Stickman's Weekly Column November 5th, 2023

Halloween On Sukhumvit

Digital A Gogo made the rounds of the bars this past Tuesday, which just so happened to be Halloween. Here’s his round-up of how Halloween was celebrated in some of the best bars in Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.

Stick

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Halloween at Butterflies, Nana Plaza.

It was as big of a Halloween in Bangkok’s red-light areas as expected, with lots of witches, zombies and sexy ghouls haunting Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.

 

 

Halloween at Mandarin, Nana Plaza.

Red Dragon, which was on the second night of its Haunted Full Moon 1st Anniversary Party, had a bit of glam outside for the anniversary, but it was All Hallows inside. The Halloween spirit was on full display for the Thriller and Black Magic Woman shows.

 

 

Halloween at Red Dragon, Nana Plaza.

Across the way at Tycoon, it was full-on Halloween Madness with lots of shots warming things up for the ladies costume contest. A few doors down at Angelwitch, a full week of Halloween hoopla wrapped up with zombie brides, mangled monsters and bloody brides taking the stage every 30 minutes.

 

 

Halloween at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

At Billboard and Butterflies, the rule, in fact, is “sexy Halloween”. So, even if they had some fake blood or stitches, the Billboard and Butterflies Babes looked like something you’d want to take home and clean up. Both bars held their annual costume contests with cash prizes that would scare the black cats out of every other contest-running bar owner in town.

 

 

Halloween at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

Billboard was packed to the rafters. It was the place for people to go for holiday cheer and beer. Across the way, Butterflies Babe of the Year Muay stole the show with her big-boobed bloody bride getup.

 

 

Halloween at Dollhouse, Soi Cowboy.

There was less revelry than normal for Halloween on Soi Cowboy. The lack of costumes among the door girls and music-bar barkers was notable. The Halloween vibe on the Neon Alley definitely paled compared with Nana Plaza.

 

 

Halloween at Shark, Soi Cowboy.

But the vibe was totally lit at Shark Club, which was on its second consecutive night of parties after Monday’s Haunted Full Moon Party. Every seat in the joint was full after 10 p.m., with only a smattering of door girls left to call in new customers and no dancers idling on the patio. Everyone was making money!

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Halloween at Suzie Wong, Soi Cowboy.

Across the way at Suzie Wong, things were quieter and a lot of ladies lingered outside on the patio. Perhaps, though, customers were scared by Suzie’s best costume, a monster bride in black face that scared other girls and even those on Soi Cowboy who saw her photo!

 

 

Halloween at Red Dragon, Nana Plaza.

For those expecting Halloween everywhere might be surprised to see that made-up maidens were in the minority. It’s actually not unusual. As one mamasan said Tuesday, many girls don’t want to look ugly or scary because they think they won’t get drinks or barfines. But as was clear in a walk around Bangkok’s two red-light districts, plenty of ladies said the hell with business for a night to have fun.

 

 

Halloween at Angelwitch, Nana Plaza.

More photos from Halloween around the bars can be seen here.

 

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken of the new Intercontinental Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 59. Just two of you got it right. A somewhat easier photo this week which was taken just a few days ago. Even if you’re not in Bangkok, look at the perspective of the photo and the background and you might just get it right.

 

 

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

Know your worth.

My opinion on airline ticket prices, is the industry has been historically low margin (1 – 2%), unnaturally squeezed by many airlines that are quasi-state entities. And to be fair, ticket prices were very cheap considering what you were getting in return. Compared to how much people were willing to pay for food / clothes / hotels etc, the plane ticket was good value. To counter this, airlines were forever adding capacity to eek out a bit more revenue. No longer.  Similarly, tradesman collectively have gotten away with increasing their prices over time, because people have no choice but to pay. You can moan about it, but they aren’t going to come down, just as ticket prices won’t. After Covid, airlines have been shown what the customer is willing to pay, the value of the service on offer – collectively realising that it’s better to fly less and charge more – and it’s led to shattering record profits with margins around 10 – 15%. How long until bargirls collectively realise their worth, as the airlines and tradesmen have? It’s happening already. In the last year, many ladies in Billboard have gone from 3K short-time, to 3.5K short-time, and now asking 4K short-time. High-end soapies like Black Caviar have girls charging 10K – 35K for 90 minutes. The popular girls have realised they hold the power over the bars, and over the customers – and are negotiating upwards. It’s currently undergoing unbounded price discovery.

Jumping the queue in 7 Eleven.

