Stickman's Weekly Column September 3rd, 2023

Stickman Weekly, September 3, 2023



Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken at Chinatown, in Soi Itsaranuphap, to be precise. Just three of you got it right. This week’s photo was taken by a friend a few days ago. It almost certainly looks rather different from the last time you last saw it.





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

A bright future for Soi Cowboy.

He Clinic Bangkok

I have an opposing view on Soi Cowboy. I like the prospect of removed patios from the bars in Soi Cowboy. The fun, excitement and the pull factor should be what’s inside the bars, on the other side of the curtain. Now it looks a bit mainstream, resembling Khao San Road. Weed is another issue and the new government will probably not change the cannabis laws. So it’s then up to the market to reduce the number of shops in the soi. If these two things happen then Soi Cowboy can strengthen its brand, and party again like it’s 2009.

Visiting Nana Plaza.

There is absolutely no comparison between Nana and Patpong as Nana is a hundred times busier (and I don’t think, numbers wise, that is an overstatement) than Patpong. The seats at all the bars overlooking Soi 4 are always full. I popped my head inside a lot of the bars in the plaza and there’s a big difference between the busiest and the quietest. Of course, judging how busy a bar is by someone looking inside for 10 seconds is hardly accurate and any bar could be busy or quiet just before, or just after, my visit. But for what it’s worth, the usual suspects – Spanky’s, Billboard and Butterflies were much busier than, to be honest, everywhere else.

Long Gun.

CBD bangkok

There are mixed opinions about Long Gun which is understandable. There are always circles of friends inside bars. Ladies stick together with a few “sisters”. If you get involved with the right group you can have a good time. However, if you are surrounded by a group of sharks, the experience might be very different. And if you hate Thai music you might not like it that quite a few Thai songs are played in Long Gun, even if they play more traditional Thai songs and not that modern dance crap. Also, if you’re fond of nice, clean toilets you might not be pleased with what you find in Thai-owned bars like Long Gun, because usually the toilets are really lousy there. I always say I can identify whether a bar is Thai-owned or not. If the toilets are filthy and not well-maintained, but the atmosphere is more loose and relaxed than in most bars, it’s likely you ended up in a Thai-owned bar.

Bargain at The Landmark.

I saw your comments regarding The Landmark. For years it was on my radar, but mostly too expensive for my budget. Now, I finally booked it for under 65 USD a night for a week. It’s probably that price because of the renovations. I will report on the demographics next month. I just hope that they still are “guest-friendly” as listed on many websites. If their policy has changed due to the new clientele, I might regret my choice.



More Readers’ Emails

When is breakfast?

wonderland clinic

You mentioned Champs bar serving breakfast from 10 AM. Far too late. I seek out places that serve from 8 AM, and I’ll be using Fitzgerald’s on Soi 4 next month – which happens to be close to where I’ll be staying at Heaven@4. They even do an Early Bird until 11 for 99 baht, but without tea / coffee.

Jury service in Thailand.

Doing jury service can be tough, especially if you have an unsavoury case to deal with. Thailand, unlike many western countries, does not have jury service. I had to explain what jury service is, and probably why Thailand doesn’t have it, to my wife. Can you imagine the logic that Thais might come up with in reaching a verdict? The mind boggles. Add to that the low education level of many, and the likelihood that those called up would not be paid during their absence from the job, and it would be a non-starter.

Thailand preferred to New Zealand.

What I like about Thailand today is the cost of living compared to New Zealand. Property (no rates), food (so much cheaper especially meat and veges), petrol costs (-40%) but also the protectionism that Thailand has to look after their own. If we live in Thailand, we also benefit from say rice availability, and export bans. With retirement just 2 years away, I know where I get a better deal. Still cannot believe that if you buy a house here in Thailand you can do anything on the land with no restrictions. Build what you want, how you want, with no rules!

Thaksin and farang.

You write that many foreigners did not consider Thaksin to be good for Thailand. If my memory is correct, Thaksin was the one who introduced the 300 baht minimum wage. Meaning: for the first time in history, a Thai woman with a low-end job in a shop or factory had a salary which was actually liveable. He also introduced the 30 baht health care insurance, meaning Isaan farmers would not go bankrupt (= sending their daughters to the chrome pole) if they had an accident. It was no surprise that in those years the quality and quantity of women in the gogo bars went down. For the first time, there were reasonable alternatives for Thai women from poorer backgrounds. Maybe this decrease in the offering made Thaksin unpopular with farang? And now the Thai government is once again discussing increasing the minimum wage.  How long before 3,000 baht for short-time is but a fond memory?


Patpong Night Market, Thursday night. The rains fell in Bangkok this week and bar trade wasn’t great.


This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Almost everyone seems to be in agreement that trade in the bars wasn’t great this week – and it was all because of the rain. As one friend said, it felt like the rainy season has finally arrived.

