When I resumed writing this column in February, I really didn’t know how things would go. I had concerns about the state of the bar industry. Reports from friends on the ground back then weren’t great. I put on a brave, optimistic face while deep down I just didn’t know how things would go. Would the industry bounce back to what it was? Would it be a rocky road? Or would it all fall over?
I think we can now say that the bar industry is well and truly back. Nana Plaza was first to make a strong comeback, and now Soi Cowboy is also humming. Elsewhere, new venues are opening up all over, with soi 11 seeing a hive of activity. Patpong and Sukhumvit soi 7 could certainly do with more visitors and more venues but overall, the trend is very much on the up.
When the bar industry is buzzing this column is a lot of fun to put together. I enjoyed doing this week’s column so much so that I lost track of time and didn’t make my usual Sunday cooked breakfast, something I look forward to. I was so enjoying the final edit that I completely forgot about food.
There’s heaps of news, views and gossip from Bangkok and Pattaya this week. There’s lots going on around the traps and a lot of very positive reports from all over. I hope you enjoy this week’s edition.
Last week’s photo was taken at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem near the Hualumpong Railway Station. Just one reader got it right. With this week’s photo, I’ll give you a clue: If you haven’t been in Bangkok recently, it’s unlikely you’ll know it.
Stick’s Inbox, The Best Emails From The Past Week
Gentlemen in Pattaya.
Indians are mentioned almost every week in your column. As you know, there are many Indians in Pattaya right now. I know you’ve been to India and enjoyed it, and called the Indians true gentlemen. Now I have no doubts that’s what you experienced, but this lot hanging around in Pattaya can by no means be called “gentlemen”. They have no manners at all! I experience it every day. Here’s an example. They hunt in packs. They hang around in front of 7 Eleven, blocking the whole footpath. If you want to pass by them you have the wall of the shophouse on one side, and parked vehicles on the other, so you have just one option – the footpath. If a group of Indians is loitering there and they see you coming, don’t expect them to make way for you. They don’t. I’ve experienced this many times, so I have got used to wrestling myself through, and I can’t be bothered to be polite anymore because it simply doesn’t work. So if you get an email from an Indian complaining about farangs without any manners, I am guilty!
Seeing no growth in Indians.
I’ll add my tuppence worth on the discussion about Indian tourists. I saw plenty about in Bangkok but very few in the bars and certainly never noticed any buying lady drinks or paying a barfine. For all the talk of them replacing Westerners in the naughty bars, I just don’t see it in the near future. Whilst I know there are plenty of wealthy Indians, they’re not the ones strolling around Sukhumvit. And I very much doubt many of them have the means or the inclination to pay the sort of prices that most girls are asking these days. I know you think girls are talking shit when they say they don’t go with Indians, but I think at this time, in most cases, it’s true. Most Indians working in India just won’t pay that sort of money. There’s a reason that middle-class Indians in graduate jobs emigrate to the UK and USA despite the high cost of living in those countries.
Positive experiences with Indians.
A reader wrote that Indians and Westerners don’t really mix. I think that is an individual thing. Where I grew up in the east end of London in the ’60s I had an Indian friend I called ‘Turbie’ or ‘Turban Top’ who I went on holiday with to Sweden and Finland (and the moment we set sail the turban came off and he let his hair down to his waist), an Indian boss who invited me to her house for dinner, and I even shared a house with an Indian family, renting the upstairs. And many of the Indian girls were stunning, although back then their parents were first generation in the UK and rarely approved of their daughters mixing outside of their own culture.
Better to get a quarter off of six people than a dollar off one.
I echo the sentiments of the guy welcoming the 2-week millionaire to take some of the flies away. Funny how some readers respond to low-end customers. I remember the Germans way back. I had a German guy tell me that low-end Germans who had menial labour jobs made Thailand their holiday destination because it was cheap. Then the low-end Russians took over. Obviously, Thailand still has some bugs to work out to only get the high-enders. That said, I am still a firm believer that it’s better to get a quarter off six people than a dollar off one.
Early evening barfines, a simple solution.
