The Happy Hour Drink Chasers – A Bangkok Phenomenon
When I decided to move to Bangkok the only person I knew was my girlfriend (who is now my wife) and 1 other Australian that I had met in Dean & Deluca in my previous travels. I needed to find to find some English speaking friends or learn Thai very quickly. I opted for option 1 as I had been learning Thai in Australia and could only say hello, my name and repeat my phone number. Where do I meet these people? I’m not really into playing sports (golf, tennis, squash etc.) and I don’t really fancy joining the Rotarians or the Lions club. So I’ll go to the bar to WATCH sports and chat to fellow expats. I’m not really a big drinker but hey I could always drink juice, water or Coke.
I live in Asok so I went to the usual haunts around the area – Kiwi Bar, The Australian Bar, Hillary 1, 2 & 3 – as they showed ALL sports (AFL, EPL, NFL etc.). Hey, I could watch them at home on True Visions but I wasn’t going to make any friends. My wife thought that I wanted to meet other ladies (as they generally hang out in these bars) but I really wanted to meet fellow farangs. After a while I kept running into the same group of guys (English and American) and won their trust. One night one of them said to me “Hey, why don’t you join us down at Cowboy? We go every night from 7.30 to 9.30 for the Happy Hours. The drinks are under 100 baht (usually around the 140 to 180 baht).” I replied ‘Sure. I’ll join you this Friday night if that’s okay?” One replied “We start at Tilac Bar so we’ll see you there.” So I was about to experience the Happy Hour Drink Chasers phenomenon.
Friday came around so I bid farewell to the wife. She asked where I was going and I told “I’m off to Cowboy to meet my new friends.” She became instantly jealous and worried thinking that I was going to get myself ‘a bit on the side’. (She didn’t need to worry). I rolled up at Tilac Bar just on 7.30 to find a few of them sitting around the stage. I joined them and ordered a vodka and soda – 90 baht. Great as I had been paying 170 normally. There were girls dancing on the stage. They weren’t overly attractive as the older girls dance at this early stage. I was new to the bar scene so I couldn’t help myself. I kept looking at them commenting that about the different girls. I was surprised when one pipped up “We don’t really look at the girls. They’ve all been here a long time. We only notice the newbies.” What fascinated me was that these guys knew every single detail about these girls. Their name, age, marital status, where they were from, number of children – they knew every detail.
I was settling in for my second drink when one of them said to me “Okay – time to move on. Don’t forget to ask the waitress for some vouchers so that we can return after Happy Hour to get cheap drinks.” So off to Dollhouse it was (Dollhow if you are Thai). Dollhouse was about 50 metres up the road and the mood here was a lot different. There was 70’s, 80’s and House music blaring through a set of speakers that needed replacing. The girls on the stage were much younger and more attractive. However again the guys seemed more interested in getting some cheap drinks in before Happy Hour ended. Once again these guys knew every detail about every dancer and only took note of the newbies. Happy Hour finished here at 9pm (in the last few years it has been extended to 10pm) so it was a race to see how many ‘cheap’ drinks you could ram down your throat. The guys only ever talked about football (EPL and NFL), politics (lately it’s about Brexit but previously it was about Trump) and finance (Bitcoin, stocks and the plunging exchange rates). Occasionally they would speak about the girls HOWEVER they would NEVER buy the girls a drink. The response I got was “180 baht for a lady drink! No f#@cking way!”
In the past, once the Dollhouse Happy Hour finished they all trudged back to Tilac Bar to cash in their vouchers that they had bought previously otherwise they would roll into Lighthouse (Lighthow) as, depending on what night it was, certain drinks were 90 baht all night. Wednesday was especially good here as ALL drinks (except Corona’s) were 90 baht. The exception here was that they wouldn’t go inside at Lighthouse. For some strange reason they would all just stand around the outside bar talking rubbish and watching football (mainly EPL) which was always being shown on the TV’s outside. Also, when the girls weren’t on stage they would all go outside so that they could smoke and drag new punters in off the street. Again the guys knew all the intimate details about all of the girls that danced there.
So 4 years later the group has managed to stay intact. There have been some changes (people are always coming and going from Bangkok). I too am now guilty of moving from bar to bar chasing the Happy Hour drinks trying to save money. The only difference is that I’m happy to venture to Nana Plaza occasionally just for something different and pay full price for my drinks. In my opinion Billboard at Nana Plaza is by far the best a-go-go bar in Bangkok. The music and the quality of girls is far better than anything that I have seen in Bangkok. Also many other bars (predominantly in Cowboy) now have Happy Hours and some pubs/bars in the area start their Happy Hour at 10pm so the crowd now seem to disperse to different location. In the past many would venture home after the Happy Hours were over. I have made many good friends from this group and, in hindsight, I’m glad that I agreed to go for a drink that first time I was asked!