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Bye-Bye Mr. Nana (from Stickman April 12, 2020)

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  • Bye-Bye Mr. Nana (from Stickman April 12, 2020)

    Stickman's April 12, 2020 column was an interesting goodbye to "Mr. Nana" aka Dave the Rave, one of the last and most successful farang bar manager's from the Thai nightlife scene.

    Former gogo bar manager, nightlife website operator, Nana Plaza personality and friend to many, Dave The Rave announced this week that he is leaving Thailand for good. After living and working in the heart of Bangkok for more than 20 years, Dave has come to the end of the road.

    Dave and I first met almost 20 years ago. A Canadian friend and I were goofing around in Hollywood on the top floor of Nana, teasing service staff about what a rip-off we thought the 10,000 baht permanent barfine was. It was a con, of course, a 10,000 baht fee usually split between the mamasan and the girl. We pissed some staff off, Dave got wind of what we were up to, came over and his first words were, “You’re Stickman, right?” It would be the beginning of a long friendship.

    Dave is known to many as Dave The Rave, but perhaps he should have been called “Mr. Nana”. Most of Dave’s life in Bangkok has been on Soi Nana. He worked in various bars and in various roles in Nana Plaza. And he lived in the soi too. For weeks, sometimes months even, Dave hardly ever left Soi Nana. Everything he needed was right there.

    Dave has seen the bar industry change massively over the years. He can remember when bar managers were well-paid and bargirls weren’t, quite the opposite to how things are today.

    There was a time when gogo bar managers earned a respectable salary. Many would take home per month about the same as an international school teacher. 15 years ago the bar biz was booming and Dave frequently made over 100,000 baht / month. With a salary like that back then, he never wanted for anything. He lived in an enormous condo of around 200 square metres down the end of Soi Nana. He had a great life, being paid a decent salary to look after a party every night.

    Dave was at the helm of some of the best gogo bars in the plaza at a time they had a claim to be the very best in town. Pretty Lady in the late ‘90s. Dave was the manager. The Hollywood bars on the top floor in the early to mid 2000s. Dave was the man. Angelwitch around the period of the GFC. Dave was Matt’s faithful lieutenant. Each of those bars was arguably the best bar in the plaza at the time, maybe even the best in all of Bangkok. And Dave was running the show.

    Dave had some short stints away from Soi Nana. He spent a short time in Patpong in late 2015 and while he tried to be upbeat and positive about it, I felt it was like watching a sportsman change code. Dave running bars away from Nana? That would be like Steven Gerrard playing for Man Utd – it would never work. Dave soon found himself back in Nana Plaza, where he belonged.

    Dave also did some relief work managing some bars in Pattaya. Like many of us, he enjoyed a short visit to Sin City but he was always keen to get back to Bangkok. At the time he would often remark about how Pattaya attracted a different type of foreigner, and a very different type of Thai, from Bangkok.

    In later years when things weren’t so rosy I suggested to Dave that perhaps he pursue a bar manager’s job in Pattaya. He would always remind me about the time he had spent there. The bars may look much the same, but he felt as places to both live and work, Pattaya and Bangkok were very different.

    Dave experienced the golden period in the bars, a time when everyone with any connection to the bars was making money hand over fist. They weren’t just the golden years in terms of fun, they were the golden years in terms of making money.

    It hasn’t been so easy recently and Dave is the first to admit that he has been riding his luck. The good times we knew were never going to last.

    In many ways, Dave’s career in the bar business has mirrored the decline of the bar industry. As bar after bar decided it no longer needed a foreign manager, Dave found himself changing jobs frequently. And it seemed like each new job came with a lower salary. It wasn’t that Dave had done anything wrong, it was simply that the industry was in decline.

    Bar rents were on the rise, competition to recruit a smaller number of attractive girls was pushing up dancers’ salaries while at the same time bar takings were trending down. Foreign bar managers’ salaries have been going down for most of the last decade.

    Dave’s website provided a small source of income, but hardly enough to live on. He tried to make it work but competition was fierce and advertisers demanded more for less. The golden age of Bangkok nightlife websites mirrors that of the bar industry itself – again, the best days are in the past. Today you need a large and loyal readership to make a living running a Thailand nightlife-centric website – and even then it’s a challenge.

    Eventually Dave would leave Soi Nana and take up cheaper digs elsewhere. It was to be a new beginning.

    Hanging around the bars isn’t a healthy lifestyle, especially when you’re drinking every night. Dave battled health issues and suffered multiple amputations due to diabetes complications, something he has written about.

