Stickman's Weekly Column November 13th, 2022

The Naughty Bars Do Loy Krathong

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Bangkok Photographer did the rounds of the gogo bars on Loy Krathong and got some great captures. What follows are his images and his words, highlighting what sounds like another fun Loy Krathong night in Bangkok’s bars.

Stick

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

Loy Krathong is the one night of the year in Thailand when even the bad girls become good girls.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

It’s also one of the few times a year they also want to pose for photos.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

Loy Krathong is celebrated annually in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia. The name is roughly translated as “to float ritual vessel or lamp,” and comes from the tradition of making krathongs, or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated in rivers, ponds, lakes and the sea.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

While it began as a ceremony to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha, it has evolved into Thailand’s own version of Valentine’s Day, with many babies born nine months later.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

Loy Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. This year, it corresponded with a total lunar eclipse, a so-called “blood moon”. But the fake blood and gore Bangkok’s bargirls painted on a week earlier were replaced with beautiful, elaborate and expensive traditional dresses and outfits.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

As on Halloween, Soi Cowboy only had a smattering of girls outside in traditional dress. Baccara and a music bar at the Asoke end put greeters outside in Loy Krathong style. But it was Shark that went all in on the holiday.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

Before Covid-19, and a two-year closure, Shark had made a tradition of having all its staff and even some dancers in traditional dress. It was a point of pride and one the owners wanted to re-emphasize now that the bar is not only back open, but almost back to pre-Covid strength, with more than two dozen girls every night and more coming each week.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

It wasn’t only the girls, with Shark’s security boss even getting into the spirit, putting on his best martial arts moves, although the sneakers kind of took a bit away from the look.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

Down the road in Nana Plaza, bar owners – who generally loved Halloween getups – had mixed views of Loy Krathong. “It does nothing for me. At all,” said one owner of multiple bars where not a single lass was dressed up.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Erotica, Nana Plaza.

Others – Thais of course – jumped on the bandwagon in a big way. At Erotica, flowers and decorations began going up the day before and all the staff, from the owner on down, dressed up for the occasion.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

With the exception of a few girls in Red Dragon, dancing girls themselves stuck to normal bikinis and shorts. As at Erotica, their only nod to Loy Krathong was to put on an ornate cap or head-dressing.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

But if there had been a contest for the best Loy Krathong contest in Nana, it would have been won by a dancer in Red Dragon named May.

Despite her dancing duties, May dressed up in a sexy version of a Loy Krathong dress and adorned the most elaborate head-dress seen anywhere on Soi 4 that night. It was big. And it was heavy. And it hurt her ears. By the end of the night, May was pooped out and wanted to go home. Her neck hurt!

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Geisha, Nana Plaza.

Geisha also put on a good show, with a quartet of lovely doorgirls dolling it up in long gowns. A walk around the plaza also saw women in traditional garb outside Rainbow 3.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

The beer bars were thick with their ladies dressed to the nine’s in old-style dress. Stumble Inn had enough ladies for a pageant, had they wanted one.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

All the dress-up – and the millions of photos and selfies taken that night – left everyone in a happy mood, leading to a great vibe in the Plaza.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Rainbow 3, Nana Plaza.

The one surprise was that the party ended early. Nana emptied out earlier than in a long time. Girls and customers both were in short supply by midnight. It was bizarre to walk into even Billboard just before midnight and seeing relatively few people milling about. And, for all the buzz early, Red Dragon had one person left on the sofas before the witching hour.

 

 

 

Loy Krathong at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

Perhaps all the girls – and bad boys – had to get back to their boyfriends and wives for the rest of the Loy Krathong tradition?

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken out of a window of a room in perhaps the most popular accommodation choice in all of Bangkok amongst Stickman readers, the Nana Hotel. This week’s photo features a popular venue in downtown Bangkok I have always enjoyed stopping by and it’s good to see that it’s still going strong.

 

 

Meet her at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

 

 

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

The new reality for the overweight, ageing Milton Keynes taxi driver.

I was speaking to an ex Rachada Soi 7 hostess and thought I’d summarise her thoughts. She’s lived in the UK and is very articulate, hence the detail of what she said. In summary: “The world has changed due to social media and smartphones. Girls in Thailand now more than ever truly know their worth. This is fuelled by OnlyFans, Instagram and a constant barrage of messages and compliments from bored 20-something professional European males who would have traditionally travelled to Ibiza and Marbella. The bar has been raised for all men. Either accept the Western model of ‘good looks attracts good looks’ or get your wallet out and pay whatever that 22-year-old stunner is asking. Coming to Thailand 40 kg overweight, wearing a Leo vest, cargo shorts and Crocs just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Girls get literally hundreds of messages a day from men better-looking and wealthier than you can imagine. 50-something Dave, an overweight taxi driver from Milton Keynes doesn’t stand a chance with the stunners anymore unless he’s prepared to pay the going rate, be that 5K, 7K or 10K.”

