Stickman's Weekly Column February 25th, 2024

The One That Got Away?

 

It’s fun looking back over photos you took in the early days in Thailand. So much has changed. You come across things you had long forgotten about, and there can be snaps that evoke mixed emotions. That’s exactly what happened to me when I was searching through old photos recently, and I ended up deep down a rabbit hole.

I’ve been working on and off on a column opener tentatively titled, Peak Pattaya. Partly as research and partly to illustrate the column, I’ve spent hours going through photos I took between 2008 and 2010. All of the photos I have taken are not sorted by category, rather they are in chronological order. So when I hunt for images from Pattaya between 2008 and 2010, I come across everything else I photographed during that time. Photos of travels in the region. Photo shoots in bars. Photos of old friends, some of whom have passed away. And lots and lots of photos of ex-girlfriends.

He Clinic Bangkok

Spend enough time in Bangkok and you’ll almost certainly have a few girlfriends. I’m a keen photographer and Thai ladies love to be photographed so I have photos of just about every lady I dated. The longer the relationship, the more photos I have of her. I can’t search through the archives without coming across snaps of girlfriends. The 2010 archives feature hundreds of photos of Goy.

Goy and I met just before Songkran, 2010. We’d each recently come out of a long relationship and neither of us was ready to rush in to anything. But things just sort of fell in to place. Within a month we were spending every other night together.

Goy’s easy manner and ready smile made her very photogenic, and she loved to be photographed. Goy’s smile beams wide in almost every shot, eyes bright, joy in her eyes. That’s the way she was, joyful and happy.

CBD Bangkok

I was living in an apartment in Narathiwat soi 10 at the time. One day, all of the residents of the building were given short notice that the building was to be renovated. Everyone had to move out.

I was in two minds about where to go. While I wouldn’t leave Thailand permanently for another 5 years, I was already having thoughts about heading back to New Zealand. Condo hunting was no fun and I didn’t want to commit to a long contract. So when Goy asked me if I wanted to move in with her as a temporary thing, I thought why not?

Goy’s room – and that’s all it was, a room – was the smallest space I’ve lived in. It was perhaps 15 square metres. There was a bed, a table with a small TV, a closet and a dressing table with a mirror and a fan. That was it. There wasn’t room for much else. There was a small balcony with a plastic table and chairs.

The building was down a back soi, about a 10-minute walk from the Onnut BTS station. I hated the area – which at the time was home to more than a few down and out Westerners. The building had less than 30 units, was well-run, kept very tidy and the owners and other residents were remarkably friendly. As the only foreigner, I was a novelty. It was supposed to be temporary and it really shouldn’t have worked, being cramped together in what was a tiny room. But it worked. Less than two months after we had met we were living together, and we were happy.

Goy was in her late 20s when we met. She had graduated from university several years earlier and had just come out of a marriage with a Thai guy who I seem to recall had been her childhood sweetheart. She was your typical Bangkok office girl with an admin job paying 15,000 baht / month. While it wasn’t the reason she invited me to move in with her, I paid the bills which gave Goy a bit of breathing room financially.

wonderland clinic

We’d both come out of long-term relationships and I don’t recall that we ever talked about the future, but we were happy together.

At the same time, I was getting restless. While everything with Goy was great, I was going through a period when I was feeling awfully negative about Thailand. Christmas wasn’t far away and I really didn’t feel like spending it in Bangkok. I wanted to go home.

So one day, on the spur of the moment, I bought a one-way ticket to Auckland for a flight leaving later that day. It was such short notice that I didn’t even get to tell Goy about it in person as she had already left for work. I needed a break from Thailand so I jumped on the skytrain, went to the Thai Airways office and bought a ticket. The flight was that evening.

I called Goy at work and told her I had bought a ticket and was flying out to New Zealand that night.

Goy was fine with it. She knew how I was feeling and that I needed a break from Thailand. I had been making noises about taking a trip back home but even I didn’t expect it would happen quite like that.

I didn’t know how long I would be gone so I left enough cash on the dresser to cover 3 months’ rent. I packed up my stuff, walked to the end of the soi, jumped in a cab and headed for the airport.

Not much more than 24 hours after I had bought the ticket, I was back in my old bedroom in the family home.

Today, as I think back to that incredibly out of character decision to just up and leave like that, I shake my head and wonder. I tend to plan things carefully and be very methodical. That was not my style at all. I went from living with a gorgeous Thai lady who thought the world of me to heading back home to stay with Mum and Dad for a couple of months and hang out with old friends.

