Stickman's Weekly Column January 22nd, 2023

Gogo Bar Evolution

Everything used to be so simple in the gogo bars. The size of the bar and the number of ladies may have varied, but the format didn’t. A set of ladies would dance on stage to a few songs before being replaced by another set of ladies. See a lady you liked and if the two of you clicked, you could leave the bar together. Gogo bars were places to enjoy a few drinks and if you were in the mood, barfine a lady and take her away. She might stay an hour or two, or she might stay all night long. She might even stay a week or more. These days it’s rather different.

For so long, the bar industry was settled. Prices inched up slowly. Bars became a little flasher. But the format largely remained unchanged.

The gogo bar industry is evolving, and it feels like the pace of that change is picking up.

Coyotes became a thing in the bars in the mid 2000s. Customers were confused because some couldn’t be barfined.

Up until then, dancers were available to be barfined – it was the very reason they were in the bar! They couldn’t earn enough dancing to make ends meet so they got up on stage in a degree of undress in the hope someone would like what they saw and barfine them. A lady who couldn’t be barfined inevitably meant it was that time of month. A few days later she would be available.

Punters were frustrated by the arrival of coyotes which changed the dynamic in bars. Coyotes were often the most attractive dancers, and invariably the most energetic, all of which made them the most appealing – but in many bars the coyote dancers could not be barfined. And if they could be barfined – which was often at a much higher rate – some were only willing to go for a meal, or drinking, or dancing. Nothing more was guaranteed (although many were up for more with the right guy at the right price.) At a time when most gogo bar customers were genuine naughty boys, this didn’t go down well.

Many thought coyotes would be a fad and fade away. The opposite happened. Coyotes could be found in more and more bars and the coyote concept would become entrenched in many bars.

Coyote girls were sometimes referred to as agency girls – terms often used interchangeably even if they are not the same. Agency girls are not employed by the bar directly, rather the bar pays an agency to provide girls who are in turn paid by the agency.

Back in the day, 4 Bangkok nightlife commentators, namely Dave The Rave, Dean Barrett, Baronbonk and myself all contributed to an article about the new coyote concept. The 4 of us could not agree on what coyotes were. If those writing about the bar industry were confused, what hope did bar customers have?!

It all became very confusing and there was something of a backlash against bars with coyotes.

The coyote concept was initially more prevalent in Pattaya, but gained a foothold in Bangkok – namely in Soi Cowboy – in the Arab’s bars. Within a short space of time, a third of the gogo bars on Soi Cowboy – all of the Arab’s bars – were staffed either in part or in some cases entirely, by coyote dancers.

Customers were confused. Who are the (standard) gogo dancers? Who are the coyotes? Who can be barfined and who can’t? It was as clear as mud.

Fast forward to today and things have become even more confusing. You just about need a PHD in gogo bars to understand all the terms used by bars today to classify staff: dancers, coyotes, showgirls, hostesses, hello girls, welcome girls, waitresses, dek serve and more. Who does what? How are they different? Who can and who cannot be barfined? Most customers have no idea!

Have any bars ever made an effort to distinguish who is who?

One bar did. Secrets in Pattaya had a system where the colour of a lady’s lanyard indicated whether she was barfineable or not. Green meant she could go, red meant she couldn’t. It was subtle, but it was crystal clear.

Despite that system working so well, few bars have made any effort to signal who is available and who is not – and this has become one of the biggest complaints readers make about the bar industry today. Customers of the bars want clarity.

To complicate things, some ladies may work in a position that can in theory be barfined – such as regular gogo dancer – but they choose not to be barfined!

When you add their day rate to the lady drink commissions and include tips, 2,500 – 3,000 baht per night is typical for ladies who know how to work the room. Not bad for 5 or 6 hours work without taking your knickers off. Can you blame them for choosing not to be barfined?