Napkins, an easy fix for those with sensitive ears.

I recently returned to Bangkok and was out and about, watching signs of life and the return from Covid on the street, in bars and restaurants. Suddenly, about 3 weeks ago, on an evening that began in a popular gogo bar, the volume levels of music was turned to blaring. It was impossible to stay in bar after bar. At a hamburger joint out in Lat Phrao, it was the same. I was stuffing paper napkins in my ears <I wish I’d been there with my camera to capture you doing thatStick> so I could finish my meal and flee. I’m so relieved to see you mentioning the dangerous sound levels and that it isn’t just me who feels this way. On a recent tour of Nana and Cowboy, sound levels had returned to ‘normal’ and were tolerable.

The cancelled Perth – Bangkok flight.

I was surprised to see you cover the Thai Airways Perth – Bangkok flight cancellation. As someone who works offshore, I was over the moon when they restarted the service in July, even if it was only 3 days a week. It stopped less than 6 months after it began. I rang Thai Airways offices in both Sydney and Bangkok to find out why it had been cancelled. To no avail, there was no explanation. Nothing. Sydney went so far as to say Western Australia has one of the largest contingents of ROP Gold members. More surprisingly, this means there are now zero direct flights from Perth to Bangkok. The closest you will get is the Singapore Airways flight which has a tolerable short stop in Singapore. The bad news? At this time, that flight is priced at $AUD 1,800 one-way! I now have to go the long way around and fly between Perth and Bangkok via Sydney which is a bloody nightmare. Ironically, the end of the Perth service coincides with an extra Thai Airways flight out of Melbourne daily. Having said that, most flights are booked solid with ticket prices that would make a holidaymaker baulk. I have no choice obviously but the prices are exorbitant to say the least. More than double what a return ticket cost prior to Covid. Interesting times ahead.

Being shit on in Bangkok.

They may have fixed up Silom Road a bit, but with those trees still there it’s about time for the annual migration of millions of swifts from Siberia. Walking under those trees will result in getting smattered with “good luck” as a Swedish friend pointed out to me on one occasion while walking to Patpong. I pointed back that he must be triple lucky since he got one on his head and two on his shoulders within seconds.

Bangkok observations.

Just a few observations from Bangkok. I had heard about huge queues at Immigration on October 30th and 31st. I flew in on November 1st and it was busy but they had all the desks open and I was through in about 20 minutes. Another thing that was also different to my last two trips in July and September was that it was mask-free all the way from London to Bangkok via Dubai. No mask requirements at all 3 airports and on both flights! On the ground here in Bangkok now, it’s way busier than it was in July or September with Sukhumvit sois 4 and 11 especially busy. They seem to be doing a decent trade in some places in Cowboy as well.

Pattaya observations.

I am very pleased to report that Walking Street appears to be back to “normal” once again. The bars / gogo bars are open and just a handful of shops have signs up saying they are for sale or rent. There are plenty of people walking out at night on Walking Street. Those new murals…why did they use white paint? You can guess what colour they are now – grey tyre marks etc! In Pattaya there’s a buzz about town.

 

Meet her at Tycoon, Nana Plaza.

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This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Manager Dino has left Dollhouse. The popular figure was a draw for many of us who stopped by Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy as much to see Dino as to enjoy good times in the bar. I emailed Dino about his reasons for leaving and here’s what he had to say: “The rumors are true, my man. It was a great run, lots of memories & too many good times to remember. But all good things come to an end. The vibe is different these days in the gogo bars. It’s just not as good as it used to be. That part of my life has run its course. I’ll still be around occasionally, but only on vacations… I’m back in the USA living the quiet life.” Dollhouse’s new manager is Kevin.

The police were out in Soi Cowboy in force on Wednesday night, shutting down the fun to administer piss tests for bar staff. Showing was off the table for the night and doors slammed shut right at 2 AM for everyone, including Crazy House, which often gets a free pass.

