Big Trouble At Patpong
Buried deep in last week’s column were links to two news articles about a Phuket bar raided and found to be at the heart of an underage sex operation. This week, the story expanded as investigators flew up to Bangkok and raided a bunch of Patpong’s most popular bars. The rumour mill went in to overdrive. Would this be the end of Patpong?
To recap, on Thursday of last week the Bangkok Post included a short news item reporting that the day before, officials had raided a bar in Phuket and arrested two Thai females after an investigation had uncovered an underage sex ring with 6 girls not of legal age operating out of a hotel nearby.
The next day, Khao Sod reported that 5 senior police officers from the Patong Police Station had been removed for allowing a bar to provide underage girls as prostitutes to foreign customers.
Anyone following the story likely assumed that was the end of it. They couldn’t be more wrong.
The next day the Thai Examiner wrote an extensive article about the original raid at the bar, Velvet, on Phuket’s main bar strip, Bangla Road. The news website reported that the police were hunting for the owner of the bar, a Swiss national. Known associates of the Swiss man were said to be under surveillance. Thailand’s best-known officer, Big Joke, had been assigned to lead the investigation.
This past Tuesday night, the story made the national news and grabbed the attention of those in the Bangkok bar industry after police raided 9 bars / businesses around the country at the same time: 6 in Patpong, 1 in Pattaya and 2 in Phuket. TV reports followed police officers walking through the Patpong Museum. (See Thai TV news report here.)
With a swathe of foreign-owned bars in Patpong soi 2 closed including Black Pagoda, The Strip, XXX Lounge and Bar Bar, the rumour mill went in to overdrive, and on Wednesday night it was the talk of the town. Across the bar industry, bar owners were all asking the same questions. Was the boss of these Patpong bars involved in the underage business in Phuket? Could this be the end of his bars in Patpong soi 2?
In an industry full of jealousy, back-stabbing and mistruths and outright lies, some bar bosses love nothing more than trash-talking their rivals. The rumours and speculation that followed were wild.
One mooted that the Phuket bar mafia were involved. The Bangkok bar boss had swooped down from Bangkok, his pockets filled with cash and scooped up some bars on the cheap. The Phuket bar mafia saw him as a vulture and the whole thing with the underage girls was a setup, orchestrated to take him down as payback.
Others speculated the Bangkok bar boss who it is understood had a share in the Phuket bars had done what pretty much every foreign bar boss does – entrusted his multi-million baht business with rice-field Thais who had given in to temptation and been up to no good on the sly. When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
An excerpt from last week’s column is worth repeating:
Page 1 of the Gogo Bar Business Manual says “Your bar is going to fail if you’re not there to manage it” but many foreigners who roll their money into naughty bars never read it. Look at Nana Plaza’s best-run and most-successful bars – Billboard, Butterflies and Spanky’s – and the owners are in the bar, at least for a few hours, nearly every day. The foreign-owned bars struggling often have one thing in common – most nights there’s not a foreigner manager or owner to be found.
Putting things together from news reports, it appeared that the mamasan at Velvet had a friend working as an “agent”. Together they were running a network of underage girls who bar customers would be directed to meet in a nearby hotel.
The Swiss fellow mentioned in the news reports was reported to be the owner of Velvet. Let’s call him “R”. A friend who knew “R” when he worked in Bangkok described him as a “savvy bar boss”.
“R” had previously worked in Bangkok where he managed Black Pagoda and The Strip. He is also said to be an investor in these and other bars in Patpong. Conversely, the main owner of the Bangkok bars raided is said to have a share in Velvet, where the underage operation is alleged to have been run from.
News articles say “R” fled to a neighbouring country which, history shows us, usually means Cambodia.
After discovering the links between Velvet in Phuket and a bunch of bars in Bangkok, investigators flew north and descended on Patpong. On Tuesday of this week, teams of cops were all over Bangkok’s oldest bar area as bars were closed, staff questioned, photos taken and documents taken away.
The next day – this past Wednesday – the grapevine went in to overdrive as bar industry figures city-wide speculated on what was going on.
It has been the talk of the bar industry since with everyone asking the same question. Was the boss of these Bangkok bars involved in an elaborate operation with underage girls? The verdict was unanimous: No-one believed he was aware of what was going on down in Phuket.
