Fifty years ago, when farang were first discovering Thailand's Night Entertainment Scene in a big way, they had a relatively brief menu to choose from : Lounge Bar, or A Go-Go bar or Steam-n-Cream Massage Parlor. In the ensuing decades, all that has changed - Thailand's, and in particular, Bangkok's Entertainment Scene has gone 3-D. Now there are lounge bars, bar beers, beer gardens, sports bars, A Go-Go bars (or Coyote bars), wine bars, pool bars, show bars, traditional massage parlors, one-stop 'massage', steam-n-cream massage, music bars, taverns, oral-services bars, Japanese-only-'Snacks', Entertainment Complexes, Entertainment Emporiums, Discos, Videotheques, Clubs, and last, but not least; Pubs. (Not to mention unique mixes of any of the above...)
Herrity's Irish Pub Bangkok - inside Soi 33/1 Sukhumvit
Pubs (or Public Houses) are said to have a number of traits in common: they traditionally sell alcoholic drinks such as ales, ciders, wines and beer in a relaxed social setting (the music is kept at a level where you can carry on a conversation). They usually have light recreation such as darts, and they generally sell food and snacks. A Seventies' innovation, which is now almost universal, is the "Pub Quiz". And we find, at least as far as the Bangkok Scene is concerned, there are a number of Nitespots that call themselves 'Pubs' that aren't, as well as a number of Pubs that don't advertise themselves as 'pubs' on their signage. We'll attempt to keep this on track as we proceed...
Scruffy Murphy's Irish Pub - inside Soi 23 Sukhumvit, just past Soi Cowboy.
Although we headline with "The Pub Crawl" we hasten to mention we do not mean this in the slang sense of that expression, which means (to some) to 'hit as many bars in an area and get as hammered as possible as quickly as possible'. Our intent is to review several Pubs in Bangkok that have been, or are becoming popular with the expat community. We of course are not capable of surveying all of the Pubs city-wide, so we have concentrated on those in or near the major expat Night Entertainment Areas.
Strikers Sports Pub - In the Nana Hotel compound, Soi Nana 4, Sukhumvit.
Pubs (and to some extent, 'Clubs') are probably the most typical of the 'new' (non-traditional, non-1970's) Nitespots in Bangkok. The continuing and growing success of 'The Pub' reflects the changing demographic of the tourist-seeking-entertainment crowd. No longer are the Nightlife seekers just looking for the A Go-Go bars, massage parlors and hostess lounges. The new breed is from a larger cross-section, and often include couples seeking a night out together. (...No matter how 'foreign' that concept may seem to the crusty, curmudgeonly 'old Bangkok hand'....)
Bully's Pub - just around the corner from Soi Nana 4 on Sukhumvit Road.
Herein and below is a selection of Pubs for your perusal that are in or near expat Entertainment Centers, and their locations. Should we have left any out of our listing, do send us a note, along with a photo, and we shall endeavor to publish next time 'round. Happy pub-crawling...
Chequers British Pub - On Soi Nana 4, Sukhumvit Road
Hillary 1 Pub & Restaurant - in the Rajah Hotel Compound, Soi Nana 4, Sukhumvit Rd.
Hanrahans - Soi Nana 4, Sukhumvit Road
Country Road Pub & Pool - Soi Nana 4, Sukhumvit Road, just past the Soi 6 cut-off.
Rest Hub Pub & Bar - in the Rajah Hotel compound, Soi Nana 4, Sukhumvit Road
Mulli's (formerly Mulligan's) - Soi Ambassador 11, Sukhumvit Road. (Note new upstairs addition ...)
The Paddy Field - Patpong 2 Road
Rig 1 Pub - up on 'The Ramp', Patpong 2 Road
Honey Pub - located in the Holiday Inn at the top of Soi 22, Sukhumvit Road
Reader : I was recently part of a many-headed thread of emails discussing the Malaysia Hotel and its participation in the backpacker evolution and the R&R scene, and it appears there are a number of dissenting views on these subjects. The discussion started over an article on the Malaysia in the Khao Sod English website. Does your Bangkok Eyes go back to that period, and what're your thoughts on all this?
Midnite Hour: Although the Bangkok Eyes website does not go back to that era, and although not directly related to Night Entertainment, our staff was very much in place during that era. We saw the Khao Sod English articles, and were in discussions of our own with a number of our contacts. Regrettably, the articles made errors of omission and over-simplification - and while they covered the basics on the historical aspects of the Malaysia Hotel itself, and other hotels, they failed to present an accurate picture of the situation on the ground. Rather than rehash point-by-point the failings of the Khao Sod English articles, we will instead, present the essential facts of the day - with emphasis on those points that are continually misunderstood and misrepresented on the Internet.