Back in Auckland, it was like I had never left. A friend of a friend lent me a car. I caught up with old mates from the neighbourhood, from school, from tech, from my old cricket team as well as old workmates. I hung out with people I hadn’t seen in years. Goy wasn’t a distant memory, but she was no longer front and centre of my mind.

It didn’t help that I had a terrible time getting hold of Goy on the phone. It felt like if it wasn’t this, it was that. First, there was the 6-hour time difference. I couldn’t call her at work as she wasn’t allowed to use her phone there. I called many times but the call would never connect. This went on for days. I became frustrated.

We were emailing each other but that’s not the same as talking on the phone. I write that I had tried many, many times to call her, but I get the impression she doesn’t believe me. It took a while to work out that the phone cards I was using wouldn’t connect to the mobile phone network she used.

There was no LINE back then, and no instant messaging. We were both using crappy old Nokias and there weren’t any of the free calling apps like there are today. Those were the days of MSN Messenger and Skype. Neither of us used the latter. We emailed regularly, each of us frustrated about being unable to connect by telephone. Goy sent me photos of her out after work with her workmates. I sent her photos hanging out with old friends.

The weeks rolled by, and the bond between us weakened. Christmas came around and while I did miss Goy, I was happy to be with family in New Zealand. Goy was alone in Bangkok. And I would learn she was not happy about that.

It was summer in New Zealand. By day, I was going to the beach with old friends and by night we went out and about. We were reliving our late teens and early 20s. I was writing the column and running the site remotely. And as an only child who had been away for more than 12 years – apart from a few short visits – my parents were delighted I was home.

Goy would go to work each day, and return to the room alone. The Christmas / New Year period is a fun time in Thailand. It’s a time of year when a lot of people hook up, even if it’s just for a short period, sharing the holiday period with someone. No-one wants to be alone during holiday periods in Thailand. But that’s how it was for Goy. She was on her own.

Long-distance relationships don’t work at the best of times. Throw in different nationalities and it’s even more challenging.

In early January, a couple of months after I had left, Goy sent me an email saying that she couldn’t go on like this. It was best that we went our separate ways. I think being alone at New Year pushed her over the edge.

I was sorry that things turned out like that. I was honest with her, saying I wasn’t sure when I’d return to Bangkok. I wished her well. And then I forgot about her.

It sounds cold, but I really don’t think I gave Goy another thought. That’s not to say that I had any negative feelings towards her. Quite the contrary, it’s more a case that I don’t think it’s healthy to dwell on relationships that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out.

It wouldn’t be long before I was back in Bangkok. I got New Zealand out of my system quickly and I was keen to get back to Bangkok, find a new condo and get back in to the swing of things. Writing the column from New Zealand was hard work!

I flew back to Bangkok, and settled in to a condo just 15 minutes away from Goy. I started dating, and it wouldn’t be long until I settled in to a relationship with a lady who I am still with today. I hadn’t had any thoughts of rekindling things with Goy, and now that I was in a new relationship, any small chance of that was gone.

Fast forward a few years to 2015 and I left Bangkok, and returned to New Zealand. I brought my girlfriend with me. Life is good and she’s still my girlfriend today.

Have you ever glanced over someone’s shoulder at their email account and noticed they have thousands of unread emails in their inbox? I’ve never understood that. I take email management seriously and clear my inbox several times per day. If someone takes the time to email specifically, I will read that email and respond in a timely manner. Social media, on the other hand, I don’t care for – and most of the posts and notifications are for a wide audience and not for you personally. I don’t use social media often, and notifications of new messages or posts on social media are not something I place any importance on.

I was late to the Facebook party, reluctantly opening an account in 2014. I did so only because I felt I had to. Friends know if they want to get a hold of me, email works best. Or LINE, or an iMessage. Send me a message via LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook? None of my friends do that. So my Facebook notifications look like some people’s email inbox – there are a lot of notifications for goodness knows what. I never look at them and never clear them. Like I say, I don’t take social media seriously and notifications are meaningless.

One day I decided to clear the notifications on Facebook. There was an unread message to me written in Thai from a Facebook account I didn’t recognise. It was not from one of my couple of dozen Facebook friends.

It was from Goy. She’d sent the message way back in 2016, 5 years after we’d last been in contact. I only discovered the message years after she sent it. It was short, inquiring how I was. But I knew Goy and the tone was off. I had the strong impression that Goy was not doing well when she sent it. It was a cry for help. It was 10 years since I had had any contact with Goy and 4 years since she had sent this message. What could I do?

