Since the earliest R & R days in the 1960's Sukhumvit's Soi Nana (Soi 4) has been a Night Entertainment draw. In those early days, the Soi could only boast of the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop and the coffee shop at the Windsor Hotel a little farther down the soi. Despite the lack of a "critical mass" of Nightspots on Soi Nana, the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop (together with the Thermae Coffee Shop nearby Soi 13) had become the nexus of late night entertainment for tourists and G.I.s on their R & R breaks. <link> See our September 2003 Feature on Soi Nana for complete historical coverage .
In 1973 the R & R traffic dried up overnight on the signing of the Paris Peace Accord with the Vietnamese, and "all G.I. go home". But actually, all the G.I.'s didn't go home, as there were still a good number assigned to military bases here in country and at JUSMAG in Bangkok itself - that is to say, not on R & R. So in fact, the dwindling numbers of G.I.s in country still provided some support for the Night Entertainment Insustry in Bangkok in general, and the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop in particular. "All G.I. go home" did eventuate in June 1976, however, as the last of the jointly operated military facilities in country were turned over to 100% Thai control.
After this departure, the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop lost a lot of it's previous glamour to the up-and-coming Grace Hotel which was growing in Nighttime popularity due in large part to the onset of the "German Invasion". "The Nana" finally fading from the infamous late night triangle of Thermae + Nana Hotel + Grace Hotel in late 1978.
But while the Nana Coffee Shop had lost the battle, it had definitely not lost the war. A couple of years later, around the turn of the decade, a tiny day-and-night bar beer opened up across the street in the entranceway to a 3-storey high complex of new shops - most of which were for rent. No one at the time had any way of knowing that this pint-sized bar beer was the seed of revolution for the entire Soi in terms of Night Entertainment - in terms of "The Nana Scene". The bar beer was calling itself Lucky Lukes and the compound whose entranceway it partially blocked did not yet have a name.
"...there was virtually nothing that Bangkok's nightcrawlers couldn't do or see within the first hundred meters of Soi Nana..."
Not that there was an 'explosion' of nighttime activity - there wasn't. But in 1982, three A-Go-Go bars also moved into that still virtually empty compound, and Nana Plaza was on it's way. This provided for an interesting combination of Night Time Entertainment venues - A day-and-night bar beer, a 24-hour hotel coffee shop (where freelancers were traditionally welcome), A-Go-Go bars, and a convenient hotel all within a minute's walk from one another, all on one side of the Soi or the other. But more than just an interesting combination of Nightspots, a new 'dynamic' was being created - different from anything coming before it. With the continual increase in the number of A-Go-Go bars in Nana Plaza, (and the addition of a couple of short-time hotels within the compound), and with the remodeling and expansion of the Nana Hotel - to include the first iteration of their new Love Club disco, there was virtually nothing that Bangkok's nightcrawlers couldn't do or see within the first hundred meters of Soi Nana, day, or night. "The Nana Scene" was born.
(To be sure, nowadays there are several other Night Entertainment Venues to be found the length of Soi Nana, but they are not caught up in this new 'dynamic'; they are not a part of the synergy brought about by this 'special relationship' of proximity.)
As Lucky Lukes persevered, it finally dawned on everyone else in the neighborhood that (1.) it was not only A-Go-Gos and Discos that were succeeding, and (2.) that money was being made during the daytime as well as the nighttime. As Nana Plaza expanded out into what was it's central parking lot, the new venues were all bar beer style, and were also opening up during the daytime to catch their share of the hangover crowd. The economics of this was not lost on the A-Go-Go bars themselves, virtually all of them extending outwards either into the old parking lot or out onto their front balconies (upstairs) with bar beer style service.
To bring us up to date, the Nana Hotel has since donated the front section of its then-expanded Nana Hotel Coffee Shop for the construction of The Golden bar beer - which was a 'hit' from day-one. The hotel still has a disco for the late night traffic, but after two make-overs it is now called Angel's Disco, even though some signs still read Love Club. In addition to the bar beers inside Nana Plaza, the Big Dogs has opened up just across the entranceway from Lucky Lukes, and it too, is busy all day and late into the night. There is also the Morning 2 Night, which is located at the corner of Nana Plaza, but faces outward onto the Soi - which has proven to be a license to print money, and as their name indicates, they are open morning, noon and night.
The above venues are the "players" in "The Nana Scene" but let's see what happens in the course of a typical day.