While the rise in the 'backpacker era' and the build-up of the war in Viet Nam both took place during the same years, they each had their own separate and independent effect on Thailand, specifically Bangkok. It would seem this wouldn't need to be said, but it does.
Backpackers in the first half of the 1960s, while they stayed in various parts of Bangkok, were mostly found in and around the Hua Lampong train station, in the cheap flop-house Chinese hotels. The Thai Song Greet being the most well-known of these. In these years, there was no backpacker action on Soi Ngam Dupli / Soi Si Bamphen / Soi 1 Sathorn. While the Malaysia Hotel did exist - since 1967 - it was not an R&R hotel, and did not serve as one. Nor was it immediately a popular tourist hotel - although later that would change. On the other hand, the US military presence in Thailand (military stationed in Thailand) was substantial; at the end of 1966 the number of US soldiers stationed in Thailand was approximately 25,000. No mean number - and those stationed at JUSMAG, just around the corner from the Malaysia knew the area well, frequenting the Malaysia and Pitak Court and the Blue Fox bar-restaurant. These 25,000 plus G.I.s were not, repeat, not on R&R (although many of the grunts in from Viet Nam had expressed their doubts....).
The R&R Hotel. R&R hotels were specific hotels, not apartment buildings, that were leased by JUSMAG directly from the owners for use as BOQs (Bachelor Officer Quarters) or BEQs (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters). -Each having their own lease agreement. Again, these hotels were only some of many "leased facilities" that were leased and lease-managed by JUSMAG. Soldiers coming to Thailand on R&R were assigned to an R&R hotel, and not left free to find their way 'on the economy'. (Not that they necessarily stayed in their assigned R&R hotels..) These JUSMAG leased facilities should not be conflated with JUSMAGs NAF Special Services contracts that involved the likes of Tommy's Gems for tours and entertainment.... Other hotels frequented by the G.I.s coming in from Viet Nam during the R&R years were not R&R hotels.
By the early 1970s the small Chinese hotels around Hua Lampong station could no longer handle the number of tourists looking to live the "See-The-World-On-A-Dollar-A-Day" dream. It was at this time that the guest houses started sprouting like mushrooms in Sois Ngam Dupli / Si Bamphen. At this time, the Malaysia Hotel grew in popularity - many of today's long term Thailand residents stayed first in the Malaysia. But the two crowds - the true backpackers staying in guest houses, and the Malaysia Hotel guests were essentially two different classes of travelers (although some wannabe backpackers -who never slept in their sleeping bags- did stay at the Malaysia). The Soi Ngam Dupli (and adjoining areas) still was not an R&R area, although it continued to be frequented by the US military from JUSMAG. In this respect, the Soi Ngam Dupli area was unique in that there was a mixing of US military, true backpackers and other budget travelers staying at the Malaysia and similar hotels in the area.
On R&R. The R&R program for military serving in Viet Nam started ramping up in 1965 and was ended in late 1972 on the concluding of the Paris Peace Accord (in January 1973). In that the US armed forces were out of Viet Nam almost immediately after that, there was of course no need for an R&R program. This fact seems difficult to assimilate by many who visit, or live in, Thailand. We see for example, various so-called 'historical' descriptions of Soi Cowboy as one of the R&R-era Night Entertainment Areas. The first bar on Soi Cowboy, even before it was 'Soi Cowboy', was the Gold Label, and it opened in late 1974 (?), almost two full years after the end of the R&R era. The confusion likely stems, at least in part, from the fact that the US military contingent (of now slightly less than 25,000) stationed in Thailand did not depart for home until June-July 1976 (leaving only a small core of advisers at JUSMAG itself).
By the 1980s - 1990s, the center of backpacker / budget traveler activity was shifting to the Khao San Road area, leaving Sois Ngam Dupli / Si Bamphen with fewer and fewer guest houses. But the only constant is 'change', and now Khao San Road is an open zoo by day, and an closed off "walking street" bazaar and Thai-Yuppie Nitespot venue at night - the guest houses and budget hotels having shifted to the nearby sois.