I’m a regular visitor to Bangkok – have been for the last 20 years or so. Last Friday I popped in to the 7 Eleven branch at the bottom of soi 11. It was really busy. I was waiting in the queue and a Thai guy – early 20s I’d say – pushed past me. He was carrying a bunch of energy drinks. I’m not a kick off merchant or a fighter and have never had any trouble in the past. However, when I said to him, “Hey, there’s a queue here”, he unleashed a real mouthful at me. The guy clearly wanted a scrap and was almost feral. To their credit, a couple of Indian guys and an African guy tried to calm him down but he was having none of it. When I went outside he was waiting on the other side of the road with a couple of friends. There was no way I was hanging around and jumped in the nearest taxi. I don’t mind admitting the whole episode was pretty scary and his reaction was so far over the top I’ve no doubt he would have tried to give me a hiding if I’d have hung around. I know about Thais and losing face etc but I really didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe I should just have counted to ten and kept my mouth shut when he pushed past me.
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Thoughts on a Phnom Penh excursion.

I have just returned from Phnom Penh. I find the city to be dismally boring. When your daytime excursions are the locations of mass murders, I don’t feel like visiting those places again. The riverside is dilapidated these days. The only bright spot is Bassac Lane which has several nice bars and eateries. I took a walk down to the red-light area – streets 130 and 131, I think. And I walked away again without stopping for a single drink. Imagine Pattaya Soi 6 had a bargain basement for the worst girls and the cheapest sound systems. Compared to Bangkok, it’s a bargain. On nights out, I had to check the bills because I thought they were too low.

More Readers’ Emails

Friendly Africans love Sukhumvit Road.

Having been in Bangkok for a few weeks, it’s obvious the African dudes are not here on holiday. I counted 35 of them between Soi 5 to Soi 15 on Friday night, all loitering for some reason. I have walked along this same strip most nights and always see the same situation. A demographer would say 25 – 35-year old Africans all in one small location is pretty unique. Obviously up to no good and best avoided.

Refusing to be a victim of pick-pocketing.

I was staggering back to my hotel on Sukhumvit soi 6 at about 3 AM when 2 ladyboys approached me. They proceeded right into my personal space and the largest immediately tried to stroke my Frank & beans. Now I guess the standard reaction would be to stick both hands on his chest and push him back. I, on the other hand, being a functioning drunk immediately went for my pocket, catching the second guy’s wrist as he already had my wallet. Recovering my cash I told them both to go forth and multiply. They tried to scamper off and it was quite funny watching them attempt to run away in high-heels on what was a typically bad Thai pavement.

When you think of Bangkok.

If I had to pick just one thing which makes me think of Bangkok, it would have to be the hearty “Welcome back, Mr. Strohm!” from one of the bellmen at Royal President when I get out of the cab sometime after midnight at the start of a vacation. For that matter, just about all of the staff at Royal President. Good people, all of them.
Dave and the food and margaritas at Charley Browns.
Tarntip, the legitimate massage place on Suk Soi 7/1, across from The Notorious Eden Club.
Dinner at Love Scene with long-time female friends from Tilac.
Sushi or sashimi at the Japanese place around the corner from Have a Zeed in Terminal 21, again with the same long-time female friends.
Tom yum goong at Have a Zeed in Terminal 21 or Food Center 4/5, with rice and Thai iced tea.
The early band at Country Road. We’ve known each other casually for years. When they see me walk in, the next song up is always “Hotel California”, because they know I like it.
MBK.
Kinokuniya Books in Siam Paragon mall. That place is dangerous – to my billfold.
Sports Academy in Ruamchitt Hotel, two floors up from Cafe Thermae, and the friends I’ve met there over the years. It just looks like a small pool hall. It is really a very friendly neighborhood bar.
The food courts, Siam Paragon and elsewhere.  Wide variety of stuff, all of it good.

Orchids on your plate.

You were asking about lettuce and orchids on plates. Not sure about them, but I’d guess they are mainly for color. Interestingly, all orchid flowers are edible and those what I call “standard” purple / white orchids that are everywhere are supposed to be helpful for digestion. Quite a few restaurants I frequent in my area add them to dishes as well.

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Virgin Silom on Patpong soi 2 opened its doors on Wednesday this past week in the spot that was previously Glamour. The first reports have been very positive with a bunch of pretty ladies present since opening night. The drinks menu is in both English and Japanese so perhaps the bar is looking to attract our Japanese friends.

On the top floor of Nana Plaza, Butterflies experienced some technical problems on Thursday night, forcing it to close for the night. What would be a disaster for many bars transformed in to an amazing night in Butterflies’ sister bar, Billboard, as all the girls from Butterflies went across the way to Billboard. Packed with sexy ladies, Billboard went on to have an amazing night with one reader describing it as one of the best nights he can remember in 10 years of visiting Bangkok.