The tide of opinion would turn a little after a bar industry figure turned sleuth. Why had bars in Patpong’s online presence disappeared? Social media for the bars was unpublished. On one website, photos from the closed bars were stripped out. “Destroying evidence”, one prominent bar figure said, fueling more gossip and rumour.
The owner of the Patpong bars which have closed is well-regarded. In what can be a grubby industry, I always considered him one of the good guys. Intelligent, articulate, polite and loyal, he always treated people – regardless of background – with respect. I’ve known him for 15 odd years and I absolutely do not believe he had anything to do with this nonsense with underage girls.
The most likely scenario is that a greedy mamasan in Velvet saw an opportunity to line her pockets and teamed up with a friend to run a dodgy operation on the side, funneling customers from the bar to a hotel where the underage girls were based, clipping the ticket and taking a commission from each customer.
The crime may have taken place in Phuket but there has been fallout in Bangkok. A number of bars have closed and the girls working in those bars – estimated to number in excess of 100 – have skedaddled.
The night following the raid at Patpong, a Nana Plaza bar welcomed more than 20 girls from the closed bars. Another Nana Plaza bar grabbed a dozen. As word spread around the plaza that several bars in Patpong had closed and ladies were looking for work, mamasans were told to reprioritise their work and snare as many Patpong girls as they could.
Back at Patpong, management in one of the closed bars, The Strip, implored staff to keep the faith. This would all pass, the girls were told, as management pleaded with them not to seek employment elsewhere.
At the time of writing, the bars remain closed putting parts of the Silom Road end of Patpong soi 2 in darkness. Ironically, the wonderful Museum of Patpong, the venue which was featured on Thai TV news reports full of police officers and is part of the same group, remains open.
The loss of so many girls is a hammer blow to those bars at a time when it is harder than ever to recruit. Will the girls return to Patpong if this all blows over? Who knows.
Underage girls working in the bar industry is an age-old problem. Things are better than they used to be but there is still the odd underage girl about. In some cases bar operators look the other way. In many cases the bar owner simply doesn’t know. A borrowed ID card from someone of legal age is all an underage lady needs to get a job in a bar.
The most recent high-profile case where an underage girl was found in a big-name gogo bar cost the bar operator a cool million baht to make the problem go away. That was just one lady, 17 years old if I recall correctly. One lady a few months short of legal age could just about be explained as a mistake.
6 ladies aged under 18, one of whom was just 15 – as was the case in Phuket – cannot be explained away so easily.
As a friend who is a multi-decade customer of the bar industry commented, “It’s pretty stupid to operate outside of the law in this day and age. The risk : reward just isn’t there.”
Assuming reports in the mainstream media are accurate, “R” has fled Thailand. The consensus is that he won’t be back, as in not ever. Did he know about the underage girl operation? He may have turned a blind eye to the mamasan running a side-show, or he may have been completely unaware. No-one knows.
Is this the end of the closed bars in Patpong? I doubt it. While there is a connection between the raided bar in Phuket and bars in Patpong, there is no precedent for bars being ordered closed when a venue several hundred km away with ownership links breaks the law.
Is this the end of Patpong? No chance. Patpong is so much more than one bar group with a few bars on soi 2.
Patpong soi 2 would fall further into the mire if the only remaining chrome pole bars were Pink Panther and Bada Bing. The area would become even less popular amongst naughty boys – but how many actually venture to Patpong these days?
The Patpong area has been revitalised not by new bars and not by the Patpong Museum, but by the redevelopment of the night market as a dining & drinking area. The vast majority of visitors to Patpong are mainstream tourists who probably wouldn’t even notice that a few gogo bars are closed. Patpong will get through this.
Last week’s photo was taken at the start of Sukhumvit soi 7 looking back at the pedestrian bridge that crosses Sukhumvit Road. This week’s photo is more challenging. The one clue I will give you is that it is somewhere in the “farang zone”.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
The bar biz boom continues.
