Stickman's Weekly Column June 4th, 2023

Stick Returns Part 4: Reflecting On A Few Weeks In Thailand


Daily highs closer to 40 degrees than 30, fresh coconut water, and Thai food cooked the way it’s supposed to be cooked will all soon be a thing of the past. By the time next week’s column comes around, I’ll be exercising in a tracksuit, coconut water will be replaced by a hot cup of coffee and the Thai food will be rather less authentic. The Bangkok trip is almost over.

Getting reacquainted with the city I once called home has been a delight and after a few weeks in Bangkok, here are a few thoughts reflecting on my time here.

He Clinic Bangkok




Thai-style crab curry.

Staying in the suburbs has worked out well and I haven’t missed Sukhumvit one bit. Friends were perplexed when I explained we were staying 17 km from the nearest skytrain station which itself was still several stops from downtown. A trip downtown meant a 20 minute / 150 baht taxi fare followed by another 20 minutes on the skytrain. Friends’ eyes rolled. Why would you do that? Can’t you afford a basic hotel downtown?, more than one friend pointedly questioned me. We chose the space and comfort of staying in a family member’s house over a hotel room in the heart of the city. It was a good choice and we will stay here again next time. The extra time it takes to get downtown is more than made up for by the comfort and quiet of a house in the suburbs.

The suburbs have been a revelation. In some ways it feels like stepping back to the Bangkok I remember 20+ years ago.

One of the benefits is really good Thai food at ridiculously low prices.

CBD bangkok




Foreigners enjoying Bangkok.

If you crave the bars and spend as much time as possible in the entertainment industry, forget the suburbs. They would be a terrible place to stay!




Masks and mobiles, many Thais are never without either.

I had concerns about the mask issue before I travelled. The Thais are still mostly wearing masks but no-one cares whether you wear a mask or not. My Thai other half hasn’t worn a mask and no-one in her family puts one on unless they’re going somewhere they have to wear one, like to hospital. I can’t remember the last time I wore one. Some time in 2021, perhaps?

Many bar workers don’t wear masks either. Bargirls were long considered outcasts by much of society (something which I think is changing) and certainly used to be looked down on by urban Bangkokians. Whether that still exists today, I am not so sure – but certainly many bargirls themselves feel they’re still viewed in a less positive light. As such, they have no need to make any effort to conform. Watch them going to work on the skytrain – yes, they do tend to stand out – few wear a mask.




Chinatown is one area which still has lots of street vendors.

One minor disappointment this trip was the dearth of street vendors in many places where they used to be. In this respect, Bangkok today feels a little bit less exotic than it once did.

wonderland clinic




Soi Cowboy by day is very quiet. What happened to the vendors who used to operate on the soi?

Soi Cowboy used to have a lot of street vendors during the day. A stroll by this week and they were nowhere to be seen.




Tall buildings are going up all over Bangkok but don’t take that to mean the city is changing.

I was told by friends before I travelled that Bangkok had changed massively. I quickly realised that was nonsense. Sure, new buildings are going up all over town but this is not what I call change in a city which has always been about the people and the vibe. And they have not changed.




Horseshoe crab, a delicacy enjoyed by many Thais.

Eating out in Thailand was once again a highlight. We were staying out beyond Mega Bang Na and had many meals in the area. A couple of places worth stopping by if you find yourself in Bang Na are Ang Si La Bang Na and Krua Bang Na. Ang Si La Bang Na is a seafood restaurant while the latter has a wide menu of Thai food. Normally I don’t care for venues with such a huge menu but Krua Bang Na may just have the best menu I have seen in a Thai restaurant. Well-organised despite its size, and the food looks almost exactly like it does in the photos in the menu. Prices are ridiculously reasonable for the quality and the large portions. Remember the original Anna’s Cafe on Soi Sala Daeng? This is perhaps the closest thing to that, although some of the food at Anna’s was fusion / international whereas Krua Bang Na is Thai. It’s a great spot for groups or friends and while it would work for a date, it’s not a quiet or romantic spot per se – but then Thais are more about the food so odds are she’d like it anyway.




And then the rain came and I was reminded how rainy season Bangkok is a very different beast.