By mid morning, the bar beers having direct access to Soi Nana (Lucky Lukes, the Golden, the Morning 2 Night and Big Dogs) have already rolled up the steel roller-shutters and started serving to those that are too hung-over and/ or jet-lagged to sleep. These bars attract the day-shift freelancer crowd and the semi-freelancers. (The semi-freelancer usually works an informal agreement with the bar beer, whereby she does not receive a salary, but gets a cut on any drinks bought for her. If a customer wants to leave with her, it may or may not be necessary to barfine her.) It is interesting to note that even during the morning, these bars draw a fair sized crowd of farang beer drinkers.
By early afternoon, several of the bar beers inside Nana Plaza have also started serving, (the Spirit House, the Pharaoh, the Roadhouse, the Alibi (no sign), and usually some of the A-Go-Go bars have opened their 'outside' areas ( the Lollipop, the Rainbow, the Playskool, the Voodoo, the Red Lips, and Pretty Lady, and upstairs, Woodstock serves lunch, pub-style.) By late afternoon, Nana Plaza and the bars on the Soi are already quietly jumping.
The mainstream A-Go-Go bars inside Nana Plaza are next on line, usually opening between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. There are currently forty Night Entertainment Venues in the Plaza, most of them A-Go-Go bars - Nana Plaza suddenly becomes a very busy place. But it is now after dark, and another part of the Nana Scene dynamic kick-starts itself. On the sidewalks outside on the Soi, push-carts selling everything from deep-fried grasshoppers and mangdas to watermelon to Thai shiskebab are vying for space with the girls coming to work, the nightcrawlers like you and me, and other vendors - often causing pedestrians to have to walk in the street. On the Nana Hotel side of the street, also on the sidewalk, several folding-metal-table restaurants set up for business - there also, walking on the sidewalk is not an option. There is even one Street Bar, serving lao khao, Mehkong with buckets of ice and bottled Singh.
These sidewalk restaurants and pushcarts do a healthy trade, as well, serving the bargirls who are either on their way to work, going or coming from a short-time, or on their way home. They also serve the occasional farang - those not yet paranoid about MSG, exhaust fumes in their food, and local flora and fauna growing in their intestines. (The food and drink there is actually tasty and safe.) But they also cater to the culinary needs of yet another "piece-of-the-puzzle" in the Nana Scene dynamic - the streetwalker.
Streetwalkers have found that due to the amount of farang traffic coursing between the Nana Hotel and Nana Plaza, this is good grazing grounds. While not limiting themselves to wandering the curbsides, they also tend to fill up the near side of the Nana Hotel parking lot and the entranceway to Nana Plaza, between the Big Dogs and the Lucky Lukes. The number of streetwalkers is in direct proportion to the lateness of the hour - by midnight, there is a fairly healthy sampling.
The last two elements of the Nana Scene are the occasional elephant, with attendant mahouts, begging from one and all, and the empty taxis that are pouring into the Soi looking for recently barfined girls and their johns. (Although the elephants are always forbidden, and the empty taxis are expressly forbidden to enter the Soi until after 02:00 am, Lumpini's Finest keep a sharp blind eye peeled, resulting in Soi Nana becoming virtually unnavigable for the remainder of the evening.)
Occasionally, one finds a freelancer in the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop, but usually she is, or has been a recent temporary guest of one of the farang staying at the hotel above. While the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop does not bar the freelancer crowd, it is now no longer a "scene" on it's own, as in earlier decades. It does, however continue to serve as a 'clearing house' of sorts, where hotel guests can bring their barfined girls into the bright lights for the first time for a better look before proceeding to the room, or for a bite to eat, either before or after the visit to the room. It is appropriate to mention here that the Nana Coffee Shop has a good Thai/ Western menu if your purpose for being there happens to be only to have a meal...
By 10:00 pm, we are well into the evening, but the "Nana Scene" is just getting ready to rip. The Angel's Disco is just starting to pump up the volume, drawing a different class of party-ers. A small table has been set up just outside the disco door with it's small sign which reads, "Enter 300 baht. First drink free." Everyone has to pay the 300 baht entry fee, except, of course, if you are Thai - this couldn't actually be called 'dual pricing' as there is no price if you are local. Ahennnnh! As one resident nightcrawler succinctly put it, "Three hundred baht is a pretty steep barfine, especially if you don't find anyone." The girls are all required to produce at least someone's National I.D. Card, and the farang males are subject to pat-down if they appear suspect to the bouncers standing outside. Local punters have observed that it is quite easy, however, to meet an interesting face in the lobby area just outside the disco entrance, if you don't really like painfully loud techno and cigarette smoke you can stir with a spoon. In other words, not everyone's cup of tea, but the Angel's Disco still manages to pack them in nightly.
