The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Four things you can do to avoid getting murdered on Koh Tao or any tropical island, Thailand or elsewhere

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 16•14
Idyllic Koh Tao, Thailand

Idyllic Koh Tao, Thailand

The murder on Thailand’s Koh Tao island of two young British citizens, David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, could have happened on any tropical island with little police presence, coupled with a strong local mafia. Two Burmese illegals have been charged with the murder, but rumors are rampant that youths well-connected to the local power establishment were responsible. Let’s see what comes out in court. One of our WoWasis staffers nearly had this happen to him and his wife a few years back. It was in the Caribbean, probably a similar situation to that faced by Miller and Witheridge. Here’s his story, and four strong recommendations:

“The island was off the coast of Central America, where a local strongman owned a few restaurants and places to stay. I was 24, my wife was 21, and she was a beauty. There was very little police presence on the island. All law enforcement, as it was, was in the hands of the strongman.

“We were staying at one of his beach bungalows, and he invited himself for lunch, buying us a few rounds. He tried to give my wife a palm-reading, but I told him sorry, I’m the only one allowed to touch her. We had come to do some snorkeling and he offered to take us out with a couple of friends the next day. We said yes.

“Later that afternoon, I ran into his daughter, home from college for the month. I told her that her father seemed pretty accommodating. She gave me a rather cold look and said ‘There’s a lot you don’t know. I’d be a lot more careful if I were you.’ And she walked away.

“My wife and I talked about it over dinner. I didn’t like the way he was getting touchy-feely with her, and his daughter wasn’t his biggest fan. It was beginning to look dodgy, and I could see me getting killed out on the boat, fed to the sharks, then her getting raped and murdered, shark food also. And no one we knew back in the states would even know we’d been to that island.

“So I told her — since we’d pre-paid our bungalow — let’s go now, this very minute and get to the mainland, about three miles away over the water. I went down to the pier, where the motorboats were moored. They did a busy taxi business between the island and the mainland. But none of them would take us. None. I suspected they’d been warned, and that what I perceived was on tap for us might very well have previously happened to others.

“I went back to the bungalow, told my wife to pack now and lock the door. I had seen a boat or two on the other side of the island, and would hike over. I found a kid, maybe 12 or 13, and told him I needed to get to the mainland fast. He said he couldn’t. I offered to pay him double. He nervously looked around in all directions, and asked ‘When?’ I said ten minutes and there’d be another passenger. And it worked. We made it back.

“That island, we found out later, was a classic old pirate enclave. In those years, a lot of people were disappearing in the ‘Bermuda Triangle,’ in the Caribbean, victims of thieves who rape, murder, and steal, then scuttle the boats of their victims. The crap about supernatural reasons for disappearances was a smoke-screen. Lots of murdered people disappeared forever, bodies never found. Food for barracuda and other sea predators.

“David Miller and Hannah Witheridge weren’t as fortunate as my wife and I. Whether they were killed by the Burmese, the island mafia, or someone else may or may not come out in court. But here are four suggestions for travelers to islands, when young beautiful females are in the mix.”

1) Take phone photos of everyone you meet, and email them to someone you know and trust. Group photos are really good. A murderer won’t kill someone whose picture folder includes one of him.

2) Plan an emergency way off the island. Ask around. Determine if there’s another pier that carries passengers on an ad hoc basis, and figure out how you’ll get there if you need to.

3) Carry bribe money in a money belt and use it only for extreme emergencies. You may need to buy your way out of a jam when an ATM isn’t near, or you can’t afford to be seen.

4) When possible, stay around large groups of foreigners, and if isolated, keep a sharp eye for others in your vicinity.

Plenty of people play in the islands and have a great time. Documented murders of travelers still fall into the “rare” category, but forewarned is forearmed. Above all, do watch out for warning signs, such as local men being a little too friendly, touchy-feely wise.

WoWasis book review: ‘The Marriage Tree,’ Bangkok fiction by Christopher G. Moore

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 15•14

MooreMarriage TreeHere at WoWasis, we make it a point of avoiding reviewing books in which vampires and ghosts play prominent roles. So we thought veteran novelist Christopher G. Moore sandbagged us when he introduced some phantasms in the early pages of his most recent novel, The Marriage Tree (2014, ISBN 978-616-7503-23-3). We needn’t have worried. They belong in the story. This, the latest in Moore’s Vincent Calvino detective series, revolves around two main themes, the fate of the Rohingya, disadvantaged Burmese Muslims who have fled to Thailand, and Calvino’s dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, a consequence of the action in Moore’s previous novel, Missing in Rangoon.

