Stickman Weekly, March 5, 2023
Last week’s photo was taken of a vendor at the Ekamai Bus Station. It was kind of obscure but a good number of you got it right – well done! Who will be first with this week’s mystery photo?
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Welcoming the Chinese.
The influx of (mainland) Chinese tourists is hilarious, especially when most cannot speak English and most Thais cannot speak Mandarin. I lived in Hong Kong from the late 60’s for 30+ years…still speak near-fluent Cantonese and reasonable Mandarin. If only people could understand the comments made by these visitors, they might not welcome them with open arms.
Why Strikers bit the dust.
More Readers Emails
Pattaya this week.
I’ve been back in Pattaya for a week, and I can say it’s one step up again compared to when I left 2 months ago. And quite a significant step too. Pattaya is booming, and I haven’t seen it this busy for quite some time. Of course I’m not comparing with the Covid era now, but the years before. Literally, all the different groups of visitors are back. Farangs, Indians, Russians, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese etc – they’re all here. And don’t forget the large contingent of Thais that come down every weekend, causing traffic jams. I have the feeling that during Covid many Thais have discovered Pattaya due to effectively not being able to leave the country. They might have found out that it’s not the seedy seaside resort they still thought it was. Instead, it has become a mainstream tourist destination instead, because that’s what it is right now. There were plenty of Thais in Pattaya every weekend pre-Covid, but I think there are now more than ever before. I was in the Poo Pen seafood restaurant in Jomtien last Friday. Don’t know if you know it, it’s at the end of Beach Road in Jomtien, at the point where Beach Road actually stops. Huge place, the size of a football field. I counted around 100 service staff. So it’s a very big place, but it was packed to the rafters! I was invited by a Thai family, and we were with 3 adults and 2 children. Despite the fact that our group wasn’t big at all, it took quite a while to find us a table. And when we got one, it had to be cleared quickly first. Most of the customers were Thai, but there were other Asians and Russians too.
The future direction of Pattaya.
Regarding what you wrote about the future of Pattaya, I don’t think the naughty nightlife will disappear in the next few decades, but it certainly has not been the main attraction for the city anymore for some years already. And, yes, I too think that Pattaya could survive without it, although I also believe it adds something to the whole package. It certainly gives the city a lively touch.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The first of the big Buddha days is upon us Monday with Macha Bucha Day. Bangkok’s nightlife will shut down at midnight tonight (Sunday) and remain closed on Monday. For once, a Buddhist holiday did not fall on a Friday or Saturday which so often seems to happen. A Monday night is the best possible outcome for bar owners and actually serves as a welcome breather for many.
The very first gogo bar to open in Nana Plaza was Rainbow Bar, which never carried a number until it closed, sold, relocated and reopened a couple doors down from its original location. Rainbow built a reputation over the decades for being home to young, slim, pretty ladies relatively new to the industry. It was immensely popular with Japanese punters and you were always guaranteed to find beautiful women in Rainbow. Not any more. The original Rainbow’s fans are rolling over in their graves this week and its more-recent fanboys are recoiling in horror upon news that Rainbow 1 is now a ladyboy bar. Some point out that it’s entirely appropriate that a bar called Rainbow would be full of transgender dancers, as the rainbow, of course, is the symbol for the LBGTQ community.
And doesn’t that make me feel like a complete dick after a reader emailed me this week asking about a lady he had barfined in Rainbow 1. To cut and paste from his email, “Everything about her said woman, her build, face, neck, hands, feet, etc., but when I got her out of the club I could not shake that her voice sounded deeper then I’m use to and if they were trying to do a girl voice. The voice sounded consistent all night. I asked her multiple times and she said 200% she is a real lady.” I responded to said reader not to worry because Rainbow 1 is all ladies. I had yet to receive the memo that Rainbow 1 had changed format. Oops! Generally speaking, ladyboys are NOT in the business of fooling men in to thinking they are a bona fide lady. Ladyboys know all too well that some guys loathe them and there is a subset of men who freak out when it comes to ladyboys. If such a fellow were to discover in a short-time / hotel room that she was actually a he and he had been deceived, the situation could become very volatile. This is not without precedent and there have been instances of men flipping out in a short-time room and messing ladyboys up real bad. This is why most ladyboys (and especially ladyboys working in bars) are open about who they are. Back to the fellow who emailed me, when I found out about Rainbow 1’s change of format I sent him a follow-up email to, how shall we say, set him straight.
