Stickman Weekly, September 24, 2023
Last week’s photo was taken at an apartment building down On Nut way. Not one of you got it right. It was almost rather embarrassing as I thought it had been taken at the park behind Queen Sirikit until the photographer put me right about where it was. Last week’s photo was obscure and much too difficult so I have gone for a rather easier photo this week.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
The mention of afternoon gogo bars failing when they were tried in Bangkok a few years ago was down to one thing. No-one knew they were open. The few bars that tried it were in Nana Plaza, but it was not promoted in any way. No board or sign at the entrance to the Plaza, nothing. Way, way back – end of the ’90s – there were quite a few bars open in the afternoon and not only in Nana Plaza, but they gave it up around the time that the economy crashed.
Gone, but not forgotten.
Along Soi 4 there’s a few new bars offering decent prices. What was Hillary 4 is now called Bunnies and has some of the old staff and girls I remember from Stumble Inn working there. Gav, the super friendly manager from Stumble Inn and crazy Liverpool soccer fan who had that bar rocking, isn’t anywhere to be found, and that bar just doesn’t have the same vibe anymore. The girls tell me they’ve seen him around but the bar’s owner hasn’t asked him back and things ain’t the same without him. If true that would have been harsh, as Gav knew how to run a bar better than most, you could tell his staff really loved him too and he must have made that bar a fortune in the time he was there. He was a mine of information for visitors to Bangkok, and we used to head to see him as soon as we’d landed. If anyone knows where Gav is these days, maybe they’d be good enough to let us know through this page as I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering where he’s working now <Gavin is still very much alive and can be found out and about at weekends. He’s just waiting for the right opportunity – Stick>.
Who is behind paying in advance?
It would be interesting to know if paying the barfine and short-time fee before leaving the bar is just a few mamasans, or driven by the bars themselves. We do know some girls aren’t going back to the bars after the barfine. They are independent contractors, right? Perhaps the short-time payment being withheld is the bar’s way of ensuring that the lady returns to the bar? Do we know if the mamasan gives the girls the money before they leave? <The lady gets the money (or her cut of the money, less the mamasan’s fee) before she leaves the bar – Stick>
Another bar industry cancer.
This pay in advance nonsense is yet another cancer plaguing the bar industry. I was asked in Red Dragon to pay in advance and called bullshit on it. They backed off. If I was some fresh off the boat guy would they have worked me more?
More Readers’ Emails
Pre-paying, the norm in Angeles City.
While paying a barfine in advance is considered normal practice, paying for the girl’s time in advance is considered unusual. Those who have been to Angeles City in the Philippines know that is the way it has always been done there. You pay the barfine (early work release) and for the girl’s time in advance, before you leave the bar. Personally, I think this is the best way. But let’s ask the question. Why would someone not want to pay for everything in advance? I can only imagine it would be because someone is afraid of being cheated and not receiving what they had paid for. From 10 years visiting Angeles City, I have never once heard of someone being cheated <I have and I have never even been there! – Stick>. As much as I love Thailand, I think this is just another example of why the Philippines is superior. People who visit Angeles City bars aren’t afraid to pay in advance because they are not afraid of being cheated. Something that can’t and perhaps will never be able to be said of many bars in Thailand.
Prepaying, common in the Philippines.
Pre-paying ‘everything’ upfront is a fairly common practice in the Philippines, a result of unsavoury ‘runners’ and burn artists. Regardless, I feel a lot of what happens in Thailand is predicated on the customer’s appearance and demeanour. It may be from past experiences with customers nit-picking the bedroom experience with the lady i.e. you didn’t do this, or wouldn’t do that etc. If not, some issue over the time spent. ‘What? that was only 30 minutes!? I’m only paying half the hourly rate!’ Or the girl turned out to be an inert starfish. ‘I’m not paying for that!’ Or the customer being over-inebriated, claiming payment was made already etc. A customer slovenly-dressed, being of a certain ethnic race or becoming a bit too drunk in the bar might also provide a clue. Additionally, mamasans may be doubling as loan sharks, and wish to get back their ‘investment’ back from the girl before she claims she had to send it back to her village because the family buffalo was taken ill. Or it may be a prior agreement the mamasan has with certain girls. If they make the effort to funnel or direct the girl to paying customers, they receive a tacit commission. Note: many customers often depend on, rely on, and take mamasan’s insider knowledge ‘suggestions’ as to whom is ‘good’ to bar-fine or not. Or it may be as you suspected, mamasans are simply skimming off the upfront proceeds as drinks are register tabulated, but barfines (usually) and short-time / long-time fees are not always recorded. Or there could be many other reasons not speculated here. You are generally hearing only one side of the story: the customer’s.
