Stickman Weekly, December 11th
Last week’s photo was taken from the walk-bridge near Sukhumvit soi 2, looking west along Ploenchit Road. This week’s photo might look challenging – but it’s still somewhere very much in the farang zone, the area covered in this column every week. Look closely at the background and if you know the area even reasonably well you should get it!
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Explaining the less sex theory.
A few theories on why sex tourists might be having less sex that haven’t been put forward.
Change in tastes – Long-term expats may have grown weary of local girls. I haven’t dated a Thai in 7 years. The ‘What-your-name-Where-you-come-from’ spiel grows old quickly. I remember owning a calendar of Nana girls when I first arrived in 2002. There were photos of probably 100 girls featured and I rated almost all of them as pretty through to stunning. I ran across the calendar a couple of years ago…and I only found about 2 girls attractive. I can see through the make-up. I know who’s hiding stretch marks. I know who’s got braces behind their closed-mouth smile. Only Billboard has any girls worth looking at. But knowing several of them socially, the likelihood of drama and gossip is high.
Change in Morals – The last 20 years have seen huge changes in what’s socially acceptable and / or desirable. Younger people are smoking less, taking fewer drugs, are more concerned with the environment, equality and social justice. They still go out. But they don’t support the flesh trade. And these days, they can get free sex from Tinder or Bumble quite easily without the ‘guilt’ of paying for it.
Old Man Obstinance – I meet a LOT of old guys who refuse to accept the world is changing. They walk into a bar playing techno music and they think the bar is playing ‘bad music’. It’s not. It’s simply that 65-year-old retirees aren’t many venue’s target market. These same guys refuse to accept that inflation exists. Yes, it was possible to get a girl for 1,000 baht, 20 years ago. But now the price is 3,000. And these guys refuse to pay, thinking they’re somehow being ripped off.
Football over femmes.
The email about football and chrome pole bars reminded me of my old friend Phil, who would get most upset if a girl blocked his view of the footy when he was in Tilac bar. You know you’ve been in Bangkok too long when you go to a gogo bar for the football! But he did also enjoy a bit of company and would often get to Tilac at 7:00 PM and do his Sudoku, and Nat would sit with him until it was time for her to ‘go dance’ at 8:00 PM. Very nice of her.
Masks on the skytrain, and masked maidens.
I was in Bangkok in September and both the Skytrain and the MRT broadcast frequent announcements in Thai and English saying that although mask-wearing was no longer legally required, they recommended that you continue to do so. There was 100% compliance with this suggestion by Thais and probably 50% by Westerners. I always wore one just to avoid any hostility from the locals. (I also put one on in shops but took it off out on the street). However, on the SRT Red Line, which opened last year, the messages said that SRT continued to require mask-wearing and there was a 20,000 baht fine for non-compliance. Whilst there were plenty of foreigners on the other 2 systems, I didn’t see any on the Red Line so I don’t know whether they complied or not. I got the impression that the Thais put their masks on before leaving home and didn’t take them off until they got back. You virtually never saw an unmasked Thai, not even when they were in a car by themselves. However, the one thing that really astonished me is that even a good number of freelancers were wearing masks. How on earth do they expect to attract customers when you can’t see what they look like? I wonder if they take them off when they go to their customer’s hotel, or if they only allow kissing through the mask.
I just returned from Bangkok and Pattaya. I will say Bangkok is back. Pattaya is moving in the right direction. I lived in Bangkok for 9+ years back in the day and I was within walking distance of “the Pong.” I went to Patpong a few weeks ago and it was pure devastation. I was sad that bars like XXX, Black Pagoda, and The Strip were empty. The only one doing decent trade was Pink Panther. My buddies and I took a tuktuk from Cowboy over to Patpong and the driver did everything in his power to get us down Patpong Soi 1. We were dropped off on Surawong but I was interested in what was going on in Patpong Soi 2. It appears Thigh Bar across from the old Madrid is the new ping pong scam place. There were 20 – 30 Thais in neon vests ushering in people from tuktuks so it looked almost legit. As we walked up they were quite aggressive trying to usher us in. We politely declined and they proceeded to follow us pretty far down the soi. It wasn’t until I told him in Thai that we were not interested that he stopped. There were tons of tourists getting led in and with all the aggressive “security” and peddlers outside it is not a safe place. I can only imagine how innocent tourists feel being scammed in this way. With that being said, this is clearly overflowing into Patpong Soi 2. As we sat in each of the gogo bars we observed foreigner after foreigner hesitant to even step foot inside the gogo bars and when they entered they paid their bills right away. This has such a negative effect on other bars in the area that got some of their business from tourists going to check out the oldest red-light district. If I owned a bar in the area I would be pissed with what is going on around the corner, running off customers. At least in the past these scams were a little more hidden. Now it is right there in the open. It’s a shame.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The business end of the World Cup has drawn large crowds to the bar areas. Bars have been pumping with some so busy they have had to turn people away. With just a few more matches to go, expect it to continue to be every bit as busy. Do note that some bars are taking reservations for the semi-finals and final. No reservation means no seat and you might not even get in the door. What a start for the bars to high season and what a massive turnaround after the dire predictions that this year’s high season would be terrible. The World Cup has been a bumper for so many venues. Now some are going as far to say that this high season might just be the best ever.