The bars in Nana Plaza close anywhere from 01:00 am to 01:30. The Angel's Disco finally empties out shortly after that. --And that's when all the fun begins. Surging out onto the Soi from Nana Plaza are the several hundreds of bargirls, alongside the several hundreds of farang bar patrons and even several dozens of the neo-eunuchs, the overlarge not-quite-anatomically-correct transgenderites from the Cassanova, the Obsession and the Cascade. As virtually none of those pouring out onto the street has found what he (or she) is looking for yet, all will mill around making or avoiding eye-contact, and /or go to get something to eat from one of the sidewalk restaurants or pushcarts. The turf that was strictly for the streetwalkers is no longer their own - they are now forced to share the square footage with everyone (and elephant and empty taxi). The crowding is compounded yet again when the discoers hit the pavement - they too, searching for partners for the evening. One word comes to mind: "Zoo". One wonders if Martians had sent their own Rovers to earth and were able to observe this scene unfolding, what sort of bizarre picture would they have of this out-of-control planet?
By about 02:30, the Nana Scene has pretty much tapered off - most of the farang nightcrawlers have either made their choice and gone home, or just gone home drunk. This leaves no reason for the streetwalkers or the bargirls or transgenderites to be there, and as they fade into the cool of the early morning, so do the street vendors and hawkers. In another eight hours - long enough for everyone to go home and get some sleep, the Nana Scene will begin its daily ramp-up all over again.
- A Travesty Unabated
"We will not tolerate Mafia rule in Thailand. Whoever (destroyed Sukhumvit Square) cannot remain above the law."
27 January 2003
This week marks the second anniversary of the Mafia blitzkrieg at Sukhumvit Square masterminded by Vice Czar-cum-Politico Chuwit Kamolwisit, in which over a hundred commercial shops and bars were flattened and pillaged. It also marks the second anniversary of the incumbent Benevolent Autocracy having done absolutely nothing about it, despite the Benevolent Autocrat's own sworn statement that, "Anarchy will not be tolerated."
See our February 2003 Feature Story and photos for complete historical coverage <link>.
January 28, 2003 - Sukhumvit Square Incident
The above previously unpublished file photo shows some of the destruction wreaked on the more than 100 tourist shops and bars in Sukhumvit Square by Chuwit's third-party Mafiosi and shell companies.
Follows is a summary of what "went down" two years ago, today: In a surprise predawn raid on 26 January 2003, up to 400 men in "military style" uniforms descended on Sukhumvit Square at Soi 10 Sukhumvit Road with heavy construction equipment and demolished the entire Entertainment & Tourist Complex there. The shocking incident made instant headlines around the world and called into question Thailand's ability and willingness to deal with such open, unmasked Mafia activity. --If the current administration couldn't deal with a devastating breakdown of law-and-order in downtown Bangkok, in the middle of their Tourist Belt, how could they deal with it anywhere else in the country? The answer, of course, to that question is that in the final analysis, they could not and would not deal with it because, to take any action at all would ultimately mean the dismantling of institutionalized corruption in both the Military and National Police, as well as across-the-board corruption in the many other Government institutions.
This recent composite photo of Sukhumvit Square shows Chuwit's monument to himself - a way to ingratiate himself with the public after the catastrophic events two years ago. He erected this 100 meter long billboard to advertise that he would be building a daycare center for orphans, a library and a public park. Shortly after the billboard was completed, he was arrested for beating his 'wife' (charges mysteriously dropped), and since that time there has been no progress on "Chuwit Park". The green lettering below his name reads, "For the people of Bangkok".
In the investigations that followed, it was revealed that influential land-owner/ developer and vice-czar Chuwit Kamolwisit was implicated up to his eyebrows through a series of shell companies, Nickle and Sukhumvit Stars being the two most prominent. The subsequent investigation revealed he wanted his land back for yet another land development project, and he was prepared to take whatever action necessary to get it back immediately.
Chuwit Kamolwisit, mastermind of the Sukhumvit Square destruction, is shown here in this file photo shortly after the National Police kidnapped him for three days, then threw him out of a vehicle on a deserted stretch of highway. The kidnapping is another separate unresolved legal case - arising because Chuwit did not want to 'take the fall' alone for the destruction and ransacking of Sukhumvit Square. He implicated several high ranking National Police officers in massive graft and corruption charges involving regular under-the-table payoffs by him to keep his several brothel-massage parlors open - and got kidnapped for his troubles. This story proved to be almost as sensational as the crushing of Sukhumvit Square, when Chuwit revealed he had to offer the National Police "trays of Rolexes".
In that it would have been impossible for such a raid in the center of the city to have been perpetrated without National Police knowledge and assistance, and in that the logistical and construction feat required to pull off such a raid could have only been accomplished in that timeframe by the Military engineers, both these august bodies were immediately implicated.