For the first couple of weeks everything went well. There was almost nothing to complain about. It felt like things had been going just a little bit too well. Everything had been darned near perfect. Taxi drivers had been pleasant. No funny business with bills or change. Meals had been fantastic. And then the rain came!

Rain in Bangkok can bring the city to a standstill. The traffic stopped. Where there had been lines of available taxis, now there were none. Queues formed on skytrain platforms and the rain was so heavy that running from one building to another would see you drenched through. Rainy season Bangkok can be a very different beast.

A couple of nights of rain aside, everything has gone so well. Yes, prices may have gone up a bit but compared to the West, most stuff in Bangkok is cheap. Anything imported can be pricey. Again, no real change to how things have always been.




Soi Cowboy looks much the same as it has for many years.

I really didn’t spend all that much time in the neon jungle. I’d go out hunting for news, speaking with a few bar owners and bar industry figures and get what I need without lingering any longer than I needed to. Some nights I met friends on Sukhumvit for dinner and come 8:30 or 9:00 PM, instead of making the short walk to Nana or Cowboy, I headed for the skytrain and home.




Once a common sight on Sukhumvit, you see few obvious working girl / customer couples walking hand in hand these days.

I’ll write more  thoughts on the bar industry in general over the coming weeks, where I think the industry is at, and the challenges it faces going forward.

The industry has changed somewhat and a reader whose email I ran recently saying that the industry is becoming one of haves and have-nots was spot on the money.

You see less evidence of ladies doing all-nighters. Remember when roaming Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke by day you’d see lots of couples walking hand in hand who had obviously met for the first time the night before? You hardly see those couples these days. Even in Terminal 21 which used to be the hot-spot for bargirl / customer couples, there were few to be seen.




Under the sala at Benjasiri Park, is it a mask or is it a bandana?

What did I learn from this trip? 4 weeks away was a bit long to spend mostly in Bangkok. We should have taken another side trip for a few days. A few days in Pattaya would have been perfect – the two days we spent there wasn’t long enough. We had tentative plans to go up north but didn’t make it. That, with the benefit of hindsight, was a mistake.

Another day trip or two would have been good. The day trip to Ampawa was fantastic and one of the highlights. I’d been to other floating markets but Ampawa stood out because it is more popular with Thais than foreigners. If the Thailand of old interests you, take a trip to Ampawa.




A trip to the Ampawa Floating Market was a wonderful day out.

Disappointments? Nothing major. I would like to have met up with more friends but I ran out of time. I didn’t meet up with even half the people I had hoped to meet. And whereas in the past I used to take a lot of photos, this trip I only took about 600 photos over the course of a month. As much as I enjoy taking photographs, if you’re not careful you can spend too much time worrying about getting the perfect shot and not just enjoy the experience. More often than not the camera didn’t come out with us and I allowed myself to enjoy the attraction and the company.

I’d love to have visited Bangkok last year but there were Covid requirements and a lot of places had yet to open. I’m sure I would have had a good time had I come then, but for sure, this year it felt like things were largely the same as they were pre-Covid. If you’ve delayed visiting Bangkok, don’t put off visiting any longer. Bangkok really is as good as it’s ever been with a great mix of new places to check out while many old favourites remain. Some say Bangkok is more expensive than it was (where isn’t?) and that Thai people are less friendly and less smiling – but that is not what I found at all. I found the people to be as charming and engaging as ever.

I never set out to recapture the magic of that very first trip to Thailand but that is exactly what happened. I will leave Bangkok this week as enchanted by the city as I have ever been. There are reasons why Bangkok frequently tops the list of most-visited or best cities to visit in the world. Bangkok really is as magical as ever.




Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken on Yaowarat Road, also known As Chinatown. Just three of you got it right. This week’s mystery photo features one of the many buildings that has gone up in Bangkok in recent years with a cool design. But just which building and where is it?



Meet them at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.



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

What makes a good gogo bar?

A readers’ poll might be interesting to see what people like in a gogo bar. What is the criteria for the best gogo? I submit that one good girl / encounter could make that gogo the best, while one poor experience could make it the worst outside of being loaded with talent, great bathrooms, nice surroundings etc.

Thailand’s overflow valve.

