Stickman's Weekly Column January 21st, 2024

Stickman Weekly, January 21, 2024

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken at the start of Sukhumvit soi 22, at the strip of single-shophouse bars that feel like they have been there forever, with the main Sukhumvit Road behind the photographer. More than half of you who emailed the location of last week’s photo got it wrong. This week’s photo was taken in the wider Nana area. I have to admit that if my friend who took this photo had not told me where it was, I would not have known where it is!

 

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

Live life with no regrets.

mens clinic bangkok

I have had B 10,000 plus bills in the past and at times, even while I’m sitting there buying drinks for me and several girls, I know it’s a crazy thing to be doing but my thoughts are always – well I’m only here for 2 weeks, in the grand scheme of things this isn’t going to matter once I get home, and when I am at home I know I am never going to be having a night out like this in England. I’ve never regretted it.

Not everyone spends 10,000 baht / night.

I find the idea of spending 10,000 baht in a night irritating, but then I am not much of a drinker and have 1 – 2 beers in a bar max. Many ladies from dating sites can be invited straight to the hotel room for 2,000 baht and probably less if you look around. In Pattaya, 1,200 – 1,500 baht is possible. No barfine, maybe a beer from the fridge and straight to the point. But I know you write for the people who basically live in the bars and consider this part of the fun.

A good night for less than 1,000 baht.

Regarding the cost of a night out, I’ve had many an enjoyable evening with less than 1,000 THB. A bottle of Sang Som, ice, mixers and tasty street food purchased at a pop-up-pub on the street can be all you need. Entertainment is meeting the many characters one comes across. One can interact with Africans, street sellers, ladyboys and local Thais. Everyone has a story and sometimes those that are easily dismissed have the most interesting story. I think I even met the notorious Stickman one night long ago.

Pattaya, where the farangs are.

Strange to hear Walking Street is not doing that well recently, in the middle of high season. Could be the prices, but maybe it has something to do with the typical Walking Street visitors not being around in big numbers right now? It’s not really a farang stronghold anymore, it’s mainly Indians and East Asians. The Indians are there, the East Asians not that much from what I understand. If Soi Buakhao / Soi LK Metro (Farang Central nowadays) and Soi 6 are booming, it might say something about the demographics of visitors right now. That said, Soi Buakhao is cheaper than Walking Street too, so we still have to keep the price thing in mind.

Accommodating everyone.

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In some of the larger bars in Soi Cowboy that allow smoking, why not have a smoking side and a non-smoking side? Seems easy to arrange! There’s enough space! Staff could meet customers as they come in and ask, do you want smoking or non-smoking, and direct them to the side they want. It would be good for all, smokers and non-smokers!

More Readers Emails

The invasion of Samui.

My Thai wife and I drove to Ko Samui from Hua Hin for New Year’s. It was a blast, and we decided to stay on Samui for 3 months. We found a complex with 30 private two-storey condos and signed a contract. The day we checked in we realized that the air-con and the ceiling fan didn’t work and the box for the TV was inactive. We sent a text to the agency with our concerns. She was not amused by our concerns and after the first night I purchased two floor fans and sent her the invoice of 1,800 baht. This is when things got interesting. She lost the plot and demanded that we leave. I politely told her that we have a written contract and the 240,000 baht was waiting for them to pick up. I didn’t mention but it was probably assumed: fix the problems first! I received text after text asking us to leave. Finally, the sister of the lady I was texting came over, and it was only then I realized that it wasn’t a Thai I was dealing with, even though her photo and name sounded Thai. Now it all made sense. Everyone in the compound was Russian and we were being ostracized. Knowing that we were dealing with Russians and that they knew we had a large sum of cash, my wife became uncomfortable. Very understandable as she has read about the Russian mafia in Southern Thailand. We decided there was no use in pushing the situation and I text the lady saying we are leaving in the morning. We went to bed early. After we had turned off the lights, we looked at each other and realized our best option was to get the hell out of there! We had bought lots of food for the 3 months we were to stay, but we couldn’t take the meat so we gave it all to a grateful security guard. We stayed at a hotel near the ferry, and at 6 AM looking at Samui from afar, we were very happy we had left. 
We’re up north now and we both agree that we will not head back down south until the war is over.

