Stickman Weekly, October 16, 2022
Last week’s photo was taken of the shrine on Ploenchit Road between Amarin Plaza and the Maneeya Centre Building. Only a few of you got it right. Despite being in downtown Bangkok and very close to Soi Nana, this week’s photo is rather challenging. I imagine those who get it right will be readers who have resided in Bangkok for a while. This may be very central Bangkok, but at the same time it is not an area most tourists would venture to. Prove me wrong and show me how clever you are!
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Bangkok bars experiencing a renaissance.
I’ve been getting out a bit more, like the rest of Bangkok. My overall impression is that many bars in Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are as good as, and in some cases even better, than before Covid. Long-timers forget that the death-knell was sounded years before Covid came along. I can’t recall the bars being as vibrant in the last decade. That said, I’m no nite owl and my habits are limited to quick early-evening forays before heading home by 9 or 10 PM. Perhaps Covid was just the tonic, which sounds bizarre. Or maybe this is a short-lived ‘deep inhale’ before the long-term economics kick back in and it becomes the usual game of survival of the fittest. Well, it is good to see it back again, even if it is just for a short time.
Marijuana shops, a fad or something more permanent?
You’ve highlighted the proliferation of places that are selling marijuana since it was legalised, but how many will still be selling in 6 months from now? The Thai way is that everyone jumps on the bandwagon and then many of the businesses fail because sales are spread too thin. You see it all the time along the highways, with a dozen stalls within a kilometre all selling exactly the same stuff. It happened in my area too with sugar cane. Everyone grew it but the price plummeted because of over-supply. Exactly the same thing happened with growing rubber trees. Thais have absolutely no idea about business methods, supply and demand and so on. They just follow what others do, like sheep, and then get burned.
Is non-cash payments really progress?
Since we have been back in Thailand, I notice many Thais now pay for their groceries etc via their mobile phones. This appears to be a very slow method of payment and tedious as a cash paying customer standing in line behind one or two customers paying either by a QR code at the till or juggling a banking app. It does not look like progress to me! Around Pattaya and Korat, I have not really seen any sign of cash going past its sell by date. It’s still accepted everywhere.
The convenience of paying with an app.
Regarding your comments about app payments, it’s already here. Myself and many friends don’t like to carry much cash on us but nowadays everywhere you go it seems people are fine with that. Gogo bars, beer bars and restaurants in Pattaya often have plenty of QR codes around for you to send transfers to (within the Thai banking system), and honestly I have girls now asking to be paid by transfer instead of in cash. Cash means when they want to buy something they have to go physically do it. Transfers mean they can order food, pay their rent, send money home, all without ever leaving their bed. To boot, for the small purchases girls make like motorbike taxis or food vendors, they can pay with the exact amount when they have money in their account, instead of asking someone to break a 1,000 baht note for a 60 baht purchase. The day of app payments is already here and I think they will become more and more common as time goes on.
Mask-wearing in Bangkok.
I am one of the farang on the BTS system wearing a mask. I would say it’s a 50 : 50 ratio of farangs wearing a mask on the BTS and farangs not wearing a mask on the BTS. Currently a smooth English announcement frequently played in transit reminds passengers that although the mask wearing mandate has been relaxed, BTS advises all passengers to wear a mask. I do sense and have been told by Thai friends that non-mask-wearing farang are not appreciated! Typical farang kee-nok behaviour is a comment I have heard many times. So are you hi-$0 or lo-so? <I have heard from others that they get funny looks from Thais for not wearing a mask. This remains one of the reasons why I have not returned to Thailand yet. I have ZERO interest in wearing a mask. To me, it’s just a fun killer, not just for me having to wear it, but walking around seeing others with a mask covering their face. I find it very “dehumanising”. I accept that I am in a minority and many disagree with me. Fine, if they choose to wear a mask that’s their choice. I just hope they’re doing so because they genuinely want to and not because they feel pressured in to doing something which makes little sense to me – Stick>
Most people have to learn the hard way.