Pattaya has seemed in a constant state of change ever since I first visited 30 years ago. Nightwish is widely loathed, as well as blamed for everything from beer prices to the weather. The only Pattaya constant is change. I think any realistic assessment of Pattaya begins with the big-wigs who take the lion’s share of the profits there. I’ve always felt the place is a sort of overflow valve for all of Thailand – if you’re the proverbial wacko from Milton Keynes, welcome, bring cash and try not to end up confused in the sewer. It’s clear that Beach Road and to some extent Second Road are being reclaimed for mainstream tourists, while the more obvious street-life is being pushed back to Soi Buakhao. When I first visited, Soi Buakhao was a dirt road.

When a sports car is out of reach.

I await your upcoming piece on the sad state of aging Western expats. They’re in both Pattaya and Bangkok, and I suspect living the dream isn’t quite what they had in mind. Lots of them are getting tatted up, too, which I guess might be evidence of the mid-life crisis for guys who can’t afford a Porsche or Ferrari. To each their own, but I don’t understand the motivation, other than joining the fad, or thinking it makes them a bad boy babe magnet. The current trend of Maori-style tatts on guys who look 6 months pregnant doesn’t exactly say ‘warrior’. Still, to each his own. Certainly most 50+ expats could use a gym membership, and they might find out it has unexpected attractions besides better health and fitness. I’m a lifelong gym rat, doing 3 x 2 hours a week of weights since my university days playing team sports. I’ve belonged to gyms in many countries, but nowhere are the surroundings as enchanting as one can find in Thailand. Many Thai women do work out, and though they spend the majority of their time taking selfies, they add a lot more than the sweat and grunts of most gym patrons. That might be an incentive for older guys who need some tightening up.


Meet them at Red Dragon, Nana Plaza.


More Readers’ Emails

If it goes online, it stays online

I think it makes sense to assume that any image or video posted anywhere, might just remain. Even if deleted by whomever did the upload, it might remain archived somewhere. Considering the increasing power of AI tools like ChatGPT, I believe that web-wide searches for information on anyone will become exponentially easier. If you have a picture of someone, combine that with face-recognition and off you go. I do not claim to be an expert, but I have worked with video surveillance for a couple of years. The possibilities are scary – just have a look at what is going on in China. So it makes sense to be nervous about being filmed “live” in red-light districts. A quote from your Reader’s Emails: “One recording now and it could end their way of life 30 or 40 years from now.” Yep, very true. And even if one is not caught in a naughty spot, it becomes increasingly easy to put bits together. “I thought you were at a conference in Singapore, dear, but this is you in Bangkok?” A lot of people are desperately documenting just about everything, everywhere, and this will only get worse. We think smartphones are smart now, but imagine the likely future developments. Anyone think hand-held, bulky, easy to break devices will not be replaced by something smarter? How about implant chips and retina-connected recording? Not as sci-fi as some might think. Good luck, world.

There is no mask mandate on Air Asia.

This was scrapped back in September of last year, if not earlier. On their website, it states clearly that on Thailand flights, masks are no longer required. Just out of interest, I decided to make a dummy booking for a domestic flight from Bangkok Don Muang to Khon Kaen. There was a screen that mentioned mask wearing on the flight, but it can be safely ignored. I assume their website simply “forgot” to remove this screen, which is a holdover from the mask mandate days. It appears Air Asia is confused, when one page clearly states masks are no longer required but another page on the same website seems to imply it does. The other day, I watched a popular YouTube channel run by an American expat who lives in Isarn as he flew Air Asia from Don Muang to Ho Chi Minh City with his Thai wife, another American expat friend and his wife and a third couple visiting from the states. No one in his traveling party wore a mask at any point in the journey and they weren’t alone. At Thai airports, they’re attempting to keep the fear alive by repeating mask wearing and social distancing messages on the intercom, but this is increasingly being ignored, with only around 50% of passengers wearing masks at Suvarnabhumi Airport these days. Even among staff, mask wearing has reduced down to 80 – 85%, with the occasional immigration officer choosing not to wear one anymore. I don’t understand the purpose behind these announcements other than what I already hinted at: a subtle reinforcement of the fear mongering that has permeated Thai society since the beginning of 2020. After all, we’re all adults who can make up our own minds. At other airports where mask mandates have been removed such as Singapore Changi, there are no announcements, because there is nothing to announce. It’s the same when comparing the Bangkok BTS and Singapore MRT. On the former, regular messaging “recommending” masks be worn, but on the latter, nothing. This explains why only around 1 in 4 people in Singapore still wear a mask on public transportation and it’s even lower on the street.