Further complicating things, gogo bar customers are changing. Generation Naughty Boy, those who have been travelling to Thailand for decades mainly for the bars and the nightlife, is in great decline as age catches up with them. Local expats who frequently enjoy meeting new ladies, AKA Generation Sexpat, have long preferred dating apps over barfining in the bars. Many in Generation Sexpat still enjoy visiting the bars, but it’s more about drinking, socialising and enjoying the vibe than finding a lady to spend some private time with.

Couples, foreign women and sometimes even families might collectively outnumber naughty boys in some gogo bars today.

With the customer base made up of fewer people looking to pay a barfine, and fewer ladies willing to be barfined, will there come a day when barfining becomes a thing of the past in the bars? Is it possible that one day it will no longer be possible to pay a barfine in some Bangkok gogo bars?

This is not to say that bar customers and bar ladies could not get together. Private arrangements could be made in the same way you might swap phone numbers and arrange to meet a waitress in a restaurant or a lady working in a store. Could the day come when Bangkok’s gogo bars become more a place of entertainment with little overlap with the sex industry?

The main argument against this happening is revenue. How would bars make up the revenue lost from barfines? It’s not insignificant but increased drinks prices and the introduction of entry / show fees would go a long way towards making it up. As the customer base changes from naughty boys to a more mainstream crowd, don’t dismiss the idea that they would be unwilling to pay a few hundred baht to see a gogo bar show.

Could the day come when barfining simply isn’t possible in a Bangkok gogo bar? If it was to happen you’d think it would be many years from now, but if things continue further along the path they’re on, is this not the natural conclusion?

 

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken of the replica Eiffel Tower inside Terminal 21 in Pattaya. So many of you got it right that it seemed appropriate to make this week’s photo more challenging. The one clue I will give you is that this week’s mystery photo is somewhere in the Nana – Asoke corridor.

 

 

Meet her at Red Dragon, Nana Plaza.

 

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

Amazing experiences can still be had in the bars.

Regarding changing attitudes and the school of thought that positive, organic experiences with the girls have been left behind in the last decade, well I have to disagree. Good experiences can be found. They are more often than not down to the attitude and appearance of the individual doing the hunting. I will recount a great experience that occurred on my last trip a few months ago. The poo-ying in question was 25 and working in Butterflies. We clicked immediately. Drinks were bought for her and over the next hour nature took its course. Let’s just say that things got quite comfortable, quite quickly. Said girl then informed me that she was actually staying in a hotel a few hundred metres away (Soi 8) and if I paid the barfine then she would happily provide me with a bed for the evening and possibly more. Without going in to too much detail, we didn’t get much sleep. I remained in her room until late morning. No taxi money was asked for or paid. We even met again a couple of days later for round 2.

Mask-wearing, Thais, the Chinese and where it’s all going.

I was at two different malls in the Bang Na area about 3 weeks ago. Neither mall sees a lot of tourists, but they’re popular with expats who live or work in the area. To my surprise, at the first mall, I saw a farang father and his two young Eurasian children, all wearing masks. I would see several others. While I did see two unmasked Thai women, I got the feeling that Thais started becoming jittery at the announcement the Chinese will soon be coming and those few who had taken off their masks have started masking up again. Overall, no fewer than 95% of all mall-goers were masked. The irony though is that I saw a young Chinese couple at the money exchange booth, both unmasked. Are the Chinese so fed up with restrictions such as wearing masks back home that when they arrive in Thailand knowing there are no mandates, many, perhaps most, follow the lead of other visitors and not worry about what the Thais are doing? In the media, you see fewer Thai officials masking up unless it’s a really crowded place. Reporters standing outdoors no longer wear masks, unless they’re in proximity to other people or in crowded venues. Then you have Dr. Yong, a well-known virologist who often appears on TV, saying that young children and healthy people in general don’t need to wear masks. He only recommends them on public transport and in crowded settings. As a result, I don’t believe there will be a return to the mandate. Any return to mandatory mask-wearing would result in a similar social media outcry as the recent vaccine mandate to fly to Thailand debacle, which was quickly reversed. I have the feeling that in about a month or 6 weeks’ time, barring any unforeseen circumstances, some Thais will grow more comfortable and perhaps slowly move back towards ditching their masks. It will probably take 6 – 12 months before a substantial proportion of the Thai population stops masking up. Subtle signs are emerging though – fewer people are wearing masks outdoors or in an office setting. I’ve seen many offices where hardly anyone is wearing a mask. If you happen to go to any major office building in Bangkok you’ll notice few Thais wearing masks in the office, but as soon as they mingle with the “outside world” the masks are back on! It’s quite an amusing sight.

