Stickman Weekly, October 15, 2023
Mystery PhotoLast week’s photo was taken of the pedestrian walkway above the Patumwan intersection, between Siam Square, Siam Discovery Centre and MBK. This week’s is tricky and, honestly, I did not know where it was. The fellow who took this photo and kindly sent it in has a good eye, capturing a well-known spot with this composition.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past WeekThe Paragon shooting.
The shooting at Siam Paragon didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I have actually stood outside the same door that shoppers were shown fleeing from and watched as a considerable number of people would walk in the exit door to avoid the security, or just because they could, with security doing absolutely nothing at all about it. And, I believe, anyone can enter from the parking area with no checks made. Thai-style security, similar to the MRT staff who shine a torch for a nano second at a closed bag. Maybe it’s because Thais are generally known to not like confrontation, but that’s not a great quality for a security guard to have.
Pattaya is no longer my favorite nightlife destination. Bangkok has overtaken it. Within Bangkok, Nana was my favorite because it does not allow photos and videos to be taken. Throughout Thailand, the number of people walking up and down the nightlife areas video recording everything is off putting. Given the abilities of facial recognition software to easily identify people, who wants to be permanently identified on the internet as being in a nightlife area? Pattaya continues to shed traditional farang tourists. The majority of tourists are now Chinese and Indian. Soi 6 is the most popular street for fun. It is an understatement to say Pattaya is quiet. I walked from Soi 6 to Terminal 21 along Beach Road at 7 PM on a Saturday. Guess how many people I passed on the sidewalk: four.Busy Bangkok.
Just a few thoughts on beer and pricing. I don’t even look at the price of my own drinks in a gogo bar as it’s largely irrelevant if you’re buying lady drinks. That’s where the money is lost, especially if they’re doing the alcoholic drink + Cola = 2 drinks routine. If anything, my gripe is what they actually sell. I’m from the UK, am getting old and I like real ale. Lao Dark sounds promising. When I first started drinking the general feeling was men drank dark beers or Scotch. Lager was very much considered a lady’s drink. During the late 70’s, Skol became the most popular drink in the country clocking in at a mighty 2.8% strength. It was kind of a gateway drug and the youth of the day embraced it. Seeing its sales, by the 80’s Bud, Carlsberg, Fosters and Heineken started pushing into the market with ‘import-strength brews’. Today, lager dominates sales. I often wonder if that’s why Brits abroad being loud and drunk became a thing. It was relatively easy to sink 10 pints of the aforementioned Skol. Going abroad and translating that to 20 bottles of old-strength Singha and you can probably see the problem.
More Readers’ EmailsThoughts from the hospitality industry.
Regarding prices, you’re 100% right. One of the most tiresome aspects of owning an F&B venue is how much unsolicited advice we receive from non-professionals. About 5 times a week, I hear, “You know what you should do?” And I struggle not to answer, “Mind my own business?” Businesses which are clean, tidy, well-decorated, well-staffed and conveniently located cost a lot of money to run. Rent and staff, are, of course, the big costs. But utilities, ingredients, uniforms, glassware, flatware, repairs and maintenance, equipment, advertising, licenses, insurance, accounting fees, taxation and in some cases donations to the local police can eat up to 95% of the venue’s income (or more for those places that go out of business). And when all that has been paid, the owner still needs to receive a profit to live on. Seasonal businesses need to make enough in the high season to see them through the full year. And so many people forget to factor in a Return On Investment – nobody invests in a business and doesn’t hope to get their investment returned. For many small businesses, the owner / manager has to wear multiple hats to keep costs down – management, service, accounting, plumbing, electrical work, social media management. And there’s another, less obvious, aspect. Some venues deliberately use price to pre-select their customers. If you think 200 baht is too expensive for a drink, you’re probably not the venue’s target client.People trafficking culpability question.
On the subject of people trafficking in the bar scene, is the person paying the barfine also culpable? <I cannot imagine they would be – Stick> And if we remember how the Bangkok authorities stopped the elephants being dragged around the tourist spots by targeting those who bought the bananas to feed them rather than the mahouts then it is not hard to see where a clampdown could occur should the need arise.Just keep walking.
