Stickman Weekly, December 31, 2023
Last week’s photo was taken down by the Onut BTS station. The large sign for Lotus had been Photoshopped out otherwise it would have been a dead giveaway. Another nice and easy photo this week.
Stick’s Inbox – The Best Readers’ Emails From The Past Week
I spoke to a dancer I know at XS last night (Friday). She has been in the game 15 years now and she was shaking her head at this one. New Year’s Eve barfines are 4,000 baht, plus 5 drinks from the customer. No short-time, only long-time. Here is the rub. If a new customer sits with the lady after the previous one bought her 5 drinks, this new customer has to buy 5 more drinks before he will be given the privilege to bar fine her. I would imagine it’s the same over in Pin Up. I mentioned this story to another lady later over at another place, who told me that the girls are talking amongst themselves wondering when this insanity is going to end. They mentioned “greed” .
More Readers’ Emails
Readers complain about high prices for the nightlife in Bangkok. I would like to add a new record. At the beginning of December in a bar in Nana Plaza I met a beauty I had already admired in photos in your column. She was quite charming, spoke good English – but wanted no less than 6,000 baht ($US 230 or € 215) for short-time. Add 1,000 baht for the barfine and the same amount for a couple of drinks and the final bill would come to 8,000 baht. A bit shocked, I told her in Thai that I liked her, but unfortunately I am not a Japanese millionaire!
Cambodia massage warning.
In Cambodia, I was told to stay away from massage shops. They make a big show of locking all your valuables in a locker and giving you the key. They then crank up the music while giving you a massage. Meanwhile there’s a guy opening your locker and replacing your $US with fake banknotes. It’s well documented on YouTube. Some girls looked no more than 15 and were quite aggressive in trying to drag me in for massage, starting at $10. As I walked away they were shouting out, “Only 2 dollar!”
Thai Airways pricing.
Now that Thai Smile has shut up shop, Thai Airways is totally gouging local domestic prices. I live in Udon Thani and the most I have ever paid on Thai Smile flying UTH to BKK is 3,000 baht – and that generally is for Smile Plus. Since Thai Airways took the route over, I am yet to see an economy ticket for less than 2,000 baht. I just paid 5,000 baht for an economy flight from UTH to BKK and also paid less than 3,000 baht for a premium economy flight on Singapore Airways from BKK to SIN. Make the maths work on that one! I used to love Thai Airways, but now I hope they self-destruct. Furthermore, VietJet is flying Hanoi to Perth for a couple of hundred bucks and apparently will be starting a similar service from BKK. I hope they do. How embarrassing for the national carrier that the only airline flying direct from Bangkok to Perth will be from a foreign airline. Can’t make this shit up.
This Week’s News, Views & Gossip
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day saw customer numbers take a big dip in the chrome pole bar areas of Sukhumvit. Photos from readers who had just arrived in town showed unusually empty bar areas. One fellow asked me why I had written the bar areas were booming when to his eyes it was anything but. Christmas Eve and Christmas night are quiet nights as expats spend time with friends and family. The next day things were back to how they were – as per the photo above which was taken on Soi Nana on the 26th. If everything follows the usual trend, expect the next few weeks to be the busiest of the year for the bar industry.
Mandarin in Nana Plaza has opened the upstairs area. That sounds like a positive. But is it, really? Just what is going on up those stairs? A regular reader put it well when he said, “I walked up those stairs, saw a girl alone on stage blowing out candles using a straw which wasn’t in her mouth. I turned and left.” What on earth is the management of Mandarin thinking having girls perform these awful, degrading shows? I thought this crap was confined to dodgy old Patpong bars and Long Gun. It seems not. These grotty shows lower the tone of a bar. I thought Mandarin was above this nonsense. What about using some imagination and trying something new or tasteful? Apparently, Mandarin has hired Charlie who has reverted to form and is directing pussy shows again, just like he did in Crazy House, Kazy Kozy & Black Pagoda.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve and Bangkok’s red-light areas should have a huge night. Nightspots can stay open until 6 AM and many – certainly not all – bars will take advantage of it.
Bangkok’s legendary one-man band Lee Shamrock will perform live at Suzie Wong on Soi Cowboy tonight. Go along and get Shamrocked!
Billboard in Nana will be open until sun-up. The difference this year is that it will be open to all and not just a private lock-in party after 3 AM.
As per the reader’s email about high barfines at New Year’s Eve, expect this to be the case in many bars. Bars don’t want ladies to be barfined on New Year’s Eve and want a large troop in the bar which attracts customers inside. As such, expect barfines tonight to be priced much higher than usual.
Red Dragon and Mandarin in Nana Plaza, and Shark Club on Soi Cowboy, are doing formal New Year’s parties with free food. There will be performances from the “Drag Queen Thailand” TV show, along with other shows.
Of the 3 main bar areas, Nana is the best place to see the clock strike midnight. Bars empty out and a sea of humanity hits the courtyard with Silly String and confetti covering everyone. Cowboy has the same atmosphere, but being a long, open street, it doesn’t have quite the same frenetic energy.