The author here introduces us to Calvino’s unwelcome spirits via the ingenious use of letters written by the detective to his therapist, who is charged with helping him to clear his recurring visions of the people he lost in his recent Burmese-Thai adventure. The brain plays some strange tricks. This reviewer saw recurring snippets of a 30 second movie for six months after a brain surgery once, a piece of cinema that would pop up at random in the left field of vision. So we get cranial aberrations, we do.

The Rohingya situation, in contrast, was pretty much news to us, in terms of the slavery business being run by “influential Thai businessmen,” to populate fishing boats and factories with undocumented (and unpaid) Burmese. Moore, who’s lived in Bangkok since the late 1980s, again provides the reader with data that doesn’t often appear in newspapers, salting this latest adventure tale with cerebral material involving, in addition to the Rohingya element, high tech spyware such as the GSM interceptor, and tracking technology involving microchips embedded under tattoos. They figure prominently in this story.

The tale begins with a dead beauty lying on the grounds of Bangkok’s Tobacco Monopoly, resulting in Calvino being banged around by the Thai police during a tense interrogation scene. His erstwhile Thai police confidant, Colonel Pratt, has been marginalized by his superiors, leaving the detective on his own to prove that he wasn’t the murderer and sort out, ultimately, who was. We won’t spill the beans about how the spyware become involved. It’s a juicy part of the story and we’re not going to spoil the fun for the reader. Moore is adroit at discussing the mechanics of how it’s used, and we’d guess that most readers will review the passages more than once, just to get it right.

In terms of the evolution of Moore’s style (this is his fourteenth Calvino book), we see more of the tale emerging through dialogue, rather than straight description, and Moore’s good at it. He once wrote radio plays, and it shows. At 429 pages, it’s not to be read in one sitting. It will keep the reader up at nights, though, as the action is fast-paced and full of enough twists to foment insomnia. We just gave up and spent a couple of nights reading until 3 am. For readers who loved Missing in Rangoon, this follow-on book provides something of a final resolution.

And although the reader may well be satisfied with Marriage Tree’s ending, there may be one small knot left purposely untied by the author that we somehow feel will be addressed by Calvino sometime in the future.

ThailandPromoBannerCan we be a bit nit-picky? There are still perhaps too many similes herein for our liking, like a surfeit of old clothes stuffed into a cheap suitcase. We still think that if Pratt continues fingering the buttons, rather than the keys, on his tenor sax, then he’d better switch to accordion. And jazzmen play tenors, altos, sopranos, or baris, not saxophones. Moore’s so good at bringing the reader into the spyware lexicon that we hope he’ll do it with jazz, too. The reader deserves it, and the author’s ongoing tribute to Dexter Gordon in this book really demands it. But these are minor details in which reviewers revel, and Moore is well-aware of the joy of keeping readers on their toes. In his Acknowledgment page, he states: “Whatever errors remain are the result of my own success at making them invisible until after publication in order to give the reader that extra pleasure of discovering a piece of loose debris.”

A fast-paced story with plenty of good twists involving cerebral puzzles and fascinating characters has become the hallmark of Moore’s fictional work. The added bonus is that the reader gets a worm’s eye view of the rotten core that defines the ever-present Thai underworld, played out daily in Bangkok’s newspapers, but elucidated to a devilish degree by the author. So read The Marriage Tree for a compelling, well-crafted story, and come away with an education in the process. It’s not just for Bangkokers, either. Anyone with an interest in inner-city politics and police practices — or malpractices — will find a home here.

Buy this book now at the WoWasis eStore.

Khun Lee’s Bachelor in Bangkok: Top Eight Rules for dating non-bargirls in Thailand

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 13•14

BachBKKLKee1cWoWasis columnist Khun Lee weighs in on the bachelor scene in Bangkok:

More and more guys are choosing to date normal Thai gals instead of restricting their pool of potential lasses to the ones who hug chrome poles or are otherwise engaged in sex for sale. This certainly is a good thing as far as I am concerned, but it also brings about new challenges as it is no longer a simple pay-for-play scenario. No matter how much criticism is aimed at the sex industry, the one big upside to the professional gals is that all you need is money in your pocket. You don’t need to be handsome, rich, personable or even presentable. It is strictly pay as you go, or as one of my mates calls it “point and shoot.”