A frequently recurring theme in the column is the changing demographics of Bangkok’s foreigner bar scene with more and more observations from the best bars that white men today make up a minority of customers. This is nothing new in some bars like Baccara which doesn’t get a lot of coverage in this column despite being one of the best bars in the industry. The reason Baccara gets little coverage is for precisely the reason I am talking about – it’s not so popular with Westerners and the vast majority of customers are Asian men. Towards the other end of the soi, Rainbow is another Soi Cowboy bar which often has more Asian men than white guys. Some of the best bars in Nana Plaza which have long been favourite farang venues today attract more Asian men than white guys. Some nights, estimates put the Billboard crowd at around 70% Asian. There are all sorts of permutations that arise from this shift in demographics. Let’s be clear here, it’s great for the bars but not so great for white men. Asian men are generally willing to pay more for drinks and buy as many drinks as a lady asks for. Asian men are comfortable with – and actually prefer – a lady who is business-like and who, just like them, sees it as a transaction. That said, not all Asian men are players and some are just looking with no intention of buying. Back in Soi Cowboy, Farangs have largely been squeezed out of Baccara. To be clear, white guys are always very welcome in Baccara – but the ladies know the score and most are just not that interested in guys who are less willing to part with money. Is what happened in Baccara going to happen in the likes of Billboard and Butterflies and Red Dragon and Twister? It seems things are already moving in that direction.

Aside from effectively pushing prices up, there is another big downside to bars becoming dominated by Asian men. Smoke. It seems that many of the Asian men who visit the bars are chain-smokers and while some bars have installed the best ventilation systems and air purifiers, bars with lots of Asian customers tend to be smokier.

At this time, which are the better bars dominated by / have a majority of white customers? In Nana Plaza that would be Spanky’s and Butterflies – although the latter is very much on the radar of Asian men and you get the feeling that it won’t be that long before it too becomes a favourite for Asian men. In Soi Cowboy, Dollhouse is the standout – a very good bar which has a strong following amongst expats and a mainly white crowd.

Popular Nana Plaza bar Red Dragon has done away with its happy hour and all happy hour signs have been removed from the bar. Happy hour ended October 31st which was Tuesday of this past week. It is hoped that happy hour prices will return to Red Dragon after the high season.

Does that mean high season has arrived in Bangkok? Not yet, although word is that things are picking up.

To clarify something I speculated on in last week’s column, the Thai guy behind the recently opened Virgin in Patpong is not Tee who has many bars in Nana Plaza. The operator of Virgin does have one bar in Nana Plaza though – Geisha.

 

The view from Nana Burger beats the view from Stumble Inn and co opposite (and the burgers are much better too!)

 

A good friend swears by Nana Burger, the vendor at the front of the Nana Hotel car park offering tasty burgers late in to the night. Run by a kindly old Thai lady, seemingly everyone has something positive to say about Nana Burger. The combination of a tasty burger (80 baht), an ice-cold beer (100 baht) and great people-watching is always a winning formula. Forget the beer bars at the top of Soi Nana, Nana Burger is the place to perch at the top of the soi with a ring-side view of the comings and goings in the beer bars and the entrance to Nana Plaza.

Opposite Nana Burger, Stumble Inn’s expansion is complete with the wall which was separating it and Big Dogs gone as the two bars have become one.

Nana Plaza’s Lace Lounge, under construction by the folks behind Tycoon A Gogo, is nearing completion and may open this month. Unlike conventional gogo bars, Lace Lounge will feature a small stage for one or two dancers, focusing on a relaxed atmosphere for intimate drinks where conversation is possible. Positioned upstairs from Tycoon, the space formerly housed Erotica’s short-lived karaoke club. After 6 weeks of work and a missed deadline, the owners are aiming for a soft launch this month and a grand opening on December 1. Renovations include reinforcing and widening the precarious staircase to the bar. Inside, the expansive layout, free of pillars, is accentuated with luxurious sofas typically found in higher-end venues. At its heart, a unique round stage overlooks Tycoon’s skylight, with plans for a sliding door and pole for dancers to descend from above. Distinctive to Nana Plaza, Lace Lounge will feature a balcony with a speakeasy vibe for smokers, secured with screens and cameras to deter mischief. This new bar promises a quieter, laid-back alternative within bustling Nana Plaza.

 

Lace Lounge, soon to be Nana Plaza’s newest bar lounge.

