Stickman Weekly, Christmas Day, 2022
Last week’s photo was taken of the Sukhumvit Grande Hotel. Plenty of you got it right and so you should have – that spot has been featured in the mystery photo many times over the years and it’s a spot readers of this column have probably walked past hundreds of times. This week’s photo is a little more challenging, but like last week’s this is a spot that has been featured a few times before too.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Looking through rose-coloured glasses.
You’ll get responses to the are-they-uglier-now query, but I’ll say this: for old-timers like me, the first exposure to working girls in Bangkok will knock you flat. Dazzling smiles, shiny black hair, caramel skin, rocking their femininity without surgical enhancements. The natural beauty of Thai women. It’s still there, but often the accessories (blonde hair, blue contacts, tattoos collected as trophies, outsize bags of silicon implanted because “bigger is better”) detract. That said, we all have rose-colored glasses surgically implanted from our early visits.
Bargirls today, bargirls yesterday.
In my opinion there is not much difference in the looks department of the bargirls today to 20 years ago. 15 to 20 years ago you had the hostess bars on soi 33 which had quality girls waiting to take care of their customers. Monet, Dali and Renoir were 3 bars that had stunners who would sit and talk at the bar with customers all night. My experience in those bars was that once a girl with you, no other girl would try and take her customer from her. They wanted to be with you and long-time meant all night and they’d probably have lunch with you next day. I am not aware of any bars like those in soi 33 operating today. I wish there were. Tattoos were rare on the girls in those days. Mamasans seemed more helpful back then, providing your bought them the occasional drink. Fast forward to 2022 and my experience in the past 6 weeks has been 700 baht barfines and the girls want short-time. Long time they won’t do, even at 5,000 baht. Whilst there are some pretty girls available in some bars, they make sure you know where you stand. They are not as happy and carefree now and insist it is their job and rules are rules. Always let them know your rules before barfining them. Ask them politely if they have children and if so, how many. Ask them what they want to do when they get back to your hotel. Ask them if they will come swimming tomorrow in your hotel pool. If the answers are negative, it is best to move to another bar. If a girl agrees to swim with you at your hotel when you are both sober then you can be assured she will be up for fun.
Girls past and present.
Regarding your closing comments postulating if the girls were better looking in the past, or even more natural-looking (I agree they were), perhaps it comes down more to the vibe. In the past when you bought a lady drink, it was appreciated. Now it’s expected. That sense of entitlement kills the mood, regardless of their appearance.
More Readers’ Emails
The queues at Immigration are getting insane. I come to Bangkok every 2 weeks on business and can’t believe how they have suddenly, just in the last few weeks, exploded. At Phuket Airport yesterday there were literally thousands queuing. And every booth was manned. Some tips:
1. Queues are virtually non-existent at Don Meuang Airport in Bangkok. If you can fly there — much easier.
2. For those 70 and over — you can use the Fast Track lane which usually always has just a few people in the queue.
3. Same for APEC Card holders. Americans, Aussies, Kiwis (plus of course most Asians and Latin Americans) can get this card. It allows you to use the diplomatic (Fast Track) lanes.
I lived in Japan for many years and visited entertainment areas with Japanese both in Japan as well as in Thailand. You are correct in saying that they can be very particular, but I have found that when they leave Japan, they are like kids in a toy store when their parents aren’t looking. They enjoy the freedom and ability to disregard the norms they are required to follow in their home country. Pink hair? Tattoos? Dirty talk? Why not? It’s not happening in Japan, and therefore, it’s not happening.
Masks are going nowhere.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The Christmas-New Year period may be busy in the bars but is typically a quiet time for bar-related news. Mostly it’s a parade of party announcements and not much else, as everyone puts their head down and barrels through the highest weeks of high season. Not this year!
Nana Plaza saw a huge shake-up this past week, in terms of bar ownerships, managerial duties and girls on stage. The earth started shaking early in the week when news trickled out that Tee, the managing partner in the varied partnerships that own Twister BKK and Rainbows 3, 4 and 5 had bought Rainbow 2, Pigtails and Stockings (the former Temptations ladyboy bar). All 3 bars had been redeveloped and reopened by the owner of Geisha as the Covid-19 restrictions wound down. They seldom see crowds and none have attracted a following, let alone much positive feedback from those who did stop by.
