A Tale Of Two Citys

Although I don’t like sounding negative, it has been yet another quiet month for many bar bosses around Bangkok and from what I have seen myself and heard from my “ravers” things haven’t been much better in Pattaya either. To add fuel to the fire, there is more heat on the gogo bars from the MIB (Men In Brown), this is especially the case down in Sin City.

Where did all the big spenders go? This seems to be a question many bar owners are asking themselves. Do we sing Simply Red’s “Money’s Too Tight To Mention” as an appropriate phrase?! The clot plot thickens, as a number of folks find themselves with less and less disposable income.

When I ran Angelwitch GoGo Bar several years ago, we regularly had customers running up chunky bills, without even batting a eyelid. These days it seems people are much more careful about spending their money and are also looking for better bang-for-baht. Which begs the question; are gogo bars still offering good value for money? The dreaded coyote curse (agency dancers) has upset many a sexpat, with a number of bars and especially, bar girls pricing themselves out of the market. In fact, as an example of this, the Stumble Inn Group have already steered themselves in the direction of the more profitable beer bars.

However, as a former bar manager, I have witnessed a considerable drop in the “spender gender” with the cash-constipated clan, trying to make you believe they are down to  their last dollar. I say this in defense of the bars. The times I have seen a major debate (as though it’s a life, or death decision), whether they should order a drink, or not. These frugal folks need to be reminded that these are bars and not museums. There are a number of time-wasters out there. Another point is you can’t blame the bars for everything, which includes certain piss poor foreign currencies that struggle against a strong Thai baht.

My mate Toby was at a Bangkok gogo bar the other night and it was very quiet. There was just a few girls doing the skytrain shuffle on stage, staring into oblivion. Toby had a couple of Johnnie Walker Black’s and bought one gogo girl a lady drink – the bill was already 1,000 baht. I would advise you to ask what the drink prices are before you get stung!

Besides Thailand, is this becoming a universal problem? Back in Britain, the pubs and clubs are closing at an alarming rate, because people just can’t afford to drink in pubs and clubs anymore. If they want to sink some amber nectar, they often buy cheap booze from Supermarkets and drink at home. All of the nightclubs in my home town are closed down and people are forced to travel miles to enjoy clubland.

Meanwhile, back in Bangkok! There’s another part of this vast, sprawling metropolis that is booming. Welcome to clubland! I mention this, because this week the mega popular Insanity Nightclub is moving to Sukhumvit, Soi 11, which has become clubbers central. This “Insanity Gravity” will only strengthen Soi 11 as the main club hub in this inimitable city.

I have not seen the inside of Insanity Nightclub yet (located next to the former Q Bar), but I do know a ton of money has been spent on making it state of the art. Before I forget, the Opening Night this Thursday, June 29th. 

It seems money is definitely rolling into the clubs and this seems to be a BIG shift from many moons ago, when clubs were very limited in Bangkok. I remember Thailand in the 1980’s with two of the most famous being Marine Disco in Pattaya and Angels Disco (Nana Hotel), which is now EQ Late Night Club. Things have really come a long way and this is indeed a very positive aspect of Bangkok’s nightlife.

The Castle Fetish Club in Pattaya opens a men only fetish club on July 1st. It is located next door and it is called Sodom.   When you go there just make sure you go through the right door, or you might be in for a bit of surprise. Sounds like a good prank for a stag night to me  🙂

Mercury GoGo Bar (Middle Floor Nana Plaza) is undergoing renovations. It turns a shade of pink on July 1st, as it reopens as Mercury Ladyboy Bar.

strip bar bangkok


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13 Responses to “A Tale Of Two Citys”

  1. steven says:

    Might I respectfully suggest another factor? The go-go and beer bar concepts (in their Nana/Cowboy/Patpong form) are increasingly becoming dated. They are an expat and farang staple of yesteryear. Sukhumvit is no longer the nightly place to be and soi 11 is most certainly not the epicenter of clubbing in Bangkok.
    I do say this with the best intentions and without any hidden agenda, bitterness or intent to troll.

  2. Well Steven, if Sukhumvit Soi 11 is most certainly not Bangkok’s club hub, then what location is club central? Bearing in mind, we are talking about nightclubs for foreigners. The Ratchada and RCA nightclubs are specifically for Thai people.

  3. dave202 says:

    Interesting article. Totally agree it’s not just a Thailand thing. Pubs and bars in the UK aren’t faring any better.

    Prices do matter, it’s not about the overall spent but the bang for the buck (pun intended).