I have not listed bars where football fans can watch the late World Cup matches i.e. those that kick off at 2:00 AM because technically they shouldn’t be open – and I don’t want to draw unwanted attention. This sort of thing is better communicated by word of mouth than announcements online. Many bars have come to an arrangement with the local cop shop and can remain open, safe in the knowledge that the boys in brown won’t visit mid-match.
Blondie on Nana Plaza’s ground floor opened to much fanfare back in June, described widely as the most beautiful bar in the plaza. Like most bars, it’s been hard work boosting girl numbers but Blondie is getting there. Currently they have 36 girls. And best of all, this is not a gang of girls who arrived with a
pimp mamasan who treats them like dogs. And neither are the girls from an agency. All of the ladies dancing at Blondie work exclusively at Blondie. As the owner said to me, “Nothing turns me off more than these mamasans who trap the girls by loaning them money.” The girls are then manipulated to work for the mamasan and pay off their debt. They are pressured to badger customers for drinks and they have to pay commissions to mamasan on every baht they earn. They feel pressured to make more money not just to pay their debt off to her, but to make money for her as she will forever remind them that they got this opportunity and are making money all because of mamasan. What the mamasans don’t get – or don’t care about – is that girls putting pressure on customers to buy them drinks doesn’t go down well and many customers get annoyed and head for another bar. This is why some girls say to you, “Buy mama a drink!” They’re programmed to say this and berated – or in some cases beaten (yes, really!) – if mama doesn’t get x number of drinks from the customers of each girl. Anyway, back to Blondie, the owner closed in saying, ”I just don’t want that vibe in my bars.” Blondie has 3 DJs and features guest DJs most weekends. The bar also has 2 professional bartenders mixing cocktails nightly. This in turn is drawing a good crowd with some punters making a beeline for Blondie, and some only visiting Blondie.
The influence of meddling mamasans is widespread, and I think is one of the main reasons some say they don’t enjoy things as much as they used to. There is an argument against incentivising mamasans. In some bars they a get commission on all barfines. In other bars, if a certain number of barfines are paid in a month, they get a bonus. Thais love financial rewards and will do anything to get their reward – meaning mamasans may push girls hard to pressure customers for drinks and to barfine them. If the customer doesn’t do as they wish, they move quickly to the next guy, all of which makes things feel very transactional with no notion of any possible girlfriend experience. This is why even some girls new to the industry who can barely muffle a few words in English can be so pushy. I get it that the mamasans are keen to maximise their earnings but this model is not good for business long-term. Fortunately, not all bars are like this.
The other big complaint from readers recently – and this one is very recent, as in the last couple of weeks – concerns the sheer number of ladyboys making a pest of themselves in the general Nana area and particularly on Soi Nana, near the entrance to the plaza. This has been an ongoing problem and is not something new – but it’s said to be getting bad again. Why am I giving ladyboys a hard time when I have previously written columns that were generally positive about them? I’m all good with ladyboys in the bars – preferably in dedicated ladyboy bars – but out on the street when they are up to no good, often pick-pocketing – they are pests.
Darren McGarry, the owner of long-running Key Visa, perhaps the best known visa agency in all of Pattaya, passed away this week. He’d been in the business of helping foreigners to stay in Thailand for as long as anyone can remember.
When Shark on Soi Cowboy reopened in late September, one question everyone kept asking was, “When is the happy hour returning?” Everyone can stop asking: It’s back. Starting at 5 PM at the outside bar and continuing inside until 8:30 PM, the reincarnated Shark happy hour offers all drinks (except lady drinks, Grey Goose, cocktails and shooters) for just 95 baht. Great deal!
Many people don’t know it, as it’s been badly promoted, but Suzie Wong on Soi Cowboy has a happy hour as well. It’s outside only, but it runs ALL NIGHT. All local beers are just 110 baht. Compare that with the much higher prices inside. A great deal, especially for those coming to see the ageless Lee Shamrock, who is still playing outside the gogo bar on Saturday nights.