The issue of whether Soi Cowboy could undergo surgery is weighing heavy on bar bosses. Things are still very much under discussion and while this is more than merely a rumour, it’s still not clear whether there’s a solid reason behind this or it’s all a very elaborate play for tea money. All we can say with certainty is that officials have tipped off bar operators about what is being discussed, and officials have been spotted taking measurements on the soi. Some officials say that they need to recover four metres. Soi Cowboy is currently six metres wide and some officials have said that it needs to be 10 metres wide so there can be two lanes of traffic. Widening the soi would require patio bars to be removed. I have heard all sorts of rumours doing the rounds this week and I will try to sum them all up.

One bar boss is saying that if one side of the soi is to be carved up, it would be the northern side as that is where the bulk of the wiring is – and that wiring would have to go underground so it would be easier to carve up that side. Which side is the northern side? Think Country Road at one end and Baccara down towards the other end with popular bars like Tilac, Dollhouse and Shark in between. The northern side has more foreigner-owned bars – which could be relevant if this is, as some believe, an elaborate play for tea money. Bar operators on the northern side, however, claim their side will be preserved as the power poles and lines currently are on their side of the street, right up against the shophouses – and they shouldn’t be disturbed. And one bar operator on the southern side says they have no patio bars proper and actual building structures would have to be demolished on their side which they feel should not happen. One bar owner contacted by police this week believes, however, both north and south will be forced to sacrifice their patios.

One bar manager feels the issue has arisen due to concern about congestion on the soi, partly due to packs of ladies standing outside their bar and trying to haul passers-by inside. Said bar manager feels that if bars could get the girls back on to the patios and have them hoot and holler from their respective patios, this might help. That strikes me as unlikely, but it’s what one bar boss thinks.

The one comment I would make about the mess that Soi Cowboy has become is that some bars have really taken the piss, placing tables beyond the patio and out on the soi itself (see photo below).

So what is the reason for these proposed works? “Safety reasons”. There is widespread scepticism behind this claim. There is suspicion that property developers or connected construction contractors are behind it. Everything remains up in the air and nothing is official.

What do I make of it? Will the mooted carving up of Soi Cowboy really happen or will it fade away and be forgotten about? It’s so hard to say being so far away. First and foremost, who actually “owns” Soi Cowboy? I was always under the impression that it was private property (like Patpong), but with city officials meddling, it would seem that I am wrong. Multiple sources (city officials, Thonglor district office, police) are being cited which suggests this is real. Officials have been seen on the soi taking measurements. Some bars have been on the phone with police contacts who are aware of it. This all suggests that it’s real. And as daft an idea as carving up such a popular soi sounds, daft is often par for the course in Thailand!

If Soi Cowboy is carved up, trade on the soi would suffer. Many of those who enjoy sitting on the patios watching the world go by have zero interest in sitting inside a chrome pole bar. They would simply head elsewhere. Bar owners are well aware of this.


Soi Cowboy, this past week. Note how some bars now place tables beyond their patio and right out on the soi.


A kilometre up the road in Nana Plaza, the Spanish guys who bought Whiskey & Gogo plan to turn it into a high-end whiskey bar. Existing bar owners are all of the same opinion: a high-end bar won’t work. Shoot me for being negative but Team Spain is said to be new to the gogo bar business. I’m all for innovation and I wish them well, but don’t go trying to reinvent the wheel. While Whiskey & Gogo strikes me as an ideal name for a chrome pole bar with high-end drinks, it is expected to reopen under a new name.

On this note, not so long ago I planned to write a column on gogo bars which offer premium drinks, particularly craft beers and top-shelf drinks not found elsewhere. I thought it would make for an interesting column. I spoke with a couple of Nana Plaza gogo bar owners who both just laughed, saying they had tried this in the past but special / premium drinks don’t sell well in gogo bars and it’s not what most customers want. One gogo bar owner put champagne on the menu some time back but didn’t sell any and the bottles are still in the bar now. Customers just weren’t interested. As one owner said to me, it’s why many bars don’t even have a drinks menu – you have a choice of a handful of beers and the usual top-shelf spirits and that’s it in many bars.

Upstairs in Nana Plaza, hammering and nailing has begun at Lace Lounge, the new no-a-gogo from the folks behind Tycoon A Gogo (which now has dropped the “lounge” from its name). Tycoon’s controlling partner will be back in Thailand in October and word is he wants Lace ready by the time he gets back.

Across the road from Nana Plaza, renovations are taking place and signage is going up at what was Strikers. Just what it’s going to be, I don’t know. The best locations on Soi Nana are all at the top of the soi, but this particular spot has proven to be an exception. It feels like a prime spot, but given that it’s set back from the soi and is reached by walking through a car park, most people just walk on by. Staff in the Nana Hotel either don’t know what it’s going to be or are pretending they don’t.


