This month we return to Khao San Road. But, before we go any further, that appellation, "Khao San Road", has for ages not been nearly inclusive enough to adequately describe this Night Entertainment Area. The adjacent Rambutri Road has been a major part of the equation for years - as can be seen from our previous and quite dated May 2012 article, Khao San Road - A Unique Night Bazaar<link>.
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And while we are setting things right, lets not beat around the bush - Khao San isn't what it used to be. Not only that, it isn't even what it used to be after it became a garish Night Bazaar a decade ago - after being a Southeast Asian Nexus for travellers some decades ago. Not an easy admission for me to make - friends telling me that 'that notorious road' had become a relatively unpleasant, somewhat seedy doppelganger of its former self - which only made me all the more eager to get back down there and prove them wrong. They weren't...
...IS YOU IS, OR IS YOU AIN'T ?
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Last month we posted a sign from a Khao San restaurant admonishing patrons not to use Laughing Gas. We received a lot of feedback on that item - enough to cause us to investigate further. The above clip shows two of several people we encountered out on Khao San Road hawking "Laughing Gas" - 50 Baht Small, 100 Baht Large. According to the latest reliable worldwide drug survey, nitrous oxide – 'Laughing Gas' – is now 7th in popularity based on a 50-country survey. More than 50 % of UK interviewees admitted they had tried the drug, while 38 % said they had used it in the last year. We note Laughing Gas is more popular in the UK than anywhere else. Because nitrous oxide has legitimate uses in the food and drink industry, it is readily available from internet caterers (for example). However, perhaps in an effort to insure a ready permanent supply, buyers are increasingly purchasing from other sources - such as 'the darknet'. (Source: Independent UK).
And now the other shoe drops... Saturday-night partiers with whom we correspond, and who contribute to this site on occasion, say that the balloons they are seeing around are supposed to be Laughing Gas, but the 'high' they get is nothing like Laughing Gas. And that begs the question, "What is it?" The mind boggles. It is not the objective of this website to provide lifestyle guideance, so we will leave it at : Caveat Emptor. A final note to readers : Laughing Gas (and presumably other similar gas) is, at least technically, illegal to use in this manner.
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Its not that Khao San has changed organically; there are still the slews of shops selling silver jewelry, touts coming out of the woodwork peddling phoney ID cards, mamasans with their trays of deep-fried scorpions and other insects, currency exchange and tour company stalls, ATM machines, massage parlors, street vendors selling everything from harem pants to fake Rasta braids, the usual tattoo & body piercing parlors, restaurant and bar touts tugging at your sleeve inveigling you to partake of 'cocktails' or 'buckets', fake and actual tribespeople in ethnic dress selling whatever they happen to load on their trays, the occasional lady-of-the-evening, old crones selling lottery tickets stapled to wooden boards, others selling fake, immitation and off-brand Viagra, and all the other brick-a-brack and trinkets you can find at any night market or roadside in Bangkok. But what IS different is the lack of vibrancy - the sense of the thriving mass of humanity out having a good (or at least busy) time of it. Like an old clock in bad need of winding, everything seems slower, older, ever-so-slighly stale. The shops and stalls now populated with sellers and vendors who, once upon a time had 'Thai Smiles', but over time have become diminished in some subtle way, defaulting to a 'strictly business' demeanor - like so many Hong Kong / Kowloon hawkers.
The Susie Wong sign doesn't lie - they really have buns with their beer - a small shopfront, they have a lot of take-away.
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On the other hand, Rambutri Road (see map) running parallel to Khao San and connected by several lanes, is in ascendency. There are a number of older and new bars, bar-restaurants, massage parlors, clubs and lounges doing a very active trade. This includes weekends and weekdays. Its as if Rambutri Road has sucked the life force out of Khao San and are now claiming it as their own.