My feeling is that those complaining about Africans on Sukhumvit Road don’t really care about drugs. After all, they don’t get bent out of shape that Thai dealers exist. Expats are territorial and don’t like ‘foreigners’ moving into ‘their’ territory. For example, the number of comments about Arabs, Muslims, Africans, Chinese and Indians just smacks of racism. Addressing the comments from this week’s column – ‘bars full of black ladies’ (LOL – the wrong colour hookers!) and ‘black men approaching pedestrians’ is intimidating. I walk that strip practically every night. A complete breakdown of approaches is as follows… ‘Hello, my friend.’ ‘What’s up, brother?’ ‘You OK?’ It’s no more threatening than ‘Hello, handsome man’, ‘Massage’ or ‘Taxi?’ If you see a pedestrian interacting with an African, it’s because s/he is buying something they want. Walking the streets of Bangkok at 2 AM doesn’t feel any more dangerous than it did 20 years ago. And I don’t think I can remember a report of a violent act carried out by an African dealer against, well, anyone! Treat it just like everything else on offer. If you don’t want a hooker, ladyboy, taxi, fake watch, dildo, marijuana, meth pipe or cocaine, don’t buy any of them! It’s that easy. I’d hazard a guess that participating in the sex trade causes more collateral damage than the personal use of recreational drugs.Driving standards.
I was surprised at the email from the Aussie who prefers driving in Thailand to his own country as I find the standard of driving in Thailand to be appalling. It’s like they have never been taught to drive. You see ill-discipline and they hide behind tinted windows. I am sure if they could be seen they wouldn’t drive as they do. It’s no wonder the death toll on Thai roads is so high. They need to bring in a driving test to European standards. They also need to bring in a test for vehicle roadworthiness as some vehicles are clearly not roadworthy. As a cyclist and a motorist, I have learnt to avoid certain type of vehicles e.g. pick-up trucks with a wide exhaust and wide tyres with thick black smoke belching out.
This Week’s News, Views & GossipHas the worm turned? Over the past couple of months I have had many messages and emails from bar bosses saying business was lousy. A beer wholesale business owner said that September was the worst month they have ever had. But over the past 10 days or so it has all changed and people are telling me things are picking up, albeit slowly. The rains are still falling but it’s mid-October and the end of the rainy season is in sight. In Bangkok at least, in another couple of weeks it should be over and with that, expect tourist numbers to ramp up. Work continues on the Nana Night Club, in the Nana Hotel’s car park. Not a lot of detail is known about the venue but some are hopeful that it may be similar in format to the long-closed Nana Disco. If you weren’t around back then, Nana Disco was a freelancer bar on the ground floor of the Nana Hotel that was very popular. A freelancer venue is needed on Soi Nana to mop up the veritable United Nations of freelancers who roam Soi Nana after dark, from just past the entrance to the plaza, down towards and even beyond soi 6. If you’re walking without female company, don’t be surprised if some of the more enthusiastic African, Middle Eastern and other Asian (Vietnamese? Cambodian?) freelancers grab out at you. What started out as a single-shophouse beer bar many years ago will soon be Nana Plaza’s largest pub as the Stumble Inn Group is knocking down walls to combine its flagship bar, Stumble Inn, with Big Dogs. Both bars are still open and, at the moment at least, dust is at a minimum as the work zone is closed off during evening hours. The renovation, the first major facelift at Stumble Inn since 2012, will effectively increase the size of the bar without sacrificing the vulture’s perch punters fill to watch Nana Plaza’s ladies (and ladyboys) come to work late afternoon and early evening. The renovation should be complete by the start of high season. Anna, mamasan at Kinky Girls (previously The Strip), has been spending time in Phuket where she is re-opening the Models gogo bar which has been closed for months. It has reopened under a different name. Anna took a small group of girls with her to populate the Phuket bar until they are able to hire some local ladies at which point the Bangkok troop will return to Kinky Girls. Girls moving around to boost numbers in newly-opened bars or on party nights happens a lot more these days as some bars struggle to recruit. It’s a big challenge and as I quoted a bar owner in last week’s column, “He who has the girls, gets the