n the ‘dark ages’ of communication up through the 1950's, information on Bangkok’s expat Night Scene was by word-of-mouth: seamen from the ships seeking out waterfront bars of repute, or ill-repute. Employees of foreign companies, employees of airlines passing on to fellow expats the names of the dens of after-hours pleasure. Embassy staff passing on the ‘best places’ to their eventual replacements. A rare advertisement in the local English language newspaper of a hotel lounge bar. At that far-distant time, Bangkok’s Night Scene was not much different than any such similar capitol city around the globe.
A humorous book from the 90's inadvertently documents a 'sea-change' in Thailand's Night Entertainment scene.< link >
And then along came the '60's. Concomitant with the influx of the US military assigned to the various military facilities in Thailand in 1965, an unknown columnist with the Bangkok World began publishing exclusive coverage of the Bangkok Nightlife. Popular restaurants, hotel bars, piano bars, you name it. The columnist in question, of course, was Bernard ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ Trink. Without fanfare, ‘communication’ was no longer just word-of-mouth, it had, through the local Media, taken an unheralded, but significant step forward.
The R & R years. 'Communication' was still, to a large extent, 'word-of-mouth'
-All rights, as applicable, to David N. Farrington and Corbis. Internet excerepts in accordance with Copyright 'Fair-Use'
But it wasn’t just the 50,000, or so, military stationed in Thailand during the war years. The Rest & Recreation program (R&R) conceived in 1965 -and up and running full-bore between 1967 until 1973- was dumping an estimated 70,000 men into Thailand each year. Even after the US armed forces departed en-masse from Viet Nam in 1973 and the R&R program likewise instantaneously ceased to exist, a large part of the US military contingent remained in Thailand until 1976. It is estimated that 700,000 US military visited or were stationed in Thailand in the 60’s and 70’s. That’s a lot of word-of-mouth 'communicating'. And the communication itself during this time was morphing from just ‘Bangkok is a great place’, to ‘this bar or that bar is a great watering hole’, to ‘Lek, number 27 is the one for you’.
But the Bangkok World’s Bernard Trink wasn’t standing idly by as all this US presence paraded itself through Thailand. By 1967, Bernard Trink had transmogrified into the ‘Night Owl’; and while still covering the nightscene entertainment in general, his emphasis had changed to the lounges, discos, A Go-Go bars and massage parlors. His weekly columns, lasting through 2003, featured photos of "the best Go-Go dancers I saw in the ale houses of the Capitol last week". Not to mention his recommendations, by venue and badge number, of the best ‘special’ masseuses he had encountered…. So popular were his columns, that they were being clipped and mailed to the four corners of the globe. Again, no mean feat, ‘communication’ of Bangkok's nocturnal delights had been notched up yet again, through a wider, dedicated Media effort.
Bernard Trink became Bangkok's Nite Owl in 1967 - spreading the word locally through "The Media" on Bangkok's Nitelife Scene, and -for the first time in a significant way- internationally.
Also, at that time, the travel guides were coming into their own, such as FEER’s coveted “Golden Guide To Southeast Asia”, and those that followed. Virtually every backpacker, every casual tourist would have one under his arm. Although these guides’ coverage of the Bangkok Nightscene was scant at best, referring to the Nightlife backhandedly, by way of negative inflection (for fear of being labeled promoters of the ‘dark side’), ‘the word’ nevertheless continued to spread.
On the 1976 departure of the remaining US armed forces in Thailand, it was thought that the Night Entertainment Industry would fall flat on its face. Nope. The word was out -‘communicating’ had stayed ahead of the power curve. Wave after wave of 'other' tourists were to follow: the ‘German Wave’, the ‘Arab Wave’, the ‘Japanese Wave ’and then, generally, every nationality from Australia to England to (sometime later) the Russians and newly-mobile East Europeans. Each group to its own, word of mouth still a strong element of ‘communication’. But this was also the era of the “Sex Tour” and the ‘Social-Justice Warrior’ school of journalism, primarily from Europe and America. A virtual parade of morally indignant 'experts' coming to Thailand for a week, writing their ‘definitive’ know-all piece on the evils of prostitution in Thailand. We residents cannot begin to relate how sick we became of these sh*theads.
An Internet gag making the rounds yet again - hitting close to home yet again.'
