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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review



01 July 2011
William R. Morledge

July's Nightlife News
Bangkok's Bars - 10 Years Ago  
A Smile in the Land of Smiles.
Ask Us ! - Cowboy on Cowboy
Graffiti  -BKK's Midnite Vandals - #68

         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.

A young lady (in shadow) departs the Two Hearts to join her customer on a motorcycle - much to the merriment of her friends remaining behind.   Note: often customers will send a motorcycle to pick up the lady for a rendezvous elsewhere.

         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.

There are approximately 35 "Escort" Venues in State, however not all are open every evening, and frequently renovations will cause some Venues to close.   Therefore the orange and pink rectangles are intended show a general Nitespot density.

         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'.

The Hong Aharn Prakaipeth owner/ manager was kind enough to agree to our request to photograph on their premises.   The format is slightly different here, as prospective customers can come in and order food and drinks for either upstairs or the ground floor 'showroom'.

         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.

The State Cinema was the beginning of it all.   Over time, the soi it resided on took it's name, and now many in that neck of the woods refer to the entire area as "State".

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         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.

Young ladies wait at the Ploy doorway for the next drive-by customer.

         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.

The Rattanakorn is one of the Nitespots deeper into the Soi.   They are advertising for new employees 18 to 30 years old.

         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.

State may not be a street paved with gold, but at least it has gold-plated street signs.....   The Thai language at the bottom reads, "Tesaban Tambon Samrong Neua" - (roughly translates as ~ Samrong North District ).

         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 In Love Karaoke -a typical single-shop Thai karaoke located on the adjacent Soi 76, Soi Mit Udom 1.

         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.

Virtually all the Nitespots on State recommend the very traditional Para Inn short-time hotel on the adjacent Soi 76 - Soi Mit Udom 1 to those newcomers to the Soi's unique system.

         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.


          Our Thai Smile this month is found on a young lady off the beaten path....

? Old

Any old PHOTOS of
Bangkok's Nightlife ?

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Many Thanks,
William R Morledge

 Historical Minutiae Dept.

Cowboy on Cowboy


      Great feature last month on the golden age of Patpong.   I was trying to see if I could recognize the young lady I barfined from the Pink Panther in 1987.   It might be her on the far left in the first picture but, after all these years it's hard to say.   Any more pix from those days?   Do publish them if you have.

N. J.
Hello, N.J.,

         We are surprised at the amount of feedback we received on those old Patpong pix.   We have Jondalar to thank for those old photos.   Just as we were about to go to press, we received two more classic photos from him - this time from Soi Cowboy.

- Photos Copyright Jondalar            
The top photo is none other than Cowboy himself with his original Cowboy Bar bar in the background - taken in 1980.   The lower pic is of Soi Cowboy that same year, showing both the Cowboy bar and Mukda's Place (Mukda of 'shake it, don't break it.' fame.   Two rare shots - indeed, we do not know of a better shot of Cowboy (the man).

Best of luck,
'Boge' Hartman

  • Email 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 2011 Follies  begin...
    BANKOK EYES' Expat Night Scene.

      PATPONG  I  

                The King's Corner A Go-Go has some new signage up aimed at bringing in more Japanese customers.   They look to be doing a very good business already....   Let it rock.
      PATPONG  I  

    Old Bargirls Never Die....

                A Patpong bargirl we had known from 20-plus years ago approached our photographer in Soi SuperStar and asked if he wanted to take her picture for 20 baht.   The photographer remembered her (and her bar), and seeing she was obviously going through hard times, kindly agreed - what he didn't expect was that she would drop the top.   He gave her 40 baht to properly attire herself.   This is, after all, Patpong....

      PATPONG  I  

      PATPONG  II  
                The Red Parrot has some new eye-catching street-level neon.   Bangkok's best pool hall can be accessed from either Patpong I or II.   Let the good times roll....
      PATPONG  II  

                The Plaza Massage has also supplemented their signage.   Keep on keeping on.
      PATPONG  II  

                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.....
      PATPONG  II  

                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'....
      PATPONG  II  

      SOI  COWBOY  
                Don't believe the rumors - Sam's 2000 is still cooking with gas.   The confusion may have been caused when, some time ago, Kiss obtained the upper storeys for it's own neon (see photos).   May they persevere....