Soi Cowboy, Monday night. Rain kept some people away.


This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

On Friday night there were well over 100 girls in Billboard and the owner confirmed many new girls had been hired over the past two weeks. Billboard’s reputation precedes it and many girls head to the bar seeking employment, especially if they are working in a bar that is not getting a lot of customers.

Butterflies was also very good and the vibe is more to my preference, but for sheer girl numbers and customer numbers, no bar in the industry comes anywhere near Billboard.

Butterflies has a real pole dancer perform on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 PM, 11:00 PM and midnight. It’s a brief performance so it’s not like it’s a long interruption to the usual service.

A very confusing hand-written note was placed on the door of Midnite bar on Soi Cowboy. I left Soi Cowboy before 9:00 PM on Friday night and the bar was still in darkness and looked like it was closed. However, it was not clear from the note whether it is actually closed or not, or perhaps this is just a short closure. Certainly, there are no government closure orders posted to the door as happens when a bar is ordered shut. Midnite is one of the Arab’s bars.

Next door in Shark bar, there is an even higher percentage of very heavily-tattooed girls than even Suzie Wong. Tat-fans, make a beeline for Shark!

Still on Soi Cowboy, in Dollhouse #12 has a fantastic body. Wow!

Monday night was an odd night on Soi Cowboy. On both Monday and Tuesday, rain started falling late afternoon and was still coming down well after 8:00 PM. That meant fewer girls headed out to work and some potential customers probably stayed home for the evening. It wasn’t busy per se, but there were still decent numbers out – and more than I expected for a rainy Monday night in what has traditionally been the quietest month of the year.


Meet them at Dollhouse, Soi Cowboy.


Once you’ve had black you’ll never go back – or so they say. Several smiling African ladies were perching at tables outside Penny Black and Country Road at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy on Monday night. Hansum man or otherwise, anyone paying them much attention was given the glad eye. Have no doubt, these ladies are not regular holidaymakers and are very much available.

But then when I did the rounds of Soi Cowboy early evening on Friday night, the African girls were nowhere to be seen. Later that evening I saw them – two of whom I recognised from Soi Cowboy earlier in the week – lingering on Soi Nana, down towards Hilary. Whether they had voluntarily relocated to Soi Nana or been repelled from Soi Cowboy, who knows?

Bar Bar, the fetish bar in Patpong soi 2, was supposed to reopen this past week but it has been delayed. Something was going on inside because when walking past the roller door was up a few inches and there was cold air from the air-conditioning coming out. It is expected to reopen tomorrow. A reminder, Bar Bar will be renamed to Octopus.

Outside Stumble Inn at the top of Soi Nana is a vendor who has sold grilled meats on a stick for as long as anyone can remember. I have no idea if it’s the same vendor but I can remember buying chicken legs from a vendor in that spot for 10 baht a piece, back in the late ’90s. In a sign of the times, in addition to the usual offerings of grilled chicken, pork, beef, squid and organ meats, the vendor now also sells broccoli florets on a stick. And, I note in Chinatown, a couple of vendors sell skewered strawberries.


Skewered strawberries are available from a couple of vendors on the main drag at Chinatown.


Bully’s (Sukhumvit Road, between sois 2 and 4) might have shrunk substantially – the bar & restaurant is probably less than a quarter of the size it used to be – but it still has plenty going for it. I met up with my friend, long-time reader and readers’ submissions contributor, Bangkok Barry at Bully’s this week. The new Bully’s has a modern look, a pleasant vibe and has very reasonably priced, tasty food. The service was better than anywhere else I visited on Sukhumvit this trip. And Bully’s has very clean toilets too! Despite having massively downsized, I prefer the new version of Bully’s to the old.

