As I promised, here’s Wan Chai 2. If you haven’t read the First of Wan Chai posts for 2019 then you should go back and read that. That is where I wrote about the famous Bar 109 and the Sunday afternoon Parties. So let me restart from where I left and talk about what happens in the places I refer to as “Underground and Overhead” venues – the likes of Neptune 3, Hong Kong Café, Makati that have afternoon parties. The story after the afternoon parties and on weeknights is a bit different. Then there are those who spend vacation in Hong Kong and engage in some form of “working” to cover the cost of the vacation and then also the street walkers.
Afternoon parties are mainly to cater for the Domestic Helpers who come in large numbers to spend their Sunday afternoon. As I said before a sizable portion of expat workers are the Domestic Helpers. Apart from that there are also those who have regular jobs such as work in beauty salons, other restaurants, bars who work 5 to 6 days a week and have an evening off on a weekday. Where do they go when they want some fun? The Underground and Overhead venues – the likes of Neptune 3, Hong Kong Café, Makati, Sparks and even Escape. They are all patronised by few groups of people at night. Most venues do not have cover charge or at least I have not come across any who do have cover charge at night other than the eve of a public holiday if at all. However, not sure about Makati. During my visit to Hong Kong once during Chinese New year, on all 4 days I was there, I never went to Makati because of cover charge. However, I have been to all venues that I talk about at some time.
Other expats who do regular jobs do not turn up in large numbers. They will come alone or maximum smaller groups of 2 or absolute maximum 4. You may sometimes find them chatting with another expat who came to the venue. If they are expats, it is very unlikely that a group of friends would get the same day off. It is easy to spot them. They are also not after money to play although there is away by which they earn some extra cash on the Tequila shots. But they will not have discussion with you regarding how much they want.
Having said that I could imagine that there would be some who are expats but work as Freelancers/Hookers/escorts for some extra cash. Sure it happens but not met anyone. So for the purpose of this post I take it that it does not happen. Feel free to say hi and offer a drink. If she asks for a Tequila, then there is a chance that she is after the cash from the bar. If not there is a chance that she is genuine or a Freelancer. Easy to find out. Just ask what she is doing in Hong Kong. If she in on vacation, well… she is out of this category.
Women on vacation
The second category (and I find this quite interesting) are the women who come on vacation. Shall I say a low budget vacation with probably very little money. They are not Freelancers. They don’t street walk. They have some vacation plans. It’s all arranged for them. The problem is they don’t know what they are in for – that Hong Kong is expensive and Tequila shots at Hong Kong bars are not a steady source of income. They have to pray on somewhat cashed up guys who will pay for the unknown expenses through the Tequila shots. Well…. That’s not going to happen always. It is your luck.
How many like myself would be roaming the bars for 6 days to have some fun and bring back something to write about. How many will be happy to stick to one girl for a couple of days if you are cashed up. Well one such women I met I call my night time girlfriend! Night time because I had a different one for the day! It’s a long story and I did find out a lot about how they come and what they do so watch out for the Hong Kong Night Time Girlfriend post!
Hookers or Freelancers
Next, the obvious – the Freelancers! They are in plenty. They hang out at bars and discos, they walk the streets, they place classified ads and hope that hey presto magic happens and they go back rich as ever! I kind of don’t thing that happens to expectation! Actually the story may be quite sad. The few nights I walk about Wan Chai area, I did find the same girls over and over again. On my way to see the night time girlfriend, I see them. On my return I still see them. Three nights in a row when I had my camera on, I still caught them. So do they actually make some money?
During a walkabout, one of them tell the full story of why she came to Hong Kong and how difficult it is. It is well worth watching. Quite a lot of them hang out at the bars and pubs. The operators don’t mind them because they are an attraction. If not for the Freelancers some of the bars like Neptune 3 will be dead on a weekday night. In some form or the other they sell drinks. Not necessarily tequila shots but a glass of wine or something. They are usually the lone rangers at the bar. If you go in and sit and look around, as soon as you make eye contact, she will smile with you. She will come to you and introduce herself and get chatting. She will ask for a drink unless you beat her to it and offer. I know the game so actually I offer if she is cute or stunning. What’s the harm in offering a lady a drink because the chances of her turning you down are virtually zero!
She will suggest to go somewhere. You ask how much and you get absolute re-confirmation that she is actually a Freelancer. But in this case I prefer to use the term Escort because they offer more than straight sex but company. Going rate is about $2000 (Hong Kong I must say) and you will get some pretty stunners out there. Ofcourse this is not a department store! You can bargain.
