Stickman Weekly, October 1, 2023
Last week’s photo was taken outside Terminal 21. It’s a popular downtown spot and many of you got it right. This week’s is another popular downtown spot that I would expect many of you to be very familiar with.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Backlash against pre-paying.
I won’t be putting up with is this paying up front nonsense. That will not be happening. Guys need to put their foot down and knock this on the head before it becomes prevalent. But as you intimated, lots of first-time / casual visitors just won’t know any different and will assume it’s the norm.
Legitimate barfine gripes.
The barfine thing has always been annoying to me, and it’s not actually the paying of it. If the barfine was truly to compensate the bar for the loss of the girl, there wouldn’t be any issues with hooking up for free at the end of the night. A girl I know had a job at Crazy House. I later found her in another bar a few days later. She had had a bust-up with the mamasan for inserting herself into customer negotiations.
Prepaying ain’t new.
I sent you the email below over 7 years ago. Reading your weekly, it’s clearly not uncommon at all these days. I don’t know how any guy can honestly enjoy or feel comfortable with that situation. <I checked my email inbox and the following email did indeed arrive on May 16, 2016 – Stick>
I’m in Pattaya now and I’m having a pretty good time. I’ve been here many times over the last 15 years (twice a year, every year) and I usually know what to expect. However, one thing I definitely didn’t expect is gogo bars insisting that payment for a dancer’s company must be paid in advance. Not just the barfine, but for the entire deal. I was out on Walking Street with a buddy of mine and his wife and this happened twice. Once at Happy A Gogo and the other time at a new gogo bar called The Bliss. We did not have to deal with this pay in advance BS at Soi LK Metro (my preferred nightlife area), only at Walking Street. I can see why the gals would want to guarantee that they are paid for a deal that is mutually agreed on, but I don’t like this new way of doing business. Very little incentive for a gal to provide a quality time and service. I’m not sure how widespread this new business practice is, but I’m sure that many of your readers would be interested in knowing about this development. I really hope this does not become the norm.
When a bar boss becomes a pimp.
One thing you didn’t mention with collecting fees up front is that by doing so, the bars are dictating the price for services rendered. They are crossing the line of having dancers who for a fee can leave the bar to make their own mutual consent decisions, to being pimps and entering into prostitution which is illegal. Watch this space.
Angeles City nonsense.
Regarding the guy who wrote that in his ten years of going to Angeles City he’s never heard of anyone not getting what they paid for – well, it happened to me on my one and only visit to that shithole. That was 18 years ago and I’ve never been back – for a variety of reasons!
More Readers Emails
Be careful what you boast about.
Regarding the current clampdown on bars and escort services, I would say that some with a social media / YouTube presence have not exactly helped themselves should the Thai authorities investigate. Since the easing of the lock-downs and the decriminalisation of weed, many have gloated how they disregard the law and shown exactly how and where. Hoisted and petard comes to mind as the evidence and admission is often plain to see.
African drug-dealers changing the vibe.
The new Prime Minister’s push-back against cannabis is, frankly, welcome. The farang yahoos who come to Thailand to shed all their inhibitions have merely added being stoned to being drunk, belligerent, and disrespectful pretty much all day and night. These are the same loud-mouths who complain that the Thais just take their money but don’t respect them. Pill-peddlers are operating openly on lower Sukhumvit, and the police appear to be looking the other way. I’m sure the trade has always been there, but it was not until last year that I saw it so frequently out in the open. One of the great things about red-light Bangkok has long been that the streets were reasonably safe. Today, the presence of this element, and the mob that manages them, is changing the overall vibe.
Better education, opportunities and demographics.
It was no surprise to read in your column about your partner’s friends in Thailand living life as they want. This in a week when the authorities have been saying that Thai women are not producing enough babies. It should be noted that this situation happened years before in China when young females gained a better education and their own wealth.
Driving in Thailand vs driving in Australia.
I have just got back from Thailand and had a marvellous time! This time I had an international driving permit, as I used my sister-in-law’s car whilst we were in Buriram. Not once in the 13 days we spent in Thailand, whilst driving in Bangkok, Bang Saen, Pattaya and Buriram did we get any dose of dickhead road rage. Yes, there’s some horrible drivers there, but you get that everywhere. However, nothing compares to the blood-boiling experience that is driving here in Victoria, Australia. Who’d ever think I’d see the day where not only would driver behaviour in Australia be considered worse, but even the traffic volumes (Bangkok aside) are worse in Melbourne. To be honest, it’s embarrassing that our standards in this country have sunk so low. I’m counting the days until I’ve built enough of an empire so I can leave here and never return. Even reading that back still has my head spinning in disbelief, but there you go!
