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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review



Street Bars II

01 January 2010
William R. Morledge

January's Nightlife News
Bangkok's Bars - 10 Years Ago  
A Smile in the Land of Smiles.
Ask Us ! - The Tiger Den - II
Graffiti  -BKK's  Midnite Vandals - #51

Street Bars II
         Street vendors are a part and parcel of Bangkok, of Thailand.   Without them we would be somewhere else - not in Bangkok, not in Thailand.   In the not-so-distant past, street vendors, stalls and push-carts, were primarily a daytime thing, the rare exceptions being a few areas around Sanam Luang, the occasional "night market", and the pockets of kwei tiew carts to be found around the city which served the locals - "the population that never sleeps".   As the decades clicked by, night-time vending became more widespread - to the point they now can be found on many, if not most main roads in Bangkok.

         In the most recent iteration, starting a little over a decade ago, a 'second shift' of night street vendors evolved, literally, from the first.   Starting at about midnight, these vendors, originally the kwei tiew carts, began serving canned and bottled beer with the meals to the foreign and local late-nite crowd.   Naturally these sidewalk carts and stalls began congregating in and near the larger expat Night Entertainment Areas to catch as many of the night-crawling 'stragglers' as possible.   Then, as now, many of these vendors relocated from other 'daytime' locations (such as Soi Cowboy) to reopen in the largest of these late night areas - Sukhumvit's 'long, thin line'.

         As the idea caught hold and continued to grow among the local and foreign Night Entertainment crowd, some of these push-carts diversified and expanded to serve virtually a full bar, inclusive of imported whiskeys.   As time went on, the closing times continued to extend until many sidewalk bars were closing down as the sun came up.   Several of these sidewalk bars began employing hostesses, as can be found around Soi 4 and Soi Asoke, and can be 'bar-fined' out just as, say, in a bar on Soi Cowboy.   They have become, literally, bar beers on wheels.

         Although it may not seem so to the casual observer, Bangkok's City Fathers do in fact regulate (by ordinances) these street vendors.   They are concerned that the vendors remain within bounds, not choking off the sidewalks completely, and they regulate times of operation, and occasionally enforce "days off".   The City Government's enforcement arm is the National Police, in and as according to the police district where the various street vendors operate.

           And therein lies the rub.   It is decades too late to announce as 'breaking news' that Bangkok's Finest informally collect "rent" from these vendors for their 'right' to the piece of the public sidewalk they occupy each day.   This applies across the board, to include the night street vendors, and the second shift late night sidewalk bar vendors.   No exceptions.

         More recently, especially since Chuwit and his marauders chased dozens of legitimate business people out of their shops and onto the streets (literally), the late night sidewalk bars are also fined by The Men In Tan for illegally serving alcoholic beverages without a license.   If these sidewalk bars want to stay in business, they must pay.   The going rate hasn't increased in recent years, and hovers around Baht 500 per night for the 'rent' and the occasional Baht 200 to Baht 500 'fine' for illegally selling alcohol.

         Greed, however, knows no bounds.   As if this double-dipping by Bangkok's Finest wasn't outrageous enough, they are now implementing the "triple-dip".   At the whim of the Man On The Beat, sidewalk bar owners are told to shut down at exactly 02:00 hrs, or get busted.   This of course is absurd - in that they would have set up for business at, or after midnight, they could not make any money if they had to be clear of the sidewalks by 02:00 hrs.    Of course, a further greasing of the palm makes all that go away and they can continue to operate until dawn.   The going rate is about Baht 500 per 'citation', and if they can't pay cash, a bottle of whiskey will often suffice very well, thank you.   It goes without saying that these 'rents' and these 'fines' go no further than the pocket in which they are first deposited.

         But we are left with an almost comical, and certainly absurd situation where the late night sidewalk bars must rent their space from the Bangkok's Finest to operate as bars, regularly pay 'fines' to them because they sell alcohol at those bars, and then pay them off again for 'permission' to work through the night (instead of just the earlier mentioned 2-hour period).

         Unless, and until the nation's largest institutional 'Mafia' ceases to prey on the powerless push-cart owners, bar owners, motorcycle riders, taxi drivers, and other persons without 'influence', the jabbering hollow-men in government can wrap themselves in terms like "transparency" and "rule of law" all day long; they can create endless anti-corruption agencies to investigate opposition party members until they are blue in the face; and they can continue to find scapegoats for their scandals until the cows come home...   But guess what? - things will not be getting any better - the bigger fish will continue to eat the little fish: extortion and coercion at the street level will continue to flourish in plain sight.   And there is no one, and there will not be anyone, out there to put a stop to it.