Is there anything in the rumour that a new bar complex could be coming to soi 8? To be very clear, this is a rumour I have heard from just one person and it’s not something I have been able to verify from any other sources. But it does seem that there is something in it because plans have been seen. The mooted location is opposite The Heritage condo building. Whether it really is built or not, time will tell. Rumour also has it that there is at least one very high-ranking government official who lives on soi 8 – and a new beer complex would be an anathema to them.

 

Inside the soon-to-open Velvet, Sukhumvit soi 8.

 

Still in soi 8, as was mentioned in the column a week or two back, it can be confirmed that Velvet will open this coming Friday, November 18th. This new venue looks very promising – and the photo above offers a sneak preview after a Stickman reader stuck his head inside and checked it out for himself. Soi 8 used to be considered something of a soi for families, but these days it’s quite the happening soi, especially after dark. It’s not soi 11, but it has a nice vibe that appeals to many. Velvet is located in the first sub-soi on the right.

Once upon a time, Soi Cowboy was regarded as the most laid back of Bangkok’s 3 main bar areas. It appealed more to expats looking for a quiet drink than tourists looking for action. Describing it that way is turning back the clock a couple of decades or so. Recent reports suggest that of the main bars areas it is Soi Cowboy which has the most aggressive girls these days. One long-time Stickman reader reported this week that while Soi Cowboy is busy outside with a lot of punters on the soi and the outdoor areas of the bars are doing decent trade, inside some bars it’s a different story with plenty close to empty. This draws the ladies outside where they can get quite aggressive as they grope passersby and do their level best to drag punters inside. Nothing new in that, of course, but it sounds like they’re more aggressive (desperate?) than previously. Inside one bar, a reader reports that the lady he was chatting with didn’t ask for a lady drink, but shamelessly asked for 5 (!!) Tequilas. When you consider that some Soi Cowboy bars are charging 250+ baht for a lady drink – and in some bars a girl requesting a lady drink automatically means 2 drinks – it sounds like Soi Cowboy today is nothing like the laid-back lane it once was. All power to the girls who are obviously there to make money, but at the same time it does sound like some may be taking the piss. One doesn’t want to be that punter who is always asking the price before he orders a drink, but these antics may cause you to do so, lest you end up with an eye-watering bill.

 

Meet her at Red Dragon, Nana Plaza.

 

Speaking of Soi Cowboy, the mixed-sex antics at East End are over, with the mix of matronly women and men in skirts kicked out for an apparent renovation or overhaul. It’s unclear what’s happening, but the bar has been reduced to floors and walls again.

Up the road at Nana Plaza, sister bars Whiskey & Go Go and Tycoon A Gogo & Lounge are offering beer drinkers a choice of cheap brews this month. At Whiskey, Leo bottles are 99 baht every night, all night long. Just up the steps at Tycoon, Tiger is the deal of the month.

According to Nana Plaza’s owners, marijuana smoking in public areas is not allowed, but bars allowing patrons to light up joints in the rented space outside a bar’s doors doesn’t do anyone (except those smoking) any favours. One friend was in the plaza on Wednesday night and spoke of two guys sitting on the bench outside Geisha doing their level best to turn Nana’s upper floor into a Cheech & Chong movie. The stench hit as he turned the corner from the Billboard side and could be smelled all the way to the Butterflies door.

After putting the bar up for sale, the owners of Erotica in Nana Plaza appear to have had a change of heart, or perhaps simply a change of fortune. Mightily frustrated at the inability to get and keep dancing girls – and mamasans for that matter – Erotica has brought on a new papasan with decent connections. As a result, Erotica’s stage is now more full of ladies than at any time since its post-Covid reopening. Of course, per the “chicken and egg” theory, the customers have returned as well. Hopefully the gogo bar corollary will prove true as well, meaning that more customers means even more girls. Erotica has launched sexy shows after 10 PM, if that’s your thing.

 

Patpong this week was quiet….but still busier than it has been.

 

Two Stickman readers sent reports after making the rounds in Patpong this week. One, a long-term reader I have never met but whose observations have always been on the money had this to say, “I went to Patpong out of curiosity fearing the worst. It’s worse! Kind of heart-breaking if you have fond memories of the area.” The second reader, an old friend who also made it to Patpong this week after some years away had the following to say, “I’ve just come back from Patpong. It was much quieter than either Nana or Cowboy, but that was what I expected. I had a drink in The Strip (how could I not?). It was very quiet, seven customers including myself and ten girls. I was in there around 10 PM. Of course my visit is just a snapshot of a moment in time, it could have been busy half an hour before I arrived and could have been busy half an hour after I left.” The photo above was taken by the first reader in Patpong on Friday night. As quiet as it looks, I’d say it’s actually a good deal busier than it looked just a month or so ago.