With these two Institutional Mafias at two corners of the triangle, and Chuwit and his shell-companies at the third, threats and counter-threats and accusations erupted and then re-erupted. And despite the bravado and pronunciamentos from the Benevolent Autocrat himself, the debacle quickly degenerated into a Mexican stand-off, where one party swore that if the other party revealed any skeletons in the closet, it would, too. The tragicomedy that ensued, with the National Police being among the accused, and also the party in charge of making the arrests, the entire sordid affair immediately lost it's forward momentum. The Benevolent Autocracy, powerless to act, continued to attempt to save face through bluster, but they were secretly hoping for some other high profile issues which would somehow push the ongoing scandal off the front pages.
Another file photo showing yet another view of the destruction at Sukhumvit Square in January 2003. This photo was taken only hours after the destruction.
A combination of the 'War In Iraq' in March and the SARS 'Pandemic' starting in April gave them the smoke screen they were looking for. These 'emergencies' gave the Government an eventual way out from under all the promises to rid the country of Mafia influence, and to prosecute the marauders of Sukhumvit Square, all in convenient, ready-made news blitzes from other quarters. Combined with the population's notoriously short attention span and the twin slams to the economy caused by the War and SARS, it was only a matter of time before all would be forgotten. And then, who would notice if this latest grand travesty of justice were quietly swept under the carpet, just like so many others before it?
January 28, 2003 - Sukhumvit Square Incident
Shop and bar owners, when finally allowed access to their destroyed premises, attempted to salvage goods and personal property. One of Lumpini's Men In Too-Tight-Uniforms is caught on camera 'boosting' a television set.
Among the many utterances of the Benevolent Autocrat at the time of the Sukhumvit Square Incident, was his promise that this sort of thing would never happen again. On 14 December 2004, this time under the cover of false "proper" documentation and cries of the local Chief of District (Wattana) of "law-breaking" and "immorality", approximately 100 'able-bodied' men descended upon Asoke Plaza, wrecking bars and sledge hammers in hand. See our Feature Story and photos last month <link>. This time the landowner's rep was escorting an officer from the Legal Enforcement office who served a warrant (for a different piece of land) to the land lessee. At his side were more than twenty of Thonglor's Men-In-Tan to make sure there was no resistance from either the lessee or the bar beer owners. These crews, too, proceeded to destroy all the buildings and structures in that leased property, allowing some of the moveable private property to be removed - but not all.
This repeat at Asoke Plaza of total disregard for personal and business properties, and the abject and total shunning of the Rule Of Law indicates, that not only has nothing been done about the state of lawlessness in Bangkok, but less than nothing has been done, seeing that these destroyers have now become more sophisticated - now able to maraud in plain daylight under the pretext of a false "legality". It is not only that this is a deplorable and inexcusable violation of rule of law, but the International Community is becoming increasingly wary of Thailand as an investment 'destination'. -And, until this house is put in order, rightly so.
Chuwit has formally launched his political campaign with promises to tear down the old order of "cheats", "baddies" and "influential people". We could not think of a more searing, hypocritical slap in the face if we tried. We cannot help but wonder if the sledge hammer in the photo was used to destroy buildings in his Sukhumvit Square property.
It goes without saying that neither Chuwit nor any of the National Police or Military figures involved in the Sukhumvit Square Incident has been brought to justice. That Chuwit has taken up a career in politics and is now running for office in the current upcoming election is a slap in the face to reason and an insult to the nation. It is, however, not unprecedented, and as anyone who has been here more than a couple of months well knows , the de facto statute of limitations on such criminality is the length of time the populace remembers it, and has absolutely nothing to do with criminal code. For as long as BANGKOK EYES remains an active Webiste, we will reprint this article annually (with any updates) as a public service for those who are contemplating doing business here in Thailand.
Phu Khet Bar Scene
- Tsunami follow-up
MIDNITE HOUR noted with interest last month's coverage of the Phu Khet Night Entertainment Scene . It was also interesting to see how Bangkok's two English Language Dailys handled the topic. We thought the topic worth our while as an historical footnote to the tragedy that hit Thailand and other Asian countries on 26 December 2004.
Excerpted from The Nation,
The Nation led with, "Sleep in peace, you unknown daughters of the Andaman Sea". This newspaper, in responsible style, expressed concern for the minimum 200 Night Entertainment Workers who, it was feared, perished in the tsunami - they were urging that appropriate measures be taken for both the living and the dead. An entertaining and informative article all around, addressing also the problem of Burmese sex workers, who would be all but impossible to identify.