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

More Emails

Recommendation not followed.

I returned to London from Bangkok this week on Thai Airways. Masks were being worn everywhere at the airport but, thank goodness, Thai Airways were only “strongly recommending” their use. I, and every other foreigner on the plane that I could see, listened to their recommendation and ignored it.

Russians visiting Thailand.

It is a surprise to me that Russians can travel freely into Thailand. They must bring loads of cash as they are banned from using the SWIFT system. That cash must also be currency other than the Russian ruble as it does not trade in the normal monetary system, as far as I know. What about putting pressure on Russia to make them give up the war? If middle-class Russians can’t travel and enjoy holidays outside Russia, it would be a dent in their comfortable lives that would make them grow tired of the regime.

When the dots don’t connect.

Your comments on Thai credit cards brings to mind my recent experience. I discovered Lazada. It’s great for ordering things that are less commonly available and hard to find in a country where all shops sell the same limited selection (except for select shops in Bangkok). The option is given for Cash On Delivery which is also great for farangs like me; but what happens when the goods delivered are damaged or faulty? Return them of course and the system works well and a refund is made to your Lazada wallet. So I had better sign on to open my wallet. The first registration page asks whether you are Thai or a foreigner. Answer foreigner and it says, “Sorry you can’t have a wallet”. It’s illegal. How do I get my credit? I have not contacted customer services yet. It’s a bit like the Immigration policy – the dots don’t always connect.

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Dubbed movies.

It’s not only Thais who hate films being dubbed. I refuse to watch anything that has been dubbed. I tend to watch series rather than films, and I always check for subtitles even though the programme is in English. Sometimes they’re already part of the download, but if not they can usually be found and added easily enough. I even have a very good piece of software that corrects them if they are out of sync. Why do I want subtitles? These days, many actors / actresses (I refuse to call woman actors) mumble their lines now. It wasn’t always so. When I watch things that are several years old there is no problem.

 

Chinese New Year, Billboard, top floor of Nana Plaza.

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This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Last year’s low season was anything but and this year’s high season is turning out to be one unlike anyone has seen. Yes, there was a huge rush and crush over the Christmas and New Year period, but high season 2023 is really just a continuation of “low season” 2022, with tourist numbers rising each month as people return to flying and traveling. But it’s an odd high season in another way: It’s inconsistent and unpredictable around the bar areas, most notably on Soi Cowboy.

Take the past two Tuesdays, for example. Dollhouse on Soi Cowboy boomed. Manager Dennis couldn’t understand why Tuesday was such a big deal. In fact, the previous Monday was also amazingly busy. But then came Wednesday night – a night that history says is better than Tuesdays and much better than Mondays – yet Dollhouse, Suzie Wong and even Crazy House were relatively slow. And, again, no one was quite sure why. Were the tourists just hung over?

Shark on Soi Cowboy is building real momentum. The gogo bar’s return to business has been slower than hoped, with attractive women in short supply. But Friday night saw a dozen hostesses, all smartly clad in white dresses, out in front of Shark and more than 20 dancers on stage before 9 PM. An hour later, that number had multiplied. Some previous Shark dancers who had gone elsewhere during Covid are back and there are more than a few lookers on stage.

 

Meet her at Suzie Wong, Soi Cowboy.

 

I mentioned earlier how the guy who runs the Nana Burger truck has been making a mint since the start of legal marijuana sales on Soi 4. Never one to pass up a chance to make more money, the folks behind Crazy House and Kazy Kozy have jumped on the bandwagon and put in three deep-fryers on the corner of Soi Cowboy, serving up French fries. I’m told that they smell so good, even those not high on weed are tempted.

