Historically, Klong Toey
has been the deep water river port since the Capitol was in Ayuthaya
. And as with any international port, waterfront bars
and other entertainment venues
were an integral part of the commercial mix from the very beginning. Since the middle of the last century, Klong Toey's Night Entertainment Area
has been located at Kasemrat Road
where it ends at the entrance to the deep water port near the train terminus and the southern end of the oil storage tank farms. See our 1967 map
- click HERE.
This month MIDNITE HOUR
revisited Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area
for the first time in almost 20 years. Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area
had its heyday in the 1960's
dying out almost completely in the 1980's
when the Bangkok Port Authority
claimed the land that was home to the majority of the Night Entertainment Venues
. MIDNITE HOUR
therefore harbored no unrealistic expectations that our visit this month would reveal a 'gold mine' of bars
and/or other Night Entertainment Venues
, but we thought it worth a look-see and at the very minimum, make a permanent note for the historical record.
Our first visit to Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area
was in 1967 - the time of the build-up of US
and Allied forces
involved in the War in Southeast Asia
(Vietnam War). In spite of the large number of US
military in Bangkok
, either on R&R or assigned here, almost no military personnel ever visited the Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area
- most of them didn't even know of it's existence. While Klong Toey
wasn't really a "best kept secret", the source of it's custom was primarily from visiting foreign ships' crews and Bangkok
's Expat resident community.
But the lack of any significant G.I.
participation didn't stop Klong Toey
from being far-and-away the rowdiest and most varied Night Entertainment Area Bangkok
has ever known. A look through our diaries found this terse December 1967 journal entry, which said it all, "...wild dancing, wild girls and wild & terrible strip shows.
Our nightly routine in 1967 was to depart to Klong Toey
before sundown, and walk the waterfront pier, talking with ships' crews and inveigling an invitation for dinner aboard one of the cargo vessels tied up to the quay. Whenever possible, we would angle for Scandinavian
vessels, as they had homemade breads and wonderful European
cheeses and, if we were lucky, wine with the meal. This suited our backpacker budgets as well as our stomachs. The crew saw us as "resident experts
" on the Night Scene
(far from true), and sooner than later would ask us where the best bars were. We readily obliged by inviting them to at least one of the three most well known waterfront bars, not fifty meters from where they were tied up to the wharf.
First and foremost among the Klong Toey
bars was the notorious Mosquito Bar
. Located on the second floor, the atmosphere -if one could call it that- was that of darkness, the flare of someone lighting a cigarette and the acrid smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer, with ceiling fans to keep everything well mixed. At the top of the stairs, a full minute's wait was necessary while one's eyes adjusted to the darkness, but before the end of the minute, one of the freelance female denizens was attempting to escort you to one of the tables. Tables and chairs were, for the greater part, folding metal chairs and card tables - the chairs suitable for throwing during the frequent brawls, usually started by one of the female denizens. There was no need for 'decor' - no one would have been able to see it. As far as could be determined, the darkness served to conceal the age of the female denizens tugging at your sleeve for attention and a beer, and more importantly - to preserve the identity of the patrons. In spite of the total absence of redeeming qualities, the Mosquito Bar
was almost always full, if not packed.
In the last half of the 20th Century, the Mosquito Bar's international "disrepute" as a waterfront bar was only rivalled by Quinn's Bar in Papeete, Tahiti. While Quinn's Bar patrons were often entertained by the dancing and brawling 'Suzie No-Pants', the Mosquito Bar had it's own set of "regulars" - a cast of characters with names such as the 'Midget Rooter' and the arachnid-like 'Skinny Minnie', that dragged it into an even more ignominious state of historical infamy.
But all that 'wonderful' atmosphere changed in the late '70's when the owners decided to do a complete renovation - fancy scalloped plaster on the walls, artificial flowers in the entranceway, partitions, paintings (reproductions) on the walls, new abundant pink lighting and real furniture. The Mosquito Bar
was never the same - there was just something about the original wild and rowdy and dark 'atmosphere' that got lost in translation. The 'legend' was dead; it was just a matter of time...
Equally popular -at least to the Expat
locals- but with less notoriety, was the Venus Room
. The Venus Room
was also upstairs, and was quite large, and best described as a primitive A-Go-Go and show bar. In addition to the A-Go-Go area, it had a small wooden dance floor, which was never used. It was very well populated, many of the staff being local Klong Toey
slum girls. The Venus Room
can be credited with the first use of "door girls", whose sole job was to beckon passers-by upstairs for a drink. While door girls are de rigueur
today, with bars advertising specifically for the position, in the '60's it was an original and welcome relief from street touts.