A few years back, Nana Plaza had 9 bars with ladyboys. Some of these bars were all-ladyboy while other bars had a mix of real ladies and ladyboys (a failed concept that hardly anyone likes). The worm turned and for a while in Nana it seemed like it was nearly all girl-only bars with just Obsession and Straps flying the rainbow banner. Now things are getting confusing again with ladyboys in Stockings, Rainbow 3 and now Rainbow 1. DC-10 went ladyboy to girl and back to ladyboy – and its name reverted back to B52. How many ladyboy bars are there in Nana now? Honestly, I’ve lost count.
On another ladyboy related note: Stockings, the former Temptations, ladyboy bar has been sold (again), this time to a group of Stockings employees. The price tag for the tiny, single-unit, middle-floor bar? 6 million baht. The new owners quickly changed the name to Wonderland and put up some truly boring ocean and sky animations on the bar’s impressive outdoor LED wall.
Speaking of LED signage, it’s the hottest thing among Bangkok’s red-light bars in 2023 with more and more bars adopting signage that Billboard and Butterflies led the way with a good few years ago. The latest to go LED is a surprising one: Crazy House. A very “ol’ skool” bar with previously very ol’ skool signage has installed a huge LED sign across its entire front showing not only the bar name, but other designs.
At the other end of the gamut are a couple of the Soi Nana beers bars. Both Bunny (the former Hillary 4 / Jungle Bar) and Kickoff (the former K&S) are owned by Thais with seemingly zero interest in investing any more money into their venues, which is evident by the dull signage out front.
Above the sign for Kickoff – in the spot rented by the still-closed Balcony Bar – is what was Hollywood Inn, the old name of the short-time hotel that shares the same space. Word is not to expect it, or any other Nana short-time hotel, to reopen any time soon. In fact, the oddly named short-time hotel Hollywood Inn no longer exists. The name disappeared when Stumble Group purchased Balcony Bar. Now the hotel has no name. The awning is still there as a beacon to the past.
These short-time hotels have been closed since Covid sent the bar industry in to darkness almost 3 long years ago. Many have speculated as to why the short-time facilities remain locked. First it was thought to be a Covid-19 prevention measure. Then it was linked to the underage scandal at the Soi 7 beer-bar complex which some speculated had made Lumpini Police skittish. Covid is behind us and the underage issues in soi 7 is getting on for a year ago. It’s March 2023, and the short-time hotels are still closed. Why is that?
It turns out that the reason for the short-time hotels’ continued closure is due to the personal distaste of such things by the police chief at Lumpini station. One bar owner says that the Lumpini police chief told him, “Stop asking. It’s not going to happen. Don’t even ask!” Bar owners had been counting down the days until the end of his reign – cops are transferred every couple of years – but, much to bar owners’ horror, he is expected to remain in charge until the end of the year.
Why do Nana bar owners care so much about these short-time hotels? Two reasons: One, with the closest short-time hotel 200 meters down Soi 4, many guys simply won’t barfine ladies if they have to walk far. Second, the ladies, having already pocketed a few thousand baht for the short-time along with drinks commissions, often decide to just forfeit their relatively paltry nightly salary and go home after the deed is done, rather than return to the bar. When the hotels were open, ladies almost always went back to the bar. “Once they’re out the gates, they’re gone,” lamented one bar boss.
Finally, the prohibition against short-time rooms is what has kept the Balcony Bar closed. The police won’t allow the previously popular balcony bar – where you had a great view over the plaza and the cheapest drinks in the complex – to open because, allegedly, they don’t trust the operator not to open the rooms.
