Stickman's Weekly Column September 11th, 2022

Stickman Weekly, September 11, 2022


 

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken inside the renovated and expanded Penny Black at the Terminal 21 end of Soi Cowboy. Amazingly, just one reader got it right. So after what have proven to some rather challenging shots, this week’s should prove to be much less difficult.

 

 

Meet her at Spanky's, Nana Plaza.

Meet her at Spanky’s, Nana Plaza.

 

 

Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week

Postcard from Pattaya.

Quick report from a regular Patts visitor. I’m sure you’ve had similar impressions of late. Last night, Saturday, Soi Buakhao was the busiest I have ever seen it even in pre Covid times, around 7 – 8 PM. Tree Town was packed with both girls and punters. The area is cementing itself as the centre of farang-oriented entertainment, no question, and some girls are now not even wanting to leave the area. I’m in a hotel in North Pattaya near Terminal 21 and for them it might as well be halfway to Bangkok. They seem to be keen to get back to their bar quick smart.

In favour of street vendors.

Street vendors add charm to lower Sukhumvit. In the same way as street bars do. The sidewalks should be congested in tourist areas. If you want to move fast from Nana to Cowboy, take the BTS or a motorcycle taxi. The naughty stuff sold on the street is part of the Bangkok experience. If they take the vibe out of Bangkok, we will eventually end up in a new Singapore or Frankfurt or Houston. But Thailand being Thailand, they might reverse this stupid and tourist unfriendly idea? Decluttering tourist areas will not attract visitors. What is suitable in Silom is repelling on Sukhumvit. Thai authorities think they can cherry-pick demand. They can’t. A bustling street life is what people visiting Bangkok look for. <I agree with the basic premise you make about street vendors and street life being part of the appeal of Bangkok, but at the same time the vendors along Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke are so often the very worst street vendors – pushy, rude junk sellers. They take up much of the pavement, make it difficult to get by, block shop frontages and, let’s be frank, for the most part they sell junk, be it fake pharmaceuticals, copied porno movies, sex toys or whatever. In comparison, the market at Patpong was organised. On Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke, the pavement has long been chaos and while it might be romantic to be protective of the street vendors, I really don’t think many will miss this lotStick>

The reality of masks on flights.

I flew with Thai Airways from London to Bangkok 2 days ago. We were informed on the plane that we should all wear masks. From what I could see, the vast majority of passengers ignored the request throughout the entire flight. It is different here in Bangkok where most Thais wear masks,  on the streets, but most visitors don’t.

Passive drugging.

I would like to add a new term to the English vocabulary:  “passive drugging”. In Soi Cowboy (walking through to go to Scruffy Murphy for dinner), in Soi Nana and in other places too, there are strange smells. Not pleasant. I wonder if the new freedom with cannabis will have a counter effect for tourism as visitors who prefer not to indulge inhaling other people’s smoke. It puts me off. I have never been a smoker. My ex-wife got lung cancer through working in a smoky environment. I nursed her through chemotherapy. I wonder who the first victim of passive drugging will be?

Confused about tats.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and preferences, but at some point we all need to accept others’ preferences and opinions. I first visited Northern Thailand over 20 years ago. I noticed back then Thai people with tattoos. Tattoos in Thailand, especially rural Thailand, have a spiritual use. These are not people trying to be trendy after watching MTV or whatever it is people watch nowadays. I am not saying that little Lek at Nana Plaza is not wearing a tattoo to be trendy, but it’s quite possible she grew up in rural Thailand where her grandfather or grandmother sported a tattoo. Perhaps she had a brother or boyfriend who was a Muay Thai boxer. <You need to differentiate between the “sak yant” or traditional tattoos which are quite recognisable, and the more modern, for want of a better word, “decorative” tattoos, which are entirely differentStick>. I suggest that if a man is interested in a Thai woman who does not have a tattoo then he needs to find a woman from Bangkok or Central Thailand. These are areas where Thai women are more likely to be put off by tattoos. Indeed even having a tattoo may cause Bangkok Thais to consider the tattoo wearer to be rural low class. Don’t forget that little Lek in Nana Plaza or Nit in Pattaya most likely grew up in rural Thailand. I would also suggest that some of your readers get off their self-righteous high horse. Most are likely middle-aged to older men going after young Thai girls in a bar. They are fortunate that little Lek and Nit are not so picky.

 

 

 

Tiki Bar, undergoing transformation in to a ganja dispensary.

Lucky Luke’s is undergoing transformation in to a cannabis dispensary.

