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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review



Rain Dogs

01 July 2009
William R. Morledge

July's Nightlife News
Bangkok's Historic R&R Hotels
Bangkok's Bars - 5, 10 & 15 Years Ago  
A Smile in the Land of Smiles.
Ask Us ! - Leathered & Lathered
Graffiti  -Bangkok's  Vandals - #45

         The Bangkok Night Entertainment Scene has had an "underground" element going back, at the very least, to when Khlong Toey was the port for the former capital Ayuthaya in the Kingdom of Siam.   Although Bangkok Eyes (usually) confines our reportage to the major expat Night Entertainment Areas, we occasionally go a little further afield.   -Such is the case with Rain Dogs Bar & Gallery.
When you get all the way to the end of the soi, you are there.   Nothing fancy, everything comfortable.

         Normally, and by definition, "the Underground Entertainment Scene" stays underground, never getting caught in the headlights of either mainstream tourism or your typical expat bar-scene / pub-scene / disco crowd.   However, in the case of Rain Dogs, the low profile that accompanies "underground" status was shattered when the Bangkok Post (The Magazine) <LINK> "outed" them, so to speak.   Since then, the buzz has continued to grow - people are now passing hand-drawn maps to one another. (Yes, it can be that hard to find.   To that end, please refer to our map on this page, and feel free to download and print.)
Separate and apart from the regularly featured entertainment on Tuesdays and Thursdays are the frequent 'one-off' events, such as this retro party held on 20 June.

         Tuesdays and Thursdays are prime time at Rain Dogs.   Both nights have screenings of documentaries and a wide variety of indie productions.   On Thursdays, there is usually live entertainment - from hip-hop to rap to blues, depending.   There are also separate 'events' -usually on the weekend- scheduled "as, and when".   Lastly, there is the upstairs art gallery which will show the works of local artists (however, on our visits, there were no ongoing showings).   Rain Dogs at first glance looks run down, however one quickly realizes that it is just 'comfortable' - it could best be described as neo-beat - it's as though the '60's 'coffeehouse' never really disappeared - it just went back underground.
The bar.   Top view, of course.   The staff were kind enough to endulge me and remove all the bottles while I got my 'shot'.

         Our first visit to the Rain Dogs was on a quiet night, so we had a chance to talk to the lovely owner, Khun Jum at length.   Our first faux pas was to complement her on the new bar and the original concept.   We were informed that Rain Dogs has been open for more than two years.   Khun Jum says the clientele are mostly the artsy types and journalists.   Her regret is that having an 'underground' bar, where relatively few know about it, is no way to make money - she is barely breaking even.   She is torn between advertising to get more business, and the worry that popularity might destroy the bar's exclusivity as an 'underground' destination.
Google and Tele Atlas.   Rain Dogs logo script : Rain Dogs Bar & Gallery.         

          For those of you who have a vague recollection of having heard the term 'Rain Dogs' before, the owner confirms it was taken from the Tom Waits album of that name (1985), whose theme was "the urban dispossessed" of New York City.   Allegorically, dogs wandering around after a downpour, unable to find their way home; their scent having been washed away by the rains.   

         The 'big picture' on the Underground Night Entertainment Scene is just that - "BIG" - and getting bigger.   However, the MIDNITE HOUR will touch on this only briefly.   There are several late night places in the vicinity of Rain Dogs, and throughout the city, where one can go and enjoy the company of whomever "until late", or the sun comes up, whichever comes first.   There is also the "party" scene and "party houses"; places without names which are by invitation only.   This 'partying' is usually associated with the "soft" drug scene ("E", "K", cannabis, and the like).   There are also the invitation-only party houses which specialize in sex orgys (one such place was recently busted in the Din Daeng area, and reported in the local Press).   There are others in the Din Daeng / Huay Kwang area.   No, Midnite Hour
will not be covering this scene, so please, no cards and letters, folks.

