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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review

Prasitipol Dance Bar To Fall

01 March 2007
William R. Morledge
Soi 8 Neon Review
Cynical? - The Q & A
A Smile in the Land of Smiles.

March's Nightlife Newsfront
Graffiti  -Bangkok  Vandals - #18


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         In recent weeks, virtually every news publication in Bangkok has covered the story of the Soi Wanglee redevelopment controversy.   And had it not been for this latest media flurry, the Soi's destruction, including the destruction of Bangkok's first ever licensed bar, the Prasitipol Dance Bar would have certainly gone unnoticed.
      The sign above the door reads, "Prasitipol".   It sits at the corner of Charoen Krung and Soi Wanglee, and is one of a very few shops that hasn't already been shut down and gutted in preparation for the proposed redevelopment.

         What unfolds is a story of greed and a certain amount of irony.   Soi Wanglee is now owned by nearby Wat Yan Nawa.   The wat's Abbot originally intended to tear down the entire Soi Wanglee all the way to the riverfront and construct a high rise 5-star hotel.   This would require, in part, the destruction of the two rows of historic architecture lining Soi Wanglee.   
      The only currently functional part of the Prasitipol is what was, quite obviously, the bottle shop.   After the nighttime activities ceased, it was reportedly a coffee shop.   It now is a noodle shop.

         The Soi's occupants have argued from the outset that the buildings should be restored, not torn down, and that the Soi should be made into a "walking street", thereby preserving the architecture, and giving Bangkok a permanent showplace - a 'living museum'.   It would be a commercial tourist draw - a peek back in time to the "Old Bangkok" - just as was successfully done in Singapore and other locations.

         And somewhat surprisingly, the City of Bangkok rebuffed the Avaricious Abbot of Wat Yan Nawa on his mega-master plan by invoking an ancient law - they said that he would not be allowed to build his high rise hotel in any case, as no building could be built near a wat which would be higher than that wat - and that included the Avaricious Abbot's own (nearby) wat.   We at MIDNITE HOUR say, 'som nam nah'.
      Charoen Krung Soi 52 is Soi Wanglee. The new signage by the BMA has omitted the traditional name, for whatever reason.

         But the Avaricious Abbot was not through fighting.   In spite of the additional recommendations submitted by the Fine Arts Department to the effect that the area was "rich in historical value", and in spite of the native born occupants of Soi Wanglee having a new master plan drawn up to demonstrate the possibilities and advantages of 'renovation' rather than 'destruction', and in spite of attempted community meetings with the Avaricious Abbot, he has, to date, refused to reconsider his decision to build anew.
      You can still get a cold beer at the Prasitipol, but quite often you have to get it yourself.   Obviously things have remained casual there through the decades.

         The Avaricious Abbot said that if he couldn't have his hotel, he would still destroy the historic 2- and 3-storey shophouses at Soi Wang Lee, and construct new 4-storey shophouses instead - the shophouses being just short of the height of his wat.   Most simply said another way, he would be getting less money building the 4-storey shophouses than if he were able to build the hotel.   But he would be making a lot more money building the 4-storey shophouses than if he were just to allow the renovation of the historic buildings.
      Only recently a clock was removed from the center of this sign (note lighter area) - giving us a serendipitous glance back in history.   The real nightlife didn't start until you passed through this doorway, where musicians played upstairs and there was a long teak bar.

         But alas, and great shame, the Avaricious Abbot's memory is short indeed - he forgets that this very same Chinese community at Soi Wanglee was instrumental in raising money for the impoverished wat at the end of World War II.   -And now, if he ultimately has his way, he, effectively, will be driving them from their family homes and businesses.   It appears to be yet another case of, while blood is thicker than water, money is thickest yet.
      Would anyone like an Export Quality Red Bull "Special Liquor", or a bak of Wanlan Chiew from the Maeklong Distillery?   As they are assuredly decades past their shelf-life, we are not recommending it - but these are just a few examples of what may be seen on the Prasitipol's shelves.   This just may be Bangkok's only 'museum of distilled spirits'.