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This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Lucky Luke’s, the long-running open air bar just inside the entrance to Nana Plaza, has changed hands and will become the first dedicated cannabis dispensary inside Nana Plaza. Cannabis has been available for purchase from at least one bar within the plaza but this is the first dedicated cannabis outlet inside Nana Plaza proper. It joins the Mary Jane Dispensary on the main Sukhumvit Road, just around the corner from Soi Nana, run by the same company. Lucky Luke’s has been around for 30 odd years and the cannabis store will retain the name and theme of the venue. The new dispensary will be closed in and air-conditioning installed. Please note, consumption of cannabis on the premises will not be allowed. Expect it to reopen in its new format in about a week’s time.

On the ground floor of Nana, Blondie is now doing shows. It has taken a few months to build up the team and get things in place. The owner tells me things are developing nicely.

Nana Plaza continues to stand out as the most popular bar area in downtown Bangkok, but just how popular is it? How can you measure a bar area’s popularity? By the number of people who visit the bar area, of course! So just how many customers visit Nana Plaza? Funnily enough, that is a question that can be answered. Nana Plaza has just one way in, and one way out. And it just so happens that the whole complex is owned and managed by one group. One of the duties of the security team who work from tables at the entrance is to count the number of people who enter the plaza each and every night. To answer the question of how many people visit Nana Plaza, last month about 100,000 people visited, a very impressive number indeed.

 

aw-sign

The giant new Angelwitch sign.

 

This past week saw the reopening of DC-10 next to Angelwitch on the middle floor of Nana Plaza. But, in a surprise move, it reopened as a girlie bar. No more ladyboys! One of the plaza’s oldest bars, DC-10 began life with girls on stage, but switched to the third gender about a decade ago. DC-10 had become widely known as a ladyboy bar so the bar’s owners will shortly retire the DC-10 name and rebrand the bar after another mothballed plane: B-52.

Speaking of once-were-ladyboy bars, another Nana Plaza bar which was previously a ladyboy bar reopened this week as an all-new, all-lady bar. What was Temptations is now known as Stockings. The new bar is under new ownership after the operators of Temptations handed it back when all the bars were closed due to Covid.

Reopening DC-10 might have been a bit premature, however, as, on Tuesday, there were exactly zero women working. Former Angelwitch manager Alex, now piloting DC-10 / B-52, said a couple of girls were in the house on Sunday night, but not one showed up on following nights.

Speaking of Angelwitch, that bar’s rehabilitation continues, with a new sign finally installed to replace the weather-beaten lightbox that had been there for years.

Across the way, and also on the middle floor, Mandarin – flush with its influx of 30 new girls – is now opening its long-dormant 3rd floor at the weekend. The lounge, similar to Baccara’s top floor, is where the Japanese smokers tended to flock, and also allows Mandarin’s maidens to shed their threads without worry of the boys in brown peeking in.

 

buddys-soi-8-sept-9-7

The new Buddy’s Bar & Grill, just around the corner from Sukhumvit soi 8, is almost ready to open.

 

Mandarin’s owners also happen to be the people behind Shark on Soi Cowboy, which did not open this week after all. The 15th is now being eyed as a target. But it’s a moving target.

Buddy’s Bar & Grill is all too familiar with moving target syndrome. A series of last-minute snafus postponed the opening of its new Soi 8 location, which had been sort-of-maybe planned for this past Friday. Come the planned opening day, satellite TV was still being installed and the owners were still struggling to find enough alcohol to fill the shelves! Anyone who thought global supply chain problems had been worked out clearly hasn’t tried to buy Bombay Sapphire gin or 750 ml bottles of Absolute in Thailand. There is currently none of either in the Kingdom.

Down the road in Thonglor, The Old English Pub is still on schedule to open on September 17, or possibly earlier. Workers have completed all major construction and may hand over the project by mid-week. After that, it’s cleaning, more cleaning and stocking up. The Old English Bangkok, as it will be known, is located 25 paces from Exit 3 of the Thong Lo BTS Station. When it reopens, it will continue its popular “Pint for a Pound” promotion, with pints of Leo for just 45 baht every afternoon.

 

The soi 11 beer bars might be a whole lot busier than soi 7.

The 4 beer bars on Sukhumvit soi 11 opposite the Ambassador are doing decent trade.