Hotels & 'The Scene'

         First things first - this article was not our idea - and all we can say is we are extremely envious we didn't think of it first.   But let's start from where it started.   Recently, the Bangkok Post picked up a DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) story called "Bangkok's Vietnam-war era hotels still offering cheap thrills", which is where we first picked up on it.   Hotels are, of course the other full fifty-percent of the Night Entertainment Scene, either indirectly or directly - as was the Nana Hotel and it's Coffee Shop in the '60's and the Grace Hotel and it's Coffee Shop in the '70's.

         The DPA story, while not pretending to cover the entire R&R scene during the Vietnam War, succeeded spectacularly in capturing much of those early times; in particular, the part the R&R hotels played in the Nightscene of that era.   To the credit of the DPA gophers, much of their story covered "new" ground.   One thing led to another, and the denizens of DPA have caved in to my grovelling and pleading and pawing fawningly at the ground before their feet - they have given permission to reprint the story here.

Bangkok's Vietnam War-era hotels
still offering cheap thrills


Bangkok's first hotel boom dates back to the mid-1960's when the Thai capital became a pleasure hub for American GIs seeking rest and recreation (R&R) from the war in neighbouring Indochina - Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Remarkably, given the other dramatic transformations Bangkok's landscape has undergone over the past four decades, many of these GI hotel relics have survived relatively unchanged in the metropolis, offering a unique retro glimpse of the Vietnam War era.

Surviving veterans include the Embassy, Federal, Florida, Grace, Liberty, Honey, Manhattan, Miami, Prince and Rex hotels, most of them situated along Sukhumvit Road.

All of these "economy class" establishments offer cheap, air-conditioned rooms in the $20 - $50-a-night price range, a swimming pool, coffee shop and a slightly sleazy ambiance.

There is a good reason they are so similar.   Most were built to meet the specifications set by Tommy's Tours, a Thai company run by former air chief marshal Dawee Chullasapya that monopolized the R&R tours to Bangkok.

"All hotels had to be $5 a night, have a swimming pool, 24 hour room service and, be, er, 'guest friendly'", said Alan Dawson, a Bangkok-based Canadian-born journalist who covered the Vietnam War after serving as a GI.

Hotels like the Miami had contracts with Tommy's Tours that kept their 123 rooms full almost every night.   Business was good.

"We made our money back on the hotel in four years," said Surachai Tansirihaaiya, owner of the Miami, which opened on Nov 26, 1965.

The GIs were easy to please, Mr Surachai recalled.   "When they came here, after checking in they would go to New Phetchaburi Road and pick up the girls, then come back to the hotel.   They'd spend five to six days in their rooms.   That's all.   No sightseeing.   No Shopping."

New Phetchaburi Road, parallel to Sukhumvit, was Bangkok's "night entertainment" district during the Vietnam War years, but essentially closed down after the war.   The bars migrated to Patpong Road.

"There used to be about 30 hotels on Phetchaburi but they all closed down after the war, except for the Prince," Mr Surachai said.

The Prince Hotel now sits in a wasteland of closed bars and deserted buildings on New Phetchaburi, although the neighbourhood will no doubt benefit from the opening of a new rail link between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Makkasan Junction.

The hotel's lobby and coffee shop boast vintage Vietnam War-era style, as do their brochures.   "For those of you who like to keep late nights, our 24-hour room service is on constant call, ready to fulfill any needs you my have," reads a Prince Hotel leaflet.

Most of the GI hotels found new markets among European tourists after the R&R market dried up.   "We used all these hotels in the 70s and 80s as after the GIs moved out the charter clients from Germany moved in and we got very good value for money in those years," said Luzi Matzig, a former director of Diethelm Tours and now owner of Asian Trails, a tour company in Bangkok.

The Grace Hotel switched from GIs to tourists from the Middle East.   It is now one of the prime hotels of Little Saudi, as Sukhumvit's Soi 3 neighbourhood has been dubbed.

The Rex Hotel, near Sukhumvit's Soi Thong Lor, has become popular among Japanese tourists.    "First we had American GIs, then German and Dutch tourists and now our biggest market is Japanese," said Rex hotel reservations manager L.H. Eng, 81, who has spent the last 41 years working there.