business.” Back in Bangkok, the girls remaining in Kinky Girls who didn’t make the trip to Phuket weren’t particularly happy because it greatly depleted the number of girls in the bar which made the bar less attractive to passersby who then chose to venture elsewhere. There is a lot of speculation about who is financing this venture given that Kinky Girls in Bangkok and Models in Phuket were previously under the umbrella of the Patpong bar baron who continues to languish in prison in Phuket. On the topic of the difficulty of recruiting ladies, the number of ladies in a bar can bounce around a lot, night to night. Tonight a bar may have a dozen ladies whereas the previous night there might have been 40. There are all sorts of reasons for these wild fluctuations. The night following a big party, the night following pay day and Sunday night (which follows the two busiest nights of the week) can all see fewer ladies in the bar. Fridays and Saturdays may see harsh penalties for failing to report to work, hence those nights almost always have a good turn-out. Lady numbers in the bars have never been consistent across the 7 days of the week. Interestingly, the fluctuations from day to day are not as dramatic in Pattaya as they are in Bangkok. A constant theme this year and last is the way many bars have struggled to get enough girls. Don’t be disappointed, be happy for ladies who might have otherwise entered the bar profession but today have more options to find work that pays a reasonable salary. The net effect of fewer ladies entering the industry is that a lot of ladies have remained in the bar industry. Today there are ladies who have been around a long time. 10 years, 20 years, and plenty who have been around 25+ years. It is sad to see ladies still working in the industry after so long, especially as in many cases they have nothing to show for it other than a lot of wear and tear. The photo above would make a good, if rather obscure, mystery photo. It is the frontage of what was Glamour, on Patpong soi 2. Tradesmen have been working on the bar this week. Inside the bar, the chrome poles and bar area remain intact so can we expect it to reopen in the chrome pole format? To all the Bangkok gogo bar bosses who read this column, here’s something specifically for you. The Bangkok Old Boys Football Club, an amateur expat football team in Bangkok, is on a mission to score some awesome team shirts and would like to feature a gogo bar up front and centre for no other reason than they think it would be hilarious! They’re looking to raise approximately 20,000 Thai baht for a set of team kits, and to help fund entrance into Thailand-based international tournaments. Any bars interested in getting involved can contact the Bangkok Old Boys Football Club at their Facebook page, via X (AKA Twitter) @BangkokOldBoys or fire me an email and I’ll forward it to them. The steps just around the corner from the western entrance to Soi Cowboy which lead down to the underground entrance have become a hot spot late at night for groups of Thai women lingering. No, they’re not waiting for the next bus. They’re waiting for you to invite them back to a cool room to relax in.
Angelwitch didn’t invent Halloween, but over the decades has cornered the market on All Hallows Eve celebrations. After all, how many gogo bars have a skeleton hanging from the ceiling year-round? So it’s only fitting that Angelwitch on Nana Plaza’s middle floor throws a week-long witches festival starting October 24. There will be special scary shows, girls in costume and a party for the big night. More details will be released over coming days, so be sure to follow Angelwitch’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Over on Soi Cowboy, Crazy House often gets a bad rap – and count me amongst those who doesn’t like the bar at all. But kudos to the bar which has banned smoking downstairs. The no smoking downstairs policy started last month, apparently, and has been very well received by those who prefer to relax in a smoke-free environment, something not always easy to find in bars with chrome poles. When did I write, “I note standard drinks prices in Suzy Wong’s and Sheba’s crept up recently to 160 baht”? Not long before Covid broke out? Last year? No, I wrote that in this column 11 years ago! When you consider that standard drinks in many gogo bars now around 200 baht, and that drinks in the popular Suzie Wong were 160 baht 11 years ago, that’s a price increase of just 25% over 11 years. That would would out at annual price increase of what, about 1.5% or so? Perhaps those of you who incessantly complain about the price of drinks in bars should consider that?