On one visit, I met a Thai girl or shall I say a vacation escort and she was pretty with a nose ring (and you don’t usually see that many Thai girls wearing a nose ring), nails manicured, smartly dressed and you will not say she works as an escort and I actually mistook her for a decent office worker coming for a drink at a bar. She walked in, sat at the bar, looked around and ordered a glass of wine. Then one of the staff came over and said something to the bar girl. She wanted to pay and the bar girl said no need. She immediately did the ‘Thai Thank you’. She got a glass of wine on the house. Saved me the trouble of buying her a drink. She claims (and did show me photos) she runs a coffee shop in Bangkok. She also sells clothes. She is on vacation in Hong Kong for 14 days. That’s all a visa she is given any way. She usually goes to Jo Bananas and that’s where the Thais usually hang out and was her first time in Neptune. May be the owner was encouraging her to change over.
Women paid by the bars
Finally the women or part time Hookers or Sex workers (if you prefer that term) paid by the bars. Shall I say employees? Well yes. This was the norm 10 years ago. My first time in Hong Kong doing the bar rounds was about 2007. Things were very different. No stunning street walkers. I hooked up with a girl at the Makati (don’t remember exactly what it was called then) and I see her every day for a few days in the evening for a few drinks and not Tequila. Then I arranged for her to come directly to my hotel room. Never turned up. I went back to the bar that night and asked her what happened. She said, if I came to your hotel, I have to pay the bar (something like the famous Bangkok Bar fine) and I have to charge you.
Then I found that she was actually employed by the Bar to sell drinks. I don’t think she was doing that good a job. The drinks were much cheaper back then. I did exchange emails with her. Oh yes she had an email and not smart phone! Two weeks after I returned back home, I get an email and it reads “I am very unhappy here and want to go back to Manila. Don’t have money to buy a ticket. Can you send me?” oh yeah! Bet I will… or may be NOT! One thing has not changed over the years. If you stay in contact, they will ask for money at some stage. Every one of them. I can bet on this as much as the sunrise and sunset. I think this category of people is none existent now.
Mainstream Bars and Pubs
Apart from the underground and overhead, there are the bars that are quite open to the street or occasionally one floor up. They are just bars and pubs. They do have entertainment. Taboo and Amazonia are two of the best in the area. They have good bands playing. There is also Jo Bananas. Jo Bananas is quite famous (or was famous at the time of writing) for Thai Freelancers. You will find them in other bars like Taboo and Amazonia as well. But in all cases they are not very obvious. They will come and have a drink or someone will buy them a drink but are not so obvious and will not hassle. This was the fundamental difference between the Thai girl I met at Neptune and the rest of them. If they start to hassle, they will be kicked out. These are regular bars. The usual crowd is a genuine crowd. They are genuine office workers, university students, tourists and the like who come for evening drinks, enjoy the music, dance and what not.
Then there are guys who take the newly found “partner” paid or not for a drink and dancing and what not. Is it normal? Absolutely yes. Any Escort/Hooker/Freelancer who comes hoping to find a guy to pay them will look very much a normal lady and will buy her first drink at the bar. They will walk upto a guy and have a chat when the first drink is about to finish. What does a guy do when a lady joins you for a drink and her drink is almost over? Offer her another? Well yes, until you find out she is actually selling her services.
Apart from the names I mentioned like Amazonia & Taboo that are on the street, there are many more bars scattered all over the Wan Chai party area and cater to the usual office crowd and party goers. So be mindful of that when to think of hitting upon someone and asking how much!
GoGo or Girly Bars
Apart from the obvious bars and pubs and discos and clubs and what not, there are some that are not so obvious as to what they are but from the outside they appear to be a closed bar or pub. Obviously you are tempted to go in. Let me tell you whats inside.
GoGo bars or Girlie bars or rip off bars as I call them are scattered all over the area of Lockhart Road. There are around 12 to 15 of them. I would always expect any bar with some worthwhile action to be either on the first floor or basement. These are all pretty much on the ground floor. There is a women by the door, “The Door Women” who encourages you to come in and have one drink. Yes, you heard me right! “One Drink” and that’s just to get you in. This is not the mamasan. Technically the Mamasan is the mama who looks after the girls or talks to the customers or patrons as we may call ourselves encouraging you to buy a lady a drink or take one home.
