Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
Soi 24 Night Scene Review
- A BANGKOK NIGHTLIFE UPDATE
01 August 2003
William R. Morledge
Sukhumvit Square redux
Nana's flagship showbar gone!
The 'Sleeping Colossus'
Fashion Massage revealed
Night Scene Follies in review
As promised last December, MIDNITE HOUR presents the first in our series of Nightlife Updates in the Sukhumvit Road area - the hub of Expat Night Entertainment in Bangkok.
Soi 24 is one of the many roadways that connects Sukhumvit Road with Rama IV Road and has a long, if not particularly illustrious Night Entertainment history. Dating back to the "R&R" years, there was some Night Scene activity around the Impala Hotel, but nothing to write home about. Since then, there has been slow, if irregular growth of the Night Entertainment "industry" there, to include the occasional 'contraction' - where more Night Venues were closing than were opening up.
MIDNITE HOUR recently set out to see if Soi 24 would qualify as a separate Night Entertainment Area on its own. Soi 24 is almost exactly 1.3 km. in length - much too large to be considered a single Night Entertainment Area. The MIDNITE HOUR criteria for such is that there are enough Night Entertainment Venues within to have reached "critical mass" - enough venues to become a 'draw' on their own; a location where one could comfortably spend an entire evening at the various venues. The second criterion is that the Night Entertainment Area be in a contiguous location -each venue easily accessible from any other. Although Soi 24 does not qualify in these regards, it does have a few small pockets of Night Scene activity worth entering on the ledger.
The first 'mini-area' on Soi 24 is almost entirely hidden from view - right across the street from the side entrance to the Emporium - just behind the Nuch Massage. This small enclave can be accessed by either of two small sois - which are connected by another small cross-soi just two shophouses inside. Once inside we can see a variety of local shops and a handful of venues of interest to the Expat in search of Night Entertainment. Of the handful of local restaurants, only the Wunderbar Bar & Restaurant stands out - more a restaurant during the day; more a bar during the evening. There is also an assortment of "Thai Traditional Massages" to choose from - each with a fairly high ambiguity quotient;
- Bee Massage
- P.S. Massage
- Baron Massage
Nevertheless, this enclave is plainly physically too small (See our Map) to develop into a stand-alone Night Entertainment Area.
The second entertainment enclave to be found on Soi 24 is Siwaporn Plaza, and is located about 300 meters in from Sukhumvit on the right. This compound is dedicated solely to Night Entertainment, however it also lacks "critical mass". Virtually the entire enclave is dedicated to Japanese clientele, although this reviewer did not see the usual "Members Only" or "Japanese Only" signs prevalent in other Japanese Night Entertainment Areas. Aside from a couple of good restaurants, the following establishments within the compound qualifying as purely Night Entertainment Venues are;
- Bacchus, (No relation to the one on Soi 33.)
- Cafe Bean Paco,
- Japanese Karaoke Club (+ another sign in Japanese),
- Shot Ranpuya,
- Coffee Shop Koto,
- Twenty-4 Massage \-Thai traditional -catering to all.\
- Isan Champroo - Blues Bar and Restaurant
(Really...and despite the name, its also geared
to Japanese clientele.)
(*CLICK* here to view MAP )
The third Soi 24 entertainment enclave is the Bangkok 2000 exhibition building located on the left about 800 meters into the soi - closer to Rama IV Road than to Sukhumvit. This building is worthy of note more for what it was, and for what it might become again. For those of you who have never visited this facility, take it from me, it is enormous - we are talking about individual venues measured in the hundreds of square meters - one needs to see them from the inside to believe. It has the potential to house the largest Night Entertainment Area in Bangkok - all under one roof. As the exhibition building stands now, only The Fort remains open, however in its recent past, it housed such giants as
- Species , (No relation to the one on Tobacco Road.)
- Darling, (No relation to the one on Soi 12.)
- The Adventure Karaoke
-Not to mention a selection of restaurants and other outlets which have long since called it a day - remembered now only by their tattered signage. With the exception of The Fort, mentioned above, it is now a ghost town, and looks like it was struck by a tornado - the gutted remains of the old venues never having been cleaned up. It should be noted that in its heyday, it was primarily a Thai Yuppie area, with the occasional Ferang visitor venturing in. Nevertheless, the potential remains - should it ever be redeveloped, it could be the Night Entertainment Colossus of Bangkok.
Other venues listed below are mentioned more for the purpose of completing the historical record than any real hope they will ever become a focal point for any future Night Entertainment Area.