          The Prasitipol Dance Bar, or what was the Prasitipol Dance Bar, is in one of the remaining shophouses on Soi Wanglee that hasn't yet been stripped out in preparation for demolition.   It was in it's heyday some fifty years ago, before Bangkok had a "scene".   At that time, the Yan Nawa District was the major port and customs area, and as a result, it was where the 'waterfront bars' were.   Night Entertainment Venues were thinly scattered from the Wanglee Wharf in both directions along Charoen Krung Road (New Road).   But what little nightlife there was, was low-key in comparison to today's standards, and certainly bore no resemblance to the Night Entertainment Areas that started springing up in the 1960's.

         In 1951, the new port facilities and customs houses were opened further downstream in Klong Toey, and it wasn't long before the waterfront bars were either moving down or springing up anew there.   But in spite of the shift, the Prasitipol Dance Bar kept a full head of steam for several years.

         The current owner, Khun Lephin, 62, has memories of the Dance Bar from her youth - she recalls that the customers were a mixture of locals and farang, and if a customer wished to get to know one of the ladies working there, he would buy a dance ticket, private-dancer-style.   There was also a long teakwood bar where all were served, and live music - often provided by Khun Lephin's two brothers.
      We couldn't help ourselves - we had to photograph what may actually be the last beer served at the Prasitipol before the wrecking ball careens in through the exterior wall.   (But we hope not - with all the recent interest generated by the Press, it is likely there will be many more such 'last beers' served there.)

         BANGKOK EYES is first and foremost an historical website, and we have no intention of hiding our bias regarding this ongoing controversy.   We can see no justification whatsoever for destroying the historically significant Soi Wanglee and the Prasitipol Dance Bar, other than the financial aspirations of an already wealthy, well-patronaged wat and it's avaricious abbot.   Would that common sense prevails, and let the greed of those whose lives should be above greed, take the hindmost.

Year of the Pig

         After almost walking past the unpretentious entrance, and after wading through a sea of red paper flecks from spent firecrackers, we came upon a beautifully crafted Chinese Temple in Yan Nawa District of Bangkok.   It was apparent they went to a great amount of preparation and ceremony to usher in the Chinese New Year - Year Of The Pig this last month.   

Soi 8 Neon Review

         Sukhumvit Road's Soi 8 has been growing over the last three years, to include some large and well appointed Night Entertainment Venues (and a few choice restaurants - which we do not include in our surveys).   
The Praew Beauty & Spa has been around for several years, walking point for Soi 8.   And while it is 'traditional' massage, there can be, at times, some ambiguity.

         But virtually all of the growth has been Massage Parlors - and while these Massage Parlors do qualify as Night Entertainment Venues in the absolute sense, they do not contribute significantly in tipping the balance in favor of reaching a "Critical Mass".

         As you may have seen in these columns before, a Night Entertainment Area reaches Critical Mass when the number of Nitespots reaches about a dozen, and to be considered a "Night Entertainment Area" the Night Venues must lie in a relatively contiguous area - for example, the bars spread out along the length of Suriwong Road could not be considered to be in a single Nitespot Area, simply because they are spread out too thinly.

         Further, for a group of Nitespots to be considered as a Night Entertainment Area, the area itself would have to be such that night crawlers such as ourselves could go there and spend an entire evening in, say, several different venues.

The Det 5 has successfully made the 'step-up' from their former long-time digs at Tobacco Road (Soi Zero).

         So then, Soi 8 doesn't quite measure up to the criteria - a fun place to visit, to be sure, but one would be hard-pressed to spend an entire evening there.   So, then you ask, 'Will it ever reach Critical Mass, and if so, when?"   Well if we were to take an educated guess, barring yet another swing of the Purichaian Pendulum (on whether or not the crackdown mentality returns), Soi 8 will likely 'come of age' in the next two years, or so.

         The MIDNITE HOUR will be keeping our midnight eyes peeled, and will go back to Soi 8 for regular updates - and we will, of course, be keeping you informed.   Follows are photos of the remaining Soi 8 Night Entertainment Venues.

