Stickman's Weekly Column October 2nd, 2022

Stickman Weekly, October 2, 2022

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Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken on Sukhumvit soi 11, outside PDT Bar, looking cross the soi towards the Ambassador Hotel. This week’s photo is one that I have to admit I didn’t know – but I should have. It’s an area I used to know well as I lived a stone’s throw from there for many years – but it has changed massively, hence I didn’t recognise the location until I was told where it is.

 

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

 

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

Pattaya purring.

I was down in Pats for the weekend and it is indeed firing on all cylinders. TQ early in the evening at 18:00 had 30 girls working, and some were hot. Hot girls in the T? Yes, it’s true! The old, rough scrubbers have been moved on. The girls were quite drunk early and it was a party vibe unlike I have seen there in years. Add to that there is a happy hour now from 1 – 5 PM with drinks 50% off. So that’s a pleasant change.

Jomtien quiet.

I’ve just returned to my condo having taken a good walk this evening around Jomtien. It feels quiet in many places. The occasional bar or restaurant is doing ok but goodness me, there are many barely ticking over. The most depressing part is the realisation that many Thais still haven’t returned and Thai venues haven’t reopened or are severely reduced. Hopefully next month will see an increase in tourists and a returning workforce. In all bar one of my favourite restaurants or food establishments, the staff are all younger and completely new.

Is Pattaya busy or not?

An interesting column today concerning how busy some of the bars / clubs were this past week. Could it be that tourists are hitting up Thailand before the peak flight fares come towards Christmas? Although this would contradict a YouTube show today (NDTVi) where the bar owner said Pattaya was not currently busy. This after he mentioned last week that the Indian tourists there had seemingly fallen in numbers, leading him to wonder if such a market was seasonal.

A good deal at the gate of Nana.

I was surprised by a bloke standing outside Nana Plaza the other day who only wanted 100 baht for an umbrella. I reckon I’d have gone to 300 baht. He needs to Wikipedia “supply and demand”.

VietJet Air report.

I have recently booked 3 flights with VietJet and each flight was cancelled and had to be rebooked. About 3 or 4 weeks before the flight they apparently decide that there aren’t enough bookings on a flight, so they cancel the flight forcing you to change your flight plans. In each case my flight got kicked back by 4 – 5 hours to another later flight. Fortunately it did not totally disrupt my travel plans. What I learned from the experience (and others who have experienced the same situation with VietJet) is to not book a flight with them until 2 – 3 weeks before the flight is scheduled when they are less inclined to make more cancellations at such a late date. I’m currently waiting to book my daughter and her husband’s return flight in late October about a week before they are due to fly because I can’t count on VietJet keeping their flight schedule.

Why is the TV always turned on?

I also always laugh that in a Thai household the TV is nearly always on regardless of anyone watching. Why else would you own a TV?

Thailand, a life of learning.

One of the greatest blessings of Thailand was how much it taught me to relate to “the least amongst us” with charity (not Thais specifically, but those who are hard up, in one way or another). There are far more bargirls and criminals in Thailand than genuinely bad people. Understanding different ethics, different motives, and a range of life choices my circumstances never forced me to even consider, has been a continuing education. Too many westerners treat Thailand like there’s some customer service expectation to be lived up to. And as you said in your comments at the end of a reader’s submission, they often fail to see that how they see others, and how others treat them in turn, is a mirror.  Far too many people don’t realise that their attitude is as plain as day to others, even at a subconscious level. Thais are deeply social and pick up on cues quickly. Everyone knows when they’re being looked down on. And they will respond in kind…

 

 

Rio on Soi Cowboy reopened this past week.

Rio on Soi Cowboy reopened this past week.

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Last week’s reopening of Shark on Soi Cowboy was much anticipated but, around the same time, Rio just across the soi also reopened. That means that all of The Arab’s bars are now back in business, sans Kiss, which has closed forever and has been gutted. While all the neon fronting those bars brings much colour to Soi Cowboy, they remain no-go zones for those who know. 300-baht lady drinks, ladies who lead you on but don’t barfine and a historic reputation for poor customer service – and worse – await those who dare step inside. There should be a sign outside of all the Arab’s bars, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here“.

Reports that Shark in Soi Cowboy undertook extensive work to remediate the mould issue and rid the bar of its dreadful smell were welcomed by many, but reports that the remediation was successful may have been premature. Two people – one reader and one friend – each reported this week that the Shark experience still comes with a foul smell. It’s great that they managed to get the bar open, but here’s hoping they dig a little further and get on top of whatever is causing the foul stench once and for all. Or perhaps these two don’t recognise the all too familiar smell of weed?

 

There's still a foul odour in Shark.