Can we still call them the farang bar areas?

I think every red-light area is mostly Asian now. The Pong, Nana, and Cowboy. There may be a couple of bars that are still mostly farang, but even there I bet it’s 60/40. Many bars are 80/20 Asian to farang. In the King’s bars in Patpong it’s like 90/10.

When in Rome…

Regarding Thai music in gogo bars, I don’t mind – and even enjoy – listening to it.  (When either visiting or living in other countries, I find it more enjoyable by absorbing the culture. That includes learning to like their music. Plus, people usually appreciate it if you enjoy their culture, and their music.) A bonus about playing Thai music in the bars is that the women enjoy it. Especially if the music is Isaan-based.  If the women enjoy it, they’re happier and more fun, having a good time, and that’s more fun for everyone else. So, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

More Red Dragon lady drinks problems.

You did publish a warning a week or two ago, but….I visited Red Dragon in Nana a few hours ago. Bought some lady drinks. Only tequilas, not whiskey and something. Now, I can see the argument for 2 x lady price if you order spirit plus mixer (obviously that’s a con, but… I could see an argument for “you bought 2 drinks, sir.”) But I bought tequilas. Only tequilas. Each one 220 baht, which is expensive enough, but when the bill came all 5 had been charged as lady drink x 2 = 440 baht. I bitched to the servers but what can you do without killing your own evening’s fun? Red Dragon, a few months ago, was possibly the best bar / most fun bar in Nana, but this has killed it for me. So, up to Mandarin where there was no sign of the gross shows or outrageous doubling of prices, but suddenly the staff are mercenaries. It was difficult to buy a drink for one girl without “and my friend, and my friends.” They are really killing whatever vibe they spent the last year building but can probably get away with this crap during high season with few repeat victims. Hopefully they will suffer and recognise the consequences when they need regulars again.

 

 

Mixed fortunes for bar operators at CenterPoint, the soi 7 beer bar complex.

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

The ghosts of the Biergarten are haunting the bars in the new section of the Sukhumvit soi 7 beer bar complex – the space that was previously the Biergarten. Bars in the new section are struggling and some have decided to call it a day and walk away, knowing they will lose the deposit they made when they took out the lease. Bars in the older section of the soi 7 complex are, for the most part, doing fine.

Shark in Soi Cowboy has never been the place to go for an eyeful but things have changed and when the upstairs area is open, titties are out. And when the upstairs area is closed, some of the dancers on the ground floor stage dispense with their top. There’s much confusion in the bar with girls seemingly unaware of when they are supposed to put their top on and when to take it off, so some just leave it off all the time, even when they are sitting with punters.

The Brew House on Sukhumvit soi 8 opened this past Wednesday. Bangkok’s newest craft beer bar offers a more intimate alternative to the large and insanely popular Craft on Sukhumvit soi 23 which has cemented itself as a favourite amongst both Thais and foreigners. The Brew House has something of a minimalistic feel. According to the manager, it’s not 100% finished and there are tweaks coming. If craft beers are your thing, stop by.

 

The Brew House, Sukhumvit soi 8, opened this week.

 

Back to soi 7, there was an incident in the complex a couple of weeks back. The version I first heard was that “A black guy had slit the throat of a bartender on Soi 7 and the place was in chaos!” That would be huge news – so why hadn’t I heard about it? That’s because that particular version of events was wildly exaggerated. In Alice Bar, a fellow described as “Indian-looking” had grabbed a knife from the counter and threatened staff in the bar. The 2 security staff on duty went to apprehend the guy who had grabbed the knife (which struck me as surprising as security guards in Thailand have a tendency to run away as soon as things get nasty). A chase ensued, the knife-wielding fellow was caught and a struggle took place. One of the bosses from a bar in the complex saw what was happening. Said bar boss has a background in security in his homeland, and went to assist. The Indian-looking fellow was wriggling around and the bar boss had to use his heft to restrain the fellow and advise him to comply. Whilst restrained, the fellow claimed he had been treated in an American hospital for mental health issues after constantly being called an Arab. As is often seen in local news reports, Thais who were unhappy about what the fellow had done came over to extract retribution, aiming kicks at his head. The police came, arrested him and took him away. Just another day on Sukhumvit!