As the ‘communicating’ of Thailand’sNightlife pleasures continued to spread, during the late 1970’s, one of the varied groups of tourists flocking to Thailand was the foreign construction workers. Many from the Indonesian oil patch, many from Saudi Arabia and environs, they were often referred to, somewhat derogatorily, as ‘the construction stiffs’. Enter the era of “She works in a bar, but she’s not a bar girl.” Invariably, these gentlemen would pair up with their favorite A Go-Go girl, and spend whatever number of days with her. On departure back to the oil patch, addresses were exchanged, and for the interim, until their next visit to the Land of Smiles, the correspondence flowed hot and heavy. The men professing their devotion, the girls expressing their love-you-too-much, oh, and the need for just a little more money, if you could send it right away, dear. Dying mothers, multiple birthdays, and the now-classic sick water buffalo. The ladies of the evening, catching on quickly, would often have a string of ‘construction stiffs’ on their letter-writing agendas.
Not unsurprisingly, a sub-industry blossomed at the periphery of the Night Entertainment Scene – letter-writers to the fore. Most of the ladies in the Night Entertainment Industry were not literate in English, and could, for a nominal fee, have a letter written for them by a ‘professional’ letter-writer. Often with hilarious results. Captured to perfection, both humorously and accurately in “Hello My Big Big Honey” – a delightful collection of such snail-mail communications of yore. But this was not, as many of us thought at the time, just a quirky offshoot of Bangkok's Nightlife Scene. Rather, it was what history will someday view as THE pivotal paradigm shift – for the first time, a significant number of the girls -and their big big honeys- were no longer dependent on ‘the bars’ to communicate, to ‘connect’, to continue doing what they were doing. 'Hooking-up' outside of the bars had, comparatively rapidly, become a mainstream alternative.
Not that any more 'spotlights' on Bangkok's Nightlife were needed at this juncture, but the Eighties saw the beginning of a long proliferation of books, of novels. And each, in turn, according to its relevance, tended to spread awareness - and the somewhat misplaced mystique and skewed perceptions that had grown around, and about this oriental night-time playground. Some of these books on Bangkok were 'keepers' (some others, not so much). Of the notables : Alan Dawson’sPatpong: Bangkok's Big Little Street, and Nick Nostitz’s dank-more-than-noir Patpong, Bangkok’s Twilight Zone, and Cleo Odzer’sPatpong Sisters, and right down the middle, Christopher Moore’s“Smile” trilogy.
A sampling of Bangkok Nightlife's influential books through the years -often influential in spite of themselves- 'keepers', all (if you can still find copies...).
This continuously expanding communication revolution prevailed until the early 1990’s, at which time someone should have told us, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” The Night Entertainment World, like the rest of the world, was hit with the double-whammy of the Internet and the mobile phone. Pandora’s Box, at least in terms of connectivity, had been opened. Bar girls were getting their own email addresses, and their letter-writers-of-old had better know how to type, or they would be replaced. Now the girls could instantaneously profess their undying love-you mak-tee-soot and ask for more money for father’s funeral, or yet another birthday. Instead of having to wait a month or more for another check, it would take only a week to ten days. And they were beginning to understand that with their new-found bank accounts, they could have money sent directly to their bank.
In 2002 we published Virtual Bars?< link > in our September edition. We had accurately assessed the girls’ greater independence, greater freedom, from bars and the bar scene, but we could not see that we were only looking at the tip of the iceberg. By this time, 'chatting', with the aid of web cams was available in the now-flourishing internet cafes. Girls could then, as necessary, cry large wet tears, and continue to profess that they had given up ‘the game’, and were waiting only for their john - and they could do it all 'live'.
But the Internet was not just for the Hotmail and 'chat' set : websites of all sorts were popping up, to include those focusing on the Night Scene in Bangkok. Taking center stage, of course, the escort services in all their variegated forms. Also, at one end of the spectrum, we had the various Night Entertainment Venues with their own websites (inclusive of photo albums), while at the other end of the spectrum were the flood of small massage parlors (as opposed to the mega-fishbowl steam & creams) that were rushing to get their own websites up, hoping to attract a larger share of the money pie. Many of these massage parlors were including photo galleries of their masseuses along with their 'contact info'. Even greater connectivity, greater convenience to those wanting to get, or stay, 'hooked-up'.