I hit delete. The message disappeared. She’d sent it 4 years earlier. And not for the first time I forgot about Goy.

Fast forward 4 years to the present day.

I’m searching for photos to use in a column about Pattaya and scattered throughout 2010 are batches of photos of Goy. Upstairs in the old Starbucks branch on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 5 where we used to like hanging out after dark and watching the comings and goings on soi 5. Dining in Duke’s, The Londoner, Fuji and other favourite spots back in the day. A weekend away at the beach in Pattaya. Various cafes. Various parks. In Goy’s condo at Onnut. In my old condo at Narathiwat. It’s like I have this detailed photo essay of our entire relationship, almost from start to finish. Hundreds of photos. Beautiful photos, many taken with my favourite low aperture 35 mm lens where Goy is tack sharp and the background is so blurry you wouldn’t know where it was unless you’d taken the photo yourself.

I am struck by the photos of Goy, how attractive she is and how genuinely happy she looks. I come across a 60-second video of Goy chattering away. It sends shivers down my spine.

I recall the Facebook message I had deleted without replying and I feel pangs of guilt. Guilty that I had never seen it when Goy first sent it, and guilty that I had never replied. I log in to Facebook. Of course, the message is long gone.

The photos of Goy show someone genuinely happy. I remember what we had, and I really regret deleting that message. It was a cry for a help….and I didn’t answer it. She may be from the distant past and I might happen to have a very good relationship today, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be willing to help her.

Goy was someone who took responsibility for herself. She never had her hand out. She had way too much pride to ask someone for help. And perhaps that was part of the attraction, for it’s not a quality I have found all that common in the Thai women I dated. But when she needed help, I ignored her. Not good….

I try to get it out of my mind but the guilt burns. I resolve to get in contact with her. She had asked for help what seems like a half a lifetime ago and it’s obviously much too late to help with whatever was going on back then, but the guilt is burning away at me. If nothing else, I want to get in touch with her, say hello, acknowledge the message and apologise for not being there.

I have Goy’s email address. It’s a Hotmail account. Does anyone still use Hotmail? I write a short email. I am not hopeful she will get the email. I send the email. I wait a minute. It doesn’t bounce. That’s a good sign.

After a few days I have not had a reply. There could be any of a number of reasons for that. She doesn’t use that email address any more. The email went to her junk folder. She blocked me all those years ago. She hasn’t checked her email account. She read it and has no wish to respond. I need to try something else.

I have the English transliteration of Goy’s name and search for her on Facebook. Nothing. I try all sorts of variations of her name. Nothing. Even if she was there, would I recognise her today? It’s been 14 years since I saw her. She was in her late 20s when we dated and she’ll now be early 40s. She will have aged. She might look quite different. All it would take is a bit of weight gain and a different hairstyle and I might not recognise her.

I search for her on Google. Nothing. I try various tricks to find any trace of her online. Nothing.

I have many emails from Goy in my inbox from 2010. I didn’t keep them per se, I simply never deleted them. I reread them. Big mistake. I should not have done that. The emails match the hundreds of images I have of a smiling, joyful Goy. She was very much in love.

It was a short relationship – 6 months from start to finish – but it was a good one. She really was a darling.

I start to wonder if it was a case of right girl, wrong time. Was she the one that got away? If I’d met her a year later, things would likely have been very different, and I would not have taken off to New Zealand.

We were a “we” so very long ago. You can’t dwell on the past and besides, life is very good now. I have no regrets the way things have worked out. But I still feel like shit for failing to respond to her message. There’s no doubt in my mind that she reached out because she was doing it tough. And I didn’t respond. That’s not something I am proud of.

It’s been 8 years since Goy sent me that message on Facebook, but I am determined to get in contact with her. It sounds crazy, but I just want to know that she is ok. And perhaps deep down, by reaching out I will absolve myself of some of the guilt of failing to respond to that message at the time.

I try every trick I know to track her down online, using her name and her email address. The email address is old, and Thai names are problematic. Thais change their name for the most innocuous reasons. Some change their name multiple times. I only have her name written in English, but even with that there is no certainty how it would be transliterated in to Thai. I search high and low, across all the major social media platforms. Nothing.

