Stickman Weekly, February 5, 2023
Last week’s photo was taken in the same bar as the photo published the previous week, Soi 7’s Biergarten. I think it’s the first time I have ever run two photos from the same venue back to back. I was impressed that quite a few of you got it right. A number of you thought it was either Thermae or Margarita Storm.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
I went to Thermae tonight about 9 PM. The place was packed. Girls lined the perimeter as usual but many were in the inner circle where some punters hang out due to a lack of space. I have never seen the place this busy ever, even in the good old days. Punters were mostly Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese….as usual. About 5 – 10% of the girls were wearing masks, which changes their chance of success from slim to zero. Walking around, a few of the ladies actually made eye contact and smiled which was unusual. Most just stare straight ahead like a zombie with no attempt to market themselves. It has always been a strange place. Why do these ladies even bother going there if they are not going to promote themselves? And why wear a mask which makes sure no-one will talk to you? I saw virtually none of them being taken out the place. I would love to give a 200 baht per person marketing seminar to these no-brains: smile, make eye contact, wear a sexy outfit and don’t stare at your phone!
The skytrain and mask-wearing.
The skytrain is now the only place I bother with the blasted face nappy. But contrary to what your other contributor said, I was on the skytrain the other day and the announcement in English said that masks were “Recommended”. Which to me isn’t the same as compulsory. I put mine on just as I was boarding, not when entering the station. I appeared to be the lone farang in the carriage of masked Thais. Then, to my astonishment, I noticed one maskless Thai looking woman!
Postcard from Sukhumvit.
I have been back in Bangkok a week and have a few observations. It’s pretty busy with plenty of people about. Most businesses which had closed over Covid have reopened. A few places are still closed or still doing refurbishments. It’s fairly busy on Soi Cowboy, but as you mentioned, it seems to be the live music bars and the outside areas that are doing particularly well. The lines-ups in Cowboy are generally a bit disappointing to be honest and certainly not up to Nana Plaza in my opinion. Speaking of Nana, Billboard still seems to be ruling the roost with, I’d say, a better line-up than when I was last here in November. I’ve always personally preferred the vibe in Butterflies. Not a bad line-up in there at the moment but still a bit of catching up to do to catch Billboard in that regard. I’ve been avoiding the BTS as I can’t be arsed to bother with the mask nonsense. But I did use it last night as it was more convenient for the journey we were doing. My lady friend dutifully took her mask out of her bag but said to me, “You don’t need to bother as you’re farang”. So I didn’t and much to my surprise neither did about 80% of the other farang on there.
More Readers’ Emails
A new way to lose money on Soi Cowboy.
I just tried to withdraw THB 10,000 from a Krungsri Bank ATM on Soi Cowboy, two shophouses towards the middle of the soi from Toy Bar. The som tam sellers were watching me, I’m not sure why. The ATM said the machine had no money. End of story, I thought. Anyway, I immediately received a text from Kasikorn Bank stating I’d withdrawn THB 10K. I called the Kasikorn call center, and they said they’d co-ordinate with Krungsri and it may take 10 days. The som tam people said I was the second farang that day to have the same issue. Apparently the ATM was serviced by Krungsri technicians that morning. Somehow I’m suspicious because it’s on Soi Cowboy, and not an ATM out at Rangsit or Bangna etc. Have you heard about this from any other people? <There were quite a lot reports of issues with ATMs in the past, especially in Pattaya, where a new card slot had been installed to the front of the machine which I understand scanned cards and allowed the crooks to make duplicates of that card and raid people’s accounts. I have not heard anything about this sort of thing happening for a long time. To be clear, this crime in the past was mostly the work of Eastern Europeans (Romanians and Bulgarians, from memory) and not Thais. Note to readers, the fellow who sent this email later sent another email to say that his account had been credited with 10,000 baht so all’s well that ends well – Stick>
A paddock of sick buffalo stories coming.
Last night I was having a video chat with an educated Thai girl I know who happens to be on the periphery of the nightlife industry. We got into the topic of AI and specifically Chat GPT, which I assume you’ve heard of. It got me thinking that if AI can be used to generate convincing essays, emails and job applications, how long before the more savvy bargirls start embracing it to generate pleas for cash and other gifts? It surely can’t be too far away. Having never used it before, I signed up and tested some queries. This was my first query: Can you please ask my western boyfriend for some money as my buffalo is sick and needs a vet. Make sure it’s convincing. AI Response: “My dearest, I am reaching out to you because our beloved buffalo is not well and needs immediate medical attention. The vet fees are quite high and I am struggling to come up with the funds. I know that times may be tough for both of us, but I am hoping that you could find it in your heart to help us out in this difficult time. Our buffalo is a big part of our family and I don’t know what we would do without it. Any financial support would be greatly appreciated and I will make sure to pay you back as soon as I am able to. Thank you for your understanding and for always being there for me.” It’s quite fun playing around with it and seeing what it comes up with!
