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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review


'The Madrid'
- BANGKOK'S OLDEST EXPAT BAR

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Bangkok,
01 March 2006
William R. Morledge
 
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An Historical Perspective
         A topic of animated discussion this last month has been. "What is Bangkok's oldest Expat Night Entertainment Venue?"   A fair question, indeed, and for clarity during our debates, we unanimously agreed on the stipulation - "continuously in operation at the same location".   We searched our collective memory and our databases, and we came up with the Madrid on Patpong I.   But the process of elimination was long, involved and proved to be an entirely interesting trip down the historical path.


         Some claimed the Thermae Coffee Shop had been around since 1965, thereby beating the Madrid onto the scene by about four years.   However, they may have forgotten that the Thermae, the original Thermae, closed down in 1996, reopening some several days later at a different location, with different owners, and even a different (Thai) name.   Yes, it's still the Thermae - kinda....   Sorry, no cigar.

         Mizu's on Patpong I came up immediately, but although it has been a favorite with Expats for decades, it is a restaurant (without bar) and therefore isn't a Night Entertainment Venue per se.

Mark Twain said that, "Politicians, old buildings and prostitutes become respectable with age."   And we think the Madrid falls in there somewhere.

         But what about the Come Prima Coffee Shop in the Siam Hotel on Petchburi Road?   It also predated the Madrid, it is still in operation, and was a very popular Expat Nitespot hang-out during the R&R years.   All the above true, however, today it can no longer legitimately be called an "Expat" Nite Venue.   The only Expats going there anymore are on a nostalgia-run, or wander in by chance.   Additionally, only last year, they closed it down temporarily, supposedly for renovations, but actually due to lack of business.   During the closure, they moved customers to the restaurant at the rear (our MIDNITE HOUR survey).   Again no cigar - perhaps the last Golden Mile (Petchburi Road) Night Entertainment Venue in contention for "oldest" was the Thai Heaven - and that ceased operation almost ten years ago.

         We considered Khlong Toey - none of the original Nitespots remain.   We considered Gaysorn - gone entirely.   We considered Surawong Road - "The Troc" coffee shop is no longer on the Expat agenda - and most don't even know where it is. (it's now the New Trocadero Hotel).   Bobby of Bobby's Arms Pub confirms that none of the old places on New Road are still there.   None of the old places at "the other end" of Sukhumvit near Soi 26 remain (like the Trolley or the Harbor Light).   All the original bars on Soi Katoey have long since disappeared or sold out (in the days before it became known to the straight world).   

         Some say one or the other of the bars at the Oriental Hotel qualifies, but even they have been temporarily closed (and relocated) in recent years.   We even wrung our hands and wracked our brains to come up with something in the Racahadamnoen area - but to no avail; none of the remaining Night Venues on the Rachadamnoen circle still cater to farang (if they ever really did), and even the venerable old Royal Hotel, which at one time had a renown late-night khao thom meeting scene, no longer attracts the farang.

         The only remaining contender is the Nana Hotel Coffee Shop, which was a frequent destination of this writer in 1967.   The problem is, the Nana Coffee Shop has closed not once, but four different times, each time opening at a different location within the hotel - at one stage they temporarily were using a "mezzanine floor" restaurant as the also-coffee shop (now no longer there), while they relocated the real Coffee Shop.   So, alas we eliminate this Night Venue on the grounds that it has not operated continuously since the 1960's as has the Madrid.   So, unless we hear from any of you out there with some real solid evidence, "The Madrid" it is.


          Mark Twain said that, "Politicians, old buildings and prostitutes become respectable with age."   And we think the Madrid falls in there somewhere.   The Madrid was opened in 1969, which was "pre-A Go-Go" - but only just (-see our history of A Go-Go <here> ).   That's 37 years ago for those without calculators.   What is more remarkable is that it has never changed hands - it has always, from day-one been in Khun Daeng's capable hands- and now recently (2004), her most capable daughter, Khun Janie has come to join the management effort - making the Madrid unique in yet another category.


