Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
This month, the Midnight Hour takes an in-depth look at the Night Entertainment Area at Sukhumvit's Soi 78 and surrounds. The Soi is known colloquially, and officially, simply as 'State'. It does not have a Thai name. The name is derivative of the State Cinema within, and over time has become the appellation of the Soi, and of that area of Samrong North. We give a nod to the (11 April 2011) Bangkok Post article "Neighbourhood 78", and we thank them for providing a point of departure on this 'road less travelled' in the local Night Entertainment Scene.
The 'seed' of State was, as mentioned, the State Cinema, built in the middle of the last century. It was no modest movie house, it was, for the time, a very large structure, and modeled after Thailand's other grand cinemas. At the time the State Cinema was built, the entire sector of the Chaophraya River all the way from Khlong Toey in the north, to (approximately) Khlong Sappha-Sammit near Phra Samut Jedi (Samut Prakan) in the south, was utilized as the commercial shipping anchorage for the Capitol. Therefore that entire land area on the Bangkok side of the river, all the way south, was seen as prime land for future development. Thus, the then-grandiose State Cinema, when first constructed, seemed to make very good economic sense, indeed.
However, the Master Plan changed radically during Thailand's military administrations of Field Marshals Sarit Thanarat, and then, Thanom Kittikachorn in the 1960's, due to the build-up in Southeast Asia in support of the war in Viet Nam. The focus of major infrastructure projects (port, road, rail) was redirected to Bangkok proper (as well as what would later be referred to as the Eastern Seaboard). This shift in local infrastructure planning concentrated development (and therefore the real estate speculation) around Khlong Toey. The southern boundary of the Bangkok Port Authority moved northward, only going down to just near Wat Yothin Pradit. This consolidation left the more southerly Phra Pradaeng District, and State, out in the cold, development wise. Thus, the then-grand State Cinema, the most prominent landmark in that area at that time, was bypassed by history, becoming a much-underutilized white elephant - never really experiencing a 'heyday'.
In that day and age when the Sukhumvit Highway passed almost unobstructed through the undeveloped, often swampy Phra Pradaeng, the sois leading off the main highway were either unnamed, had local names, or were numbered after the Tesaban in which they were located. This was the case with State, and when later on, it was formally named Sukhumvit 78, it's colloquial nick-name, State, also became it's proper name.
Today, the once-elegant State Cinema is sorely run down; it's facade and marquee long gone - only the rough iron framework mars the otherwise monolithic front of the building. An unilluminated single-word sign in Thai reading, "State" remains above the entrance. A building which would more appropriately be a heritage landmark is now down to showing a single sleazy film at noon every day. Instead of gathering crowds from the nearby Big C (the old Imperial), it has, according to our sources and their perusings of gay blogs, become the haunt of local and farang homosexuals. Only recently has the State Cinema found it is no longer the lone landmark - the burgeoning population of Bangkok, and the inevitable rampant development are finally starting to reach that far south.
So, what has all this got to do with Night Entertainment today? Somewhere along the line, long after being bypassed by history, and long before the first tentacles of the population explosion crept in, State, the Soi, became a popular local area for picking up ladies of the evening. But there was to be a difference - State was not destined to be just another Saphan Kwai / Soi Intamara Thai bar area. No karaoke's. Originally, in a typical Thai manner, the girls-for-hire could be found working in shops such as beauty shops and restaurants, however at some point, one shop/ brothel owner discovered he no longer needed his daytime job. Others were obviously quick to follow: those daytime/ nighttime shops (at least most of them) became dedicated solely to providing ladies of the evening to those with the-fire-down-below. No longer dual-purpose, these shops became straight-out brothels.
What evolved next is unique in Thailand's Night Entertainment Scene - a certain economy (no doubt through competitiveness) was adopted. Why did the nightcrawlers need to even come into the shop? Why not have the ladies sit on brightly lit sofas immediately inside the double-wide sliding glass doors, so that the motorized 'shoppers' could make their selection curbside, right from the convenience of their own vehicles? The concept, at least as far as State was concerned, went viral. What ensued was a sort-of long and winding road of McDonald's drive-throughs.