I exhaust almost all avenues. I am running out of ideas. I decide to have a poke around Facebook. I hate the platform, and loathe the owner. I only have a Facebook account to keep in contact with some old friends from Thailand who have returned to their respective homelands, and to check whether favourite restaurants are open over holiday periods.

Poking around, I find an option to download my entire Facebook history. Could this recover old messages? Let’s find out. A few clicks later and I am told to wait. I soon receive a notification with my very short Facebook history. I open it up and there in the messages is the original message from Goy. And, crucially, I now have her Facebook account name.

I click on her Facebook account. The privacy settings do not allow anyone not on her friends list to see much at all. There is one post open to non-friends, featuring a photo of Goy in silhouette at night. She is a tiny figure at ground level surrounded by many high-rise buildings. She’s wrapped up in a coat or jacket which makes it look cold. I’m pretty sure it’s not Bangkok. It looks like an Asian metropolis. Skyscrapers and cold weather clothing makes me think that perhaps it’s China. Or could it be Taiwan or Korea or Japan?

Goy had a look that Asian men like. Had she ended up elsewhere in the region with a local man? That would make sense.

I can’t see anything else but I can send her a message. So I write a short note. I apologise for taking 8 years to reply and say I just want to check in, and say hi.

Shortly afterwards, the message is read. But Goy does not reply. Instead, I am blocked!

So it’s good news, and bad. It seems that Goy is still in the land of the living. She has read the message, but she doesn’t wish to respond, and she doesn’t wish to have any contact with me. It’s a tad disappointing and an anti-climax, but if that is how she feels, fair enough. I have to respect that. It would have been nice to hear how she is but some things are best left in the past. I have good memories. A wrong move now could sour those memories.

Project Goy is disbanded.

A few days later I log in to Facebook. Has Goy had a change of heart and replied. No, she hasn’t. But, she has unblocked me. I fire off a quick message. I get a notification that she has read it. She is online. She replies. We start chatting.

I explain that the reason for getting in contact concerns the message she sent 8 years previously. I explain that I hardly use Facebook, hence the ridiculously long time I took to respond. She laughs it off. We each apologise to each other for what happened 14 years ago when the relationship broke down.

She asks me if I am still in Bangkok. No, I’m in New Zealand.

“Where in New Zealand?”, she asks.

It’s an odd question. Why would she ask where in New Zealand I am, especially as most Thais only know one city in New Zealand. Sydney!

It’s morning here in New Zealand. That means it’s the middle of the night in Thailand. And she is asking me where I am in New Zealand. Why would she do that? I think I know the answer…

Where are you?, I ask.

She replies with a photo. It’s a monument in central Auckland. She’s in New Zealand.

We chat via Facebook Messenger for a short while. We talk about what happened 14 years ago. She wanted to wait for me to return to Thailand but a Thai male friend put it in her head that I wasn’t coming back. She started a relationship with him. It didn’t last and she ended up with another Thai man. She fell pregnant, had a baby, that guy didn’t support her so she left him and for a long, long time she was a single mum. She met a Kiwi guy and a few months ago she moved to New Zealand to start a new life. She’s happy in New Zealand and plans to stay. She got her Kiwi prince after all.

I’m tempted to ask her if she’d like to meet up for a coffee when I’m up in Auckland next, but it doesn’t feel right. She’s in that golden period, the first year in a new country and it wouldn’t be fair to her, or respectful to her new beau. I’m curious about how she ended up in New Zealand but I think better of asking her more about it. I cut the chat short, deciding it’s best to keep a distance.

I’ve done what I set out to do. I managed to get in contact with her, established that she is ok, apologised for the past, and also for failing to respond to a message she sent in what I think was a time of need. The guilt is gone.

Goy gives me her new email address and a few days later I send her some tips for a Thai lady new to New Zealand. She replies, and mentions that if I have any other advice for her that I should let her know. Is she leaving the door open? Hmmm…

I have to admit to myself that I went deep down a rabbit hole. Seeing old photos of Goy brought back fond memories. I remember Goy as she was and how she looked back then. Today, she may well be very different.

I’m happy in my current relationship. And I hope that Goy is happy too. Sometimes it’s best not to dwell too much on the past, lest feelings get mixed up and you become confused. Asking yourself if a past flame was the one who got away is probably not a good idea. There were reasons you did what you did at the time. The past should be left in the past.

Auckland is a big city and the Thai community isn’t small. With that said, it often feels like everyone knows everyone in the Thai community. We don’t get back to Auckland so often these days but when we do, we usually go out with Thai friends. Might I bump in to Goy? You just never know….