Before we leave the reader with a bunch of photos of some of the noteworthy Nitespots on both roadways, we should note that, because of its prevalence, there is what can be termed a distinct, identifiable Khao San-Rambutri Nitespot Format. It is basically an open-fronted shop or building with seating indoors and outdoors - sometimes even out into the streets. More often than not these Nitespots will be the lower floor of a boutique hotel or hostel (hardly a guest house to be found). They make their money off the drinks, but often have middle-to-extensive menus. They have either live or recorded music. This Khao San-Rambutri Format is ideally suited to the local Bangkok weather, making for many an enjoyable night out.
Should you want to visit The Cliff for your fix of hip-hop, you will need the above map. You will not, repeat NOT find it on your own.
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We didn't have the space to put up pics of every Nitespot, but follows is a sampling of what a visitor might encounter.
The Khao Sanstreet food scene is varied and plentiful - the last remnant of the old Khao San....
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The Cocktail is one of those Nitespots that thrives because it is entirely casual - a great place to have a drink and not be drowned out by too-loud music.
The Deep hasn't moved an inch since we last surveyed in 2012.
Streats takes up most of the ground floor of the iconic, now defunct Vieng Tai Hotel.
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The Bua Sawat was busy when we surveyed in 2012, and it is busy now. It doesn't have an English language sign, so if you are planning on visiting, take along a copy of this photo.
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The Rocco Bar 1976? Rocco may have existed in 1976, but not on Khao San Road it didn't - if it had, it would have appeared on one of our earlier surveys. But not taking anything away from them, its an active Nitespot.
KHAO SAN ROAD
The Yes is an actual 'guest house' - one of a dying breed - in an area made famous because of 'guest houses'. Oh well...
Reader : Hi, in regard your mention of the Guards at Nana Plaza, I have been here a few decades on and off, and I too was surprised and curious about the increase in door and roving bouncers. The other evening, quite early, I went up to the second floor by the stairway and immediately ran into a bouncer who was glaring at me in a menacing demeanor. He was typical of the others I saw there; military haircut and "Guard" emblazoned on the back of his dark uniform. Is the new Nana Plaza expecting trouble from the now mostly Asian custom? Or because there are now so many katoey bars? Is there some very real security threat that they are not telling us about? What the hell is going on with all the new muscle-heads?
Midnite Hour:We have received other comments on this, some suggesting that the owners feel it would give Nana Plaza a more prestigious 'look-and-feel' - creating the illusion of 'high-end exclusivity', and therefore a more desirable place to play. -Imitating the big Night Entertainment destinations in North America and Europe. We have received other comments from various 'armchair psychologists' suggesting management's paranoia and / or their delusions of self-importance, and a love of anything 'military'. Bangkok Eyes, being an historical Internet publication, remains neutral on this issue (we have no dog in this fight), however, we can give you, historically, examples of how this security over-reach doesn't work in the long run:
* On the closure of the Napoleon (the original on Patpong 1) a successor Nitespot opened by the name of Mars Party House. They employed bouncers, which eagerly policed the comings and goings. It became so unpopular with customers (to include a number of incidents of physical altercations) that it was forced to close months later.
* More recently, on Soi Dead Artists (Soi 33), Velvet opened in the Christy Club digs, employing more bouncers than waitresses. They lasted only a short period - now home to the Check Inn 99, which employs no bouncers, and is doing very well.
*The Firm, recently opening in the long vacant Renoir Club on Soi Dead Artists initially employed a number of security personnel, who mostly lingered on the front sidewalk. The Firm originally went to the extreme of searching the purses of women brought in as guests by other customers. Recently, they have backed off significantly from "Big Security", and, surprise, surprise, business is picking up.
In direct answer to your question, we know of no actual security threat (ZERO) that would warrant this trend toward "Big Security". It bears remembering, Nana Plaza rose from nothing in the early 80's to one of Bangkok's largest and most successful expat Night Entertainment Areas by the late 90's - and all without bouncer policing.