Some ladies are quoting big numbers to customers who invite her to leave the bar and accompany him back to his room. Asking rates are all over the map. Some ladies may request 5,000 baht for an hour of her time while some guys report they have no problem finding a lady to spend the entire night with them for less than half that. Some ladies size up a guy and ask for what they think they can get while being willing to negotiate the rate down if he turns her opening gambit down. This approach does not always work. While the lady might quite reasonably think this is a fair and reasonable way to conduct her business, what seems to be lost on ladies is that some customers are immediately put off when quoted a high rate. The very last thing they want to do is negotiate which makes it feel like a transaction (which it is….) and instead they move on to the next lady or, as is more likely, the next bar.
A couple of weeks ago I reported on two acts of violence in the Nana area that week – the stabbing of two Nana Plaza security guards and a nasty assault in Viva in Soi 8. Finally we have some clarity on what happened at Viva although the reason why is still not known. 2 fellows were sat at a table, an Aussie and a Canadian. They had been drinking for 2 – 3 hours and were described as being in very high spirits, in a good mood. There were no problems. Another fellow came in to Viva and sat in the bar. Something happened or was said. Exactly what is not known. The Aussie got up and sucker punched that guy. No-one knows why. It is not known what the victim said. And whatever he did say, it surely did not justify being punched like that.
In last week’s column I mentioned two bars in Soi Cowboy – Tilac and Rainbow – which each have a window in the bathroom where you can do the business at the urinal while watching what is happening in the bar / on stage. I asked if there were other bars with a window and was reminded you can find a window in another Soi Cowboy institution, Suzie Wong.
Bangkok’s nightlife industry lost another legend this week. Sake was a popular figure in the Patpong area and better known to industry insiders than the area’s small customer base. He had been around for a long-time and was known amongst, other things, for having done stuff on a motorbike in Mississippi Queen. His friend, R.G. Gordin, author of Five Crazy Years, wrote the following obituary.
“The Last Hippie”
The day after Christmas, our friend Kriensak passed away in a nursing home at age 75. He had previously fallen in his apartment, severely injuring his head and was never quite the same.
Kriensak, or Saki, as we called him, led an extraordinary life. He was as American as he was Thai, having lived with a family in Rochester, New York, during his high school years. It was there that he attended the Woodstock concert in 1969, and has recordings and photos to prove it. In his early 20s, Saki came back and worked for the US Air Force as an interpreter during the Vietnam War. Most every Saturday he would also grill steaks, doused in whiskey, on the runway at Udon Thani Air Base. He said that practice abruptly stopped when a B-52 once came in for an emergency landing. Other times, F4 Phantoms would crash short of the runway and rural Thais would quickly grab metal from the plane wreckage to use for roofing their huts. Saki went on to become manager of the well-known Thai rock band, Carabao, often also organizing many concerts in Lumpini Park. He later became a Thai reporter and photographer covering Bangkok’s nightlife, working alongside columnist Bernard Trink.
We worked together in the Patpong Museum as tour guides for 3 years. He loved regaling customers of his earlier days and had a special fondness playing the old professor type when instructing groups of Thai university students. Having been married 5 times, Saki wasn’t a perfect man but then again who is. However, he was certainly colorful. A number of times before we went out for a beer after work, he’d turn on Soul Sacrifice by Santana, and we pretended we were at Woodstock with a set of drums and bongos.
On December 26th, yet another remaining light from the Woodstock generation flickered out. Goodbye, dear friend. You enriched all our lives.
I have never been a night owl and staying out really late has never been my thing. In the early days I can remember some nights getting home from the Thermae around 4:00 AM. Inevitably I suffered the next day to the extent that such late nights never became a part of my lifestyle. Back then, a good few venues on Sukhumvit were open until the sun came up and there’d be plenty of people around at that time of night. There’d be long lines of cabs in Soi Nana and outside the Thermae, punters and girls spilling over the pavement. Those who stay out late these days tell me that deep in to the night – after 3:00 AM – Sukhumvit is nothing like it used to be. They tell these days it is much quieter at that time of night than it once was.
Buddy’s Bar & Grill will celebrate New Year’s in all five locations starting at 7:30 PM. New Year’s Eve doubles as the annual Buddy’s staff party and the foreign bosses turn over all the bars to the Thais, who cook up a feast of FREE Thai food. There also are free bar snacks and champagne toasts at midnight. You can find Buddy’s Bar & Grill locations on Sukhumvit sois 8, 20, 22, 89 and one at Silom.
In the median strip on Sukhumvit Road below the skytrain track, across from the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 8, a foreigner hid in the bushes and took photographs of people strolling Sukhumvit with a telephoto lens. Other foreigners in the area described what he was doing as creepy. As a keen street photographer myself, I found it perplexing. I am not sure there is any other reason to shoot from that spot other than to conceal oneself. That goes against the spirit of street photography. When you take photos on the street, the idea is to get close to your subject. Photos taken at a distance with a telephoto lens compress perspective and capture less of the immediate surroundings. They don’t convey the feeling of being there. The ideal lens focal length for street photography is more like 35 mm. I can’t imagine everyday Thais would have been thrilled at what this guy was up to. Taking photos in public is one thing, but hiding in the bushes like a peeping Tom is quite another.