There’s still a foul odour in Shark.

 

Still on Soi Cowboy, Suzi Wong has never been cheap. Prices seemed to return to reasonable levels after a change in management in 2019 and then the coronavirus pandemic. But Suzi has turned back to her old tricks, with lady drink prices pushed up to a staggering 260 baht. And many customer drinks now run more than 200 baht. The bar also has done away with its two-tier lady drink system. There used to be a small, cheaper drink and a larger glass / bottle or a better option for the girls than just beer, Tequila or Coke. Now all lady drinks are 260 baht. The days when Soi Cowboy was known as the cheaper option on Sukhumvit seem to be a thing of the past.

Up the road in Nana Plaza, Billboard has introduced bottle service and table reservations, moving Thailand’s best gogo bar another step closer to nightclub status. Many bars sell bottles, but Billboard has taken its VIP Club to another level, with a Line Official Account and stylishly dressed staff to take care of bottle service customers. Bottles can be ordered in advance via Line and groups can book tables for their party.

 

Billboard is going more upmarket.

Billboard on Nana Plaza’s top floor is going more upmarket.

 

There seems to be even more jealousy and envy in the bar industry these days which strangely enough seems to extend to those who are fans of one area and refuse to visit another. With the worst rainy season in many expats’ memory, heavy downpours can ruin a night out – and when the sky looks grey or the forecast is for rain, many decide to stay home. You don’t have to be a genius to see that one of the reasons Nana Plaza has done so well is that it’s the only covered bar area. The roof was said to have cost a couple of million USD when it was installed several years back – but I bet it’s more than paid for itself since then.

Things haven’t always been smooth sailing this year in the Sukhumvit soi 7 bar complex. Trade at the weekends can be ok but weekdays continue to be a bit quiet. Overall, it has been described as “slow steady”. On a positive note, a couple more bars are said to open (or is that reopen?) in the complex very soon.

The owner of Bangkok’s Demonia and Pattaya’s The Castle – both fetish bars – tells me that business has been steadily picking up. He also commented that there has been a noticeable change in the customers with seldom a night passing by when they don’t get at least one couple visiting. With this in mind, on October 8, these two venues will host a couples night. For all couples who visit, the lady pays half price entrance and all of her drinks are half price too. This is a great chance to drag your other half along and see if the fetish concept is for her!

 

Couples night in the fetish houses....dare your take your other half along?

Couples night in the fetish houses….dare you take your other half along?

 

At struggling Patpong, why isn’t there some sort of area-wide effort to promote the whole Patpong area? Perhaps that’s what is needed to get the masses back. Market the whole area as opposed to individual bars doing their own thing – not that many are making much effort. Bargoers who don’t get to Patpong often need a reason to make it to Silom – so you Patpong bars need to try a bit harder! And when punters do visit they will surely stop by at least a couple of bars in the area. But like I say, they need a reason / to be convinced to make it down to Silom in the first place. Patpong bars really ought to consider increasing their marketing budget and working together. (And to the cynics who might think this is some sort of effort by me to increase this site’s advertising revenue, think again. I don’t think we’re accepting any ads at this time.)

Another area which isn’t back to what it was is Khao San Road. It doesn’t get all that much coverage in this column and I guess amongst typical Stickman readers its appeal is limited. The consensus from a couple of friends who drop by KSR from time to time is that it’s slowly picking up.

I am told by a regular reader that the best ladyboy bar in town hands down is on Sukhumvit Soi 10. He says that the obscure location makes it ideal if you who fancy a naughty with a ladyman but don’t want your mates to see you!

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

There have been mixed reactions to the way Soi Cowboy is slowly changing, moving away from being a soi of, let’s be blunt, venues with hookers, to a more diverse entertainment area. Personally, I think it’s great that Soi Cowboy is becoming more diverse – but I say that with the proviso that so long as it remains predominately a gogo bar area. I like the idea of hanging out in a bar area and just watching the world go by, getting some food, keeping one eye on any rugby / cricket / soccer matches and the other eye on working girls and naughty boys doing their thing. Some say that if you want sport and food, that’s what the British pubs are for – and they provide that ambience perfectly well already. True, they do, but it’s a whole lot more fun being slap in the middle of a soi with lots of gogo bars where there’s so much more to see. It’s world-class people watching! I know the nightlife purists won’t be happy at the way Cowboy is inching away from being all hooker venues, but I think it’s great and I maintain that the likes of Oasis will boom in the future. They have got the format and in the case of Oasis, the location, absolutely spot on. And I hear they’ve got the execution right too. It can’t be long before more venues in that style open up on the soi. There is still the odd empty space.