Away from the short-time hotels and in to the bars, so many shows in the bars are contrived, corny or, in the case of Patpong pussy shows, downright degrading. But there are a few bars which have tasteful shows that are genuinely sexy. I used to rather enjoy the show where the lights were dimmed and naked ladies painted in fluorescent paint swayed gently to a couple of slow songs. That show matched particularly well with some Sade songs. Another show in a similar vein is the candle show at Spanky’s on the middle floor of Nana Plaza. I understand that Spanky’s also has a Vietnamese show where the lady puts on a Vietnamese conical hat. She’s not Vietnamese, but Thai, of course.
On that note, if you fancy a change of flavour and Vietnamese appeals, try your luck on Soi Nana where a few of the streetwalkers are Vietnamese. They enter the country on 45-day visas and go all out to screw all and sundry in record time and then return home with a fistful of cash. How do you know who is Vietnamese and who is Thai? Word is that the better looking ladies lingering on Soi Nana are more likely to be Vietnamese than Thai.
Down the road on Soi Cowboy, the space that was Raw Hide remains empty. It appears that something is happening inside but no-one I have spoken to knows just what. A new bar? A weed shop? An eatery? Who knows!
What was once Apache is also empty with “for rent” signs out front. Cowboy is doing well but with these two empty spots along with what was Lighthouse, that’s three bar spaces in darkness.
Prior to Covid I commented multiple times on how the bar industry wasn’t doing as well as it could and I suggested – to much consternation from some, it must be said – that perhaps 3 major bar areas was 1 too many and 3 could be rolled in to 2. The same number of customers spread among fewer bars would mean those bars would have, all things being equal, more girls and more customers. There would be more atmosphere in the bars and the operators of those bars would do better. While all 3 bar areas remain, there has been a thinning out of the bars. Patpong has lost many bars including a number of the old classics and as I say, Soi Cowboy has a few empty spaces too.
Still in Soi Cowboy, Long Gun has had the least evolution of all the gogo bars in the soi – and in a city were the locals love everything shiny brand-new, that is not a bad thing. If you’re craving a taste of the good old days, Patpong used to be the place to go to but with so many of the classic old bars in Patpong no longer, Long Gun in Cowboy is a good bet.
But the busiest venue on Cowboy is not a gogo bar but Country Road which continues to do phenomenal trade. A good friend likes to start the night early at Cowboy, frequently arriving around 6:30 PM or so. He stopped by twice this week at that time and said that each night at that time Country Road was packed. It’s a very different breed of bar than other bars in the soi. Yes, some of the ladies in Country Road are up for it – but some aren’t.
Everyone knew it was going to be interesting when a plus-sized Indian woman came into Dollhouse early this week with her boyfriend / husband in a very short crop top and skin-tight pants. Sure enough, it wasn’t 10 minutes before she was up on stage, t-shirt and bra on the floor. She had a great time. Everyone else? Not so much.
Talking about Dollhouse, they tell me the huge, iconic sign which lurched out over the soi and which started the neon revolution on Soi Cowboy back in 2002 is long gone. It has been replaced by the sign below.
Down Pattaya way, Pin Up A Gogo has generated a lot of comments in recent months. The bar has been doing a roaring trade and everyone agrees it’s home to some of the most attractive chrome pole-huggers in all of Sin City. At the same time, service standards have been questioned, the aggressive nature of the service staff has been described as totally over the top to say nothing of the sky-high prices for barfines and the ladies lofty price expectations. This week revealed another issue at Pin Up. The bar does not allow entry to Thai ladies. The bar’s security should just come out and say that Thai ladies are not welcome. Instead, they say something daft like, “Solly, bar full”. Your bar, your rules, but don’t insult people with daft reasons.
