Stickman's Weekly Column December 3rd, 2023

Stickman Weekly, December 3, 2023

 

Butterflies in Nana Plaza celebrated its 7th anniversary last weekend with a bash that filled the huge bar. As promised in last week’s column, here is a first-hand report of the night, with photos and text from: Digital a-Go-Go

Stick

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Lights, wings and extravagance stole the spotlight at the Butterflies 7-Year Anniversary Party with ladies going all out with their costumes to win the 25,000-baht Butterflies Babe of the Year title.

After Muay (#233) won the crown and cash at the first Butterflies pageant last year with a crazy 2-meter-span set of lighted butterfly wings, her co-workers upped their game at this year’s Nov. 25 party at Nana Plaza. Muay was back with an elaborate, tropical-themed getup that probably would have won last year. But not in 2023.

 

Babe of the Year Emma #18

 

There were lots of new, lit-up wings – one set of which actually had a motor so they would flap! – and over-the-top getups so big its wearer couldn’t dance on stage without killing someone. But, in the end, a pretty girl with only some fake tattoos and body paint won the top prize, Emma (#18).

Emma actually was last year’s 2nd runner-up with a modest set of pink butterfly wings. But the key to winning the Butterflies (and Billboard) Babe of the Year crown is getting votes from the other girls, not necessarily the customers, who go for the most OTT costumes. And Emma is a Butterflies veteran and big favorite among her sisters.

 

Kae, #407, arrived late, had a costume impossible to take on stage and won 2nd place and 10,000 baht.

 

Kae (#407), she of the too-big-to-dance costume, arrived late but still managed to win 10,000 baht for coming in second. And Mimie (#5), who spent 700 baht and a few hours making wings with white foam feathers and illuminated with Christmas lights, won 5,000 baht for third.

Slow Start, Big Finish at Butterflies 7th Anniversary

As was the case last year, the Butterflies 7-Year Anniversary Party got off to a slow start. As noted in last year’s party report, Butterflies girls are younger and more laid-back compared with their older, more “professional” sisters across the way at Billboard, where nearly every dancer is present when doors open at 8 p.m. But, by 9 p.m. things were rocking with two stages full of girls decked out in Day-Glo yellow-green and customers packing in. By 10 p.m. it was bedlam, with no chairs to be had.

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The Butterflies 7-Year Anniversary Party also was the occasion for the American owner to debut the club’s latest upgrade: 33 new programmable lights and lasers, bringing Butterflies total light count to more than 310. They debuted at the hourly professional pole-dancing show at the top of each hour and give Butterflies a look and atmosphere on par with Levels, Sugar Club and the (now-closed) Insanity on Soi 11. Butterflies now, truly, is “Nana Plaza’s nightclub”.

There’s more work to be done on the lights – five of the units still needed to be installed later – but expect Butterflies to look and feel like no other go-go bar in the country. Whether the same lights come to Billboard is undecided.

 

Winning Babe of the Year is hungry work!

 

As usual, there were also dozens of large pizzas from Bangkok favorite Pizza Mania and countless rounds of tequila shots for the girls. About a half-dozen VIPs had their tables reserved and made their presence felt by sending tens of thousands of baht in 20-baht bills flying.

The guest list was a Who’s Who of Bangkok nightlife, with Dennis, manager of the Dollhouse, the boss of Bada Bing in Patpong, the “Mayor of Bangkok” Ali and countless other familiar faces all reveling in an electric atmosphere until after 2 a.m.

 

A little Butterfly.

 

Butterflies Babe of the Year

But the highlight of the evening, the Butterflies Babe of the Year pageant, began around 10:30 p.m. and ran about an hour, including the 11 p.m. pole-dancing spectacle.

All the Butterflies Babes – more than 100 this night – crowded onto the three stages (including the Jacuzzi) to show off their costumes, makeup and curves. Guests and girls were given slips of paper to choose their favorite girl by number.

