Stickman's Weekly Column October 30th, 2022

Stickman Weekly, October 30, 2022

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Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken of the new construction site at the start of Sukhumvit soi 10 and the land that was previously known as Chuwit Garden. This week’s photo is a toughie and I’ll be the first to admit there is no way I would have got this right.

 

 

Meet them at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

 

 

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

The superfluous boarding pass.

You mentioned boarding passes. The last time I went to Thailand, some 3 years ago, I had a dumb experience at Immigration. I had flown British Airways and used their app. Everything was on said app. When I got to Immigration, the officer wanted to see a physical boarding pass but every time I tried to present my mobile he would point at the no mobiles sign in annoyance. Eventually he just waved me through!

The company you keep.

In regards to cash-less payments and mobile phones, I see no point in having easy searchable data about me floating around the internet. I pay with cash and normally don’t carry a phone. Works for me and I don’t need to worry that my name comes up when the next Bin Laden is sitting next to me in a restaurant and the police are looking for his possible contacts.

Handling cash.

On not using cash, when I went to Bangkok several weeks ago it was the first time I’d handled cash since March, 2020. Not because I use contact payment, but because my wife deals with everything, and pays all the bills. I might hand over 13 baht to the folk who deliver our 20 litre bottles of water (the same price a small bottle costs in the store!) but that’s it.

The peculiar Thai real estate market.

I’m currently looking for a house to buy, but it’s so hard to find a place. No real online search is possible and they often don’t list the exact location of the property. I have written to an agent and asked for the location of a property which interested me. They offer to show me the property, but without knowing the exact location, I cannot tell, if I actually want to see it or not. And it seems like many agents have “dummy properties”, just to lure you in. You see an interesting property, but when you call them, it was “just sold yesterday”. But lucky for you, they have something similar, just a bit worse and more expensive! Marketplace on Facebook could be a good idea, but it only lists the location of where the ad was posted and that often means the office of the real estate agent. In Pattaya, and Bangkok as well, just a km or two can mean a huge difference in price. And it seems like they try to sell a house for, let’s say, 5 million baht. Then one year later, nothing has happened – but they think the market is better so they raise the price to 6 million! I have been looking for about a year and a half and have time to wait for the right house, but I have also seen houses listed for sale for the last 2 years, and the price goes up every 6 months! I will never understand why they don’t just rent it out and at least get some money back. I have seen houses being empty for 5 – 8 years and they are in such a bad condition, so much so that I would never buy them. Broken windows, infested with pigeons or rats, humidity has destroyed all the wood or drywall panels. 8 years without any air-con leaves its toll.

Doctor No-Mask.

Wow, that was an offensive email from a reader saying those who don’t wear masks aren’t welcome. The advanced masks help against airborne respiratory viruses, if used correctly. The cheaper ones, not so much. I am a doctor. When would I, as a doctor, wear a mask? If a contagious virus that caused very severe illness was around, and even more so if I had a pre-existing condition. These days in Bangkok? No way. In situations where there is not a strong medical case to be made, I would never put a mask on. It dampens the experience of travel. How about days in the winter with high AQI? Nope, not unless I lived year-round in the city. I happily take my chances on a 2 or 3-week visit.

Masks and lipstick.

Not all Thais wear masks. One of my Thai dates absolutely hated masks and refused to wear one. She is university-educated, and told me a bunch of reasons not to wear a mask, even though I suspect the main reason is that it messes up her lipstick. Whatever, I’ll take it!

 

Red Dragon, Nana Plaza, opened this past Friday.

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

The last dark space at Nana Plaza came to life Friday when Red Dragon, the latest bar from the people behind Mandarin and Shark, opened. The club, in the combined space that once was Mandarin Table Dance and Mercury, is set up with groups in mind, specifically Asian groups, with most of the seating set up in cosy cubicles with sofas and tables, as opposed to the more typical stadium or table seating. About 20 dancers – some of whom came from Mandarin, some of whom are new – grace a long low pedastool stage, with all but a couple that could be considered lookers. There are a few bar tables in the middle, but Red Dragon is definitely a place where you want to bring some buddies for a fun time with a few hotties.