Paying in advance to become widespread?
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
Some months back I wrote that a high-profile bar boss was under investigation by the DSI. I didn’t name the fellow involved. This investigation is a worry not just for the fellow involved but the wider bar industry because the DSI – the Department of Special Investigations – is part of the Justice Department and only takes on big cases. The DSI is the closest thing Thailand has to the FBI. It is only now that I can write more about this. The high-profile bar boss is Bryan Flowers who heads up the Nightwish Group which dominates Pattaya’s soi 6. It can be revealed that Bryan’s wife, Dun, has been arrested and is currently behind bars. Her request for bail was denied. Normally I would not name those involved in a situation like this but Bryan went public about it this week, hence I am mentioning it. Best wishes to Bryan and Dun in fighting the charges.
More escort websites which target a foreigner customer base were busted this week. There are many such sites and it’s unclear just why these sites were targeted. Are the authorities cracking down on escort sites that target foreign customers? Or escort sites owned by foreigners? There are many similar operations run by Thais for the Thai market and many, many places online where Thai women post profiles that are very detailed and leave nothing to the imagination – but there have been zero reports of any of these websites or platforms being busted. The escort sites that have been busted clip the ticket, so perhaps that is where the line is drawn?
This week’s busts along with the arrest earlier in the year of the operator behind several Patpong 2 bars, and the arrest of the operator of the long-running and very successful Absolute Angels website some weeks back have some bar industry figures concerned. From bar owners to bar managers to some who simply have an online presence, people are getting worried and the question I was asked by a couple of people this past week was, Who will be next?
Regarding the speculation about what the old Strikers Bar space in the Nana Hotel car park will be, and just who is behind it, my enquiries have revealed that Tee – the Thai fellow who is buying up bars all over Nana Plaza – is behind it. He has secured the space and is building a new bar. Signage that went up this week shows the new venue will be called Nana Night Club.
Nana Plaza is undergoing a development boom not seen in more than a decade. In a fixed retail space that once was thought full, an incredible four new bars are in the works. Combine that with an influx of new, young foreign owners, and it’s tempting to call what’s happening on Soi 4 a renaissance, but the Plaza is already at the top of the heap. The best really do keep getting better.
As noted in an earlier column, Nana’s biggest tenant, Tee, has purchased the former short-time hotel at the top of the main stairs, next to the beauty salon. What wasn’t clear earlier, however, is that he also has taken over the old Hollywood Inn, across the Plaza, from the Stumble Group, which ran it and Balcony Bar.
Tee has been buying up bars all over Soi Nana. Inside the plaza, he has acquired a number of bars – so many that I cannot keep up with them all. Out on the soi, he picked up Bunnies from the Stumble Inn guys, and of course soon he will have Nana Night Club, next to the Nana Hotel.
Lace Lounge, above Tycoon in the former lobby of the short-time hotel there (and the short-lived Erotica Karaoke Club) is barrelling towards completion in October. Lace Lounge in Nana Plaza is going to be unique with a balcony at the back of the bar (or to think of it another way, at the front of the Nana Plaza complex) where customers can go outside, and watch the comings and goings along Soi Nana.
The owners of Butterflies and Billboard have gutted their (very nice) short-time hotel, reducing it to a shell with an eye toward making a bar the size of Rainbow 3 (the former Enter).
Of course, this comes as word has spread that, despite hotels supposedly being closed “forever”, they may be allowed to reopen come October when the long-serving chief of the Lumpini Police Station retires. However, with this week’s additional raids of online escort services, one wonders whether allowing hotels in the complex once again might be putting a target on its back.
Outside of the physical development, some say the personality of Nana Plaza is changing. Many of the plaza’s bar owners have been there for decades. This tenant group is not geriatric, but they’re no spring chickens anymore either. That’s what makes the ownership change of Rainbow 69 and the former Whiskey & Gogo interesting: The new owners are all in their 30s. Whiskey has been taken over by a pair of Spaniards while Rainbow 69 was bought from Tee by a pair of French nationals.
The French boys are new to the gogo game, but not hospitality: They own a nightclub in Silom, a restaurant in Thonglor and a gym off Sukhumvit. The joke is they’ve simply bought businesses to suit their lifestyle: Gym in the afternoon, restaurant for dinner, a gogo bar for the evening and a nightclub for after-hours. Word around the plaza is that the French guys like to party.