    - File photos            
      SOI  COWBOY  

     NANA  PLAZA  
                The Las Vegas A Go-Go opened a week ago in the old Hollywood Strip Dance Theque digs on the 3rd floor.   The Hollywood Strip closed some time ago (December 2008), and although there was an earlier attempt to renovate the premises last year, it came to nothing.   However, this time, they got it right.   Welcome them to the machine.
    Door Art Of The Month

                   The Las Vegas has used a combination of neon and backlighting and LED lighting to come up with a unique and colorful Nitespot.   Our hats off to them.
      NANA  PLAZA  

                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.

    - File photo  
      NANA  PLAZA  

                The on-again, off-again @ Lift bar beer under the escalator, is once again open.   May they maintain in this configuration for the forseeable....

    - File photos            
      NANA  PLAZA  

      SOI  KATOEY  
                The Lert Rot À-La-Carte (Thai sign only), recently opened, is also turning out to be a comfortable place to sit and have a cold one.   Welcome them to the sharkpool.

    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)

                Hookers was closed when we passed by the other evening, however we asked the people on the ground there, and they said they were opening just some of the time.   We note the chattel is still in place, so we are hoping that the closed doors mean 'private parties', and not something financially more dire.   We'll keep an eyeball peeled, and get back atcha.

                A for-the-archives pic of the Peep Inn short time hotel - located on the ground floor of the Peep Inn Complex.

                7ème Ciel Fashion Massage has taken over the reins from AS Massage.   Same owner, same selection of 'special' massages, along with Thai and foot massage.   May they continue to slip and slide.

                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.

                All the questions are answered - the Sin Bin has come back after extensive removations, and is bigger and better than ever.   Some very professional neon, we might add.   Welcome back to the nightcircus.


                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....

      SOI  EDEN  
                Soi Eden, with just under twenty Night Entertainment Venues, is one of the few Sukhumvit Sois that does not have an official name.   Nevertheless, easy to find, as you're coming off the Nana BTS Station.
      SOI  EDEN    SUKHUMVIT  SOI  7/1

                The X-Boys has some new scrolling LED signage up. A little hard to read, but eye-catching, just the same.

                The Balls The Sports Bar has closed down yet again.   Let's adopt a wait-and-see on this one....



    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  :
          A decade ago, the Shadow Bar (...that's the original Crazy Jack's, not the current bar beer) closed for renovations.   They would soon reopen.   They were located where the Cocktail Club is now holding court.
    SOI  COWBOY -  July 2001

          Ten years ago, the Shirtz became Shirtz 'n Flirtz - no change of management.   They were located in the current Fanny's digs.
    SOI  COWBOY -  July 2001

          A decade ago, the long-running Kool Spot Pub closed its doors (but it would only be for a one-month 'renovation').   It is no longer in operation.   It was located just past the Telephone Pub on the left as you walk in (there is no Night Entertainment Venue at that location currently).
    SOI  KATOEY  - (SILOM  SOI  4) -   July 2001

          This month, ten years ago, the Exposure reopened after a one-month closure, but it's future was not bright - it would close, then reopen and then close for good in the very near future.   They were located just past where the old Rome Club used to be.
    SOI  KATOEY  - (SILOM  SOI  4) -   July 2001

          A decade ago, this month, Soi Dead Artists had a lot of new Night Entertainment activity - three new Venues opened virtually right next door to one another, another two in the 33 Complex, and yet another in Peep Inn Complex :
          Wall Street Bar      (Still there today.)
          Blu-Bar-BQ      (Currently Beavers.)
          Big Shots      (no bar currently at that location.)
          Sanjusan Bangkan      (At 33 Complex)
          33 House Karaoke      (At 33 Complex)
          Ashi Massage      (in the Peep Inn Complex.)
    SOI  DEAD  ARTISTS- (SUKHUMVIT  SOI  33) -   July 2001

    ASOKE  PLAZA  /  ASOKE  CORNER - (previously Cowboy Annex) - 2001

    Asoke Corner / Asoke Plaza
    Night Entertainment Area
    ( July 2000 - July 2005 )

                 Ten years ago, Flipper Bar opened in the old Je T'Aime digs.

                 A decade ago, the Coffee Corner bar beer closed up shop for good.   It was located at the front side facing Sukhumvit Road.

                 A decade ago, in the newer Asoke Corner side, two more new bar beers opened -
            - The Golden Elephant
            - Ban Rim Chang

    ASOKE  PLAZA  /  ASOKE  CORNER - (previously "COWBOY ANNEX") - July 2001

    CLINTON  PLAZA   - 2001

    Clinton Plaza
    Night Entertainment Area
    ( July 1998 - 7 July 2003 )

          A decade ago, Frank's Tivoli Bar & Grill closed it's doors.   It was located in the main building.