Demonia, a fixture in Sukhumvit soi 33 for some 20 odd years, has a big announcement coming soon. Tune in next week for more details.

 

Big news from Demonia coming real soon.

 

The soccer world cup begins a week from today and The Game on Sukhumvit Soi 9 and The Old English Pub at the Thong Lo BTS have emerged as two places to watch the matches. Anyone who comes to watch a match in a football shirt – any kind of football shirt – gets a free World Cup shot. And, at The Game, the pub will be running a “Dream Team” contest as well as a score-predictor giveaway for each day’s featured match. Pop into The Game and speak with new manager Harry about the contests or check out The Game’s Facebook page this week.

Thanksgiving Day is November 24th and anyone in Bangkok seeking the traditional turkey or ham feast have become used to paying dearly for the privilege. But Buddy’s Bar & Grill have blown the overpriced Turkey Day tradition to bits this year. Buddy’s – at its Soi 22 and Soi 89 locations – is offering turkey and all the trimmings for a crazy 250 baht! It’s first-come, first-served with no reservations, so be there at 7 PM for the buffet. I think I can confidently say that nowhere in Bangkok will beat (nor even come close) to offering a Thanksgiving Day feast at that price. See Buddy’s website for more.

 

Thanksgiving Day at Buddy’s!

 

Last week I predicted that this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok would prompt numerous restrictions that could prove inconvenient and annoying. It seems I actually underestimated exactly how far the government would go in the name of security and image management. I had suggested people avoid the Queen Sirikit Convention Center MRT Station. It turns out that station will be closed from November 16 – 19, massively inconveniencing anyone who lives or works in the area of that station. For those living in the area, the only access to mass transit then would be to take a motorcycle taxi to Phrom Phong or head down Rama 4 Road to the Khlong Toei MRT and double-back. Of course, getting to Rama 4 will be extremely painful as all of Rachadapisek Road (Rama 3) between Asoke Montri Road and Rama 4 will be closed, around the clock, during the same period. The government announced full or partial closures of roads in the area during the APEC summit, which set in motion a tidal wave of closure announcements by businesses and schools in the area. To add insult to injury, the entire Benjakitti Park and its new Forest Park extension is closed November 12 – 19. More significantly, the rumour was circulating throughout the week that police will close Soi Cowboy for November 16 – 19 as well. Some Nana Plaza bar owners were positively licking their chops over the prospect of all the extra business, but, as of Friday, it continued to be just talk. “The response I have from police is that we can open, but we must be strict with closing times,” one Soi Cowboy bar owner said. “But you know Thailand, they say one thing today and change their minds tomorrow.” So, while there’s no definitive word on whether Cowboy will be open later this week or not, prepare for the worst.

 

Meet her at Angelwitch Nana Plaza.

 

One group who are conspicuous by their absence on lower Sukhumvit are the Russian ladies who could be found in some hotels in the area, particularly on Soi 3. For the most part they were not actually Russians at all but from other countries in Eastern Europe / countries which border Russia, with Uzbekistan often over-represented. Anyway, it’s a good thing that these ladies are not to be seen as for the most part they were trafficked, and in a very bad situation.

Exactly when is high season? When does it start and when does it end? It’s very much moot. The high season used to be clearly defined with hotels across the board raising their room rates in unison. And high season would end when all of those same hotels lowered their prices, again, all at the same time. Typically, high season started December 1st and ran through until the end of February. That said, high season was more clearly defined in the likes of Phuket, Pattaya, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai than in Bangkok where a lot of hotels, particularly mid-range hotels, maintained the same room rates year-round. As more people visited Thailand, hotels started to hike their rates earlier – often at the start of November – and they would remain at elevated levels right through until Songkran. High season had been extended. Today, many disagree on just when the high season is. Some think of it as the peak period from just before Christmas through until the end of January. Others seem to think it has started already. There are no official dates for high season, but the one thing many people agree on is that it already feels like high season in downtown Bangkok with visitors everywhere, some popular hotels full, familiar faces back after being away for years and lots of money being spent.

A reminder that Saturday after next, November 26, Butterflies, on the top floor of Nana Plaza, will celebrate its 6th anniversary with a huge bash. It promises to be a great night. Don’t forget that Butterflies is run by the same people behind Billboard – and Billboard’s 7-year anniversary party was described as a night to remember.