Mobile phones, on the other hand, were making their presence felt in the communication revolution somewhat more slowly. They were initially hundred-dollar items, so only those bar girls who were 'well-financed' had them. And they were heavy-duty status items – working girls in tight jeans would carry their muu-tuu’s in their back pocket, the outline of the hand-phone plainly visible - if you had one, flaunt it. -As noted, well-financed. This ‘status’ disappeared, of course, as the price of hand-phones continued to fall. And hand-phones were the ideal hand-tool for such occasions when they had to keep their various big big honeys properly scheduled. For one thing, excuses were easier to make, should yet another farang daddy from Saudi's oil fields show up unexpectedly.
It had to happen - go on line, dial-in your specs, designate a time and place, and off you go....
As the hand phones got 'smarter', the Internet and the telephone became one and the same thing. And, the Internet, having gone full-interactive, began to blossom with dating / meeting sites servicing inbound travellers and residents alike. Escort services continued to fluorish and grow, each with their own websites - as well as paid links on others' websites - each offering a little bit more, a little bolder than the one before it. Not to be outdone, of the myriad single-shophouse massage parlors now found on virtually every soi in Bangkok, a growing percentage of these have call-out services, many of which are 24/7. Many of these 'massage parlors' were, and are, in fact little more than 'dial-a-girl' shops, being 'massage parlors' by way of operating license only. Communicating, connecting, hooking-up has never been more convenient. Today, if one desires to max-out on all of that which our digital world offers, one only needs to go to a website like Smooci< link > where it's everything, all the time, at your front door, or anywhere, more and better and faster and stronger.
And while this 'communication explosion', inclusive of all its various ‘new’ Nightlife channels, will never entirely replace the A Go-Go's and the other bars, it does provide a wide variety of options for ladies in the Night Entertainment Industry, many of whom have already subscribed in full to this 'other' way of life.
uring a 10 February 2017National Legislative Assembly (NLA) debate on Night Entertainment oversight, accusations were levied by children's welfare advocate Wallop Tangananurak to the effect that zoning laws were not being adequately enforced. Deputy Interior Minister Sutee Markboon countered the accusations, and in the process, a great deal of heretofore unreported information on Thailand'sNight Entertainment scene was brought to light. Historians of the Nightscene in some future time will surely want to refer.... Below is an extract from the Bangkok Post article.
- 0 -
11 February 2017
Many Night Entertainment venues nationwide are illegally located in prohibited zones, the blame for which could lie with state authorities, said Wallop Tangananurak, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) member yesterday. He questioned whether Entertainment Venues scattered in prohibited zones across the country, particularly in Bangkok, were mainly the result of state authorities failing to strictly enforce the law. Some business operators were blatantly violating the law and contributing to the problem, Mr Wallop said.
Mr Wallop, a children's welfare advocate, also asked the assembly members whether the current laws and regulations were sufficient to regulate nightlife outlets. It was necessary to devise additional measures such as clearly-designated Entertainment Zones for more efficient monitoring and policing of Nightlife Venues, he added.
Responding to Mr Wallop's queries, Deputy Interior Minister Sutee Markboon insisted the existing laws and measures can regulate entertainment venues effectively enough. He ... cited related laws which were being enforced, including the Entertainment Spot Act, the previous coups’ proclamations associated with the regulation of entertainment venues in 1959 and 1972 as well as the latest orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order.
According to Mr Sutee, agencies under the ministry have conducted 22,344 inspections on Entertainment Venues and 102,309 on alcohol outlets nationwide over the past year. Of all Entertainment Venues, 341 have been closed down for a gross violation of the law.
Mr Sutee said there were 2,991 registered entertainment venues - 470 in Bangkok and 2,521 in other provinces- in 2015. They were reduced to 2,801 last year after the authorities doubled law enforcement efforts and worked closely with relevant public and private agencies. Also, the ministry is now reviewing the re-organization of entertainment venue zoning in 27 provinces.
Of the 27 provinces, new entertainment zones in 13 provinces have been approved by the ministry while the designation of other zones in the remaining provinces are being reviewed by local authorities and will later be considered by the Interior Ministry. The list of zones approved by the ministry will ultimately be forwarded to the cabinet for final approval.
As for Bangkok, 50 entertainment venue zones, designated during 2002 to 2004, unchanged.
Mr Sutee said the ministry has also worked closely with the Metropolitan Police Bureau which oversees venues in the city.
For Bung Kan, which is not among the 27 provinces because it was a new province since established in 2011, zoning will be considered based on economic development potential as well as peace and order in the province.