Another nice spot worth a mention is Wine Depot on Sukhumvit soi 22. The French-owned / French-themed wine bar / bistro started off as a wine bar but now has an extensive menu with really good food. Like Bully’s, the food is reasonably priced given the quality, and there are daily specials. There’s a wide selection of wines by the glass and it’s one of those places where you could just as easily meet a bunch of mates as I did, or take your good lady on a date.

Still on the topic of places to eat, if you’re looking for a buffet with a difference, you might like to try Copper which has been a huge hit with Thais since it opened last year. But a word of warning – while foreigners are welcome, this buffet is very much geared towards Thais tastes and while it has “international food”, the target market is well and truly Thais. Copper is a dedicated buffet restaurant located in the Pinklao area i.e. it is not part of a hotel. The buffet is time-limited and 1,349 gets you two hours to feast. The format is slightly different to your usual Bangkok buffet and instead of helping yourself to the food, you go around the various stations and say what you want. Some items are served and handed to you right away while others like steak, lamb, pasta etc. are cooked fresh to order. Food is not kept heated under a lamp like at most buffets. For me, the best dishes were the oysters (really big ones), the truffle soup, the lamb, and the scallops & pasta. I’d stick my neck out and say the quality exceeds most of the 5-star hotel buffets I’ve tried. The menu does have a very distinctive Thai slant to it with dishes such as noodle soup served with Wagyu beef. If you’re a big eater, it’s a steal as the quality of the food is excellent. Reservations are a must and I understand it is booked solid a couple of weeks in advance. And it would be very helpful if you speak Thai because, as I say, the target market is very much Thai. When we went, out of several hundred customers, I appeared to be the only foreigner.


Bangkok VIP taxi, a London taxi in disguise.


I’ve seen a few of these so-called VIP taxis around Bangkok the past few weeks. I really don’t know much about them, whether you can flag them down on the street (it appears not) or whether they have to be pre-booked. What the rates are, I have no idea. The couple of times I have seen one I have been in a regular taxi and I asked the driver about them. They didn’t have a clue. Whatever the case, they’re another transport option and they bring a bit more colour to the city, even if the distinctive look of a London black cab does seem rather out of place in Bangkok.

I was wrong when I said there may not be any Asia Books stores left in Bangkok. Certainly, most of the branches on Sukhumvit Road have gone but there remains a branch in the basement of Terminal 21 as well as a branch at Mega Bang Na. In the case of the latter, however, it only stocks children’s books. I am also told by a reader that there are branches of Asia Books still operating in Central World and Siam Paragon although I have not visited either mall this trip so I will take a reader’s word for it.

Most of the guesthouses and budget hotels in what I like to think of as “my old soi” have closed. For my first 5 years in Bangkok, I lived in a condo in Soi Kasemsan 1, opposite Mahboonkrong. It was a great central location and I really enjoyed my time there. The soi had a real community feel and some great street food vendors where I was a regular. The soi wasn’t well-known amongst budget travellers which was a shame as I always thought it was a genuine alternative to Khao San Road or Soi Sribumphen. I was in the area this week so I went for a walk-though the soi for old times’ sake. The soi had several guesthouses which had operated since the ’90s but most have closed. All the signage has gone and there is no trace of them. I can only guess this was as a result of Covid. The White Lady budget hotel is still there, as is the Vietnam-era Reno Hotel but the half dozen or so budget places further up the soi have all gone.


Meet her at Dollhouse, Soi Cowboy.


I spent a day in the old part of the city this week riding boats up and down the river, taking photos and wandering the Khao San Road area. The vibe has changed and there are fewer street vendors and much less street life than there used to be. There were few people about generally. It felt as quiet as I can ever remember seeing it. It’s hard to remember it ever being this quiet. Of those who were around, some were openly enjoying cannabis. Unlike other parts of town, there seemed to be little in the way of discretion with some areas designated as cannabis smoking areas with signs up and even a couple of vendors inviting passersby to join them.

