Stickman Weekly, October 8, 2023
Last week’s photo was taken of the Nana intersection. Many of you got it right. This week’s photo should be another location familiar to many.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week
Not against paying in advance.
With regard to paying in advance for bargirls and all the complaints, I barfined a girl from Angelwitch and asked about why the upfront payment. She explained that it is to stop guys refusing to pay at the hotel and that it had happened to her before. When it’s a small Thai girl versus a big guy they can’t do much about it, especially if the guy is on the next flight out or goes to another area. The only problem I have with paying up front is how much goes back to the girl in this situation. But if the girl is happy with the arrangement and is more comfortable knowing she will get paid then no complaints from me and definitely no problem with the service. Payment upfront hasn’t drifted in to all bars and won’t dictate where I spend my money. Each to their own.
Changing the vibe on Sukhumvit.
The guy talking about the Africans being able to do business in the open and injecting vice into the night scene hit home. I felt when I was there I couldn’t shoot along Sukhumvit without being scrutinized by this lot.
When the genie is let out of the bong.
Regarding drugs, Thailand is at a crossroads and doing a U-turn will be impossible. The genie has been let out of the bong and too much money has been invested. I don’t use weed – I can’t smoke and edibles just make me sleepy. But I don’t care if anyone else uses it – unless, of course, it’s blowing in my face, which is exactly the same situation as cigarettes, pipes, cigars and vapes – I just don’t go to smoky places. There are a lot of (usually grumpy, old) people who don’t like other people being happy, so seek to ban whatever makes them happy. We’ve seen it with weed, drugs, gays and transgender people. There’s a faux-outrage about a topic. They make ridiculous, dire predictions that never transpire (Remember? “If we let gay people get married, what’s next? Marrying your dog?” Hasn’t really transpired, has it?) And as far as the African drug dealers selling along Sukhumvit, what’s the big deal? They’re supplying a demand for crappy cocaine (I’m also not a fan – feels like a double espresso and a shot of Novocaine…I’m awake and my face feels numb). But they’re not selling to kids or getting people hooked. A drug dealer will go to prison for 3 or 4 times longer than a rapist, despite it being a transaction between consenting adults. Africa is poor and dealers here are trying to escape a desperate situation. They’re putting their lives on the line to give people what they want. And it’s no accident that they congregate in the Farang area. That’s where the biggest demand is. Yes, it’s possible to overdose on cocaine. But you really have to try hard. Just like you have to try hard to kill yourself with alcohol or cigarettes. What makes drug use more dangerous is the notion that prohibition works. People are always going to use drugs. Even in countries with the death penalty, there is supply and demand. By making drugs illegal, criminal cartels get rich. They use violence to keep their rivals at bay. And what’s more, drugs become contaminated. Just look at the rise in Fentanyl deaths in USA. Most people would be horrified to learn their cocaine was contaminated with Fentanyl. But until drugs are sold legally by professional experts (it’s inevitable), we’re going to see huge numbers of overdoses because drug users don’t know how potent their drugs are or what other crap is mixed up with them.
More Readers’ Emails
Report from the Sukhumvit front line.
The overall vibe of Soi Nana has changed a lot if you compare how it is today with how it was 10 years ago. These days, after the 2 AM bar closing time you see the street side makeshift bars filled with black ladies. You may hear Middle Eastern music playing from the boom box. The odd-numbered side of Sukhumvit Road from Soi 3 to Asoke has a huge presence of black men (nationality not known). They stand there all day and night. They used to keep to themselves but recently I have observed them approaching pedestrians more often. The Nana area was safe at any time of the day and night; and I believe it still is. But the presence of those men is intimidating nonetheless, particularly in the wee hours of night.
More from Sukhumvit.
Thailand’s shrinking population.
Yes, the government’s getting a bit antsy since the fertility rate is way below replacement level. The fertility rate in Thailand dipped below the 2.1 replacement level in the early to mid-90s. I attribute this to a government push to get those 10-child families in the country down to a reasonable rate. I noted with relatives in the Northeast the proliferation of government health clinics in every district facilitated the distribution of contraceptives which gave control to the women. My sister-in-law, now 86, had 10 children, two of whom died in infancy. Most families from the ’60s and ’70s had extremely large families too. Of all my sister-in-law’s children and adult grandchildren, the biggest family had 3 kids. Four families had 2 kids, two families had 1 kid, one family has an adopted kid. Time and cultures change. Not to worry though, all the Thais need to do is assimilate the approximately 2 million Burmese, Cambodians, and Lao that constitute the lowest paid work force in country nowadays.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
What is the latest with the proposed widening of Soi Cowboy? There has been no word from the authorities for a few weeks prompting some bar industry figures to suggest it was all a false alarm. Obviously they have not considered what happened in Pattaya a couple of months back after all of the overhead signage on Walking Street was taken down, If this can happen on Walking Street, it can happen on Soi Cowboy. Since all of the beautiful bar signage overhanging Walking Street was taken down, it has been described as open, less atmospheric and less lively. “Less like a nightlife area”, one reader said. Today, Walking Street is not nearly as bright as it once was with the very feel of the street changed. Here’s hoping the same doesn’t happen on Soi Cowboy.