Excerpted from the Bangkok Post,
On the other hand, the Bangkok Post toadys continued to kowtow to the Benevolent Autocracy's line: "Temporary lull in the Patong entertainment scene focuses attention on whether it fits into future revival plans." Not one single word for the plight of those 'ladies-of-the-night' who drown in the worst natural disaster to have ever hit the Kingdom. But we expected nothing more, nothing less from these pinch-faced hacks. This is but one more example of why we changed our morning daily long ago to The Nation.
Excerpted from the Bangkok Post,
Asoke Plaza Update
- A Quiet Justice - Of Sorts
Last month our feature story covered the shocking and wrongful destruction of Asoke Plaza Night Entertainment Area by representatives of the land owner who claimed rightful access to the land. This month's follow-up confirms several items appearing in last month's report which, in turn, have had a significant bearing on the ongoing court case between the land owner and the land lessee.
Our report last month correctly stated that the land owner's representative, using a warrant for the Asoke Corner property, deceived both the Thonglor Police and representatives from the Legal Enforcement Office (not to mention making a complete fool of Chief of District, Wattana) into believing they had the correct documentation for Asoke Plaza (- Asoke Corner and Asoke Plaza being two distinct pieces of property). Further, it appears that there is no other explanation than a willful deception on the part of the landowner and his representative.
The new entrance to Asoke Plaza is now on Soi 23, next to the Soi Cowboy entrance. The Asoke Plaza sign has been brought from the front (destroyed) area and replaces the old Asoke Corner sign.
Again, as reported last month, when the land lessee realized what the landowner was going to do (on the day preceding the bar destruction) she went to the court and received an injunction. At that time the Court said they would survey the site on 18 December 2004 and make their decision on the matter of whether the land lessee still had a right to be there or not.
However, on the following day, 14 December 2004, four days before that site inspection by the Authorities was to take place, the landowner's representative again took the old warrant for the back piece of land (already vacated by the land lessee) and went both to the Thonglor Police and the Legal Enforcement Office, and requested their support in his raid on Asoke Plaza. On receiving the unwitting support from both parties, the landowner proceeded with about 100 able bodied men in several vehicles to Asoke Plaza and ordered the tenants (bar owners) and the land lessee off the property, and proceeded to destroy all the facilities on that property.
When the day of the inspection by the authorities came about (on the 18th Dec, as per schedule). they (the Court Authorities) were also accompanied by at least two dozen police officers, this time from the Metropolitan Force. Their inspection lasted several hours in the heat of the mid-day sun, and they left in early afternoon to deliberate.
The deliberation did not take long, and it basically confirmed that the land lessee did have a right to stay on the land, and the Court deemed that the land owner would allow the lessee to occupy the previously vacated rear portion (Asoke Corner) until such time as the legal case could be finalized in the Courts.
The Court has set the date of this final hearing for sometime in April. What this means is that the land lessee has succeeded in getting an injunction from eviction from the landowner's other plot of land in the rear for at least until such time as the court decides on the lawsuit (for the front section) this coming April. The lessee not only has the right to occupy the land herself, but to utilize the land any (legal) way she sees fit. It would be appropriate to comment here that if by some slim chance, the lessee were to win her court case as presented, she would then have access to the front section once again - but the smart money is not chasing this scenario.
The land lessee wasted no time making as many of her recent bar beer tenants welcome to a similar plot in the back (Soi 23) side. Most of them came, and found old foundations and /or partially demolished sites where they could bring their plywood bar and chrome barstools and set up under the wide open skies.
Since that time the land lessee has put all these bars under tents, to keep them out of the weather. -But not out of the goodness of her heart - the smallest tent cost 7,000 baht - and all bar beer owners (tenants) were forced to buy their tents from her.
Nevertheless, it has resulted in an overnight rejuvenation for the back Asoke Corner area - which by the way has now been renamed Asoke Corner, after the destroyed front plot of land. For conformity's sake, MIDNITE HOUR will refer to all of that leased area as Asoke Corner from this point forward.
But the story doesn't stop here - in addition to the relocated bars from the front section, there are several enterprising new start-ups - their tented foundations will be coming on line this month (February).
But the "breaking news" is that it is virtually certain that 13 Night Market, with their fifteen Night Entertainment Venues will be closing down on 28 February. Most of those fifteen venues will actually be closing down on the night of the 13th, due to rent expiration agreements. If we have done our maths correctly, two of those fifteen venues already have new homes in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza on Soi 1. Two other venues are indoor, depending on air conditioning. This leaves a possible additional eleven venues which could move into Asoke Plaza before the end of this month. This is not just surmising on our part - our interviews last week at Asoke Plaza were filled with accounts of the 13 Night Market bar owners' visits, and their negotiations with the land lessee for some foundation space and a tent or two. It would, however be unrealistic to think that all eleven of the 'possibles' from 13 Night Market will move in, but it looks certain that Asoke Corner will be much larger by this time next month.
