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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review

Cowboy Street Scene


01 September 2005
William R. Morledge
Chuwit Can't Escape Dark Past !
Historic Satellite Image of Sukhumvit
The  GRAFFITI  Page - New !
Rumor Of The Month
September's Follies in review



This Page


         Entering Soi Cowboy from either end, the visitor is welcomed by the bright neon of the dozens of Night Entertainment Venues.   However before reaching any of the individual oases, one notices a sea of faces outside the bars.   

         Often. as the evening kicks off - before the crowds arrive, a group of hostesses will be waiting outside to greet passers-by.   Such is the case with these attractively attired young women outside the Baccara.

         A throng of customers and staff mix outside the Country Road as they wait for the next 'set' to start from the in-house band.

         Even as the evening monsoon shower commences, girls between dance sets, and others, continue to dash back and then forth across the soi to the various food stalls, or sometimes just to talk to a friend working in a nearby bar.

         After slipping on a pull-over shirt and skirt, an A-Go-Go girl takes a quick break to wander outside to buy a drink and some fried grasshoppers.

         Push-cart food vendors are kept busy the entire evening.   Although a variety of 'roadside' foods are available, Isarn dishes are usually the 'order of the day' - as can be seen here outside Shebas.

         Between A-Go-Go sets, the girls will wander out to the outside tables and talk with customers and/ or tug on the sleeves of those passing by.   The girls at Our Place are always most gregarious.

         Cowboy 2 door girls are not hard to spot in their distinctive red cowboy hats.   Joined by idle dancers, they make a most attractive bunch.   This Nitespot, as with most others, hires some young women specifically for the purpose of enticing customers inside for a drink.

         Unequivocally, the Cowboy Scene starts here, then, not behind the swinging door or the parted curtain.   And, unsurprisingly, we often get feedback from resident farang and tourists alike that they have found a most compatible companion even before getting inside to put an elbow up on the bar.

Watch Your Step

         Night Entertainment in and around Lumpini Park, such as it is, has never been more than 'notorious' at best, so when we saw this sign posted several places within we, ...well...does it mean what we think it means?


The MIDNITE HOUR Graffiti Page

         When we first started out to create a Graffiti Page for the MIDNITE HOUR we thought we would do a little checking to see what the World Wide Web had on the subject.   We were astounded ....and perhaps at the same time, a little disappointed (but we should refrain from pogo-sticking out ahead of our headlights, and start at the beginning of the beginning....).   

         Most of us have a sense that the word "graffiti" refers to unauthorized drawings on walls and other surfaces in public areas, and some of us were vaguely aware of, or believed that graffiti was the plural of graffito, and that such graffiti was a product of runaway urban forces in the last half of the 20th Century.   And some of us real ancients can even remember that originally, graffiti was primarily found on the walls of public restrooms, and usually had prurient content.   But let's have a look at what the etymologists have to say about all that:

Graffiti: The word first appeared in print in 1851, describing ancient wall inscriptions found in the ruins of Pompeii.   It is from Italian; "graffiti", plural of "graffito" and means literally - "a scribbling."   

This is, in turn, derivative formation from 'graffio' - "a scratch or scribble," and from 'graffiare' ; "to scribble."   The sense of the word was extended in 1877 to include 'recently made crude drawings and scribbling'.   

Dictionaries are now recognizing that 'graffiti' is often used in the singular, as in "the graffiti is...", although they are still casting a jaundiced eye on such usage.   

The simplest and most generally accepted meaning today for Graffiti is:

"An unauthorized, often illegal drawing or writing,
either in a public place or that can be viewed from a public place - such as on a wall or bus - generally using spray paint."

         But if ancient Pompeii's wall-scribblers could see today's proliferation of art crimes, they would be trembling in awe, bowing down to God Spraycan.   Graffiti, no longer in the realm of mere 'wall scribbling', has exploded into sometimes multi-storey, multi-walled technicolor mural art.   Yes, we said, 'art' - as you will soon see in this, and successive months' issues of the MIDNITE HOUR.   In fact, many contemporary artists, such as George Hunt, Justin Bua, and Keith Haring openly state that their works were greatly influenced by modern graffiti - (and not the other way around !).