Prices are going up around the world as inflation rages – and Thailand’s bar industry is not exempt. Expect 10 or 20 baht to be added to drinks prices that haven’t moved since before Covid. But in some bars the rate of increase is more dramatic. 250 and even 260 baht for a lady drink is a hike well beyond the rate of inflation. While some moan and groan at these prices, the reality is that many people still happily pay them. Complaining about prices simply puts you out of the market and you go to the back of the queue. The costs of running a bar are creeping up – labour costs, rents and the wholesale price of drinks – and when that happens it’s inevitable that drinks prices and barfines will follow.

But there are some prices which do seem extreme. I’ve commented about some of the crazy barfine prices on Walking Street in recent months. Now I hear that things aren’t all that different in some gogo bars on Soi LK Metro where some tiered barfines run 1,500 – 2,000 baht. Lady drinks are estimated to average 185 baht.

 

Meet them at Tycoon, Nana Plaza.

 

And while we’re on the topic of higher prices, it’s decades since Phuket was a cheap place to visit. Popular Patong Beach gogo bar Suzy Wong does its bit to maintain Phuket’s pricey reputation with lady drinks priced at 250 baht. And if you think that is steep, don’t even think about asking about barfines. In Suzy Wong, the barfine for some ladies is 4,000 baht before midnight and 2,000 baht after midnight. To be clear, this is Suzy Wong in Phuket, and not Suzy Wong in Soi Cowboy. There is no relationship between these two bars which just happen to share the same name.

Of note, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the quality of the bar experience and the prices charged i.e. the prices in the best bars are nowhere near the highest. Billboard, Butterflies, Spanky’s and Twister are arguably the best bars at this time, but are not the most expensive, far from it in fact.

Part of the reason for increasing prices can be attributed to the rents being paid by bars. As an example, the (admittedly very large) building on Sukhumvit soi 11 that was previously Insanity / V8 is now available for rent. The asking price? 4 million baht per month! Presumably that does not include key money paid on top. With rents like this, is it any surprise that the prices of many things in downtown Bangkok have shot up in recent years?

The Biergarten on Sukhumvit soi 7 has its fans. It has been around forever and is filled with nostalgia. It’s an odd spot given that it used to be popular in the afternoon and early evening – before the temperature dropped – yet it does not feature air-conditioning. Perhaps that’s why it always felt like punters and pooying were about to nod off. Laid-back is one thing, but the Biergarten always felt like a place where everyone was stuck in 1st gear, like they had barely woken up. A reader stopped by the Biergarten this week and had the following to say, “Very hard to work out if there have been any changes at all to this place after 18 years of me first coming here. I actually think they’ve got the original line up of girls from back then too.”

 

The Biergarten increasingly feels like a time capsule. Not a bad thing, but it does includes the ladies…

 

Conventional wisdom has it that barfining a lady from a gogo bar is the way to go. In the event of a problem – such as waking up to find your valuables have disappeared – you can go back to the place where she works and get assistance to resolve the problem. But are bars really willing to help customers in the event of a bad experience with a lady barfined from that bar? Experience and hearing of plenty of incidents over the years makes me believe there’s only so much a bar can / and is willing to do. Of course there are gogo bars and gogo bars – you can hardly lump them all as one. There’s a huge difference between a professionally run bar with farang management and a pokey little Thai-run bar. An incident occurred in one of the best and most popular gogo bars in Bangkok recently. The bar was holding a party and it was packed to the rafters. One customer who just happens to be a faithful Stickman reader, took a fancy to a lady. It was getting late but he felt the chemistry was good so a deal was worked out. He paid her the entire 5,000 baht that had been agreed upon upfront, right there in the bar. She went off to change and he waited, excited about the fun that was to follow. He didn’t realise how late it was until the music stopped and the lights came on. The night had come to an end. Customers started drifting away. Some girls lingered. He noted that the girls transformed when the lights came on, like an actress no longer in role. Their demeanour changed as shoes were kicked off, cigarettes smoked, snacks consumed while they sat about, often cross-legged on the floor, chatting and joking with friends, sharing what actually seemed like genuine laughs. Somewhere in the bowels of the changing rooms the Stickman reader’s barfined lady was taking her time to slip out of her bikini and in to her streetwear. Stickman reader waited. She must be dollying herself up to look stunning, he thought to himself. Half an hour passed and she hadn’t returned. As the bar thinned out with fewer and fewer ladies remaining, she still had yet to reappear. He went to one of the remaining staff and explained the situation. He had barfined a lady, paid her 5,000 baht as agreed upon, she had gone out back to change but he hadn’t seen her since. Said staff member disappeared out back to find her. It was discovered that the barfined lady had slipped out of the bar and left for the night – and taken the guy’s money. It would turn out that the lady was not an employee of the bar but an agency girl who had been brought in especially for that night. The agency operator was still there and when the situation was explained, coughed up the money, refunding the 5,000 baht in full to the customer, something they were not at all happy about (because probably they will almost certainly never see the girl again). The customer got his money back so I guess you could say it ended well. But did it? The system worked and the bar did help the customer when a girl had clearly done him wrong. But at the same time you could just as easily say that it ruined the night. There’s a reason you don’t pay the lady in advance and this story demonstrates why. The bar handled it well in the end, and the fellow continued to return to this popular bar throughout his holiday. The lady wasn’t seen again.