If bars are complaining about losing many of their ‘public relation officers’ early to eager renters, why not stipulate that no-one can be bar-fined until, say, 10 PM or later. If a customer is keen on a girl then he’ll possibly stay in the bar with her spending money until the clock strikes.
A fashion item several bridges too far.
As far as I am concerned, tattoos are very much a turnoff. Then there are piercings, I find them disgusting. And then there are braces as a “fashion” item. Makes me ill! A few years ago I was at a place in Chonburi recommended by a friend. A nice house in a tidy neighbourhood turned in to a club of sorts. Not cheap, but I was not on a budget anyway. Good mood. A stunning lass caught my attention, until she smiled. Braces. I think tattoos are bad enough, piercings worse, and braces as a fashion item are several bridges too far.
What’s a barfine?
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about 4-figure barfines. That word must be one of the biggest misnomer descriptions in Thailand. I remember when I first arrived in Thailand in May, 2001, I found myself in Nana Plaza. Being a sheltered life country boy it was all a bit overwhelming at first. I remember walking only as far as the first bar on the left, ground floor. Bottoms Up. I sat quietly in a corner taking in the sights and sounds. I glanced up on the wall and saw a sign which read ‘Barfine 300 baht’. I didn’t understand the term and thought it must relate to something I might get fined for if I misbehaved in some way, touching a lightly clad dancer that sat beside me perhaps?
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The Sukhumvit soi 7 bar complex has been described as a bar complex of two personalities. Out front, it’s bright, colourful and passersby see open bars with girls waving, trying to entice them in for a drink. The interior of the bar complex is another story. The bars in the back / interior area have disappeared and it remains a construction zone. The general consensus seems to be that soi 7 has struggled since it reopened and has yet to bounce back and relive the popularity it enjoyed at the start of the year.
But soi 7 is about where the bad news starts and ends. From across Bangkok’s bar areas I have literally been flooded with positive news stories this week, with bar trade continuing to rise, new bars opening and old bars returning to the fold.
Uber popular Insanity in Sukhumvit soi 11 is open again! There’s a minor change and it’s no longer known as Insanity. Going forward, Insanity is now V8. It’s Insanity at heart, just not in name. Fans of the old Insanity can enjoy it again. Insanity was hugely popular pre-Covid. V8, as its now known, will open initially on Fridays and Saturdays.
Also on Sukhumvit soi 11, Lusty Lady Bar opened on Friday night near the top of the soi, sort of in behind Oskar. That name sounds like it would be fitting for a Pattaya beer bar but Lusty Lady Bar has been described by one reader as a stunning looking bar and the big launch party was said to be a great success. With Levels having reopened not that long ago, Insanity back in the form of V8 and now Lusty Lady Bar – along with the many other nightspots and eateries dotted up and down the soi – expect soi 11 to be pumping again late in to the night.
If you find yourself in Nana Plaza and at a loss of which bar to stop by, old favourite Spanky’s continues to do well. Spanky’s has always had a fun vibe. The owner who I have always thought of as a little zany has an infectious energy and really cares for the girls – and this is not lost on them. And Spanky’s has a fantastic bar manager who keeps the show rocking all night long. Captain Hornbag is the guy I have long considered the very best in the business. While many bar managers are popular with the punters, the truth is that many get almost zero respect from the girls. This is where Captain Hornbag stands out. The girls respect him and respond to him. So rather than be influenced by mamasans who make out they’re helping the girls but are so often in the game for themselves, Spanky’s has a manager who keeps the show going with everyone’s best interests in mind. Happy staff and happy dancers makes for very happy punters.
Blondie on Nana Plaza’s ground floor is adding high tables and chairs to the outside bar. When the bar was remodelled, they jacked up the outside of the bar by about 60 cm, so customers have an elevated view looking out over the other beer bars in the plaza. Who doesn’t love sitting outside, people watching?
Just around the corner from Nana Plaza, Mary Jane Dispensary opened on Friday, at what was the old Boss shop. It is the newest vendor of cannabis products and boasts the best quality product in the area.