While American Vietnam War veterans are among the Rex's clients, they are a diminishing market.    "It is rare now," Mr Eng said.   "Most of them are finished.   Some come back and say, 'I remember you,' but I say, 'Sorry, I don't remember you'."

The Miami also attracts returnees.   "Sometimes they bring their grandson and come and stay here," said Suphol Tansirichaya, son of the owner Surachai.    "They show me pictures of when they were young and jumping from the balcony into the swimming pool."

Mr Suphol, who stands to inherit the hotel, is not planning to sell it or radically alter the establishment.   "Our hotel is retro style, he said. "I think it's one of our selling points."

That and the $26-a-night room rate.


         For further reading, another fascinating historical perspective
on Bangkok's old hotels can be found here - Click on the <link> and GO...



          This month's Thai Smile Award goes to a young lady on Patpong II.   But before you get to fixating on the young girl on the left, take heed:

Dazzled thus with height of place,
Whilst our hopes our wits beguile,
No man marks the narrow space
'Twixt a prison and a smile.

                     Henry Wotton   (1651 A.D.)

? Old

Any old PHOTOS of
Bangkok's Nightlife ?

Please CLICK HERE and send to us for publication.   

Many Thanks,
William R Morledge

 Historical Minutiae Dept.

Bangkok Joints



         I am visiting Bangkok this week with my girlfriend.   I would like to visit a kinky nightlife in Bangkok where couples can go.   Do we have any such joints in Bangkok?   The best massage joints' addresses will also be appreciated.


Greetings, R.

         You and your girlfriend may enjoy the varying levels of kinkiness at the Bar Bar on Patpong II Road and the Demonia on Sukhumvit Soi 33 (Soi Dead Artists).   As for massage parlors, you did not indicate what kind of massage(s) you were pursuing, but there are a variety of massage parlors from foot massage to 'full service' massage parlors - also located on Sukhumvit Soi 33.   Knock yourselves out.

'Boge' Hartman

  • Email bangkokeyes@gmail.com 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 e-mail and we will do our best to answer you soonest.
    'Boge' Hartman
    Historical Research
    * Zootramp Publications

    Let the July 2009 Follies  begin...
    BANKOK EYES' Expat Night Scene.

      PATPONG  I  
                Going nearly unnoticed (at least by us), and virtually hidden from view by the hideous 'tent city' which engorges Patpong I Road every night, is the overhead sign for the Takara Massage.   We snapped this pic for the archives - having realized we had not previously done so.   The Takara is at it's same location - the last of the Takara group of Night Entertainment Venues which populated Patpong I and II in times past.   Keep on a-slippin' and a-slidin'.

                The upstairs King's Lounge (Tip Top Thai Asian Dining & Grill) on the connecting Soi Bookstore has closed it's doors, perhaps for good.   It looks like they will be the new occupants of the very large structure under construction next door in the old Cleopatra / Bat Boat digs.
    - File photo      

                The Muzzik Cafe keeps a good crowd with their open setting and live music - some of which is very listenable.   Let the rock continue to rock.

      PATPONG  II  
                Last month we noted the Cafe De Paris might be up for a name change.   Nope, it's still the Cafe De Paris - and the live jazz six nights a week seems to be taking off.   Keep on keeping on.

      PATPONG  II  

                A fact of life (which we will never be able to understand) is that there are several tattoo parlors in and around the Patpongs.   When will they ever learn?   Tattoos are ugly - at least drunken sailors have an excuse - they were drunk at the time.   This particular parlor occupies the old Trade Winds digs on Patpong II.
      PATPONG  II  

                The (Unnamed Short-Time Hotel) which closed two months ago, and reopened last month - is closed again.   We will hold off on further reportage until we see what is going on with these people.   Located up one flight of stairs in the Cosmos Stairwell.
      PATPONG  II  

                The Kaeng Topless Beer Bar has dropped the "Kaeng" to become Topless Beer Bar.   No, it is not, and never has been a topless beer bar - it, and the next door Topless Pool Bar / Sports Bar got the name from the old, and long extinct Playboy Topless Topless Topless (which was all nude all the time A Go-Go).   This is just a name change; all is as it was....
      SOI  COWBOY  
    Creeping Neon...