Shark in Soi Cowboy, along with its sister bar Red Dragon in Nana Plaza (same owners) have been the subject of a lot of reader complaints in recent months. The issues are almost always with lady drinks. Customers have complained about being charged for lady drinks they never ordered. Others have complained about “double lady drinks” where the guy offers a lady a drink and she comes back with two lady drinks instead of one. And a number of you have complained about being charged for lady drinks that were never ordered and as best as you could tell, never came to the table. Things had really got out of hand. This week I finally managed to get the attention of the general manager of Shark and Red Dragon after bombarding him with your emails. To recap a typical email about Shark and Red Dragon, here’s an excerpt from an email run in last week’s column:

Tonight I went to Shark which I have been going to for 15+ years. I sat with a girl who no longer dances. I have known her for over 10 years. I bought her 4 – 5 drinks and had 5 beers myself. When the bill arrived I was charged for 10 lady drinks. The girl I was with knew this was wrong and furiously tried to argue with the other staff but they charged me for all 10 lady drinks.

The italicised text below is Shark’s response. The emphasis in bold is by Shark:

It seems the root issue is a communication gap between our staff and the clients. Here’s a key policy we share with many establishments: If a customer wants to sit with a girl which is dancing on the floor or sit with a hostess, they need to order a minimum of two drinks. This applies every time, even if the lady returns to dancing and the client wishes to continue sitting with her. So, the rule in short: “Pick a lady from the dance floor or a hostess from outside, and it’s a minimum of two drinks every 30 minutes.” We constantly remind our staff and ladies to clearly explain this to clients. However, from my observations, there seem to be challenges in conveying this clearly, possibly due to language barriers, noise, or alcohol.

We admit that it’s our responsibility to ensure our rules are understood by all clients before they place their orders. We’re fully accountable for any misunderstandings.

After reviewing the emails from your readers, we’ve started implementing some changes:

    • We’re updating our menus to include the two-drink rule in bold, aiding our staff in explaining it to customers.
    • We’re also creating large signs and stickers for clear visibility in the bar, ensuring everyone is aware of this policy.


If a lady is sitting in the bar and not dancing, a client needs to pay only for one drink. When she needs to go dance, he can let her dance and wait for just 15 minutes. Or, he can pay for 2 drinks to continue sitting with her without her needing to go dance for the next 30 minutes.

A lady drink is priced at 220 THB, and for 2 lady drinks it’s just double, 440 THB. However, it is possible that this will change during 2024. You will get all the info once the new menus are finished.

I am pleased that Shark replied and applaud the efforts Shark is making to ensure that customers are aware of their policy with lady drinks. I do have reservations, however, about whether ladies will be proactive and explain to customers when a lady drink is in fact a double. Why would a lady tell a customer this when she knows that some customers will balk at the idea of paying for two drinks? And it’s made worse by the fact that double lady drinks are double in name only i.e. you are charged for two drinks but she only consumes one!

It should be noted that the final email in this week’s Emails To Stick section which was a compliant about Red Dragon – again, same owner, same general manager – came through late Wednesday night, Bangkok time. I sent that email to the general manager who responded by saying he would rush the new signage and menus.

Shark and Red Dragon will be busy this week, tackling the aforementioned issues and organising parties. Barbie-mania hasn’t died out in Thailand. Need proof? Drop into Red Dragon or Shark Club this coming Thursday, January 25, for the “Sweet Barbie” edition of the bars’ monthly Full Moon Party. You won’t find Barbie dressed this way at Toys ‘R’ Us, but if you like your dolls in cut-off tops, stockings & garter belts, then you can be Ken for the night. There will be special shows, lucky draws and you can try your luck at the carnival-style darts game to win prizes.