Less popular, at least in terms of volume of trade, was the Sea Man's Mission
. It was open during the day, closing in the late evening. One had to cross a covered wooden foot bridge which spanned an as-yet unfilled swampy area. In the covered area, and on the front of the mission itself were a variety of posters in support of the International Trade Union movement, and other Socialist and Communist causes - placed there apparently without fear of having them torn down by the Authorities. Inside was a long and otherwise unremarkable bar. It's one 'saving grace' was the abundance of daytime and early evening freelancers, who would readily come to share a beer with you. It, like it's next door neighbor Mosquito Bar
, was completely renovated, and is now named The Mariner's Club of Bangkok
in Thai). It is still open today, and as such, is the last soldier standing -the last barnacle on the rock- of that which used to be Bangkok's
". The Mariner's Club
currently sports no Night Entertainment
in the '60's and '70's would have qualified as a Night Entertainment Area
- even by today's stricter criteria. There were over a dozen Night Entertainment Venues
at that 'bend in the road' as well as a good seafood restaurant and local restaurants - more than enough to have reached that self-sustaining 'critical mass'
. In that this Night Entertainment Area
probably arose at this specific location at the time the permanent port facilities were originally put in place, it likely predates anyone still alive today, so there could be no determination of which venue was the 'seminal bar'
- the bar that got the whole scene started. See our 1967 map
- click HERE.
As you have already surmised, MIDNITE HOUR
's walk up and back the length of Kasemrat Road
, provided less relevant information than it did old memories. In that the aforementioned The Mariners Club Of Bangkok
is now a non-starter, we saw only three places open to the public that would qualify as Night Entertainment Venues
The Sea Dragon Spa
- offering a variety of non-traditional massages, and the Sea Dragon Karaoke
(upstairs) are to be found near the Expressway (away from the Port). They are almost exclusively for Thai
clientele - only the spa has the occasional foreign tourist.
Two doors down from there, at the entrance to the Expressway is the Man Nee Karaoke
(Thai sign - heavy on the Christmas light sets). All the rest we saw that night were just so many ghosts from a once-raucous, slightly out-of-control past.
With anecdotal stories of the Sea Man's Mission
and the Mosquito Bar
going back at least to the '50's, Klong Toey
qualifies as Bangkok's
first full-scale Expat-oriented Night Entertainment Area
, although it ceased to qualify for such Night Entertainment
status from the mid-1980's. As such, it holds a premier place in Bangkok's Night Entertainment
history. BANGKOK EYES
will be including the maps found herein and parts of the above as a permanent entry in our Maps & History
page starting of this month.
Should anyone have any old maps, photos or names of old bars, or anecdotal stories about Klong Toey Night Entertainment Areas or Venues, and if you would like to include them (attributed or otherwise) in the Klong Toey history, please email them to email@example.com or snail mail them to Box 1029, Nana Post Office, Bangkok, Thailand.
THE LONG THIN LINE
Not many people have heard of Sukhumvit Road's Peak Bat Bar
(yes, that's how it's really spelled). It's anonymity persists in spite of it being open every night
, in spite of it's black-light backlit sign
and not-too-loud stereo
, in spite of it's ideal Sukhumvit Road frontage
, and in spite of it doing a roaring trade every night
of the week, and in spite of it's closing time of 06:00 hrs
each morning. -But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Anyone, tourist or resident, who has been in Bangkok
more than three days knows that Bangkokians
traditionally eat around the clock. Or at least they like to have the option to do so. All-night eating and drinking is taken for granted as one of their basic rights, and in and of itself, it is not something new on the scene. However, with the current crackdown on more popular forms of Night Entertainment
and the promise of even more Draconian closing times for other businesses now on the horizon, this perpetually hungry population, along with a goodly number of night-owl Farang
are starting to look elsewhere for places to go and things to do in the wee hours of the morning.
Along the 'Entertainment Belt' of Sukhumvit Road
there have long been pockets of late night noodle stands, where food was to be found and last minute assignations to be made. One of these is outside the Thermae Coffee Shop
, another at Farang Khee-Nok Corner
), another just inside Soi 11
and yet another just inside Soi 5
The growth of these late-nite eating spots remained static for several years, but when Clinton Plaza
got itself up and running, the late-nite soup kitchens in front of the Thermae
proliferated, spreading out along the sidewalks in front of that Night Entertainment Area
as well. The Farang
night-owl population were among the first to take advantage of this late-nite eating and meeting spot. But even when Clinton Plaza
fell to the land developers' bulldozers, the mobile soup kitchens and their faithful patrons stayed on.