In a major change in policy, street vendors from the Nana intersection all the way down to Sukhumvit Soi 17 have been asked to leave the area. The Bangkok Governor and the Health Department are cleaning shop. Sukhumvit Road is one of the main boulevards of Bangkok and the heart of the city’s foreigner-centric nightlife and entertainment areas and they want the street clean. That area is so busy and the vendors take up so much space that it’s amazing they have been able to trade for as long as they have. And those vendors selling porn movies and sex toys in full view lower the tone of the area. I’m no prude – but there’s a place for that sort of thing, but it’s not right on the side of one of the city’s major roads!
At Soi Cowboy, Shark bar is expected to reopen this coming week. Just which day isn’t confirmed but by the time the next column comes around, the nights will be back on at Shark and with a bit of luck, they’ll have a full crew on the dance stage.
For some punters, the outside bars at Soi Cowboy are becoming a less appealing place to sit and watch the world go by as the sickly sweet smell of marijuana is said to be absolutely everywhere. It permeates the Soi 23 / Crazy House half of the street, in particular, even wafting onto the patio of Oasis. It’s bad news for bars that make a chunk of their money from the outdoor tables.
A week after it was reported that a lighted Crazy House sign was placed on a traffic barrier on the Soi 23 side of Soi Cowboy, said sign was removed and affixed at the corner of Kazy Kozy, owned by the same people. Presumably police made them move the sign. Or maybe not. A week after it was moved, it was back on the barrier again!
With every passing week, the “old crew” at Crazy House continues to return to work. August saw the return of a very popular veteran known as much for her Farrah Fawcett mane of hair as her bolt-on boobs. And this week saw the return of two other popular ladies, one of whom spent the past 89 days in Norway. Why 89? Her visa expired on day 90! Like the most popular Crazy girls, they dance fully nude and, like so many Thai women, look much younger than they actually are. It turns out Farrah and Miss Norway are 37 and 39, respectively! Miss Norway lamented this week that, after being away for 3 months, she returned to find many new girls working, all much younger than her.
From a Bangkok gogo bar boss who will remain nameless comes a report from “The Indian Files”. He tells me that there are more Indians than ever, and commented that there is always something amusing going on with them. Some sneak in to the bar, head to the toilet and try hard to make deals with the girls. Outside the bar some try to make deals with the door girls about ordering less than 1 drink per guy in their party. He has a healthy view on it all, says it is what it is and takes it in his stride.
The girls are slowly trickling back in to the bars from upcountry as word spreads of bars offering silly money as they become desperate to shore up staff numbers. Some bars are paying up to 1,000 baht a night to girls. And if you thought lady drinks were getting pricier, you’d be right with some gogo bars so desperate to get more girls that they are offering 100 baht per drink commission on lady drinks. Paying this sort of money to the ladies will eat in to bar profits.
This week a reader mentioned that while the Thai government had explained that one of the reasons for decriminalising the cannabis industry was that there would be tax revenue to be earned from the sales of cannabis, said reader mentioned that he found the whole tax thing in Thailand to be a bit of a joke. It certainly seems that way, but for established businesses with a store front, you might be surprised at just how diligent the tax authorities are in Thailand. Many, many years ago I dated a lady who worked at the tax department and she would often describe the lengths they would go to make sure businesses were in the system. That’s not to say that every baht was declared and every baht of tax paid correctly, but few businesses paid nothing. While you might not receive a receipt when you buy your weed – or whatever you buy, from wherever – vendors are paying, how shall we say, *something* to *someone*!
Away from the chrome poles, two bars hammering away on new locations are nearing their open, one of them likely before the next Stickman column comes out. Buddy’s Bar & Grill on Sukhumvit Road at Soi 8 is basically finished, but now needs to stock up on staff and supplies before opening. No date has been announced, but it could be at any day. When it is, it will be announced on Buddy’s social media:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuddysBar8/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BuddysBarBKK
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/buddysbarbangkok/
- Website: https://buddybarbangkok.com/
About a week behind is The Old English Pub which, despite the construction zone seen in the photo below, announced it will (soft) open on September 17. The bar is taking shape, with the draught system moved from the old location this week, new tables & chairs delivered, lighting installed and the doors hung. You can watch The NEW Old English come to life by following their LINE account.