Notes & Updates
The NITE OWL (Trink Page) is now on line for FREE - 'you all can come back now'. No longer a pay-per-view affair, Bernard Trink, Father of the Night Scene Beat has decided (wisely, in our opinion) that there is more profitability in advertising.*CLICK HERE* to go straight to today's Trink Page !
We will be asking him if we can buy some banner space for MIDNITE HOUR - (provided he doesn't think it a conflict of interest.) If you would like to advertise with him, <link> CLICK HERE.
The Toby Jug was omitted from our 01 Dec 2004 Feature Story, "The Bangkok Pub Scene". An unforgivable sin on our part - the Toby Jug pub has just had it's 25-year anniversary at their same comfortable location on Silom, near the Central Department Store at the Sky Train. Please accept our abject apologies.
"Rumor Of The Month"
"Rumor" is defined as "no-fault confabulation,
chain-reaction speculation...." Nevertheless M
IDNITE HOUR again presents the most outrageous / prevalent rumor
to cross our desks this past month:
"Several new and existing bars will be moving into Soi 7/1(Soi Eden) in the next 3 months, bringing the total of Night Entertainment Venues to over twenty."
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 February 2005, the Rumor Accuracy Quotient remains at
See our Archived Rumors at their worst : click HERE.
presents the NEWS
on the Bangkok Night Scene
; - the 'history-in-the-making'
for all major Night Entertainment Areas
- for the month ending 1 FEBRUARY, 2005
PATPONG I .
The Star Of Love
day-and-night 'service' bar has gone up in a puff of smoke. When the smoke cleared, many of you will be surprised to hear that the premises had been turned into yet another brick-a-brack & fake luggage
shop. Just what Patpong
needs more of...
Their upstairs neighbors, the Rose
, who also provide the same 'services', have anticipated an increase in dirty-old-men and have sprung for some brand-new hard-to-ignore neon. PATPONG I
Tuned In, Turned On
Patpong 1 February 2005
Radio City is MIDNITE HOUR's first choice for Door Art Of The Month this month - their signage being a combination of art deco neon and paint. Radio City took over from Smile Club back in October of 1994 and was the first Nightspot on Patpong to recognize the full potential of the inside-outside bar lounge. They soon introduced regular live music - and then they made it all work. But what went unnoticed was their billboard sized sign - unnoticed because of the abomination we refer to as "tent city" which is erected each late-afternoon in Patpong Road itself, blocking all view of the Soi, and often blocking even the pedestrian traffic the horde of rude vendors depends on to sell their brand-rip-off goods.
Patpong 1 February 2005
As unbelievable as this is going to sound, King's Lounge A-Go-Go
on Soi Bookstore
has already closed it's doors and ripped down the neon. The King's Group
appears to be making a habit of reopening and then reclosing this venue. When it opened in October of last year, we paid a visit and found the air conditioning cold enough to hang meat, the speakers so loud they gave you a headache, the cigarette smoke intolerable (from mostly Japanese customers), and they took five minutes to get your change (they used the downstairs King's Corner
cashier) - all major distractions. It could be that others noticed the same things. They know better than that by now, don't they? PATPONG I
Not exactly a Night Entertainment Venue
, but worth a mention nonetheless, is the Sinbad
shwarma & falafal stand just below the Cleopatra
. I have no idea how the super-sized Egyptian
chef works there in that tiny cubbyhole without getting run over - he has to stand out in the roadway to carve the meat for the shwarmas, and gets hit by car mirrors about once every ten minutes. Shwarmas come in beef or chicken - try them before someone kills the chef.
The spate of name changes on The Ramp
this month - and as before, just small changes - so small we wonder why they would even bother. The first of these is the Three Ladies Cocktail Lounge
- they have dropped the "Cocktail Lounge
" and now want the world to see them as just Three Ladies
. Consider it done.
The second in line for a sign change on The Ramp
is Kob's Place
who have re-done their sign to read, Kob's Linda Place
. Hey, it's OK with us if it's OK with you.
Right next door to them, also on The Ramp
, is The Rock Dome Juniority Club
, which have, thankfully, dropped the "Dome Juniority Club
", for which only they knew the meaning, anyway. They are now just The Rock
"A Local Harry In Your Pocket"
Bangkok's Finest, in this case, the Tourist Police are posting these signs in the Patpong area. This one's posted on the Cleopatra staircase. PATPONG II
The multiplex of Night Entertainment Venues
under construction stretching from Electric Blue
on Patpong II
all the way through to Patpong I
did not open in January as many had surmised. We're betting that at least one of the venues will be open before this month is over, however.