Speaking of Soi Cowboy, have you by chance felt the vibe on the soi has been a little different recently but couldn’t put your finger on why? Perhaps you put it down to the rains? Some Cowboy bars turn off their beautiful neon signs when it rains heavily. There is another less obvious reason Soi Cowboy felt a little different. The authorities banned music being played outside the bars. Many bars have speakers on the patio and the authorities ordered that music piped outside must be turned off. This ban also meant popular Bangkok entertainer Lee Shamrock – who has long been a fixture outside Suzie Wong – could not perform. The authorities have since changed their minds and the bars told that they could resume playing music outside / on patio areas again.
Business was described as decent in Bangkok this week. While Friday and Saturday remain the busiest nights, early week trade has been brisk too which is good to see.
Next Saturday, October 14th, Sukhumvit soi 33 fetish bar Demonia will host a “Bizarre Shirt Night“. The girls will select a winner from those wearing a fetish style shirt with the prize being unlimited free drinks for the evening. The prize can be redeemed either that evening or another evening of the winner’s choice. More details on the poster above.
The problem the bars have these days, according to the manager of one popular Bangkok gogo bar, is not a shortage of customers – but a shortage of ladies. “He who has the ladies, has the business“, he said in an email earlier this week. Behind the scenes, much effort is going in to recruiting new ladies.
Popular Soi Cowboy gogo bar Dollhouse has increased the price of lady drinks to 200 baht, putting it in line with many other gogo bars on the street. The bars are just lining their pocket’s right? Think again. At Dollhouse, the ladies now receive 100 baht commission for every lady drink bought for them. Many bars have increased the lady drink price to 200 baht due to the need to increase commissions to keep ladies in the bar – see previous paragraph. But don’t go thinking that the Dollhouse ladies will be all over you, begging for drinks. Dollhouse stands out from the crowd with their “no hassles policy” where the ladies are instructed not to badger customers for drinks. Many bars could learn from this.
The biggest complaint I get from readers these days relates not to the price of drinks in Bangkok gogo bars today, but to my stance on the price of drinks. Many of you seem to think I should be calling out the price of drinks as too high and I have been accused of being in bed with the bar owners on this – which is absolutely not true. Let me explain. The price of a standard drink in many Bangkok gogo bars is getting up towards 200 baht (and can be higher in some bars). I maintain that 200 baht for customer drinks in a decent gogo bar is very reasonable. And I will qualify this further by saying that 200 baht in a crap gogo bar is too much. The menu below is one page from the current drinks menu at Billboard, in Nana Plaza. Billboard has an extensive menu including cocktails, liqueurs, bottle service, glasses of wine, bottles of wine etc. This is the main drinks / bottled beer page. Billboard is widely regarded as the best gogo bar not just in Bangkok, but in all of Thailand. It is the most comfortable with the best air-conditioning system. It has the best sound system. It has far and away the best service staff – in this respect, no other gogo bar comes close. It has more high-quality screens than many sports bars. It has professional security. And perhaps most importantly, it has a large line-up of ladies with many very attractive dancers. By so many measures, Billboard stands head and shoulders above almost all other bars. And please let me be very clear here – Billboard does NOT advertise with this site. I don’t understand how someone can complain at these drinks prices when you are getting such a good experience for the money. Beers starting at 145 baht? Non-alcoholic drinks 150 baht. Cocktails including many of the classics properly mixed with quality spirits for just 200 baht. I mean, 200 baht for a Long Island Iced Tea? That’s very reasonable! I really think that for the quality of the entertainment on offer and the overall experience, Billboard is one of Bangkok’s true bargains. Admittedly, not every bar offers the same quality of experience but many come close. More on this in my closing comments.
Billboard may be top of the pops but another bar in Nana Plaza which gets a lot of very positive comments is Twister. It held its anniversary party last week which I would have told you about had their (non-existent?) marketing department informed me of it. It was described as an amazing night with the bar packed. The girls were all dressed in white outfits, possibly trying to look like angels? They were adorned with headgear with flashing lights and said to look great. Twister seemingly flies under the radar and is not a bar you hear a lot about. But it’s a bar we should hear more about with its large troop of dancers, many of whom are real lookers. The anniversary party was described as “next-level”. I loathe that millennial term but that’s how it was described to me. Estimates were that there were perhaps 30% more dancers than usual with ladies brought in from one of the Rainbow bars, which has the same owner. Twister is a bar that should really get more coverage in this column and it’s definitely a favourite of many readers.