         Bangkok Eyes has been reporting on Bangkok's main late-night street vendor area on Sukhumvit Road - the 'long, thin line' of street bars, or sidewalk bars located between Soi 5 and Soi Asoke for the last 6 years.   In these six years, we have come to know several trusted contacts who own or work at these sidewalk bars.   We have published this report only after careful corroboration with persons directly affected.

The Cellar Bar

      The "Viet Nam War Era" is remembered by those who were in Southeast Asia at the time as the high point in their lives.   Not the happiest point, not the best point, but the high point.

         The '60s & '70s was a time of many rough edges, to include Black Power and white extremism, and it became apparent in various ways and times throughout the Viet Nam conflict.   The below reprint from the Viet Nam War R&R era is one such historical note that brings it all back home.

         For the record the Cellar Bar (Bill Book's Cellar Bar), a 'Green Beret' bar, was not near Patpong, it was located in that warren of shops and restaurants and bars called Gaysorn during most of the Viet Nam R&R Era - and for a while thereafter.    The Cellar disappeared circa 1991 - sold to another farang who changed the name.  There was a handful of expat bars in among those narrow Gaysorn sois, along with The Little Home Bakery, which was near the front.   Across the street was the late night pick-up venue Thai Yonoke.

         We are grateful to the contributor of this article, who wishes to remain in the background.



          This month's Thai Smile Award goes to a "PR Lady" who once-upon-a-time worked on Soi Cowboy.

? Old

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Many Thanks,
William R Morledge

 Historical Minutiae Dept.

Lucy's Tiger Den - II

To: Mr Boge Hartman

I read you short article on Tiger Rydberg and would like to put in my 2 cents worth,   I met Tiger in 1974 when I came here from Vietnam.   He had both leg amputated by 1986 and close Tiger's bar in 1989,   Was completed broke by then and headed for the Phillippines with his Filipino wife.   He tried to get some money to open a bar there, but never made it.   He died in the Philippines in April 1991, due to complication from Diabetes.

And yes,   All the CIA people that were in Laos, used to hang around his bar and were good friends of Tiger.   I don't understand, what 'Blah, blah, blah' means.   You obviously haven't a clue what went on in BKK in the 70's or 80's.   Get your stories together please.

Greetings, C.T.,

Thanks for reading and writing in.   Tiger and I were acquainted for several years - not coincidentally, approximately during the same period you knew him.   -And we at Bangkok Eyes have, of course, read Alan Dawson's book on Tiger.   Your timeline on Tiger's last years in the Philippines is informative, very much appreciated, and well worth repeating herein.

However, to characterize Lucy's Tiger Den as a CIA hangout (as many have), would be a distortion.   There were a lot of us from Viet Nam and Laos that did go to Lucy's, some of whom were in the intelligence services (and we all have the photos on our walls), however that was not "the essence" of Lucy's.   If anything, by sheer force of numbers it would have been termed a "construction stiff bar" or just a "local expat bar".   This same group of Viet Nam War era hangers-on from Laos and Viet Nam also hung out at the Madrid, the Grand Prix, or at Mizu's (when it also served as the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand), and/or The Other Office, the Napoleon, and other places which I'm sure you would recognize.   It would be inappropriate and misleading, however, to typify any one of these venues as a place where "all the CIA people in Laos" hung out.

What we at Bangkok Eyes are dead against is the huge number of persons who intentionally "glorify and exaggerate" their Southeast Asian experience.   The Viet Nam War, for better or worse, spawned the biggest number of bullshit artists in history.   For example, we have met -literally- several hundred people who claimed to be on that "last chopper out" of Viet Nam (during the evacuation in '75).   We know transportation clerks from the old Saigon days that swear they ran indig teams into North Viet Nam and Cambodia for the CIA.   We have met dozens who claim they were "with The Company" or "with The Agency", many who were never even in Viet Nam or Laos.   A documented statistic on this phenomenon indicates that 4 out of 5 claiming they were in the Viet Nam War were not.