         In 1969, at the height of the War in Southeast Asia ('Vietnam Conflict'), when the Madrid came into being, the Night Entertainment Scene in Bangkok was very different from the one we know now.    Patpong I was just beginning to come into it's own; a few bars coming on line in Patpong II.    Gaysorn had only a handful of bars, and even if we include the Thai Yonoke across the street - in today's terms, it never did reach "Critical Mass".   There were scattered bars on Sukhumvit, Silom, Suriwong, and even a few left on New Road, but not enough to weigh in as Night Entertainment Areas.    Khlong Toey was at it's peak, with the Mosquito Bar and the Venus Room leading the pack - alas, that microcosm of a dozen or so bars now just an historical footnote.   

And bigger by far than all the aforementioned was the Golden Mile on Petchburi Tat Mai ...... (Patpong a distant "2nd" in popularity).   But even this Night Scene colossus, this Golden Mile, faded into oblivion after 1976.

         And bigger by far than all the aforementioned was the Golden Mile on Petchburi Tat Mai , as it was then called (Patpong a distant "2nd" in popularity).   But even this Night Scene colossus, this Golden Mile, faded into oblivion after 1976.   To gain further perspective, on opening night at the Madrid, there was no Soi Cowboy, there was no Nana Plaza, and the likes of Clinton Plaza, Sukhumvit Square, Asoke Plaza and Easy Square had not yet become brief historical "flashes in the pan".

         The Madrid opened as a Lounge & Restaurant, and has retained that format until this day.   It's secrets to success are no secret - good food, reasonably priced drinks, reserved and tasteful decor and waitress-hostesses who will join you at your table, or at the bar, if you wish.   One of Madrid's secrets of success is that it does not have aggressive hostesses - and as a result, many consider the Madrid to be a restaurant, others think of it as a lounge.

         The Madrid waitresses will join you for a drink only when invited, often requesting only a coffee or an iced tea - a pleasant change from the routine at other Nitespots where the girls are pushing for their quotas, or perhaps ignoring you entirely.

         We already mentioned the food - but we haven't yet mentioned some of the best pizza in Thailand (critical acclaim in several local publications).   Nor have we mentioned that on special birthdays, holidays (like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) there are spreads fit for (Western) kings - often as freebies to the many regular and casual customers.   For the morning people of this world, there is a Western breakfast menu available from 06:30 hrs, or for that matter, hairs of the dog in the form of Bloody Marys, etc.

         But the Madrid has become more than the sum of it's parts - it also acts as a "hold mail" point for long-time but infrequent visitors, and has morning and afternoon 'meeting crowds' that 'hang' there to talk up current events and conquests.   Or you might see phone numbers scrawled on scraps of paper and stuck on the mirror; when so-and-so comes in, have him call me in Saudi...., or whatever.   And in past times, many of the retired US military and paramilitary used the Madrid as their Tactical Operations Center in Bangkok to catch up on the daily gossip and to tell tales, humorous and otherwise, of adventures in Laos and Vietnam during the war years (alas, not many of those friends remain).   Or, the annual early morning televising of the Super Bowl, or, or....

         As we may have already let on, success, and it's knock-on longevity, was not, is not, an accident at the Madrid.   And that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


            
 Historical Minutiae Dept.

 ASK US (ALMOST)  ANYTHING 

"Hello,
      Can u tell me where Golden Eyes bar is now?   It was in 13 Night Market, Sukumvit Rd in 2004.

Thank you,
M.H."


Greetings;
         The Golden Eyes Bar took over from Blossom Bar in August 2003 in the 13 Night Market.   It originally opened as "Golden EEys Bar" , (this was of course a case of ).   They finally corrected the "typo" in March 2004.   It was one of the last bar beers to close down at 13 Night Market staying until the end (see first photo below).   Shortly after the February 2005 closure of 13 Night Market, it moved to the nearby Sukhumvit Soi 11 (see second photo), where it continues to rock on.