When the votes were counted, the Top 10 got their chance to make the finals. No pencils needed now: The Top 3 ladies were chosen by how loudly their fans could scream, with the results measured with a decibel meter. It took at least 115 decibels of high-pitched yells to get through.

 

Kae cheers on the crowd to scream for her. It worked. She won 2nd.

 

It’s amazing how loudly a tiny Thai lady can scream, but scream they did. And the results were surprising to many. The little butterfly with the moving wings – picked by the coyote-agency boss, the owner’s wife and Digital a-Go-Go to win it all – didn’t make the Top 3. Neither did last year’s winner, Muay. But, as noted, last year’s 2nd Runner-Up Emma did, with the decibels hitting an ear-splitting 122.

For reference, music in (foreign-run) go-go bars in Bangkok stays under 100 dB. Temporary hearing loss can occur at more than 100 dB.

 

1st Runner-Up Kae #407

 

Kae, with her athlete’s body, long blonde locks and big bolt-ons, could easily have won last year. But she showed up late, got drunk on Sangsom in the locker room and never competed. This year, she still showed up late, but brought the goods with an indescribable  costume pictured here. Five nights later (Thursday) she still had bruises on her shoulders from where the large, heavy contraption rested.

 

2nd Runner-Up Mimie #5

 

Mimie doesn’t cut nearly the figure that Kae or Emma do, but her meticulously designed costume was hard not to vote for and she won third.

But it was Emma, the girls’ favorite sister, who won it all this night. She had lots of neon tattoos, including “Butterflies” across her chest but, fortunately, all of them wash off.

 

Babe of the Year 2022 Muay’s 2023 costume was good enough to win … last year

 

Butterflies and Billboard parties are epic and there’s one more left: Dec. 9 when both bars host the double-club Playmates Party which, this year, should be even extra epic, as it will be the 50th birthday celebration for the bars’ owner. See you there!

 

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken a couple of hundred metres into Sukhumvit soi 13, looking back towards the main Sukhumvit Road with the Trendy Building on the left. This week’s photo is also in the Sukhumvit area – but precisely where? And on the chance that you don’t immediately recognise where it is and think that maybe it’s somewhere obscure like way down past Onut towards Bang Na, no. It’s in the general area that I write a lot about.

 

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

High season is well and truly here.

The high season is unmistakably back. Besides solo male travelers, there’s been a surge in families with kids, aging couples, and notably, an increase in Asian female traveler groups. The streets are abuzz day and night. I was passing through Soi Nana the other day at around 11:00 AM, and saw a number of customers in Stumble Inn. I have also observed a lively atmosphere in Soi 11 during my recent late evening visits. However, some concerns remain. The presence of African street workers in Soi Nana who are more assertive. There’s also a noticeable congregation of African men with unclear intentions loitering from Soi 3 to Soi 17. These guys are increasingly integrating into local bars and are often seen around Terminal 21 at closing time. The rise in warning posters about pickpockets and sexual harassment, in places around Terminal 21 and the Asoke MRT station, is a matter of concern.

Keen to open a bar in Pattaya?

I agree with the reader who commented that there are still too many bars in Pattaya. If you own a bar at the back of a less popular beer bar complex, you might find your bar mostly quiet. Still, there seems to be a steady, seemingly endless stream of new bar owners who are willing to try their luck with such a bar. Mostly farangs using a big chunk of their retirement funds to try and live the dream of a successful bar owner in Pattaya. Not seldom encouraged by a teerak who tells him the bar will be a success, even at that lesser location, because “she has a lot of friends and they will all come to visit their bar.” Yeah, sure! After the free pig at the bar’s opening, you won’t see many of them again.

The real cesspool in Thailand.

Regarding the ASEAN Now forum, it’s a depressing cesspool of miserable, hate-filled, bigoted old men. For a while I read the comments (but didn’t contribute). And your reader who posted about it is exactly right. There’s a core of posters that hate Thai men. Thai women. China. Gay people. Black people. Indians and Arabs. They hate young people. They hate white women. They hate tourists. They hate people with more money than them. Every story is followed by nasty comments and lies. Any positive story about someone is followed by outrageous slurs i.e. “I bet he donates to orphanages so he can touch the kids.” They hate everyone who isn’t a grumpy, bitter, old sexpat. I’m amazed it still survives. Which company would want its advertisements alongside those comments? I’ve never found your column to be negative – just factual. And on the few occasions you provide an opinion, you usually clarify that it’s subjective and may be controversial.