For what it’s worth, if I was planning a night out in Nana Plaza, I’d try and stop by Spanky’s, Billboard, Butterflies, Red Dragon and Twister. Or you could just spend the entire night in any one of those bars and have a great time.
One of the odd features of Nana Plaza’s newest gogo bar, Essence, is the cage in which ladies dance inside. The bar has only been open a week but a few readers have mentioned this. Jail Birdz had cages as part of a prison theme – and the cages made sense. In Essence, a cage doesn’t make sense at all. Maybe the bar should be called NoSense instead of Essence?
Beer lovers in Thailand long have groused about the relatively poor selection of brews available. The big 3 (Chang, Singha & Leo) dominate the market and have seemingly used their influence to keep competition out. Beer connoisseurs still have a few good choices and among the most popular is Beer Lao. And, for the first time ever, the even-more-popular Beer Lao Dark finally will be available on draft, starting October 11. The only place to find it – for a few days at least – will be at The Game and The Old English Bangkok, which have the exclusives on Beer Lao Dark from October 11 – 15. The Game will kick off its campaign with an invite-only party from 3:00 – 6:00 PM on October 11 after which the public will be invited to embrace the dark side for the ridiculously reasonable price of 150 baht a pint for the Laotian import.
Hua Hin doesn’t get a lot of coverage in this column. It’s a quaint, charming town with a relaxing vibe that feels like it’s a million miles from Bangkok. But as much as I like visiting Hua Hin, I have never stayed more than a couple of nights. The problem is that I have never found enough going on to keep me there. There’s plenty to do by day, but not so much after dark. That will soon change with news that Bangkok’s leading nightlife operator, Panthera, has announced a new development coming to Hua Hin. Panthera knows how much Hua Hin would greatly benefit from a Sukhumvit Soi 11 type street where visitors can eat, drink, dance and party the night away. The new development in the soi 94 area of Hua Hin is expected to open the week before Christmas and could really transform the area and give it the boost it needs. More details coming soon.
Down in Pattaya, the new beer bar area Myth Night (which is located in the same space on Second Road as the old Made in Thailand beer bar area) opened just as last week’s column was going to press. There are dozens of beer bars in the huge complex open from early afternoon until late. Myth Night was doing very well on opening night and at 10 PM, bargoers had flocked to the new area to check it out. A live band was playing at one of the bars at the front of the complex. As I wrote in a previous column, expect Myth Night to be referred to as “Midnight” by the girls – or perhaps even “Mid-nigh” – as pronouncing the “th” sound is difficult for many Thais.
A few blocks away on Walking Street, the Chinese tour groups with their flag-waving leaders are well and truly back, making the stroll from one end of Walking Street to the other.
Just as I wrote when I visited Pattaya a few months back, Walking Street is not the nightlife hub it used to be and is moving in an entirely new direction from the street we used to know and love. It’s very much a mainstream tourist destination these days with naughty boys making up but a small minority of visitors. Symptomatic of this is Soi Diamond which used to be a lively soi off Walking Street lined with gogo bars on both sides. Today, the right-hand side is blocked off and all the bars on that side are in darkness.
A number of people tell me that September and early October in Pattaya have been noticeably quieter than the same period last year. Contrast this with Bangkok where trade in the bars seems to be decent. Not record-breaking, but decent.
The issue of bars clipping the ticket when it comes to the lady’s fee being paid in advance along with the barfine has generated a lot of chatter. An old friend who is a long-time Thailand expat and former bar manager sent the following email (indented, italicised text below) in response to this issue. He nails it, and I expand on his concerns below.
One thought about the bars wanting the girl’s fee upfront is that the bars are setting themselves up for trafficking charges from the police. When I was managing <bar name removed – Stick>, I insisted that no upfront fees were to be taken by mamasans, otherwise we left the bar wide open.
