Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
Anatomy of a Bar Area
- NIGHTLIFE HISTORY IS ONE BIG DATABASE
Ask Us - Tell Me All - Tell Me Now
A Thai Smile......
July's Nightlife News
Graffiti -Bangkok's Art Vandals # 22
An Easy Square Retrospective
Almost invariably, the birth of a Night Entertainment Area is not an overnight affair. Usually, as one might expect, one or two bars will open up in an area, and if they do well, then others will follow. Provided the area has adequate available real estate, there is at least the potential that the area will develop further into a full-fledged, stand-alone Night Entertainment Area. If we are lucky enough, and alert enough, and wise enough to take note at the time, we will start maintaining a database on that area in anticipation of it’s development into a full-blown Night Entertainment Area. But first a word about how we got started, what motivated us, and how we developed parameters for keeping our finger on the pulse of the world’s most dynamic Nitelife Scene.
When we first started Bangkok Eyes a little over 5 years ago, we realized that first of all, we would have to define our purpose, our raison d'etre. We noticed over the decades (since 1967) that the old truism was still just as true: “A two inch pencil is longer than the best memory. ” Heretofore, the ‘history’ of Bangkok’s Nightlife was much like the Viet Nam War - everyone’s vision of it different; everyone’s recollection fragmented, clouded by time and oft times wildly at variance with fact. There have been a few books along the way that have helped to set the Bangkok night scene record straight, such as Alan Dawson’s Patpong, and Cleo Odzer’s Patpong Sisters, and the occasional old travel guide or magazine to remind us of how at least some of it “really was”.
But even taking these several point-in-time references as a whole, there was still an enormous void, the myriad old, and even relatively new Night Entertainment Venues that had been largely forgotten by time. Either that, or (the greater sin) - decisively mis-remembered as to which years they were in operation and even their locations. And this void was one that no one was filling, (not even the old Trink columns were adequate in that regard). We at Bangkok Eyes had found our niche - it was time, we thought, to compile and maintain an ongoing history - a running tab of which bars were in existence, and which bars opened when, or when they closed. We decided that at that same time, we would supplement our cumulative Nightlife History with the research of old records, whenever we could get our hands on them.
From the outset, we realized that the entire Bangkok night scene was too large a target - to accomplish that, we would need a full-time team just to walk the sois and complete the surveys. As a compromise with the reality (the enormity of Bangkok’s “Scene”), we then decided to limit ourselves, at least in general terms, to : “an historical source to Bangkok's "Major Expat Night Entertainment Areas”, with the occasional one-off report on other Nitespot areas and/ or Venues.
Once our overall objective was in hand, we realized that we would then have to define just exactly what constituted a “Major Expat Night Entertainment Area”. Was it 10 bars? Twenty bars? And what other factors came into play that defined a “Major Expat Night Entertainment Area"? It was decision time, and we had no precedent to fall back on. After long consultations, over many beers, with many of the longer term Expat residents, we synthesized a useable working definition of a ‘Major Expat Night Entertainment Area’. We also decided that in the future, we would refer to it as the much more readable, “Night Entertainment Area”, and let “Major” and “Expat” be understood as inclusive in the definition.
The definition, as synthesized five years ago by us, and still in use today, is; “A contiguous area where approximately 12 Night Entertainment Venues (or more) could be found. It was decided that this density of bars in a given area would have reached a “critical mass”, that is to say there would be enough Nitespots at that locale to have caused it to be self-sustaining. To say the same thing another way, the area would become a “draw” in it’s own right; where it was not only possible, but likely, that a night-reveler could be enticed to come and spend an entire evening.”
This is a rather long-winded and not-too-specific definition. And, yes, when it came down to the wire, the definition was not only arbitrary, it was in large measure subjective. As there was absolutely no way everyone we polled on the matter would come to agreement --there wasn't even a consensus- we couldn't even take a vote on the matter. In fact, it can honestly be said, no one agreed one-hundred percent with anyone else. So, for consistency’s sake, we have locked the door on further discussion - we will continue forth with the above definition, and should others wish to define such things otherwise, we respect their right to do so.
While we were at it, we further defined “Nitespot”, or “Night Entertainment Venue”. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is, “an establishment that offers some form of entertainment, and/ or the opportunity to encounter others for the purpose of being entertained”. We'll leave it at that, except to point out that this definition excludes ‘just restaurants’, and it does not necessarily mean that the Venue in question must necessarily be open only at night.