 

A couple of kilometres down the road, the beer bars at the start of Sukhumvit Soi 22 have been told by the boys in brown that they cannot open before 5:00 PM. This has not gone un-noticed by a few Stickman readers who point out that for as long as anyone can remember, the ramshackle beer bars on soi 22 have opened late morning and by noon there was always a keen punter or two perching, enjoying a beer and the view out to Sukhumvit. The reason they have been told they cannot open until 5:00 PM is not known. Could it have anything to do with that archaic law prohibiting the sale of alcohol between 2:00 and 5:00 PM? Generally, the enforcement of rules like this is across the entire police district so whether there will be any effect on other bars in the Thonglor police district (which includes Soi Cowboy but not Nana Plaza) is not known. How long this crackdown lasts is anyone’s guess. A few weeks at most would be my best guess.

A spa in the same small side-soi off Sukhumvit soi 19 as popular Mexican restaurant Charley Brown’s closed during Covid. Word was that the space would be taken over by a Chinese restaurant. That never happened. The space has since reopened as a beautifully decorated, high-end spa with large, comfortable rooms. Some of the decorations outside have been said to make it look rather like a gogo bar, suggesting happy endings might be part of the service. Befitting a classy establishment, the “menu” can be viewed on a tablet – and there’s nothing discreet about it. Bath / massage / masturbation / full-sex etc. are all listed amongst the services offered. Prices start at around 4,500 baht. Word is that attractive girls are constantly seen coming and going. The venue is called Canary, but as of earlier this week there was no outside sign. Expect one to go up any day. For anyone looking for a more upmarket experience but who doesn’t wish to venture away from the Nana / Asoke zone, Canary might be what you’re looking for. And once you’ve expended your energy, you can drop in to Charley Brown’s which is right opposite for some great Mexican food and a Margarita.

 

In a sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8, what was Velvet has been renamed Viva2.

 

In the first small sub-soi on the right-hand side off Sukhumvit soi 8, what was Velvet has been renamed and rebranded as Viva 2. Velvet was the plush venue that opened a year or so ago that I thought looked very promising. However, it never gained traction and the owner who happens to have a number of successful businesses on the soi (Monsoon, invite, Viva etc.) has renamed it as Viva 2. Not a lot is known about the changes but what I have heard sounds intriguing. Downstairs, TVs have been installed which suggests they are looking to create a sports bar vibe. That would definitely work and The Kiwi which was previously in that space was a roaring success as a sports bar. Apparently, one of the upstairs floors is for S & M. Exactly how it works, I don’t know. They’ve done a lousy job promoting that side of the business – but for all I know that might be by design.

Speaking of soi 8, the rumour mill has it that the lady behind all the venues mentioned in the previous paragraph is taking over the massage house next to Invite and plans to knock the wall out and make an even bigger bar. Invite is always busy and massage houses seem wasted on the main soi so this sounds like a good move.

Still in soi 8, Ben is back in Viva and the Frenchie who replaced him 3 months ago is gone.

Love Italian food? This coming Friday, November 10, Buddy’s Bar & Grill’s Soi 8 location will throw an “Italian Grand Buffet” from 7:30 PM. Gorge yourself on pizza, pasta, lasagna, spicy Italian sausage, salad, garlic bread, assorted cheeses, cold cuts and more for the ridiculously low price of 280 baht. And all wines by the glass will be just 100 baht. This is the first Italian feast at Soi 8. At Buddy’s other locations, it’s been hugely popular – so make sure you get there early!

In the past there was as much in this column about relationships between Western men and Thai women as there was info about visiting the bar scene. But since I left Thailand it has become more difficult to write about dating and easier to cover the bar industry. But there are some things in the Farang / Thai dating scene that seemingly never change and one that springs to mind is the issue of foreigners getting involved with a woman who really is not worthy. Even after all these years, I still hear of white guys getting in to a serious relationship with a Thai lady which even a blind man can see is not going to work out. I understand how an older, wealthier man might get involved with an attractive younger woman who will look after him in his twilight years and who he is quite comfortable to leave his pile of money to. Such a relationship would not be for me, but I get it. But some of the ladies that – especially younger – Westerners are getting involved with is mind-blowing. The reason I bring this up for the umpteenth time relates to the son of a local friend of ours who has chosen not to pursue his career as a small plane pilot in favour of staying with his Thai, mid-30s washed up massage bird who he is totally enamoured with. He’s several years younger and is a pilot. He has had fantastic job offers across New Zealand and Australia as a pilot but has turned them down to remain with his Thai female equivalent of the Energizer bunny. The life of a pilot means travel and he would be away from his beloved frequently which he doesn’t want. Or, as I said to the other half, he is scared that when he is away, she will play. He is madly in love with her despite all and sundry telling him that he can do so much better. This story is a little different in that it is happening here in New Zealand and not Thailand – but it just goes to show how some young Western guys can get themselves in a mess with a Thai women. In Thailand, you have options. Whatever you do, don’t rush in to anything and don’t be pressured in to “fast-forwarding” the relationship which is a classic mistake so many make. If you’re polite, take care of yourself and have some money in your back pocket (you do not need to be rich), you have all sorts of options, especially if you’re aged under 35. But still there are young, good-looking Western guys like the fellow I refer to here, who end up with a lady who will be a huge ภาระ (para – Thai word for “burden” which is frequently used to describe a woman in a relationship who makes all sorts of demands on her man).