Party time at Billboard.


The big party – of the week, month and year – will take place this coming Saturday, September 9th, when Billboard throws its 8th Anniversary Party. Every year it’s a sold-out event with each and every seat filling up shortly after the doors open at 8 PM. There is a very small supply of tables in the roped-off VIP section for those purchasing a VIP package of two bottles, four commemorative glasses, ice and mixers. To book your table, join Billboard’s VIP Club on Line. If you’re not pre-booking, make sure you get there early. There will be free gifts for the first 100 punters and free pizza for all. The highlight of the evening, however, will be the Billboard Babe Of The Year pageant where customers and staff vote – very loudly – for their favorite Billboard babe. The crown-and-sash winner will take home 25,000 baht.

Spanky’s in Nana Plaza had 12 new girls start last week. It might not sound like a lot but given many bars struggle to get any new girls these days, 12 new girls in a week is something to celebrate. Most came from Soi Cowboy where they complained that business hadn’t been great.

Bar bosses Frank and Belle – born one day and many years apart – will celebrate a double birthday at Shark Club tomorrow, Monday, September 4th. A pig will be sacrificed and roasted for the occasion and all drinks are just 95 baht until 9:30 PM. Draft beer is 95 baht all night at Shark. There will be birthday partying at sister bars Red Dragon and Mandarin in Nana Plaza, but it will be strictly drinking, and no BBQ.


Party time at Shark.


In last week’s column I mentioned that it would be nice if Nanapong dance contests would resume, almost as if that would be a marker that things were well and truly back to the way they were. Sadly, that is not going to happen. Shortly after last week’s column went live, a (the only?) remaining member of the original Nanapong crew and the fellow behind so many of the Nanapong events sent me this: “Nanapong Dance Contests are no more. There will never be another one I’m afraid! To be honest I’ve totally gone off the bar scene and have no inclination to stage another event. Now some bars may have their own dance contest but it will not be a Nanapong sanctioned event.” So there you have it. It’s official, Nanapong is consigned to Bangkok bar history.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off this week with a salivating opening match between hosts France and New Zealand. While there are many rugby fans amongst Thailand’s expats, times difference mean Thailand is not a great place to follow it this year with many matches kicking off well after midnight. How many bars will be keen to – or allowed to stay open? It’s not like, say the FIFA Football World Cup or the European Championship where bars are sure to get a good turnout. Rugby just doesn’t have that sort of following. One place that has made the commitment to open for the “big” matches is Buddy’s Bar & Grill. Not all five locations will stay open and not every 2 AM match will be shown, but you can find out which ones will by following Buddy’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website.


Gulliver’s in soi 5, a great spot but how often is it genuinely busy these days?


How has Gulliver’s on Sukhumvit soi 5 managed to survive? It’s an odd location for such a large bar, in the middle of what is increasingly an area popular with visitors from the Middle East. This branch of Gulliver’s (the original was on Khao San Road) did very well when it first opened – but that is turning back the clock 20 odd years ago. Trade was good for several years but things slowed down noticeably 10 or more years ago and every time I have popped back since it has been quiet, irrespective of the time of day or night. Gulliver’s has a lot going for it – well-priced drinks, good sports coverage, pool tables, reasonably priced and tasty food. It has wide appeal, but it never seems to be that busy. It’s a huge space and I can’t imagine what the rent is, yet it remains open. How do they manage to balance the books? My best guess is that the operator bought the land. I just can’t imagine how much the rent would be on that plot, hence that seems the most likely reason why it’s still in business.

I have raved in this column several times about the Museum of Patpong which I thought was the most wonderful attraction and a must-visit for anyone who has any interest in the history of the bar industry. The museum was part of a group of bars in Patpong which closed due to their links with a bar in Phuket busted for underage girls. It had always been assumed the museum would reopen but, unfortunately, that is not going to happen. The premises have been stripped and the exhibits are gone. Word around Patpong is that those in power have explicitly said that the Museum Of Patpong and Black Pagoda mustn’t ever re-open. It was a fantastic attraction, a true labour of love in which the curator’s passion for Patpong and the wider area shone through. This is a terrible loss.



Down in Pattaya, the Made In Thailand beer bar complex on Second Road closed a few years back and the site levelled. All predictions were a shopping centre or a condo would go up. That didn’t happen. Surprisingly, the site has been redeveloped into…..another beer bar complex. There are spaces for 50 odd bars and a sign has gone up with the complex’s new name, Myth Night Bar Beer Town. The “th” sound in Myth will be difficult for Thais to pronounce and the “th” will sound more like “t” – so expect the new bar area to be known not as Myth Night amongst the ladies, but more likely as “Midnight”.