? ASK US (ALMOST) ANYTHING !
  • Email me and "ASK" - -   Click Here
  •          We can answer virtually any (reasonable) question on the Expat Night Entertainment Scene in Bangkok - be it Historical or very recent.   Send us an email and we will do our best to answer you soonest.
    'Boge' Hartman
    Historical Research
    * Zootramp Publications




    A BRIEF PICTORIAL    PART 7

    The MIDNITE HOUR Graffiti Page



             September was our 'kick-off' column on Bangkok's graffiti, so if you missed it, please feel free to visit our Archives <link>.    Also, if you would like to read a thumbnail history of graffiti you can cut to the chase and just read MIDNITE HOUR's thumbnail 'A Brief History Of Graffiti', click here... <link> .

             The 7th blast of Bangkok Graffiti begins right about now.....

    Graffiti #043
    Riebread
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)


    Graffiti #044
    Damned Monkey
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)



    Graffiti #045
    Hellfeather
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)


    Graffiti #046
    I Nose You
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)


    Graffiti #047
    Schitzoface
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)


    Graffiti #048
    Schitzoface Detail
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)


    Graffiti #049
    Stenhead 2
    10 ft. high x 125 ft long (partial)





       The MIDNITE HOUR Graffiti Page is prepared by Staff Contributor "Boge" Hartman.

    (The above photo is not a graffiti per-se, although there are those who have insinuated....)    




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    William R Morledge







    Rumor Of The Month
    March 2006


    " Where there's   "

          Psychologists say that Rumors, like Conspiracy Theories, always in some way serve to aggrandize the promulgators.   "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 month:


    "Bar owners in Nana Plaza say they are getting the short end of the stick: not only do they have to cut deals with Lumpini's Finest to stay open late, they then have to deal with the Metropolitan Men In Too-Tight Uniforms.   And as a consequence - they generally do not stay open late.   They say this puts them at a disadvantage against Soi Cowboy and others, who only have to deal under the table with Thonglor's Finest. "


    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 March 2006, the Rumor Accuracy Quotient is now at -
    3.33 %
       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.



    March's Follies
    begin here

         MIDNITE HOUR presents the NEWS on the Bangkok Night Scene; - the 'history-in-the-making' for all major Expat Night Entertainment Areas  - for the month preceding :

    PATPONG I
    MAP
                The King's Lounge makes it a habit of closing down once or twice a year, whether they need it or not.   Now is one of "The Doctor Is OUT" periods - only dust devils and old cardboard cartons cluttered the top of the stairway when we passed by on the weekend.   They might be able to change their luck if they were to take a lesson from Eienstein; "The definition of 'insanity' is trying the same experiment over and over and expecting different results."   Think about it, gang.   (They are, or were, located upstairs on Soi Bookstore, connecting Patpongs I & II.)
    PATPONG I

                

    ( In the LAND OF SMILES )
             This month the MIDNITE HOUR has awarded the "Thai Smile" to someone in Patpong I....
    PATPONG I

                The Kitchen Drink & Dancing Club Restaurant has imploded quietly, only darkness shining out from their heavily padlocked glass door.   Perhaps failure was guaranteed; any potential dining and dancing guests had to walk past the sleazy touts in the stairwell they shared with the Casanova Pay-For-Show bar.   This would be too repulsive for most patrons.   We must wonder aloud once again, if the TAT (the Tourism Authority of Thailand) were truly interested in cleaning up Thailand's image, why on earth would they NOT get rid of these human scum touts?
    PATPONG I



    PATPONG II
    MAP
                Located on the 3rd floor, Cosmos stairwell, the P.P. Thai Massage has just had the heavy hand of the drug enforcement crew come down on it's shoulder in a very final way.   We remain mildly surprised that these drug busts are not more highly publicized.   Smart money is not behind an early reopening.
             The sign in Thai at top right reads: "This place of business is under the legal jurisdiction of the law on prevention and suppression of narcotics."

             The sign just below it reads, "The future will be clear and bright if we are far from addictive drugs."
      PATPONGII


                
    The Time Machine
    A Blast From Nightlife Past....