A SALUTE TO 50 YEARS OF LATE NIGHTS AT BANGKOK’S MALAYSIA HOTEL
BANGKOK’S 1960S RETRO-COOL HOTELS LIVE ON (PHOTOS)
Reader: Last October there was a helluva hullabaloo about massage parlors once again using so much ground water, 300,000 liters per night, through illegal water wells, and how they were causing Bangkok literally to sink. How can something as important as this, if it is even real, just disappear from the public view? As this is about massage parlors, it should be right up your alley. Are your pet "Night Entertainment" venues a curse on Bangkok or not?
Midnite Hour: We also noted that particular storm in a teacup, and followed it closely for a couple of days. First, we should clarify by stating right out of the starting-gate that we report on Night Entertainment as an integral part of Bangkok's history, and not Night Entertainment Venues as favorite-sons. Secondly, we noted that much of the "Bangkok Is Sinking" (The Sky Is Falling) rant comes from none other than Khun Chuwit. This is political high-comedy from the master hypocrite himself. Remembering that he was nicknamed by the vernacular press "Uncle Hot Tub" in the days when Rachadapisek Rd was shoulder-to-shoulder massage parlors (most of them his), this takes on a bizarre luster - one for the history books. We won't mention any financial interests he currently may or may not have in The Lord Group (ahennh) - and recent photos of him in a Copa Cabana hot tub stuffed to the rim with local lovelies.... His bizarre claims that each massage parlor uses 300,000 liters of water per night are not only unsupportable, but ridiculous on the face of it. But let's talk the science : Bangkok is built on an alluvial river delta, and has been sinking, unabated, for the last 200 years. Unless, and until, Khun Chuwit and friends can produce scientific results based on soil studies that show the actual usage of water in massage parlors has caused some areas to sink faster than they otherwise would have due to natural conditions, he at best, can only be describing a theoretical possibility. At worst, this is just another example of a politician stating non-science for the purpose of self-enhancement. It is way, way premature to start worrying....
Last month we noted that the original Pussy Magic had branched out, opening another Venue in the old SuperGirls. That was true at the time, however this month, the original Pussy Magic has changed its name to Pussy Special (the other, new Pussy Magic at the old Supergirls digs has kept its old name). Both Venues remain "Pay For Show" bars.... May they find constancy.
In keeping with our recent push to illustrate the trend toward "dynamic signage" in Bangkok's Nightlife Venues, we show a brief clip of last month's Door Art Of The Month awardee, Five Star. (They are to be congratulated again for sticking with real neon....)
A few months ago, one of Nana Plaza's older bars, the Playskool, closed its doors. After some renovations, the ineptly named Easy Lick took over the reins. Well, Easy Lick's reign is over; they have fallen on their sword - to the accompaniment of nobody's crying-eyes. And, as can be seen, the Playskool has returned to its old stomping grounds. Welcome them back to the machine.
And while we are on about 'what goes around comes around', the True Obsession has taken down all its neon and left in a huff. The original Obsession, without the 'True', has come back to roost. We hope to have some new pics next time around - once they get all their new signage up... No change in modus operandi, however....
For the record... Although there is currently no neon nailed up, the longish beer bar in the Nana Plaza courtyard (which used to be 3 separate beer bars in times past) is called Nana Beer Garden. (Witness: the chits you find in your cup...)
Some months back, The Night Witch Bangkok opened in the new entertainment area of the Rajah Hotel - in the area we though was going to be the Toh Roong. The Night Witch Bangkok didn't make the grade - in spite of being an attractive, upmarket Nitespot, it went headlong into the Abyss after a couple of months. After some months of additional renovations of the old Night Witch area, the Toh Roong opened - as an open-sided, open air Venue. Welcome them to the nightcircus.
The spacious Tamasha Exclusive Indian Club & Lounge opened on the second floor of the Rajah Hotel outbuilding (above the Angels Four). We passed by on the New Year's weekend and we didn't see any exclusive Indians crowding into the place, so naturally we wondered whether or not all had read their Business Plans For Dummies... Nevertheless, we wish them well in their quest to snare the brass ring.
Deeper in the Soi, opposite the cut-out to Soi 6, the Heavens bar beer, has reopened, albeit quite a bit smaller than before (and now downstairs at street level). Welcome them back to the piranha pool.
The Moderation has bounced back after its sudden closure almost two months ago. People on the ground say there was an employee rebellion of sorts, so out with the old girls, in with the new. Located in Soi Titanium. Welcome them back to the big city lights.
SOI 22 (Sukhumvit)
Deep in Soi 22, in Sub-soi Hanna, the Liola Massage has taken over from the Malaiseeda 2 Massage lock, stock and Tiger Balm. Welcome them to the slippery slope.