The owners said this week they have big plans for Rainbow 69 and want to make it “really different” from other gogo bars, but will wait a month before launching any changes so they can properly appraise the business. Rainbow 69 is tiny and its maidens came from Tee’s network – so expect the girls to leave at the end of the month for Tee’s two new bars.
Levels on Sukhumvit soi 11 will celebrate its 11th anniversary this coming Wednesday, September 27th. In a city where nightclubs come and go, often fading into obscurity, Levels continues to pack the punters in. Management is going all out to throw a memorable event with an Ancient Egypt theme. There will be performances from dancers in Egyptian attire and everyone is invited to dress in Egyptian-inspired attire. The doors open at 10 PM.
Rain was the major story again this week, with downpours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with Thursday night a total wipe-out. Rain began falling around 5 PM and didn’t let up until midnight and it wasn’t just drizzle. Huge thunderstorms ran through the area with lightning and thunder booming for hours. Many parts of Bangkok flooded and, save for a few brave tourists, the red-light areas were largely devoid of customers and girls.
In Soi Cowboy, lady drinks at Jungle Jim jumped in price some time recently. Lady drinks used to be a very reasonable 100 baht. Now they are 200 baht. This isn’t “new” news, rather this price increase happened some time in the last month or two. Lady drinks at Jungle Jim were unusually cheap so this really just brings prices up to around the same level as other bars on the street.
At the Asoke end of Cowboy, Country Road continues to attract a small number of African freelancers. Some of their sisters linger around the corner, not far from the entrance to the MRT station.
Early rain on Friday around 7 PM threatened to take the spirit out of Shark’s 21st Anniversary Party, but the festivities were too much even for Mother Nature. A roast pig was all but gone by 10 PM but not to fear, Shark had prepared a massive table of sandwiches and sweets, including parfaits, fruit sundaes and other French treats. The theme for the party was “French Can-Can” – the owners are from France – and the girls were in skimpy can-can bikinis. For the anniversary, staff were all done out in white shirts and bow-ties and at around 11 PM, a Paris-style can-can show kicked off on stage.
Shark was so packed at 9 PM the owner himself had no place to sit. Then, just before 10:00 PM, the rain began to fall…..hard. It pounded down for half an hour, which took some starch out of the party and plenty of seats became available. Shark opened on September 11, 2002 – which makes it easy for the bosses to remember – but this year’s party was held on September 22 in memory of Alan, the late father of Shark’s two owners, who was born on that date.
This coming Friday will see the third party of this month at Shark and the second at Red Dragon when the moon goes full again and the neon comes out. The Full Moon Party is a fun event, with girls going nutty with fluorescent body paint and everyone getting glow-bands to play with. At Red Dragon, Smirnoff vodka drinks will be 95 baht all night. Happy hour in both Red Dragon and Shark runs until 9:30 PM.
Away from the chrome poles, Buddy’s on Sukhumvit Soi 22 will host its monthly barbecue this coming Friday. The September 29 food fest has ribeye roast, hot dogs, Italian sausage, pork ribs, roast chicken, plus all the sides for just 350 baht. Food is on at 7:30 PM.
Belgian died this week. Who? Lou was the guy behind the Pattaya Pattaya song with the very fitting and amusing lyrics.
Last week’s column’s comments about how more and more ladies (and mamasans) in various bars across all the major bar areas are asking for the lady’s fee to be paid before she leaves the bar has caused plenty of reader feedback – and other than those who also frequent the Philippines where it is said to be the norm, most punters are strongly against it. What surprised me and disappointed me in equal measure is learning that this is happening in a number of foreigner-owned bars now, including a couple of the biggest and most successful venues. Whether the owners of these venues endorse it – or even know that it’s happening in their bar – I have no idea.
Away from the bars, it’s not that long ago when the average Thai woman was most concerned about settling down and having a ring on her finger before she turned 30. That seems to have gone by the wayside – at least in urban areas – and I have not heard of a Thai woman making noises about the need to settle down before she turns 30 in quite some time. In fact, many of my other half’s Bangkok-based friends tell me they would prefer not to settle down at all unless they find someone who is genuinely Mr. Right. These ladies all make good money themselves these days, have enough income to buy a new car and a house and they don’t need a man to look after them as many Thai women in earlier generations did. Many of these ladies have no desire to have children. They happily explain that there is so much opportunity in Thailand today to make good money – and so many things to spend that money on, both inside and outside of Thailand that leading a similar lifestyle to their parents or worse still, their grandparents, has zero appeal.