A few weeks back, Thailand announced that it was granting visa-free entry to Chinese passport holders through until May of next year. Shortly after that, it was announced that Russians could enter Thailand without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. This week, Thailand announced that Indians can enter without a visa until May of next year. Thailand is rewarding its biggest tourist markets. What about Westerners? Many Westerners have said they would stay in Thailand longer if they were granted 90 days permission to stay on entry and didn’t have to go through the hassle of applying for a tourist visa in advance (which only gives you 60 days and then you have to apply for another 30 days in country by visiting Immigration and paying another 1,900 baht). Nah, it doesn’t look like Thailand is going to give us anything. Don’t they like us?

If you need to venture out of Thailand to apply for a non-immigrant B visa – the first step in the process of getting a work permit for those in Thailand who don’t already have such a visa – be careful about where you go. Reports from those choosing to apply for a non-B in Phnom Penh have it taking 10 (yes, TEN) days. And it seems that none of the agents in Phnom Penh currently offer an express service. Phnom Penh is a pleasant place to visit for a few days but staying there for 10 days? No, thanks!

On the topic of visas, one of the requirements of a retirement visa is showing a bank balance of 800,000 baht at the time of applying for the visa extension. The balance must have been at least 800,000 baht for a couple of months prior to applying and the balance can never have fallen below 400,000 baht throughout the year…..which is all very convoluted but let’s save that for another day as it’s not the point I want to make today. The fee to extend the visa each year at Immigration is 1,900 baht. If you prefer to engage an agent to walk you through the process, that will set you back anything from 15,000 – 25,000 baht. Some of those who extend their retirement visa themselves scoff at the idea of using an agent – but there are some pretty good arguments for using an agent that go beyond merely smoothing the process and a hassle-free experience. First of all, the agent knows what Immigration currently requires (these things can change) and a good agent will essentially do everything for you – prepare all the necessary documents, accompany you to Immigration, get you to the front of the queue and do all the talking. All you have to do is be present and smile. Some say it’s so much cheaper to do it yourself but is it, really? Use an agent and you don’t need to maintain an account with 800K baht in the bank. Many foreign retirees keep that 800,000 baht in the bank year-round and the balance never falls below 800K. They often have it in a non-interest-bearing account or very low interest-bearing account (think .25% interest per annum). If they deposited that money in a term deposit in a bank in their own country, they’d get a reasonable return. Here in New Zealand, a one-year deposit in one of the big banks gets 6.3% per annum. 800K baht invested at 6.3% gives a return of a bit over 50,000 baht per year, which more than covers the cost of an agent. And anyone playing the markets should be making more than that. When you look at it this way, the cost of having all that money tied up earning next to nothing may not be such a good idea after all, eh? There are arguments for and against using an agent but from a purely financial perspective, is it really that expensive?! To be clear, in most cases I generally don’t recommend using an agent, but for those who say it’s expensive, that’s something I disagree with.

Thailand-Related News Articles

Quote of the week comes from a friend, “Walking through Cowboy last night before 7 PM was like seeing a lady who relies on make-up to hide her deficiencies.

Across the border, here’s a look at nightlife in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Tourists from India and Taiwan can enter Thailand without a visa for the next six months.

The Daily Mail looked at the popularity of retirement resorts in Thailand for older Brits.

Dave The Rave has more info on the upcoming Lace Lounge.

Closing Comments

The coming high season will be intriguing in terms of demographics and will be an indicator of where the bar industry is moving. As I wrote in the news section today and as I have written in a number of columns in recent months, white guys are being squeezed out of some of the better Bangkok gogo bars as ladies prefer free-spending Asian men. Their business-like manner and willingness to pay whatever price is asked takes them to the front of the queue. Will white guys up their game and compete on price? In many cases, it seems they will not. This is hardly a new phenomenon, but the pace of change certainly is.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com

 

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