         Our perception of the graffiti artist is the lone-wolf who steals out into the night dressed in camo and wearing butyl-soled rock-climbing shoes, with cans of spraypaint strapped to his torso - someone who, from all outward appearances, could easily be mistaken for a suicide bomber on a skateboard.   By the light of a full moon he works his artistic butt off, trying to finish his graphic social protest (and thereby perpetuate his 'tag') before he is seen by pry-eyed up-tight neighbors, or a passing squad car, or the first light of dawn, whichever comes first.   These perceptions have even been reinforced by Hollywood, where in one recent film a graffiti artist was lowered off a bridge by his feet to create a spectacular and very irritating (to the police) work-of-art while suspended upside-down.   Talk about your ultimate urban cult hero....   But wait....

         In our further Internet explorations, we found that what was once the near-occult 'underground' is now big business.   There are not one or two websites, but several that cater to this burgeoning class of artistic Zorros.   You can buy online - and we are not making any of this up - spraypaint (well, duh, but wait again....).   --Just make sure you get Montana brand, because that is the king of the mountain in this field.   Feel like customizing?   You can get a large variety of special spray tips and personalized spraycan caps.   -No, really....

         You can get prints and posters of graffiti pretty much to any size you want.

         Don't forget the 'zines.   (These are 'magazines' to ordinary folk).   You can get collectors' issues of such magazines as Black Crown or Clout, and you might pick up a special edition dedicated to "a graffiti king and legend".   Or you can read interviews with 'famous' 'graffitors' (I just made that word up - so you heard it here first).   Or you can see the schedules of all the big upcoming graffiti street-shows, which feature break-dancing, skateboarding and DJs.

         Still not satisfied?   Well then, go ahead and order your graffiti T-shirt, or your graffiti trucker's cap or baseball cap so you can wear it sideways or backwards.   Or how about some graffiti videos, like the cult classic Style Wars?   -Graffiti jewelry, anyone?

         Oh, by the way, you may be interested in how you order all the artistic paraphernalia you will be needing for your next midnight magnum opus.   It's easy, these websites have "shopping carts" just like Amazon.Com, and you use your credit card - and don't worry about credit card fraud, because they use PayPal.   Well, so much for the myth of the solitary midnight marauder striking again with his trusty spraycan slung low on his belt....   Now, not only has graffiti itself become a 'fine art', but the business of providing to the graffitors (and the T-shirt wannabes) has been honed to a fine art as well.   All of this has become a little like going to Khao Sarn Road and buying a dreadlock wig and getting a marijuana-leaf tattoo and saying you're a Rasta, mahn.   It's just not quite the same thing, is it?

         Nevertheless, even with the shattering of the 'mystique' of the graffiti artist, the works produced are not diminished in any way - colorful, twisted, irreverent, vulgar, disturbing, thought-provoking, often humorous, often strikingly beautiful in their own weird way, and almost always original.   I think it is safe to say that graffiti, now just on 2000 years old, is here to stay.   One of the more popular websites we researched for this piece was: Art Crimes @ <link>.   You might want to go for a browse - you will be as amazed as we were.

Graffiti #001
Angry Young Green Man
5 ft. high

Graffiti #002
Girl Under The Stairs
2 ft. high

Graffiti #003
'Tiger' Mural
8 ft. high x 15 ft.

Graffiti #004
Man At The Corner
4 ft. high

Graffiti #005
5 ft. high x 8 ft.

Graffiti #006
Death In White Sneakers
4 ft. high

Graffiti #007
Columns At Nana Skytrain
5 ft. high


Chuwit can't shake past

Chuwit Kamolwisit

         The unending "only-in-Thailand" saga of Chuwit Kamolwisit vs. The World is arguably the 'Story Of The Decade' - the most recent chapter revealing itself just last week.

         Chuwit, making what would otherwise be a routine application for a visa to the U.S.A, was brought up abruptly when the application was rejected flatly and without further fanfare.   And although he tried to claim that the visa refusal was linked to his efforts to have a rare Thai artifact returned from America, no one familiar with his sordid record could, or did take that claim seriously.   Chuwit, a mega-wealthy property developer, Massage Parlor Tycoon and most recently, Politician is finding out that even in this country, one's past can catch up and bite one on the backside.