We’re told that airfares are expensive because there is huge pent up demand and flights are all full. That’s what we’re told, but how true is it? When I flew to Bangkok a couple of months back, the flights there and back weren’t even half full. And this week, a friend flying Thai Airways from London to Bangkok sent me the following: “I flew TG departing London 21.25 and arriving Bangkok 15.00 the following day. From London, the flight was very quiet. I would say the plane was between 1/4 and 1/3 full and definitely not more than that.” It sounds just like when I flew from Auckland to Bangkok a couple of months ago. If airfares dropped back to around what they were pre-Covid (or even say 20% – 25% higher to take into account a few years of high inflation), I’d take another trip to Bangkok in November. But with airfares from this part of the world still crazy high – sometimes 150% more than they were pre-Covid, I’ll wait. My friend also mentioned that the airport was really quiet, with no wait at Passport Control.



For those who wish to avoid the annual hassle of extending your visa, you can always stump up for the Elite Card. This week Thailand Prestige – the company which manages the Elite Card – announced new packages. The basic Elite Card which essentially allows you to come and go (or simply stay) for 5 years has gone up in price from 600,000 baht to 900,000 baht. There is a new “Reserve” Elite Card priced at 1,500,000 baht which allows a 10-year stay, and a “Platinum” Elite Card which allows you to come and go for 20 years. It comes with a hefty 5,000,000 baht price tag. As I have said before, these cards are mainly purchased by wealthy Chinese and Russians and there is nothing to suggest the price increases will do anything to temper demand.

Last week’s column touched on Arabs currently making up most of the guests at The Landmark. This generated some chatter about whether Arabs like visiting gogo bars. You don’t tend to see a lot of Arabs in the Bangkok gogo bars but for those who do make it, word is that they are good spenders. Comparisons between Arabs and Indians are inevitable. From one Nana Plaza gogo bar operator, he likes Arabs as they spend and never complain. He’s not so keen on Indians where his issue is not so much that they don’t spend, it’s that they get all touchy-feely with the girls and the girls get pissed off.


The Landmark Hotel, standing tall on Sukhumvit Road.


Speaking of The Landmark, a reader asks whether the Huntsman might be renamed the Huntsperson to be more PC?

I’ll be the first to admit that provincial New Zealand lacks excitement and life here can be very uneventful, especially after spending so many years in Bangkok. I often wonder about the idea of returning to Bangkok but when I do, I often seem to get a wake-up call. This week I got one from a friend who is a 20-year Bangkok expat. Said friend visited Immigration this week to extend his stay for another year. He did not get one year. He was given just one month. Said friend had a work permit for many years and has recently transitioned over to a retirement visa. He was only given a one month extension because he could not provide the ID card of the Thai owner of the condo he rents. The owner of his condo refuses to provide it to him, while Immigration insists that they must receive a copy of it otherwise they will only give him a one-month extension, and not one year. Traditionally, anyone who faced challenges like this at Immigration would bite the bullet and pay 25K to an agent who can get it done, right? Wrong! He tried that and the agent wasn’t able to help. This agent who has many years helping out at Immigration advised him that things are much stricter these days and being done by the book. So what is the solution? He might be forced to move from a condo he is very happy in and where he has stayed for the past 17 years, into a condo where the owner is happy to provide their ID card so he can use that to get his permission to stay extended for another year. Which branch of Immigration? The main branch in Bangkok, out at Chaeng Wattana. Immigration in Bangkok strictly follows the rule book.



Thailand-Related News Articles

Quote of the week comes from a friend who is a long-time resident of Bangkok who was commenting on the bar scene in Sin City, “Pattaya used to be half the price of Bangers, now it’s twice the price.”

Thailand mulls easing visa rules to lure Indian and Chinese visitors.

Thailand held its first national pad kaphrao competition.

Full details on the new Thailand Elite Card were announced this week.

Thai Airways officially begins selling six Airbus A380s in ‘as is’ condition.

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s prison term is reduced by HM The King from 8 years to one year.


A birds-eye view of the entrance to Nana Plaza.


Closing Comments

25 years ago, Nana Plaza ruled the roost. In my first year living in Bangkok, Nana Plaza was the preferred playground for those on holiday. It was also where you were most likely to find expats after work. Soi Cowboy was very much a sleepy backwater and Patpong, while popular, did not attract anything like the numbers that flocked to Nana. Fast forward to today and things aren’t that different. Patpong’s recent woes have been well documented in this column and while Soi Cowboy has its fans, it doesn’t have enough really good bars to compete with Nana. The popularity of individual bars ebbs and flows, but when it comes to bar areas, Nana continues to dominate and it’s a long way back to second place. Of course, Nana is not for everyone and some prefer Patpong or Cowboy or even one of the smaller bar areas. It makes me wonder just what it would take for another bar area to wrestle away Nana’s crown. Is there any chance it will happen any time soon? One imagines not.


Your Bangkok commentator,



Stick can be contacted at :

nana plaza