             We found this in the bottom of an old packing box.   It was just a book of faded wooden (!) matches - but it sure pushed a few buttons....   Some of you may remember Tims Flying Machine Cocktail Lounge from the Patpong II heyday.   Known to most as just "The Flying Machine", it shared the Soi with the likes of the Pink Panther (still there), the Cloud Nine (now the Crown Royal) and Mike's Place Go-Go Bar (which died in July 1996 but has been reopened last year, in name only, as a Pool Bar).
      PATPONGII

                It looks like Electric Blue is re-doing (or has redone?) their 'wall-of-neon' facade.   The photo below was irresistible to us - we just had to take it.   What other pic could better capture the spirit of the Bangkok Nightscene?   Let the good times roll.


    PATPONG I I


    SOI COWBOY
    MAP
                We can't tell you how many emails we received this month advising us that the owner of the Midnite Bar was "an Arab".   Okaaaaaay...and by this they were suggesting he shouldn't be given a contract to manage U.S ports?   (How's that for timely political content???)   But we have news for the newbies - not one in a hundred Expats is the "owner" of the bar in which he has equity - don't take my word for it, ask your lawyer.   We, by the way, have no knowledge of either the "owner's" race or nationality - BANGKOK EYES doesn't cover these aspects of the Night Scene (but if we did, this would surely have been in contention for our Rumor Of The Month).
    SOI COWBOY

                Another of the many species of almost-subliminal pests on Soi Cowboy is the Shoeshine Urchin.   Twenty baht gets you about fifteen minutes of his undivided attention - and, surprisingly, well-shined boots, to boot.   "Little Hulk" Hogan is ten, and speaks better English than seems possible.
    SOI COWBOY


                Yet another group of pesky urchins sells chewing gum and assortments of candies.   We recommend not buying - sanitation leaves something to be desired.   Some of the candies they have for sale are the colorful gummy worms they are playing with while posing for this pic.   But, hey, that's what immune systems are for, so let's not get too paranoid here....
    SOI COWBOY

               
    Involving The Tourist
                   Although MIDNITE HOUR is not a politically oriented web site, we would be remiss in not making note for the historical record when the seven-headed piyanakh of politics sticks it's most-hideous serpentine heads into the realm of Night Entertainment.   The above sign is one of those instances where one political faction thought it would be advantageous to involve the farang (take note; the sign is in English, not Thai).   This sign was spotted in the Soi Cowboy area.
    SOI COWBOY


    NANA PLAZA
    MAP
                The last of the Rainbows to renovate, Rainbow 3 has compensated with some Vegas-strength neon.   If you miss these signs coming up the stairs, your seeing-eye dog won't.   (Tks to Dave the Rave <link> for this one....)   Pump it up, Rainbows....
    NANA PLAZA


                Back when Angelwitch Rock Dancers absorbed Secrets in July 2005, we mistook the initial lack of construction activity as "proof" that they were going to just use it as a storeroom.   Well, we were wrong.   They do have a storeroom there, but they also have done a couple of other things that make the place a class act.   First, they widened the main bar area by another row of seating all the way 'round.   Secondly, they have installed first-class gents & ladies toilets.   (It's the little things....)   And, a personal note of thanks to Dave - Angelwitch DOESN'T have toilet louts attempting to force you to use their towels (and then of course, tip them).   -This isn't a Tijuana sleaze bar, for krissakes).   And another nice touch: -- rock 'n roll music instead of techno and / or other abominations.
    Check out the new Angelwitch logo....
    By the way, Manager Dave (Dave the Rave) has his own website now, Thailand Nightlife, and his twice-a-month Prisoner In Paradise <link> column  is already proving to be a most worthy contribution to the Bangkok Nightscene.   Check it out.   We wish them constancy.
          NANA PLAZA