As noted in earlier columns, new bars are being built above Tycoon (Lace Lounge) and in the former short-time hotel spots in Nana Plaza next to Tycoon and at the former Balcony Bar site. But, away from the public eye, another major (and long overdue) facelift is under way at Angelwitch. The middle-floor Nana Plaza gogo bar got a new floor and fresh paint earlier this year, but the real work is now underway, including cutting a hole in the exterior wall for an Amsterdam-style window stage where angelwitches will entice punters to come inside. Other plans call for a new stage, removal of the oversized, mirrored pillars and new seating, as well as an enhanced colour scheme aside from the dark red and black. As with the renovations taking place at Spanky’s and Stumble Inn, work will continue without closing the bar. Angelwitch will be open every night, as per usual. Speaking of Spanky’s, the renovation is complete except for replacement of the seats, which will be done gradually over the coming days. Work continues on what was the Biergarten in Sukhumvit soi 7. The front wall has been removed and the interior has been broken down in to space for what we understand will be a number of small bars. When we first heard that the Biergarten would be history, word was that it would become a bazaar with vendors selling tourist trinkets. Today, it looks almost like an extension of the adjacent soi 7 beer bar complex, CenterPoint. For fans of beer bars, this means more bars to choose from – and as such I’d expect this new space to entice more people to the area. Of course, the question remains how long things will remain in this format given that this is prime downtown real estate. It won’t be a beer bar complex forever. This low season we’ve seen a number of bars change hands and even more for sale. But it’s not only red-light bars being offered for sale. Low season has been so brutal for some restaurateurs that, after making some post-Covid investments in marketing and business-building, owners have gone the other way and decided to sell. The latest example is Wine Depot on Sukhumvit Soi 22, opposite the Marriott. At 200 square metres with seating for 80, the French-style bistro has a monthly rent of 340,000 baht. The asking price is 25 million baht. Interested? Contact @BangkokInvestments on LINE. There’s hardly any news from Pattaya this week which is no great surprise given that I have heard from various people that Pattaya has had a lousy low season. In something of a surprise, I am told that there are plenty of girls on soi 7 these days which has been described as rocking by some. Honestly, I thought soi 7 was done. For years sois 7 and 8 had been in the doldrums – and that is being kind. A trusted friend currently in Pattaya who has known Sin City for over 30 years says there are more people about in the soi 7 bars than he has seen in a long time. So don’t go thinking that sois 7 and 8 are not worth stopping by. Quite the contrary, if you like beer bars it might be worth planning a visit.
This week’s column features brand-new photos from Butterflies in Nana Plaza and Shark in Soi Cowboy by Digital a-Go-Go, which has been supplying photos and news bites for this column over the past couple of years. Doing six or more in-bar photo shoots each and every month, Digital a-Go-Go has been so busy building websites, doing digital marketing and taking photos, they’ve had no time to do their own website – something I have been badgering them about. Finally, the Digital a-Go-Go website is now live, offering interested bar owners (or fans of fantastic photos of gogo girls) the lowdown on how Digital a-Go-Go can help them boost their business. The site has the full menu of services available, photo portfolio and background on the company, as well as a form to request a quote. Take a look at DigitalAGoGo.com. While we’re talking about photography, most of us know that taking photos of the ladies in the bars generally isn’t allowed and in some bar areas – Nana Plaza being the best example – photography isn’t allowed at all. Were you also aware that you’re not allowed to stick your mobile phone up a lady’s skirt in underground train stations? I would have thought that goes without saying but the folks who run the underground train system put up signs in the stations with a message in English announcing that it is not ok to stick your phone up a lady’s skirt! This photo below was taken at the Samyan MRT station this week and this same graphic appears on video screens on the trains. Why have these signs been produced when surely every sane person knows this sort of thing is not allowed? Did a female executive of the MRT get snapped the day she chose not to wear panties and recognise her own pussy on some dodgy website? I note that the “bar host” industry gets more coverage in the Thai mainstream news these days. The term “bar host” refers to Thai men working in bars who are paid to entertain Thai ladies. It’s the closest thing to hookers for Thai women although the format and the way it all works is very different to the bars we are all familiar with. One area where things are very different from the bar scene for foreign men in Thailand is that many of the customers are often young, extremely attractive Thai women. Many of these ladies are in their 30s – in their absolute prime of life – in very good jobs and simply prefer to have a no strings attached night out with a good-looking man, even if they have to pay handsomely for it. A night out with a “bar host” can easily run well in excess of 10,000 baht. What’s good for the goose, eh? As predicted, there has been a reaction to the Siam Paragon shooting last week. At Icon Siam this week, security guards were carrying out bag checks on everyone. At Terminal 21, guards have a hand-held wand / metal detector in addition to the large walk-through one. That said, the guards at Terminal 21 didn’t appear to be using the wand. Emquartier has multiple guards manning the entrances whereas before the shooting there was just one guy decked out in a fancy outfit. One reader notes that at Emquartier, security is paying closer attention to people than previously. Said reader felt that there are more security walking around in the less popular parts of the mall, as if they had doubled security and told the guards to roam around. Expect this to last a few weeks before it’s largely forgotten about.