I dunno the demographics of the biz, but Nana Plaza was as packed as I’ve ever seen it. Of course these were tourists for the most part, but for some of these guys it’s enthralling to see exotic women dancing erotically while they’re able to purchase alcohol. There’s baht flying around. Is it a harder-edged sell compared to decades ago? I think so. I used to have fun in gogo bars here. Now, I don’t bother to go. But I’m an old guy and that’s a typical pattern. I’m not gonna deal with a mamasan hovering around me or double-lady-drink nonsense. There are new young guys who will. The biggest change in the industry overall was mobile phones. Nowadays it’s LINE and other messaging channels. And there’s YouTube where you can see the scene without even being there. I see the bar scene as part of Brand Thailand. The TAT won’t talk about it, but it’s part of urban legend / pop culture. It’s something you can’t experience at home, and you want it when you’re on holiday. Everyone wants beach / sun / beer and spicy food / temples / elephants etc. but this is something extra that’s compelling to many. And of course the farang part is a small sliver of the overall pie. We know about Soi Thaniya, and really that’s something you should cover if humanly possible. <I did cover it with a full report some years back, Little Tokyo – Stick> Then there’s the Korean and Chinese sectors. Of course the biggest one is Thai but no one’s gonna talk about that except Chuwit, and you’ll get his side of the story and no one else’s. Farang blinders…a bunch of barstool experts spouting nonsense like “we’re keeping the Thai economy alive!” – this stuff never changes. Economists who’ve never left lower Sukhumvit glued to their Draft Beer Index. The pride of Milton Keynes or wherever. I’m sure a lot of the Tokyo Toshis and Korean Kims are equally myopic.
It costs the same Stateside.
Having just returned from 3 weeks in Bangkok, I’d like to weigh in on the “Why fewer barfines are being paid” discussion. After returning from my 3-year Covid-era absence, I discovered my favorite Nana bar, a tiny non-glitzy one, is now charging a 1,000 baht barfine, and my favorite lady wanted 3,000 baht short time. No discussion. That’s about $130 US, about the same I’d pay for a short time in the States. So it was a no-go. Later that night, I picked a wonderful girl walking Soi 4 around bar closing time and paid 1,000 baht long time. She gave great service and had a great personality. I’ll gladly spend money drinking beers and watching cute dancers on stage, and often buy them lady drinks but at these prices my barfining days are over. Instead, I’ll just take a walk down Soi 4.
Philippines barfine BS.
I moved to the Philippines years ago. I rarely barfine because I meet many local gals on my own; of course, that doesn’t mean I’m getting them for free – far from it! So, I’m no expert on paying for it in the bars, but that “lifetime barfine” BS pisses me off. I’ve heard of it, but don’t think it’s a thing here in the PI. Anyway, something in the same vein does happen here and also rubs me the wrong way. I’ve met women who work in the bar and sometimes I invite them to join me for lunch on their day off. They agree but say we need to go somewhere out of town to eat because if someone from the bar sees them, it will be considered a “sneak out,” and a barfine will be taken from their pay. Yeah, it is their day off, but the bar still exercises control over what they do and who they do it with. That just seems wrong on many levels to me.
More Readers’ Emails
You’re right that airfares remain annoyingly high. I had 3 trips in the second half of 2022 and like myself I think there was huge pent up demand for travel once Covid restrictions had eased. Every flight was pretty much full. Emirates is my preferred airline, given partly to my proximity to London Gatwick. Pre-Covid, economy saver fares were usually around £450 and economy flex around £660. Since Covid it’s been around £760 for saver and £980 for flex. I flew out again in January, returning in February, and did notice on the return legs quite a few spare seats on the Bangkok to Dubai leg. The Dubai to Gatwick leg had around 200 spare seats! This may have just been a one-off or it may actually be that the steeply increased cost of living here in the UK is finally starting to catch up with people. If demand is dropping, it hasn’t had any noticeable effect on the prices airlines are asking for trips later in the year.