Age verification difficulties.

I am against AI for face recognition, surveillance and tracking, and I am not even that fond of CCTV. But maybe install a system in the bars that guarantee the girls are of legal age (and not using a sister’s ID). It is often impossible to judge the age of a girl. Many years ago I remember two girls in Midnite (they did go, but I did not take them up on the offer) who said they were 17. Did they look 17? Could easily been 25. I have met a few girls who claimed to be 19. It’s all a bit scary. Are they younger and want it to sound legal, or were they 35-ish and aimed to sugar-coat the proposal?

Do we need to rethink Patpong?

About Patpong, there are no sour-faced girls sitting outside bars who don’t want to engage like there are in Cowboy. The street isn’t riddled with hookers and riff-raff other than the touts, like on Sukhumvit and Soi 4. There is a more welcoming feel about the place. I go back for that very reason.

More Readers’ Emails

Complimenting Thai women.

I can relate to your comments about giving Thai women compliments. My experience is after giving a compliment the reply is normally, “You sweet mouth.” I am not sure if it’s a sarcastic reply or not!

Tax worries for retired expats.

Have you looked at the fast approaching tax change which will hit a lot of long-term expats here? Basically Thailand never used to tax savings brought into Thailand, i.e. money which had been offshore for at least a year. That changes as of January 1, when all income (other than government pensions) that is sent to Thailand will be taxed – probably at 35%. It will be a game changer for a lot of foreign residents, who are already struggling with the strong baht…. Having the Thai government take a third of their money will push a lot of them over the edge! <More on this issue in the news section belowStick>

Extending your SIM card’s validity.

There have been a few emails about Thai SIM card and expiring whilst overseas. People may be interested in this website that works really great to keep your Thai SIM car alive. Mobiletopup.com. I use it regularly with DTAC. If you just do a 20 baht top-up it will extend your SIM card longevity by 1 month every 20 baht top up, up to 365 days in advance.

Excellent airport experience.

Arrived at Swampy on a weeknight about 22:00, quickly off the plane and to the Immigration queue. Except there was no queue. I had my pick of Immigration booths – a first ever in Bangkok. As I had carry-on luggage and traffic was light, I was home in record time.

Wine smuggler shares his secret.

I have Thai friend who is bit of a wine buff so I always carry too much wine and only once have I had my luggage scanned. At the time I was carrying 4.75 litres of wine. I thought here we go. Bag goes through the scanner, comes out the other side, and I was meet with a smile and a gesture to say I could go. I wondered if the scanner was working. The 4 litres of wine in my baggage was a wine cask and I guess a square box doesn’t look like wine on a scanner.

 

Nana Plaza this week. Bangkok’s best bar area is pumping.

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

It’s high season and the bars are pumping – but that doesn’t mean every bar is busy every night. Expats still have a part to play, especially in Bangkok. While Friday and Saturday the past couple of weekends have been described as borderline bedlam, throw Sunday into the comparison and it’s chalk and cheese. Last Sunday night was described as being not dis-similar to a decent night in low season. Friday and Saturday night see many expats venture out which explains the peak. But let’s not forget that after a couple of big nights, many girls don’t bother going to work on Sunday. Fewer ladies about means things can be quiet, even in many of the better bars.

A recurring theme in this column for much of the past year is that Nana Plaza is the place to go for the best gogo bars. There is a proviso. If you’re an early bird, or perhaps an expat who has to get up early for work the next morning, you might be better off at Soi Cowboy. A number of gogo bars in Soi Cowboy open early (around 7:00 PM) and some have close to a full contingent from not much after 7:30 PM. There are also a few decent happy hours early evening on Cowboy. And if you like to stay out late, then Patpong might be the best option with a number of gogo bars open until 3:00 AM. With that said, most of Patpong was shut by 2:30 AM last night. What was that all about?