I have always played in both the professional and normal gal arenas and it has really been a pleasure and education to see the world from both angles. With the professional gals becoming more mercenary as time goes by, and the normal Thai gals becoming much more open to meeting western guys during this same period of time, it has become inevitable that more guys will cross over to the other side, or as my Sunderland mate likes to say “cross over to the light side.”

So with this theme in mind I would like to offer the following words of advice to any guy who has spent the majority of his time in Thailand with pros, but from time to time has wondered just how to act if he chose to cross over to the other side:

1) You will need to dress and act more appropriately. Wear smart clothes and be polite at all times.

2) NEVER lose your cool under any circumstances.

3) Smile and have fun. There is no bigger turn off for a Thai gal than a serious guy.

4) Awaken your spirit of adventure. Normal Thai gals will show you a side of Thailand that you never thought existed.

5) Be a man. Guys may be going “metro-sexual” in the west, but in Thailand the man is the boss and makes all the important decisions. Be polite but don’t take any crap from the ladies. When I first meet a lady I employ what I like to call my “one strike and you are out” rule. The first month or so if they show up late without calling, ask me for money, raise their voice at me or use foul language then I delete their phone number and move on. With bar gals the biggest issue is normally money. With normal gals my biggest issue has been that they want to marry you. Many get very jealous and possessive right away, and it is not unusual for a gal to want you to be her boyfriend after just 1 or 2 dates. Don’t despair guys, I am only talking about 30% or so of the gals being whacko like that.

6) Learn some Thai. Bar girls can all speak a smattering of broken English but many normal Thai gals have studied English from first grade and are still shy to use it in public.

7) Be discreet. In Thailand there is the public world and the private world. If you go to brothels and sleep with a different hooker every night, but act like a gentleman around your lady, then you are a good man. If she sees you having a cup of coffee in Starbucks with a female friend then you are a bad man. Thai men rarely leave the bar with a pro, they use the rooms upstairs in the nightlife establishment or at least go to a short time hotel and have the staff pull the curtain to cover up their automobile. This concept of a public world and private world seems to be especially difficult to grasp for western guys, but is at the heart of all things Thai.

8) Protect you freedom. Like I mentioned before, some gals will try to “fast forward” the relationship and become your girlfriend right away. Always remember that paradise is not paradise any more if you have a weight (girlfriend) around your neck. Be patient. There are millions of Thai gals dying to have a foreign boyfriend, but only a few thousand of us. We hold all the cards.

ThailandPromoBannerI hope this short list has helped in some way. The real wild card here is understanding Thai culture and the way things work over here. As one friend of mine said when referring to a mutual acquaintance who has lived here for years and has yet to learn a single thing about Thai ways “when he meets a new gal it is like he showed up to a football game with ice skates on… it’s going to be ugly.”

Read Khun Lee’s other WoWasis columns for more advice on navigating the adult dating scene through the backstreets of Bangkok

Surprise! Bangkok’s used panty vending machine a favorite of western female customers

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 12•14

PantieMachine1cWhen Khun Roren installed a “used panty” vending machine just inside the front door of the Black Pagoda bar, he knew it would probably be a hit with his Japanese male customers. What he couldn’t have predicted, as your WoWasis correspondent discovered, was that western women would buy more of these aromatic panties that all the Japanese customers combined.

Located on Bangkok’s Patpong II, Black Pagoda is a club where music, art, and go-go all cross, in a pastiche that’s unique in a city that’s formidably unique. Having seen a panty vending machine in Tokyo, Khun Roren installed one on-premise. It’s something of a cooperative venture with his go-go dancers, who provide the basic material. It’s hard not to miss the vending machine. It says “Bangkok Pagoda Pantie Machine: Fresh Hot Used Bangkok Panties.”

The panties are beautifully packaged, labeled, and documented. The name and a photo of the dancer is provided, along with the date last worn, the number of days worn, the body perfume the dancer uses, and whether she’s shaved or not. The ultimate is a package with a red dot. She was on her period when they were worn. The level of data is extraordinary, “kind of like baseball cards,” notes Khun Roren. Each package carries a lipstick print of the lady on the cover, too.

