profession, if such person exists. In Auckland where the largest contingent of Thais can be found, there is a Thai dentist and it sometimes feel like all the local Thais go to him. There’s a Thai lawyer and, needless to say, he has a heap of Thai clients. They have their local Facebook groups and most will pay more attention to something as innocuous as a news report of a python scaring a Thai lady leaving the office than they would to a huge news story such as the very sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Fair enough, they’re Thai and at the end of the day Thailand is where their heart is. The one thing that I do question is the way they often refer to the norms, rules and even the laws of their own country – while living in another country. Case in point, one local Thai restaurant tried it on with a Thai member of staff who accidentally broke two wine glasses. That money would be deduced from their wages (at what sounded like a highly inflated rate) the Thai waitress was told. Her kiwi husband stepped in and let the Thai owners know that they couldn’t do that and if they did there would be trouble. When they run a business here – being Thai, many of them are entrepreneurial – they try to do so many things the way they would in Thailand, frequently imposing the pee-nong culture on their fellow Thais – and often it works. Do many ever assimilate? Not that many, at least that is how it seems to me.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Reader’s story of the week is another report from the Philippines, “Angeles City Revisited Part 2“, from Bangkok Byron.
A Thai woman in Sydney is looking at jail time after allegedly scamming Thais in Australia for millions of dollars in a romance scam.
A Thai court orders the repair of Maya Bay, the location where the movie The Beach was filmed 22 years ago.
A python lunges at an office worker in Bangkok.
A British athlete is arrested in Thailand for violating traffic laws, after riding waves on a flooded road!
The other half and I have had a lot of will we or won’t we conversations in recent weeks and finally decided not to fly to Bangkok until the rainy season is well and truly over. And with the benefit of hindsight, that hasn’t been such a bad decision. This year’s rainy season has been particularly wet – and therefore more disruptive – than previous years’ rainy seasons. In the past you’d say it just rains for an hour or two and that time aside, no problem. Not this year. And with plans to stay in a different part of town to our usual Sukhumvit bolt-hole as we mix things up and seek a change of scenery, all of the running around would be a real hassle with all the rain. Friends who have visited in recent months have all had a great time, rain or no rain. One mate currently in Bangkok sent this in a WhatsApp message this week, “I do not recall the weather being this bad. I think you holding off coming over is a smart move. Soaking shoes only just get dry and then back to being soaked again.” We’d really like to be there in Bangkok right now – about that there is no question – but as I say, given the weather I am comfortable that waiting is the right decision. I will get back……soon!
You Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com