Loy Krathong, Thailand’s charming full moon festival, saw subdued celebrations in Bangkok’s red-light districts, with fewer ladies donning traditional Thai attire, likely due to cost, or was it perhaps their preference for more revealing outfits? In Nana Plaza, only Red Dragon celebrated, merging the festival with its monthly Full Moon Party. The Red Dragon crew sported a bold look with neon bikinis and bright sabai, the traditional Thai sash / wrap. However, the girls weren’t so sabai sabai (comfortable / at ease) with the sabai, as they constantly needed re-pinning and adjusting to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.

 

A Soi Nana beauty done up in her finery for Loy Krathong.

 

After 4 years as a British pub, The Oasis on Soi Cowboy was rebranded as “Stumble Inn Soi Cowboy” this past Friday. Earlier in the week, the Stumble Group renamed its original Soi Nana bar from plain old Stumble Inn to “Stumble Inn Nana Plaza”. Many ladies from the Nana branch were brought over to the Cowboy location. The Oasis swam against the tide on a lane of bars full of working girls, with a nicely done out bar, no chrome poles and no girls for hire. I always thought The Oasis would be a winner – a prime spot in the middle of the soi offering a great view of the soi over two floors, and all very nicely done out. Disappointingly, it never developed the sort of loyal following that is key to success in a British pub. What went wrong? In a word, Covid. The rebranding aims to leverage the established Stumble Inn brand to draw new patrons from Stumble Inn Nana Plaza to Stumble Inn Soi Cowboy. Stumble Inn Nana Plaza most definitely does have a following. The renamed Soi Cowboy bar will continue to have live music, pool tables and balcony seating, but will add new promotions, a wider beer selection, including IPAs, and more wine options. Rebranding should help and the addition of friendly ladies won’t hurt.

The Oasis brand switch is the latest tweak by the Stumble Group. As reported last month, Stumble Inn Nana Plaza knocked down the wall shared with Big Dogs and combined the bars. Big Dogs is gone in name only, with all the outdoor seating still open to Nana Plaza looky-loos. The bar has an open feeling, but is a bit noisier on the expanded side. New signage went up at the original Stumble Inn this week – see the photo below.

 

The recently expanded Stumble Inn Nana Plaza and its new signage.

 

Hopes that Lace Lounge, the new upstairs chill spot in Nana Plaza being built upstairs from Tycoon, will open before Christmas are fading. The bar has fallen victim to the all-too-common problem (or should we use the word “scam”?) in Thai construction projects that seems as common in small bars as it is in major works: The contractor subs out the job to a smaller company which then spends all the money it has been fronted before work is complete and then demands more money or walks off the job. Nothing has been done for weeks at Lace Lounge, although a meeting between the American owner, the prime contractor and the sub-contractor was slated for Friday. A tentative soft-opening date has been penciled in for December 7, but even December 15 seems unlikely at this point, especially since the owner and manager will be out of town on that date.

Across the way on Nana Plaza’s top floor, construction is running full steam ahead on a new gogo bar from Nana’s top tenant, Tee. As seen in the photo included last week, it will be a small space with dancers on a small stage behind the bar. No name or opening date is known at this point.

Word is that there are as many Africans and ladyboys lingering on Soi Nana after dark as there are Thai street-walkers, especially in the later hours. All it needs is one reported incident and a crackdown will surely follow.

Earlier in the week a friend was sitting at Nana Burger, enjoying the view when he heard a familiar pitter-patter sound. No, it wasn’t a ladyboy scampering off with his hard-earned. And neither was it one of the street walkers dashing to proposition a hansum man. It was the sound of rain. Late November and it was raining. I’m not sure I remember it raining in Bangkok quite this late in the year. That said, I am told it has not rained since.

 

Monday night saw a heavy downpour, not what you expect in Bangkok in late November.