- Excerpted in conformity to Copyright Law, 'Fair Use'
Rushing off to a place unknown,
From a wild life to the quiet zone
Yet, all my friends are all I've known,
I worry now they be left alone
Bangkok Eyes notes with regret the passing of Fred Wunderlich, friend to all he met, man of a thousand facets, dark clown, manipulator of the outrageous, master of irony, king of the juxtaposition, chameleon, shepherd of fools, programmer, gamer, father, grandfather, dog wrangler, partner in crime, soldier, veteran, bunker-rock aficionado, husband, expatriate, single-malt puller, co-founder and webmaster of this site. And today the world is a little darker.
I'm flying into BKK on June 15th, 2017 at 10:30 pm. Will I have enough time to get to Nana?
Considering the averages, if your aircraft touches down on time at 10:30 pm, you should be out of immigration by 11:30 pm or slightly earlier. If you take a taxi straight to Nana Plaza from the airport and go straight to the bars, you and your suitcases should be in a bar by midnight (24:00 hrs).
If you are staying at a hotel in or near Soi Nana, you should be able to check in, and be back out on the street in half an hour, which would be approx 00:30 hrs, or 30 minutes past midnight.
Most of the bars are now closing at 02:00 hrs, with some staying open later, depending on how they have negotiated with the 'authorities'. Note: closing times can vary without notice, depending on the whims of the authorities, however, closing times have been stable for quite a while now.
Below is a collage of the King's Group A Go-Go bars' new digital signage. All we can say is, "Ugh... What ever happened to real neon?"
Like a tramp sleeping under a different bridge every night, the Pussy Magic relocates yet again. This time, they have moved into the Queen's I digs. Lets see how long this lasts.... Take note: they have been reported to be a 'pay for show' bar.
The Kamakaze DJ Bar has opened freshly on the 3rd floor in the large building at the Suriwong Road end of the Patpongs. Nipponese only need apply...
After a closure of 14 months, the Glamour is once again up-and-running, and they seem to be turning a nickel. Welcome them back to the machine.
You say 'tomay-to', I say 'tomaah-to'. Bada Bing ! is technically, and by official sign, "Twilo", but her fans still know her as the "Bada Bing !"
Endless Valentine's Day
The Top Light Bar has re-re-closed. Until they make up their mind to either stay open and develop regular clientele, or to continue to work part-time and finally go broke, we won't note their status, or post photos of this Nitespot.
We can't remember seeing Soi Cowboy as crowded as it was last Saturday. We have no idea how this translates to businesses turning a nickel inside their curtained doorways, but the outside tables were doing well indeed. Let it roll on.
The Easy Lick is in the process of taking over from the long-lived Play Skool (the Play Skool took over from the late, great Mon Cherie in July 1995). Welcome Easy Lick to the neon circus.
The brand-new Easy Lick has modified the previous Play Skool neon, ending up with an eye-catching bit of signage. Best on the block this month...
Bunnies A Go-Go's 'back room' continues to undergo modifications - the chrome A Go-Go poles are now up around what was the podium for the band. And the previously clear windows now sport new signage - as shown. *Sigh* - we can remember Nana Plaza when it didn't require such explicit signage.... BTW, demographically speaking, our sources on the ground confirm that white-faces are a scarce minority in Nana these days; most of the clientele being from Asian countries. Nevertheless, Bunnies continues to be one of the top-ranked A Go-Go's.
Hillary 2 now advertises itself as a "Pub & Restaurant", completing the change-over from 'bar'. But you could have fooled us - as far as the eye could see, we saw a crowded bar beer... Let the rock continue to rock.
Hugs has just recently occupied the old Bearbie Bar digs up on the 2nd floor. They looked busy as we passed by the other evening. May they keep on keeping on...
The Sugar Bowl (A Little Sugar in my Bowl) has reopened after a brief renovation, and a change-of-hands. We note with interest that this is the first Nitespot we have come across whose entire signage is a single LED television screen. A little small, perhaps, but certainly convenient. Welcome back to the sharkpool.
The Meaw Meaw Bar has taken over the small bar beer adjacent (which, once, was called Jasmine Bar) and have relocated their neon to sit between the two Venues. May they endure the vicissitudes...
QUEEN's PARK PLAZA (Sukhumvit 22)
Country Road has, inexplicably, closed its doors - no signage indicating why. We suspect it is temporary, but one never knows... We'll check back, and get back atcha.