But when Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area
was trashed by Mafia
elements early in 2003, it spawned something entirely new on the late-nite scene. A couple of the bar owners who lost everything they owned to Chuwit's
marauders refused to be kowtowed. They mustered up enough capital to buy noodle carts, and they converted them to bars-on-wheels which they insisted on operating in front of the Gulag Wall at Sukhumvit Square
(See our February
and March 2003
editions of MIDNITE HOUR
in our archives.). These bars-on-wheels were unique in two ways - first they were ONLY
bars (other push-cart vendors had long been serving lao-kao
as part of their soup-and-rice menus), and secondly, they were aimed at Farang
customers instead of the usual local customers. And while neither of these bars-on-wheels were great successes, they did at least demonstrate 'proof-of-concept
Flash forward to the present again - the ever-increasing severity of the current crackdown is, to put it bluntly, driving more people to the streets. They are hungry; hungry for food, drink and entertainment. And where the increase in demand is created, so the demand is met - this time by a quiet explosion of push-cart vendors selling everything from seafood
. If you were to pass this phenomenon late at night in a taxi, you might miss it - but should you get out and walk, you would discover that you have entered the long thin line
at some point along its virtually unbroken stretch of carts, tables and chairs and umbrellas reaching from Sukhumvit Soi 5
on down to Sukhumvit Soi 15
. The other night we counted no less than 178 tables
along this stretch of turf and more than three dozen
push-carts - all intending to stay all night if necessary to sell everything on hand. There were too many customers to count - we didn't even try.
Enter once again the Peak Bat Bar
- which is probably the furthest evolved of the bars-on-wheels to hit Bangkok's
streets. It serves a variety of beers and whiskeys along with several kinds of snacks, all made to order. The "action" found art the Peak Bat
is typical of that found the full length of the long thin line
- it has a mixture of local and foreign clientele, and it is not unusual to see a couple of European
tourists under one of the umbrellas discussing the day's events or talking to one or more of the many late-nite freelancers that have made this area of Sukhumvit
their last stop for the evening.
For the time being, "the scene
" at the long thin line
remains under the radar scope of the Authorities, and the evening's revelry can continue -literally- until the break of dawn.
-AUTOCRACY CONTINUES WAR ON BANGKOK NIGHT SCENE
Last month's MIDNITE HOUR
reported what we thought was an isolated incident regarding the 'long arm of the law' and the Thermae Bar & Coffee Shop
. In that report we related that beginning in late July (2004) Bangkok's Finest
were arbitrarily shutting them down just after 01:00 hours.
However, in early August, we received several reports that this was an increasingly widespread occurrence. If these reports were accurate, this would mean that the "Crackdown
" was back in high gear. (Closing times had not changed since they were dialed back in last April's initial implementation of Entertainment Zones
This month we renewed our survey of the major Expat Night Entertainment Areas
with an eye to whether the Crackdown
was localized to any given Police precinct, or whether it was Bangkok-wide. A Bangkok-wide crackdown would clearly indicate the hand of the current Authoritarian Regime, and not just one or more Police precinct (Thong Lor
, and /or Bang Rak
). We were not surprised to find that the Crackdown
does in fact affect all three Police precincts. Follows is a summary of our findings and a comparison of closing times as they were last May (after the current regime's initial implementation of Entertainment Zoning
Patpong 1 & 2
Patpong Roads' bars, for the most part, are closing at 02:00 hrs, but all A-Go-Go dancing ceases at 01:00 hrs. Some bars are closing at 01:00 hrs, even though they are "in the Zone".
MAY 2004 - In the Zone - All bars open until 02:00, with a few late stragglers staying open until 02:30.
CLOSING TIMES INCHANGED FOR MOST, HOWEVER FOR SOME, ONE HALF HOUR TO ONE HOUR EARLIER.
Soi Cowboy's bars are closing at 01:00, with only a few dragging their feet as they clear customers' bills. Outside lights and neon being turned off before in many cases.
MAY 2004 - Virtually all bars staying open until 02:00 a.m., but religiously dousing all outside lights and signs to make the soi appear closed. Bangkok's Finest on the scene to supervise...
EARLIER CLOSING BY 1 hour.
Cowboy Annex's bars are closing at 01:00 hrs. A couple of bars are taking a chance after 01:00 to serve "lights out" until about 01:30.
MAY 2004 - - Most bars closed at 01:00 a.m., some bars remaining open until 02:00 a.m., with sign lighting turned off.
CLOSING TIMES GENERALLY UNCHANGED WITH A FEW CLOSING ONE HOUR EARLIER
Nana Plaza's bars have been told that official closing is at 01:00 hrs. Most bars keep right on cooking until 01:30 if the Men In Too-Tight Uniforms are not on the prowl.
Soi Dead Artists
MAY 2004 - Rock & Roll full-bore until 02:00 a.m., all lights on.
CLOSING TIMES ONE HALF HOUR TO ONE HOUR EARLIER.
Soi Dead Artists's bars are for the most part, closing at 01:00, with several bars closing at midnight, or shortly thereafter. Prior to May 2004, some bars were allowed by Precinct police to operate behind closed doors until 04:00 - now there are no special cases being made by the police.
MAY 2004 - A 50-50 split, generally along lines of whether the venues were 'new' (01:00 a.m.) or 'old' (02:00 a.m.). One aspect, as some may recall, of current Crackdown policy also concerns itself with when operating licenses were obtained. Nevertheless, one 'new' venue was closing at 01:30, or at 02:00 if the local precinct's Men In Tan happened to be looking the other way. Another 'new' venue was closing at 02:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only.