    The Kiss neon, we noted this time around, actually extends over the Sam's 2000, so if you are having a hard time locating Sam's, you know why.   The two have obviously worked out some kind of a deal - but don't ask us, we don't know the details.

    The overhead neon on Soi Cowboy is starting to claim territory in the Soi itself (as the temporary sidewalks have done for some time now).   The Apache Coyote sign bulges out above the street (as does the Joy further on down).    Not to be outdone, the next-door Deja Vu has built an extension sign onto their original which protrudes out into the Soi.   What next?   Neon bridges going from one side of the Soi to the other?

    Our Place has built a partition out into the Soi with new neon on top (featured last month), and a large mirror - whose reflection gives the impression of a larger Nitespot.

      SOI  COWBOY   

    Door Art Of The Month
    ( Joint Award for July 2009 )

                The New Suzie Wong (just the Suzie Wong to you and me) are well in line for this month's joint-Door Art Of The Month Award.   Their towering neon is among the largest on the Soi, and very definitely the most tasteful.   Well done, lads.

      SOI  COWBOY   

     NANA  PLAZA  
                The Hollywood Inn has finally rolled out the red carpet - a bar and short time hotel.   The balcony tables offer a cat-bird view of the NEP's comings and goings.   Originally the Vixen's Night Club (September '96), and most recently The Big Mango, we welcome them to the neon jungle.


                The Hollywood Carousel (3rd level) has enlisted the aid of some talented graphic artists and scattered a goodly number of posters around the NEP.   Let the beat roll on....

      SOI  KATOEY  
                Superstar Frank's Noriega's Bar, the sole straight Nitespot on Soi Katoey has closed it's doors.   There is a chalkboard sign in Thai saying they are renovating, however we didn't see any renovations in progress - let's wait and see.....   We'll keep an eyeball peeled and get back atcha.


                The Onna No Ko Japanese Karaoke Club has arrived.   What was originally the Casablanka became the Hitomebore - which was eventually absorbed by it's next door neighbor Ran Hime Club.   As of this last month, this Nitespot has broken away, once again on it's own, under the name Onna No Ko.   Welcome them to the sharkpool.


                We note that for the previous two months, the Tomorrow Massage & Drinks has been devoid of both girls and customers (should we connect the dots?).   This last month the Tomorrow stuffed it's last chit in the cup, and the Mozy has opened up in it's place.   There are still no girls - and no customers (we think it's time to connect the dots).   Wish them luck as they cast their dice against the pitted wall of Fate.

                The Chip In Club has supplemented their signage with some brand-new street neon.   Probably a good idea, as they are waaaay back in a small sub-soi at the end of Soi Dead Artists.   He who is inscrutable, let him be inscrutable still.

                The Big Shots have replaced their old graffiti-like door art with more of the same. Looking good; they are in the running for yet another Door Art Of The Month Award.   Let the good times roll.

                The Bistro 33 (restaurant & bar) have moved into the old Buongiorno digs (which finally tanked last month).   They are located at the end of Sub-Soi 5.   Welcome them as they toss their hat into the piranha pool.


                The Vanilla (Nipponese, don't you know...) are putting the finishing touches on the renovations and will be opening their doors right about .......now.   We'll take another look next time 'round to confirm that this really happened....   They are located on the second level, Peep Inn Park.

                The Crazy Girl is gone, but not gone.   They have relocated to shiny new digs on Sukhumvit Road near the Penalty Spot (in front of the Crown Hotel).   However their old Washington Square digs were no more vacated than they were reoccupied by the 52 Bar.   You may remember that before the Crazy Girl opened they used to be the 52 Club - so this is really a 'Welcome Back To The Fray', rather than a new outfit come to town.