Door Art Of The Month

     The Foot Joy massage has been on Soi 8 for years, however recently they have moved across the street to their new digs.   Their 'door art' is minimalist, to be sure, but the thing that caught our eye this month was that the entire exterior of the place is all sign - to include the floor-to-ceiling windows.



      Lolitas, known for specialty services, was born in Sukhumvit Corner Night Entertainment Area, but when the area was torn asunder by unscrupulous real estate developers in December of 2004, and then, incredibly, again in February of 2005, Lolitas relocated to Soi 8 as 'refugees'.   It, however, was the beginning of their 'success story' - they now have other successful branches here and in Pattaya.


      Looking out towards the main soi, the Pornvilai Massage, appears to have two names & two signs.   But the Pimporn Massage has moved up and around the corner, out of the subsoi.



 Historical Minutiae Dept.


Cynical ?
The Q & A

LM:      I've read you for several issues, and when you are covering a new bar opening, you seem to always have some quip about "Welcome to Shark Pool", like that.   Are you really so cynical?   Is opening a bar in Thailand really such a big worry?


(The above is one of several similar queries.)

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    'Boge' Hartman
    Historical Research
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    - In the LAND OF SMILES -

             This month the MIDNITE HOUR awards the "Thai Smile" a slightly camera-shy masseuse on Soi 22.

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    Many Thanks,
    William R Morledge

    Let the March 2007 Follies begin...
       MIDNITE HOUR presents our monthly recap of the   
    NEWS on Bangkok's Expat Night Scene.   

      PATPONG  I  
                The Funky Dojo had some wild and very intense lights reflecting through the neighborhood this last week.   Keep it up.

      PATPONG  II  
                Lolitas, true to the rumor, has moved into the old Spankys (which was Mike's Place decades ago).   No change from previous Lolitas formats.   Wish them all the best as they try their luck uptown on the Street of Shame.

                The Pink is once again flashing their "Pink Panther" sign - the one that periodically gets them in trouble with the Sign Gestapos.   (And how we wish it was The Pink Panther....)   Let's see how long it will be before the next crackdown on copyrighted signs comes....   We also took note that their coyote dancing theme has faded into the sunset (?)

                S.T.V. Beer Bar has been around for ages, but until now they haven't had any proper neon.   (They also have a small sign - harkening back to a former age - which identifies them as the Memphis Queen.)   Keep on keeping on....

     NANA  PLAZA  
                In that Spankys is combining with the old Hog's Breath, we thought it prudent to make record for the historical archives of their neon as it stands today.   When they finish with renovations on the old Hog's Breath, they will move over from Spankys and start work on renovations there.   When those renovations are complete, the partitition between will be removed, making it a double-shophouse.   As things stand today, they will retain the "Spankys" name.


                The La Vogue Club, good at their word, had new neon nailed up and all aglow when we passed by last night (see last month's issue).   However, their neon remains a work in progress - they are currently installing neon over their archway at the entrance to the parking lot - we'll try to shoot that at a later date for the historical record.   Although "Orientation Oriental" the girls at the La Vogue were beckoning our farang faces in for a drink or two.   Let the good times roll.

                And while we are on the subject of new neon, The Office Bar & Grill has nailed up their new shingle - just above the old one.   Rip it up.

                Mojos probably holds the world's record for having broken neon - there is always something wrong with their signage.   ...But not last night, last night they had their Mojos workin'.....

                The ghostly blue glow coming from within the boarded-up, locked-down, barred-windowed Papa is what looks like a brand new hunk of neon.   Could it be they will soon be a reinvented Papa Pub?   We'll put a marker down on this one, and get back atcha.

                The Let's Go Bar has replaced the Cupid Bar at the right hand corner of the compound.   Welcome them to the briarpatch.   Let's hope the fates deal them face cards up.