         Vice Czar Chuwit was first caught in the national headlights in January 2003 when he was linked to the midnight Mafia demolition of the Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area. <story link>.   In a predawn raid on 26 January 2003 approximately 400 men in paramilitary dress descended on the Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area, at Sukhumvit Soi 10, destroying over 100 shops, sixty of which were bars.   It didn't take the authorities long to implicate Chuwit, being the owner of the land, and immediately attempted to arrest him.

         Chuwit avoided arrest by claiming that many prominent police officials were regularly bribing him of huge sums of money; payment of said bribes allowed him to continue to operate his brothel-massage parlors.   He said if he was arrested, he would start naming very influential names.   His statement of having to offer police "Trays of Rolexes" is now a classic, the 'gold-standard' example of the depth and breadth of local corruption..

         But it did the trick - incredibly, Chuwit was not arrested - and it did at least precipitate several "transfers to inactive positions" within prominent National Police ranks.   But neither was he off the hook - the police did kidnap him for three days, dumping his drugged semi-conscious body alongside the expressway.   This of course made for even more outrageous headlines.

         Chuwit publicly stated that he feared for his life, and that the Police would 'take him out' once the furor died down over the Sukhumvit Square / Police Bribery scandal.   But using his ingenuity (and a lot of his cold hard cash) found a way to stay in the public's eye - he would enter politics.   

         Chuwit's first attempt to become a public servant was a run for Bangkok Governor.   He lost that bid, but because of a massive notariety, amassed a relatively significant number of votes just the same.   It was then that Chuwit proclaimed that he would thank the people of Bangkok who voted for him by turning the old Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area into a public park, and art center - and would include a public library and a day-care center for orphans.

         Although the promised public park is (almost) on schedule, we see that (aside from the trees apparently being dead) there is no sign of an art center, there is no structure which could house a public library, nor is there any evidence of construction of a daycare center for orphans.   We are certain, however, that these structures, fully fitted-out, will materialize over the next 60 days, or shortly thereafter - as promised.   The orphans can wait just a little longer....

         But Chuwit, seeing that he had yet to secure his own personal safety by staying (permanently) in the public eye, ran for office yet again, this time after forming his own political party.   On receiving approximately the same number of votes for MP, he promptly sold his own new political party down the river and joined the Chart Thai party, who in turn gave him his desired seat in National Parlaiment.

         But Chuwit and "The Political Life" have not got on well together.   He was shortly thereafter brought up on charges of having under-age girls working at one of his brothel-massage parlors - this as he was in the process of 'selling' all these brothels in hopes of gaining instant 'respectability' in the community.   This case is still pending, and in light of the recent wave of anti-paedophilic interest world-wide, the Media are quoting this is one of the major contributory causes of his visa refusal - the other being the Mafia links.   

         Chuwit was later dragged into custody for beating his wife - a charge that was later dropped for convenience, and the usual "lack of sufficient evidence" blanket-escape-clause.   But his political troubles were, and are, not yet over: in an earlier incident, when Kanchana Silpa-Archa, the daughter of the head of the Chart Thai party refused to pose in a promotional photo with him, he commented loudly - and all too publicly, "I wonder if this white-faced lady has been trying too hard to safeguard her private parts."   Her reply, Chuwit should watch more closely that mouth of his which "drips with expletives".   

         And only recently, he was brought to task by Thai Rak Thai MP Kasettongsri for getting drunk in Parlaiment during the House debate.   Chuwit did not deny it directly, but replied instead, "Prove it."   He went on to say, "If you say I was drunk, then I say you are crooked and unmanly."   

         The above sign, currently adorning the front of the old Sukhumvit Square says,
" Please forgive the inconvenience ... and bother during the construction.   We are currently building a park
that will serve as a new 'lung' for you.
The First Location for a Privately Owned Park.