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
The rain is killing bar trade and it was another lousy week for the bar business. A couple of readers mentioned that Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza seemed to be doing ok but those in the business were not in agreement. “Terrible”, was how one big-name gogo bar operator described business this week. Not to fear, it’s a seasonal thing and right now is the height of the rainy season in Bangkok. Wait until October has passed and things will turn around.
Work in what was the Biergarten on Sukhumvit soi 7 is progressing with some new bars possibly opening this month.
One bar boss made an interesting comment to me when I asked him if there was anything new going on in his bar, or in the wider bar area. He repeated what others have said that business hasn’t been great due to the weather and noted that many bars simply do not have the budget at this time to make any changes or improvements. Without naming any names or bar areas, he said some bars will a make a loss (again) this month. Times are so tough for some that they are choosing not to celebrate their anniversary.
A few of you have emailed me the link to a popular Bangkok YouTuber who talks of a “scam” on Soi Cowboy. This so-called “scam” happens when a customer beckons a dancer who is up on stage to get off the stage and join him. He has to buy her lady drinks for the privilege and somehow has it in his mind that this is a scam. I am not sure that I would describe something that has been going on for at least 15 years in many gogo bars in all of the major gogo bars as a “scam”. Calling a girl off stage has long come with the requirement that you buy her drinks immediately. In fact, this is very much the norm for Japanese men who know the score and don’t wish to wait for her to finish dancing. Many Japanese men happily signal to a girl dancing on stage that he likes her and will let one of the waitresses know that he is keen for her to get off the stage and join her – and he knows that he must buy her drinks immediately for jumping the queue, so to speak. This is not new. What may be new is that some foreigners are so keen to get a lady off stage before she is snapped up by someone else that they call her down and then balk at the idea that she expects drinks. This is nothing more than a communication breakdown and misunderstanding. A scam it is not.
Essence, Nana Plaza’s newest gogo bar, had a very soft opening on Friday, with the Spanish boys who took over the former Whiskey & Gogo bar getting the doors open for one partner’s 36th birthday. There was no “Pardon Our Dust” signs, while all involved admit a lot of work remains to be done at Essence. Nana Plaza management invited Digital a-Go-Go in for the first night with customers finally getting to enter around 10 PM. New girls were brought in from a foreign-run “VIP concierge” company that does yacht parties, bachelor nights, group trips and the like. It’s unknown if, or is that when, the former Patpong girls who were working the poles at Whiskey will be back. All remnants of lounge-style Whiskey & Gogo have been obliterated with a regular-height, narrow stage at centre, and a cage at one end reminiscent of Spellbound (remember that bar?). Two rows of traditional stadium-style seating replace Whiskey’s low sofas, bringing Essence back closer to the configuration of Erotica, which occupied the same space for so long. As of Friday, table surfaces remained unfinished, mirrors need to be hanged on one wall, lighting was missing from some areas and the unreadable menu which features gold text on a black background needs to be redone. Pleasingly, beer is reasonably priced, ranging 160 – 180 baht – which puts it at the lower end of the spectrum of Bangkok gogo bar drinks price-lists. Top-shelf drinks, on the other hand, are pricier with many of the most popular drops at 220 baht / glass. Even with work to be done, there are very obvious upgrades over Whiskey & Gogo. The bar’s entrance – often overlooked before by punters walking by – cannot be missed now, with an LED frontage installed. And the sound system is quite literally a massive upgrade, with a 4-foot-tall subwoofer sitting next to the toilet area.
Years before Covid – think 2016 to 2018 – cowboy-themed parties were all the rage, with Mandarin doing them every few months and Butterflies using a cowboy theme – including giant bales of hay – for an anniversary party. But the Wild West got less wild and the cows seemingly were put out to pasture, until now. Tycoon A Gogo will throw a “Hoedown Throwdown” on Friday, October 6. Tycoon’s manager loved the idea of hay bales, but likely will stick with cowboy hats and plaid shirts. There will be special drinks and a unique music soundtrack for the night.
On Soi Cowboy, from tonight Dollhouse will resume using the mezzanine floor. Traditionally, it has been the domain of birthday suits and a wild vibe.
Friday of next week, October 13th, is King Rama 9 Memorial Day. Will the bars be closed that day? It’s a Friday so customers and bar owners alike hope they won’t. More in next week’s column when hopefully we have some clarity about whether bars will be allowed to open or not.
It’s the low season and it’s raining often so it’s hardly unexpected to say that places are quiet. With that said, a friend reports that while it’s quiet down in Pattaya way, it’s especially quiet in Jomtien. He was there this week having visited at the same time last year and tells me it is much quieter this year than last. Over the hill in Pattaya, he felt that there aren’t all that many Westerners about. To his eyes, Asians make up between 80 – 90% of customers in many places – and he’s not talking the venues which are known as haunts for Asian men.