The concept and the high pricing of barfines these days is flawed, particularly in bars which insist the lady must not just return to the bar after she has done the business, but that she must do so within 60 minutes, lest her salary be cut. Historically, the reason for levying a barfine was to compensate the bar for the loss of an employee’s services for the rest of the night. That makes perfect sense. But that’s hardly the situation these days where the lady is, in some cases at least, compelled to return to the bar quick-smart. A bar that loses an employee for an hour, often less, is taking the piss charging close to a thousand baht for her to leave the premises for an hour. If a lady is compelled to return to the bar, the barfine really should be much less. 250 or 300 baht for – let’s call it what it is – a one-hour barfine seems fair to me.

 

Meet her at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

Meet her at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

 

Speaking of barfines, this policy of insisting girls do the business quickly and rush back to the bar is very much a Bangkok thing. I have not heard about this happening in Pattaya. I don’t know how common long-time is in Pattaya these days but the impression one gets is that if it is long-time that you want, you’re much better off hunting for a lass to go long-time in Pattaya than you are in Bangkok. Liaisons with a Bangkok gogo dancer are transactional, a quick bit of fun rather than the once-popular illusion of a girlfriend for the night.

Speaking of Pattaya, I hear good things about Sugar Sugar on the corner of Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao. A few people have mentioned it with some claiming it has a good line-up of genuinely attractive ladies.

And while we’re talking about Sin City, a new bar is soon to open in Soi Chiayapoon with an interesting – or is that a crass – name, “Slutz”.

This week’s funny comes from Pattaya where the very best of Walking Street customer service is showcased by a long-running gogo bar which we shan’t name. An Indian gentleman inquired about taking his wife along to the bar and this is how that conversation went.

 

Which bar was it?

Which bar was it?

 

There was a lot of concern in Thailand this past week about Super Typhoon Noru which was on a collision course with The Land Of Smiles. After wreaking havoc in the Philippines and Vietnam, it ploughed into Northeast Thailand on Tuesday night, ironically at almost the same hour as Hurricane Ian hit Florida in the U.S., causing damage that left parts of southwest Florida looking like Phuket after the 2004 tsunami. Fortunately, Noru’s impact was much less and, by the time it hit Thailand, the typhoon had weakened in to a tropical storm.

Flooding was severe in the Northeast and Central. In Bangkok, barstool weathermen spent the night looking at the rain radar on their mobile phone, predicting if and when the rain would come. It finally hit – hard – about 9:30 PM, trapping everyone inside the bars they were in, or in the case of Nana Plaza, inside the complex. Guys resigned themselves to getting soaked to get home, but a funny thing happened on the way to the outdoor shower: The rain paused just before midnight. Looking at their weather apps, guys made a mad dash for the exit, seeing a massive stormfront stretching from North Bangkok to Ayuthaya coming their way. The rain break lasted about an hour, and the smart ones got home dry.

Once Noru passed, it seemed to leave a precipitation vacuum. The rest of the week was mostly dry and Friday didn’t see a drop of rain, much to the delight of bar owners. Thursday was payday for many, so Friday was a big night for bars everywhere. At Soi Cowboy, the music bars all were doing good trade while gogos like Crazy House, Suzi Wong and even Shark – still with relatively few ladies – all hummed along.

 

Buddy's Soi 8 branch opened yesterday.

Buddy’s Soi 8 branch opened yesterday.

 

Buddy’s Bar & Grill finally opened its Soi 8 location on Saturday after having to jump through new hoops the government has added to the restaurant licensing process. Located on Sukhumvit Road just a few doors from the mouth of soi 8, Buddy’s is open from 11 AM – 2 AM for now, with plans to open from 8 AM for breakfast once enough staff have been trained. Buddy’s doesn’t have happy hours or girls to be barfined. The formula is simple: American food favourites – burgers, gourmet hot dogs, Texas-style chili, along with Mexican food, pizza and Thai dishes – all at very affordable prices. There’s a full bar with prices lower than most pubs. Soi 8 will be part of the Sukhumvit Darts League, which is adding several new members in the coming new season.

Back down the road at Sukhumvit Soi 53/1 – at the Thong Lo BTS station – The Old English Pub is throwing its official Grand Reopening Party this coming Friday, October 7. There will be food and drink specials all night and, around 9 PM, a lucky draw for a keg of beer. The reception the bar has received since softly opening on the 16th has been overwhelming and surprised even the owners. The previous location – a 10-minute walk up Soi 55 from Sukhumvit – never attracted much lunch or day-time trade, hence the introduction of its afternoon “Pint for a Pound” promotion. But, now open at 8 AM, The (New) Old English is drawing customers from opening until close. Mornings and afternoons are particularly busy, with many people coming in for lunch, the free wi-fi and 45-baht Leo pints.