         Apparently you can take Sia Ang out of the Steam & Cream Parlor, but you can't take the Steam-Job & Blow-Bath Parlor out of Sia Ang.   ("Sia Ang" has long been Chuwit's nemisis nickname; the albatross around his supposedly rehabilitated neck, and translates loosely as "Mr Hot-tub".)    The only comforting aspect to this story is the constancy - some things never change.

? Old

Any old PHOTOS of
Bangkok's Nightlife ?

Please CLICK HERE and send to us for publication.   

Many Thanks,
William R Morledge

Rumor Of The Month

" Where there's   "

      "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:

"The impending shake-up in the top brass at the Thong Lor Police District will ease the pressure on Night Entertainment Areas within it's boundaries, to include Soi Cowboy."

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 the award.

Due to the March 2005 Rumor having come true, as of 01 SEPTEMBER 2005, the Rumor Accuracy Quotient is now at -
3.7 %
   Note: This variance from "0%" is due to ONE and only ONE rumor to ever have come true.

See our Archived Rumors at their worst : click HERE.


A Trip In A Time-Machine

         Does anyone recognize this (now historic) satellite photo of Bangkok's Night Entertainment scene?   If not, scroll down to the keyed photo below.   You might be surprised.

         All three of these Night Entertainment Areas are now 'extinct' - only the Thermae, located in the Ruam Chit Mansion (swimming pool on roof) is still there today.

September'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 ending  1 September, 2005 :

Disco Dek

         This Sign Of The Times is interesting for a couple of reasons; first, the King's Lounge is hiring 18 yr olds and above (we thought all the other signs around town said you had to be 20 to even get in - we live and learn).   The second interesting tidbit is that they are once again calling themselves a "Disco".

Girls In Tiger Suits

         Alcoholic beverage companies have been promoting themselves in and on bars for as long as we can remember, however, lately more and more of the promotion is live and right there in the street for you to run into.   A couple of months ago the Corona girl was making the rounds on her Segway, and Malibu built a temporary bar -complete with neon sign- smack-dab in the middle of Soi Katoey.   This month, we see lovelies in tiger suits tempting us to have a Tiger right out in front of King's Corner.   Things could be worse....

             The years-long game of cat-and-mouse continues as the original Pink Panther makes it's fourth attempt to display it's name of old.   Some of you may remember that we have been keeping score through the years - as the sign gestapos catch them and make them change their sign, then after the heat is off, out comes the Pink Panther sign all over again.   We of course have no idea how long it will be before they get their next visit from the livid little men in ill-fitting chauffer suits, but rest assured, like Schwarzenegger, they'll be back.   A pity, as we have a nostalgic recollection or two from the old Pink Panther's heyday - we like the name just the way it was.   ...Shake it, don't break it, gang - nevertheless, we like your illegitimi non carborundum attitudes.

             The unnamed bar beer in front of the the downstairs portion of Pink Panther (-downstairs is still called the Bar & Pub The Pink) is being torn down.   Several years ago, this bar beer used to have a small sign referring to it as the Pink Panther Bar-Restaurant (in Thai) but for a long time has been without a name.   Word from within is that it will be rebuilt immediately - a completion date still a couple of months down the road - new name, if any, not known.   PATPONG I I

             Located on 'The Ramp', the Tik + Ko closed down for renovations last month, only to open this month with a brand new moniker.    The Coyoty (sic) Spicy Girl, as it is now known, has some brand new neon, to boot.   We aren't sure whether this is a case of , or if they just didn't know how to spell 'Coyote'...   May the nightwinds bring them fortune, misspellings and all.

             The Century (home of last month's door art award murals) has closed for renovations - or so says a hastily scrawled note taped to the door.   Folk on the ground there say they shouldn't be closed for more than a month.   Century is located on the 4th floor of the Cosmo's stairwell.

             One floor down, still in the Cosmo's stairwell, the Bua Luang Karaoke has reopened after a four-month hiatus.   They have done some sprucing up, from the looks of the new sign, and all.   We note with a certain amount of trepidation (even though they offered the info in an unsolicited context) that they are busiest between midnite and 04:00 a.m.   Welcome back to the vicissitudes.