At this point, we confess also we had an ace-in-the-hole -a leg-up- in our plan to become an historical Nightlife website. We had (and have) at our disposal a very large (and ever-growing) database which includes surveys of these Night Entertainment Areas going back to the late 1980’s. This database did not, however, become a definitive monthly ‘head-count’ survey until early 1993. Some observant readers have noted that we often refer to the “Zootramp Database” or the “Zootramp Saloon Count”. This is a database that has been created by a shadowy long-term resident of Sin City, and is a distillation of his monthly surveys - where he physically verifies that each of the Nitespots in a major area are in fact open and functioning for their intended purpose, and notes any newly opened or closed bars.
As an added flourish, the Zootramp has selected a bar in each Night Entertainment Area that was there at ground-zero, there from a time before the area had reached ‘critical mass’, it would necessarily have to be the bar that ‘set the tone’ for that area - the bar that was the trend-setter and harbinger of what was to come. He refers to that particular bar as the ‘Seminal Bar’ - we have carried that terminology forward in our historical presentation of this ever-unfolding Scene.
So, 5 years ago, with our new website up on the World Wide Web, and our six-guns loaded with ideas and definitions and a great mass of data, and an even greater sense of history, we began our reportage-in-earnest on Bangkok’s Expat Night Entertainment Areas.
For those of you who find that the Devil is in the Detail - and somehow delight in it - we present, The Anatomy Of A Bar Area (by way of a very small example). The following is the complete database, and thus a comprehensive history of Bangkok’s shortest-lived Night Entertainment Area, the now defunct Easy Square:
Easy Square (Nam Thip Plaza)
Extract From The Zootramp Saloon Count
While there are many uses for the Database, one of the most interesting is, when used in conjunction with the Bangkok Eyes maps, we can now recreate the map of any Night Entertainment Area for any month on our surveys (a frequent request of our readers).
We guess that even the Patpongs can have one too many oral servicing units. Lolitas has thrown in the soggy towel - yet another contender fails to fill Mike's Place's shoes....
The Cozy Club Pub & Karaoke (up on The Ramp) are - they say - closed for just one day. Nevertheless, 'trust and verify'. We'll swing by later in the month just to see that things are back to same-same....
The Trade Winds have popped back out of their crypt after a one month hibernation - during which time they renovated. Everything looks new and bright. Welcome back to the same-old same-old.
Last month they had their soft opening, and were tentatively using the handle, "New Steve's Bar". Looks like they got a new moniker along with the new neon shingle. Let's officially welcome The Strip to Bangkok's neon follies. Lookin' good - inside AND out. Let 'er rip, then, gentlemen.
Last month, the New Screw Boy completed their relocation to another new location on Soi Twilight (see our last month's issue). And yet, they have now relocated second time - this time back to Patpong II. Which, by the way, isn't so much a relocation as it is a return to their old digs (they closed down when the Pink Panther did last year, and became "Bangkok Bar" - which is now, of course, no more.) But truth be known, it's just musical chairs - the Bangkok Bar and the various Screw Boys are all owned by the same people.
"It was a dark and stormy night...." We always wanted to lead with that.... Nana Plaza was more wet than dark, however, as can be seen from the below photo.
The Hollywoods, in their various forms have populated Nana Plaza for years - the one constant is this sign. We'll file this one away in the historical archives....
It looks like someone finally took the option on the old Home Bangkok Pub, which was closed by Bangkok's Men In Too-Tight Uniforms last November for having on the premises substances unbecoming a public venue. They are looking for a pizza cook and a bartender - can't be all bad....
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
Papa may have had the blues these last few months - but we knew they would eventually get over them. In a blaze of blue - they reopened this June (after their second extended shut-down). So, let's hope the third time is the charm - and that they keep on keeping on. 'Come to Papa.'
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
A quick shot of the Londoner Brew Pub for the historical archives. Check out the unusual reflection (from yet another bit of neon) at the top of the photo. Located at the top of the Soi - in the basement.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA - SOI 22
A couple of months ago, we noted the death-rattle and final gurgling wheeze of the Lee Lee Pub & Pool Bar, but this time around, judging by the sign, it looks like they are trying to sell the place in earnest. As we get frequent inquiries about "buying a bar" (mostly from persons outside of Thailand who don't know these treacherous waters), here's your chance. For the record, the Thai language on the sign reads, "Lease at inexpensive price," so be advised you would not actually be 'buying' anything. As MIDNITE HOUR is not in the real estate business, don't mention us in your inquiries.
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA - SOI 22
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
--- Datzit Fernow
William R. Morledge