Still in the Khao San Road area, at my favourite vegan restaurant (no, I am not vegan – it’s simply a case that the food used to be excellent) May Kaidee, I was the only customer. A young, energetic crew has been replaced with a bunch of ladies well beyond retirement age. The food was decent, but not as good as I remember it. The old ducks tried to scam me! I ordered the fried rice with vegetables and curry powder. The price was 100 baht. A bottle of water was 10 baht. I went to pay with 120 baht and was told the bill was 130 baht. Huh? Now let me state the obvious – 20 baht is nothing in terms of the big picture, but what they tried was just plain dumb. They pulled out the menu, pointed to the fried rice which was 100 baht, then pointed to plain rice which was 20 baht and the water at 10 baht. The total, they said, was 130 baht. I thought they were joking but they weren’t. They tried to charge extra for rice which is, of course, very much an integral part of fried rice. I’m not worried about 20 baht – but I don’t care for this nonsense. I said to them in Thai that they had made an error and the poor old ducks had a look of horror on their faces. The farang speaks Thai! Immediate wais, apologies and it was all put down to a “misunderstanding”. It was horribly unsophisticated and all for so little gain. In the end I kind of felt a bit sorry for them that they would try something like this on for a measly 20 baht. I should have tipped them. They need it much more than I do.


Curried fried rice at May Kaidee.


Still in the area of the old city, the Ta Tien Pier – opposite Wat Arun – used to be a hive of activity and thronging with tourists but it was very quiet compared to the past, in fact I don’t ever recall seeing it this quiet. I’m not sure what to make of it. A change in profile of tourists, perhaps? But even if that was the case, it does not explain why there were so few visitors about in an area which has been popular with visitors for so long,.

On the other side of the palace and Wat Po, the canal behind the section of Pahurat where Royal India has been in business for decades has been redeveloped over the past couple of years and would make for a pleasant spot for a late afternoon / early evening stroll. There are lots of budget food options and plenty of Indian restaurants – new and old – with long-time favourites like Tony’s and Royal India still in business. There’s a nice vibe for sure although the character of the area has changed from that of a local, admittedly somewhat slummy, neighbourhood to a pleasant, albeit tourist-centric area.


Siam Pharmacy, popular with expats.


The large pharmacy on Sukhumvit Road just around the corner from Soi Nana was possibly the most popular pharmacy / drug store in town amongst expats. With that pharmacy long gone, where is the best place to get your drugs? There are pharmacies all over Bangkok but there is a new favourite for expats. Siam Pharmacy is on the ground floor of Mahatun Plaza, just a few minutes along Sukhumvit Road which becomes Ploenchit Road. It’s right next to the Ploenchit BTS station.

If you’re looking for a reliable flower delivery company in Bangkok, try UrbanFlowers. It’s run by a friend of the site.

One of the things that puts me off moving back to Thailand at some point is the yearly visit to Immigration. You hear rather too many horror stories and I personally would not want to live with the idea that the axe was always hanging over my head. OK, few people have problems but if you do have an issue it would be incredibly stressful. One Immigration office in a part of the country popular with foreign residents has had some bad press recently. When applying for an extension to your retirement visa, you must provide a letter from your bank dated that day which shows your bank account balance (which has to be above 800,000 baht). This particular Immigration office is very busy and operates a ticket system for all visa extensions. Tickets are all taken by 9:00 AM. It is tricky to get a ticket for Immigration and have the required letter from the bank. So what can you do? Use an agent which costs $$$.


Meet her at Geisha, Nana Plaza.


Thailand-Related News Article Links

A Canadian gun for hire is extradited to Thailand to face murder charges.

A Chinese couple in Bangkok accused of a massive international fraud are arrested.

More than 1,000 overstaying foreigners have been caught in Phuket with their visa expired.

A Brit claims that Thai ‘scammers’ did not hand over the title deeds for the £346,000 property he purchased from them.

An Aussie couple have been arrested in Phuket for scamming a Chinese man.


Meet her at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.


Closing Comments

When will we come back to Thailand? That’s the question I put to the other half this week. I’d love to visit again later this year, but I wish airfares would go down a bit. Peeking at the price for the same flights we took this trip, I see prices are up $800 – and we paid much more this trip than we’d ever paid before. Just when are airfares going to drop back a bit? I know they’re not going back to what they were but they still seem awfully high!

Your Bangkok commentator,



Stick can be contacted at :

nana plaza