    I wonder about bar identity in bangkok. Those bars trying to do too many things but doing none of them well. I wish more bars would pick a format then just try to be the best they can be at that format.

  4. Phil Beer says:

    Sukhumvit soi 11 certainly isn’t the nightclub hub of Bangkok but offers a wide range of entertainment…best Soi in Bangkok.

  5. @dave202 – The best beer bars operate with a simple, winning formula of booze ‘n’ babes, combined with good management and satisfactory service standards. This is clearly represented by the increasing popularity of beer bars, compared to a number of gogo bars. The reasons why certain gogo bars struggle is due to higher running costs, a lack of creativity and poor management. The gogo bars in Bangkok have been in operation since 1967 – more than enough time to learn how to be successful. It’s not rocket science!

  6. @ Phil Beer – What location is Bangkok’s club central then?

  7. Foreigners are increasingly finding their way to RCA and venues like Glow. With the growing popularity of EDM in Thailand, farang and local tastes are overlapping. Techno is on the move as well, and don’t tell me that headliners like Sven Väth, Dubfire, Sasha and Set Troxler are just hoping to attract Thai clubbers. Thai DJ Nakadia was signed to Cocoon last year. The truth is that Bangkok will no longer need farang-specific clubbing venues within the decade to come. What I have seen on soi 11 (which does not include the new Insanity) is just not good enough for this decade. Additionally, if the go-go scene does not raise it’s standards (which I do think they will) the will become a true niche industry. Again: I love to discuss trends in nightlife, and do not intend this to come across as trolling. It is my honest opinion, based on experience.

  8. Toby says:

    Nice article Dave I would have said “Clubland booms while bar land glooms.”
    Clearly there is a shift and one guy made a good point which is that clubs overlap with Thais and therefore have a broader appeal. Also gogo bars aren’t cheap any more. There are just a handful that seem to be busy – Bacarra, Billboard, Spankys, Kings 1 and Crazy House. You will remember well when there were no seats in any bar after 9:00 PM and that was just a few years back. Soi 11 have how many nightclubs on it? More than any other street I think.

  9. Graham says:

    When I hit the Plaza – I would often spend 50k+ in an evening. If you’re having fun, it’s easy to spend.

    Nowadays, I just don’t feel the fun. The attitudes have changed (of the girls) and the hard-sell seems more evident.

    As Steven above mentions – the bars are becoming increasingly dated. It takes more than a new sign and some colored light-bulbs to freshen a place up.

    And what is with girls now – that when you buy them a drink.. it’s now a Tequila AND coke – being 2 drinks. And will I buy the Mamasan a drink? They can bugger off!

  10. @ Graham – I agree, those were the good old days. Nowadays, there is a lack of value for money in a lot of gogo bars. The fact is the best gogo bars are becoming more and more in the minority. Times have certainly changed.

    @ Toby – You make some good observations and I know you have been here for over 30 years. With Insanity Nightclub moving into Soi 11 I bet it will make a considerable impact. Insanity is a BIG nightclub and even on Sukhumvit Soi 12 they used to be packed to capacity. Only time will tell, but I predict that Insanity Nightclub will be a very popular addition to the Soi 11 nightclub scene 🙂

  11. Mr Jones says:

    Soi 11 has nothing but overpriced bars with an identity crisis. Are they for freelancers? Are they for clubbing? I don’t know if those in charge even know.

    As for gogo bars in Bangkok, the horse has already bolted. Big spending visitors prefer London or New York or the like. The prices have reached a point that is beyond many expats and it’s just not worth flying around the world to be met with high prices and bad attitudes. You can get a girl in much of the Western world for less money now than in the past. Bangkok is stuck in the past.

  12. Joe says:

    Interesting thoughts – these bars aren’t museums however when you want to charge overseas prices then you need to lift your game! Too often the bars response is to ‘up the prices’. Again not my fault that people don’t frequent the bar. Also – those of us who do NOT drink alcohol get stitched. I pay 170 baht for a 7 baht bottle if water. I understand the idea of profit but cap it at maybe 100 baht fo soft drinks. I’m more than happy to buy lady drinks but not outrageous prices for water or coke!

  13. Limpy says:

    @Mr. Jones…I don’t know of any western women who will service you for less than 200 a pop and more like 300. And that’s with attitude. The best price in the western side is Tijuana at 60 US plus 14 for the room but that’s only for 30 min. If price is strictly the issue..I like PH for the bang. Inflation is a real issue. As we age the prices will eventually have to go up. That’s inevitable…

    Hey Dave..Remember me?

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