What this means is that now, Tee, Nana’s de facto police liaison, has an over-sized hold on the Plaza’s businesses. He may have business acumen, but the jury is out on whether he knows how to design or run a good bar. Bangkok Bunnies was one of the Plaza’s most-attractive bars until Tee bought it, gutted its interior and turned off most the lights to hide all the junk and storage piled up along the walls. At Enter (now Rainbow 3), he plunked a hot tub smack in the middle of the floor right at the entrance. Rainbow 3, much to the horror of those who remember it under previous ownership, is now rife with ladyboys mixed in with natural-born women. Some say Rainbow 5 does well because of Tee’s other partners and mamasans that date back to the original Rainbow 4 days. Tee’s takeover of 3 more bars to add to the bunch he is already involved with is a step in a direction that should concern avid bargoers. History shows that when one owner has more than 2 or 3 venues in one bar area, inevitably some are neglected and you’re left with a bunch of very average bars and fewer choices. Just look at Soi Cowboy and what The Arab’s presence has done to that soi.
The other shoe dropped at the Plaza a couple days later with word that Geisha had been sold, although the buyer wasn’t immediately known. The sale sparked nearly all of Geisha’s dancers and mamasans to walk out. Girls spread out across the Plaza (and to Cowboy) looking for new work, but the vast majority found a new home at Red Dragon. On Friday night, Red Dragon had 76 ladies on stage!
Red Dragon is, of course, owned by the same folks as Mandarin whose popularity exploded earlier this year after an overnight infusion of 30 dancers from Black Pagoda in Patpong and some of the Rainbow bars. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
But the earth wasn’t done shaking under Nana Plaza yet! Captain Hornbag is a bar manager I have long rated as one of the best in the business. In something of a surprise, Captain Hornbag has parted ways with Spanky’s. I don’t know what happened but word is that he left on good terms and it was all very amicable which is good to hear. There is a rich history of things getting nasty when bar managers leave bars, whether it be their own choice or they were given their marching orders – but that was not the case here.
So now one of Nana Plaza’s top bars, Spanky’s, is looking for a new manager. The starting pay is 60,000 baht per month, for the first 3 months. Pass probation and the salary jumps to 100,000 baht per month – with the possibility to earn more on top of that. If you’re a fast learner, you could be on 100K baht / month before the 3 months is up. Well done, Spanky’s, it’s nice to see a bar actually paying a reasonable salary. And to answer the question, yes, the job comes with a work permit so the successful applicant will be 100% legal. Oldies need not apply with the ideal candidate aged between 20 and 40.
Speaking of Mandarin & Red Dragon, both bars flipped on their Happy Hour signs late this week. From 7:30 – 9:30 PM, all drinks (with the expected exceptions) are just 95 baht.
Nana Plaza will be Party Central on New Year’s Eve, barring any last-minute developments. Billboard and Butterflies will bring their year-end party season that began in September to a close with another food-filled extravaganza. Pizzas will be piled high all night long at both top-floor bars.
There’s no barbecuing allowed under the roof, but Mandarin and Red Dragon will have a spread for New Year’s, along with its new happy hour prices until 9:30 PM for those wanting to start early. And, as noted, there will be a lot of ladies on hand.
For fans of feitsh, Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33 and The Castle in Pattaya will both hold New Year’s Eve parties. Each will feature a free buffet.
Owners of bars in red-light districts are closely watching developments, hoping they aren’t forced to bin their planned New Year’s Eve parties at the last minute. Many bars are pinning their high season kickoffs on the New Year’s Eve bashes, with some moving planned party favors from Christmas to December 31 with the expectation they can stay open all night.
That’s certainly the case on Soi Cowboy where bars expect to go on past 4 AM, if not near dawn. Shark had planned to barbecue two suckling pigs on Christmas Eve, but postponed the buffet until New Year’s. Asked why, the manager said they plan to be there all night so they’re going to need a lot of food!
In more proof that Bangkok has bounced back, another new bar has opened on Sukhumvit soi 33/1. The Laughing Tiger is located opposite the popular O’Shea’s. The one and only photo I have seen of the bar shows a smart-looking interior with nice decor and what appears to be tables with napkins so I presume that in addition to drinks, there’s also a food menu.