From down Pattaya way, a long-time favourite bar for many of us, Secrets in Pattaya, is back. Well, sort of back. Long before the pandemic, the original owner got out and headed to Cambodia where he opened a new Secrets. The original Secrets would became a branch of the chain of motorbike-themed bars, Scooters. I am not sure that it ever really gained traction and at some point it sort of just fizzled out. This past week, the space that many of us will always think of as the old Secrets bar, reopened as The Keys. It’s under the control of an Indian fellow. The venue was acquired some weeks back and opened this past Wednesday. There was little promotion and most of the Pattaya bar crowd didn’t know a thing about it. This new venue opened 16 years to the day that the original Secrets threw a huge opening party, on September 1, 2006, an event that was hyped massively and kicked off a glorious period for what would quickly become a truly great bar. While we wish the new owners well, Secrets was always in a poor location, sufficiently far off the main Walking Street and out of sight that it really needed a lot of hype to gain traction. Whether The Keys can generate that same hype and whether there are enough punters around to make a new bar located in an awkward location work, time will tell. I wish them luck.
Up in Soi Diamond, has the international hotel chain branched out in to a new line of business with Hilton Club? Almost certainly not, Hilton Club is another new gogo bar to open up.
Still in Pattaya, Club Electric Blue reopened last night. It’s located upstairs from Dollhouse, on Soi 15 off Walking Street.
There has been much talk about the explosion of marijuana across Bangkok, and now Pattaya is getting in on the act. In fact, Pattaya – as a straight-up international tourist city with, let’s be frank, a rather shady population – would seem like the natural place to become the Highest Place in Thailand. Dispensaries – as seems to be the preferred term to describe them – are popping up everywhere, and not just on deserted alleys between closed businesses, but right out in the open. A big-name coffee shack right in front of Royal Garden Plaza, on the Beach Road side, has given way to Ganja Station, with brilliantly large and beautiful signage. And just as on Soi Cowboy, the smell of weed on Walking Street is as common as the ladyboys lurking in the shadows.
A recent column mentioned that, down in Pattaya, Alcazar and Tiffany’s were still closed. It can be confirmed that since then Alcazar has re-opened. Tiffany’s remains closed. I went to one of those ladyboy cabarets once and I have to admit that I rather enjoyed it. That would be 20 years ago and I really must go along for another look and a laugh. I know some readers would probably be horrified at that but hey, it’s cheesy entertainment, a bit of a laugh and nothing more than that. Take a Thai lady along with you – I guarantee she will be in hysterics for most of the show.
4-figure barfines were mentioned by a reader in this week’s emails. Such large numbers are increasingly common at some of the bigger Walking Street gogo bars, especially early evening. In some Walking Street gogo bars, some ladies, at certain times of the night, can command a barfine of up to 3,000 baht! I have always felt that a 1,000 baht barfine was a bit like 200 baht standard drinks or lady drinks – it crosses that psychological level at which some people may baulk at the price. Thailand was always about good value for money – and it still is, but not across the board. What I have always found odd is that it’s the gogo bars of Pattaya which have the high barfine rates and not Bangkok. I think it’s generally accepted that Bangkok expats tend to, on average, have a bit more folding stuff than Pattaya expats, and Pattaya has tended to attract more of a Cheap Charlie crowd. So why is it Pattaya where barfines are so steep, and not Bangkok?
To the reader whose email I included in last week’s column asking for a photo of ladies with no tats, your wish is my command. Check out the two ladies in the photo below.
Pattaya’s largest two tourist nationalities this year have been Malaysians (1) and Indians (2). Malaysians tend to go rather un-noticed, but the droves of Indians are hard to miss. Pattaya now has several big Indian-centric nightclubs but the newest, Jaannatt, near Peppermint at the south end, is delighting all tourists, no matter their nationality, with live drum performances. Even if your experience with Indian dance music doesn’t go beyond Thai star Tata Young’s “Dhoom Dhoom”, it’s worth checking it out.
The other big demographic in Pattaya these days is South Koreans who have replaced the ultra-nervous Japanese travellers as the dominant group from North Asia. Walking Street bars are now looking to do their social media in not only English, but Korean.