    The writing has been on the wall for some time. A terrible low season, a high season not worthy of the term and then the hammer blow, Covid-19. There’s not an ounce of exaggeration when I keep saying that this is the bar industry’s darkest hour. And that’s a big problem for those who make a living from it.

    I am surprised Dave lasted as long as he has – and I say that very much as a compliment. He is a survivor. He stuck it out as long as he could. Few in the bar industry will survive Covid-19.

    Sticking around in Thailand with neither savings nor an income just isn’t an option. Thailand has never been kind to foreigners without money.

    The end of the road is proving tricky to navigate. It’s not as simple as getting online, buying the next available air ticket out and jumping in a cab for the airport. Most airlines have stopped operating, there are limited flights and the airport is closed until next weekend. Funds have to be borrowed, a reasonably priced ticket found and then fingers crossed that the flight is not cancelled.

    We’ve been in regular contact in recent weeks and I had a long chat with Dave a couple of days ago. He had mixed emotions, while he knows leaving is for the best, and for that reason alone he sounded upbeat. The hard part was actually making the decision. Now that it is made he is looking forward to going home. The word he used was “Home”. England. Home. He kept saying it over and over again. England. Home.

    Dave plans to write a book about his time in Thailand, tentatively titled, “Sex, Mugs and Rock’n’Roll”. I can’t wait to read it.

    Dave The Rave is an icon of Nana Plaza and a friend to many. He maintained his upbeat, positive and cheerful nature through the tough times, right to the bitter end. Visiting the plaza will never be the same without Dave The Rave there. Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed by many.
    I met him a few years ago when I dropped into Mercury Bar as it was renovating for its soft opening. Very personable and friendly guy. If he does write his book, it will definitely be a good read, so be on the look out for it.


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  • #2
    You hate to say it but maybe it is time for a change of the guard.

    Many of these bars have been operating the same way for decades while times have changed, these places remained the same.
    There will always be customers for ladies in gogo bars but perhaps ladyboys are better experienced in lounge style bars or more pub-like establishments.
    Thais will go to the lady gogos but they don't frequent the ladyboy gogos or bars as much as falangs.

    Why Not is now down the street and Chaos bar too if it makes it. Assuming there is many open spots around Soi Nana, that opens the door for more ladyboy bars to set up at good prices. Spots that may have never been open before are now available.

    The Thai style entertainment that Nana provided was entertaining, maybe it is time to modernize a bit. You can see Nana Plaza has been modernizing but these ladyboys bars were not changing at all. Casanova hadn't changed a thing for who knows how long.
    While Bangkok seemed to become more western and modernized, these bars stayed pretty much the same idea and format.
    Since falangs are the biggest customers of ladyboys it make sense you could have the type of bars they frequent in their home countries.
    In most cases that is local pubs and lounges. So if all the ladyboy bars moved out of Nana Plaza, I wouldn't mind so much, as long as some other ladyboy bars opened elsewhere.

    In Nana it also seemed like they had a license to just take your money and while I had fun many times, I also felt ripped off at the same time often. Nearly always i leave Nana Plaza broke.
    You don't find this attitude as much at bars like Why Not and Check In bar. They are still trying to get your money, it just isn't has aggressive or blatant. In many cases they rip you off right in front of your face and they think you like it.

    The one telling thing is Hooters opening across the street really brought Nana into this century.
    Recent renovations seemed to look like the Soi Nana area is going a little more high class.
    Many of the dumps are disappearing replaced by much nicer establishments. The Rajah hotel complex is now amazing and shiny.

    Nana will be ok but it will change possibly for the better.
    While it probably will be cheaper when things reopen for a while, eventually the prices will go back up.
    Over time the bar prices have been getting closer and closer to those back home, so there is probably no stopping that.

    Even though entertainment in Bangkok is getting more expensive, ladyboys, hotels and food is still far cheaper than where most of us come from.

    Maybe a shake up will be good to break the same old, same old.
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    • #3
      In many ways, Dave’s career in the bar business has mirrored the decline of the bar industry. As bar after bar decided it no longer needed a foreign manager, Dave found himself changing jobs frequently. And it seemed like each new job came with a lower salary. It wasn’t that Dave had done anything wrong, it was simply that the industry was in decline.
      Nothing to do with Dave, but meanwhile, mongering ladyboys became more and more expensive. Ladyboys would ask for a ST the price of a ST + a BF 2 or 3 years earlier. We cannot follow such a an exponential increase. I read all kind of explainations, but allthough Thailand became well off, prices increasedfaster than Thai revenues.