The owners of Angelwitch and the B-52 ladyboy bar a couple doors along have spent the past few months putting money and time in to long-overdue renovations of both bars. The results are said to be great. Angelwitch has a whole new stage, new lights, chrome poles on the bars and new upholstery on all the seating. There are now all-new separate restrooms for men and women (a rare thing in gogo bars) and, between them, a “Golden Shower” where a lady entertains passers by sudsing up and washing down. There’s still a bit more work to do with new lighting behind the bar, but a bar that opened way back in 2001 feels fresh again.

The same upholstery has been installed at B-52, which first opened 15 years ago as DC-10 with the interior made to look like an airliner. It still has the curved walls and long-narrow feel of a 737, but new wallpaper lines the walls, the seat cushions no longer fly up when you stand up and modern lighting now illuminates the stage.

 

Would you?

 

A couple of weeks back I mentioned a Tinder profile for a transgender woman who objected to the term “ladyboy” and asked whether Thailand was going woke. By coincidence, just a few days before that column went up, Digital a-Go-Go encountered this same thing first-hand. He was trying to schedule a photo shoot at one of the ladyboy-bar bars when the (transgender) mamasan said some of the dancers did not want their photos taken because the bar’s Facebook page called it a “ladyboy bar”. Pointing to one of those objecting, the mamasan said, “She’s cut. She’s a lady. She’s not a ladyboy and does not like being called ladyboy.” The word “ladyboy” was subsequently removed from the bar’s Facebook page title.

Baccara doesn’t get a lot of coverage in this column but the wildly successful Soi Cowboy bar is every bit as busy as any bar mentioned in this column. For as long as anyone can remember, Baccara has been a place where, late week, Asian men are all the ladies want and Westerners can almost feel like they’re invisible. But it’s also been true that earlier in the week, especially Mondays and Tuesday, have been “Farang nights” where, with the salarymen working, whitey looks a whole lot better. But things are changing and, these days, “Farang nights” have turned into “India nights”. The number of men from the subcontinent in Baccara early week may exceed that in any other Soi Cowboy gogo bar. Our Indian friends obviously have very good taste – Baccara always has a fabulous line-up of lookers.

Not far from Soi Cowboy, and around the corner from Craft Soi 23, there’s a quiet oasis with an entrance filled with water fountains and lush greenery. Step in the door and you’re greeted by a couple of dozen attractive and willing ladies. They will bring you a cold drink and lead you to a luxury room for a dip in the jacuzzi and a relaxing massage. The oasis is Aya Massage, the sister venue of Daisy Dream Club on Soi 33. Neither are the “rub & tub” massage joints that litter Sukhumvit. Instead, think of Aya (and Daisy) as an upscale spa where the French owners obsess over the details, from the décor to service standards. Learn more on Aya’s website.

Mention you’ve been to Patpong to your typical Sukhumvit barfly and you’ll invariably get asked, “How is Patpong these days?” Many Sukhumvit regulars long ago gave up on Patpong and rarely, if ever, go anymore, especially after universal reports that post-Covid, Patpong was dead. But those who’ve been, even infrequently, will tell you that Patpong is better. Better than a year ago, certainly. No, it’s not Nana busy. Or even Cowboy busy. But the best bars still do good trade with loyal fans. Virgin and Pink Panther get most of the plaudits and I hear Bada Bing being talked up too.

Bada Bing celebrated – quietly – its 14th birthday. Plans for a party have been afoot since December but it may or may not happen. It doesn’t really matter, Bada Bing is a party every night. French-owned with a foreign manager in-house from the moment the girls get on stage for the first song of the night, Bada Bing is well-run. And the quality of the ladies on stage – notably younger than in Nana or Cowboy (and entirely legal age) – are worth stopping by for. Bada Bing is open nightly from 8 PM. There are a couple of ladies from Bada Bing featured in today’s column – like the lady below – and you can find more of the Bada Bing ladies on Facebook, Twitter/X & Instagram.