I thought every scam has been done to death and because of the internet, no-one could be that stupid to be taken advantage of. On the contrary, it will never end, marrying a young innocent poor Issan girl and living a life of bliss is so ingrained in the male fantasy that the circle of stupidity will never, ever end. Today In Udon Thani, I met two people from Tennessee. To your international audience, that’s southern USA. A 53-year-old guy and a travelling buddy, female. They came to visit his internet friend of over 3 years. It was the first time they met. He has been supportive of her before Covid. She’s lovely, a showgirl from Pattaya, tats on her back and arms, 26 years of age, no children. Prior to meeting her, I thought a shemale, but after meeting her, a beautiful girl. He’s already spent thousands to get her a tourist visa. It didn’t happen, so he’s trying again. It’s not going to happen. I learnt a long time ago that giving advice to someone is useless. Most people have to learn the hard way.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The chicken-and-egg theory of the gogo bar business – you can’t get girls without customers, and you can’t get customers without girls – has a corollary: Once you get girls, more customers bring even more girls. That was very much the case last weekend as Billboard smashed its own records, putting more than 100 women on both stages and filling the place to the rafters. One friend got literally the last seat in the place and likened it to getting seat 75J on a 747 – middle seat, last row, by the toilets. Billboard’s owner quipped he was lucky to get that one and marveled that never in Billboard’s 7 years has he seen guys standing, drinks in hand, along the back wall behind the Jacuzzi. It sounds like the good old days when I would make a beeline for Pretty Lady in the late ’90s. You had to get there before 9 PM otherwise you’d be standing!
Other bars with good numbers of ladies on stage this past week included Mandarin, Spanky’s and Butterflies. But not every bar is rocking. Those that have failed to attract ladies are, not surprisingly, struggling.
Trade wasn’t helped in the plaza mid-week when a large troop of police visited some bars. When they entered a bar they insisted that the music be turned off and all the lights turned on. When more than a dozen coppers enter a bar like that, it’s a total buzzkill for customers and girls alike and as one reader said, that prompted some customers to call it an early night. He noticed that he was not the only one in the bar who settled his bill and headed for a taxi. The bar industry has been notorious for pushing things and police checks from time to time are not unexpected. But is there a better way to go about it? There’s no faster way to empty a bar of customers.
Down the road in Soi Cowboy, Dollhouse has been working hard to fill the bar with beauties. Many venues reopened following the long Covid-19 shut-down by taking on – let’s be frank here – just about any lady they could find. And any lady willing to dance in the buff was immediately signed up, regardless of her looks or body shape. The popular manager of Dollhouse, Dino, has been working hard on the bar’s line-up, replacing porkers with pretties. This week, the Dollhouse crew was described as probably the best since the bar reopened.
While the bars have picked up and all trends look positive, the general consensus is that freelancer venues have not bounced back to the same extent with old favourites like Biergarten and Thermae not even close to getting back to pre-Covid levels. Things are improving but there’s a long way to go. Have some of the old freelancer bar regulars moved on to other things? Or have they perhaps moved to online platforms?
This coming Friday, October 21st, Buddy’s Bar & Grill will celebrate 6 years at its location in Phra Khanong, on Sukhumvit Road at Soi 89. This is the only Buddy’s location in the ‘burbs and has proved popular with locals in the general On Nut and Phra Khanong area. It’s a rather different crowd to what you find in the expat enclaves of Sukhumvit and Silom. To appropriate a pop-culture idiom, Buddy’s 89 is “the place where everybody knows your name”. There will be a buffet of Swedish smorgasbord and American barbecue at the ridiculously low price of just 150 baht. The fun starts at 7:30 PM. More info can be found on the brand-new Buddy’s Soi 89 Facebook page.
There’s been a lot of comment in recent editions about the proliferation of marijuana shops, weed trucks and the consumption of the wicked weed in and around bars and entertainment spots on Sukhumvit. Some say that weed sellers are popping up everywhere and there’s not a corner of the Kingdom where you won’t find them, as if downtown Bangkok and the main Sukhumvit drag is representative of the whole country. Not so fast, the other half tells me. Chatting with family in Bangkok about this – the family home is in the west of Bangkok, while others live out towards Suwannapoom Airport – they say there aren’t any weed shops in their immediate neighbourhoods. They’re aware that weed is available – and commented that online it’s a big thing – but the proliferation of weed shops that has been a feature on Sukhumvit and covered in this column is, they say, not representative of most Thai neighbourhoods. As the other half’s mother said, in Thai neighbourhoods where there are no foreigners, weed shops would generally not be welcome. If someone was to attempt to open one up in her soi, she insists the locals wouldn’t accept it and would drive them out!
Not often does this column feature reports from Ko Samui. While the island has much going for it, the bar scene down there hasn’t been much of a draw for most Stickman readers. A Bangkok-based acquaintance has been on Samui this past week and has not been impressed. He mentioned that the prices for lady drinks and barfines in the bars are “ridiculous” and that most bars are dead. In his words, You can’t charge 5-star prices and deliver a 2-star service. Samui may be a great place to relax and unwind, but if you’re looking for a vibrant bar scene, it simply doesn’t compare with other parts of the country.
Down in Pattaya, the standard price for the baht bus from the bus station to the beach is 50 baht. But don’t be surprised if the baht bus brigade try it on and ask for more. One reader reports that he was charged 100 baht on a jammed songtaew with a dozen or so others for the short journey from the bus station to the beach.