 

There’s been a lot of talk about the beer bar complex in soi 7, about its trials and tribulations after it was closed when a bar was found with underage girls and remain closed due to licence irregularities. But don’t go thinking that soi 7 is the only choice for beer bars in downtown Bangkok. There are actually quite a few scattered around. Soi Nana is beer bar central of course, with beer bars from the very top of the soi running a good way down. Just a short walk from soi 7 is soi 11 where opposite the Ambassador Hotel is another bunch of beer bars. 4 beer bars to be precise. You don’t hear much about them but they do decent trade. Let’s not forget there remain a number of beer bars on Sukhumvit soi 22, and more can be found on various sois between Nana and Asoke. There is even the odd spot like Lek’s Last Stand on the main Sukhumvit Road. If you’re looking for the beer bar experience in downtown Bangkok, you have plenty of options.

From the newly reopened V8 on Sukhumvit soi 11 comes a fantastic deal. Buy one pizza, get one free. It’s insanity! Remember, V8 is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays.

Speaking of soi 11, the cops have been active this week, closing down some venues at 2:00 AM sharp. A few nights this past week I had emails from a friend who is staying on the soi, reporting that you could set your watch when the cops appeared, at exactly 2:00 AM.

 

Long Shots in Sukhumvit soi 7 Complex reopened this week.

Long Shots in Sukhumvit soi 7 Complex reopened this week.

 

Back to the Sukhumvit soi 7 beer bar complex, Long Shots Bar reopened this week. It had been closed for 5 months. The new and improved Long Shots has been expanded and renovated. It features two pool tables, 8 foot and 9 foot, the latter brand-new, tournament type. There are TVs full True Visions packages so major sports matches can be shown live. There are plenty of ladies in the bar which has a total capacity for around 60 people. Long Shots is the largest bar in the open area behind the front bars, and it should make a difference to the area, giving it a much-needed lift.

Many bars lack originality and stick to the tried and tested formula of cold drinks, hot women and convivial atmosphere. There is so much choice that it’s nice when a bar actually makes an effort to do something a little different and stand out from the crowd. Some bars try things which are downright cheesy, others have their attempts backfire – but at least they’re trying something new which is more than can be said for many. The operator of the Bangkok’s Demonia and Pattaya’s The Castle – two of the best-known fetish bars – will celebrate the Oktoberfest in both bars. This coming Saturday, September 17, order 1 beer and receive 2 more free of charge and a plate of German sausage. More details below.

 

Oktoberfest, sausages and beer time!

Oktoberfest, sausages and beer time!

 

It’s been an extremely wet rainy season in Bangkok this year and this past week was wetter than most, with several nights of torrential downpours and 5 straight days of the wet stuff falling from the sky. Tuesday night saw 6 hours of Noah’s Ark-style rain, with grid-lock city-wide as many vehicles got stuck and traffic came to a standstill. The rain came later on Wednesday, leading to unpleasant surprises for those who ventured out early and then had to find a way home. The rain started and stopped early Thursday, but then intermittently showered the rest of the evening. Needless to say, bar trade wasn’t great this past week, with Tuesday being a disaster.

“When it rains early, the girls don’t come. When it rains later, the customers stay home,” lamented one Nana Plaza manager. But which situation is worse? The answer might not be your first guess. As it turns out, if the night is going to be a washout, bar owners would prefer the downpour comes early. Why? The same manager explained the economics, “Rain early or late, you’re not going to make any money. But, at least, if the rain comes early, you don’t end up with a bar full of birds you have to pay at the end of the night.” It’s a choice between not making money, or not making money and then having to pay for a bar full of bored girls.

Inflation is rampant all over the world and Bangkok is no exception. A group of bars in Nana Plaza raised the prices of many drinks this week. What struck me was when a friend mentioned his Coke had doubled in price from 80 to 160 baht. 80 baht was, admittedly, a great deal. I’m still a little surprised that they chose this time to hike prices.

 

Rainy season, downtown Bangkok.

Rainy season, downtown Bangkok earlier this week.

 

On the topic of inflation, I note news reports coming out of the UK about increasing power bills and inflation that could run twice that of many other developed countries. Could this have an effect on UK visitor numbers to Thailand this coming high season? Perhaps. Despite the soaring cost of living the world over, I maintain that there is much pent up demand and many are so keen to make it back to Thailand that they’ll find a way. If anything is going to hold back visitor numbers, it’s more likely to be limited flight capacity. I get the feeling that visitor numbers to Thailand are going to increase at a steady rate as airlines resume flying to Bangkok. This isn’t such a bad thing when we consider that many bars have major staffing issues. No doubt the bars would love to see even more customers, but the reality is that a gentle increase in numbers over the coming months should be at levels they can accommodate.