 

 

Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken of JLK Tower, the recently completed building on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 7. This week’s shot is not too tricky if you have wandered around Bangkok. If you’ve stuck with the nightlife areas and main tourist areas, you might not have seen it. That said, it’s not far from one nightlife area.

 

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

Sin City these days.

Reading about how busy Pattaya is, I don’t know about anywhere else but Soi Buakhao from the Lengkee / Diana cross-road to the soi leading to New Plaza is still very lively. I just can’t get my head around how many Western couples you see. Lots of Scandinavian couples it seems. But surprisingly, lots of British men with their white partners. Tattooed, chain-smoking, beer-swilling, old boilers. This was unheard of a few years ago! I had the misfortune to go to soi 6 last week. A mate of mine’s wife sort of runs a bar there. I was gob-smacked to see Russian families with young kids walking the ol’ half dozen! What next? That’s Sin City these days.

Is the naughty boy rush hour behind us?

What of the changing Pattaya and the Stickman readership? I have a feeling that naughty boy rush hour is behind us. It’s not that the bars are empty – certainly not – but I get the strong impression that it’s a step down compared to when I was last in town. The naughty boys have become a minority here in Pattaya. The classic naughty boy high season always marked the Pattaya high season in the past, but nowadays, with the change in visitors, things have overall changed. I think this will be the pattern going forward. High season will be more spread out, from the end of the rainy season through to the arrival of the hot season in April. Last year there were signs of this already, and I think this year will confirm that.

Never waste a good crisis!

While Pattaya is still swinging right now, and the future looks bright, the mystery remains of the spaces that haven’t re-opened, like a handful of gogo bars in prime locations and even some hotels. It’s not just the Eastiny Group hotels that haven’t reopened, there are a few others that, despite being built not that long ago, remain closed. It can’t be because of a lack of guests, so what is it? Can’t get the staff to open? Company went bankrupt? If it’s the latter, you would expect others would jump in. My own experience is that during or right after a crisis is by far the best moment to jump in. Never waste a good crisis! I have no plans whatsoever to do any business here, but if I did I would have jumped in these past 2 years. So why are there places still closed? It doesn’t make sense and I can’t figure that one out.

Sexy Night Fan Club.

I loved your mention of Sexy Night. In addition to all the comments, with which I concur, I’d add that the customers are always great too, usually ultra-friendly, and I’ve bought many drinks for them (and vice-versa) as we have a great time. Likely it’s because I’m 71 now (sheesh, how did THAT happen?), I prefer the easy ambiance of older women. 21-year-olds just don’t do it for me. It’s been my go-to bar in Bangkok ever since DC 10 changed its orientation. When I go to Sexy Night, it really feels like home.

More Readers’ Emails

Predilection for Korean men, the reality.

I was a bit bemused about your discussing how Korean men are in vogue with Thai women at the moment. Korea is probably the most misogynistic culture in all of East Asia. Korean society has some deep problems around how women are treated, and the backlash to this treatment has permeated into the political realm. Suffice to say, many Korean men treat women like shit. The current predilection by Thai women for Korean men is of course based on a fantasy driven by all forms of media; many Thai women probably wouldn’t be pleased when confronted with the reality. My bemusement arises from the irony here, given Thailand is a place where foreign men have fantasies about Thai women driven by all forms of media! It’s a phenomena that goes both ways.

Understanding different cultures.

Most nationalities have certain characteristics when you meet them in bars. Much has been said, often with accurate assessments. An odd experience happened with a cashed-up Middle Eastern guy in Nana Plaza. It was his first visit to Bangkok. He was polite and asked me about the ropes. I explained the basics. After a while I told him I was leaving the bar. “Where do we go now, and what are our plans for tomorrow?” was his immediate reaction. I successfully excused myself and wondered if it was a cultural thing or if he was hitting on me?

Why are flying clubs only found in Thailand?

All these members of the Flying Club seem to gravitate to Thailand for some reason. How many times do we read of people falling from balconies back home? I can’t remember ever reading of it happening there. It certainly isn’t a weekly occurrence as it is in Thailand.

To each his own.

I expect you’ve thought of it already but that’s surely this is a good time for you to re-post the excellent interview you did of some ladyboys years ago when you interviewed them respectfully in Thai and asked what ‘action’ their clients wanted, when they said they weren’t ‘cut’. One said “80% of clients want us to penetrate them” and another leaned in and said “That’s not true! – it’s 90%” LOL! So all those ‘alpha’ guys boasting about ‘banging ladyboys’ are much more likely taking it up the bum. Haha! I tell that statistic a lot to those acquaintances who claim to bang ladyboys. à chacun son goût, and I’m not judging. It’s definitely not for me though.