            Secrets, although absorbed by Angel Witch over a month ago will not be providing any additional square footage to the overall equation until the beginning of October at the earliest.   Part of the reason might be that Angel Witch seems to be doing a pretty good business as-is, and they don't want to close down, even temporarily, while they break the wall down between them....     NANA PLAZA

            The Big Mango Bar has opened up on schedule in the old Boss Hogg's digs on the second floor.   Some changes have been made - the hole in the ceiling which previously opened up onto the upstairs pool area has been closed off to give added square footage - more pool tables.   The trick remains how to get people to come up the escalator and do a button-hook past the Mandarin and Silver Dragon doorgirls, and into the Big Mango - once they figure that out, the cat-bird seats overlooking the Plaza's entrance will be packed out nightly.   Ask no further, the name of the bar was inspired by the book.   We welcome them to, well, The Big Mango - let the good times roll....

            The Roadhouse bar beer in the old parking lot started and completed renovations this last August - and things look a lot roomier.   And while they look for a place to re-hang their sign, all are invited back - business as usual.   Keep on keeping on.     NANA PLAZA

            Obsession - at least the inside A-Go-Go portion - is closed for renovations.   The mostly transgenderite A-Go-Goers have all moved upstairs to their 'sister' bar Cascade (3rd floor) in the interim.   The outside bar beer area is still open for business, and looks to be keeping fairly busy.    NANA PLAZA


            The Deja Vu have, it seems, paid their dues (figuratively speaking, of course...) and have been graciously granted permission to open again by the Thonglor arbiters of street-justice.   It looks like many of the old staff have returned, and are dancing up a storm - making sure. of course. that all snaps and straps and laces are secure beforehand.    SOI COWBOY

            As mentioned last month, the Apache closed down for major renovations.   The rumors of table-top dancing are true, by all appearances - (we stuck our heads in last night for a quick look-around).   If they aren't opening right should be open in a day or two - should be interesting.   We also note that during the renovations, the outside got a sprucing up - the Apache maids never looked better.

            The scuttlebutt that the Cowboy 2 has poker machines is all too true.   On our occasional visits, we have never seen them being used - they don't look like real big money-spinners from where we sit....   Considering how popular gambling in general is with Bangkok's Finest, one might consider a snaller radar signature....    SOI COWBOY

            Although still closed, one of our more erudite gaijin linguist friends has informed us that this was the "Rich" mahjong parlor (in the Peep Inn Park).   We note that 'Rich' is a phonetic transliteration.   Mystery solved -

            Also in the Peep Inn Park, the Club Ayano has bowed down before Darwin's harsh call - survival being for the fittest, after all.   Opening in June 2003, they had a good two-year run of it.   Darkness now hides the windblown leaves and gathering dust.    SOIDEADARTISTS

            Set back in Soi 1, just beside the Pan Pan Italian Restaurant, the More Massage has opened up.   This is a traditional massage, somewhat less ambiguous than some of the massage parlors on this soi, and has a couple of professional masseuses - for those who really enjoy the pan boran style of massage as taught at Wat Po.   Break a leg, girls - not literally, of course....    SOIDEADARTISTS

            The Venus Club, which we noted as closed last month, but which had 'for hire' signs taped on the windows, did in fact reopen this month.   They still haven't got a new 'cheerleader' for their sign, which previously sported a Vargas nude (and which was promptly pounced upon by the local sign gestapos).   Welcome back to the delights of Sin City.

            And just next door, the Oliver reed's club has very quietly become the R. Club, complete with new neon.   No change in format.   Let the nightgames proceed.

            The Roxy Bar & Club have got rid of (most of) their cushioned sidewalk, replacing the cushions with small tables - and opening the front up to become "inside-outside" instead of "inside and outside".   It remains to be seen how this will help (or hurt) business - they looked rather quieter last Saturday night.   SOIKATOEY

            Angel Bar bar beer actually opened last May - and by this last August they had saved up enough for some new neon.   All else remains the same - the beat goes on.