 

A few hours after last week’s column went live, a fellow was caught filming in long-running Nana Plaza gogo bar, Angelwitch. He claimed he didn’t know it wasn’t allowed – even though he was observed waiting for the staff to look the other way before he started the filming. He got busted and had to delete what he had recorded. That could be a problem because “delete” doesn’t really mean delete, does it? Photos and video that has been deleted can be recovered. And if you have apps syncing photos and video with the cloud, by the time the video is deleted a copy may have already been saved to the cloud. Said fellow was lucky this happened in Angelwitch and the foreign manager handled it. The response of staff might have been more aggressive in other bars. If nothing else, this shows that even with signs everywhere prohibiting the use of recording video and taking photos, some people still haven’t got the message / are determined to test their luck.

Speaking of taking photos in and around the bar areas, people seem to be much more uptight these days which I guess is largely due to the awareness of how anything can end up online. A couple of friends had permission to shoot at the Butterflies Anniversary Party last week yet still some fellow was not happy about them and said he was gonna get security.

Around the corner from Soi Nana, The Landmark Hotel is still undergoing renovations and what looks like a major face-lift. The front of the hotel remains completely boarded off from public access on Sukhumvit.

Business is booming in Pattaya with many hotels full and some bars over-flowing with punters night after night. Business owners will be thrilled with people telling me it’s not just busy, it actually feels like each week it is getting busier. The high season influx has breathed much life into sois which not that long ago we thought would disappear altogether. You know it’s high season when even the beer bars on sois 7 and 8 have lots of customers. With that said, no doubt there are bar owners right now in Pattaya complaining about a lack of customers. That probably says more about their bar, and the sheer number of bars, than anything else.

A new bar is coming to many expats’ favourite soi, Soi LK Metro. In the space that was previously Ricky’s Pandora’s, a new venue is soon to open….a ladyboy bar. I believe that would make it the first ladyboy bar on Soi LK Metro. An outlier or a taste of things to come? Time will tell.

But before it opens, keep an eye out for Top Gun A Gogo, due to open this coming Friday, also on Soi LK Metro. A pig will be sacrificed and spit-roasted.

The recent talk about Indian nightclubs in Pattaya continues with Jalwa Club the newest addition to Walking Street. It’s in the space that used to be the Pier Disco, and a long time ago was known as Polo Entertainment. One of the interesting features of this new venue is that, according to the website, you can book a Russian companion. Just what that involves (and what it costs) isn’t known.

One wonders how many Indian-themed nightclubs Walking Street can sustain. At what point might Indian nightclubs start to take over Walking Street? If all of these discos really are popular, can we expect even more such venues to open, attracting even more Indians and making Waking Street feel more like a party zone in downtown Mumbai than Thailand? The Indians might love it but what would others make of it? When one group dominates to that sort of extent, it can have the unintended effect of putting everyone else off. This is not meant in any way to be disparaging to our Indian friends, but I think the reality is that most non-Indians don’t care for Indian music and as such, Indian discos appeal largely to Indians only.

 

Pattaya Sports Hub.

 

Friday saw the grand opening of the Pattaya Sports Hub on Soi Buakhao. Also known as the “Pattaya Craft Beer Hub”, Pattaya Sports Hub is the brainchild of The Sportsman and Rhino pool tables boss Joe to showcase his pool tables. There is also darts, TV sports, craft beer and food from Pattaya’s Cheap Charlie’s restaurant. With a back door that opens on to Soi Boomerang, Pattaya Sports Hub is located in a growing bar area and, two weeks after its soft opening has gained a following. For Friday’s grand opening party, some drove down from Bangkok, with many staying in the venue’s 36 upstairs rooms (which go for just 600 baht a night). There are five full-size pool tables – Rhino, of course – and four lighted dart boards. The Sportsman became famous for showing any and all televised sports and the Pattaya Sports Hub continues that tradition with 16 big screens – and more on the way – showing live and on-demand events. It wants to be known as much for its craft beers as its sports and exclusively pours the entire range of Brewdog craft beers on tap. It’s open daily from 7 AM to 3 AM and those hours will extend to 4 AM from December 15. You can find more on their Facebook page.