              The Bar David have rolled out their own brand-new red carpet in the old Vincent Pool Bar digs.   Welcome them to the neon machine.   And wish them luck - they will likely need it:  this is the 7th bar to open at that location since it first opened in Dec 2006.
    Door Art Of The Month
    ( Joint Award for July 2009 )

                Some thought went into the redecoration of this Nitespot - the artwork is good inside and out - a totally 'original", and eye-catching design job.   Bar David shares this month's Award with the Suzie Wong on Soi Cowboy.


      SOI  EDEN  
                The recently opened Plame Relax Massage now have their neon shingle nailed up - we noted their opening in our previous issue, however to round things out, we include this pic for the archives.

                The recently opened Bangkok Beat was summarily closed down last month - a temporary affair to allow the local gendarmerie a chance to dispense a little extra-judicial street justice.   Suffice it to say, the Bangkok Beat are back at it full-throttle.

                On Bangkok's most prominent gay soi, the X Size were preparing for a ceremony whereby awards would be presented.   Among the awards; trophies for "Street Boy" and "Mix Man Sauna".   Don't ask, we don't have the foggiest.



    *Click Here*
    -read ALL About it....


















































    Bangkok Nightlife














    Bangkok Eyes jumps back in time to have a look at who was new - and who was through.   We'll be willing to bet that many of you "Old Bangkok Hands" will be reminded of some bars you'd almost forgotten.   (We also will be willing to bet you WON'T EVEN REMEMBER an even greater number....)

    10 YEARS AGO
    15 YEARS AGO
          The Electric  Blue, which originally opened 2 months previously, was closed down by authorities for name-change reasons.   This month, 5 years ago, it reopened in grand style.   It is still there today.
    PATPONG  II  -  2004

          The Blue  Sky  Bar bar beer closed down five years ago for renovations, and would open under new ownership the following month.
    PATPONG  II -  2004

             The old Mike's  Place reopened under Spanky's neon.   They were still carrying the 'legal' Mike's Place moniker, as well.   This was the Spanky's coming from Asoke Corner / Asoke Plaza, and not the Nana Plaza Spanky's.   Spanky's is no longer in the Mike's Place digs, they have moved out on the main Soi.
    PATPONG  II  -  2004

          The Thermae changed it's name (from the name they used when they moved to their new location).   They were previously The New Ther Mae Coffee Shop, and changed to Thermae Bar & Coffee House five years ago - the name they carry today.
    SUKHUMVIT  ROAD  (Near Soi 15)  -  2004

          The Mic  Choke-Dee bar beer reopened after a one-month hiatus.   It was located in the Thirteen Night Market Night Entertainment Area, which no longer exists - (it was located atop the original Thermae ruins).

          In Easy  Square, the now-defunct Soi 22 Bar Area, two bar beers opened this month, 5 years ago; - the Louis (previously Friend Ship), and the Thai Boxing Bar.
    EASY  SQUARE  -  2004

          In Tobacco Road (Soi Zero), the Hello bar beer closed it's doors for the last time five years ago.   Tobacco Road has long been demolished.
    TOBACCO  ROAD   (SOI  ZERO)  -  2004

          The Cowboy One Ago-Go -Go reopened after a brief renovation.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  2004

          The Oh  !  Yes pool bar closed down after a long run in Asoke Corner  (Cowboy Annex).

          Five years ago the Crystal Bar closed down. It would remain closed for several months.
    WASHINGTON  SQUARE    -  2004

          What was the Sweethearts Bar   five years and one month ago became Paddy's Irish Bar five years ago.   It didn't last long - it soon reverted to the Sweethearts.
    QUEEN'S  PARK  PLAZA   -  2004

          The Corner bar reopened 5 years ago after completing their renovations and expansion.   They are still there today.
    QUEEN'S  PARK  PLAZA   -  2004

          The Memphis Queen bar beer became the S.T.V. Bar for the first time 10 years ago this month.   It would later revert to the Memphis Queen Beer Bar, and then again to the S.T.V Bar.   The S.T.V. Bar is still there today (with a small Memphis Queen sign in one corner).
    PATPONG  II  -  1999