Pattaya’s tourist resurgence continues to gain speed with Walking Street seeing a gogo bar thought to be done and dusted suddenly brought back to life: Peppermint. One of the oldest brands on the nightlife strip – along with Living Dolls two doors down – Peppermint previously was part of the Happy / Beach Club / Baccara group. Happy, like Peppermint, didn’t survive the death of the group’s managing partner, George. While Baccara is still going, Peppermint was sold off to a group of – you guessed it –South Koreans, who are making their first foray into the gogo game.
The bar – still a pale shadow of when it was upstairs from the Marine Disco – has been completely redone, with all new, white-upholstered seating, two pink LED-rimmed step-up podiums each holding about 8 dancers and flashy club lighting. Peppermint also has its old Happy Hour running until 9:30 PM with 95 baht deals on both draft beer and standard drinks. Fans of the old Peppermint will see some familiar faces among the service staff.
When it comes to quality, two Walking Street bars are running away from the pack: Fahrenheit and Pin-Up. Last weekend saw the now long-and-narrow Pin-Up packed with 120 girls in the house. Fahrenheit isn’t far behind, with a girl for every taste bud, many of them as good fun as they are good-looking.
Step away from Fahrenheit and Pin-Up, however, and it seems that Pattaya has cornered the market on average-looking ladies. Dolls, at the north end of Walking Street, is a perfect example. None but one of the 20-or-so ladies on stage over the weekend could be called chubby. At the same time, none of them will be walking catwalks in their spare time either. Such is the case in bar after bar. It’s Plain Jane A Gogo pretty much everywhere.
It’s always been the case that Bangkok girls were considered better looking than their Pattaya cousins, but the difference between the two cities has never been more stark. Even two long-time mamasans in Pattaya bars this week commented on how many more beauties per capita Bangkok gogo bars have these days.
And, if recent blogs and comments made online are to be believed, there is no place in Bangkok with more babes per square metre than Billboard. One punter recently wrote he counted 20 “10s” among the 40 women he saw on the carousel on a recent visit. And, next Saturday, September 10, you will be able to see the hottest of the hot competing in the first-ever Billboard Babe Of The Year competition. And don’t think the ladies aren’t up for it. Aey, a 28-year-old knockout wearing badge number 801, announced this week she planned to do anything to win the crown. And she wasn’t joking or laughing when she said it! Why are the girls so serious about winning? 1st Place – ฿25,000! 2nd Place – ฿10,000. 3rd Place – ฿5,000.
It’s not hype when I say that the Billboard 7th Anniversary Party next Saturday is going to be an epic event. Billboard never reserves tables or blocks off seats in advance. But, due to demand, all the centre tables already have been sold out, with customers required to buy a minimum two bottles to reserve their spot. How much is a bottle? Billboard’s drink, bottle and champagne menus are on its website: https://billboardbangkok.com/menu/.
At the opposite end of the price spectrum, Whiskey & Go-Go and the new Tycoon a-Go-Go & Lounge are both doing Buy 1-Get 1 Free drinks Sundays through Thursdays throughout September. And, on Fridays and Saturdays, Tiger bottles are just 99 baht. The Buy 1-Get 1 Free deal is on local beers (excluding Heineken) and standard drinks.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Quote of the week is from a Bangkok-based reader, “I’ve never known jealousy like that which exists between some of the less well-off retirees in Thailand.”
A Thai woman trapped in her own toilet for 3 days wrote her will on the wall with lipstick.
Food vendors attack a foreign tourist in Pattaya who ate and then tried to do a runner.
A snake encounter is reported every 15 minutes in Bangkok.
Don Meuang Airport now has a 350-baht per ride bus service from the airport to Pattaya.
This week has seen a steady stream of very positive reports from the bar areas. New bars opening. Old bars reopening. Busy weekend nights and steady crowds during the week, even when heavy rain was falling. The nightlife industry is well and truly back on track. Ignore the few dissenters saying it might be best to wait a bit longer before returning to Bangkok. Pretty much everyone I know and trust is positively screaming at me, “The time to get back to Bangkok is now!” Well done to the bar industry in Bangkok, you’ve survived Covid!
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com