Well, the BS stops here.   Tiger's clientele included expats (from the Viet Nam war days, and other times and places), and visitors from the four corners of the planet.   Tiger was a great mixer - his Hobo Feeds, his friendly manner and openly shared information on the employment scene, etc, etc, made him worthy of large historical note.   Lucy's Tiger Den was a major "part of the fabric" of Bangkok's nightlife scene, and, as such, we at Bangkok Eyes will continue to do our part to portray that venue as accurately as possible - to include keeping the "war stories" in proper proportion.

By the way, should you have any old photos of Tiger or Lucy's that you would like to publish, please send them along - we would be pleased to publish them - fully attributed to you, of course.


'Boge' Hartman

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    Let the January 2010 Follies  begin...
    BANKOK EYES' Expat Night Scene.

      PATPONG  I  
    Door Art Of The Month

                   A couple months' late by their own reckoning, the Radio City has reopened after top-to-bottom renovations.   Top-notch neon and comfortable surroundings have brought the customers pouring back in.   Welcome them back to the vicissitudes.

      PATPONG  I  

                The King's Corner Pool House opened last month without neon (see our previous issue).   This month they do have some signage up, however we were expecting something a little more.... well, neon.   Keep on keeping on.

      PATPONG  II  
                Open only last month, Patpong's newest A Go-Go bar, the Bada Bing ! keeps going from strength to neon strength - as they continue to refine the decor.   
      PATPONG  II  

                Two months ago, it was the Cafe de Paris, last month Bobby did some musical chairs with names and it became Bobby's Arms Pub & Restaurant (see our last month issue).   This month it is Bobby's Bar Grill.   Since our last visit, the kitchen has ramped up to full speed - and it shows; people are flocking back for the traditional good food and drink of old.
      PATPONG  II  

                We noted that Mike's Place has embellished their outside signage this last month.   It's not our call, but we couldn't help but wonder if they could have worded it a little more discreetly....   
      PATPONG  II  

                The Pat Pong 24 has opened in the old Marco Polo digs (which was originally Bobby's Hot Dogs many moons ago).   We are sorry to see Bobby give up this property, however the new owners (The Strip, the Bar-Bar, the Black Pagoda, etc) have very positive views on the revitalization of Patpong II - so, more power to them.   We wish the Pat Pong 24 all aces and faces as Fate deals them in....
      PATPONG  II  

      SOI  COWBOY  
                As Rio settles in, they continue to upgrade and change out the neon...   And it all looks good from where we stand.   Keep on a-rockin' and a-rollin'.
      SOI  COWBOY  

                Joe's Bar, one of the last single-shophouse bars on 'The 'Boy' have closed their doors - only darkness shining out from within.   We keep hoping this is a 'Christmas/ New Year's break', but we keep wondering if it, and the now empty Tony's next door, aren't destined to become yet another neon-&-mirrors chrome pole palace.   Too soon for rumors, however - let's do a wait-and-see....
      SOI  COWBOY  

     NANA  PLAZA  
             This last month, the Christmas Spirit was alive and well in every corner of Bangkok's Night Entertainment Scene, and Pharaohs was no exception.   This year, their Christmas tree greeted all those entering Nana Plaza.   Well done, ladies.
      NANA  PLAZA  
      SOI  KATOEY  
                The Nine Night Club has gone the way of the Gastornithiformes - with nary a feather remaining.   In it's place, after thorough renovations, is the For Fun.   Welcome them to the neon machine.

                The Nomads (successors to Noriega's) who had their soft opening the previous month (see our December issue) - had their grand opening this last month - as scheduled.   They have also put up some additional neon.   All looking good - the live band and select dining menu are keeping old and new customers satisfied, from the looks of things.   Let 'er rip, gentlemen....

                The (Unnamed) lounge we mentioned a couple of months back has apparently opened - the window and door are open, and they have a table and chair outside, ostensibly for customers' use....   More on this as we learn of it.
    - File photo      

                Powelly's Sports Bar is gone, but not gone - more on this below.   The premises are now being renovated by their new Australian owners, and should be opening as Bar Fly right about..... now.   We'll reconfirm and get back atcha next issue....

                The Kocho Ran (Asakuri & Massage) opened on schedule this last month, and are looking good.   They have entrances at ground level and (as shown) on the next level up.   They are located in the Peep Inn Park complex.   Wish them luck as they wade into the sharkpool.

                When Legends went belly-up a couple months back, we suspected the digs would remain empty for some time - but we were wrong.   Having spruced everything up and changed the lighting, Beavers has moved in lock, stock and chrome barstool..... from Powelly's ( ! )   Many of your favorite hostesses from Powelly's made the move along with them.   Alive and well in the small soi next to Wall Street.   Welcome them back to the big uphill....