When will Thai Airways resume the routes it stopped flying when Covid came along? Many Thai Airways jets are still sitting on the runway at Suwannabhumi where they have been for the past 3½ years. That’s 3½ years sitting on the ground in what is a very humid country presumably without any maintenance. They are currently sitting through their 4th rainy season. Closer inspection of the photo above taken last week shows that some of these birds have had an engine removed, so perhaps their next destination is the scrap heap?
A reader who is a Bangkok-based pilot has a VR flight simulator for sale. It has been run for less than 150 hours and is described as being in perfect condition. The seller says it’s perfect for flight training, cross country, IFR, ILS approaches etc. He tells me it’s just like sitting in a real aircraft. You can fly the Barron 58 IFR and set the simulator for an engine failure 30 minutes after departure and pretty much the same thing will happen as in the real situation – you fight to get the plane under control, trim it out, find the nearest airport and shoot the ILS. You can set the weather the way you want, thunderstorms to zero visibility ILS approach, snow, rain, icing etc. You also can add another airliner such as a PMDG 737. He is asking 50K baht for the system for which he paid 150K baht last year. The specs are: GPU Nvidia 1080TI and CPU intel i7 8700 hertz 500 SSD with Drive. He tells me that in the United States many flight schools offer this system for flight training and change the equivalent of 1,000 baht per hour. If interested, contact Rod: 0890-493136 or via LINE: Grumman81303.
I had a minor rant recently about bar owners and made reference to those who choose not to speak with people like me who chronicle the bar industry. Chatting with someone else who comments on the bar industry, we agreed that some bar industry figures are more sensitive than ever about comments made about their bar – and some reject anything said unless it is positively glowing. When it comes to comments about their bar, be it from commentators, customers, or YouTubers, some bar owners have become downright irascible. In the past I could write what I wanted and no matter what I said, it would hardly generate a peep from bar bosses – so long as what was said was accurate. These days, even the most innocuous comments cause some bar bosses to get all bent out of shape. Things have been moving in this direction for a while but it has become really noticeable this past year. Some throw a tantrum over the most innocuous comments which in some cases might not have even been directed at their bar! I have scratched my head trying to work out why this is. At first I thought it might be a hangover from Covid but I am not so sure that’s the case. I get the feeling that it might have something to do with the amount of money some people have tied up in a bar these days. Go back 20+ years and you could set up a bar for not a lot of money. 3 million baht (around $US 75,000 at the time) would be enough to sign a lease and set up a gogo bar. Monthly rent would be covered by a good weekend and the rest was all cream. These days, it costs a lot more to set up a bar – partly due to the fact that the bar has been raised – and rents are so much higher than they were back then. Many bars used to be a hobby business as much as anything, a place for the owner to party with his mates. These days, with much higher costs, most bars are a “real” business. With so much money tied up in their bar, some bar owners get very, very upset at any comments whatsoever made about their bar.
I tend not to link to YouTube videos about Thailand. My main gripe is that so many YouTubers take so long to get their message across. But this week I would like to not just link to a video on YouTube, but draw readers’ attention to a video that I really think is well worth 20 minutes of your time if you’re a fan of Pattaya and especially if you’re interested in its history. YouTube has many episodes of Whicker’s World, a British documentary series that ran from 1958 to 1994. This episode of Whicker’s World from 1984 is part of a series titled “A fast boat to China” with 20 minutes set in Pattaya. Fast-forward to the 32 minutes, 45 seconds mark. The next 20+ minutes features Pattaya from almost 40 years ago. I found it fascinating, and it’s amazing how many things really haven’t changed that much.
Thailand-Related News Articles
Some expats got very nervous this week when the Revenue Department said it would tax foreign income.
Pop star Liam Gallagher adopts a rescue dog from Thailand.
Thailand is to clamp down on cannabis use in what is being described as a major U-turn on drug policy.
In this short video, the new Prime Minister says Thailand will restrict cannabis use following decriminalisation last year.
Some Chinese are being put off visiting Thailand for some very odd reasons.
This week’s column was not the sort of positive, uplifting edition I like to write. I received a lot of very negative feedback following last week’s comments about bars which insist on punters paying the lady’s fee along with the barfine before they leave the bar together. And with some people in the bar industry arrested as well as some behind online escort services, there’s concern about who might be next. This is not the sort of thing I want to write about it but it’s happening and it needs to be reported. Here’s hoping the rainy season blues pass soon and there’s more positive goings on to write about. At least there was some good news from the bar industry with lots of development taking place in Nana Plaza and some exciting new venues to open soon. That’s something positive to look forward to.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com