SOI 22 (Sukhumvit)
The Radha Thai Massage has burst forth onto the scene right next door to the Moderation in Soi Titanium. May they continue to slip and slide...
SOI 22 (Sukhumvit)
The Stronger Bar had its roller shutter half down when we passed by the other evening... Does that mean it is half-closed, or half-open? We will give it the benefit of the doubt and call it 'half-closed'. Located deep in 'Soi Starlight'. Should things change, we shall get back atcha with an update...
The Sabai Massage has opened newly next door to the Fire House deep in the Soi. We hope to have a better pic or two next time around. Welcome them to partytown.
SOI AMBASSADOR (Sukhumvit Soi 11)
Last month we passed by the The Vagabond, and it was quiet... too quiet. And we suspected the worst... But all is well, the owner, who was down with the current version of Asian Flu, is now once again steady at the helm. The first pic you see below is, however, not of the current The Vagabond (see our November issue), but rather from his original Vagabond street bar which resided at the foot of the Nana BTS station. There's good rockin' tonight.
Last month, we saw work proceeding on what would be the very well-appointed The Firm. And this month it is exactly that. What we are having a problem with is what sort of a Nitespot do they want to be? Sitting out front on the sidewalk are four bouncers and four male waiters. Are they selling "exclusivity" (?) where male customers are patted down for weapons on entering, and females are required to sign in? This so-called 'exclusivity' didn't work for the Velvet - the club that used to reside just across the Soi from them. And, so far, it doesn't seem to be working for The Firm (from what we have observed on a number of occasions)... It's a Nightlife jungle out there - we hope they know what they are doing...
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
A few months back the Napoleon uprooted itself and moved to the back of Soi 39 Sukhumvit. After a brief renovation, the Angel's Club opened therein, looking for all the world like a first-rate Nitespot. We passed by on New Years only to be met with an empty shell of a building, and signs of heavy-duty renovations. Greener grass, ladies.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
It looks like the Japanese Sakuranbo Snack has locked horns with the Darwinian Imperative and come out second-best. Located in Sub-soi Pan Pan. May they find peace.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
It looks like the upstairs Japanese lounge Vanilla has rebounded from their bout of narcolepsy - and that all has returned to status quo ante. Welcome them back to the tussle.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Sukhumvit 33)
Last month we published photos of the below signage, and issued a 'wait and see' on the upcoming move(s). This month, not only has nothing transpired (both Tenderloins and 33 Bistro are still right where they always have been), but the sign in the photos has been ripped down. The best laid plans....
The oft-closed Shots Bar at least for now, is once again "Open". A bar owner of some local repute once told me the primary rule for establishing regular custom - and that is to open regularly. He also said, 'If you must close, put a sign in the window, just like you would if you were a barber shop, otherwise people are going to think the worst.' -Just sayin'...
Graffiti - on the walls of the world - can reflect political views, social perspectives, gang territorial claims, humor, irony and/ or artists' renditions of something beautiful, disgusting, frightening or just quirky. But, whether you are among those who appreciate graffiti, or one of the many who see it as an abomination, it, graffiti, does reflect.
Some themes, however, 'reflect' more than others, especially if those themes "go viral" - as the vernacular media now uses the term. This past year has a clear "winner" in the category of "most viral", and that is none other than U.S. President Donald Trump. For better or for worse, virtually every street artist capable of rendering a cartoon-ish yellow mop of hair has thrown up a "Trump" piece. Some of these grafs are artistic, others not. Some are humorous, others just tasteless. Some reflect a true likeness, others reflecting remarkable 'caricature'.
Whether you agree with what is 'reflected', or whether you disagree, we have included a number of representative "Trump" grafs herein for your perusal. On the off chance this sampler is not already too much, just google, "Graffiti, Trump", and you will be inundated with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Graphic excerpts above are from Internet sources, and are, under current legal precedents and prevailing interpretations considered 'Fair Use' under Copyright Law. Copyright of all original artwork resides exclusively with the artists.
Bangkok Eyes is an historically based news outlet, and as such, all graphic excerpts herein are considered, under current legal precedents and
prevailing interpretations, 'Fair Use' under Copyright Law. Copyright of any original artwork resides exclusively with the artists.
Bangkok's original site !
The MIDNITE HOUR Graffiti Page is prepared by Staff Contributor "Boge" Hartman .
(Boge's photo, above, is not a graffitiper-se, although there are those who have insinuated....