The two-drink policy.

Do those errant bars with a two-drink policy still have ‘a clock on each table’ to time how long you spend between buying drinks? I still question the management who previously thought it was okay to put two drinks into one glass and not know that customers would question why they had one glass but were paying for two drinks. How could they possibly not know that would cause conflict? How? It really doesn’t take any imagination at all, does it? And what other business says if you want to buy one you have to buy two? Ridiculous. Plenty of other choice of bars where if you want one you buy one, and are not forced to buy two at the same time. Why do these bars think they are so special? They aren’t. To me, such tactics are a sign of desperation as business needs boosting by any means. <Absolutely fair comments, but it should be noted the bars are booming and desperation is definitely not part of the equation. It’s simply a demand and supply thing!Stick>

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

Is this current high season the best ever? In Bangkok, business has been described by many as incredible. Some business owners tell me that in all the time they have been in business in Bangkok, they have never known trade to remain at such high numbers for so long. These are restaurant + bar type venues and not the naughty bars per se. A couple of gogo bar owners also tell me that trade has been amazing, has sustained at a high level for a long time and the peak of high season has run much longer than expected.

But has high season finally topped out? Reports from bar managers and regular customers alike on Soi Cowboy said the bloom was definitely off the rose this week, Tuesday in Nana Plaza got off to a slow start, with early hours feeling almost low-seasonish. Wednesday was surprisingly slow up and down the Neon Alley. Even Crazy House had plenty of open seats during prime time. Other bars were even less crazy. Thursday in Patpong was said to be ok, but managers there also said it felt like things had slowed appreciably this past week.

Friday, however, was another story, with Nana Plaza transformed into a madhouse, shoulder to shoulder on stairs and in hallways. Shocked text messages from managers streamed out of the plaza after 11 PM on a night where the Plaza closed at midnight, saying how crazy busy it was in nearly every bar. This was to be expected with all bars closed on Saturday.

With bars closed yesterday for a Buddhist holiday, doors open again tonight and Red Dragon & Mandarin in Nana and Shark Club on Soi Cowboy will host their monthly Full Moon Party. The girls should be rested up and raring to go from 8 PM with sexy neon getups (whatever they are?), body paint and games.

But not quite every bar was closed yesterday. Part of Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 didn’t close like everywhere else and was rammed with customers. It may have been a Buddhist holiday but they didn’t get the memo or they brazenly didn’t care or the venue is owned by the you-know-who!

Eager punters were five deep on the pavement outside the Thermae just before midnight on Saturday night as Sukhumvit’s best-known freelancer venue opened for just a couple of hours, from midnight Saturday through until, presumably, 2:00 AM Sunday morning. The photo below from a reader shows hordes of punters waiting for the clock to strike 12:00! Most of them seem to be Asian men. Is one night away from the birds and booze unthinkable for some?!

 

Last night: waiting for the Thermae to open at midnight.

 

After months of delays, Nana Plaza’s newest bar, Lace Lounge, is ready and should be open by the time next week’s column comes around. Management actually said Lace – upstairs from Tycoon – would open its doors this coming Tuesday, February 27, but has since backed off the idea. They’re now eyeing this coming Friday, March 1. The official date will be announced on Tycoon’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels.

So what is Lace Lounge? It’s going to be Nana’s first “hidden bar”, a concept that is all the rage in non-red-light nightlife these days in Bangkok. Basically, it’s a dark, casual speakeasy accessible via only a small, steep stairway just to the right of Tycoon’s doors or through an inconspicuous door and other staircase inside Tycoon. Once inside, customers will be met with a smallish space with big, plush, soft sofas, red lighting and lots of shadows. Lace is more about mingling and getting cosy than dancing, although there is a small stage where two or three ladies will do the chrome pole shuffle. The bar will be stocked with higher-end spirits than downstairs and will serve “proper cocktails”. Ladies will dress in provocative lingerie rather than bikinis, and a smoking lounge outside will keep the cigarettes away from the sofas, custom-made Monopoly-themed paintings on the walls and non-smokers. (The smoke in the photos Digital a-Go-Go shot this past Friday night – see photo below – are vape fumes from ladies waiting their turn in front of the camera.)