EARLIER CLOSING BY 1 hour - most cases.
Half of Soi Katoey's bars are closing at 01:00 hrs, the others are still closing at 02:00 hrs.
MAY 2004 - "In the Zone" - All bars closing at 02:00.
CLOSING TIMES UNCHANGED for half of the venues (02:00), ONE HOUR EARLIER CLOSING for the other half (01:00).
Easy Square has been specifically told by their Precinct's Men In Tan that they would be closing at midnight, according to a reliable source on the ground there. When we arrived at twenty minutes after midnight, three bars still had their lights on, two of those still had customers but had stopped serving. The proprietress of the third bar was in the process of battening down the hatches, and confirmed that the operative policy on closing times was as stated herein. All other venues, restaurants and bars alike, were closed.
Queen's Park Plaza
May 2004: Most bars closed at 01:00 a.m., two bars remaining open until 02:00 a.m.
EARLIER CLOSING BY 1 to 2 hours.
Queen's Park Plaza
is closing at midnight as a general rule. There were a couple of bars still staying open until 01:00 hours - a quote from one, "If the police are jai-dee they will let us stay open until 01:00." Bangkok's Finest -at least in this precinct- were, it seems, interpreting "The Law" on a case-by-case basis - this doesn't come as a shock to Expat residents, although some of our overseas readers may do a double-take...
MAY 2004 - Some bars open until 02:00 a.m., all outside lights off, curtains pulled where applicable.
EARLIER CLOSING BY 1 to 2 hours.
Soi Dead Artists's bars are closing either at midnight or at 01:00 hrs - a 50-50 split.
Thermae &13 Night Market
MAY 2004 - All bars, bar restaurants and massage parlors closed down at 01:00 a.m., or before.
NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE.
Thermae & 13 Night Market's bars are closing for the most part at 02:00 hrs, but lights out at shortly after 01:00. Some bars are being forced to close shortly after 01:00.
Tobacco Road (Soi Zero)
MAY 2004 - Open until 02:00 a.m., all lights aglow.
CLOSING TIMES GENERALLY UNCHANGED WITH A FEW CLOSING ONE HOUR EARLIER
Tobacco Road's bars are closing at 01:00 hrs. Compliance is fairly rigid - probably mostly due to not enough business to tempt bar owners to stretch it.
MAY 2004 - Some bars open until 02:00 a.m., most lights turned off at 01:00 a.m..
CLOSING TIMES ONE HALF HOUR TO ONE HOUR EARLIER.
On completion of our survey, MIDNITE HOUR can conclude that as virtually all major Expat Night Entertainment Areas have felt the heavy hand of the crackers-down to some greater or lesser extent, and that the current closing times closely parallel those envisioned in the Benevolent Autocracy's 'Zone Masterplan', that the go-ahead for this recent incremental penalization of the Night Entertainment Industry has come down from the top. Although the local Police districts are seen to be very actively engaging in arbitrary soi-by-soi, venue-by-venue 'interpretations', the overall crackdown is not simply local implementations by some District law enforcement offices. This was obviously the second phase of the Entertainment Zone implementation which was first tabled two and a half years ago. The first phase, as mentioned above, was this last May. It might not, however, be the last 'punishment' Bangkok's Night Entertainment Industry will experience at the hands of the Authorities - as we have already observed, some individual Night Venues in the Zone are already being forced to close before 02:00 hrs.
THE NATIONAL DRINKING PROBLEM
-DRY ELECTION BRINGS SALVATION
First of all, MIDNITE HOUR, and in fact the entire staff of BANGKOK EYES take our hats off to the incumbent Autocracy for their candid admission of the national drinking problem and the shrewd way they implemented the remedy in the lead up to, and the day of the Bangkok Gubernatorial Election. Especially effective was their closing of Expat Night Entertainment Areas and forbidding the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages by these "undesireable" types of foreigners. This edict forbidding alcohol was not only in force on the day of the gubernatorial election, but the previous day as well. The incumbent Autocracy long ago correctly observed that the whoremongering Farang that frequent these establishments are notorious for getting stagger-drunk and going out and voting in foreign elections.
As the actual announcement of two days' closure and ban on alcohol was not officially announced until midday of the day before the election, it was almost too late. But the Autocracy acted just in the nick of time through government-controlled radio stations to prevent any wanton public voting by these self-same drunken farang. Had they waited any longer to crack down, who knows what might have gone down at the city's many voting booths - it could have gotten very ugly. Not to mention the concomitant worry hanging over the Autocracy's head that these lascivious foreign lushes might vote for someone other than Paweena, which was their own unbiased suggestion for who had damn-well better become Bangkok's new Governor.