Last October I flew from Europe (Malta) to Bangkok for a whopping 550 Euro. It was Malta to Paris, Paris straight to Bangkok (Air France) and the return was Bangkok to Amsterdam to Malta (KLM). 550 Euro did not include checked in luggage (which was around 80 Euro extra) and I was only there for 8 days so carry-on was enough. Fast forward a few months and we just booked another flight to Bangkok. The cheapest (and shortest) was 958 Euro with Turkish Airlines (get there in 14 hours via Istanbul). Everything else was over 1,000 Euro and touching 23 hours total travel time (Etihad, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa etc). An internal flight from Bangkok to Phuket cost us 75 Euro each, which includes checked luggage. Not too bad, although last time I went there I flew for less than 50 Euro. I did notice an increase in hotel prices too. In October, a Marriott property on Soi 11 was around 2,600 baht per day. In June we booked the same property for 3,100 baht per day.
The Air Asia option.
Thai Air Asia now files direct to Bangkok from Sydney and Melbourne. After all the nonsense add-ons, the return flight cost is $A 920. I would have just booked with carry-on luggage but this time I’m returning to Sydney with Thai friends so booking economical flights was more their idea then mine. The booking process was a head fxxk! I made the bookings and it was not simple 1 of the Thais has to return two weeks earlier than the others. So with us all on the same flight to Sydney I needed to book with 3 separate bookings. Thai Air Asia is absolutely crap for customer service / support after booking. It may have been better if I had installed their app. The flight was excellent, departing 5 minutes early, arriving 45 minutes early. It would have to the first time ever I could understand and hear all of the announcements from the cockpit. It was only at 30% capacity which is a worry. Good for those on the flight but a bit concerning for the viability of the flight. I had absolutely no delay at immigration at Swampy. Slight delay getting my bag but that was due to no delay at Immigration. So, Stick, you should consider going to Sydney for a few days and then fly direct to Bangkok on Thai Air Asia.
High prices here to stay?
Funny you mentioned flight prices this week. I was thinking about upgrading my April trip to business class via Jetstar and they wanted an additional $5K. Ugh, no thanks. I’ll stick to the exit row this time. I’ve gotta be honest, I think these high prices are here to stay. Even during times of economic downturn, prices simply don’t come back down – they merely stabilise.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The dip before Songkran is upon us. There have been reports of bar trade slowing in all the bar areas, including the most popular bars. This is not unexpected but the degree of the drop-off in some areas has caught bar operators by surprise.
Some bar owners are feeling the pressure. “Business is not what it used to be, mate, the girls are harder, the customers are cheaper.” This is an exact quote from an email this week from one of my favourite bar owners, someone who has been very successful over a long period of time and someone whose opinion I value.
Going against the trend, the new kid on the block at Soi Cowboy, Rainbow – or “Rainbow Soi Cowboy”, as some refer to it – is said to be doing great trade.
Billboard may be the most popular gogo bar, but it is not alone in attracting big spenders. Among bar operators, there’s a widely followed economic maxim called the 80 : 20 Theory – 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. And you take care of your whales above the one-Leo-and-out guy. So, even on a slow night this week, Erotica in Nana Plaza made its night with one customer who dropped 30,000 baht, mostly on lady drinks.
When a Nana Plaza bar sells to a Thai group, you can pretty much assume that, these days, Tee is involved. And Tee’s spending spree shows no sign of letting up with the acquisition of Blondie this week. The beautifully done out Blondie was created by the owner of Spanky’s, a fabulous-looking bar that never really hit the big time. Let’s see what Tee and his team can do with it.
I previously noted that Geisha had been sold to a Tee-headed group. But word from the man himself this week, Tee denies being part of the group.
Recently it seems that a lot of the news section has been devoted to Tee and his many ventures – and there’s more Tee news this week. Tee said this week that Twister (or maybe Rainbow) Patpong – on which construction began and was thought to be progressing well – has been killed. Was it a result of this week’s scandal at Patpong? He didn’t say. Perhaps it was decided to simply put more resources into his new bar at Cowboy? Tee was asked twice, and he repeated it: There will be no Twister / Rainbow Patpong.
Tee also let another nugget slip about something that was previously unknown, or even suspected: He’s expanding into Pattaya. He and a group of investors are planning to open a Rainbow bar in Pattaya. Where? You figure it’s Walking Street and when it was pointed out that there are still two smallish, closed gogo bars right next to each other – Rich and Panda – he didn’t deny it. There’s not many dark doors left on Walking Street (the tiny Infinity and former Airport are the other two that come to mind) so it could also be there.