Few years back I explored some of the bars but they were never appealing to me. All you get inside is a small stage with a few poles, bar stools around them and about 5 (or 10 in a larger bar) girls dressed in bikini and top (never nude) dancing or shall I say supposed to be dancing. All that they do for dancing is move there body about 10 centimeters to the left and back again to the right. They are so unenthusiastic. They look grumpy and uninterested. Their level of English and accent indicates to me they are from the Philippines. I have been to Bangkok many times and my visits to Hong Kong are usually tied up with a return through Bangkok. Hence when I walk into any one of them, I visualize Soi Cowboy or Nana plaza in Bangkok. Hong Kong Girlie Bars are such a turn-off so much that I am so unenthusiastic about them as much as the dancers seem to be. However, for the purposes of writing I think I should visit few next time.
What does it cost? According to some info I collected a drink for the lady and by that I mean a drink that she gobbles in 2 minutes and ask for another is said to be $300 (Hong Kong). I am also told that the usual Bangkok bar fine system operates there and you can take a girl out for $3000+. Are you F..ing kidding me? I have been offered by stunning freelancers to be taken out for $2000 (and some of them are drop dead gorgeous). Why should I pay $3000 for someone who can’t even shake her hips!
So my advice is don’t waste your time and money. I won’t even when I have!
Looking at the cost, looking at how empty the bar is (never seen more than two in any), it does not all add up. Hong Kong rents are expensive. How much money do they actually make. I am not so sure if they are actually what they are or a front for something else.
So whats a Tequila and whats with the Tequila that the women you meet at the bars ask for. In case you didn’t know or want to know the real explanation for Tequila, it is a regional distilled beverage and type of alcoholic drink made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, and in the Jaliscan Highlands of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco. Well… do these Women who ask for a Tequila at a bar know what it is? Nope! They don’t and No, they don’t care. All that they care about is getting a cashback. Usually the Tequila shots in Wan Chai bars come in a small shot glass or as a long shot. The long shot is obviously a taller short glass. Usually you are charged for a long shot. Well, if you buy a standard shot, rest assured your lady friend will drink it in double quick time and ask for another. Buy default when you order you will get a long shot at $160 (Hong Kong).
At Hong Kong Cafe, the long shot comes in a small shot glass and then a regular glass diluted with water and ice. Interesting concept. But I found that better because they have to hang on for awhile with the regular glass. So if you are not sure about continuing to buy drinks for your lady friend, you might consider buying a short and then see how much a conversation you can have before she gobbles in few seconds. The shot comes with a piece of lime and salt. So they are supposed to gulp the shot then dampen the lime in salt and suck it. In Manila, Philippines and Bangkok, Thailand I once offered a body shot. They lift up your shirt, rub the lime and salt on your nipple, then drink the tequila and suck your nipple.
OK. so you are charged $160 for the Tequila and does the bar keep all of that? Nope! In some form or the other, the bar keeps track on how many Tequila shots a girl has. In most cases the bar girl or the waitress gives a small token to the girl. When she leaves the bar she collects $100 for every token. At the end of the night if you buy 6 drinks, you are down $960 and she is up $600. Minimum salary for a domestic helper is $4250 and I am pretty sure they will not get much more than that given that there are domestic helpers from the Philippines and Indonesia available in the hundreds of Thousands. Well… its quite a lucrative trade only if they can actually make that money on a regular basis. Girls do go dry for quite a few days without a drink. If you decide to take the girl out of the bar and she tells you to wait outside she will go to the toilet and come, she just needs to pick up her earnings for the night.
Is it not a surprise that the Tequila is so popular not just in Hong Kong but Bangkok, Singapore, Manila and god knows where else. It is the fastest finishing drink. Possibly the fastest to get her drunk too!
I know its fun to get high and fun to get drunk but rule number one at any bar you intend buying drinks for the lady is to stay Sober. I run a bar night with a bottle of beer or may be two but never ever more than that. A strategy the girls adopt (and the bars love it) is to get you drunk or high so you lose count of the Tequila you buy, and they will bring their friends along for drinks and you really don’t know what you say yes to. This is why in a lot of the bars, they either take your credit card or pay as you go. Either way make a mental count of what you buy.
What’s next in Wan Chai
Wan Chai has lot more to offer. The popular and unique street walkers of Wan Chai are a topic by its self. Then the famous massage parlors, so called Walk-up buildings and the one woman brothels of Hong Kong that are actually legal. I almost forgot the story of the Night Time girlfriend and an explanation about the ATM. Read all about them in Wan Chai 3.