NanPanties1c“I’ve really got to refill the machine, we’ve just about been bought out,” Khun Roren continues. The Black Pagoda has become something of a draw for western lesbians, who are among the biggest customers of the panty machine. “But it’s not just the lesbians,” he says. “Western women come in with their boyfriends and buy them as souvenirs. Khun Roren, who sells the packaged panties for 300 baht (about $10 USD) a unit, gives 100 baht of the profit to the dancer, along with a new pair of panties to be worn. “Extra profit for the dancers,” he says. Everyone wins, especially the person who now has less to do on laundry day. Dancers like Nan think it’s all part of Thailand “sanuk,” and she even flashes a “V” for victory sign, thinking about the additional baht going into her pocket.

It’s not just about fragrant panties, though. It’s readily apparent than Khun Roren is an archivist. “I’ve got a back-stock of 300-400 pair ready to go into the machine, but I have another thousand that will never be sold. They are in the permanent collection.” Thus, he’s morphed, quite accidentally, into the world of the archivist, with metadata meticulously collected and referenced to each pair. In terms of displaying this archival material, he’s looking at building a wall to artistically display the finest in the collection.

ThailandPromoBannerUnlike archivists working for educational institutions, he doesn’t have to worry about endless arguments on the subject of what to keep and what to de-accession, and how to legally remove no longer appropriate pieces from the collection. With an eye to keeping the best material for the archive, he can de-accession at will, fill the machine with old classics, and cook up new candidates with just several days’ notice.

Mahachai rural train: The best thirty cent tour of Bangkok money can buy

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 07•14
An old station along the Mahachai train line

An old station along the Mahachai train line

OK, we here at WoWasis actually paid thirty-two cents. And it’s greater Bangkok we’re talking about. Nevertheless, the thirty cent tour of the countryside of Thailand aboard the train to the town of Mahachai takes you through scenery that’s hard to find in the city of Bangkok these days. The round-trip train ride takes about two hours, and it’s well worth it. Here’s how you do it.

The train leaves from the Wongwian Yai train station, just over the river, to the west of Bangkok. To get to the station, take the BTS skytrain to the Wongwian Yai stop. Go down to the street, then take a 20 baht motorcycle taxi to the Wongwian Yai train station. There, you’ll buy a one-way ticket from Bangkok to Mahachai. It’s an hour ride.

On the way to Mahachai, you’ll see beautiful old teak houses along waterways, colorful laundry hung out to dry, banana trees galore, and country towns and small neighborhoods. The train is diesel-powered, and the shifting gears cause the train to lurch unexpectedly over old tracks, stopping at quaint, tiny stations on outlying areas to accommodate students, grannies, and businesspeople. We here at WoWasis recommend sitting on opposite sides of the train on your round trip. The train has only one class, and it takes an hour to get to Mahachai. There, you’ll get off, buy a return ticket (if there is a round-trip ticket, we couldn’t figure out how to buy it), and get back on the train, which departs in ten minutes.

MahachaiTrain1cTrains leave Wongwian Yai station every hour at varying times. The first train leaves Wongwian Yai at 5:30 in the morning, the final train departs from Mahachai at 7:00 pm. Remember, in Mahachai, the train stops for ten minutes and then returns to Wongwian  Yai. Miss the return train? It will return an hour later. You can buy a beer at either station and enjoy your trip. Unbelievably, beers cost 35baht each, while the hour-long train ride costs 10 baht each way. One beer is more expensive than the entire round trip by train!

Writer Harold Stephens, in his book Return to Adventure: Southeast Asia, mentions this train:

From the slum area of Thonburi the train passes through a wall of clapboard shacks, so close that you can reach out and touch them… then enters open rice fields… stopping at villages no larger than a city block. As you pass through a village, you can look into the houses, into the very bedrooms. You are looking at rural Thailand close up.