But once again, it was Tourism that took the body-blow. The Autocracy's last minute notifications on how to proceed on 28 August -the day before the election- left confusion in the minds of tourists and travellers as to where to go and what to do. And the confusion was not only theirs, it was also in the rank and file of the Capitol's Civil Servants - as well as in the commercial sector. It wasn't until mid-day on the 28th August itself that the information came down to the masses by way of the Government-owned radio /TV stations - and that was -for the most part- by way of call-in shows. The Government's stated policy at that time was that it would be OK for venues to remain open, but that they would not be able to serve alcoholic beverages.
But word was slow to spread to the local soh-noh - the different Police Districts proceeded in entirely different directions. The Thong Lor Police District, apparently not wanting to take any chances, had Soi Cowboy close down completely. Likewise, Lumpini Police Station had Nana Plaza close down completely. Bangrak Police Station, apparently closer to the flagpole, left Patpong 1 & 2 open, but alcoholic beverages were disallowed. Nevertheless, some of the bars on Patpong 2 didn't get the word, and to play it safe, took another night off without pay. Curiously, Soi Katoey, just next door and also in "The Zone", was only allowed to open those venues that were "restaurants", and not "bars".
All in all, the Government's abject failure to formulate and disseminate guidelines in a timely manner created accross-the-board confusion among locals and tourists alike, and caused substantial and unnecessary loss of revenue for a good number of Bangkok's Night Entertainment Venues.
-SHAMELESS ATTEMPT TO BURY LAWLESS PILLAGING
Khun Chuwit Kamolvisit, failed candidate in this week's Bangkok gubernatorial election announced the launch of his "Spirit of Bangkok" park-building project yesterday. The park location is none other than the Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area, where Chuwit and Mafia affiliates pillaged more than a hundred tourist-oriented businesses in a predawn blitzkrieg on 26 January 2003. He envisions a day-care center for orphans and a public library on this land, just for good measure.
By way of background, this same person, Chuwit Kamolvisit, has accused local police of kidnapping him; he was released -thrown out of a car on the expressway- several days later. The reason for this alleged kidnapping was Chuwit had threatened to name names in a massive police shakedown scheme which was milking his string of steam-and-cream brothel-massage parlors. His now famous statement that he had to offer Bangkok's Finest "trays of Rolexes" gives indication of the scale of the ongoing bribery.
On release from his captors, he immediately announced in the Media that he was a 'dead-man-walking'; that as soon as his current conflict with the National Police died down in the Press, he would be disposable goods. Fearing for his life, Chuwit, not surprisingly, has since embarked on a very high profile self-promotion and self-rehabilitation program. When other means of staying in the public spotlight failed, he came upon the perfect maneuver - he would run for public office. After all, what better way to get continuing, wide, free public exposure - and at the same time give allusion to respectability? He even enlisted the (perhaps unwitting) Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in his overall rehabilitation campaign by inveigling an invitation as a guest speaker, willing to talk about his then-upcoming candidacy for Bangkok Governor, and fielding any colorful (and thus sensational) questions about his chain of brothel-massage parlors. It worked - his unorthodox style and background made juicy fodder for the international wire services. (We have had queries into Chuwit's run for office from such far-away locations as New York and Germany, from folks who read about him first in the International Press.)
It therefore becomes quite apparent that this latest move by Chuwit to change the Soi 10 (Sukhumvit Square) property into public facilities is nothing more than the latest of many efforts to maintain a high profile while he continues to rehabilitate himself. But all of the above may be just so much Chuwit-style peacock fan-tail display, in that the land he is so generously donating for public facilities is currently locked and blocked in at least two unresolved legal battles. To say the same thing another way, he is donating land that he has absolutely no chance of getting his hands on anytime in the next decade.
...And here's the punch-line... Had Chuwit gone in and bought up the leases in the first place, or even paid the lease holders and the sub-lessee shop owners after the Mafia blitzkrieg, he would have been out of pocket to the tune of about 57 million baht and retained his reputation as a major land developer. Instead he has embroiled himself inextricably in a Mafia putsch, gone to war with the National Police, got himself kidnapped, spent a small fortune in contested land and other litigations, and spent another small fortune financing an unsuccessful political career. The bottom line -and it's hard to understand the stupidity here- is he is losing (by his own words) 700 million baht in differential buy/sell on the land, and is now proposing to spend out of his own pocket another 200 - 300 million baht to develop his 'park'. That's a net loss of just under a billion baht, not to mention a new and unwanted reputation as a racketeer added onto his already sordid record as a self-admitted "papasan" (read, 'whoremaster and procurer'). And there is still no plan to reimburse the sublease shop owners at Sukhumvit Square for their losses - despite the fact that many had their life savings dashed overnight in his bulldozer-and-backhoe demolition derby. (Note: a small percentage of these shops were reimbursed at 5 cents - 10 cents on the dollar; the remainder ended up with nothing.)