 

Halloween in a fetish house….sounds scary!

 

Tomorrow night, October 31st, Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33 and The Castle on Pattaya’s 3rd Road will celebrate Halloween. For those who think that Demonia and The Castle are spooky already, the boss assures me you can expect surprises and all sorts of kinky stuff at Halloween.

A reminder, Angelwitch in Nana Plaza is the place to go for Halloween which is tomorrow (Monday) night. The staff will be done out in spooky gear and customers are invited to dress up for the occasion with prizes for those who turn up in costume.

Many airlines have chosen to park up their unused aircraft in huge outdoor aircraft storage facilities in the middle of the desert in the likes of Australia and Arizona. Apparently, the dry desert conditions with its low humidity reduces the potential for corrosion on the planes. Meanwhile, Thai Airways planes are parked up en masse on the runway at Sunwannaphum as they remain out of use. Is it something anyone who uses Thai Airways should be concerned about?

Soi Arab was hit hard by Covid and almost every eatery on the soi closed for a period. But great news, the soi has bounced back and is described as humming again, humming with plates of hummus! I love the vibe on that soi and it’s a favourite spot to hang out with friends, enjoy great Middle Eastern food and then wander over to Nana Plaza afterwards. Go back a couple of years and friends who also enjoy Soi Arab said it felt like it had been nuked with most venues closed – and it looked like many wouldn’t reopen. Most venues have reopened and it’s humming like it was 2019.

 

Soi Arab this week was described as humming. Brilliant, can’t wait to get back!

 

New, modern diets are all the rage in Farangland with Vegan, Keto and gluten-free all gaining in popularity. Is there any evidence of these diets taking off in Thailand? Vegetarian options are easy enough to find in Bangkok – and many Thai dishes work perfectly well without meat. You could find vegan food but dedicated vegan eateries where the staff really understood vegan food were few and far between. Bangkok always felt like a bit of a wasteland for vegans. Ditto when it came to gluten-free. For Celiacs in Thailand, I have two words for you: good luck! In all likelihood, Celiacs or even those who are merely sensitive to gluten will probably have to cook yourself as most Thai food contains gluten. How can that be? Most Thai flavouring sauces contain gluten – especially the popular brands – although the excellent Megachef brand is a notable exception and is gluten-free. As for Keto, again do Thais get it? That’s not such a hard one to follow as anyone following the Keto diet knows what to avoid. Will Bangkok see more alternative diet outlets open up for those following specific diets? My feeling is that they will come and it’s simply a case of Thailand being a bit slow on the uptake. Most likely it will be the younger generation who drive it.

Could there be light at the end of Thailand’s mask-wearing tunnel? I read more and more comments online from everyday Thais about how stupid they think it is. The impression you get is that mask-wearing in Thailand is not that different from a heavy mid-Winter fog. It is everywhere, seemingly permeating everywhere you can see and then it just quietly disappears, like it was never there. The Thais are a very compliant bunch but behind the masks many Thais are talking about the ridiculousness of it.

 

Downtown Phnom Penh at night, a very different beast to downtown Bangkok.