Still in Pattaya, the rains in Sin City have been every bit as disruptive to bar trade as in Bangkok. The photo above shows The Castle, Pattaya’s fetish house, where flooding has had a terrible effect on trade.
There was much talk through the worst of Covid of expats finding themselves in a dire financial situation and being forced to leave Thailand. How many left? What happened to them? Have they returned to Thailand? If they haven’t returned to Thailand, do they plan to? If you were one of those who left Thailand during Covid for whatever reason, I’d love to hear where your mind is at. Have you made it back to Thailand or are you staying put in Farangland? Or perhaps you’ve moved on to pastures new?
For wine-lovers, a new wine bar will open this coming Friday, October 21st. Grisbi Wine Bar and Restaurant is located in the Octo Building on Sukhumvit Soi 24 – which is closer to Rama 4 Road than Sukhumvit. There will be a grand opening party with free drinks and appetisers from 6 to 8 PM. More details below.
For many years I was frequently out and about taking photos around the bar scene. Note, I said around the bar scene. Shooting inside the bars just wasn’t possible in most places so I would feature a lot of photos taken outside the bars, of bar frontages and a lot of street-style photography. Around 10 or so years ago things started changing as bar owners and the girls generally became more open to the idea of being photographed. Some ladies actually wanted to be shot when, in some cases, they would not have been the photographer’s first choice – quite the opposite at times! Anyway, to get to the point, a friend on the ground tells me that photography inside the bars might be going full circle with a recent trend seeing many girls refuse to be photographed. In some bars the girls have banded together and essentially said no photos at all. What is behind this? I really don’t know.
With all the madness happening in Eastern Europe, can we expect to see hordes of Ukrainians and Russians fleeing to Thailand? Logic would say yes, but in reality it’s not all that likely. There are still only limited numbers of flights with many of the routes that used to connect Bangkok to the world not back up and running. The process of getting planes out of storage, hiring staff, training pilots means it’s a whole lot more difficult to resume flight routes than it was to cancel them. And if you can find seats on flights out of Europe, prices are sky-high. As such, I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of Russians (or Ukrainians) in Thailand this year – certainly nothing like the numbers that were floating around pre-Covid when there were many flights every day between Moscow and Bangkok, as well as charter flights from various places in Russia to Thailand.
There is a proportion of visitors to Thailand who are not just looking for a bargain, I think it’s fair to describe them as “cheap”. That’s no great surprise when you consider that many are attracted to Thailand because of the perceived low prices. Thailand used to be a real bargain, where most everything was cheap. From the time you arrived at the airport there was no need to look at the price of just about anything, be it taxis, food, nightlife, entertainment, tours etc – it felt like everything was inexpensive. And I’m not just talking the bargain basement type places. 5-star hotels and many of the upmarket eateries used to be very reasonably priced. Things are changing, prices are moving up – and it’s happening across the board. Every week I get email from someone commenting that Thailand is not the bargain it once was. There were some tremendous bargains earlier this year when the country reopened, especially when it came to accommodation. Prices are creeping up with inflation raging around the world. I have to confess that I am preparing myself for sticker shock when I get back. It’ll be more than 3 years and I bet prices for many things will have jumped. Of course, you can still live/ dine / party on a relatively small amount of money, if you so choose. That’s one of the great things about Bangkok – there is something for every budget. And the further you get from the heart of Bangkok, generally the cheaper things get.
The current exchange rates are fantastic for Americans visiting Thailand (who this week were getting around 38 baht for every dollar). On the other hand, Brits visiting Thailand have been screaming about pain from the pound. Earlier this week, Brits were getting just a bit over 40 baht to the pound. For expats in Thailand who are travelling back home and who might not have accounts / money kept in their homeland, the situation is reversed. For Brits living in Thailand, every pound they wish to buy will cost them just a bit over 40 baht – great deal. For Americans, however, each and every dollar will run around 38 baht. That’s not going to go down so well!
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Take a look inside Cambodia’s cyber crime gangs where many Thais play a big part.
International rankings for Thai universities have fallen in the past year.
Random Covid-19 tests await passengers arriving in from Singapore and Hong Kong.
There have been really mixed messages coming out of the bar industry the past couple of weeks. Some bars are booming. Plenty are bombing. Many venues have really struggled to get traction since reopening. This appears to particularly be the case in Pattaya where some bars are back to pre-Covid levels while many – perhaps most – appear to be treading water. The world’s a funny place at the moment with inflation high, great economic uncertainty and Mad Vlad doing crazy shit in Ukraine. It’s easy to be pessimistic but I can’t help but think that once we reach the other side there’s going to be huge opportunity for those who survive. While you don’t want to see people lose their jobs or owners lose their shirt, it’s all part of the business cycle. Interesting times.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com