                The Doorgirl at Spanky's asked if we would be kind enough to take her picture, and yes, it would be OK if we used it.   What a refreshing breath of fresh air - such a change of pace from the usual bevy of bargirls feigning Shock-and-Awe modesty attacks every time they see a camera.   And, anyway, how could we say 'no' ?
          NANA PLAZA

                Between sets, or 'floors', A Go-Go dancers often wait outside on the walkway in front of the bar - to get away from the cigarette smoke and, hopefully, to attract a customer or two inside.   Many a conversation start here, and not inside in an often too-noisy bar...or did that go without saying?
    *Submitted by reader N. S.
          NANA PLAZA

                The Casanova Bar has renovated - at least on the outside, and while it may not be to everyone's taste, or perhaps anyone's taste, they have made an effort to please those customers that enjoy transgenderite company - and enjoy watching transgenderite A Go-Go.   Whilst taking this pic, we by chance caught one guy dressed to the nines....
          NANA PLAZA


    SOI DEAD ARTISTS(Soi 33)
    MAP
                Gone, but not gone, the Degas Club has temporarily closed doors to do some renovating.   At least we hope this is the case...they are one of the earlier bars on the Soi which helped to set the "Dead Artists" theme.   We'll lay a marker down on this one, and get back to you.
     
    SOIDEADARTISTS


    SOI KATOEY
    MAP
                The Roxy Bar & Club have gone from Lounge to Show Bar to 'Cabaret' - all in the course of two and a half years.   For those not familiar with the Thailand Scene, "Cabaret" means "Gay Revue", usually transsexuals as women, so it may not be your 'cup of tea'.   The crowd, however, remains mixed, straight and gay, and the outside sidewalk cushions usually attract hetero farang couples wanting to watch the passing parade.
    Source: Hand-out flyer
    SOIKATOEY


    QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
    MAP
                The Olive Oyl has taken over the reins from the Nuna's Bar bar beer.   (We suspect Nuna's have found a way out from under it all.)   The Olive Oyl is, as might be expected, owned by the same people that have the Popeye 2 Bar across the way.   May the nightwinds blow kindly....
    QUEEN'SPARKPLAZA

                Only last month we were commenting on Nice & Easy's new neon.   This month they have a 'Bar For Sale' sign up (we assume they mean that bar...).   Wish them good fortune, whichever way the winds may blow...
    QUEEN'SPARKPLAZA

                Likewise, the Kangaroo Bar is going under the auctioneer's gavel - a 'Bar For Sale' sign with tear-off phone numbers is taped to the front window.   We suspect they won't have much trouble selling - they have fixed the place up quite adequately - it's quite comfortable now.

    QUEEN'SPARKPLAZA

                Friendly Bar, originally refugees from the Asoke Corner / Asoke Plaza catastrophes, seem to have found a home.   Moving here to QPP in August of 2005, they have gradually built up a solid business.   This last month (February 2006) they bought out the Captain's Inn lock, stock and chrome barstool.   (We hope the Captain's Inn find things a little more to their liking a little further on down the road a piece.)   As for the Friendly Bar; keep on keeping on.
    QUEEN'SPARKPLAZA

                Open only in January 2005, the 2 Corner Bar is already looking for greener pastures.   In fact, they may already be slamming the door behind them as we go to press today - we'll advise next issue.
             The sign reads, "Sell Quickly", followed by the phone number.
    QUEEN'SPARKPLAZA


    SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
    MAP
                The Night Night Joop Joop has called it a night-night - it looks like they mean business, too - they have already removed their pool tables and the neon.   A pity, this, as they went to a lot of trouble to make it a really comfortable place since they took over the helm from The One Bar in November of 2004.   Ashes to ashes, so be it, then....