With this in mind, I wonder which will be the first bar on Walking Street to prohibit entry to Caucasian males? Don’t think it won’t happen because this would not be without precedent. Some bars on Bangkok’s Soi Thaniya (known by some as the Japanese Patpong soi) have long prohibited entry to Caucasians. In fairness to the operators of these bars – and I am not making excuses on their behalf here, but merely explaining the situation – it’s because Soi Thaniya bars cater to the Japanese whose tastes are very different to the white man’s. In many of these Soi Thaniya venues the format is nothing like the bars that we Westerners are used to – and the prices are much higher. You can run up a bill without realising it. There are compulsory drinks for ladies who sit with you, compulsory fruit / nut plates etc. The one time I went in to one such bar, it cost something like 1,200 or 1,400 baht for a friend and I to sit in a room with 2 ladies for less than an hour – and this was 15 odd years ago when everything was so much cheaper. Getting back to Walking Street, given the way that many bars seem to have Koreans and other Asians as their target customer group, don’t be surprised if at some point in the not too distant future the white man is told, “Members only!”
Still in Pattaya, popular bar manager Captain Hornbag has landed on his feet and can be found at Dynamite, in soi 15 off Soi Buakhao. The affable American who is equally at home welcoming customers as he is directing ladies has been working at Dynamite Entertainment since January. The bar opened this past November and has an adjoining guesthouse called Korandos so you know what that means…. If you don’t know the area, the bar is in the soi behind the Avenue Mall. It has been described as a cosy gogo bar with couch-style seating on both sides of the bar, a few high top tables and a gogo stage in the middle. Drop by and say hi to Captain Hornbag.
Many bars in Pattaya that closed due to Covid are reopening as massage shops or weed shops, all of which begs the question: how many massage shops and weed shops can Pattaya sustain?
You would be forgiven for taking a quick look at the photo below and thinking it was a real photo of Patpong. In fact, it is a creative shot of Mini Patpong, a life-like diorama of the Patpong area which is part of the display at the Patpong Museum. Parts of the diorama are more detailed than others, but word is the project isn’t done and eventually all of the two-street model will be decked out with lights and figures of people. It’s just another reason you really should check out the Patpong Museum, that is if you haven’t stopped by already.
Away from the chrome poles, Thailand is not known as a bastion of trademark and copyright protection. Just the opposite, in fact. So what can you do if you run a successful business and someone opens up a competing pub with the same name, just down the road? Buddy’s Bar & Grill, which this week won Restaurant Guru’s Best Pub & Restaurant award for its popular Soi 89 location, now has to deal with that question. A new bar opened recently at Soi 101 – just a few minutes’ walk away – called Buddy’s Bar. There’s no affiliation with the genuine Buddy’s, but that distinction may be lost on customers.
Quote of the week comes from a friend, “You come to Thailand for the women, but you stay for the food.”
This week’s column features three photos of ladies from Suzie Wong in Soi Cowboy, the lady in the photo below being one of them. All three of these ladies are – to my eyes – reasonably attractive. And not one of them has a tattoo (at least, no tattoo is visible in any of these photos). What are the odds of that?
Thailand-Related News Article Links
Reader’s story of the week comes from Mega, “Around The Traps In Southeast Asia: Part 25“.
An Irish former alcoholic has dedicated himself to saving animals in Thailand.
Why did hundreds of macaques disappear from a temple in Loei province?
A Bangkok Post editorial takes a look at Thai Airways, version 2023.
A Brit who fell from the third-storey of a hotel needs £250,000 to cover the costs of returning home.
The Bangkok Post reports that cannabis tourism has given a real boost to the Thai economy.
Thailand’s most beautiful transgendered woman marries a businessman in a lavish ceremony.
Thai Airways is testing a biometric check-in solution at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The photo above of Nana Plaza is misleading. It was taken this week and at a quick glance you’d think the plaza was quiet. In fact, the plaza continues to boom with many bars described as pumping. This week a reader emailed to say they spent over an hour in the Immigration queue at the airport before reaching the baggage carousel. A friend arrived in Bangkok from the States this week and told me that there were few people in the Immigration queue and he was through in less than 5 minutes. I often report that such and such a bar is booming only for a reader to email saying they were there in said bar and it wasn’t busy at all. The time of day and the day of the week can make a big difference to how busy, or otherwise, a place is. Timing is everything. It’s not uncommon for me to report something in this column only for someone to then respond saying that they observed or experienced something completely different. Anomalies between what different people report are easily explained – it all comes back to the time of day. I do my best to look through short-term blips and report on the longer term trends.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com