      Notwhistanding money, Thailand (and Thai ladyboys too) doesn't look as exotic as it looked before. It was nice to go for a LT with a ladyboy to some island without noise, car and even mortorbike trafic. Right before Covid19, LT had stopped being a business for several years, islands are full of drunk farang tourists partying just to get drunk and cars and motorbikes are everywhere. No more tuk tuk pulled by a motorbike and car traffic is the same as in Europe.

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      • #4
        I never ask the price and no one has complained yet, although sometimes they just tell me the price.
        Also I do not have problems finding long time in Thailand. Pattaya is the king of long time, that is one of it's attractions.
        I won't pay ridiculous bar fines for long time though. If a bar fine is required I will agree to pay 3 days in advance at most.
        If they don't like it they don't have to go.

        Koh Chang Island is not busy or expensive like other beach locations in Thailand.
        Cha Am and Hua Hin area beaches are generally not too busy.
        Places like Phuket have the best views and attractions but have been ripping people off for years.
        Phuket has also been over developed and not all pristine anymore.

        Thailand will have a hard time competing in the future with other beach locations closer to us.
        Traditionally it was worth travelling there for beaches as it was usually very cheap and safe.
        It is still fairly safe but not as cheap or secluded as it used to be.

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        • #5
          Maybe ladyboys believe I am a newby, but I saw prices increasing and LT vanishing. Perhaps I had been lucky to find good price conditions when I began in 2011. However, I do not believe that I am the only one to have made the same analysis. The others didn't say anything and "voted with their feet" ie they never went back to Thailand.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by P&G View Post
            Maybe ladyboys believe I am a newby, but I saw prices increasing and LT vanishing. Perhaps I had been lucky to find good price conditions when I began in 2011. However, I do not believe that I am the only one to have made the same analysis. The others didn't say anything and "voted with their feet" ie they never went back to Thailand.
            How much its increased now?

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            • #7
              I haven't been in Thailand since 2017. I can give you prices in may places in Thailand. Just read my TR. The latest prices I know in details are prices in VN.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Manueljellison View Post

                How much its increased now?
                I have found the prices have increased a bit over time but prices always go up everywhere all the time, it is called inflation.
                Prices were quite cheap starting in the 1990's due to the financial collapse in Thailand. Slowly after that prices went up as Thailand became more of a destination.
                Up until recent times where Thailand became overwhelmed with tourists and many businesses became greedy, fixing or raising prices unneccessarily.
                Still other businesses keep the low prices that have been the signature of Thailand.

                So i would say when i first went to Thailand in 2007 the average bar fine was under 500 baht. Now the bar fines are over 500 baht on average.
                Drinks were cheaper but bars are at the mercy of vendors and rising prices due to international pressures and supply that always incur inflation.

                In Bangkok as the city becomes more mature, there is a mix of prices but the high end type establishments tend to be almost as expensive as in our countries.
                High end restaurants and nightclubs will be cheaper than other countries but not by much. It's when you get down to the privately owned bars and restaurants is where you really save. Nana plaza is marketing itself as a premium product so the prices are getting quite expensive in there. Overall the entire Soi 4 area is becoming much more high end and you will see prices match accordingly. Still there is no where in the world that has something quite like this with so many available ladyboys.

                The biggest change in prices has been the currency exchange. In 2007 the Canadian dollar was very strong compared to the baht but over time Thailand has reduced the currency gap and my money is worth less every year. The US dollar and Euro have seen similar declines in their money value.

                Now you will find political events like the frequent coups will cause prices to drop a bit and currency exchange to increase. The impact for each subsequent political issue has been less and less. Now with the pandemic you will see cheaper prices again at first but they will probably work their way up again. It is possible that tourists may not return to the extent they have in the past. People may look for places closer to home. So prices could end up being better.

                The price that ladyboys want hasn't really changed that much over the years. It may be harder to find a short time for 500 baht anymore but most will take 1000.
                Long time has gone up a bit. In the past I may have paid around 3000 for long time, recently it seemed like 4000 was more suitable.

                Unforutnately the more successful Thailand becomes, the higher prices will get. However much of it has just been inflation or gouging.
                You can always find super cheap bars and restaurants no matter what.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Crag Rockheart View Post

                  I have found the prices have increased a bit over time but prices always go up everywhere all the time, it is called inflation.
                  Prices were quite cheap starting in the 1990's due to the financial collapse in Thailand. Slowly after that prices went up as Thailand became more of a destination.
                  Up until recent times where Thailand became overwhelmed with tourists and many businesses became greedy, fixing or raising prices unneccessarily.
                  Still other businesses keep the low prices that have been the signature of Thailand.