            The Smile Bar is no more - although you wouldn't know it to look at it.   Last month they found a way out from under it all and sold out lock, stock and chrome barstool to a previous co-owner of the Siam Smile on Soi Eden (she cashed in her minor holding three months ago to look for new digs).
         While temporarily operating under the old Smile Bar name, the new name will be Friendly Bar.   (Signpainters should deliver in about two weeks.)   If the name sounds familiar, that's because it is.   It was originally located at Asoke Plaza, and when it was demolished with several other bars by criminally unscrupulous real estate developers, she moved the Friendly Bar back to Asoke Corner.   A little over a month later in a repeat performance, the same criminally unscrupulous real estate developers demolished all the bars in Asoke Corner, including, of course, the Friendly Bar.   
         The owner of the old Friendly Bar and others from these "Asoke debacles" then formed a hoon and opened up in Soi Eden - however 'personalities' quickly became a problem.   Now that she is over in Queen's Park Plaza, she is once again her own boss.   Welcome back, Friendly Bar, to the rough-and-tumble.

            The 'new kid on the block' is the Good Times-Bar.   Although we passed by several times this last month, we didn't even see this one coming.   When we stopped by last Saturday, they still had the party balloons up, and had quite a few customers ebowed up to the bar.   Pool Bar is the operative descriptor - with one solitary table in the rear.   This is the third bar in that grouping (along with Crystal Bar and Happy Pub - perhaps the additional 'shininess' will be good for all three bars.   Wish them well - as they cast their dice against the pitted wall of fate.

            The Crystal Bar holds the unofficial world's record for most closings and reopenings for a Night Entertainment Venue.   This month, the doctor is "IN".   And they seem to be busier than usual - may we pick this opportune moment to suggest that if the door is open, then the people can get in....?   It's amazing how that works....   Keep on rocking on. WASHINGTONSQUARE

            The Isan 40 Degree Bar has done a complete make-over - last month they were a rather ramshackle open-fronted bar beer, this month they are a comfortable, subtly lit lounge bar with decent music - (thank goodness - no Isan music).   The interior decoration includes more works by the same graffiti artist that did the new outside wall - and if time & space permit, we will publish (with permission) those photos.   Rumored to have quiet dancing later in the evenings, although we can't (yet) attest to that.   Maintain the momentum - that's all you gotta do....
Door Art Of The Month

The MIDNITE HOUR nod for best Door Art Of The Month goes to Isan 40 Degree - The "graffiti" style carrying the day....

This graffiti-style mural seems to be haunting us with coincidence - just as we commence our series on Bangkok's strange world of graffiti, the Isan 40 Degree comes on with their new 'graffiti-style' mural-sign.


            Last month we said, "(Josephines Beer Garden)...looks like they are ready to skip town without paying the rent."    Guess what?   Gone without a trace - they didn't even bother to take their broken sign with them.   The repeat lesson here is that, discounting the rare exception like 'show' or 'after hours', upper-floor Night Entertainment (above 2nd storey) is a real low-down bitch.   Always was, always will be - Josephine's being on the fourth floor, had problems before they opened and they didn't even know it.   May they find things a little more to their liking a little further on down the road a piece.   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

            The Night Night Joop Joop continues to morph, and then morph again.   They originally acquired The One Bar last November, and in June they subdivided - half to remain the Night Night Joop Joop and the other half to become a sports bar (one outside sign reading Big Screen Sports Bar).   The inside sign never materialized; both halves remaining the Night Night Joop Joop.   This last month (August) the partition between the two halves disappeared, and renovations were completed on what was the 'back half'.   And truth be known, it now looks more customer-friendly than ever in its present configuration.   Go with the flow, gang....   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

             Until we saw the flyer that the girl was handing out to passers-by on Sukhumvit Road, we had no idea that the The Blue Star Bar also offered traditional massage on the upper floors.   Body, foot and oil are on the menu, - we don't (yet) know the level of ambiguosity.   Prices are competetive.

         Down inside Sukhumvit Soi 23 is the new "Glow - The ultimate chill-out experience of Bangkok".   And Glow glows - but if you are a first-timer, you may need a map to assist you (see below).   -And it will be worth the trip.   Glow hasn't given itself a label, like lounge or pub or other - that will be for you to decide.   May the Fates deal them all aces and faces.

Note: Interior photo used with permission of owners.


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