It is looking more and more like Chuwit has been successful in sweeping his crimes under the carpet - in addition to the above mentioned machinations, he is well on his way to taking full advantage of our most revered and time-honored legal solution - "The Statute Of Limitations is exactly equivalent to the threshold of public apathy, regardless of the crime." For the full Sukhumvit Square story, see our Archives or click HERE
Sukhumvit Square today -
THE ULTIMATE ABOMINATION.
Under the very noses of the police, Chuwit & Mafia affiliates destroyed over 100 legally owned shops on this (his) land. Now, in an attempt to "make-it-all-better", Chuwit has announced the construction of a public park, an orphan daycare center and a public library on these premises.
Accredit - Photo excerpted from Bangkok Post, 31 Aug 04
Lest we forget : Sukhumvit Square - 27 Jan 03
An earlier view of Chuwit's minions' carnage taken from approximately the same vantage point. Neither Chuwit nor his Military &/or Police Mafia accomplices have even been brought to trial, much less convicted for this wanton destruction - nor have they made full restitution to the legal shop owners, whose shops are shown here in this "after" photo taken on 24 January 2003.
"Rumor Of The Month"
"Rumor" is defined as "no-fault confabulation, chain-reaction
speculation...." Nevertheless MIDNITE HOUR again presents the most outrageous / prevalent rumor to cross our desks this past
(Due to negligent non-action by the Benevolent Autocracy during the run-up to the August Gubernatorial Election, no one knew what the opening /closing hours for Night Entertainment Venues would be. A flurry of rumors made the rounds - this couplet seemed to have the greatest dissemination among bar owners and their staff - as well as the Expat community.)
" 1. All bars would be able to serve alcohol up until midnight on the day preceding the election, after which they would only be able to serve non-alcoholic beverages. All bars would be open but 'dry' on election day.
2. All Night Entertainment Venues would be fully open the day before the Election and closed on Election day itself.
MIDNITE HOUR includes as part of our Rumor Of The Month an ongoing evaluation as to the accuracy of said rumors since the inception of
As of 01 September 2004, the Rumor Accuracy Quotient remains at -
See our Archived Rumors at their worst : click 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 ending
1 SEPTEMBER, 2004 :
--- Datzit Fernow
© 2004, B
YES / bangkokeyes.com
In response to questions from newcomers and even from some long-time residents (Where is The Ramp
; what is it?) MIDNITE HOUR
replies: Almost invisible to the nightcrawler crowd is Patpong II'
s "The Ramp
". It is accessible from two separate stairways, one across from Cleopatra,
the other across from Executive Lounge
. Once on The Ramp
, a string of thirteen Night Entertainment Venues
presents itself. The scene is more slanted to Thai Karaoke revellers, however it has its fair share of Farang
patrons. This month, one of the old timers, The Matador
, is closed for renovations. A sign on the door says they will be reopening on 3 September.
The New Rainbow Bar A-Go-Go
, which also sported a second after-the-fact sign reading Rainbow I
, is now showing neon which reads simply, Rainbow
. It looks to be a crudely fashioned modification of the Rainbow I
sign. This all may mean a name-game crackdown by the authorities, but we suspect they have a new neon shingle in the works which will be nailed up in the near future.
Not gone but gone is the Angel Witch Beer Bar
. While physically open, it is being used as a storeroom and its barstools are being used by the Angel Witch
A-Go-Go staff to rest between sets and to beckon to us passing nightcrawlers. As a separate Night Venue
, it has been deleted from the roll call.
on the third floor is undergoing yet another unneeded exterior face-lift. It's obvious to most that the Crown Group
are once again conveniently keeping someone's uncle-brother gainfully employed. We begin to understand why
the group were the first in the NEP
to introduce 500 baht, then 600 baht barfines...
If you're at Nana
after midnight and notice that Temptations
is locked up and all the chrome barstools are upside down on the outside bar, worry not - they are now opting for a midnight closing.
Apache Squaws Sitting Pretty
This month's prize for "Best Door Art
" goes to the Apache
on Soi Cowboy
- in this case it's "above the door art", so you might miss it if you are not careful.
SOI COWBOY September 2004
is once again out of the Penalty Box
, and they are back to rocking and rolling 'till the break of dawn, or 01:00 - whichever comes first. When we looked in on them at the weekend, that's not all they were back to - shake it don't break it, gang, you know better than most that His Autocratic Benevolence
and his minions in Too-Tight-Uniforms
have an ongoing agenda to make high-profile examples of Expat-oriented bars.
The New A-Go-Go Duck
to us commoners) is also out on probation, and they too have reverted to craven Rock 'N Roll
and dirty-dancing on stage. I guess we'll have to let the good times roll, then.
has also paid their dues to society, and not to be outdone, have hit the Soi
running. They are back full-tilt - like they'd never gone. Rock 'N Roll
remain the modus operandi
. Welcome back to the neon circus.
