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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review



The 'Ginza Effect'

01 October 2009
William R. Morledge

October's Nightlife News
Bangkok's Bars - 10 Years Ago  
A Smile in the Land of Smiles.
Ask Us ! - Constellations Remembered
Graffiti  -Bangkok's  Vandals - #48

         A little over 30 years ago, when we stragglers trickled into Bangkok from Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam after the war, we would marvel at the bar scene in Southeast Asia in general.   But mostly, we rambled on about how there would likely never be another bar scene to match that found in war-time Saigon, (not to mention Danang, and other Vietnamese cities).

         Historically, there had been other great "Nitescenes" in Asia, and some that likely rivaled in delights, if not in magnitude, that of Saigon in the '60's and '70's:   There was the Ginza in Japan after WWII; there was the South China coast (Hong Kong & Shanghai) after that same war and before Mao's armies came south; there was Itaewon in Seoul during and just after the Korean War in the early '50's; there was Manila's Ermita-Malate area with it's Mabini and M.H. Del Pilar streets whose heyday lasted until it was closed down by Mayor Lim in '93-'94; and last, but not least, there was the Taipei scene in, and around Roosevelt Blvd.   (Taipei was probably one of the best-kept Nightlife secrets - it's heyday lasting up until the U.S. Military departure in April of '79.)

Soi Cowboy, born just after the Viet Nam War R&R troops went home, started out most modestly; the Gold Label, and a few single shophouse lounges; Chitra's, the Red Diamond, Loretta's, and then along came Cowboy's.   Soda was 15 to 20 baht, and beers were usually around 30 baht, with lady 'dinks' about 40 baht.   Today, a drink for a Coyote girl can be 200 baht, yours will be about the same.   A barfine can be more than we used to spend in an evening.   Is Cowboy a candidate for pricing itself out of the race?   Will it be relegated to the sidelines by The Ginza Effect?   Only time will tell....

         In those early days, we also realized that Bangkok was a Nightlife force to be reckoned with -as was Pattaya- but we didn't know at the time that they would in fact develop to rival Saigon in it's glory days.   Part and parcel of our pontificating on Asia's several bar scenes was how these various and different bar scenes would start up, build up rapidly to their zenith, and just as surely head into decline.   Many 'reasons' were formulated, but it always came back to 'when in doubt, follow the money'.

         By unspoken concensus, we took Tokyo's Ginza as typical : - during Japan's occupation by U.S. forces after WWII, the Ginza area began to grow rapidly; prices for services were minimal.   As decades passed, the prices rose, and continued to rise.   By the '70's the Ginza was for only the wealthy, or those foreign tourists wanting to 'take it all in' and check it off the list.   The Ginza had succeeded in pricing itself out of the game, and was only on the sideline of world-class Night Entertainment. (Or so ran the scenario in our minds...)   This "pricing one's self out of the competition" became known within the circle as "The Ginza Effect".

         Although The Ginza Effect was not the cause of all such declines in Asia's Nightscene Areas, we held to the belief that it would be the guiding principle in most instances.   (Saigon's Nightscene demise, for example, was not typical - the entire Scene was terminated literally overnight when the South Vietnamese Army fell to the north in April of '75)

         As we progressed into the '80's, the group of Bangkok-hangers would bemoan each increase in barfines, each increase in the cost of a soda-water or beer, and any increase in the price of an all-nighter (short-times were almost unheard of in the expat population - short-times were for Thais in curtained hotels....).   And with each increase in price(s) a round of cries would be forthcoming, "The Ginza Effect !   The Ginza Effect !".   And the usual round of predictions would burst forth, "Bangkok will be dead as a Nightlife Scene within two years !", etc, etc.

         Well, Bangkok and Pattaya are still very much amongst the cities to be considered "players" in the Asian Nightlife game (as is Angeles City in the Philippines - which also refused to lay down and die after the 'Viet Nam Era').   These cities have also continued to see steady, sometimes staggering, increases in prices of Night Entertainment-related services.   We read on Dave The Rave <link> the other day that some of the girls in the bars frequented by Japanese patrons were hopeful of being short-timed for Baht 4,000.   Now, that's more than enough justification to cry out, "The Ginza Effect" !