How long has Singha’s new (?) beer, oddly named “My Beer”, been on the market? It’s a product I had not heard of previously although with that said, I don’t pay much attention to beer these days. An online search didn’t reveal much and the impression I got was that My Beer is being marketed largely at the local market. Budget beer? Low-calorie beer? I really don’t know. “Shit roads, shit hospitals!“, a Thai friend said to us this week of his life here in New Zealand. Like many Thais, he misses home and while he understands the benefits of living and working in a developed country – primarily, being able to earn far more money than he can back home – the truth is that he’d rather be back in Thailand. Sadly, his “Shit roads, shit hospitals!” comment is one I couldn’t have said better myself. The poor fellow was riding home from work at night and his motorbike hit a pothole – which have become a huge problem this year due to a year of unusually high rainfall – causing him to go flying. He ended up with scrapes, bruises and a dislocated shoulder. He was taken to the emergency department of the local hospital at midnight on a week night (which I thought would have been a quiet time and he’d be seen quickly) and was eventually treated by doctors at midday the next day, suffering in awful pain for 12 hours. He had been questioning what he was doing in New Zealand. You can just imagine how he feels now. Sadly, many Thais we know here are not shy to make their grievances known and one common theme is medical care, generally. Thais are used to being able to go to a private hospital and be seen to right away, without an appointment. That doesn’t happen here. For those of you resident in Thailand who complain about all sorts of stuff and who may refer to things being better back in your homeland, don’t be so sure. This is just one example of many things that are far from perfect in Farangland.
Thailand-Related News ArticlesThe death toll of Thais who have died in the Israel war hits 18. Could tourism in Thailand suffer due to the world being a particularly shitty place right now? The interior Ministry really does look like it’s serious in testing the water for 4 AM bar closing times. An opinion piece from CNA says Thailand must restore confidence it is safe for residents and tourists alike.
Closing CommentsWhat a fantastic weekend I’ve had. Words can’t describe how great the last 24 hours have been. The other half and I had a lovely meal in our favourite Italian restaurant last night as we celebrated a special occasion. We came home and watched the election results come in as the worst government New Zealand has had in my lifetime – quite probably the worst government in this country’s history – was given a clear message by the nation to fxxx off! And then this morning when I should have been doing the final edit of the column I watched the pride of the nation, our mighty All Blacks, topple Ireland in a pulsating Rugby World Cup quarter-final, a match we weren’t tipped to win. The country really needed this. The combination of a change in government and the All Blacks delivering a vintage performance felt like a lot of the shit we’ve suffered over previous years was all of a sudden washed away. I know you don’t tune in to read about my life in New Zealand and I really shouldn’t mention politics so I’ll cut short my elation here and sign off by saying that I hope you have had as a good a weekend as I have and that you enjoyed this week’s column. Your Bangkok commentator, Stick
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com