 

Across the border in Cambodia, Phnom Penh has always been known as an edgy place and for some, that’s part of the attraction. At the same time it always felt like if you were street-smart and didn’t do anything stupid then you should be ok. Word is that things have changed a bit – there is more street crime including pickpockets, and even muggings. A Bangkok bar manager who recently spent time in Cambodia was surprised when hotel staff suggested he take a tuk-tuk after dark and urged him not to walk alone at night. They also said he should carry no more cash than he needs for that night and leave valuables in his hotel room. (The first thing I thought when I heard that is that they’re setting you up to rip you off themselves!) They also said that if you must take your mobile phone, keep a close eye on it and don’t put it down on a bar table or counter top, lest it be snatched. And if you’re using your mobile phone, be aware of your surroundings. Some folks have had their fancy phone snatched while they were using it, the junkie who snatched it dashing away like Usain Bolt, never to be seen again. He was also told to consider avoiding the night market, dark streets and especially to keep an eye out for junkies. It doesn’t end there. Apparently there is a scam in the $5 massage shops where punters claim their money is switched to fake dollar notes while they’re in the middle of a massage. This is a problem in the cheaper places and not in the bigger, better, more upmarket massage outlets / spas. It should be noted that Cambodia has stopped dealing in $1, $2, $5 bills so you get lumbered with the local currency, Riel, in change. To be clear, these smaller denominations are all still accepted if you have them, but don’t expect to receive them back in change. Word is that Phnom Penh was actually safer in the early, so-called dodgy days. It’s not just visitors but locals who are victims. That’s when you know it’s bad. If you visit Phnom Penh at this time, keep a very close eye on your valuables.

 

Phnom Penh is getting pricier, but drinks are still very cheap.

 

Still in Phnom Penh, for the naughty boys, bar numbers on Streets 130 and 136 have increased as has the number of girls. For anyone visiting from Thailand, prices are lower. A naughty will set you back anything from $20 to $100. $10 barfines is the standard (don’t you wish that was the rate in Thailand!) but barfine rates can increase at the weekend. It is suggested not to let your tab run up in hostess bars and to pay for each round. Apparently there have been issues in some bars with bill padding.
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The Golden Sorya Mall in Phnom Penh with its bars and restaurants closes tomorrow. A good friend who is a Phnom Penh local feels it’s not such a bad thing as thieves, pimps and ice dealers have infested the place. Bars inside the mall have been closing and relocating since last month. Pontoon Night Club at the south end of the mall is rumoured to have a 2-year extension and still attracts girls from the hostess bars after hours. Home Food has relocated to Caddy Corner from Pontoon, across from Shanghai in what was once Black Cat Bar. Martini Pizza will have a re-opening party starting at 6 PM on the 31st in their new location at Streets 174 and 51. The hostess bars and Heart of Darkness across from the mall will remain open.

 

Meet her at Tycoon, Nana Plaza.

 

Thailand-Related News Article Links

Reader’s story of the week is just as the title says, a nicely written and to-the-point trip report, “September / October Trip Report“.

The Bangkok Post looks at the art murals on Walking Street.

Cannabis dispensaries in Bangkok are getting flash with a genuine upmarket feel, almost like an official Apple store.

What is the back story behind the bust of a nightclub for Chinese nationals in Yannawa district of Bangkok?

Two Singaporeans who had overstayed for 20+ years in Thailand are arrested for drug-dealing.

The Pattaya Mail reports that there are now more than 200 weed retail outlets in Pattaya.

CNN looks at the work of the architect designing new places in sinking Bangkok.

 

It’s October…time for Christmas decorations to go up in Bangkok!

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The Christmas decorations go up early every year in Bangkok and this year is no exception. The photo above shows new Christmas decorations in Makro this week. What will Christmas and New Year bring this year? There is much evidence that tourism is bouncing back. It’s possible that Thailand might reach 10 million visitors this year which would be a fabulous rebound, even if it’s only about a quarter of the pre-Covid numbers. What of the coming high season? Will there be the usual spike in trade? There is huge demand to visit and everyone is keen to get back to Thailand and make up for lost time. The problem is flights. Not just the cost of flight tickets, but availability. Will limited flight capacity be a handbrake on high season? I imagine that more old routes are coming back online and the number of airlines and flights to Bangkok is increasing. Yet at the same time some flights to Bangkok are being cancelled. This weekend marks the end of Thai Airways between Perth, Australia and Bangkok. What’s that all about? With all of this in mind, I hope bars have been looking after their expat customers well this year because I just don’t think there is going to be the usual high season spike in trade. Logic suggests that there will be a bump, but a big spike seems less likely. Next year, on the other hand, I reckon is going to positively boom all year long.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com