Up the road in Nana Plaza, Shark’s sister bars, Mandarin and Red Dragon, will also be launching their happy hours this week. They, too, will offer all drinks for 95 baht (with the same exceptions) but until 9:30 PM. And the happy hour runs every night of the week. What day will it start? It depends on when the printer delivers the signs! With a bit of luck it should be up and running by the middle of the week.
Do happy hours and drink specials such as Whiskey & Tycoon’s 99-baht deals really make a difference, especially in December and up to the height of the high season? Some bar owners – even those running the specials – are skeptical. Some say that, right now, so many random tourists who don’t follow the bars on social media are flocking to Nana – the Plaza attracted a whopping 170,000 people in November – that they sometimes feel like they are giving away money. People would come in and buy regardless.
On the other hand a well-known, long-time barfly, who principally hangs out on Cowboy but can also be found in Nana, took umbrage on Wednesday when informed that the bar he was in was the last night of the 2-for-1 drinks promotion. “Well, I’ll be going somewhere else then,” he huffed. “Besides, it’s too cold in here anyway. I’ll find another venue next week.” So, basically, this Cheap Charlie didn’t even like the bar he was in, but drank there because it’s cheap. Many bar owners will tell you they don’t care, as that’s not the type of customer they want anyway.
The new Demonia – new location on Sukhumvit soi 33, opposite the original location – is now open. They will throw a welcome party this coming Saturday, December 17th. Every customer will receive a complementary glass of wine and a slice of pizza. All are welcome!
Christmas is just two weeks away and the holiday party invites are going out across Bangkok’s red light areas. With Christmas on a Sunday this year, however, many bars will celebrate on Christmas Eve.
- Shark on Soi Cowboy will be having perhaps the biggest parties, with plans for not one, but two, pigs on a spit, side dishes and plenty of drunk Santa’s helpers.
- Mandarin and Red Dragon in Nana Plaza also are planning a joint party. As they share a large chunk of real estate at the top of the escalator, a pig-on-a-spit also may be in the works, but Nana’s landlord will have to sign off. More details next week.
- Billboard and Butterflies, fresh off the epic Playmates Party, isn’t stopping yet. They’re going to dress up their 170 women in sexy Santa’s elves outfits and party both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Speaking of pigs on spits, Baccara on Soi Cowboy, before the pandemic, used to do a barbeque on Friday night. In yet another sign that life is returning “normal”, the BBQs are coming back starting December 16.
Away from the chrome poles, the Christmas dinner and party plans continue to sprout like evergreens.
At Buddy’s Bar & Grill, with five locations, holidays are a major undertaking. Buddy’s is planning three Christmas parties, the first of which will be Friday night at its air-conditioned Soi 20 location, with similar bashes scheduled for December 23 at the Soi 22 Buddy’s and Christmas Day at Soi 89. The spread, at a bargain 300 baht, is impressive, with marinated salmon, turkey, ham, Swedish meatballs, German sausages and more. Buddy also promises eggnog at all three locations and, only at Soi 22, Norwegian Akavit “to make sure you get into the Christmas spirit!”
The Game, on the main Sukhumvit Road under the Nana BTS station, meanwhile, is hosting its own holiday feast both Christmas Eve & Day. Enjoy roast turkey, honey-baked ham, stuffing, apple pie and more for just 650 baht. You can add a beer or wine for 100 baht or get two dinners and a bottle of wine for 1,995 baht. Reservations can be made on The Game’s Line account. This deal and Buddy’s are both very reasonable, especially when you consider that some venues will be charging thousands of baht per head at Christmas.
A week from tonight is the World Cup Final and while there is no shortage of places to watch the match – which kicks off at 10 PM – two of the most popular places to enjoy the match have been The Game and The Old English Pub. Both take table bookings for groups of three or larger and, as of this moment, still have tables available, although both bars expect to sell out. Want to be sure you get a good seat for the final? Book via Line for the Game or on The Old English’s website.
Buddy’s Bar & Grill will be showing the World Cup Final at all its locations on Sukhumvit sois 8, 20, 22 and 89, as well as in Silom.
Ever dreamed of being a gogo bar manager? Such jobs for farangs are few and far between but, bizarrely, two positions at different Nana Plaza bars opened up this week, at Angelwitch and Whiskey & Go-Go. The Whiskey job is more of a “host” job, with the job duties limited to greeting and taking care of customers, building rapport and a following and ensuring customers leave happy. At Angelwitch, the demands are higher, with the manager expected to run the operation (outside of micromanaging the talent). Both jobs expect the manager to work 7 hours a night, 6 days of week. Yet neither operation is offering a liveable wage, with both bars paying a measly 40,000 – 50,000 baht a month with no mention of commissions or work permits. Whiskey calls their job a “junior-level position for someone who is already living in Bangkok”. Clearly, farang managers are valued far, far less than in the old days. Case in point? Dave the Rave’s total take home pay at Hollywood at the height of its popularity got close to 150,000 baht a month when commissions and bonuses were included. And that is almost 20 years ago! Amazingly, the miserable salaries on offer today haven’t stopped some from applying anyway. If you’re interested, you can send your CV and application to: email@example.com. Indicate and tailor applications specifically to the bar you are applying for, as they have different owners.