                Closed last month, the Revolution Salsa Bar have thrown the doors back open this February, and are welcoming all back to the trough.   No longer a 'lounge' they have become yet another Pool Bar.   --But not for long, say sources on the ground here; it seems they have seen their future awaiting them in Phu Khet and will soon be leaving for that island to reap their due bounty.   We'll get back atcha on this one - in the meantime, the beat goes on....
      SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

                The First Avenue distinguished itself as Bangkok's first bar to feature 'Coyote dancing", which, if you will recall, is a form of runway dancing slightly more active and slightly more attired than A Go-Go.   But it seems that, at least as far as Bangkok is concerned, Coyote dancing has gone the way of the Boogaloo and the Monster Mash.   Gone are the runways, gone are the girls in hotpants and tied-up bodices, gone is the dancing license (which they never had, and thought they wouldn't need...), gone is the front of the bar.   -And we're left with just another Pool Bar.   Methinks it will be a while before Night Entertainment Venues come up with something to supplant lithe hot bodies on chrome poles....

      SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

                Never having put up any neon, Happy Bar had none to take down.   Someone, however, might want to come back to retrieve the Christmas light sets and the pic of King Rama V.   We asked around; why did they close?   The answer was simple, "No customer".   The Darwinian Imperative is merciless, nonetheless, we are disheartened to see them disappear, as they also were 'refugees' (not once, but twice) from the Asoke Corner / Asoke Plaza debacles (originally the Chid Bar).   They opened here in March 2005 - may Fate turn the other cheek in their next adventure....
      SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

                MIDNITE HOUR takes a moment to observe and note: over the last couple of months, the number of Night Entertainment Venue closures at Sukhumvit 1 Plaza Night Entertainment Area has far outstripped the number of new openings.   Should the trend continue, perhaps with the loss of even one more bar, the Sukhumvit 1 Plaza would lose it's most valued possession : it's "critical mass".   As soon as the bar density drops below a certain point - the area is no longer perceived by potential customers as "worth the effort" to go there.   Open only a short time, Sukhumvit 1 Plaza might consider a more aggressive promotion policy.
    SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA


    WASHINGTON SQUARE
    MAP
                The Japanese Tochu Sakaba has popped up out of it's inscrutable coffin and placed the welcome mat back out on the porch.   This time around it is looking more like a restaurant-bar than just a bar.   Welcome them back to the vicissitudes.
      WASHINGTONSQUARE


    SOI EDEN
    MAP
                Eden Club, for which the Soi was named, has some brand new neon, which we intended to show you last month, (but they turned the sign off and went home, due to being "out of staff".   --Gotta love it.)   'The Eden', as it is most often called, is a highly successful specialty massage.   Keep on a-slippin' and a-slidin'.
      SOIEDEN

                
    Baby Elephant Walk

                   This young elephant may just be the smartest pachyderm ever - she can curtsy, she can bow, she can get all the way down to the ground and shimmy (I'm not making this up).   We know we are not supposed to encourage them, but this animal was just so cute, we pried open our Scottish coin purse and bought her a small bag of sugar cane pieces.
      SOIEDEN


    OTHER NIGHTSPOTS OF NOTE

                
    Door Art Of The Month
    Award

          The MIDNITE HOUR nod for best Door Art Of The Month goes yet again to an old venue with some brand new neon.   Whether you call it the Nana Disco or Angel's or the Love Club, it's all the same thing.   


             The Nanadisco's entrance sting has gone up to 400 baht - especially and just for all you farang, prompting one curmudgeonly denizen to comment, "We pay the barfine before we get to see the fishbowl?"   This fee includes one drink.   Ladies of the evening (with ID) are not charged.   Located on the ground floor of the Nana Hotel, it is open from 9:00 p.m. until at least 02:00 a.m. -and has continued through the years to do a rocking-good business.

    SUKHUMVITSOI  4


                 The upstairs / downstairs Factory Pool Bar has, it seems, stood the test of time.   The entrance is almost obliterated by all the street vendor stalls, and is itself a little dark, but it's worth the trouble to seek it out.   Once inside, and upstairs, you will have found a good spot in amongst the zoo that is Sukhumvit Road to relax and shoot some pool with the lovely poolshark bartendees.   Located on Sukhumvit Road between Soi 5 and Soi 7.
    SUKHUMVIT - BETWEEN SOI  5  &  7




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    MAP
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