For sins real, or imagined, Cowboy 2
are the latest to fall victim to the ongoing wave of arbitrary extra-judicial street justice at the hands of Bangkok's Men In Tan
. But they are not wasting any time - their ongoing renovations, they say, will be completed well in advance of their reopening on 10 September (or is it 12 September - they are not really sure). In the meantime, they still use the premises for the Cowboy 1
changing rooms - in case you are wondering why dozens of bikini-clad dancers are streaming into the darkened construction works at 01:00 am in the morning...
The correct spelling for Joy Ngwen
bar is as shown here, not as otherwise indicated last month by my error-prone word processor...
When the number of customers walking the Soi
thins out, usually about a half-hour before closing time, a few push-cart food vendors wend their way into Soi Cowboy
. As as it is likely there will be one or two push-cart vendors on the Soi at any given time, this influx of a few additional carts is all but imperceptible. But the moment the bars start switching off their neon, what was a trickle becomes a torrent. By the time the balloon goes up and the bars are all officially closed, there are no less than 40 food carts in the Soi
, each seeking their pre-arranged spot. Once in place, they 'deploy' like so many Martian lander vehicles - with panels folding out, trays of fresh food appearing, smoking hibachi grills with orange-glowing charcoal pop up alongside their neighbors' small LP gas cookers, small battery-powered lights switch on, and chopping blocks materialize. Where moments ago we saw a migratory herd of sheet metal boxes-on-wheels, we now see a string of fully outfitted mini-kitchens.
Simultaneously, Soi Cowboy's
thirty-seven bars disgorge staff and customers alike onto the Soi
in what looks like a slow-rolling stampede. The Soi
, now in semi-darkness, is awash with people; vendors and their carts are quickly surrounded by bar girls and their customers, katoey
move in from the periphery fishing for drunks or anyone at all, and last but not least, Bangkok's Finest
weave through the crowd, riding pillion on their motorcycles checking for late closers.
The feeding frenzy is about to begin - there is no lack of variety, however the bias is definitely toward Isan
dishes. Strings of round-link Isan
sausage and luke-chin
kebabs, each with their own small plastic bag of spicy sauce. A steam-tray with ears of fresh corn and peanuts. Boiled chicken feet - pale yellow and claw-like, pointing skyward. Beside them on another tray are whole yellow squid pre-boiled and grotesquely shaped. A mamasan
, having de-poled her two heavy baskets is cooking small birds' eggs in a kanom-krok
pan - their tiny orange yolks staring upward by the dozen at nothing or no one. A bicycle with a rack of dried squid on the back - the squid already pre-pressed into brown cardboard-like caricatures are ready for re-toasting. Khai ping
on sticks, like so many pale ovoid Popsicles - sometimes two eggs to a stick. An abundance of fruit, side orders of vegetables and take-away bags of virtually any laap
, complete with tiny bags of chopped garlic and half a dozen flavors of nam chim
to choose from. Several species of deep-fried fresh water fish, no longer hot, beside five-baht bags of the ever-present khao nhieo
Thirty minutes later, almost to the minute, the few remaining couples wander out of the Soi
and into waiting taxis. The Martian landers retract their apparatus, bags of trash are disposed of and the dozens of sheet metal boxes-on-wheels, Bangkok's
ubiquitous and irreplaceable rot khen,
move out to reposition themselves for late night trade at other locations. This is the end of another night at Soi Cowboy
. An hour ago it was a near-blinding neon extravaganza - now shrouded in darkness, it is, to anyone happening by, indistinguishable from any other lane or avenue.
SOI COWBOY August 2004
all over again for the Oh ! Yes
pool bar. For the second time in 3 months, they have hit themselves in the backside with their own door - so to speak. This time it looks like it's for keeps, though, as everything from chrome barstools to pool table to neon have disappeared in the night. With it's passing, the Asoke Corner
half of Cowboy Annex
is now completely vacated, leaving the front Asoke Plaza
section intact. History buffs note: This area was originally called Asoke Corner Dream Place
The inscrutable game of musical chairs continues at the Richiy Bar
. In the last five months, it has gone from Richiy Bar
to Latifah Bar
to Richiy Bar
and now to Ann Bar Beer
. Welcome to the vicissitudes.
bar beer hasn't fallen off a cliff - they are still there - they are, however, in the process of getting new neon. All should be up and shining by this time next month.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33) .