          The Three Ladies Cocktail Lounge, located on The Ramp, reopened after a brief one-month closure.   It is still there today.
    PATPONG  II  -  1999

          The Pinocchio's Club & Xanadu closed this month, 10 years ago, for renovations.   It is still there today as Pinocchio's Club (dropping the 'Xanadu').
    PATPONG  II  -  1999

          The French  Kiss Cafe Bar Resto which closed down ten years and two months ago, commenced operations this month after a two-month renovation.   It is still there today.
    PATPONG  II  -  1999

          As Entertainment Plaza became officially "Clinton Plaza", the Boat Bar bar beer closed it's doors for the final time (10 years ago).    At the same time, the new Wind Mill opened up a few loc down.   Both bar beers were situated against the main building.
    CLINTON  PLAZA  -  1999

          The Wet Lips Bar rolled out the red carpet for the first time ten years ago.   It was located in what was, until the previous month, the Cowboy 2 Pizzaria (as I recall, they had darned good pizza, too).
    SOI  COWBOY  -  1999

          The Love Scene Restaurant bar-restaurant (real name: Lao Jaroen) closed down this month a decade ago, undergoing extensive renovations.   A month later, the upstairs would become the Love Scene Karaoke, and downstairs would become Sam's 2000. Sam's 2000 is still there today.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  1999

          A decade ago, the New  Klymaxx A Go-Go bar reopened after a one-month renovation.   It would, together with the next-door Five Star 2, eventually become the Deja Vu.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  1999

          Hyper  (Air Bus) reopened that month - after a one-month closure for renovations.   No longer in existence, it was located near the Telephone Pub & Restaurant (which is still there today).
    SOI  KATOEY  -  1999

          The Honey Bar Drink & Food bar beer opened its doors 10 years ago in what was then Buckskin Joe Village.   Over it's lifetime, Buckskin Joe Village was also known as Soi Rot Fai, Tobacco Road, the Bangkok Night Plaza Bar Beer Center & Night Market (oh, yes...), and Soi Machim before finally settling on Soi Zero.   Soi Zero closed down 9 June 2006.
    SOI  ZERO  -  1999

          Kangaroo Pub and Travel Center, (not related to Kangaroo Club) closed down for the final time 15 years ago this last month.   It was located nearer to Suriwong Road than today's bars - there is currently no Nightspot at that location.
    PATPONG  I  -  1994

          The Yellow Bar took over the reins from what was, until the previous month, the upstairs Ann's Bar.   It was located nearer to Silom than the Thigh Bar in what has historically been a string of rip-off bars.
    PATPONG  I  -  1994

          The Sawasdee  Club opened up in what were previously the Melody Bar and the E C  Pub digs.   The Sawasdee  Club was located where the Vinai's Cosmos Club now stands.
    PATPONG  II  -  1994

          The Pink  Pussycat A Go-Go, after having just (re)opened, closed again 15 years ago for a couple of months to complete renovations.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  1994

          The Salambo  Bar A Go-Go closed down 15 years ago to make way for the newly opened Eros, also an A Go-Go.   The previous month, the upstairs of the Salambo (the Hong Aharn Dee) became the Eros Bar A Go Go Theque.   This was originally the old Loretta Bar, and is now part of Shebas.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  1994



    [ Check out Bangkok's own source of evil spraycans, etc, at Montana Land <link>. ]

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

    Graffiti #309
    Get A Head
    9 ft. high x 12 ft..

    Graffiti #310
    No Come-backs
    18 ft. high x 12 ft.

    Graffiti #311
    7 ft. high x 10 ft.

    Graffiti #312
    Pony Up
    7 ft. high x 14 ft.

    Graffiti #313
    Candy Kids
    7 ft. high x 12 ft.

    Graffiti #314
    7 ft. high x 12 ft.

    Graffiti #315
    7 ft. high x 12 ft.

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

       The MIDNITE 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....   - Ed)

     --- Datzit Fernow

    William R. Morledge

    Copyright 2002 - 2009, BANGKOK EYES / bangkokeyes.com

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