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
Trouble is brewing at the soi 7 beer bar complex which has failed to gain traction since reopening in September. One of the few foreign-run bars in the complex, Long Shots, has closed. Long Shots opened back in November, 2019, just a few months before the world essentially shut down. The following 3 and a bit years have been a roller-coaster ride for the owner. During Covid, there was a period when soi 7 was the place to go after dark but ever since the complex was ordered closed last year due to underage girls being found in one bar causing a cascade of problems as investigators found the area was operating without the required licences, it has failed to get the punters back in big numbers. Since the place reopened in September, Long Shots broke even for a few months but the last few weeks have been dire. As bars around town have been booming, soi 7 has struggled. Customers are drawn to the bright lights of Nana and Cowboy, many seemingly unaware soi 7 even exists. For soi 7 bar owners, it’s the same old problem – a prime location downtown means the rents are high. Just how high? Long Shots, a bar of just 72 square metres, located up a side soi and tucked away in a bar complex, was paying a little less than 300,000 baht / month! There were various reasons for Long Shots owner to call it a day, but rent was near the top of the list. Making matters worse, leases are on a rolling 6 months, meaning further increases can’t be ruled out. And these rolling leases end in October next year with strong suggestions the land will be sold. With the future of the area up in the air there is essentially no equity in the bars which means there is no resale value. Word is to expect more owners to leave when leases are renewed in April. The other big problem is opening hours. In the early days, bars in the soi 7 plaza stayed open late and 20 – 30% of trade was after 2 AM. These days soi 7 must close at 2:00 AM. It’s frustrating for bar owners in the complex as customers leave their bar at 2:00 AM and amble over to the soi where many street bars remain open until late. Some wander over to sois 7/1, 8 and 11 where many bars open until 4 or even 5 AM. There’s so much water under the bridge between bar operators and management that there’s little trust and a feeling there is no understanding of the difficulties bar operators face. And let’s not forget one reason why some customers no longer visit soi 7 is the toilets – turn-style gates with a 10 baht charge to use toilets which have been described at times as filthy. For the owner of Long Shots, good times were had but all of the dramas are exhausting. He plans to take a couple of months off, and will then decide if he wishes to re-open Long Shots elsewhere. He does not want to paint a negative picture of soi 7 and enjoyed many good times running Long Shots. He wishes his fellow bars owners well and hopes those who enjoyed Long Shots visit other bars in soi 7.
In what has been an unusual high season, trade this week at Bangkok’s red-light bars have the usual post-New Year’s dip, surprising pretty much everyone, considering how the past 8 months have gone i.e. up, up and away! Soi Cowboy on Tuesday looked like what you used to expect on a Tuesday, with plenty of empty seats up and down Neon Alley. Even tourist magnet Long Gun was half empty when, weeks ago, it was shoulder-to-shoulder with some visitors even getting on stage. Friday night in Nana Plaza was more of the same. Visitors to Billboard had to check their watches twice at 10 PM as they looked around a half-empty bar. Weirdly, Billboard, Butterflies and Red Dragon had been packed early, as in 8:30 PM early when bars are never full. Then, around 9:30, they emptied out only to bounce back late.
A few people have mentioned Red Dragon recently with the line-up said to be fantastic. This is partly due to an influx of girls from Geisha. And a mamasan from Billboard who jumped ship may have taken some girls with her. It sounds like things are going rather well for Red Dragon. Sounds like it’s worth stopping by. As one reader noted, there’s a large line-up of really attractive ladies with very few duds.
For connoisseurs of BJ bars, the Kasalong crew is said to be a whole lot better-looking than those at Wood (soi 11) and Lolita’s (soi 8) at this time with one reader’s amusing proviso, “unless one digs ancient librarians reminiscent of whales“.
In Nana Plaza, few may actually want to step inside, but the exterior LED wall outside ladyboy bar Stockings is definitely compelling. But only as compelling as the animated walls outside Spice Girls on Soi Cowboy was: Looks great, but if chicks with dicks are not your thing, beware about going inside.
The interior of the recently opened Velvet in the sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8 where The Kiwi was previously located has been described as beautiful and classy. And the beauty doesn’t end there with hostess and wait staff described as being similarly attractive. But the question is being asked, is a sub-soi off soi 8 the right location for such a flash venue? Velvet has been open for a while now but has yet to take off. Even on Friday nights, there is only a smattering of customers with most tables unoccupied. There is an upstairs area although it’s unclear whether it’s being used or not. The downstairs section has been closing around midnight. Cocktails are priced as you’d expect in such a venue and while not expensive per se, Velvet is not a spot for cheap Charlies looking for draft beer at 100 baht. One imagines Velvet might be better off on Sukhumvit soi 11 where the crowds appreciate and are willing to pay for flasher surroundings and a more upmarket experience. The venue has a farang DJ who has been described as a spitting image of Michael Bolton. The owner of Velvet is behind many popular spots on Sukhumvit soi 8 so it will be interesting to see if she can make Velvet a success. Will it gain traction or has she perhaps got a bit too adventurous? For the time being, Velvet is a comfortable spot to kick back, relax and enjoy good music away from the crowds.