And on Sukhumvit soi 11, a new bar opened last Sunday, the night of the World Cup. It’s called Gossip Bar by PDT and is from the same people behind PDT. What a night to start a new bar – it was packed as punters enjoyed one of the greatest football matches of all time. Gossip Bar is an outdoor style beer bar with 2 pool tables and lots of TVs . Beers run 130 baht. It’s opposite Ambassador Hotel.
In Soi Cowboy, Deja Vu is under major renovations. The interior was ripped back to the bones and it is being entirely rebuilt from scratch. It’s not known whether it will retain the same name or whether it is under new ownership. God forbid it remains in the incapable hands of The Arab.
On the opposite side of the soi, there is a similar sized empty double shophouse. Can’t remember what that space was? It’s the corpse of Raw Hide. Little appears to be happening to that space at present and it’s not known what it will be when work does get going. Best guess would have to be another weed shop but that’s all it is, a guess!
Speaking of Raw Hide, its surviving sister bar, Long Gun, charges a premium for barfines on Friday and Saturday nights with one reader reporting barfines priced at 1,300 baht. This might be a holiday season thing as many bars inflate barfine rates from before Christmas through until New Year. On the other hand, Long Gun is a bargain for teetotalers – a bottle of water will set you back just 50 baht.
Just like Long Gun, Dollhouse is another Soi Cowboy bar to stop by if you like your presents already unwrapped.
The police were on Soi Cowboy early on Friday night with a small contingent who strolled up and down the soi, lingered, and appeared to make a show of wanting to be seen. The officer who appeared to be the most senior approached various customers on the soi and engaged with them, asking them how they were enjoying their evening. One friend who was approached by said cop noted that he was friendly, spoke good English and made a point of saying not to worry about the presence of policemen on the soi. The cops lingered for a good while and the impression is that they were there to be seen, as opposed to checking bar licences, staff ID etc.
The cops also made it to Nana Plaza where the approach seemed to be similar, and they lingered without doing all that much. I wonder if orders came from high up for police to maintain a presence around entertainment areas popular with visitors. A visible police presence is not unusual at this time of year and while some cringe when they see the boys in brown around the bar areas, in this case I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.
Away from the chrome poles, The Game will welcome everyone and anyone at their location under the Nana BTS station for New Year’s. Drinks are very reasonably priced and combined with the convenient BTS access, it’s a decent choice for New Year’s Eve.
The same is true of The Old English Pub which, this year, doesn’t require a taxi or motorbike to get to. “Thonglor’s Neighborhood Pub” is right at Exit 3 of the Thong Lo BTS station and will be the place for those wanting to avoid cover charges and high drink prices – which are a feature in some bars at this time of year.
Buddy’s Bar & Grill’s 5 locations will be also celebrating with Buddy turning over all his places to the Thai staff for the night. Everyone is invited to the staff party, with free Thai food and bar snacks all night plus free Champagne at midnight.
Down in Pattaya, just when it looked like he had left the industry for good, Ricky is making another comeback. Time and time again he has sold his bar and threatened to call an end to his career running bars, and kick back and enjoy the quiet life. When he left Pandora’s in Soi LK Metro not that long ago, I really thought that was the end – but I should have known better. Ricky is back in the game, opening a new bar on Soi Honey. It is being built now and will be called Lips Lounge. Soi Honey is home to many bars with rooms on the premises offering a variety of services. Lips Lounge sounds like it might break the mould and will have what is being called “a gogo room”. Ricky hopes that Lips Lounge will be open by the end of January.
Talking of Pattaya, bars are back to opening later with 2 AM closing times being done away with for now. Bars are back to the usual 3 AM or later for those bars which have made special arrangements. This is good news for the bars as up until rules were loosened, many bars had to ask punters to leave at 2 AM with the party in full swing.
Still in Pattaya, at least two of the most popular gogo bars on Walking Street have reverted to old tricks and are turning Indian customers away again. This was a major issue in the past. When bars were given the green light to reopen earlier this year, many bars which had previously discriminated against Indians were desperate for customers and allowed entry to all. Indians made up the largest number of visitors to Pattaya for a while and Indian gentlemen were welcomed with open arms. Sadly, two bars in the same group have reverted back to their no Indians policy. One of the two bars is generally acknowledged as one of the best gogo bars in Pattaya.