-Lemon Grass, (Restaurant / Bar)
-Seafood Town, (Thrives on taxis working on commission.)
-Merai Bar, (In the Impala Hotel)
-Totti, (Italian Restaurant / Bar next to T.House)
-T. House, (Restaurant / Bar)
-Japanese Pub Restaurant, (In the Medico-Chiro Centre.)
-Sarina Japanese Club, (In the Medico-Chiro Centre.)
-Seafood Market Restaurant, (Seafood emporium - mostly tours.)
-Lot 24, (Bar / Restaurant)
-Eurasian, (French Tea House / Restaurant / Bar - next to Lot 24)
-Starbucks Coffee, (Of course... Across from President Park.)
-McDonalds, (You knew there had to be one - at Rama IV.)
-DeMeglio's, (Restaurant / Bar - In the President Park Complex)
If one buys into the 'philosophy' that the three prevalent forms of Night Entertainment in Bangkok are "Local", "Ferang" and "Japanese", we could, in summation, say that Soi 24 was once primarily a Local Entertainment Area, but that it is now predominantly slanted to the Japanese Entertainment Scene. In view of an ongoing Purachaiian outlook on Night Entertainment in general, there is little chance that the earlier mentioned "Sleeping Colossus" at the Bangkok 2000 exhibition building will awaken, however such an eventuality cannot be precluded entirely.
MIDNITE HOUR will, as time allows, visit the various Sukhumvit sois as we continue to review the Bangkok Night Scene landscape.
(*CLICK* to view Soi 24 MAP )
Sukhumvit Square Redux
-LITTLE REAL AID TO 'SURVIVORS'
No one living in Thailand could have missed the recent and ongoing news relating to the now-defunct Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area. Those familiar with the story will recall that this Night Entertainment Area was literally crushed by a combination of underworld Mafia and Institutional Mafias. Bulldozers and a small army of men were brought in at 04:00 a.m. on 26 January of this year - under the noses of Bangkok's Finest, and over 100 shops, tourist outlets and bars were crushed and looted.
Public outcry was considerable; Prime Minister Taxin said that no such Mafia activity would be condoned on his watch. Since that time, the hemostats have been trundled out by the wheelbarrow-load in an effort to stem the hemorrhaging - token arrests, government pronouncements and finger-pointing have been inflicted on the villains and the scapegoats alike. Police Chiefs, military officers and prominent underworld figures are getting their public aprons dirtier by the day.
While the Soi 10 debacle was still in the process of being unraveled, Prime Minister Taxin announced his latest crackdown on Mafia activity and corruption; warning that the bad guys had three months to stop their nefarious activities, or pay the consequences. He was apparently -somehow- unaware that the two largest Mafias were Institutional Mafias. In a later 'mid-course correction', he announced that it would take a little longer to rid the National Police Force of their corruption - 5 years, to be precise. For the police who are being nabbed in this crackdown, "the consequences" they are facing is reassignment to an inactive post. Oh, dear.
This anti-Mafia pronouncement was followed shortly by the arrest of Khun Chuwit Kamolwisit, the owner of the land at Soi 10, the site of the Sukhumvit Square demolition. He was charged with being the brains and muscle (money) behind Nickel Co, the apparent owner, and was therefore responsible for the mass destruction that took place. Chuwit didn't take kindly to these police allegations, and said publicly -to our great delight and entertainment- that inasmuch as he regularly pays the police off with bribes amounting to "millions of baht" and "trays of Rolex watches", that he shouldn't be singled out for this kind of treatment.
This of course blew the lid off of everything. - and Prime Minister Taxin found himself between the proverbial Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object. He was then in the position of having previously committed to crack down on the Mafia elements responsible for the destruction of Sukhumvit Square, as well as more recently committed to cracking down on Mafia elements in general - and within the Police Department specifically. And lo-and-behold, he suddenly now realizes that where Sukhumvit Square is concerned, he is dealing with a single, monstrous two-headed beast at war with itself - and it doesn't care where the blood gets splattered.
His tap dancing has been colorful, if not artful. If anyone ever entertained as true the old adage that there is 'Honor Among Thieves', his little illusion would have been long shattered if he had been following the Media coverage on this dirty, dirty business.