Lumpini police brought the drug test kits to Nana Plaza on Monday night, creating panic throughout the complex. If you ever had any doubt whether many bar staff use drugs, watch what happens when the drug police come to town. The net result is empty bars – not empty of customers, but empty of ladies (and ladyboys) fearful of turning piss-strips purple. One gogo bar that normally has 20 – 25 women on stage had exactly four on Tuesday with that number only rising to 12 by Wednesday. Ladies were afraid the cops would be back.

Up the road in Nana Plaza, things have been looking like the past – and in this case that’s not a good thing. When it was first opened by the one we called the “Crazy Korean”, it seemed like Geisha was closed as often as it was open. Constant money problems meant that if the owner couldn’t pay salaries that day, he didn’t open. Geisha seemed to find some stability, and enough customers to keep the doors open, after it reopened last year under new management. But now that it has been sold again, not only did dozens of the ladies and mamasans leave, the lights are off again. Will Geisha open tonight? Flip a coin. You’ve got a 50% chance of being right.

 

Not the first time, Geisha on Nana Plaza’s top floor has been in darkness.

 

Butterflies added another giant screen to the walls and Billboard received another huge one a day later set to go up. The top-of-the-line 4K LEDs are said to add to the vibe to both bars. The screens alternate between showing live and replayed sports, video collages of beautiful photos of the Butterflies and Billboard babes, 3D animations along with some music videos. It’s ironic that it should be Butterflies and Billboard when these 2 bars already offer plenty of visual stimulation.

In Patpong, people keep mentioning Pink Panther which seems to be one of the hot spots in Bangkok’s oldest bar area.

Away from the chrome poles, now that the World Cup is history and sports pub staff have recovered, it’s back to regular business. At The Game, that means its weekly Killer Pool tournament is back every Thursday, now starting at 8 PM. Killer Pool has players start with five “lives”. Miss a shot, and you lose a life. Last person alive wins. The Game, under the Nana BTS station, has also added a free pool tournament on Tuesdays with prizes to the top three finishers. It too starts at 8:00 PM.

 

Every Tuesday at The Game.

 

Errant wait staff in one of the biggest and best gogo bars have been caught pulling the double lady drink scam. I am not going to name the bar as the owners are aware of the issue and working to stamp it out. When they were made aware of the situation this past week where a customer felt cheated when multiple drinks arrived when he offered a lady a lady drink, management quickly rectified the situation, removing one lady drink from the bill and offering the customer a free drink. In this instance, it appears that the issue was the wait staff. They appear to be in cahoots with the dancer and bring two lady drinks instead of one. It sounds like some customers just (begrudgingly?) accepted this while this Stickman reader did not. It’s an awkward situation because it’s never clear whether this is bar policy (some girls claim it to be bar policy when it is not) or whether the lady is taking advantage of you. If your lady of the moment returns with two drinks, what’s the best way to handle it? Accept it and cough up an extra 180 or 200 baht, while wondering what the next trick she’s going to pull on you is? Or you could raise the issue with her and risk her losing interest in you which, again, is hardly ideal. It really is a no win situation.

This coming Friday, January 27th, Sukhumvit soi 33 fetish house Demonia will celebrate its 20th anniversary. 20 years in the bar business is a huge achievement and few bars last that long, let alone a venue with a very specific niche. Mistress Hunteress will be a special guest and there will be a complementary glass of Champagne for every customer.

 

It’s party time at Demonia, Sukhumvit soi 33.