 

toep-reopening-party-1

Party time this coming Friday!

 

The other half and I got on to the topic of scams, scammers and scamming in general in Thailand – and how scams seem rather more prevalent in her homeland than elsewhere. When I asked her about why this was, she had an interesting response. Thai people are trusting and easily fooled – and that is why there are so many scammers, she said. It’s an easy way to make money, she explained, and plenty of people see it as a lifestyle choice. To be clear, like so many of the problems in Thailand, scams and scamming is mainly a Thai problem i.e. Thais scamming Thais. Many foreigners have this misconception that it’s they as ignorant outsiders who are targeted while the average Thai gets a free ride. That is not the case at all.

A subject becoming almost as routine and mundane as the news is marijuana. But guys frequenting the naughty nightlife areas continue to comment at how prevalent the smell of weed has become. Some tell me they feel it is getting worse. On Friday night, the scent of ganja was apparent from the minute you walked on to Soi Cowboy – either end now – sitting on the patio at Oasis or even inside Crazy House where staff don’t pay much mind to the tokers.

If it seems like marijuana is available nearly everywhere, you’re right. Grass can now even be had from vending machines in Bangkok!

 

Get your weed from a vending machine!

Get your weed from a vending machine.

 

I am surprised there are not that many visa agents in Thailand. It’s a very simple business. All that is needed is a Thai who has connections with someone at the Immigration department, is good with documents, can get their head around the visa rules and laws and can fill out paperwork. A bit of marketing and you’re away. The fees some visa agents charge makes me think some must be living the good life. There’s nothing sophisticated about visa agents. A few connections and you – or your other half – could be in business!

Here’s a question many Thailand-based foreigners are pondering: Will Bangkok Thais ever give up their face masks? With Thailand this month downgrading Covid-19 to a level that essentially puts it on par with the flu, disbanding the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and revoking the Emergency Decree, the pandemic is officially over in the Kingdom. There has been no mask mandate for 2 months and many foreigners haven’t put on a mask for weeks, even on the skytrain & underground, and in shopping malls. (It should be noted that interprovincial buses and domestic airlines still require them.) But Bangkok Thais continue to mask up like it’s 2020, some even wearing them in their cars! I am told that it’s largely a Bangkok thing. In Pattaya, for example, it’s easy to spot the weekend / holiday Thai tourists: They’re the only Thais wearing masks!

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

Thailand-Related News Article Links

Reader’s story of the week comes from Mega, Around the Traps in Southeast Asia Part 22.

There have been calls for tougher rules on the sale of cannabis in Thailand.

You still need to wear a mask on public transport and in cinemas in Thailand.

International visitors no longer have to show proof of vaccination or ATK test results when entering Thailand (not that many have been asked for such proof in recent months).

 

Patpong soi 2, September, 2022. Where is everyone?

Patpong soi 2, back in the day….very quiet. It begs the question: Has Patpong 2 always been quiet?

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It’s kind of crazy that I write this column from provincial New Zealand, having not stepped foot in Thailand nor any of the areas I write so much about since before Covid came along. This obviously makes things challenging when it comes to gathering news & gossip, and keeping in touch with not just what is happening, but what the vibe is on the ground. How do expats really feel about things? What is happening with visitor numbers and are those who used to be frequent visitors continuing to visit? What do working girls make of everything? Fortunately, there are a few people I know and trust who feed me info. Most of these people I have known for a long time – as in 10 years, 15 years or more. And most have been around the block and got the t-shirt, so to speak. But not everyone is happy with the coverage in this column (not that there’s anything new in that!) and there is one particular group who it seems have got a little upset about what has been said about Patpong. To be clear, everyone who has an issue with what is being said about Patpong has some or other connection to Patpong. Many make some or all of their income from Patpong. Quite simply, they resent the updates from Patpong that state that it’s quiet and many venues remain closed. To be clear, they don’t actually challenge the accuracy of the reports about what is – or rather, what isn’t happening at Patpong. And they are the first to acknowledge that Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are doing so much better than Patpong – yet they don’t like what is being said about Patpong and seem to take it almost personally. I think they think that I am out to get Patpong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like most people who have enjoyed the nightlife over the years, Patpong holds a place in my heart and I really do hope that the area experiences a renaissance and makes a comeback. Do I think that will happen? I’m not confident of it, but who knows. I don’t have an axe to grind or anything like that with Patpong, in fact I frequently reach out to owners and managers to let me know what is going on. I hope things improve in Bangkok’s oldest bar area but please, at the same time, don’t shoot the messenger.

You Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com