On Tuesday night, when many bars were much quieter than they have been, Billboard was rocking. A couple of high rollers were having the time of their life. Between them, they had more than 100,000 baht in 20-baht and 100-baht bills and made it rain. Girls and service scrambled for flying bills in what was described as total pandemonium! 120,000 baht in a night? That’s actually nothing new. It rains in Billboard a lot, even in dry season!
As mentioned, Billboard may have been busy, but few other venues were on Tuesday. And it got worse on Wednesday. Even Billboard and Butterflies were described as “slow”. That’s a relative term, though: Slow at Billboard would be a good night in many bars. The pre-Songkran lull has well and truly arrived and the bars are feeling it. There’s one last hurrah for high season – Songkran in mid-April. May, traditionally the quietest month of the year is just around the corner, and marks the start of the low season.
Down the road in Soi Cowboy, Dollhouse on Tuesday had only a smattering of customers between 10 PM – 11 PM while across the soi at Suzie Wong, all the inside seats were empty just before midnight. That’s a huge turn-around from just a month or so ago.
On Wednesday, Mandarin was Lonely Town, with only a few customers during prime time. There were plenty of seats around the Jacuzzi at Billboard and Butterflies and Erotica was for a time, free of patrons. For Bangkok’s 2 main red-light areas – yes, I think we can now say there are only 2 main bar areas with Patpong something of a minor bar area – it looks like it may be back to how it used to be with Fridays and Saturdays the big nights of the week.
There are many reasons cited why the bars might not be as busy as they once were and we’ve gone over them ad nauseum. Add another to the list: OnlyFans. The OnlyFans website allows ladies to upload adult content and make money from it. The content needn’t be hardcore and a collection of lusty photos can make a lady good money if she is attractive enough and knows how to market herself. More bargirls are jumping on the OnlyFans bandwagon and some ladies have left the bar industry entirely to concentrate on making a living from OnlyFans. Others have a profile on OnlyFans and continue to work in the bars. At least a couple of foreign bar owners are helping bar ladies build a profile on OnlyFans, assisting them with everything from account set-up to professional photographs. These bar industry figures guide the girls and clip the ticket. This is yet another reason some ladies in the bars refuse to go. They’re already making good money so they don’t have the pressing financial needs their sisters of yesteryear had and can turn down all but the customers they genuinely like.
There’s been talk of a shortage of staff in many businesses and it is said to be particularly acute in some hotels. It’s also an issue in massage shops in some areas. A friend who lives in the Thonglor area was well pissed off this week when one day he couldn’t get a massage. The massage shops he visited (budget venues with no naughty services offered) had fewer ladies than usual and when he did the rounds, all the ladies were busy and some shops had customers waiting. Not one lady was free. For the girls who were working, business was great.
A heads up for naughty boys thinking of visiting Thailand in May. The general election date has been announced as May 14th. Advance voting will take place on May 7th and the main day for voting is May 14th. These two dates happen to be Sundays and you can assume the bars will be closed that day. And if the past is anything to go by, expect the bars will also be closed from 6 PM the day before i.e. Saturday, May 6th, and Saturday, May 13th. If that’s how it plays out, that’s two weekends naughty boys visiting Thailand might wish to avoid.
And let’s not forget that next month is Songkran, another time to avoid unless you wish to partake in the world’s biggest water fight. While no announcements have been made, expect this Songkran to be even wilder than usual, the first proper Songkran since 2019. Songkran is officially April 13, 14 and 15 which is a Thursday, Friday and Saturday so that is another weekend of bar trade lost. Yes, some bars will open but most will only have a skeleton staff. Many girls go back home for a week or two at Songkran so the week (or two) following Songkran is generally not a great time in the bars. As a reminder, the Songkran revelry often kicks off the day before. In Phuket, Songkran typically only lasts one day. In Pattaya, it can last for more than a week!
The crackdown on late-night, street-side booze booths continues. Where once parts of Sukhumvit – especially the odd-numbered side between Nana and Asoke – were thriving with dozens of street-side booze booths operating until the sun comes up, these days the streets are much quieter. For some this is a move in the right direction, cleaning up the streets and ridding the streets of pesky booze booths. For others, particularly those who enjoy this part of the nightlife, it’s a real loss.