It’s hard to beat this round-trip train ride for a fun, inexpensive, and easy excursion in the Bangkok area. There are rarely any farang on this train, so you’ll be sitting with the locals, who are very curious as to why a visitor is on the train. You’re there, of course, to see a world that is increasingly difficult to find in the backstreets of Bangkok. On this train ride, you get to see plenty of old Thailand in spades.ThailandPromoBanner

WoWasis travel advisory: scams are rampant in Patpong I in Bangkok

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 05•14

BachBKKLKee1cWe here at WoWasis have just finished our annual review of adult entertainment zones and venues in Bangkok, the three best-known of which are Nana Plaza, Patpong II, and Soi Cowboy. Patpong I, which runs parallel to Patpong II, was also a candidate for inclusion. After spending part of an evening there, we concluded that it’s not just the worst adult entertainment experience in Bangkok, it’s the worst we’ve seen anywhere in the world. We recommend that you remove it from your bucket list. Here’s why.

The street itself represents an unwieldy walk, as pedestrians have to wind through a byzantine number of knick-knack stalls that have thrived, cancer-like They’ve taken over so much of the street that it’s impossible to see anything, high, low, or across the street, from anywhere. This claustrophobia is enhanced by the worst part of the Patpong I experience, the touts. These vermin (think we’re being hyperbolic? Go there yourself and come up with a better word) accost every traveler on the street, trying to cajole the individual into going into one bar or another. The visitor cannot stand in any one place for longer than one second without being set upon. Walk another few feet, there’s another idiot pestering you. Dozens ply Patpong I, assailing each and every visitor.

It goes without saying that the touts work on commission. Go to one of their bars and it’s a guarantee that your bill will be padded to pay for the commission. Think you can go to a bar on your own? Forget it. A tout will follow you and claim that he brought you in. Your bill gets padded anyway.

For years, Patpong I earned well-deserved reputation as a place in which bills are padded on a regular basis, either through the tout scam, or just by adding drinks the customer never got, much less ordered. It was a rip-off haven. Still is. Patpong I hasn’t changed. Along with the seven bars on Soi Cowboy owned by The Arab,” it represents a textbook case of fleecing visitors as if they were carnival marks.

Patpong I also sullies the reputation of Patpong II next door, which is a terrific place to spend an evening. So honestly, if you want your adult entertainment experience in Bangkok to be a memorable one, make sure those memories are good ones. Cross Patpong I off your list. We have.

Building scam in Bangkok: court orders 25 story hotel to be demolished

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 02•14
Awaiting the wrecking ball?

Awaiting the wrecking ball?

Our favorite building scam story in Bangkok has taken a new twist, as the Supreme Administrative Court has ordered that the 25-story Aetas Hotel on Soi Ruamrudee be either completely demolished or brought down to a legal height of 7 or 8 stories. And it’s all supposed to happen within 60 days.

As first reported by WoWasis in 2012, this major monstrosity was erected illegally on a tiny street with a width of fewer than 10 meters. For reasons of safety and traffic control, an edict (the 1979 Building Control Act) states that any edifice built on such a street must not be higher than 23 meters, approximately 7 stories.

Against the complaints of neighbors, though, it was erected. And they’ve been complaining ever since, vociferously as well as through legal channels. Now the court has ruled in their favor, and the court says the building must come down or have its height reduced within 60 days.

Are there powerful “influential forces,” as they say in Thailand, behind the scene here? Such elements tend to make it a habit of thumbing their noses at laws by buying their own justice. If that’s the case, paying the authorities to look the other way while putting up the Aetas Hotel must have cost a pretty penny. (We’re not formally accusing anyone of accepting bribes, of course, but a Bangkok Post op-ed piece published On December 4, 2014, quoted the Supreme Administrative Court as listing former Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayothin and former Pathumwan district chief Surakiat Limcharoen as being “guilty of negligence of duty” in the affair).

As WoWasis has reported in the past, most construction scams in Thailand typically revolve around substandard building practices, ignoring codes, and paying off inspectors. Take a look at the bowels of any condominium structure where more than one unit is on the sales block, and you’ll see what we mean. Huge cracks in and around the base of a given structure are legendary and pervasive. And that’s just for starters.

If the Aetas was built with similar dodgy construction, it should, in theory, be easier to tear down. We’ll know within 60 days. Or will we? With “influential people” behind the scenes, there may be powerful forces on call, ready to subvert the Supreme Administrative Court’s decision.

If so, we’ll wager that these folks, in these times of major police corruption scandals being unearthed and made public, will hope to find some regulatory person or agency asleep at the switch. If they do, the amazing saga of the Aetas Hotel will continue. In the interim, everyone (lawyers, the hotel operator, the landlord, those who “possibly” have been bribed) gets rich, except for the neighbors.