It looks like we spoke too soon about the departure of Africans openly selling drugs to passersby on the busiest section of Sukhumvit Road. A few of you reported this week that while our African friends may have disappeared for a short while, Africans are back offering blow to you. I guess that’s better than them offering to blow you.

How long has there been a security guard posted outside the Thermae? A friend spotted a security guard there last week checking girls’ bags before they entered. No attention was paid to males entering. How long has this been going on?

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a Thailand gogo bar, now is your chance. A Nana Plaza bar is on the market with an asking price of 15 million baht. You can get full details and financials by contacting BangkokInvestments@gmail.com.

How many Brits own and run gogo bars in Bangkok these days? There was a time when many of Bangkok’s gogo bars were owned and run by Brits. Today, there are precious few Brits operating gogo bars in the capital. Yes, there are many Brits who run gogo bars in Pattaya – but why so few these days in Bangkok?

In recent months I have mentioned construction / renovation work at the Penthouse Hotel in Soi Pattayaland 2. In last week’s column I commented that it’s a property that every naughty boy should experience at least once. I might have spoken out of turn, and for those of you who never experienced the hotel in all its glory, that chance might be gone. Rumour has it that the hotel has new owners from India, and it is believed that the theme of the hotel will be changed to something more attractive to Indians. Does that mean that it’s too late to experience the classic Penthouse Hotel of old?

Eden Gents’ Club in the Tree Town Market is running a great deal and, remarkably, on Saturdays. All day every Saturday, all local beers and standard drinks are 2-for-1. And, no, Eden hasn’t jacked up the prices to cover the discount. You get TWO beers for 90 baht.

Eden, which operates inside the Escape nightclub from 1 – 9 PM before Escape opens, is next door to Bar39, also operated by GentsClubs.com, where all local beers are only 39 baht from 6 – 8 PM daily.

Here’s reader Tim’s latest image from Pattaya. Tim has switched to capturing the farang maidens of Sin City. Tim noted that this photo was taken well away from the beach.

 

Another Reader Tim capture.

 

Phuket has become extremely popular with Russians and further north, parts of Pattaya (Jomtien and Pratumnak Hill) have become Russian enclaves. With so many Russians around, one can’t help but notice that many of the Russian ladies in Thailand are very easy on the eye. The Russians tend to stick to themselves, have their own community, socialise with other Russians and the impression I get is that Russians in Thailand are, for the most part, in relationships with other Russians. Are many Russian ladies involved in a relationship with a Western man? And for that matter, do Russian ladies in Thailand ever hook up with Westerners? I am not talking Russian hookers here – there are always a few floating around – but the 99.99% of Russian women in Thailand who would not dream of working in the world’s oldest profession. In all the time I have known Thailand, I only know one fellow who managed to get a Russian lady in to his bed. He was a good-looking, smooth-talking Aussie who had a fling for a few days with a Russian lady who was on holiday in Pattaya. Many of these Russian women are in great shape and some are genuinely stunning. But they don’t seem to put it out there, so to speak. Do they prefer Russian men? Is it due to a language barrier? Are they as suspicious of Western men as Western men are suspicious of Russians? Are they classy women who don’t spread their legs for any old Chuck, Hans or Dipak? Enquiring minds want to know!

I was intrigued by the email from a reader who explained how a luxury condo rental in Samui didn’t work out and how the Russian owners were not impressed with his complaining and wanted him gone before they had even received payment. Said reader mentioned he will return to Samui when the war in Ukraine is over and the Russians have shipped out. A couple of other readers have intimated they don’t plan to visit Phuket until the Russians leave. I wonder if it’s time for a reality check. Do you really think Russians with money who have spent a year or two or more on Samui or Phuket or some other part of southern Thailand with warm weather year-round, fabulous beaches and tasty, inexpensive food will be eager to head back to the Motherland when the war is over? I imagine many of the Russians who have relocated to Thailand – some of whom are already set up in flash residences and have a long-stay visa – are there to stay. The horse has bolted.

