Latest update on Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy
While closing times are earlier and rules enforced are stricter, nothing stops certain bars to see how far they can go. In this respect we may designate certain bars are market leaders. The latest innovation at Nana Plaza occurred at Pretty Lady, where the counter around the bar stage, is now covered with mirrors. The girls are now dancing with no panties underneath their pliable skirts. As a result customers around the stage, are continuously staring down, trying to get a glimpse of the moving female genital parts on stage. The girls are obviously aware of the visibility of their private parts, and behave accordingly. That is, some girls prefer the midsection of the stage, where they are relatively safe from intruding eyes. Others quite obviously relish the possibility to expose themselves fully. I guess the law or rule governing a go go dancing must state that no nipples or sexual primary organs should be visible in frontal view. But clearly there is no rule about anything being visible or not, when the women are observed from any other angle.
Mirrors on the counter around the barstage, and even on the dancing floor have long been present at Baccara, Soi Cowboy. Only recently though the girls there have started dancing without underwear. So the mostly Japanese clientele there, with an addition of farang voyeurs, have enjoyed similar views at that bar for the last few months. When I last checked out Baccara, the place was packed full. Having more girls working there than before also certainly helps. I noticed some girls from Erotica bar have moved to work at Baccara. This is contrary to the classical move up, where girls working successfully at Soi Cowboy eventually find their way to Nana Plaza. Is this a sign that Soi Cowboy may become more successful than Nana Plaza. Difficult to say, but Baccara and some of the other bars do attract a whole lot of customers at times.
[for maps of Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza, where you can locate these bars, check out the menu on the left, top of page]
Those who have been in Thailand for a while, will know the scene. Despite all the smiles, violence is just below the surface, and it flares up from time to time, also in the nightlife areas. The other night, I just went up the escalator to the second floor on Nana Plaza, to arrive at a scene where someone was being beaten to pulp (and possibly permanent disfigurement) by a whole bunch of people, cheered on by the bargirls. This happened in front of Silver Dragon and Mandarin bar on the second floor. I did not really look at the whole thing, it will cause me sleepless nights, and fled the scene. Our policy in these circumstances is to avoid the bars, whose staff was involved, for a long while. In this case, it looked like the ugly scene originated at Silver Dragon. To be sure, every bar has its male thugs, they are there in case of any problem to offer physical assistance. However, it should be the policy of every bar to discourage blatant violence.
Well, you can read all about the new closing times on our 'update' page. We have just spent our last friday at Nana Plaza before the measures are implemented. The place was moderately busy. We noticed just one banner on the plaza denouncing the new measures. Our favoured bars have not changed a lot. Still going to Pretty Lady (the former Buttoms Up), Rainbow 3, occasionally Angel Witch, Playskool and the other Rainbow bars.
The preparation for the APEC (from 16 to 22 Oct.) meeting is still in full swing. Numerous supports in the newspaper suggest increased security all around Bangkok, people getting arrested, taxidrivers being recruited to spot terrorists who want to fire a missile etc.
The good news is that some bars are still charging the old prices. The Rainbow bars (among the best for years now) still are at their old prices, while Buttoms Up still charges only 100 bath a beer and 75 baht for a soft drink.
Prices have gone up also at Soi Cowboy with prices now for beer at 105-110 baht a drink. Best value there is still Midnite bar with beer at 90 baht. Interestingly shows are in full swing at Soi Cowboy, not clear what that is all about. Complete nudity at bars like Baccara, Long Gun, Midnite, thought possibly not at all times.
The new social crusade is in full swing, in anticipation of the APEC meeting next month. I have never seen these stringent measures before in Bangkok. Granted, Nana Plaza was completely covered up 1-2 years ago, but Soi Cowboy largely escaped that campaign. Now however I think one can not find a single bare nipple or any display of pubic hair, let alone female genitals, in any of the bars at Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy. Last week, I visited Mandarin bar at Nana and discovered that even there the transparent skirts had disappeared and the girls were wearing regular bikini outfits. Thankfully, the girls still are allowed to show their bums, and thongs are not disallowed.
Social order crusade. Now it's war on lewdness, striptease.
Patrons all low-class, miserly, not wanted
by Temsak Traisophon
Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Maleenont has declared war on obscene shows and striptease at entertainment venues across the country.
Mr Pracha said they would face a relentless three-month crackdown.
He said some foreigners would help authorities ferret out those venues providing explicit sex shows and other indecent performances, particularly in Bangkok's nightstrips in Patpong, soi Nana, soi Cowboy and Sutthisan road, and Pattaya in Chon Buri, Koh Samui in Surat Thani, Hat Yai in Songkhla and the southern island resort of Phuket.
Mr Pracha said he was not worried that tighter controls on obscene shows would affect tourism. Tourists visiting places providing indecent shows were of low-quality and Thailand did not welcome such visitors.
``We do not want them here.
``They spend little money and look down on Thai women and Thai people,'' Mr Pracha said.
Mr Pracha, who personally supervises the social order crusade, said he inspected Nana Plaza on Sukhumvit road on Aug 8 and found 27 entertainment outlets were hosting obscene shows.
He gave police and the Klong Toey district office one week to get all operators at Nana Plaza to obey the law.
Mr Pracha said he would also ask the Excise Department to use tax measures to bring traditional massage parlours back into line.