The Hollywood 2 Rock & Roll
on the third floor is now officially the Hollywood Strip Rock & Roll,
and so says all the neon, new and old. All else remains the same - A-Go-Go
remains the modus operandi.
Keep on keeping on.
SOI COWBOY .
Two A.M. ? We don't believe that the Nana Plaza people have any intent to deceive here. We believe this is simply Occam's Razor in action - the simplest explanation is that no one has noticed...
The front of the recently opened Kanjana Bar Beer
(at the Asoke
entrance) has become a parking lot for motorcycles - the motorcycle-lout owners hanging around at the top of the soi there. This can't be doing Khun Kanjana
any good - or anyone else on the Soi
, for that matter.
ASOKE PLAZA + ASOKE CORNER
--- Datzit Fernow
William R. Morledge
Copyright © 2005, BANGKOK EYES /
So much is going on at The Annex,
we hardly know where to begin. We, first off, need to define a new class of bar: the Sidewalk Bar
. It's been a long time coming, and since the demolition of Sukhumvit Square
, the Sidewalk Bar
concept has been growing, albeit slowly. Last month, we noted (and included a photo) of the Fantacy
, who drug their plywood bar and their chrome barstools out onto the sidewalk to avoid being crushed by the wrecking crews who were then dismantling Asoke Plaza
. We are pleased to announce that they are still out there on the sidewalk, serving beer and mixed drinks as if nothing had happened. But more surprising than this, is another Sidewalk Bar
has sprung up about thirty feet away - this one wishing to be called the Kill Bill.
We wish them prosperity in these interesting times, even if only for form's sake.
, partly using an old structure, and partly under tent, reopened, at least softly at it's new location in the large rear portion of the Annex
closest to Soi 23
. As everyone is now calling this rear portion Asoke Plaza
(instead of Asoke Corner
), we will, for clarity call all the remaining area Asoke Plaza
for the duration. Welcome back to the neon night-circus.
Popping up out of their grave like they had never gone is the Ton Son
bar beer. They originally closed almost exactly a year ago this February. They have the same digs as before, but this time under a tent instead of a roof - the first bar beer on your right as you enter the compound. Welcome back to the nightly sideshow.
(Our Door Art Of The Month
winner for last month) has closed down, but fear not they are just relocating into the old 8-Pak
area, and should be open as soon as tonight.
has opened up in the far corner of the old 4-Pak
, the management possessing all the enthusiasm of those who have never owned a bar before - and they brought their own pool table for the center section. No relation to their Patpong I
namesake. May the nightwinds blow kindly.
The 'No Name
' has reopened as the 'No Name
', again with no sign. Nevertheless, they did have a few customers over the weekend. Welcome back to the dogfight.
| Three small single-tent bars have popped up at the back of the old 8-Pak this month. The first is the Friendly 2, being run by the younger sister of the Friendly Bar owner. We wish you luck as your cast your lot with the rest. COWBOY ANNEX
The second of these bar beers at the back of the 8-Pak
is tentatively calling itself the Star Bar
- and is an offshoot of the Angel Bar.
Welcome to the vale of tears.
The third and last of the new bars at the 8-Pak
is also trying to decide on a name, but they think they will try Bamboo
on for size, if and when they get ahead enough to buy a sign. Wait and see - will fate deal them sevens or nines?
The Sawasdee Bar
, having survived last month's mini-holocaust, appears to be closed this month-end. But let's wait and see, the compound is in a state of animated transition - with substantial changes noted each day - this is likely only an adjustment. We will advise next time.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33) .
Under the "My Typewriter Made Me Do It Department
" - as astute readers have adequately reminded, last month we reported the new name for The Cave
" with two 'e's
. This was most surely due to the sticky wooden key on my 1937 Underwood
- the correct spelling being "Demonia
". SOI DEAD ARTISTS
lounge (next door to The Brick
) has been getting a bigger "Under Renovation
" sign every month, but no one is actually doing any renovating. Not a good sign - look for them to start shopping a new owner any minute now. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
" SOI KATOEY "
Last week Noriega's
put on a food & music 'do' to raise money for the tsunami
survivors, and by all accounts it was a great success. SuperStar Frank
is thinking of starting up a "Little Known Facts of Bangkok
" corner - and we may 'host' him here on MIDNITE HOUR
Let's shake it up and see what falls out the open end...
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
With the smell of creosote subsiding and the bright new neon all aglare, the transformation from the old "O.B. 1
" to the 2 Corner
has been completed. Now a mini-lounge
bar beer instead of a one-table Pool Bar
, they have hit the ground running. May they always have a chinchoke up in the corner. QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
The Popeye 2 Bar
is brandishing some brand-new neon, this time around sporting not only the image of the Spinach-Man
himself, but the Union Jack
nevertheless, the rock still rocks
and the roll still rolls...