 

There has been much commentary in recent weeks about the ladies asking rates which in the better Bangkok gogo bars today is typically 3,000 baht. Unlike the old days, for many ladies the rate is fixed and they will not negotiate. Of course, some will, but it’s not like the old days when the power was very much with the customer. This has changed the dynamic markedly and in many ways it makes the gogo bars more like places of entertainment, rather than hooker bars. Today, many readers tell me that they go out to have a good time in the bars and join the party – but have no expectation of barfining a lady. Just like the bar ladies have other options (to make money), so too do naughty boys have other options. If you want to meet a lady for sex but consider the total price in many gogo bars too high (lady drinks + barfine + lady’s fee + short-time room), don’t fret because you’re in Bangkok and there are MANY options. There are short-time places everywhere, many masquerading as massage shops. There are the many popular clubs and bars full of freelancers on Soi 11. Venture away from Sukhumvit in to the Thai areas and there are the big soapies. And the most accessible option of all are the many websites and apps with local working girls. The likes of ThaiFriendly and Tinder may have been created as places to find a date but both have no shortage of working girls. I hear a lot of Thai ladies can be met via OnlyFans. And there are many dedicated lady-for-hire websites and apps. For those who are feeling frisky but don’t have the money being asked by gogo dancers, some of the Thai language sites have some amazing deals. If you’re prepared to do some hunting there are ladies who are every bit as attractive as the ladies in your favourite gogo bar with all-in prices that are considerably less. There are so many ladies on some of these sites and apps that the competition amongst them has been described as fierce, driving prices down and service promises up. The one major downside is that these sites and the ladies’ profiles tend to be in the Thai language. See below. Even if you can’t read Thai, you can probably still work out their asking price and how much time you get. And many profiles – like the one below – spell out exactly what the buyer gets. The bottom line is, if you’re after a naughty, don’t get fixated on the gogo bars. They’re a great place to drink, to meet friends and to party. But if you’re on a budget, you may find deals more to your liking elsewhere.

 

Options for naughty boys.

 

It has been reported that Thailand is looking at extending the 45 day visa waiver for those of us from the developed world until the end of the year. Prior to October of 2022, you’d get 30 days but they extended it to 45 days to encourage visitors to stay longer. I don’t imagine there were a lot of people who chose to stay longer but it’s still nice to have the option to do so without the hassle of going to an Immigration office to extend your visa.

Many dread their visit to Immigration, especially if you’re in Bangkok and you have to make the long trek out to Chaeng Wattana. But things are changing and the new appointment system sounds very promising. You can turn up and do what you need to do without an appointment but if you have an appointment things are said to be much quicker. A long-time reader made an appointment for a visa extension this week and was in and out within 11 minutes. He made the comment that there are younger staff with better English and they’re much more efficient. So next time you need to extend your visa in Bangkok, make an appointment online and save yourself heaps of time!

There was talk in the press this week that Thailand would start charging non-Thai nationals for Covid-19 vaccinations. Until now, pretty much anyone could rock up to a vaccination centre and get vaccinated for free. It wasn’t clear whether this new policy applied to expats or not. You have a choice of Pfizer or Astra Zeneca which I note has been withdrawn in many markets due to concerns about its safety in younger males. Already had a vaccination? Get boosted! Been boosted already? Get boosted again! Why not? It can’t possibly do any harm, right……..?

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

If you’re living in Thailand, even those who plan to stay single forever tend to eventually settle down with a Thai lady. And that means that sooner or later you’re probably going to meet your Thai lady’s parents. It might sound like a big deal and in many ways it is, but at the same time it’s not something to be nervous about. I met a few girlfriends’ parents in Thailand over the years and it was always quite relaxed. Just remember the 3 “P”s and you’ll be fine. Turn up looking presentable, be polite and (be willing to) pick up the tab. In most cases, irrespective of her family’s background, that’s enough to pass the first test.