*Everyone* agrees (it’s not often you can say that in the bar industry) that bar trade is improving consistently month after month – and that’s saying something because September is typically one of the two quietest months of the year (along with May). You know things are really getting back to normal when a friend tells you that the white female tourists are back on Soi Cowboy in droves. Naughty boys had a period to enjoy the bars with few mainstream visitors about, but that window has closed as Cowboy is once again a melting pot of different types of visitors from all around the world. Naughty boys are the dominant group, but now you’re sharing the soi with couples / families / stoners / the odd tour group – all creeds of mainstream visitors with no interest in partaking but still very keen to check out the Bangkok nightlife and see what all the fuss is about.

 

soi-cowboy-thursday-night2

Soi Cowboy, this past week. Despite the rains, the crowds were out and the vibe was good.

 

The landscape following decriminalisation of cannabis in Thailand is taking shape. Weed / marijuana / ganja / cannabis / pot (I really don’t know the best way to refer to it) is widely available on the streets of downtown Bangkok and, it seems, most far-flung corners of the Kingdom. As has been reported in recent columns, it can be found for sale in the bar areas and its use in and around the bars – while strictly speaking not legal – is becoming increasingly widespread. What do the bar owners make of it? Feedback I have received from bar operators themselves has been mixed and spanned the full spectrum from it’s fantastic to it’s a nightmare. Word from the owner of one bar which has been frequently mentioned in this column over the years (who does not sell ganja from his bar nor allow the consumption of weed on the premises of his bar) is that the availability of weed has opened the floodgates – and he means that in a positive way. When he says “floodgates”, he means in terms of overall visitor numbers. The reality, he explains, is that those with businesses in the nightlife areas are seeing an uptake in visitor numbers – naughty boys and mainstream visitors – and he attributes this partially to the wide availability of weed. Weed sellers and dispensaries in and around the nightlife areas may or may not be a draw for naughty boys, but they most certainly are a draw for many mainstream visitors. 20 minutes in a hot and steamy tryst with a Thai beauty may have zero appeal to them, but enjoying weed amongst the lights, crowds and excitement of a bar area does. This bar boss says the decriminalisation of cannabis is, indirectly, going to be a winner for the bar industry. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, but it’s interesting to hear the perspective of someone in the industry.

At the same time, “Marijuana Smoking Prohibited” signs are going up on bar doors across Nana Plaza, in a move that shows that some bar owners aren’t in favour of it and some are well aware that there are punters who on smelling that familiar sickly sweet smell will call for the checkbin and head for the door. One bar owner has said he would love to see his bar area become a “cannabis-free zone” so there are some who are strongly against it.

 

Angelwitch taking a stand against weed smoking in the bars.

Angelwitch prohibits weed smoking in the bar.

 

And then there are the pragmatic bar owners. At least one – who I cannot name – has ordered staff to usher stoners to a back corner of the bar away from other customers. This is the way I imagine it will be handled in many venues: signage will state that weed consumption is not allowed while at the same time, the bar does not want to lose customers and will do what they can to accommodate those who wish to enjoy marijuana in the bar. I used to say it’s hard for a bar manager to keep the 3 key groups of people happy – the venue’s owners, its staff, and its customers. Now it seems it’s hard just to keep all the customers happy, let alone the others!

Some are literally betting their farms on Thailand becoming a grassy plain from sea to shining sea. It’s worth noting that Parliament is still debating laws to control decriminalised weed. And the Medical Council of Thailand again this week demanded that lawmakers come down hard and fast on unregulated sales and recreational use of marijuana, with cannabis only sold with a prescription.

The whole cannabis thing is a big talking point. This past week I received a handful of emails and a Line message from people who make their living in the bar industry about how the distinctive smell of marijuana is becoming more and more common around the bars in Sukhumvit. One trusted friend who is not in the industry said, “This country is gonna be full of stoners in no time.”

 

New bar coming to Pattaya's soi 6.

New bar coming to Pattaya’s soi 6.

 

Down in Pattaya, a new operator has joined the fray on soi 6. Hollywood’s grand opening party is Thursday after next, September 22. There’s free food from 6 PM with the usual spit-roasted pig, chicken and more. I am told that much money has been put in to the bar and it will stand out from the crowd. Hollywood is located about 50 metres down soi 6 on the left-hand side, if you are coming from Second Road. They open at 2:00 PM, have large-screen TVs, a nice pool table and most importantly for a soi 6 bar, the upstairs rooms have been refurbished to a high standard. The guys behind it are new to the industry. I am not sure I would have the balls to enter the industry at this juncture but full marks to them for taking the plunge.