Down in Pattaya, trade is still booming. Bangkok’s high season has been great, while those in Pattaya tell me this year’s high season has been at another level. You can choose your superlative. Some say it might just be Pattaya’s best high season ever. I haven’t seen any visitor statistics to measure it but word is that most business owners are beyond happy.

What makes this incredible high season even more amazing is that the Chinese have not returned to Thailand in big numbers. Their numbers are increasing, though – which adds fuel to the idea that visitor numbers are going to continue to be crazy high for some time to come in Sin City…..or will it soon be Sino City?

The slow, almost imperceptible transformation of Pattaya away from the nightlife towards a more mainstream model is nothing new. This has been the trend for around a decade and a half and counting. But the rate at which things are moving surely means that the Sin City moniker really is not that appropriate these days.

Still in Pattaya, Soi 6 was for a long time a down-market, decrepit soi well away from where the mainstream visitors strolled. It was a sneak-away place where expats in committed relationships could dash away for a bit of variety by afternoon and be home in time for dinner. But as Pattaya changes, even Naughty Boy Lane is moving more upmarket with bars that are fancier, girls that are slimmer and with that there’s an entirely new face to the customer base. The question that has to be asked is what came first: was it the East Asian customers or the slim, sexy girls? While some will tell me I am wrong, I don’t think Soi 6 ever had a great selection of ladies. Sure, there was always a diamond in the rough but some of the rough were really, really rough! The best lookers have always gravitated to bars with a chrome pole but these days I am told there are a lot of very decent looking ladies on Soi 6.

With all of this in mind, where does the Nightwish Group fit in these days? The British-owned and operated group of bars totally dominated soi 6 for a number of years. It’s still the biggest player but it doesn’t have the same number of bars today as it once had.

Up the road in Walking Street, some like to scoff at some of the most popular gogo bars like Pin Up and XS, both of which attract a lot of men from East Asia. This demographic is often favoured by the ladies and these two bars are known for pricey drinks and even pricier (and choosier) ladies. It’s time for a reality check. These two bars each have a happy hour where you can get Tiger Draft for 95 baht. You can’t complain at that price.

 

Comfy seating in Dollhouse.

 

Back in Bangkok, the Dollhouse anniversary party held last week was a huge success. And the bar finally got new seat covers, which were said to be very much-needed!

I notice more gogo bars refer to themselves as “clubs” these days. What’s that about? Is this some sort of marketing puffery? Whenever I hear the owner / manager / marketing team refer to a gogo bar as “a club”, my bullshit meter starts beeping and whatever follows I take with a generous grain of salt.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Nana Hotel has a short-time facility on the second-floor, and commented that it should do well due to the surprising lack of short-time hotels in the soi. It can be confirmed that the short-time rooms are not operated by Nana Hotel per se. An outsider has rented rooms in the hotel and is hiring them out on a short-term basis. It’s a very unusual situation but it’s a win : win for everyone.

An update on the pavement running up Sukhumvit soi 23. Tiles have been laid down to Crazy House’s door, meaning drunk patrons exiting no longer risk a turned ankle stumbling into the hole left by the BMA. Progress.

2024, of course, is a leap year and the new(ish) District B at Backyard 69 in Phra Khanong is doing a Leap Day Special that you won’t see for another four years, if ever. For one day only, the bar – set in the Backyard Bangkok community garden/food court off Soi 69 – every beer, wine, cider and soft drink on the menu will be half-price, all day long. (Bottles of wine are 20% off daily through February 29, as well.) District 69 doesn’t serve food, but you can keep the drinking going by pigging out on sharing platters from Basketcase, burgers from Goodburg’s and Mexican from Sunrise Tacos.

I hear some ladyboys are making out to punters that they are genuine ladies. This is something of a surprise. Many years ago I interviewed a few groups of ladyboys which ran as a column opener. One of the many things I learned from that interview was that ladyboys are always upfront about what they are – a ladyboy. They are not a lady. They are not a man. They are different. I was told multiple times how there have been many incidents over the years where a ladyboy has been brutally assaulted by a guy who (claims to have) thought she was a real lady. That’s why most ladyboys are actually straight up (is that the right term?!) with customers and tell them that they are a ladyboy. I guess this is why some ladyboys make that odd claim, “I have a big cock!” A few recent reports suggest there are ladyboys who are making out they are ladies. Given what I learned in the past, I wonder what has changed?