I went off expat fiction some 15 odd years ago when the market became saturated after Bangkok Books seemed to be publishing every manuscript they received. Where once expat fiction meant Christopher G. Moore, Jake Needham and Dean Barrett – professional writers whose works are enjoyed around the world – now every man and his dog was keen to be published in print. Aside from “the big three”, there were other authors producing expat fiction worth reading like Timothy Hallinan, John Burdett and a few others. Recently I was made aware of an Asian expat fiction series which sounded interesting. Featuring a professional assassin, The Reliable Man is a former Hong Kong Police inspector who moves around Asia meeting interesting people. Most of the books are set in specific time periods of the 90s or early 00s. For example in 1997, The Reliable Man is both in London for the General Election and then back in Hong Kong for the handover. In 1996 he is on a body-guarding job for the Singapore Security and Intelligence Division at the Atlanta Olympics and in 2007 he gets involved in a coup attempt in the Philippines. The bestseller is ‘Reliable in Bangkok’ which is the first in the series, set in 1992. The main character travels to Pattaya to assassinate the head of the German mafia. The series is self-published with the books available on Amazon as these days no mainstream woke publisher will touch books about white men running around Asia shooting baddies and shagging honeys. You can find out more at TheReliableMan.com. The first 4 books in the series, Reliable in Bangkok, Reliable in Jakarta, Reliable in Hong Kong and Reliable in Danang are available as free downloads from now until January 26th. Reliable in Bangkok can be found on Amazon here.

 

The Reliable Man.

 

I had a nosey at Bangkok Pat’s recent video riding the skytrain and one thing really stood out – there are huge apartment buildings going up all over Bangkok. That’s a good thing, but so many of these recently built apartment buildings in Bangkok really are incredibly unattractive. They may stand tall and proud, but in many ways they look like a gigantic cigarette packet emerging from the ground. Bangkok might not be known for classic architecture or be full of world-famous buildings but there were periods when Thai architecture was attractive and appealing. The new residential buildings going up these days are anything but.

Speaking of large buildings, popular mall Emporium is an odd spot. I understand that they’re currently undergoing yet another renovation, something which seems to take place rather often. One of the many oddities with Emporium is that it doesn’t feel like it is “zoned”. High-end designer brands and boutiques are congregated on the ground and first floors, but from the second floor up things get a bit confusing. A travel agency is close to a sports apparel store, a pharmacy is adjacent to a foreign language bookstore. In many malls shops are “zoned”, to some extent. And in Emporium you have (or least had as, admittedly, I have not been there in a while) cafes and restaurants spread all over the place. There’s the food court on the 5th floor but then there were food outlets seemingly randomly placed all over the mall with no rhyme nor reason, some tucked away like the branch of Fuji (since closed, I believe?) which was very hard to find if you didn’t know your way around. Emporium used to be very different in layout to, say, Terminal 21 which was much more intuitive and you could easily find what you were looking for.

 

Meet her at Butterflies, Nana Plaza.

 

Thailand-Related News Article Links

Eight people are crushed in Chantaburi when a helicopter hovers over a children’s party to throw down sweets, and a stadium roof collapses.

A foreigner, thought to be Russian, goes bonkers in a Pattaya 7 Eleven store.

A Pattaya bar owner punches a Russian over an unpaid 60 baht bar bill.

The Thai Police are getting serious with Immigration officers who helped Chinese criminals stay in Thailand illegally.

The main suspect in Belgium’s biggest cold case is arrested in Thailand.

The 21-year old Brit who fell from a hotel balcony in Ko Phangan is back in England after £71,000 was raised to fund her medical care and return.

An American sought in connection with an alleged stock manipulation scheme that saw a small deli listed as a public company worth $100 million has agreed to be extradited to the USA.

 

Meet her at Butterflies, Nana Plaza.

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Closing Comments

Each week this column features a handful of photos of ladies who can currently be found in the bars. If you like what you see, you really can go to the bar and meet her for real. The past couple of weeks’ columns have featured ladies in my opinion who are more attractive than some of the ladies featured previously. One of the challenges the pro photographer behind these shots faces is that many of the most attractive ladies aren’t interested in being photographed. Every effort is made to shoot the most attractive ladies but ultimately the decision of whether she will be photographed or not is the lady’s. With the multi-coloured, flashing lights and cramped space in some bars, glamour photography inside the bars is challenging to say the least. It’s made even more difficult by ladies who aren’t models and who at times can be difficult. “Have you finished?”, she asks after you have taken a couple of test shots to check the light and she has been in front of the camera for no more than 30 seconds! All this said, I think the professional’s work featured weekly in this column is outstanding and I hope you enjoy his shots as much as I do.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com