Amid all the scandalous revelations and machinations, virtually nothing has emerged that will result in any sort of restitution for the Soi 10 survivors - those hundreds of shop owners and investors and employees who lost everything in that predawn assault. It should be remembered that this selfsame Nickel Co. long ago made a public offering to all the shop owners to pay them for their losses. Detailed lists were prepared, which included the names of all the shops within, and the amount each shop owner could legitimately claim based on his/her investments. (Of course the shop owners couldn't very well include the tea-money or the monthly bribes to the police - they had to content themselves with showing the cost of the original construction, subsequent renovations, and the chattel within.)
As mentioned in an earlier issue of MIDNITE HOUR, we had an opportunity to review this 'claims list' first hand through our contacts on the ground at Sukhumvit Square. It is a matter of the public record that the Nickel Co generously offered some of the shop owners ten cents on the dollar. The others were offered less. Most of the shop owners told Nickel Co. where they could stuff their 'compensation'. Nevertheless, as late as yesterday, 30 July, Chuwit himself said he was personally willing to consider compensation for the Soi 10 survivors - as long as it was acknowledged by all that he was in fact NOT responsible for the destruction. How terribly sordid - this, of course, being tacit admission that the survivors had NOT been compensated under the original scheme.
It remains to be seen whether Chuwit actually compensates the Soi 10 survivors, or if he was once again playing to the gallery. MIDNITE HOUR (along with the rest of the expat community in Bangkok) continue to watch the story unfold with a mixture of amusement and disgust. In the event there are any REAL developments, we will keep you advised.
August's Follies begin here
MIDNITE HOUR presents the NEWS on the Bangkok Night Scene; - the 'history-in-the-making' for all major Night Entertainment Areas. - for the month up to 1 August, 2003 :
• PATPONG II •The upstairs disco on Soi Bookstore (Soi Bat Boat) has reopened. Up until May 2002 it was the King's Lounge Disco Tech, whereupon there was a name change to Platinum. It closed last month for minor sprucing, reopening late this July as the King's Lounge (without the "Disco Tech"). King's Group was, and are the owners. Welcome back to the tussle.
Wun Pub, the single-shophouse lounge open since October of last year (next to Thai Room), has sold out to Kob, who has renamed it Kob's Place - the same name as its sister lounge upstairs on The Ramp.
The "Thai Traditional Massage" has opened on the 4th floor above Cosmo's. Located in the old P.P. Thai Traditional Massage digs, one can either take the stairwell or the newly renovated lift to get there. Alternately, if you are parking in the multi-storey carpark above Foodland, you can walk directly across the new footbridge to their front door. High ambiguity factor, here, as its location is certainly not in the path of passing foot-trade. Welcome to the scuffle.
The Royal Salute Cocktail Lounge, on The Ramp appears to be physically open, but does not look to be 'open for business'; with bar towels hanging up to dry on the front veranda and a mop bucket resting near the front door. We'll check back later and keep you advised.
• PATPONG II •
• NANA PLAZA •The big surprise at Nana Plaza this last month is the closure of the Crown Group's flagship bar, the Carnival (3rd Floor). Its multiple carousels and A-Go-Go / Show stages having been ripped asunder, as workmen refinish the outside walls and doorway. Something big is in the works; as we go to press, we haven't yet obtained the details. We will keep you advised. • NANA PLAZA •
Likewise, the ground floor Hollywood Rock is closed - renovation works feverishly proceeding. Rumor has it there is a change of format in the cards. (See our Rumor Of The Month, above.) • NANA PLAZA •
Also on the ground floor, the Bottoms Up has reverted to its previous Pretty Lady moniker of three years ago. In June of 2000, afraid of unspecified legal action by a disgruntled customer, the then-named Pretty Lady A-Go-Go & Garden Bar first dropped the word "Pretty" from their name, only to change it to Bottoms Up a month later. No change in ownership - the beat goes on.
The super-long 3rd floor Hollywood Carousel Bar has dropped the "Hollywood" from their sign, becoming now 'Carousel Bar'. No changes in the interior - A-Go-Go remains the prime agendum.
Never having completely closed during the renovations, the Playskool rocks once again, as they have now reopened the inside A-Go-Go.
Progress is slow on the two upstairs bars now undergoing renovations. Both are multi-storey bars. Reportedly both will have the now-popular see-thru glass A-Go-Go stages. We don't see either of them opening before 01 September. Their respective names remain the larger mystery.
• NANA PLAZA •
• SOI COWBOY •The four-shophouse-wide Piccolo Entertainment Beer Bar is furiously cleaving off a one-shophouse section for what looks like yet another bar beer. While Piccolo remains open - look for the new one to open sometime this month. Rumor has it they will continue the process, becoming four smaller venues, which should absorb some of the homeless -and soon-to-be homeless- bars from next door in the Cowboy Annex. We hope to confirm this month, and will keep you advised.
