Of the "Big Three" ( Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and the Patpongs) the consensus is that Soi Cowboy was the last hold-out - the last of the major Bangkok Night Entertainment Areas to be of any real interest or comfort to the Bangkok resident expat community.
Soi Cowboy, that last remaining 'comfort zone', of course, is long behind us - having gone the way of the Patpongs, and then Nana Plaza. Long is the roster of those complaining about how things used to be, what the prices used to be, what the 'attitude' used to be, and what the ambience used to be. The gamut of regrets, the bitches & moans and a thousand wistful recollections can be found at any of the remaining 'old guy' bars, or by reading any of the current Nightlife blogs on the Internet. The quick and ready reply of many is that things seemed better in the old days; that they seemed better in retrospect, and that it has just been the 'nostalgia factor' kicking in hard -along with the beers.
... AND IT KEEPS GETTING LOUDER...
If you are wondering why the prices of drinks have gone up by one order of magnitude
since you first came to these shores, they are putting the answer up there for all to see - provided you read Thai
. BTW, this Doll House
sign looks more like a hiring sign for the bar soon to open in the old Shebas
digs to us..... What do you think?
And to be fair, the 'nostalgia factor' does weigh in significantly on the collective memory of The Scene as it once was. Nevertheless - there have been changes, significant changes, in each of these categories, and more. The old timers remember when lady drinks on Cowboy and the Soi 16 bars were 30 to 35 Baht, and the A Go-Go dancer would sit with you after she finished her drink, until she had to be back up on the floor - or you bought her out for all night at 250 or 300 baht. Today the common plaint is the Coyote dancer asks you for a drink, you say, 'Yes', and if you don't ask her the price, she will choose the most expensive - which can easily run 300-350 Baht. Without being too pedantic - that's a ten-fold increase in drink prices - an order of magnitude. She may then say something you don't understand clearly, and if you don't get immediate clarification, she assumes you said, "Yes," again, and she orders the mamasan a drink too. This you will discover when you go to pay your bill. After sitting with you for less than a minute, she advises you that she has to go dance again, and is back up on the floor for another 25 minutes, or goes off to another bar (owned by the same person) to dance. In the parlance, you have been 'dinked'. And, you want to buy her out? Fergeddaboudit - she doesn't go out with customers, something she doesn't tell you until after you have bought her and the mamasan a drink. In this example, you might have had a couple of drinks at non-happy-hour prices, you have bought the Coyote dancer and the mamasan a drink, watched twenty minutes of A Go-Go, then walked out the door just about a thousand baht lighter - with nothing to show for it. ....And, understandably, the wizened expat is asking, 'Is all the black-light & neon & chrome & mirrors really worth it?'
So obviously there are some things we can't just write off to the 'nostalgia factor'. Nor is it news that Bangkok's long-time resident expats and frequent visitors have been seeking other venues, leaving Cowboy and Nana to the unknowing tourists. There are, for example, still a couple of 'comfort zone' single-shophouses on Soi Cowboy, and a number of comfortable lounges on Soi Dead Artists (which are now NOT more expensive than Soi Cowboy), and many all-in-one massage parlors scattered around the city providing a variety of new Nitespot entertainment alternatives.
But lately, the collective expat thinking is more at: 'Where will the next Oasis be?' 'The next 'Cowboy'?' Where will the next Night Entertainment Area with that familiar old 'comfort zone' be, where the dancers are friendly and attentive, and a soul can sit back and not have to worry about the mamasan stuffing mysterious chits into his cup? Where, indeed. And many of these questions have been coming to us at the Midnight Hour
, in hopes we might, perhaps, have some advance info on such an idyll
, some best-kept-secret
where one might walk around some corner and stumble upon a Nightscene Valhalla
yet undiscovered by the sullied masses......
Unfortunately, our crystal ball is still broken, and even more unfortunately, we are aware of not just the above changes in the bars over the last 20
years, but of the dynamics which now drive the Bangkok Night Entertainment Game
. If one is talking about a "Next Place
" in Bangkok
, one might as well be searching for El Dorado
while one is at it - and smart money is on finding El Dorado
first. True, there is the Ban Chang Strip
) just outside the old U-Tapao
airbase (and a stone's throw from the old Kilo Sip
). True there is Soi 6
in Pattaya Klang
which also emulates this 'comfort zone
' (and a very few others not mentioned here), but other than those exceptions, you are going to be SOL
And if you are old enough to remember 30 Baht 'lady dinks'
and 250 Baht barfines
, while you are out looking for your El Dorado
, you might as well look for the Fountain Of Youth
as well. And keep us in the loop on both......
May's Thai Smile could also be a "Sign Of The Times" with streaky-died hair, wild fingernails, Blythe Doll contact lenses and decorative braces.