A former Bangkok bar manager who left Thailand during Covid and recently returned and stopped in Pattaya, lambasted Walking Street. “They are pricing themselves out of affordability for most. Pattaya ain’t Las Vegas after all!” Really? A new bar on Soi LK Metro is trying to change that. Las Vegas A Gogo Club on Soi LK Metro is all lit up weeks before it is set to open. The bar has a fantastic-looking frontage and can’t be too far away from opening.
I mentioned last week that the Made In Thailand beer bar complex was making a comeback and, this week, ads starting appearing on Facebook for stalls in the massive complex that stretches between Second Road and Soi Buakhao along Soi Diana. It will cost you at least 1.2 million to start up your beer bar. Is it your dream to run a bar in Pattaya?!
The biggest change in Pattaya’s nightlife in recent years is the emergence of Soi Buakhao / Soi LK Metro as a nightlife hub. It’s still not a (big) draw for tourists, but it has become, hands down, the place for Pattaya expats and knowledgeable Bangkok-based expats.
“They don’t want us anymore,” said Captain Hornbag, the long-time Pattaya and Bangkok bar manager now back in Sin City. “We’re not welcome. Walking Street is going to become another Soi Thaniya”, the Asian-only soi in Patpong. So, more and more investors are opening up gogo bars, beer bars and gentlemen’s clubs on or just off Soi Buakhao. Drink prices are (slightly) cheaper. Barfines are lower. As for the ladies? Rumour has it that they couldn’t find enough attractive ladies in all of those many bars to make a Miss Soi Buakhao Calendar.
What has been truly surprising about Soi Buakhao is how it has positively exploded since Covid. Tree Town Market, a sleepy night market before the pandemic, emerged as the only place for nightlife during Covid and has kept going. Then there is Soi Boomerang, an L-shaped alley with bad storm drainage that no expat could find on a map even 3 years ago. If Walking Street is Broadway and Soi LK Metro is Off-Broadway, then Soi Boomerang is Off-Off Broadway.
Dynamite Entertainment, a weird hybrid of a gogo bar and a beer bar where Captain Hornbag now works, is the best of the new crop of bars on Soi Boomerang. It looks great inside and of the 35 girls found there on a recent night, a friend said that quite a few look good. The rest of the soi? Not so much. Playgirlz around the corner is doing a big snow job on social media, posting its two or three lookers, but once you step through the door, you quickly realise that someone working for the bar is a Photoshop wizard.
Soi Boomerang is home to a second iteration of Slutz, but, unlike the Soi LK original, “You don’t want to go in this one” a reader was advised by one of Captain Hornbag’s knowledgeable pals. The new version of the old Heaven Above also is there, now a gentlemen’s club, which is a polite euphemism for a Soi 6-style brothel.
A stone’s throw from the soon-to-open Las Vegas, the long-running and confusing The Disco Club has closed. No one could figure out if it was a gogo bar, music bar or nightclub. So it seems everyone gave it a miss and that was the end of that!
Marijuana shops continue to explode in number across Pattaya. In the short distance between Royal Garden Plaza and the start of Walking Street – a distance that takes less than 5 minutes to walk – there are now 5 weed shops, with 2 more on the first 50 metres of Walking Street.
Are slow bar business and the marijuana explosion related? Bar owners in both Bangkok and Pattaya think so. Owners have been complaining for months that the average customer bill is down and table churn is much higher than any time in memory. Is it inflation? Tight budgets? Or is it weed? Some owners say takings have dropped since marijuana became available in what was previously Lucky Luke’s Nana Plaza, while Cowboy and Walking Street bosses say the trend has worsened as the pot shops have multiplied. Customers, they believe, are getting stoned more and drunk less, which is bad for the bar business, but great for the weed shops.
Marijuana is banned inside all Nana and Cowboy bars, but in Pattaya the inevitable has happened. A new gogo bar called High Times has opened on Walking Street combining ganja and gogo poles. You can smell High Times before you even get through the door. Many guys step inside High Times and promptly make a U-turn. No, the problem is not the whiff of a spliff. High Times’ stage is filled with ladyboys.