Last December's crackdown by Bangkok's Finest saw the After Skool bar hastily change its name back to the legally registered "Sunshine" of a few years previous. The heat apparently off, they have installed a brand new neon "After Skool" sign across the entranceway. Just in case, they have kept a small "Sunshine" sign over to one side... Unless perceived as waving a red flag in front of the bull, it should last until the next crackdown, anyway.
• SOI COWBOY •
• COWBOY ANNEX •
The Playboy Vadsana bar beer in the 8-Pak has rolled up the carpet and thrown all the barstools inside the cubicle. No lock, no stock, no barrel. We hope they find new digs soon.
The second of two Lucky Bar beer bars in the 8-Pak has closed again. This time, it looks like it's for keeps. The other one on the front row remains open and just keeps on rocking.
The Prime Bar bar beer on the north wall is closed again. This time, its a wrap - the furnishings and the bar itself have been removed. No indication as to where they may have relocated.
As they mentioned they would, the Marigold has pulled up stakes, pulled down sign, and pulled out. It remains to be seen if they will move into Soi 22 as they had originally planned.
Shagnasty's bar beer has also called it an evening. Their shuttered doorway adds to the growing gloom.
Soi Dogs, a double-wide pool bar, has also faded into the night without a trace. We hope they find greener -and more permanent- pastures.
Someone has taken a box-cutter to the No Money No Honey sign. After the field surgery was completed the new sign read, "Money Honey". Is this another case of , or are they just trying to change their luck?
Perhaps the only bit of good news in Cowboy Annex is the new Cheeky Bar has taken over the reins from the Keng. 'Bar beer' remains the modus operandi. Welcome to the wolfpack.
• SOI COWBOY ANNEX •
• SOI DEAD ARTISTS •As promised a couple months back, the MIDNITE HOUR has ventured back to talk with the staff of the Akane Fashion Massage in the Peep Inn complex. After all, just what is a "fashion massage" ? We find that there are a total of seven different 1 & 2 hour courses to select from. The prices range from 750 Baht to 1,400 Baht, tip (supposedly) included. As everything on the 'menu' is in Japanese, the explanation of the various courses became quite embarrassing to the young lady at reception. There is nothing ambiguous about this massage parlor - they do not offer Thai traditional massage. Foot massage? Fergeddaboudit.
• SOI DEAD ARTISTS •
• QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA •The O.B. 1 Bar has failed to answer the bell for the next round. Tarps on the mini-pool tables, barstools upturned on the bar. In that the chattel remain on premises, we shouldn't disallow another attempt to reopen. Let's wait and see if they can get it together before the end of the month...
Lek Massage and Spa have opened in the old The Maxx sports bar digs. Like the other massage parlors in the immediate area, customers appear to be staying away in droves. We do wish them luck. However, like pool tables, there is such a thing as hundreds-too-many.
• QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA •
• WASHINGTON SQUARE •The Crystal Bar lounge has reopened after a one-month renovation. Air conditioned inside, and a small outside seating area on the front 'porch'. Same friendly staff. Welcome back to the sharkpool.
The Wild Country Bar now has a new sign - one that actually has an incandescent light inside and glows in the dark, and everything. Now passers-by will at least have a chance to see where they are. Better late than never.
• WASHINGTON SQUARE •
• SOI KATOEY •The 3rd floor g-4 is closed again. They seem to have a hard time staying open. Heavy padlocks on the doors, rusting in the rain...
Hip Hop has reverted to using its older sign, which reads, Hip Hop R&B.
• SOI KATOEY •
• 13 NIGHT MARKET •The Walker Bar has downsized by half to temporarily make room for the Tequila Bar. It seems the Tequila Bar has moved out of its old digs in order to renovate and expand into the area adjacent. Both bars should be back to full-throttle by the end of the month.
Khun Sujitra of the previously unnamed bar (going by the tentative appellation "New Bar" since May) has put up its brand-new sign - it is now officially the Sport Bar. What's in a name? - Khun Sujitra says that for the first time since opening, she is making money. Whatever you are doing right, keep on doing it...
• 13 NIGHT MARKET •
• The No-News-Is-Good-News Dept. •
• PATPONG 1 •
• TOBACCO ROAD (Soi Zero) •
© 2003, BANGKOK EYES / bangkokeyes.com