While parts of Pattaya have been described as quiet, Soi 6 has been described as humming with many bars rammed with girls. Interestingly, in a town where the average age of ladies of the night seems to be drifting north, many of the ladies on soi 6 appear to be in their early 20s. Like the wider Pattaya area, Soi 6 is changing. What used to be a white man’s soi is much more diverse these days. Amazingly, I hear that there are girls on Soi 6 these days who only go with Asian men. This would never have been the case in the past and is more evidence of how the soi is changing. While there are parts of Pattaya with fewer bars than there used to be – Walking Street being the prime example – Soi 6 seems to have gone the other way. Soi 6 once had a diverse range of businesses including the usual bars, restaurants but also travel agencies, and dive shop whereas today it feels more and more like a soi of knocking shops.
A recent column reported that the Landmark had throngs of Arab visitors and it was mooted that it might be repositioning itself and aiming for that sector of the market. A reader who is currently staying at The Landmark tells me that there are few Arabs about and it’s very much a Western crowd with German and Dutch being the two languages most heard. Said reader was happy to report that anyone looking to entertain someone in their room can do so without any issues. There is no problem taking ladies of the night back to The Landmark and no need to register them at reception or anything like that. As far as the hordes of Arab visitors reported there recently, perhaps that was a popular time for Arabs to travel? Or perhaps fewer Arabs staying at The Landmark at this time is the exception, and not the rule?
One of the most amusing things an expat retiree who feels they have been slighted in Thailand can do is threaten to leave the country. It is no fun for anyone when they are cheated, scammed or feel they have been treated in a way unbecoming of someone who contributes to the economy, but threatening the Thais with leaving won’t get you anywhere.
One of the many changes in Thailand that has just sort of happened without realising is the demise of many coffee shops in hotels and on the ground floor of condo and apartment buildings. It used to be that many hotels and condominiums had a coffee shop on the ground floor. It was so convenient – especially when most coffee shops were more like a restaurant – and they were open from early until reasonably late. You could get any of the usual Thai favourites quickly and conveniently for not a lot of money. So many of these old coffee shops have closed or operate on limited hours, and many new buildings don’t even have such a venue. It used to be so convenient and if this is to be a thing of the past – as I suspect it is – it will be missed. Of course, you could point to Uber Eats and rightfully comment that coffee shops are no longer necessary but I for one used to frequent these coffee shops in buildings I lived in and found them a great spot not just to eat in, but to meet and get to know others who lived in the same building.
How did the Thais come up with the name of the popular stir-fried vegetable dish, fried morning glory? The Thai name for the dish ผัดผักบุ้งไฟแดง (put puk boong fai daeng) doesn’t translate as anything like morning glory. Stir-fried water spinach would be a more literal translation.
If you’re looking for some great Asia expat fiction, Steve Leather is offering a boxed set of three Hong Kong novels, available this weekend for just £1.99 on the Kindle. This is ridiculously cheap when you consider that 3 novels is more than 420,000 words! The three books are The Fireman, Hungry Ghost and The Vets. This special is available today (Sunday, October 1st) only so be quick. You can order the books here.
Following on from the link in last week’s column to a 1984 episode of Whicker’s World featuring Pattaya, here’s another episode of Whicker’s World, this one even older – dating back to 1972 – titled Thai Tycoons. It features brief interviews with a number of well-to-do Thai women in business and I found it even more fascinating than the episode linked to in last week’s column. This episode features some insight in to the character of Thai people, particularly Thai women.
Thailand-Related News Articles
The Sun took another look at the “ghost building” at the bottom of Sathorn Road.
Thailand’s best-known cop “Big Joke” has his house raided by police this week in what is being described as internal police politics.
Phuket tops the list of the world’s most overcrowded tourist destinations.
Two young foreign females brazenly boast on social media about teaching in Thailand without any teaching qualifications.
Chinese on Chinese crime in Bangkok is on the increase, taking the spotlight away from Western crooks.
“Am Cyanide”, Thailand’s most prolific serial killer, is still in the news.
Nana Plaza’s newest bar, Essence, had a very soft opening this week.
Why Thailand is having second thoughts about decriminalising cannabis.
Right from the start, the deadline to have this column up online has been 6:00 PM, local Bangkok time. When I was living in Bangkok, typically the column went live around 4:00 or 4:30 PM. 6:00 PM Thai time remains the deadline but in reality, it goes live between 7:00 or 8:00 AM, Thai time. The time difference between New Zealand and Thailand and my routine these days means I get it up a lot faster than I used to.
Your Bangkok commentator,