Thai evening working ladies incensed about Bangkok hotels stealing their money

Written By: herbrunbridge - Dec• 01•14

BachBKKLKee1cThe scam involving Bangkok hotels and how they steal money from working girls has been going on for years. Here at WoWasis, to our knowledge, it’s a topic that’s never been reported. Like all scams, though, it should be reported as the first step in correcting it. But unlike most scams that affect other people, there’s something many people can and should do to stop this one. Here’s how it works…

The scam involves hotel desk personnel and the female entertainment providers that visit a male customer’s room for companionship services. Upon entering the hotel, these women must relinquish their Thai national identification cards or, if non-Thai citizens, their passports. The ladies then go to a given man’s room, provide companionship services, then leave. They usually leave the man’s room unaccompanied. When they arrive at the desk to reclaim their identification cards or passports, they are forced to pay 100 or 200 baht to the person at the desk, usually a member of hotel security. No pay, no ID. The lady has no one to complain to, so must pay this bribe to get her ID back. The security man would never do this in the presence of a hotel guest. It only occurs when she’s unaccompanied by a man. It happens at virtually every hotel in Bangkok. Probably yours is one of them.

This scam, incidentally often works in conjunction with “joiner fees,” charged to the desk for bringing a female guest up to his room.

Men who avail themselves of companionship services, therefore, can stop these women from being scammed and exploited simply by accompanying them from their rooms, back to the desk where their IDs are held, and making sure they get them returned, bribe free.

While researching this story, we found not a single man that knew this con existed or was prevalent. The women we interviewed, though all did, but were surprised that the men were not aware of it. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Thailand. it no longer has to, or should, be that way.

Walking on Patpong II’s wild side in Bangkok

Written By: herbrunbridge - Nov• 30•14

StripFetish1cBangkok’s Patpong adult entertainment area is legendary. But if you haven’t been to Patpong II recently, be prepared for a shock. It’s clean, fun, moderately upscale, and diverse, in terms of the adult options available. And the street is uncluttered with street stalls, unlike Patpong I next door. Both streets are easily accessible from the BTS Sala Daeng stop, three or four walking minutes away.

Most visitors to adult venues in Bangkok are familiar with the Nana Entertainment Plaza and Soi Cowboy, but many ignore the Patpong area, which developed a seedy reputation some time ago, mostly based on the dodgy upstairs establishments on Patpong I. Patpong II has changed all that, and it’s now a terrific street with a wide array of entertainment. You can stay in one venue or bar hop along the street. Dancers in these bars are traditional “gogo” dancers and the pricier “coyote” dancers. The latter charge higher bar fines, and other services may vary, depending on the lady and the club. For newer folks, “bar fine” refers to the amount you pay the bar to take the lady out of the club. Any additional services requiring the lady’s time, and extra fees as well, should be discussed with your lady before you pay the bar fine. Always be sure to ask a friendly mamasan about the pricing structure and service level per lady, to be sure.

Here’s a quick tour of Patpong II, starting from Silom Road on Patpong II’s southern end.

BarBar: This venue calls itself a “safe, sane, and conceptual” fetish club, where people ranging from curiosity seekers to veteran fetishists can simply watch, or engage in fetish activities with the hostesses. BarBar manager Barbara, in an interview with WoWasis , notes that it’s easy to become involved, or just look and enjoy the small fetish shows that are constantly “on stage.” The entry price of 900 baht includes a free drink and as many shows as you’d like to watch. Additional services are available, just ask the mamasan!

Meet new friends at BarBar

Meet new friends at BarBar

Club Electric Blue: This pulsating gogo bar has a long stage which spans practically the entire club, yet retains a sense of intimacy. Sightlines are generous, mamasans extremely friendly, and there are always a number of expat locals in the crowd. Bar fines are 600 baht for ladies in skirts and 1000 baht for “coyote” dancers in hot pants.

Bada Bing: This friendly bar has a great DJ, and music that can be heard right on the street. It’s a larger club with terrific sightlines to the stage, and extremely friendly and engaging dancers, always ready with a smile and great eye contact with the audience. Gogo dancers wearing white shirts can be barfined for 600 baht, while coyotes are available for 1000.