I have never stayed at the Nana Hotel and by failing to do so I feel like I have missed out on something. It’s too late now – a guy who hardly drinks these days and who isn’t a whoremonger staying at the Nana Hotel is hardly going to get the full Nana experience, is he? Is this a regret? Not really, but at the same it would have been nice to do it back in the day. I did, on the other hand, stay in a guesthouse in Khao San Road for a few days in the late ’90s when I was on a budget. That was a lot of fun – but I wouldn’t want to do it again!
Down in Pattaya, construction proper is underway on the Las Vegas beer bar complex on Soi Diana, opposite Soi LK Metro. When this complex was first announced, the developers said it would open in mid-January. How likely does that look now? It’s possible, but if I was a betting man I wouldn’t put any money on it. The photo above shows the site earlier this week. Concrete has been laid, which is a start – but there’s still a long way to go.
In a sign of the times, announcements at the Pattaya bus station are now in English, Thai, Russian and a Chinese language. Given visitor trends, will announcements in Hindi be coming soon?
The Thai language doesn’t have a large vocabulary and the grammar is basic compared to English. Thai simply doesn’t have the breadth of expression that we have in English. At times it almost feels binary. The classic example is when describing food. For Thais, something is either อร่อย aroi (delicious) or ไม่อร่อย mai aroi (literally translated as “not delicious” but the meaning is more like “not good tasting at all”). For foreigners communicating with Thais, despite the fact that most Thais try hard to be polite, tactful and indirect, they can end up sounding blunt without realising it. This happens particularly when Thais use another language that they have yet to master, like English. My other half likes to call me old-fashioned because when it comes to clothes and fashion generally. I like what I’d term the “classic look”. At this time of year, that means shorts and a polo shirt or a linen shirt – and usually in subdued colours. The sort of thing that people have been wearing for generations. I don’t go for cutting edge modern cuts or colours which might be all the rage this year but out next year. My other half calls me old-fashioned, translating the Thai word หัวโบราณ (hua-bo-ran) in to English in a way that doesn’t really work. Conservative would perhaps be a better word but the nuance is lost on her. It takes Thais a long time to reach a level of English where they grasp the nuances of the language.
I really don’t want to say much about the potential cluster-you-know-what that are the new tax rules on money brought in to Thailand which come in to effect tomorrow (January 1, 2024), but there is something that I think is worth considering. When foreigners employed in Thailand renew their work permit and visa, they must include proof that they have filed a tax return for the previous year. If Thailand is genuinely serious about getting foreigners who spend more than 180 days in Thailand in a calendar year in to the tax system, they could add a requirement that the previous year’s tax return be included when extending marriage / retirement / other long-stay visas. To say it would be a major pain in the rear if this happened is a massive understatement.
Many of you send emails recommending Thailand-related YouTube videos for me to check out. I do look at every video – but few I finish. Truth be told, most videos I give up on within 60 seconds. Too many of the Thailand-based expat YouTubers are people I just don’t warm to. And funnily enough, I find the Pattaya-based YouTubers generally more interesting than those based in Bangkok. Of the 30 odd YouTube channels I subscribe to, just 3 are Thailand-related. Pailin’s Kitchen, a charming Thai lady living in Canada who teaches Thai cooking. เรื่องเล่าเช้านี้, the morning news from Thailand in the Thai language. Bangkok Pat, an engaging British-Thai who posts about a variety of stuff of interest to expats.
Thailand-Related News Articles
Quote of the week, “If you can’t support yourself financially in your home country and instead choose to live in Thailand, you are an economic refugee.”
Bangkok Pat’s latest video is a detailed look at the Nana area. * Bangkok Pat is the one and only Thailand YouTuber I follow.
Chinese men are said to be “son-hunting” in Thailand.
A brawl erupted between Indian visitors and Thais on Pattaya beach.
Dollhouse manager Dennis was interviewed in this YouTube video.
It’s been a funny old year, the first year in a while when it felt like Covid was no longer a thing, even if some pesky people tried their darnedest to keep it front and foremost in people’s minds. While Covid is largely behind us, to me it still doesn’t feel like life is anywhere back to “normal”. It feels like the world is still sort of finding its way post-Covid. Everything seems so uncertain these days, almost like uncertainty is the new normal. I hope I’m wrong about that. As someone who likes routines, I’m trying to get back in to a similar routine to what I had before Covid came along. A big part of that was travelling. If there is one thing I would like to do more of in 2024, it is travelling. To Bangkok, and beyond. Fingers crossed that much of the uncertainty that has plagued the past year is left behind in 2023 and a sense of normality returns to the world. Best wishes to you all for a great 2024.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org