    "My camera is the stage,
    A moment in time the rage."

                The Degas had a facelift a couple months back, but the staff were a bit camera-shy.   Everything pretty as a picture....

                The Zoo Japanese venue (2nd floor, Peep Inn Park) has apparently closed.   We'll do a come-back and get back atcha - in case this is just a New Years Day break....
    - File photo      

                We don't know why we bother, the Plearn is closed virtually every other month (as it is this month).   As it will likely reopen again soon, we won't write it off just yet....
    - File photo   

                The Queen's (which took over from Bar David last month) has some new neon this month (last month they had none) - and by the looks of things, are ready to rock and roll....

                Diva's, having pitched headlong into the Abyss this last month, have been taken over by the Opium's Den.   Modus operandi unchanged: Pool Bar.   May the winds of Fate blow kindly.....

                Another pic for the archives.   Players Bar almost never has their neon switched on - we couldn't resist snapping a pic for the files.   Same good service prevails; the rock still rocks.

      SOI  EDEN  
                The Boo Sa Bar looked darker than a poisoned well when we passed by the other night - but judging by the chattel still in place, we suspect they went off for a couple days' holiday over New Years.   Don't write them off just yet - we'll check back, and get back next time.
      SOI  EDEN    SUKHUMVIT  SOI  7/1

                The Ring Bar / Fashion Massage, after a shuffle at management level, is in the process of being renamed Geisha.   The prime agendum unchanged.   Their joined-at-the-hip sisters, Magic Table, will remain, name intact, as an A Go-Go bar.   We wish them constancy.   ( Fresh off the bamboo telegraph: we hear tell one of this group will be reopening the Blue Lightning in the very near future... and when it happens we shall let you know.)
      SOI  EDEN    SUKHUMVIT  SOI  7/1

                A small kiosk has appeared in the Twilight Zone selling Sura Thai One Thousand Years whiskey.   Lao dong by any other name, it is prepared with useful, all natural herbal medicines, so that, even though it is bad for you, it is good for you.   See?

    No Stone Unturned....

    - Copyright 2010 - Jondalar         

             A quick "Pattaya Run" last week brought many surprises - some of which were ....interesting ....


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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 Cozy Club, (Patpong I's smallest ever bar) closed a decade ago this month.   They were located on the Silom side of the Madrid.   There is no Night Entertainment Venue at that location now.
    PATPONG  I -  2000

          The Naturals, located up on The Ramp, closed down temporarily ten years ago this last month.   The Naturals closed down permanently in 2008, becoming The 501 Studio (which is still there today).
    PATPONG  I I -  2000

          An 'unnamed bar beer' opened up on the second floor of Nana Plaza a decade ago.   It would soon be given the name; "Welcome to Millennium".   The Cat House occupies those digs today.
    NANA  PLAZA  -  2000

          The Five Star II opened up ten years ago in the digs that had just been surrendered by New Klymaxx, which had just closed.   That area now consumed by Deja Vu.
    SOI  COWBOY  -  2000

          The Japanese Fairy Club closed down temporarily 10 years ago.   They were located near the Po Thai Massage of today.   There is now no bar at that location.
    SOI  DEAD  ARTISTS  (SOI  33) -  2000

          Ten years ago, the Love You Bar bar beer closed down.   Buckskin Joe Village was known by several names: such as Tobacco Road, also Soi Zero.   It is no longer a Night Entertainment Area.

          The Wind Mill bar beer closed down temporarily this month, 10 years ago.
    CLINTON  PLAZA  -  1999

          Lek's Boozer moved from Clinton Plaza to next-door 13 Night Market ten years and one month ago.   They changed their name to Lek's Bar.    They found they didn't like it so they came back to Clinton Plaza ten years ago this month, resuming business with their original Lek's Boozer moniker.
    CLINTON  PLAZA  -  1999



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

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    Graffiti #351
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    3 ft. high x 4 ft.

    Graffiti #352
    Fingerprint File & Detail
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    Graffiti #353
    Glowing Reports
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    Rattus KTM
    4 ft. high x 3 ft.

    Graffiti #355
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    6 ft. high x 12 ft.

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    Arrested Developer
    7 ft. high x 10 ft.

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     --- Datzit Fernow

    William R. Morledge

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