                  So i would say when i first went to Thailand in 2007 the average bar fine was under 500 baht. Now the bar fines are over 500 baht on average.
                  Drinks were cheaper but bars are at the mercy of vendors and rising prices due to international pressures and supply that always incur inflation.

                  In Bangkok as the city becomes more mature, there is a mix of prices but the high end type establishments tend to be almost as expensive as in our countries.
                  High end restaurants and nightclubs will be cheaper than other countries but not by much. It's when you get down to the privately owned bars and restaurants is where you really save. Nana plaza is marketing itself as a premium product so the prices are getting quite expensive in there. Overall the entire Soi 4 area is becoming much more high end and you will see prices match accordingly. Still there is no where in the world that has something quite like this with so many available ladyboys.

                  The biggest change in prices has been the currency exchange. In 2007 the Canadian dollar was very strong compared to the baht but over time Thailand has reduced the currency gap and my money is worth less every year. The US dollar and Euro have seen similar declines in their money value.

                  Now you will find political events like the frequent coups will cause prices to drop a bit and currency exchange to increase. The impact for each subsequent political issue has been less and less. Now with the pandemic you will see cheaper prices again at first but they will probably work their way up again. It is possible that tourists may not return to the extent they have in the past. People may look for places closer to home. So prices could end up being better.

                  The price that ladyboys want hasn't really changed that much over the years. It may be harder to find a short time for 500 baht anymore but most will take 1000.
                  Long time has gone up a bit. In the past I may have paid around 3000 for long time, recently it seemed like 4000 was more suitable.

                  Unforutnately the more successful Thailand becomes, the higher prices will get. However much of it has just been inflation or gouging.
                  You can always find super cheap bars and restaurants no matter what.

                  Thank you Crag Rockheart for your kind information really appreciate it 😊

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Crag Rockheart View Post

                    I have found the prices have increased a bit over time but prices always go up everywhere all the time, it is called inflation.
                    Prices were quite cheap starting in the 1990's due to the financial collapse in Thailand. Slowly after that prices went up as Thailand became more of a destination.
                    Up until recent times where Thailand became overwhelmed with tourists and many businesses became greedy, fixing or raising prices unneccessarily.
                    Still other businesses keep the low prices that have been the signature of Thailand.

                    So i would say when i first went to Thailand in 2007 the average bar fine was under 500 baht. Now the bar fines are over 500 baht on average.
                    Drinks were cheaper but bars are at the mercy of vendors and rising prices due to international pressures and supply that always incur inflation.

                    In Bangkok as the city becomes more mature, there is a mix of prices but the high end type establishments tend to be almost as expensive as in our countries.
                    High end restaurants and nightclubs will be cheaper than other countries but not by much. It's when you get down to the privately owned bars and restaurants is where you really save. Nana plaza is marketing itself as a premium product so the prices are getting quite expensive in there. Overall the entire Soi 4 area is becoming much more high end and you will see prices match accordingly. Still there is no where in the world that has something quite like this with so many available ladyboys.

                    The biggest change in prices has been the currency exchange. In 2007 the Canadian dollar was very strong compared to the baht but over time Thailand has reduced the currency gap and my money is worth less every year. The US dollar and Euro have seen similar declines in their money value.

                    Now you will find political events like the frequent coups will cause prices to drop a bit and currency exchange to increase. The impact for each subsequent political issue has been less and less. Now with the pandemic you will see cheaper prices again at first but they will probably work their way up again. It is possible that tourists may not return to the extent they have in the past. People may look for places closer to home. So prices could end up being better.

                    The price that ladyboys want hasn't really changed that much over the years. It may be harder to find a short time for 500 baht anymore but most will take 1000.
                    Long time has gone up a bit. In the past I may have paid around 3000 for long time, recently it seemed like 4000 was more suitable.

                    Unforutnately the more successful Thailand becomes, the higher prices will get. However much of it has just been inflation or gouging.
                    You can always find super cheap bars and restaurants no matter what.

                    I wouldn't call this inflation. Inflation comes from a government adding money into the economy while added value of the country won't rise. So prices get more expensive but money loses value.
                    Prices became more and more expensive because of sextourists accepting to pay for higher prices. They accept higher prices either because they don't care, or they don't know that the usual market prices are lower and both bars nd ladyboys tend to bargain higher prices. I saw a different phenomena in Eastern Europe. Westerners would pay higher prices and good tips without being asked to do so, so girls started thinking they could ask for the old price + the tip.
                    I am not sure that tipping makes Thai hooker believe they ask for higher prices. However they see a mix of customers from many contries who don't have the same culture of prices and manage to make prices rise.
                    Depnding on the balance between offer and demand after the covid crisis, prices will be either lower or will start rising if everybody rushes back to Thailand.