Located at the rear of the Timbevati Lounge & Steak House
(which now sports the Shabeen Sports Bar
) is yet another new Night Entertainment Venue
. On the night of our visit, they were having the grand opening of the Sahara "Sports" Bar
. Located all the way through to the back, they (the Sahara
) are an indoor/outdoor venue, conveniently located next to the swimming pool. They have placed some tables at the edge of the swimming pool deck, giving it the lanai
effect. Inside is a separate lounge area, pool table area complete with hostess pool sharks, and bar area. It's always hard to judge from opening nights, but there was a healthy crowd there by the time I left, and as I walked out, I was passing even more people streaming in to look for seats. Very comfortable - not everyone's cup of tea, but a great place to meet if you intend to carry on a conversation without shouting over the music. Welcome to the night-circus.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
Located in the same complex is the brand-new Ton Tong Cocktail Bar
(part of the Ton Tong Thai Restaurant
). Although it looked promising, it remains to be seen whether this will qualify as a separate Night Entertainment Venue
, or whether it will just remain an adjunct to the restaurant, where restaurant customers might sit for a drink. We'll look in on them again, and see if it provides separate entertainment - and will get back to you. In the meantime, we (tentatively) welcome them to the sharkpool.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
The Sanjusan Bangkang Japanese Karaoke
has hung out some new neon which simplifies things greatly - they now call themselves 33 Bangkang
. They are located at the back of 33 Complex
. Orientation: Oriental.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
The Bar Za Bar / Shoku Sai
was closed when we paid them a visit last Saturday. They have a history of unexplained closures (Aug-Oct 2002, Feb 2003, and again from Sept-Nov 2003). We'll take another look to make sure they are not once again playing 'possum and will keep you advised.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
Let's start with the good news first. The Hang Out
bar beer have pushed their roller-shutters to the ceiling and rolled out the red carpet. Cozier than most, they have a bar and a lounge area - with no pool table. (They say they may bring in a pool table in the near future, however, as business is deathly quiet these days...
) The owners, obviously first timers, have more than enough enthusiasm and personality, as well as an eye for pleasing decor. And while we wish them well, it remains to be seen whether Fate's
tumbling dice bring them sevens or nines.
The Tawan Thong Karaoke Club
have changed their Thai sign out for one in English - this time reading only, "Karaoke Club
". Keep on keeping on.
And now to the bad news The Louis
, which opened only in June, is no more. They've pulled the plug, packed out the pool table and parted company for parts unknown.
Due to lack of business, two bar beers, Cheers Bar
and Mem & Mem Bar Beer
are only opening when they think there is a chance of customers being in the neighborhood. That ain't the way to get her done, Hoss - but we understand your pessimism - see below...
Of the three bars MIDNITE HOUR
mentioned last month as 'under construction', only the above mentioned Hang Out
has come on line. The other two, a Japanese lounge and a Portugese cantina
, both very large by Easy Square
standards, are on a 'construction hold'. And the reason? It seems the people that introduced themselves to me many months ago as the jao khong
, Khun Cai
and her husband, were not in fact the actual land owners, but the primary lease-holders. But it now seems that the real owners are talking about building a condominium on the Easy Square
land. (You may remember from our earlier write-up that the property was previously deep-piled for just such a mega-project, but that Khun Cai
and her husband were giving assurances - as owners - that the project wouldn't go ahead.) The undercurrent has turned to undertorrent, and now all the leases are being "reviewed
". Does any of this sound at all familiar to any of you Bangkok
residents? Like what happened at Clinton Plaza
? Like what was happening at Sukhumvit Square
elements took matters into their own hands? If history is a teacher, and if Bangkok
, these situations never favor the bar beer owners - we shouldn't be surprised to see an early demise to Easy Square
, making it the shortest-lived Night Entertainment Area
history. We'll be staying close to this one and will be keeping you advised.
" SOI KATOEY "
When we stuck our heads into Noriega's
last weekend they were having a 'Salsa Night
?" you say. Yes, we said, 'Salsa Night
'. (And this
from SuperStar Frank
- former Prince of Patpong A-Go-Go
!) But guess what? It was working. Noriega's
had a large crowd who were very much into watching a professional duo perform some very intricate Latino
dance steps. Not everyone's idea of a good time, but add to that Frank's
(limited but tasty) Mexican
menu, and a good sound system, and apparently you can attract a very reasonable crowd. Who would'a thought?
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
The Luna Club
, which only opened in January of this year -(in the old Monkey's But?
digs)- was looking darker than a poisoned well when we passed by yesterday. They stuffed their last chit in the cup sometime this last August.
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
We mentioned last month that we would be keeping an eye on Banana Bar
, because although closed, they had a habit of popping back up out of their coffin. In this case, it just didn't come to pass. For the historical record, they winked out last month.
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
Much to our surprise, Noi Pool Bar did
resurrect this month - Christmas lights aglow, and the pool table getting full attention by patrons and staff alike. Welcome back to the briar patch.
THERMΖ & "13 NIGHT MARKET" .
Talking to the owners of Bar Chemo 04
and Sports Bar
(who by the way, now call themselves 'The' Sports Bar
) this week, they say they will be pioneering the move to Sukhumvit Entertainment Plaza (Soi 1)
in November. Slowed construction will delay their relocation by one month. They are still talking of converting all or most of the 3rd floor of the Soi 1
structure to a Thermae
-style late-nite coffee shop - so the rumor isn't dead yet...
(See our feature story on Soi 1
, last month.)
THERMAE & 13 NIGHT MARKET
OTHER NIGHT VENUES OF NOTE
The No-News-Is Good-News Dept.