          Ten years ago the Top Down Grill opened it's doors to the public.   It was located in the old New York Pizza's digs.

          The O.K. Beer Bar opened in the defunct Love Scene digs.   It was located outside against the outer wall.

          Meeting House (not to be confused with Sukhumvit Road's Welcome To Meeting) opened it's doors in the old Tivoli Terrace digs in the main building.
    CLINTON  PLAZA   - July 2001

    TOBACCO  ROAD   - July 2001

    Tobacco Road (Soi Zero)
    Night Entertainment Area
    ( ~ July 1988 - 9 July 2006 )

                Ten years ago, this month, the Sidetrack bar beer reopened after a month's down-time.   They were located all the way at the back, on the right.

    TOBACCO  ROAD  - 2001



             Perhaps one of the most extraneous and arcane forms of Night Entertainment is that of graffiti.   Sometimes illegal, sometimes artistic, often humorous, and most of the time controversial.   Graffiti is not a form of 'entertainment' that all will enjoy.   Many see it as only vandalism, while others see it as an art form, or 'art brut'.

             The "Graffiti Artist" as hyped in Hollywood film is the lone-wolf who steals into the night dressed in camo, wearing butyl-soled rock-climbing shoes with cans of spraypaint strapped to his torso - someone who, from all outward appearances, could easily be mistaken for a suicide bomber on a skateboard.   By the light of a full moon he works feverishly throughout the night, trying to finish his graphic social protest before he is seen by pry-eyed up-tight neighbors, or a passing squad car, or the first light of dawn, whichever comes first.   In one Hollywood film a graffiti writer was lowered off a bridge by his feet to create a spectacular and very irritating (to the police) work-of-art while suspended upside-down.   The reality, however, is much more mundane than that, as may be seen in Banksey's latest award-winning film, Exit Through The Gift Shop.

             Nevertheless, even with the shattering of the 'mystique' of the graffiti writer, as graffiti becomes more mainstream (appearing in renown galleries, and auctioned at famous auction houses), the works produced are not diminished in any way - colorful, twisted, irreverent, vulgar, disturbing, esoteric, thought-provoking, often strikingly beautiful in their own weird way, and almost always original.   

             The artist gets off on accomplishing the works.   The viewer either gets off on enjoying the work, or is offended by it.   Either of which pleases the artist.   If you are one of those who enjoys such, this column is for you.

    [ Check out Bangkok's dedicated Graffiti page at " BKK"  <link>. ]


    King Of Kowloon

    - Photo source: NY Times        

             For more than 5 decades, Hong Kong was 'home' to an otherwise a homeless street-wandering collector of garbage who also just so happened to have a penchant for writing Chinese calligraphy on anything he saw.   His name was Tsang Tsou-Choi, but he was known to all as the King of Kowloon (a name he gave himself after claiming lineage to ancient royalty).   His applications of Chinese characters on walls, telephone booths, electrical boxes, etc, made him a nuisance -as would be any graffiti writer- and he often ran afoul of the law.

             He died in 2007 at the age of 87, and left a legacy of approximately 55,000 separate graffito.   His family was ashamed of him, and they were quite certain he was mad.   Nevertheless, the popularity of his graffiti began to grow in spite of official and familial condemnation.   In 1997 there was a showing of his works in the Hong Kong Art Center, and later, a Japanese car maker contracted him to write his then-infamous, much maligned calligraphic graffiti on their showroom cars.   And in 2004, three years before his death, a fan paid $55,000 for one of his pieces at a Sotheby's auction.

             It is claimed that visitors to Hong Kong can occasionally still see some of his graffiti on the streets, however, most has either been washed away, painted over, or taken by collectors.

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

    Graffiti #477
    King O' Arts
    6 ft. high x 14 ft.

    Graffiti #478
    All-Around Messer
    6 ft. high x 15 ft.

    Graffiti #479
    Taser's Choice
    6 ft. high x 15 ft.

    Graffiti #480
    6 ft. high x 31 ft.

    Graffiti #481
    The Big Gipper
    8 ft. high x 14 ft.

    Graffiti #482
    8 ft. high x 12 ft.

    Graffiti #483
    Planter's Wart
    8 ft. high x 10 ft.

    Graffiti, Graffiti , and more Graffiti - Bangkok's original 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 - 2011,   BANGKOK EYES /

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