Paying the bar a fee to allow a lady to be released from her employment obligations for the night is fine – and totally legal. Should a lady then later negotiate a fee between herself and a customer for services, that is between the two of them and has nothing to do with the bar. HOWEVER, if an employee of a bar (such as a mamasan) negotiates a fee with a customer specifically to have sex with that lady and pockets a portion of that money herself before passing on the rest to the lady, that is, according to my understanding of Thai law, human trafficking. This year a number of bar industry figures have been arrested and are facing human trafficking charges. Amongst them are Thais, foreigners, bar owners / bar mamasans / bar managers / a foreign bar boss’s Thai wife. In most cases they have been arrested, jailed, denied bail and awaiting a date in court where they will face human trafficking charges. In some cases they have languished in jail for months with no sign of the case moving forward. Worryingly, it does not seem to matter if the manager or owner(s) of the bar are unaware of what is happening on the premises. If their name is on the paperwork, they could be in the gun for human trafficking. There has been a much more hard-nosed attitude by the authorities towards law-breaking in the bars, and I am amazed that so many bars – including many foreign-owned bars – have such a laissez-faire attitude towards mamasans negotiating a price for a lady with a customer and taking a cut, usually 500 or 1,000 baht. Of course, it is quite plausible for a bar owner to genuinely be in the dark about a mamasan running a racket and profiting like this. That’s something bar bosses have to deal with and it’s all part of running a bar. Cops don’t just arrest those benefiting from this nonsense, they go after the person whose name is on the company paperwork – and what better prize that a foreigner with deep pockets? Thai police know that most foreigners are terrified of the idea of spending any time in a Thai jail and they know that most will willingly pay to make problems go away. Foreign bar owners who allow this sort of thing to happen in their bar are stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It won’t just cost them a lot of money. It might cost them their freedom and it might affect their ability to live in the country.
Speaking of the police, are the cops finally doing something about the scourge of Africans brazenly selling drugs along the busiest part of Sukhumvit Road? This week, a Stickman reader witnessed some of these African men being approached by cops and questioned. The photo above was kindly provided by a reader who observed what he described as a fairly in-depth search conducted by a policeman including looking through the guy’s bag, examining his belt, and having him open his mouth for inspection. What appeared to be an ID was checked before the copper and the African walked away from the corner of Sukhumvit soi 13 – a notorious spot for these drug dealing Africans – toward a nearby police box. Will anything come of this? Will a genuine crackdown follow? Surely with things having got so far out of control they cannot allow it to continue? I can’t stress enough how African men openly selling hard drugs along Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke has generated a lot of very negative feedback from readers over the past couple of months.
Following this week’s shooting in Siam Paragon when a young, mentally disturbed Thai opened fire killing a couple of people and injuring several others, can we expect increased security checks in malls all over Thailand? The Thais’ propensity for knee-jerk reactions makes it likely.
Thailand-Related News Articles
Bangkok Pat’s latest entertaining video is titled, “How I Became A Private Eye“.
A 14-year-old Thai said to have mental issues opens fire inside Siam Paragon, killing some innocent bystanders.
A Black British national experiences racism in Phuket from Russians and vows never to return.
YouTuber Seeker Of The Way published a 15-minute update from Phnom Penh with a focus on some nightlife spots.
A Thai airport worker is suspended for allowing 30 animals on a plane.
The New Zealand I grew up in was a place where we watched our pennies. I was raised in a middle-class family in a good part of town – Auckland’s North Shore – and while we didn’t want for anything, we were careful with our pennies. That was the Kiwi way. I never had more than one pair of jeans until I was 20 and don’t think I ever had more than two pairs of shoes until around the same age. Today, many of my fellow countrymen still make many of their purchase decisions based on price. Value first and everything else second. I was once this way. Not any more. These days, quality and a good experience are more important when I make a purchase decision. I’ll happily pay $25 for a burger and fries if it’s a really good one and will shirk a burger for half that price if the quality isn’t there. In many ways this column is a reflection of me and with that, the flavour of this column has changed over the years as I have changed. As my attitude towards money, prices and how I make purchase decisions changes, so you can see this reflected in the column. Where once I would have been that guy who ranted about a 20 baht price increase, today I prefer to look at the bigger picture. I know from email feedback that some of you are mighty unimpressed by my stance on the price of drinks in Bangkok gogo bars. As I wrote earlier in the column, I think 200 baht is fair and reasonable for a drink in a well-run gogo bar. I think about what you get for the money and I truly believe 200 baht is a fair price. Some of you rightfully point out that you can get a beer at happy hour in some Pattaya beer bars for just 60 or 70 baht, perhaps even less. I maintain that, for the most part, you get what you pay for. If you are “a drinker” and wish to consume a large quantity of alcohol on a limited budget then perhaps a Bangkok gogo bar is not the best option for you. You could always try the steps outside a 7 Eleven store. Personally, I’d rather pay 200 baht for a drink in one of the better Bangkok gogo bars where you have entertainment, good music and sexy dancers. That’s me. I don’t expect everyone to agree. Your preferences may be different – and the great thing is that in Bangkok you have places to go for every budget. But don’t go thinking I think that everything in the bar industry is a bargain. Not at all. When I hear what people pay these days for lady drinks + barfine + lady’s fee + short-time room, I cringe! Anyway, however you choose to spend your money, now you know where I’m coming from when I comment on prices and my perceptions about value for money.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org