Got a preferred drink? Check the calendar before you head out to Nana Plaza. Red Dragon has a different drink on sale for 95 baht all night. Jack Daniel’s is Wednesdays. Vodka on Friday. Perhaps that’s why Red Dragon is busy early these days. Guys load up on their favorite cheap booze before wandering around the plaza.
Are you ready to live the dream? Down in Pattaya, Big Andy is in need of a PR Manger for two of his Walking Street gogo bars, Dollhouse and Electric Blue. The ideal candidate would be someone who has lived in Pattaya for a while and knows lots of people around town. If you’re interested, drop Andy an email at : Pattayaleisure@yahoo.com.
Soi LK Metro has established itself as the place for naughty boys who want to experience the Walking Street of old with beer bars, gogo bars and stereotypical Pattaya visitors. And the number of gogo bars on Soi LK Metro continues to rise with Kilkenny Bar & Guesthouse recently sold, to be converted in to a gogo bar. One imagines this scenario will be repeated over the next few years as leases come up and the small eateries / beer bar-style bars are taken over by those who wish to convert them in to a chrome pole bar.
Long-term Pattaya expat, Dr Iain Corness, a Scot who grew up in Australia, passed away this week. A man with many talents, he was a medical doctor and for some time, a consultant at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital. He loved to race cars. He was perhaps best known amongst expats for the many columns he wrote in the Pattaya Mail. Dr Iain was a regular guest on local Pattaya TV station, Sophon TV, back in the day. He will be missed by many.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the bar business has bounced back and in many areas it has – but not everywhere is booming. Just like the soi 7 beer bar complex in Bangkok, many bars on Pattaya’s Walking Street are not doing the sort of trade you’d expect at this time of year. One Walking Street bar boss admitted to me this week that things in his well-known, long-established bar are not where he’d hoped they’d be. “It feels like a fair August rather than the height of the high season. Ah well, better than this time last year.”
The price of booze is on the up, thanks to the Thai government. Beer taxes recently went up again and that is pushing up retail prices again. Heineken, for example, raised the wholesale price of a case by 30 baht. That’s a bit more than 1 baht a bottle. And that comes after a similarly large hike in the third quarter last year. Gogo bars that have held the line on prices are rethinking their menus. One big gogo bar that hasn’t raised prices since 2017 is planning a big hike, although it hopes to keep most customer drinks priced under the psychological 200-baht barrier.
For the naïve folks and the cheap Charlies who scoff at gogo bar drink prices, pointing to their local 7-Eleven where a bottle of Heineken costs less than 50 baht, keep in mind that you’re not just buying a beer. You’re getting an adult entertainment show with no cover charge, anything from a dozen or two to 100 ladies to gawk at, multiple DJs (over the span of a week), cleaning crews, bartenders, air-conditioning, lights and electricity, all in a prime downtown location where rents can run a million baht a month or more. Lady drinks won’t cover all those bills, especially as the ladies now get half or more of the price of that drink. So your beer has to cover all of that. In the better bars, you’re getting what you pay for!
On a related note, being a wine lover in Bangkok can be painful on the wallet. With tax rates that make beer look like a downright bargain, wine is ridiculously priced in Thailand, a fact that becomes painfully clear with a short hop over to Laos or Vietnam. Wine-themed restaurants such as Wine Connection and I Love You Wine aren’t as popular as they are because they have good wine; it’s more about the food and inexpensive wine that wouldn’t excite many wine fans.
So where to go? Wine Depot on Sukhumvit Soi 22. First opened as a wine store by a French importer who knows every in-and-out of the wine business and regulatory environment, Wine Depot prides itself on offering “premium value” i.e. premium imported wines that are worth paying Thailand prices for. Wine Depot stocks 140 different labels and has Bangkok’s biggest and best selection of wine by the glass. Whereas many restaurants only offer fruity house wines by the glass, Wine Depot covers the entire range, offering glasses of red from Shiraz to Cabernet to Merlot to Pinot Noir and a similar full range of whites, with the selection changing monthly.