      SUKHUMVIT  1  PLAZA   
                The Double Entry Bar (2nd floor) has hit the road, Jack, and they won't be comin' back no mo'.   But filling the vaccuum immediately is the brand new Alibi Cocktail Bar.   Let's welcome them to the Big Uneasy.

                The DC 10 #2 is but a ghost of January past - they didn't even leave a forwarding address.   Meanwhile, Junk Bar from the 2nd floor has jumped downstairs to take over the reins.   Other than dropping "Bar" from their name and adding a pool table, all else remains the same.   Although you were never really gone, welcome back to the same old same old.
             -File photo

      SOI   TWILIGHT  
                New to the boy's soi is the Red Massage.   This is the second massage for men by men on the soi, after the Bunny Massage.

                One of the more upmarket Nitespots to have stood the test of time is the Q Bar.   They are all the way down at the end of Sukhumvit Soi 11, then take a quick left, and you are there.   Keep the fire burning.

                Who says an Oz-themed sports pub can't make the grade?   Every time we pass by, the Downumder Sports Bistro is packed.   Check them out on Soi 23 before you get to Cowboy.   Whatever you guys are doing, keep on doing it.

                The Bed Supperclub doesn't have a sign, and is probably inappropriately named as a supperclub, but beds it has.   It is more a pub-lounge, and is yet another Soi 11 Nitespot to have made the grade.   Rock on.


      SOI  EDEN  
      SOI  COWBOY  
      SOI  KATOEY  
    (No News !)




    Graffiti Goes A-Blogging


          It would be misleading to say that this was "breaking news", but the inexorable penetration of graffiti into the Internet is happening all around us.   A testament to this is the large number of websites totally dedicated to this art genre, several of which have been reported and linked-to here in the MIDNITE HOUR over the last year.

    In this case, whether or not it is "art" is irrelevant - it is, however, undeniably an example of "Counter-Culture Expressionism".

          In addition to websites that specialize in, or feature the graffiti of others, we also have graffiti artists who maintain personal websites in order to promote their own works (see last month's issue on Banksy).   There is even a website which takes photos of walls or buildings or busses and 'photoshops' imaginary graffiti onto them, creating a virtual graffiti that has never seen the light of day in the real physical world.   (Really.)

          One of the more interesting variations-on-a-theme is a recent posting on the Internet photo journal <link>.    A blogger has posted a series of graffiti photos taken in a mens' room at a Phoenix bus station.   We are speaking here of the lowliest of the low, toilet graffiti.   A sample of his work is shown above.   

          Nevertheless, from the historical standpoint, the lowly toilet graffiti was the "founding father" of the modern sub-genre of graffiti we now refer to as 'counter-culture expressionism'.   And one is not surprised that this counter-culture expressionism currently comprises ninty-nine percent of all the world's modern graffiti.    (John loves Mary carved into the park bench, et al, comprising the remaining one percent).   And, so, if only from that perspective, this recent penetration by toilet graffiti into the world of blogging is noteworthy, even if the content itself is often not 'art', and is geared to the basest of human endeavors.   In other words, it would be a mistake to confuse the subject with the object.

          So, for better or worse, this virtual world we now live in for a greater or lesser part of our days, is a world where anyone can disseminate, anyone can propagate, anyone can view graffiti, be it real graffiti or the only the product of someone's imagination.   Whew!   We have made it to the future, gang, and it is neither better nor worse - it is only ubiquitous.

    - And now to Bangkok's own brand of Graffiti....

    Graffiti #120
    Delia's Gone
    6 ft high x 9 ft

    Graffiti #121
    8 ft high x 17 ft

    Graffiti #122
    7 ft high x 5 ft.

    Graffiti #123
    Tracker Vein
    8 ft high x 15 ft

    Graffiti #124
    8 ft high x 8 ft

    Graffiti #125
    Hey Lookitme
    6 ft. high x 7 ft.

    Graffiti #126
    Valentimer's Disease
    ( & Detail)
    8 ft. high x 18 ft.

    Graffiti, graffiti , and more Graffiti - Bangkok's original and ONLY graffiti Site !

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

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

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                   William R. Morledge


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