         Somehow, though, we just don't see Bangkok (or Pattaya, or Angeles) dying out, or even pricing themselves out of the mainstream, any time soon.   First of all, there seems to be enough to go around, and more and more of the expat community are 'going off-Broadway' to get their kicks - specialty massage parlors, out-of-town Night Entertainment Areas, etc.



          This month's Thai Smile was a former PR girl on Soi Cowboy.

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Many Thanks,
William R Morledge

 Historical Minutiae Dept.



I really like your historical section.   Keep it up.

I came here the first time in 1978 and loved it from day-one.   It's good to read about these old places and bring back some memories.   I remember Lucy's when it was on Surawong back when I ran on Patpong.

I recall heading to the Le Cheri early afternoon, the massage place that had 'the escalator to Heaven'....it was great.   Then about 7 - 8 p.m., I would head down to Patpong 'till early morning.

Remember the Peppermint on PP1?   They used to call it a 'Constallation' for some reason.   I think Trink started that.

Anyway, thanks for memories.

Greetings, M.

Your memory serves you well - the Mon Cherie escalator must have been the first escalator in Thailand (or at least one of the first).

Bernard Trink did in fact first use the term 'Constellation' - for a place where people would 'gather together', usually after hours.   He applied that term to a few different locations in Bangkok, not just the Peppermint Lounge'.

Thanks for reading - and for writing in.
'Boge' Hartman

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  •           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.
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    Historical Research
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    Let the October 2009 Follies  begin...
    BANKOK EYES' Expat Night Scene.

      PATPONG  I  
                The Madrid has yet another new bit of signage up as of this last month.   A mosaic, very much in keeping with the original decor.   Same pleasant hostesses, same good pizza - keep on keeping on....

      PATPONG  II  
                The original "bar on a bridge", the Park Bridge closed down suddenly two months ago (suspended three floors above Patpong II Road).   But that was only a prelude to the opening of the Black Pagoda.   There are some differences - this time around there is A Go-Go / Coyote dancing - the silhouettes of which may be seen from street-level.   Let's hope fate deals them all aces and faces. (Third floor, Cosmo's stairwell.)

      PATPONG  II  

                That which was recently (and several other times over the last few years) The Pink Panther, has gone under the boot of Bangkok's Sign Gestapos yet again.   Both the main venue and the outdoor bar beer are now being most compliant - and showing only their legal, registered name to the outside world.   They are now, both in name and logo, The Pink - the logo lets you assume the "Panther" part.....
      PATPONG  II  

                The Funky Dojo, undergoing major expansion and renovations for the last couple of months, was staying open while work proceeded, however this last month, they were closed - presumably while renovations are finalized.   We will keep our finger on the pulse on this and get back atcha.
    - File photo
      PATPONG  II  

      SOI  COWBOY  
                The Old Dutch is now The Old Dutch Corner - the new neon looking good.   Most won't remember that up until June of 1993, it was the Tomatohead Tavern (TOM).   By August of that same year it had reopened as The Old Dutch Cafe Bar.   There you have it, history buffs....   Consistently good food and drink - from breakfast 'till midnite.
      SOI  COWBOY  

    Door Art Of The Month
                   Just as we thought Midnite couldn't possibly pack on any more neon..... they packed on more neon.   Soi Cowboy continues to take on the aura of a Vegas Night Carnival.

      SOI  COWBOY  

     NANA  PLAZA  
    Tiny sign, tiny bar....

                Hidden underneath the escalator, there are probably a lot of Nana regulars who have never seen this bar.   Wish the @ Lift luck as they cast their dice against the pitted wall of fate.

      SOI  KATOEY  
                Recently opening in the old Luminous digs (Luminous closed 1 year ago) is the Spanish On 4 - and it looks like they are already doing a good business.   Welcome to the neon machine.

                Last month we noted the eminent opening of the 4 Sport's - and open, it did.   Welcome them to the piranha pool.