QUEEN's PARK PLAZA (Sukhumvit 22)
The Five Star Bar looked darker than a poisoned well when we passed by the other night. It looks like they are stripping out the guts - we don't expect it will be reopening. Wish them a soft landing, wherever, whenever.
Love & Service (Mitsue) is closing down its upstairs-downstairs Venue in the S-33 Compact Hotel, and are consolidating resources in their newly reopened facilities in Sub-soi 4. May they maintain the momentum...
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
The Cefle Massage, opened in November 2004, has rolled down the shutters and headed for higher ground. (Note: the Jina 33 Club sign is a relic of times past - having closed circa December 2006).
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
The 'S Cafe, located in the S 33 Compact Hotel, has reopened after a brief hiatus. Lets hope all goes well in the future...
After being closed down for renovations for almost 3 months, the @ Chai Massage has reopened, albeit about fifty percent smaller - having leased out the right-hand half of their facilities. To clarify for readers, the @ Chai is not a gay massage parlor. Welcome back to the world of steam and cream.
Bangkok Eyes goes back in time to
Who was new - And who was through
in the Expat Night Entertainment world.
How many of these old 'oases'
do you remember ?
* The Underground Dance Club reopened after a brief closure, dropping the "Go Go Boy" from their name. They were located just at the Surawong Road side of Mizu's. Currently, there is no Night Entertainment Venue at that location.
* The upstairs Superman A Go Go Boys opened newly. This real estate is currently home to an unnamed rip-off bar It was located above what is today the Thigh Bar .
*Screw Pub opened newly in the then-just-closed King's Love Boat on the connecting Soi Bookstore. This location is currently home to The Club King's.
*The French Kiss reopened after a brief closure. It is still there today.
* Up on The Ramp, three bars closed (for a brief one-month period): the Barcelona Cocktail Lounge, the Swing Club and The Naturals. Only the Swing Club remains today.
*No changes that month / year. -
*Hollywood No. 1 replaced the previous occupant, Hollywood Royal. Currently home to London Calling (Hollywood Rock).
*Leo Garden took over the reins of the Friend Ship bar beer. These digs currently held down by Big Dogs.
Soi Katoey ( Silom Soi 4 )
* The upstairs from the Telephone Pub & Restaurant, the Telephone Karaoke closed. It did not reopen. Telephone Pub & Restaurant is still at that location.
Buckskin Joe Village (~ March 1988 to March 2006)
(Also known -originally- as Tobacco Road or Soi Rot Fai or, 'The Tracks', and later as Machim [Thai] and Soi Zero)
*Sexy Night DET 5 closed down temporarily (one month) for the reorganization of Buckskin Joe Village. (Buckskin Joe Village relocated away from the railroad tracks to under the Expressway at that juncture.)
*i 3 beer bar opened newly in the new section of Soi Rot Fai, as did Bad Girls Bar (Up To You) beer bar, and one other unnamed bar beer (to be named later).
In a land where dissent is not normally tolerated, it is most unlikely that vandalizing the walls of the Capitol would go unpunished. Nevertheless, for the last couple of years Cuban street artist Yulier Perez has been busy 'decorating' Havana's walls with his eye-catching graffiti. -And all the while, the authorities have been turning a knowing blind-eye.
While occasionally waxing 'artsy-phartsy' about his work, Yulier Perez (whose street name is Yulier P.15) walks a thin line, not being too specific about whether his works are critical of the government, or whether they are intended as social comment. He, however, says his street art allows him the freedom not found in the "white cube" of galleries, or painting under government auspices. He sagely adds, he is for government that works for the people, and leaves it at that.
While he has, on occasion, been scrutinized by the police, they have not interfered. Not wanting to push his luck, Perez chooses the locations for his artistic efforts in lower profile neighborhoods as opposed to public buildings in the downtown areas. He attempts to choose walls that, once painted, would tend to brighten the neighborhood. And this, almost universally, is welcomed by the neighbors.
Perez says he became fascinated with painting as a child, and his passion for painting has never dimmed. At one point he attempted to enroll in the San Alejandro Academy to obtain a formal education in the arts. For whatever reason, he was not accepted, which influenced him greatly in finding other artistic outlets, to include street art. - A most unusual niche, outside the 'system', filled by an inspired artist.
Graphic excerpts above are from Internet sources, and are, under current legal precedents and prevailing interpretations considered 'Fair Use' under Copyright Law.