Earlier this month saw the reopening of Lighthouse A Gogo on Walking Street. While it shares the name of the dearly departed Lighthouse on Soi Cowboy, it no longer shares the same owner. The group that ran Lighthouse, Shark, Mandarin and Red Dragon in Bangkok as well as Fahrenheit and Shark in Pattaya, sold Lighthouse Pattaya to the owners of Palace and Tantra who now own 80% and 20% of the bar respectively.
The reopened Lighthouse has been described as great fun with two teams of showgirls and coyotes filling the stage. But the boys in brown just had to spoil the show. On Friday before last, St. Patrick’s Day no less, at 10 PM, the men in tight uniforms thought it a good time to turn on the house lights, check ID cards and piss test and photograph a few girls. Amusingly, the same showgirls who, moments before, had been strutting on stage topless, all dropped to crouch on stage, wrapping their arms around their chests to hide their see-through white tops, lest a Thai man see their boobs. The house lights went off quickly and the music resumed, but the girls refused to dance until the plod had gone, so most customers check-binned and left.
For the past few years, to talk about Pattaya was to talk about the never-ending roadwork. This week saw good and bad news on that front. The good is that most of the massively disruptive roadwork on Second Road is basically done. The road has been reopened, but not fully finished, which greatly relieves the traffic congestion. The bad news continues, though, on Beach Road which is undergoing 2 years of new landscaping again. The sidewalks were returned to use in North Pattaya to accommodate the music festival, but the beach footpath is unpassable for about 300 metres around Soi 6. Why don’t they just do it once, do it right and leave it at that?!
Airfares to Bangkok are generating a lot of chatter. Where are airfares going? Despite oil prices dropping recently – and this is relevant because airlines so often cite high oil prices for ticket price increases – airfares are going up all over the world. Some people believe that it’s only a matter of time before ticket prices return to pre-pandemic levels. I am not so sure. My feeling is that airfares will come down at some point – when, I have no idea – and will probably settle somewhere between the elevated levels they’re at now and the levels they were at pre-pandemic. On average, long-distance airfares from my part of the world are around 60 – 80% higher than they were pre-pandemic. As more flights come back on line and airlines that have yet to resume flights to Bangkok come out of hibernation, hopefully the rules of supply and demand will kick in. Of course, that is assuming that demand drops off – which at this point it shows no sign of doing. With inflation raging all around the world and the difficulty hiring staff seeing labour costs rise markedly, I just can’t see airfares going back to pre-Covid prices. My best guess is that airfares will settle at a level around 30% – 40% higher than they were pre-Covid. For me, that means what used to cost $1,000 – $1,100 will run around $1,400 – $1,500 in future. That doesn’t sound great but it would be a lot better than the airfares I’m seeing at present!
Away from the chrome poles, has the weed wave already peaked in some areas? Pineapple on Khao San Road, which opened as a “dispensary / bar” has dropped the cannabis angle and put up a new sign describing itself as a “bar & restaurant”.
Thailand-Related News Article Links
A Hong Kong man could have died when his bungee cord snaps mid-air on a ride near Pattaya.
An Aussie Dad punches monkeys on the beach on Phi Phi Island to protect his young son.
After a 14-hour standoff, police shoot and kill a man in Petchaburi who had murdered 3 people.
Thailand’s tourist numbers are roaring back as the mix of visitors changes.
Amongst foreigners in Phuket, Russians are being charged with more crimes than other nationalities.
And it’s the same in Bali where Russians are also up to no good.
As per recent columns, things have been slowing down a bit in the bars. That’s not to say visitor numbers are slowing, more that the mix of visitors is changing. It’s late March and while Songkran sees a bit of a spike in visitor numbers, traditionally it is around this time of year that things ease. That also means that it would be around this time of the year when there would be less going on for me to write about. While I wouldn’t necessarily struggle for content per se, there’d be less news from the bars and more opinion and editorial style content. Not this week. Somehow this week’s column ballooned to over 7,000 words which is too long. I cut some content and am holding it back for next week. I used to aim for 5,000 words per column; these days I’m happier at around 3,500 – 4,000 words as people seem to have less free time. So if you made it through to the end of this week’s 6,000+ words, well done!
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com