In earlier times, when the cars would stop in front of the shops, the girls would come out to the vehicle and do their jeep-ing thing, trying to entice the driver into making a selection. Of course, the mamasan also came out to finalize the deal in case the driver made a selection. Things have changed slightly since then, due in part to community pressure, and in part, to some unwanted publicity. Now it is closer to what might be termed a drive-by fishbowl. The current system now being employed by most of the shops (but not all) is that the vehicle will be greeted curbside by a male tout, who explains the conditions for the short-time to the driver, who then will usually make a selection from his car. At this point, the girls on the sofas stand and display themselves, to their best advantage, to the prospective customer in his vehicle. The girls do not go outside before being selected, and paid for. Occasionally a prospective customer will leave his vehicle and walk to the front door of the establishment to make his selection, but he doesn't go inside. Payment, of course, is up front, before he and his 'escort' drive away.
The current going rate for an 'escort' lady, unchanged for years, is Baht 800 for two hours. Longer than that, and technically a punter would pay more. As there is never any sex on the premises, the touts helpfully point out the nearest short time hotel, which is the curtained Hotel Para Inn on Soi 76 Sukhumvit. The touts advise that the short-time rate there is Baht 300. They also recommend another hotel, slightly further away on Thang Rotfai Sai Kao Road if the curtained hotel style is not to the customer's liking. However, in most instances, the driver has a destination in mind. During our surveys, we noted that the ratio of motorized customers was about 3 : 1 in favor of private vehicles over taxis.
At the time of our surveys, we noted approximately 35 'Escort' Venues; some were closed on our first visit, but open on subsequent visits - some Nitespots were obviously permanently closed, and others being renovated. As a result, and because the Venue names are almost exclusively in Thai language (and not much use to our reader base), our map shows a general venue density, rather than a venue-by-venue accounting. By way of footnote - you will find yourself well and truly outside of Bangkok - both look and feel. Nevertheless, at no time, even 'after hours', did we feel that we were in a dangerous or difficult position. Although we did our surveys on foot, and found the occasional welcoming oasis, State is not a Night Entertainment Area geared to farang. The roadway on State is not yet entirely blacktopped, and portions are often covered in water from recent showers. Very little English is spoken, and it is not an area that one would normally 'walk' : a vehicle would be required - first to get there (as noted, it is not anywhere near Bangkok), and secondly, the modus operandi is almost exclusively 'by automobile'.
As noted in our 'Policy, the Internet', material appearing in the Midnight Hour, to include the names of Night Entertainment Areas and / or specific Venues, is not to be interpreted as recommendation or endorsement, except as specifically noted, on a case by case basis. Special thanks goes out to the lovely owner/ manageress and to the mamasan of the Hong Aharn Prakaipeth, to the Tanman, to Jondalar, and to a man named "James" in equal portion, for historical background and current research assistance & sourcing.
The Plaza Massage has also supplemented their signage. Keep on keeping on.
The Took Jai Sau started out 35 years ago, supporting both bars and individuals in their Night Entertainment endeavors with just about any kind of lingerie imaginable. They now have a total of three similar roadside shops on the Patpongs. And the same lady owns and operates all three - an industrious lady, to be sure. She started there when she was 15 years old. They also do mail order.....
The Bada Bing, needing no more neon, has - you guessed it - put up more neon. But this is the way of the future; "Las Vegas" all the way.... Looking good - keep on truckin'....
Bunnies opened in a hurry (October 2010), and was going to introduce A Go-Go, but never got around to it. They have, instead, stuffed their last chit into the cup this last month. Greener pastures, gentlemen.
The on-again, off-again @ Lift bar beer under the escalator, is once again open. May they maintain in this configuration for the forseeable....
SOI KATOEY - (SILOM SOI 4)
Nomads, the reincarnation of Noriega's, has succumbed to the same fate. Maybe they should have kept Frank around? Ashes to ashes, so be it, then....
SOI KATOEY - (SILOM SOI 4)
The Bas Living Room has changed to just Bas. Or is it Fabio's Bas (?) - we can't be sure from the signage. Check out the new neon.
SOI KATOEY - (SILOM SOI 4)
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
A for-the-archives pic of the Peep Inn short time hotel - located on the ground floor of the Peep Inn Complex.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Wild Country bar is the latest Nitespot to fall in the slow-but-sure extinction of Washington Square. We knew it was coming, but we still hate to see this long-time Night Entertainment Area closing down.
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
We noticed what appears to be a new bar beer going up adjacent to the Ban Beer 22, and across the walkway from the (other) Bada Bing. We understand it will be opening next month - and will keep our ear to the ground on this one....
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
SOI EDEN SUKHUMVIT SOI 7/1
The Balls The Sports Bar has closed down yet again. Let's adopt a wait-and-see on this one....
! ORDER NOW !