                In recent years the New Club Fushicho had been forced by the Bangkok Sign Gestapos to open as "Fushicho Plan Co. Ltd", their legally registered name.   However, judging by their new neon, they seem to have finally won that battle....   (We didn't see a separate venue for "Sexy Bar" - more on that as we hear of it....)   Let the good times roll.


                The mostly-Thai Plearn Karaoke is open about half the time, but when it is, they have some colorful neon shining out from within.   Continue to rock, then, gentlemen....

                Hugh's bar beer opened in Washington Square this last month (it fronts on Sukhumvit, and is open in the rear to Washington Square - as does the Dubliner).   Photo to follow.

                This - a pic for the MIDNITE HOUR archives - the long-lived Baan Beer 22 is successful at what it does - serve beer and Thai cuisine.   Well done, lads.

      SOI  EDEN  
                The Blue Lightning opened in October of 2006, however, the Darwinian Imperative doesn't look at time-in-grade.   They fell this last month to the Grim Reaper after a 3-year run at it.   Ashes to ashes, so be it, then....
    - File photo
      SOI  EDEN    SUKHUMVIT  SOI  7/1

                This pic a 'neon update' for the Future Boys located in Bangkok's 'Twilight Zone'.   Let the rock continue to rock.

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    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  :
          The Muzzik Cafe took the wraps off for the first time ten years ago this last month - in Patpong I.   They opened up in what used to be the old bookstore on the corner of Patpong I and what was then Soi Batboat.   They are still there today.
    PATPONG  I  -  1999

          The King's Castle II closed down a decade ago for minor renovations.   They were to open up again after one month.   They are of course, still there today.
    PATPONG  I  -  1999

          A decade ago a brand-new bar beer, the Tonwa, opened up against the main building in Clinton Plaza between the Growler's Bar and the Wind Mill.
    CLINTON  PLAZA  -  1999

          Ten years ago, In what was to be yet another 'opportunistic' bar beer area, the 13 Night Market, an unnamed bar beer opened up next door to The Rib Shack.   It would take some time for this area, located next door to Clinton Plaza, to gain the critical mass required to be a functioning Night Entertainment Area.
    13 NIGHT  MARKET  -  1999

          The Dubbel Dutch opened up a decade ago in what was a month earlier the Big Blue 1 A Go-Go.   (Be honest now, how many of you remembered that....?)   That location is currently home to Fanny's.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  1999

          Ten years ago the Beer Conner II Pub Karaoke (sic) closed down on the 2nd floor of Nana Plaza.   It was located where the Cat House Bar Beer now holds court.
    NANA  PLAZA  -  1999

          On Soi Katoey (Silom Soi 4), the Edoya, closed it's doors for the last time a decade ago.   It was located next door to Tapas.
    SOI  KATOEY  -  1999

          Also on Soi Katoey -ten years previous- Helene's Place closed down for a month before reopening again.   Helene's was, in an earlier incarnation, a Night Entertainment Venue - but in recent years has reverted to being just a Vietnamese Restaurant during the day.
    SOI  KATOEY  -  1999

          The U & I Bar bar beer closed down for renovations a decade ago in "Buckskin Joe Village", under the Expressway at the top of Sukhumvit Road.
    SOI  ZERO  (TOBACCO  ROAD)  -  1999

          The Species Bar & Internet (a bar beer) opened it's doors for the first time 10 years ago in what was then "Buckskin Joe Village".   That same month, another unnamed bar beer opened up immediately adjacent to the Species (on the Sukhumvit side).   It would eventually be named Turtle Bar.
    SOI  ZERO  (TOBACCO  ROAD)  -  1999



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

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    Graffiti #330
    The Face
    12 in. high x 14 in.

    Graffiti #331
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    Graffiti #332
    7 ft. high x 15 ft.

    Graffiti #333
    Monsoon Soon
    7 ft. high x 12 ft.

    Graffiti #334
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    Graffiti #335
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    Graffiti #336
    7 ft. high x 10 ft.

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    William R. Morledge

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