In last week’s column I wrote about a Walking Street gogo bar where there have been allegations that customers are being asked to leave if, after being in the bar for around half an hour or so, they have not bought a lady drink. I mentioned that there were not a lot of reports of this happening and it was not widespread and therefore the sky wasn’t falling. I received another email this week about another bar on Walking Street enforcing a compulsory lady drink policy:
What is interesting about this report is that it was a different bar to the one I had heard this sort of thing happening in. Does this mean that there are at least two bars where you are required to buy a lady drink if you wish to stick around? Or did the reader get it wrong and the issue was not that he had not bought a lady drink, merely that he was drinking so slowly? In the absence of reports from people I have known for a long time and trust, I will not pin the names of the bars up on a list of shame. I do have to ask the question: Why does this sort of nonsense always happen in Pattaya and not in Bangkok?
This past week, Air BnB said Thailand was the top trending destination in the world which is hugely ironic given that stays of less than 30 days in a condo via a platform like Air BnB are actually illegal in Thailand (not that that has stopped anyone)!
Recent reports say that Russians are the number one group by nationality visiting Phuket. Word from those in Vietnam is that Russians are also the number one group visiting that country. Russians in Thailand are typically not as sociable as your average Western bargoer. They tend to stick to themselves, socialise with other Russians and for the most part are not known for being naughty boys and prefer to take sand to the beach, so to speak.
In recent weeks I have commented how Russians are said to make up far and away the largest group of visitors to Phuket at this time. But that might be only half the story. Word is that a lot of these Russians are not in Phuket for short holiday, rather they are looking for properties to stay medium or long-term. Russian real estate agents are doing a brisk trade with rumours that thousands of Ruskies are fleeing Mad Vlad and being conscripted to fight in Ukraine.
Seeing all of these shiny new – and in some cases beautifully decked out – cannabis stores along Sukhumvit has some farang dreamers spouting nonsense that they’re going to make their fortune growing weed on their Mrs’ farm in Nakhon Nowhere. I heard from not one but two people this past week who are keen to get in to the cannabis cultivating business. They’ve seen the prices that cannabis is going for on Sukhumvit and believe they can sell it cheaper. Sounds like a bad idea, but what would I know.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
There are claims that workers in Thailand who made F&F jeans for British Supermarket chain Tesco were trapped in forced labour.
An Irishman dies in a kayaking incident in Thailand.
Pattaya bar owner Mister Egg looks at what Thai bargirls are paid.
Serial killer Charles ‘The Serpent’ Sobhraj, who committed many murders in Thailand, is released from a jail in Nepal.
The neglectful guide referred to as “Ms. X” in a report about an avoidable tragedy on the Himalayas is an ambitious young-ish Thai female.
The world’s loneliest gorilla prepares for another Christmas behind bars (in a Bangkok supermarket).
When I resumed writing this column back at the start of February, I knew it would be tough. My main concern was not so much that I wasn’t there on the ground – although, yes, that was a concern – it was more that there just wasn’t all that much going on. Would there be enough happening for me to fill a column week after week with interesting news, stories and gossip? I also had to consider that many people who have helped me over the years had left Thailand during Covid and headed back to Farangland. Well-known guys like my old friend Dave The Rave who I leaned on a lot over the years, along with others less well-known but every bit as helpful have long gone. And while many old friends still live in Thailand, plenty have moved on from the bar scene and / or just don’t go out as much as they used to. But luck was with me and things worked out well. Thailand may have opened up slowly but what a rush it has been these past few months. The bar scene is on fire. Hotels are full. Behind those masks it sounds like everyone is smiling. Fun times are here again and everyone wants a piece of it. Thailand has roared back to life. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me out this year. A special shout out to Bangkok Photographer who has provided heaps of news, gossip, column openers and hundreds of fantastic photos. Old readers have rediscovered the column, new readers are finding us for the first time and it feels very much like a renaissance. When I look back at how things were 11 months ago, I couldn’t have dreamed we’d end the year on such a high. I initially committed through to the end of this year – and this is the last column for 2022. A couple of weeks ago I went back to the site owners and asked them whether they wanted me to continue. I said I’d be happy to stick with it – but if they didn’t want me then no sweat, we could part ways. They’re keen to go another year and I have committed through until the end of 2023. So here’s looking forward to bringing you another year of Stickman. Thank you for tuning in this year. Merry Christmas to you all!
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org