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
Gone, but not gone, was the Oraphin
-just as we had surmised- they were just taking the New Year'
s holidays more to heart than some of the other venues. All has returned to what passes for 'normal' and the lovely sacral-dimpled pool-shark staff are back in action.
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
Last month, we reported that a large new Night Venue
in the far back corner had been completed, but had a large "For Sale
" sign in the window -and was as yet unoccupied. This month, it is open for business, and is being managed by it's builders (and next-door neighbors), The Corner
. As no one had yet nailed up the neon shingle, we asked and were told that it is also temporarily being called The Corner
. The owner says it is still up for sale, however. It is a well-appointed "pub
", but we are not so sure about the feng-shui
, being hidden back in the corner like that.
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
Reopened after a languishing New Year's
holiday, the Angel 22
unambiguous massage is back a-slippin' and a-slidin'. Do what you do, do well, girls.
After an exhaustive search for a new owner, the Crystal Bar
has reopened - it's Christmas
light sets all a-twinkle. The prime agendum
remains unchanged. We welcome them back to the same old briar-patch all over again.
Our sense of foreboding growing ever stronger, we see that the folding metal tables and chairs have returned, and are once again crowding the entranceway to Tobacco Road
. Said tables and chairs overflowing with drunken locals and their ice buckets, bottles of Mehkong
- I can't think of a quicker way to drive off prospective custom in their search for relaxing beer or two. We hear the sound of distant thunder - we hope they do too.
TOBACCO ROAD (SOI ZERO)
With the closing of the Nice Bar
, the former Night Entertainment Area
enters it's final death-throes. Nice Bar
was Easy Square's
seminal bar, having closed its doors on Soi Cowboy
in October, 2002 (historians note: originally the old Loretta
digs), it immediately began construction in Easy Square
. It opened in January, 2003, kicking off what would be Bangkok's
shortest lived Night Entertainment Area
. We hope those good folk find things more to their liking a little further on down the road a piece. Passers by can now no longer even see that the two remaining bars there are even open, as all is hidden in abiding darkness.
We walked around to the back of the ghostly hulk of the Nice Bar
to visit the Hang Out
. We found it's tiny orange neon ablaze, and all the lights on, so we walked in to have a soda - and maybe say goodbye. The place was empty. And by that, we mean the place was empty
. No owner, no manageress, no mamasan
, no khon serbs
, nobody. We could have just cracked a can of Coke
for ourselves, then scribbled out a chit and jammed it in our cup, but who would we talk to? We opted to leave the compound - kicking our way through the darkness, the trash and the old, dried leaves. Without sounding overly negative, that's probably not the best way to run a bar...
THERMΖ & "13 NIGHT MARKET"
A 'sure thing' in Bangkok
is always relative, but it is looking virtually
certain that 28 February
will see the closure of the 13 Night Market
and it's fifteen venues - bar beers, massage parlor and lounges. This time around, the mamasans
are already starting to pack their bags. This being true, it would certainly be the end of an era - the Thirteen Night Market
stands on the rubble that was the original Thermae Coffee Shop...
THERMΖ & "13 NIGHT MARKET"
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
| Last month in this column we noted that the Morning Night II was poised to open in one of the two bar beer areas just completed in front of the main Sukhumvit 1 Plaza building. Little did we know that they were going to occupy both sides of the entranceway. Pool Bar is the format, and it looks like they are able to draw a few customers their way already. No strangers to Bangkok's night games, they are already running the very successful Morning 2 Night on Soi Nana. Welcome to the wolfpack. SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
Visible only from the Skytrain
, a flurry of rooftop activity has been ongoing for the last two weeks. The word going around is that it will be a rooftop beer garden / seafood restaurant
. Let's wait and see - it's hard enough to get people to go upstairs for any
reason, and right now, even the ground floor Night Venues
are having severe problems drawing custom. SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
Opening in bits and pieces, Mae Mai Kitchen Karaoke
has finally opened both in the back, where they have a large projection screen for (presumably) karaoke, and out in front, along the sidewalk's edge, where they have a barbecue pit - which I have never seen in use (?!) Welcome to the long uphill.
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
NIGHT VENUES OF NOTE
The Absolute 7 Bar
opened a couple of months ago without a lot of fanfare. Nevertheless, if our people on the ground at Sukhumvit Soi 7/1
)are telling it as it is, it was the tip of the iceberg - see our "Rumor Of The Month"
The No-News-Is- Good-News Department