Word from Phuket is that it is very busy on the island’s party soi, Bangla Road – some say it is very much back to how it was pre-Covid. Like Bangkok and Pattaya, there has been an inundation of Westerners the past couple of weeks to go along with the hordes of Russians for whom Phuket has become a firm favourite.

Still in Phuket, for a few years the most popular gogo bar on Bangla Road has been Suzie Wong. It sounds like Suzie Wong is trying to outdo gogo bars up north when it comes to pricing. With the barfine quoted as 2,000 baht and the girls said to be sticking to 5,000 baht for short time – which is strictly one hour – Suzie Wong is pricey. And there appears to be a policy that every barfine requires you to buy a minimum of two lady drinks. Add together the customer’s drinks, lady drinks, the barfine and the lady’s fee, you’ll be in for at least 8,000 baht and probably a good bit more – and the main event is limited to an hour. I’m all for the ladies making decent money and am very well aware that some  holidaymakers will willingly pay whatever the asking price is but yikes, wasn’t good value once part of the attraction of Thailand?

Thailand has new rules on money brought in to the country coming in to effect on January 1st. Those who spend more than 180 days a year in Thailand are, for tax purposes, considered by the Thai government to be resident in Thailand. If you transfer money in to Thailand, tax must be paid on that money. However, if you come from a country which has a tax treaty with Thailand, the tax should already have been paid and the new rules should not apply to you. If your country does not have a tax treaty with Thailand, it’s not clear what will happen. These new regulations have a lot of people nervous. Will anything come of it and will the new rules be followed through with as they are written? Who knows? My feeling – and it is nothing more than a feeling – is that the Thai authorities won’t mess with the vast majority of foreigners bringing money in. If they did, there’d be a massive outcry from foreign residents across Thailand. The problem is that the whole situation is as clear as mud. A friend who used to work in professional services in Thailand described it to me as every case being its own tax drama. That’s a worry. It’s a case of waiting to see what, if anything, happens when the new rules come in to effect.

Out of curiosity, what percentage of people are still wearing a face-mask in Thailand these days? Watching a YouTube video of downtown Bangkok this week it seemed to be no more than 20%. Would that be about right?

Thailand-Related News Articles

Reader’s story of the week outlines a long-time reader’s recent trip, “Trip Observations, November 2023“.

Quote of the week, “If the Thais could dress their ladyboys as men, they could have a great basketball team.

Five die at a wedding in Isaan after the groom blows away his wife, a couple of relatives and then himself.

In a story that is seemingly republished every year, Thailand ranks very low in English language proficiency.

Dave The Rave reviewed every bar in Nana Plaza.

Closing Comments

I wish Thai Airways would resume flying to New Zealand. Prior to Covid, Thai flew daily between Bangkok and Auckland but in mid-March that came to an end and they have not been back since, save a few mercy flights to help Thai nationals get back to Thailand. Airfares to Bangkok used to run around $NZ 1,000 on Thai. At that price I was happy to take three trips per year. If you visited at the peak of high season – which I never did – fares could get up to $1,800. Since Covid, airfares to Bangkok from New Zealand have been in the range of $1,600 – $2,500 and if you wished to fly to Bangkok right now, you’re be looking at around $4,000. Thai Airways was the only airline flying direct between New Zealand and Thailand and that helped keep fares down on other carriers (QANTAS, Singapore, Malaysia, Cathay, Air Asia) which, Singapore Airlines aside, were cheaper. Sadly, Thai Airways has not returned and it doesn’t look like it will do so any time soon. While I don’t expect airfares to get back down to the levels we used to enjoy, it would be nice if they dropped a bit from their current levels. Airfares from this part of the world to Thailand remain stubbornly high. That’s the main reason I have not been back since my last visit in June. I hope it’s not so bad flying between Thailand and your part of the world.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com

 

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