Walking Street is now, officially, fully repaved, after months of looking like a bomb site. City officials said the project is only 90% done. The last 10% will see Pattaya-based artists paint the large swathes of pale-coloured tiles with their designs to be covered in protective varnish. The artwork will be laid down slowly over the next 3 months.

Inside Royal Garden, another sign of the changing times in Pattaya is playing out on at the weekend. The mall – which has struggled ever since the opening of Central Pattaya more than a decade ago – is now staging ladyboy cabaret shows. Interesting way to try and lure customers inside.

 

Inside Royal Garden, Pattaya.

Inside Royal Garden, Pattaya.

 

A friend was chatting to a lady in one of the more popular Bangkok gogo bars. Said lady has worked there for 3 months. She claimed that in each of those 3 months she has become the star of the bar and its top earner, with more drinks and barfines than anyone else. The night before said friend chatted with her she claimed to have had 16 “dinks” and 3 “dicks”. Translation: 16 lady drinks and she was barfined 3 times. She earns a 100-baht commission on every drink bought for her. Any guy who takes her must pay her flat fee of 3,000 baht. She says that she works every night and takes just 1 or 2 days off a month. Everything else is totally believable – except the bit about working 28 or 29 nights per month – but who knows? So, the previous night she earned:

  • 1,600 baht on drinks
  • 9,000 baht from bonking guys
  • 300 in barfine commissions.

TOTAL: 10,900 baht, for one night’s work.

Say claims that this is typical for a night and that she averages around 10,000 a night (which seems a lot). Over 28 days, that would be 280,000 baht per month! Let’s not forget that this does not include her base salary, which isn’t known. At a conservative 10,000 baht, that pushes her close to 300,000 baht per month. Let’s say that she has some quiet nights with fewer customers and a few nights off and cut her estimated earnings in half. That’s still a more than respectable 150,000 odd baht a month. Good money, eh?!

 

Signage at Hillary 3, same as Morning Night (which should be no surprise as it's the same group / owner).

Signage at Hillary 3, same as Morning Night (which should be no surprise as it’s the same group / owner).

 

That sign that was previously reported as being posted in Morning Night can now be confirmed as a fixture in all of the Hillary Group’s bars.

Dentists and dental services have long been a bargain in Thailand compared to the high prices many of us are used to back home. If you’re looking for a dentist but don’t know where to go, a friend recommends the brand-new Dental Unit at Rama 9 Hospital. It’s an entire new facility and is more reasonably priced than some of the better-known dental hospitals popular with foreigners.

And on the subject of medical services, there is still the odd country where you need to show proof of a negative Covid PCR test before you fly, one such place being Hong Kong. If you require a PCR test, MedConsult in Sukhumvit soi 49 would be a good choice. Run by British doctor Dr. Donna, they’re geared up to deal with foreigners – although in fairness, so are pretty much all private hospitals. Their rates are very reasonable. A PCR test at MedConsult will set you back 1,500 baht whereas the same test at top-rated private hospital Bumrungrad currently runs 4,700 baht.

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

Thailand-Related News Article Links

Reader’s story of the week is an update from the Philippines’ foreigner-centric naughty nightlife area, “Angeles City Revisited Part 1“, by Bangkok Byron.

Pattaya experienced torrential rain in this crystal-clear video that features Soi Diana, Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao.

A Thai woman walks along Walking Street, pointing out what is open and what is not.

A mainstream TV news network takes a look inside a Bangkok cannabis cafe.

A Thai woman in New Zealand on a student visa says she became a sex worker to pay for her grandmother’s funeral.

An Indian man agrees to compensate a Thai woman 200,000 baht for inappropriately touching her on Walking Street, in what sounds rather like a shakedown.

 

Meet them at Erotica, Nana Plaza.

Meet them at Erotica, Nana Plaza.

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Cannabis vendors are springing up all over and the smell of marijuana wafting around Sukhumvit suggests business is booming. This alone is a massive change in a very short space of time. It’s not my thing, but for those of you who enjoy it, fill your boots. And now the jungle drums are beating louder with rumours that a casino won’t be far away. Conventional thought has always been that Pattaya would be the most suitable spot. And if a casino is allowed to be built, maybe it will be in Sin City. But word from those who know is…….don’t rule out Sukhumvit Road. Boy oh boy, Thailand is really changing!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com