Mr Pracha said some traditional massage establishments were also providing illicit sex services and this could not be allowed.
One consistent change over the last few years has been the increasing numbers of Japanese visitors to the bars at Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. There are a substantial number of resident Japanese citizens, mostly working for local branches of Japanese companies. Furthermore, the number of tourists arriving from Japan has been steadily increasing year on year. Locally employed Japanese seem to mostly middle aged men, while at least the Japanese tourists visiting the bar scene, seem to be rather young. Not that long ago, most Japanese men visiting the nightlife scene, preferred to go to rather exclusive bars that are also quite expensive. However, possibly due to economic circumstances, a lot know seem to prefer visiting Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. While visiting there, they have a preference for certain bars. So you will notice a lot of them in certain bars, while hardly any are present in other locations. All the Rainbow bars at Nana Plaza are well visited by Japanese men. Baccara bar at Soi Cowboy is also a preferred site. This creates important changes in the bars visited. Japanese men are well known to pay and tip the girls more than the average European and American customer. The bar girls have quite rapidly noticed this, and given their attention to them as can be expected.
Just look at the girls when a new batch of Japanese customers enters the bar! The other customers are hardly given a slight glance, and in many cases are quite obviously neglected. Even so, when you want to pick up a girl that is accustomed to Japanese customers, you can be expected to pay more than you are used to, or they will move on. For certain, this has been one of the main reasons why prices of barfines, payments for extracurricular activities have been going up these last few years.
As a positive side effect, the girls working in bars frequented by Japanese customers, are mostly better looking. Just go to the Rainbow bars at Nana Plaza, and you will notice the difference. Fashion has also changed, and the majority of the bargirls working at Rainbow bars, have blonded hair, as apparently preferred by Japanese customers.
This is all just a fair observation. But it is kind of disturbing to those of us who look after their expenses. Quite surely, one can still enjoy the scene and the girls, but if you want to 'date' them, expect to part with a lot of your money.
I think it is about time for some update on the nightlife at Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza. First of all, it looks like at the beginning of April the 'low season' has already started. Just yesterday I visited Nana Plaza (it had been a week or three since I had visited) and noted surprisingly subdued activity at some usually very busy places like Rainbow 2 and Angel Witch. The good thing about this that one gets much more attention from the girls who seem now to outnumber the customers. Traditionally the months December and January with the surrounding months are regarded as the 'high season' for bar activity and tourist arrivals, but the 'low season' seems to have arrived now unduly early. This most probably can be related to the war in Iraq and the arrival of a most disturbing pneumonia virus in South East Asia. While Thailand has been affected (a few deaths have been reported, also among people having recently visited the country), but as far as the public knows, there are few less cases here than in some other places like Hongkong and China. However, the virus has some profound psychological impact, and makes headlines almost every day in the local newspapers. The government has taken some quite aggressive preventive measures which may deter some visitors from arriving. Visitors from South East Asia are required to wear masks for two weeks after arriving, and in the airport one has to pass a healthcheck. So there is a substantial risk that people with even an ordinary cold and fever, will be returned back to their country of origin (this seems to be the policy, though how it would be implemented is less clear). While I did not read European newspapers recently, just from watching BBC broadcasting it is obvious that also overseas this issue is widely reported, and deter visitors to Thailand. Hotel bookings are definitively down already. Since it is a virus, it does not look like there will be medicine available to treat this disease effectively very soon. So hopefully, the quarantine measures implemented in various countries around the region, will contain the virus, and let it die out.
It does not seem the right time to do it, but most of the more popular bars at Soi Cowboy have raised their drink prices. This at least applies to Long Gun, Dollhouse, Suzie Wong. Beer is priced at 105 baht now in these places (just below the 110 standard prevailing at Nana Plaza). Dollhouse has gone a notch higher by pricing its liquor drinks at 115 baht, and taken this into account must be the most expensive bar at Soi Cowboy. Why beer is differently prices from liquor is not clear (most bars carry the same prices for these drinks), but the thinking must be that customers preferring liquor (whiskey in particular) are less price conscious. While the long established bars have raised their prices, the newly opened Sheba's has dared to start of with beer prices at 110 baht nonetheless. This new bar is located in the middle of the soi, in between Afterskool and Black and White. It has as of now no prominent flashing neon light outside, but has an 'Egyptian-styled' architecture at the entry. The girls inside wear (frequently the only thing they wear) some string like headdresses, probably modeled after what is seen in the old 'Cleopatra' movie. The bar has a nicely done interior though, and is built on two floors. There is the now obligatory transparent ceiling, while the central part between the two floors is open, allowing the girls to slide down from the upper section to below. A minus is that there are not that many girls dancing at present, and the quality is not up to standard. The bar is affiliated (same barowners) with Suzie Wong, so the same kind of shows are given, actually with the same girls at both places. Because of the way it is built, this bar has potential, but unfortunately they started off the wrong way by having high drinks prices.
On the issue of prices, Midnite Bar is still the best value at Soi Cowboy with beer prices at 90 baht. Girls are mostly naked and still the most raunchy around Soi Cowboy.
Soi Cowboy is a good place to just stroll around and have a few drinks, not too much being concerned about having to buy out a girl for further leisure activities.