After going low-key during the pandemic, Wine Depot this month relaunched its daily promotions, offering an all-day happy hour, crazy good lunch and dinner set meals, a Thursday’s Ladies Night, Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals on draft beer on Saturdays, half-off pizzas on Sundays and half-priced tapas and bruschetta on Mondays. See all the promotions on Wine Depot’s social media channels:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/winedepotbangkok
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wine_depot_bkk/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Wine_Depot_BKK
The biggest American sporting event (and the third biggest in the world behind the World Cup and the Olympics) takes place at 6:30 AM Thailand time February 13 when Super Bowl LVII kicks off in Phoenix, Arizona. And, for once, the no. 1 teams in both NFL conferences will face each other for the championship. Chiefs vs. Eagles is expected to be an epic game and there’s no better place to see it than the five football-lovin’ Buddy’s Bar & Grill locations in Bangkok. Order from Texan Buddy’s huge new breakfast menu and enjoy 100 baht Bloody Marys. And, only at the new Soi 8 venue, a 300-baht breakfast buffet with bacon, sausage patties, scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, 1 Bloody Mary and free-flow coffee. More info on Buddy’s website.
This past Thursday I received multiple messages from friends in Bangkok all saying the same thing – the pollution is horrible! The other half’s sister was complaining of a sore throat and a few of her staff didn’t go to work, saying they were ill because of the pollution. Photos and video from Bangkok this past week showed a hazy sky with the AQI (air quality index) which measures particles of pollution in the air reading above 200 in downtown Bangkok. An AQI reading under 50 is considered safe; the higher the number, the worse the pollution is. I can recall many parts of downtown measuring around 150 or 160 (there is always an outlier that is a good deal higher) but to see many locations downtown above 200 is not something I can ever recall seeing before. Deteriorating air quality at this time of the year in many parts of Thailand is normal – but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with. If I was living in Bangkok at the moment I’d have an air purifier in every room of my condo / house. And I’d have a supply of N95 masks for when I ventured outside.
While pollution can be particularly bad in Thailand, Bangkok is not the worst area, far from it in fact. The north tends to get the worst pollution, so bad that some people relocate elsewhere for a short period to escape the filthy air. Where do they go? Southern Thailand! The south doesn’t tend to get it nearly as bad and the likes of Krabi and Phuket are amongst those places least affected. If terrible pollution is something you really struggle with, jump on a plane for Phuket to escape it.
Have you ever used the Fast Track service at the airport? I haven’t. It’s a service where you’re met at the gate when you get off the plane and someone (sometimes, quite literally) holds your hand and takes you through the airport, including the fast lane at Immigration, baggage check, Customs and to the taxi stand. One regular reader tells me that he usually books this service in advance but the service provider has advised him that due to the mainstream media’s coverage of the Chinese blogger who had paid police to provide an escort to Pattaya, Fast Track services are not operating for the time being. Why would such a report cause these services to be suspended? It would appear that these (some? all?) Fast Track services aren’t above board. Is there a bit of a racket going on at the airport as staff with time on their hands offer the Fast Track service with online ads at flash websites? Do they grease a few palms as they pass through the airport in what seems to be a nice little earner for all involved? It would be interesting if this is the case as a number of “firms” have been offering this service for years and I never gave it a second thought. I just assumed it was all above board. Perhaps there are official and unofficial Fast Track services? Anything is possible. Don’t you love the Thais for being so incredibly entrepreneurial?! I expect this will all blow over soon and all these Fast Track services will resume.
One of the issues I had with Thai girlfriends in the past is that they would often be on the lookout (while not necessarily going through stuff per se) for “evidence” of previous girlfriends. And when they saw stuff they would often misinterpret it. I remember one girlfriend discovering photos of me and a previous girlfriend taking a trip to Singapore. She became quite indignant that I had not taken her to Singapore. Some people have told me they have thrown away photos and other keepsakes because they didn’t want their current lady to find them. I would never do that. With digital photos and encrypted hard-drives you don’t need to hide printed photos.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Thai Police officers confessed that they did in fact shake down a Taiwanese actress for 27,000 baht.
A two-timing Dutchman is seeking to recover 4 million baht sent to a Thai woman employed by the government who duped him in to sending money to her to buy land for the two of them.
There are allegations Chinese crooks might be residing in Thailand using the Elite Card.
A senior Pattaya police officer is alleged to have extorted 60,000 baht from a foreigner.
Taxi scams are the most common concerns for visitors to Thailand.
A floating pirate-themed restaurant sunk off the coast from Pattaya this week.
Thailand’s terrible, eye-stinging pollution made news around the world this week.
I do everything to get things right in this column but last week a few errors of fact crept in. It’s unfortunate, but it happens from time to time – although 3 errors in one column is not usual. What I do about these errors depends on a few things – whether it’s something major or not, and how long the column has been up. Generally, I’ll go back and fix things up. There are times I might leave the error there and include a note in the following column to that effect. In the odd instance, I might kill a paragraph altogether. I really appreciate emails from those of you who take the time to point out any errors of fact in the column.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com