Soi 22 has tended to be more popular with those on a budget, those who live in the area and those who prefer a more laid back vibe. It never set the world alight as the bigger bar areas do and I can’t for the life of me ever remember seeing it all that busy. I lived in soi 16 and would often take the back sois through and along soi 22….but like I say, it was never busy. Steady, but not busy. But in yet another sign that the bar business has well and truly bounced back – and in some cases is now ahead of where things were prior to Covid – a regular reader this week said that Soi 22 now has a buzz about it. That’s not a word I think I’ve previously heard to describe soi 22!
I’d love to say Patpong is booming but word I am hearing is that it remains miserable. No, I don’t have a grudge against Patpong as the odd Patpong fanboy and some Patpong bar bosses seem to think. I continue to receive emails about Patpong and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet – it’s so much quieter than everywhere else. Despite the generally negative reports, we all want to see Patpong bounce back.
The one place in Patpong I would encourage all readers to stop by is the Patpong Museum. If you have even a passing interest in Bangkok’s oldest bar area and the history of the general area, I’m sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy stopping by. Recent visitors to the museum include Herman Knippenberg, the Dutch diplomat involved with capturing Charles Sobhraj. The Governor of Bangkok and his adult son also stopped by to check it out.
This coming Friday, December 16, the Patpong Museum will host an evening with Tom Vater, who interviewed Charles Sobhraj AKA The Serpent twice. Books have been written, articles done and even an 8-part series featured on Netflix. However, no-one has really delved into the psyche of a person like Charles Sobhraj. Conman, man of style and persuasion and most notably, a serial killer. Tom Vater, who interviewed him twice, will talk about his extraordinary experience of meeting Charles Sobhraj.
Be aware of light-fingered ladyboys on Soi Nana. Their MO is the same as it has always been. One will stand in front of you and block your way, feign flirting with you while their partner in crime, a fellow ladyboy, gropes you from behind and attempts to lift your wallet, phone or other valuables. They’re brazen and are trying it on with some big guys. They operate either side of the entrance to Nana Plaza, between the main Sukhumvit Road and the plaza, and also just a bit further down the soi from the plaza.
And still in Soi Nana, following on from the mention in last week’s column about renovations at the Dynasty Inn in Soi Nana, the hotel’s website says they expect to reopen on December 18th i.e. next week.
Most of the big Thai-style massage parlours haven’t had much of a following amongst Westerners for decades, Chao Phraya II being one of a few exceptions. A reader notes that the structure has been torn down and the old favourite is currently a vacant lot. Exactly when this happened, who knows, it’s not a venue I have heard mentioned in many years. The Sri Ayutthaya Road property is another part of the Bangkok of old – and in some ways a part of Bangkok bar history – to disappear without a trace.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Reader’s story of the week comes from an anonymous contributor, “Thoughts On Less Sex“.
A Brit who overstays in Thailand for 2.5 months is banned from re-entering the country for 5 years.
In Chonburi, Polish men attack a Cambodian woman with acid, knife and hammer.
A Scotsman is the latest foreigner to be stuck in Thailand with massive medical bills after suffering a scooter accident.
Thai sex traffickers are arrested for duping a man to work in a massage shop in Dubai.
Thieves rob the wrong gold shop in Tak province.
Tesla launched in Thailand this week.
I tend not to watch much television. I just feel that time spent sitting idly in front of the television is time that I really should spend doing something else. But this week I thought I’d watch the new series of a TV show I used to enjoy many years ago, Criminal Minds. The first half-dozen or so series weren’t bad but then I lost interest. I haven’t watched it for several years. Watching the first episode of the latest series, the first thing I noticed was that a lot of the old characters had gone. Who knows what happened to them. They were but memories. The characters from the past who remained had aged considerably and looked a lot older than how I remembered them. Time waits for no-one. It got me thinking about Thailand. I’ve been away for quite a while. When I do get back, I wonder if it’s going to be much like watching new episodes of a TV show I once enjoyed. Many of the old characters will be gone. Those who are still around will be older. How will I feel about the place when I do finally make it back? I can’t wait to find out….
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org