 

The outline of Ko Larn can be seen from the mainland….just! Earlier in the day, not a trace of the island was visible.

 

It’s the time of year when the air quality in much of Thailand (particularly the central region – including Bangkok and Pattaya – and the north) is terrible. There’s been much in the mainstream media about it and despite it being an issue every year, there’s no reason to think it will ever change. Friends in Pattaya have told me that the pollution there is so bad that some days they cannot see Ko Larn at all – see photo above.

If you’ve been away from Thailand for a few years, one of the first things you’ll notice is the sheer number of cannabis stores all over Bangkok. Will they be a permanent fixture? There is much in the media about whether the law regarding recreational cannabis use in Thailand will change. The impression I get – and admittedly, this is based on feedback from the other half’s family, friends and former colleagues – is that the general Thai public is generally not in favour of the current law and would like to see things revert back to how they were. With that said, a whole new industry is up and running. Professional stores have set up, distribution businesses have been built and farmers are making money. It would be a huge decision to revert back to the way things were.

This coming Thursday, January 25, is International Irish Coffee Day (is that really a thing?) and Buddy’s Bar & Grill is putting on the green (and whiskey) for an all-day special in all five of its outlets. Irish coffees are just 90 baht each. No coupon is needed and there is no limit on how many you can buy, although there’s probably a limit to how many you can consume. Lovely drink, but how many Irish coffees could you drink? Consuming a large amount of alcohol and caffeine at the same time could get, errr, interesting! And, no, this is not a dare!

In last week’s column I asked if you anyone had tried the Esaan Kitchen near Sukhumvit soi 18 after a very reliable reader had told me it was consistently busy when he wandered by. One reader mentioned his wife and mother in law – both natives of Isaan – thought it was authentic. The general consensus seems to be that the food is decent and the eatery offers good value for money for the area.

As people increasingly give up cigarettes, or are put in situations where they can’t smoke, Swedish-style snus or non-tobacco nicotine pouches have become the rage, remarkably even among Thais. Long-time Bangkok booze and snus dealer ZippBike has closed down, but was quickly surpassed by a new outfit called Snus Source at the Backyard Bangkok beer garden on Soi 69 in Phra Khanong. Snus Source has a larger selection than ZippBike offered and delivers to all of Bangkok. And, right now Cuba and HIT nicotine pouches are on sale for 10 – 16% off while supplies last. Check out Snus Source’s deals here.

Specialty pizza kitchen Pizza One has opened its second location in Phra Khanong (the other is downtown, on Soi 7/1). Pizza One hand-makes Neapolitan-style pizzas and bakes them one-by-one in a stone-fired oven in its shop on Pridi Soi 2 off Soi 71. Delivery can be ordered directly via its Line channel, Foodpanda or Grab. With its new location, Pizza One now covers On Nut, Udom Suk and Pattanakarn.

Thailand-Related News Articles

The tourism industry is lobbying the government to lift the restrictions on alcohol sales between 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Interestingly, this article says that the restriction was reportedly put in place to stop some government officials from partying and drinking in the afternoon!

Thailand has launched a new tourism campaign to promote a positive image of the country, called “Thais Always Care“.

Is it really news that Thailand has started checking foreigners’ passports on domestic flights?

El cheapo foreigners are arrested for using beach chairs on Pattaya beach while refusing to pay for the service.

Closing Comments

Recent columns have highlighted ongoing issues with lady drinks in various bars. A lot of readers are commenting on this. The way girls in some bars push hard for lady drinks, and the way some try and guilt trip punters in to buying drinks for their friends and the mamasan and then drift away 30 seconds later is not going down well. Next week’s opener will feature in-depth thoughts on the lady drink system in 2024. I have also sought perspective from a long-time gogo bar manager and I highlight how much money some ladies make from lady drink commissions. Preview: It’s a lot! As one mamasan said, “How can your liver survive?” More next week!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com

nana plaza