If you’re going to be in Pattaya just after Songkran, you might want to make a note that former porn star Nong Nat will perform at Play Girlz, on Soi Boomerang, towards the end of April. It will be some time around April 21, 22, 23 – exact date not known but you could check with the bar to confirm. Nong Nat is a very attractive Thai lady who came to fame 20 odd years ago after appearing in a number of adult movies. She went on to work in various establishments before marrying, and later divorcing, a wealthy American. Some years ago the Daily Mail featured Nong Nat.

In my early days in Bangkok, there were signs in the Thai script in some bars stating that you had to leave your guns at the door. It was always in Thai text and I don’t ever recall seeing such a sign written in English. I am told that in the mid- to late-80s, bars in Nana Plaza had signs with this message. I haven’t been to any Thai nightspots in a very long time so I have no idea if such signage exists today. That said, I don’t remember seeing such a sign for perhaps 20 years. The closest I’ve seen in more recent times is signs saying “No weapons”. You see that written in Thai outside the odd bar in areas popular with foreigners. Apparently back in the day, you actually saw the weapons stacked at reception (in some sort of rack?), something which I can’t say I ever personally saw anywhere.

Speaking of signage, was Bangkok MILFs the worst name for a bar? Bangkok MILFs as a concept was great – but there was something about the name I found crass. If you were like me and didn’t know what a “MILF” was, it’s a porn industry term for mothers I’d like to fxxx. It’s all a moot point, of course, the bar did not last very long. Out of curiosity, can you remember when Bangkok MILFs was open? The answer is a little further down….but take a guess first at which year the bar was open before you scroll down.

 

Bangkok MILFS, Nana Plaza. I always thought it was a terrible name for a bar. It didn’t last very long.

 

Last week’s column featured an email from a reader complaining about taxis and how he couldn’t get a single driver to turn on the meter. Yes, some taxi drivers are shysters but I think I was remiss in not adding a comment to that email so here goes. The only place where I have consistently found drivers reluctant to turn on the meter is Sukhumvit Road between Asoke and Nana. The worst spot is near the Nana intersection. I imagine it would be similarly bad around Patpong and also out by Khao San Road and the Grand Palace i.e. major tourist areas. But elsewhere, honestly, I almost never had a problem when I was last in town. And even if you do have a taxi driver who refuses to turn the meter on, most of the time you can just get the next one. It’s mostly a tourist area thing. Let’s not forget that the driver has to return the taxi to base at a certain time. Your journey may take him sufficiently far away from base that makes getting back there on time impossible. In other words, there is often a decent reason why a driver refuses a ride.

I love the frank, no-nonsense, total disregard for woke BS attitude that Thais bring to the table. This week, someone posted a breakdown of New Zealand crime statistics on the local Thai Facebook group. Certain types of crime were highlighted along with a breakdown of the perpetrators by ethnicity. The statistics clearly show that indigenous people are disproportionately represented as the major perpetrators of many serious crimes. There were no racist comments made nor anything untoward commented on. It was simply a matter of fact presentation of the current state of crime in New Zealand. Not one person in the Thai community group protested that it was not fair to post such information. If this had been posted to pretty much any English language forum or social media, there would have been an outcry. One thing I really like about Thailand and Thai people in general is the way they can be very matter of fact about things. In an increasingly woke world, this is very refreshing!

The answer to the question I posed about the year when Bangkok MILFs was open is 2016.

Thailand-Related News Articles

In Phuket, a Brit is stabbed by a ladyboy after a fight with 3 ladyboys in his condo after there was a dispute over the agreed price.

The hot season has officially begun in Thailand with some areas expected to reach well over 40C this high season.

An American who wrote a scathing review of a hotel in Ko Chang avoids jail time for said review.

Thai police crack down again on drug sellers in the Sukhumvit area.

Season 3 of the hit TV show The White Lotus is to be filmed in Thailand.

An Irishman said to be head of a criminal syndicate in his homeland is hiding out in Thailand.

Closing Comments

Airfares to Bangkok are still bouncing around a bit but they’re a good deal lower than they were at the same time last year. I’ve yet to buy tickets but hope to be back soon, not long after Songkran with a bit of luck. It will be interesting to see how business is then, given how everyone has been raving about the high season. While the peak might finally have passed in Bangkok, they tell me things are still rocking on in Pattaya. Personally, I hope that things do ease off a bit by the time I get back – high season crowds are not my idea of fun. I much prefer it when it’s quiet.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com

 

 

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