 

Party time at Butterflies!

 

Getting away from Sukhumvit, you can include Khao San Road amongst those areas which have well and truly bounced back from the Covid nightmare. The backpacker haven was described to me this week as heaving, with more single women than Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy combined, comprising a mix of Thais and Westerners. One reader said that many of these ladies seemed “up for it”. I wouldn’t know about that, but whatever the case, if you’re looking for a change of scenery you might like to stop by. You know Khao San Road has bounced back when it is once again being described an obstacle course with vendors stalls making walking along the soi a chore. The latest craze on Khao San Road is bags of what is being marketed as “laughing gas”. 50 baht for a small bag and 100 baht for a large.

Holidaymakers like me who had got used to booking flights just a couple of weeks before travelling have found that it is no longer possible, unless you’re willing to pay silly money. Things have reverted back to how they used to be a decade or so back when you really needed to book months ahead if you wished to get the best price for a flight. While that can be a nuisance for those of us who visit Bangkok for fun, spare a thought for the FIFO (fly in, fly out) workers who often learn about their next job at the last minute and have to find flight tickets just a day or two before flying. For them, this is a nightmare.

 

Meet her at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

 

Budtenders is a new word to me. Apparently, it refers to those who work in dispensaries i.e. Bangkok marijuana stores. Someone gets full marks for their imagination coming up with that word.

I had not visited a Thai temple in New Zealand since the ’90s. It’s not that I had avoided stopping by, it’s a case of not really having any reason to do so. Last week we stopped by the local temple and what a pleasure it was. We thought we’d stick around for an hour or so but ended up staying for almost half the day. The local Buddhist temple (mainly Thai but also some Cambodians, Laotians and Sri Lankans) is set across a large expanse of land just outside town. There are beautifully maintained fields, a couple buildings in the middle including the main “temple proper” along with a few small dwellings where resident monks sleep. There are water features, Buddhist statues and much of what you find at temples in Thailand, albeit on a smaller scale. I gather that much of the temple is funded by one of the bigger, wealthier Buddhist temples in Thailand as there simply aren’t enough Thais / other Buddhists here for it to be sustainable financially. It is not anything like the large impressive Thai temples like you find in London or on the east coast of the USA, but the rural setting makes it a very pleasant spot to visit nonetheless. Truth be told, I have felt quite distant from Thailand, but spending time at the temple here, meeting a lot of Thais here, some of who are involved in some interesting business ventures all made for a surprisingly enjoyable day out. If you’re in Farangland and missing Thailand, stop by your local Thai temple. If it’s anything like the local temple here, you might be pleasantly surprised.

A friend sent this brekkie shot through from the branch of Took Lae Dee near Terminal 21 in Korat. 139 baht for breakfast but the fries were extra. I rather like some of the dishes at Took Lad Dee – they do a great pad Thai and their pud-see-iew is also excellent…..but I’m not convinced about that breakfast!

 

Breakfast in Korat, farang-style.

 

Thailand-Related News Article Links

Quote of the week comes from a friend, “How to make a Thai feel important? Put them in a uniform!

Reader’s story of the week looks at cannabis use in Thailand, Thank You For Pot Smoking.

An arsenal of guns and grenades are found after a Kiwi expat’s house is raided in Phuket.

American turned Thai businessman Bill Heinecke has suggested a surcharge of 300 baht per room night to fund Thailand’s tourism recovery.

Thai police have quite a task to arrest a German in Pattaya on an overstay who threatens to burn down his property and kill himself.

There are warnings that the dearth of staff at airports in Thailand might result in operational chaos.

A Thai blogger faces five years in jail for videoing herself eating a whole bat in a bowl of soup.

From the New York Times, Thai creatives breathe new life into old neighbourhoods.

 

The local Thai temple almost felt like being in Thailand.

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I still get the odd email questioning the ownership of this site. A few readers don’t believe that I ever sold this site and remain convinced that I still own it. I’ve been as open as I can reasonably be about the sale of this site and the impression I get is that in the absence of seeing the original, signed contract, a small number of readers refuse to believe such a deal was ever done. At least once every few weeks someone emails me and says that they “know” that I still own the site and the stories of it being sold are just that, stories. Funny! For the umpteenth time, I no longer own this site. I sold a controlling share in 2015 and then sold my remaining share a few years later. All that should really matter is that it is still me, the original Stickman / creator of the site, writing this column. But then there are some readers who don’t believe that either. It’s a funny old world!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com