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                    • #11
                      That's not actually true that it is not inflation.

                      Inflation is a quantitative measure of the rate at which the average price level of a basket of selected goods and services in an economy increases over some period of time. It is the rise in the general level of prices where a unit of currency effectively buys less than it did in prior periods. Often expressed as a percentage, inflation thus indicates a decrease in the purchasing power of a nation’s currency.

                      https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i...rior%20periods.

                      Governments mass printing money can cause unnatural inflation but this is not the cause of natural inflation.
                      This is limited and still would be just a blip over hundreds of years.

                      All currencies go down in value over time for many reasons. Real estate and wages always go up in most economies.
                      These both lead to higher costs of production and thus higher prices. People must pay more for accomodation and goods but they also make higher wages.
                      Other than a total economic collapse (Which Thailand had in the 1990s), the prices and value of goods rarely goes down.

                      Ladyboys in Thailand pay more rent than they did say 10 years ago and it costs more to live there than 10 years ago.
                      Nearly very single thing in Thailand is more expensive than it was 10 years ago. They ask for more because it costs more for them to live.
                      Plus it is not that hard for a ladyboy to get a regular job and if wages are decent they are not going to work on the street for cheap.
                      Unless, of course, if they are addicted to drugs.

                      I have almost never tipped because i never ask the price, they always accept what i give them.
                      However I have noticed a general increase of the prices of everything since I started going to Thailand.
                      So that is usually going to be passed on to the customer.

                      Thailand just gets more and more expensive all the time. Taxis, hotels, restaurants bars and everything else.
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                      • #12
                        The Consumer Price index shows the amount of goods a certain amount of money can buy.
                        I have a degree in Accounting and Finance, so I am pretty good at this stuff.

                        https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c...priceindex.asp

                        Here is the Consumer Price Index for Thailand over a number of years.

                        cpithai.jpg


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                        • #13
                          You can see easily that the price index remains fairly stable in the last decade during which ladyboys St and BF prices skyrocketed. This explains why the THB remained stable and even strong compared to OECE money (Whatever$, €, CHF, £) whereas prices went on climbing for some of us. IMHO, this is not inflation. This can be a local phenomenom of inflation if too many farangs came during that time and spent more and more money, what was not really the case.

                          Prices increases may have come from the increase in the Thai living standards. What I noticed is that a ST price would reach the amount of a ST price + a BF 2 years earlier (What is an exponential increase). Meanwhile, the price increase is 1.5% on 12 years. It had to stop sooner or later. farangs decided they wouldn't pay and stopped feeding the scene. The Covid crisis triggered the crush. Well done.

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                          • #14
                            I'm just saying that prices will always go up, it is just a fact of economies.
                            Wages and fee increases allow people to continue to live a similar lifestyle.
                            Of course there is other reasons including greed.

                            In some places bar fines have sky rocketed, like the Nana area and Nana Plaza specifically. Nana is now upper class and the prices will continue to go up.
                            When Hooters moved in things changed. Now all the bars on the edge will be gone and only the strong and bigger companies will survive.
                            Why Not took the chance to move to Soi 4 now that others are falling. However I'm sure you wil see price increases as a result.

                            I am pretty sure that the Nana Plaza company is buying up more space around there as well as the company that owns the Hillary Bars.
                            The owners of the Rajah hotel complex have invested heavily and I would expect the Nana Hotel will be upgraded or rebuilt, even become a chain hotel.
                            There is already several 5 star hotels surrounding Nana Plaza.
                            When business returns to Nana I don't expect to see many small shithole bars whch were once all there was outside of the Plaza.
                            Now that you cannot sit at Big Dogs and eat BBQ, I am not as excited about the area anymore.

                            Bangkok is a huge growing city and the prices go up faster in places like this.

                            Pattaya depending where you go, prices have not gone up that much. Newer fancier bars like Obsessions and Katoeys R US charged more while older and plainer bars still had good prices. If feel the need to go down to the beach at night you can still get a super cheap short time.

                            The other thing that may have artificially increase the prices the ladyboys ask is that most of them are working online down through Thai friendly, Tindr, Grindr and escort sites. Most of them seem to think they can ask more when they are meeting you online. However I think they will drop their prices quickly if you are shrewd and knowledgable. In the end the girls make more money and you save money when a bar is not involved.

                            To get prices like the old days, the places to go are Cambodia, Laos and Myanamar.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Crag Rockheart View Post
                              To get prices like the old days, the places to go are Cambodia, Laos and Myanamar.
                              It's another story. It would deserve initiating a new thread.

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