Strip A GoGo: This small bar is the most intimate gogo venue on the street, where you’re never more than a few feet away from the nearest dancer. You can either sit at a booth on the left side of the bar as you enter, or turn right for stadium seating. Bar fines for gogo dancers are 800 baht, 1000 for coyotes, but there aren’t uniforms that distinguish them, so do ask the mamsan.

Cosmos Bar: This venerated drinking establishment is the place to go if you want to have a drink with a buddy. Or if you’re waiting for a buddy who hasn’t finished with his lady yet. Or if you don’t have a buddy and you don’t want to drink alone. A Patpong II institution.

Black Pagoda: This bar and “meeting” establishment defies description. It’s a gogo bar, an art venue (look at the walls!), and a party space. Its third-floor bridge runs right over Patpong II, providing the best and most exotic view of who and what’s happening on the street below.

BlackPagodaSign2cPink Panther: This bar sits on the corner of Patpong II and Surawong, and has perhaps the most interesting stage environment on the street. The ladies dance on one of eight small tables that cover the floor area. Each table can accommodate one or two dancers, and most of them have a bar top and chairs where customers can enjoy the interaction up close. Pink Panther actually has three levels of bar fines (600, 800, 1000 baht) which can be confusing, so again, do ask the mamasan. There may also be an additional fixed fee for any non-club services that your lady may offer, so doubly again, do ask the mamasan first before you make any commitment.
Other Patpong II options

In addition to the gogo, coyote, and fetish bars on this short but remarkable street, there are also two exceptional restaurants with great chefs (“G’s” German cuisine, hosted by Guido, and “La Bouchon,” French cuisine, hosted by Serge). For ladyboy enthusiasts, there’s King’s Corner II, and Target II, a pool hall for those who just want to ignore the whole business and play a game.

In summation, Patpong II offers a more varied experience than Bangkok’s other two major adult areas, Nana Entertainment Plaza, and Soi Cowboy. The quality of the dancers is equal to the other areas, the food is more international in scope, and at least one of the clubs (BarBar) is, for sure, kinkier. Even on a good night, Patpong II will be less crowded than the other venues, too.

If you haven’t been to Patpong II, it’s time for a look. And if you’re shaking your head, saying “there’s nothing on Patpong anymore,” time to come back. You won’t believe what you’ll see.

Death of an investigative journalist: Was Canadian Dave Walker slain over a non-governmental organization scam?

Written By: herbrunbridge - Nov• 29•14

It been nine months since noted Canadian journalist and author Dave Walker’s body was found on the grounds of Cambodia’s Angkor Watt ample complex. His murderer s — one assumes that more than one did the killing and carted away the body — have yet to be identified, nor has a motive been determined. Walker had been working on a Khmer Rouge story, but conventional wisdom holds that he wasn’t killed as a result of looking into a tale as long in the tooth as that. The perpetrators, after all, are getting older or dead, and most of the potentially harmful data has already been aired anyway. So why was Walker killed?

Dave Walker

Dave Walker

There is a rumor, floating around the circle of expats that knew him, that he may have been investigating a scam involving Cambodian police and/or military officials and one or more non-governmental organization (NGO). The matter, described in a WoWasis story first introduced several years ago, involves a scam in which innocent western men are falsely accused of having sex with underage Cambodian youths of both sexes. These individuals are then shaken down by officials for an amount generally estimated to be in the $30,000 USD price range. If he refuses to pay, he is jailed and reported to his country’s embassy. Accusations are obtained through the false confessions of youths, their parents, or motorcycle taxi drivers, who are being paid directly by the perpetrators of the fraud, which would include be police, military, underworld figures and NGOs.

Walker was aware of this scam. If, in fact, he was working on this story, he wouldn’t be the first westerner to have disappeared while investigating it. A prominent hotelier in Sihanoukville, who had investigated the story several years earlier, was abruptly arrested by Cambodian authorities on a charge related to drug distribution, which may well have been concocted to facilitate his arrest. He fled the country through certain legal maneuvers and wound up in the Philippines, where he was reported to have died in 2013. His death has yet to be corroborated.

Dave Walker’s family, or those purporting to represent them, are saying little. They claim to know who the killer could be, but have been uncooperative with the media, perhaps because of general paranoia, imagined threats, or real ones.

It all remains an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, but more and more of Walker’s acquaintances are beginning to think along the lines of his being killed as a result of investigating the NGO- police-youth sex scam that remains one of Cambodia’s most dangerous, profitable, and best-kept secrets.