The original Tokyo Boy closed down two months ago after being in business for just over a month. We thought they were gone for good - not so... ...At that same time, the Tavern Three (located nearby on that strip) closed down and went into major renovations. Last month, half of the ex-Tavern Three became the newly relocated Top Light Bar (see last month's issue). This month, the Tokyo Boy moved into the remaining unoccupied half. (Note: Tokyo Boy's old location, closed last month, looks to open as yet another gay bar, but that will have to be confirmed next time 'round...)
Note the subtle addition to Black Pagoda's signage: "Club Black". Is this an adjunct to the Black Pagoda, or a soft opening of something entirely unrelated, or..... When we know more, so will you...
The Matador has added, most conspicuously, "Linda" to their signage. Many of you long-time denizens will recall Linda is a familiar name up on The Ramp. May they keep on keeping on. [A reminder: Virtually all of The RampNitespots are closed on Sundays.]
This year Bangkok is experiencing one of our wettest 'Southwest Monsoon' rainy seasons. While business is generally good in the 'big' Night Entertainment Areas such as Soi Cowboy, on nights like this, things inevitably stay quiet.
A 'For-The-Archives' photo of the front of Nana Plaza. Last month we put up a similar photo taken from the Sukhumvit Road side. We will be putting up additional 'For The Archive' pics of Nana Plaza in future editions.
The Tamasha Exclusive Indian Club & Lounge located upstairs in the Rajah Hotel Annex has taken the Darwin Early-Out and plummeted headlong into the Abyss. Not that we were surprised, we never saw it busy, even on weekends. Taking its place is the Red Moscow Club & Lounge. If it sounds Russian, it isn't. By all observations it is still an all-Indian endeavor, the Indian doormen not even speaking Thai. Inside is cool and comfortable, and a little too empty - even on weekends - esp in light of the disco at the Nana Hotel still being closed down like Alcatraz. Drinks are reasonable - local beers @ Baht 150, mixed drinks on up. A goodly sized (unused) dance floor and 2 one-person A Go-Go points, one either side of the dance floor. A total of 6 A Go-Go dancers, excuse me, Coyote Dancers, two of which were taller and blonde - looking for all the world like they might be Russian. Nope, tall Thai ladies with blonde hair. (For the uninitiated, Coyotes are A Go-Go dancers who don't wear bikinis, who do wear panty hose under their hot-pants, who charge more for 'dinks', who may -or may not- go out with customers as escort buy-outs.) Welcome to the Machine.
Take note of the downstairs Angels Four in the same photo. They have expanded back into the area previously held down by the now closed You Again ! Bar. Gotsta get paid....
The impending opening of The Coffee Club Cafe-Bar-Restaurant will tell us one way or the other whether the 'bar' will be an actual Night Entertainment Venue. Located in the Rajah Hotel compound in the newly opened left-hand side. We'll keep an eyeball peeled, and get back atcha.
Last month we featured Welcome's signage - noting it had 'come of age' as a Nitespot. This month we include a photo (missed last month) for the archives.... Welcome is a scion of The Balcony. May they continue to abide...
Opening up directly across The Soi from the Queen's Park Plaza is the brand-new Ang Bar @ 22 beer bar. Welcome to this town's version of neon roulette...
Last month we noted that Kaede was down and renovating to become yet another massage parlor. Well, it happened - welcome Kaede Massage to the slippery slope.
A case of gone, but not gone. The upstairs Luna Lounge has had its problems in the past staying open, to include being closed on weekend nights. However, it looks like all that is now behind them - they look to be going full-steam-ahead for the long term. Do what you do, do well... Located five steps inside the Honey Plaza.
Abuilding for the last two months, the Healing In Thai Massage & Beauty is poised to open ...and in all likelihood, by the time you read this, it already likely will have opened. Welcome to the night circus. Located just inside Soi Titanium.
A rainy night outside the Aloft - and a glimpse at the neon from their three Nitespot Venues - the WXYZ Bar, the Crave and Levels. One for the Archives.
The imaginitive Door Art for Levels alone would be enough to take the trophy, but the Aloft has presented an unique and most impressive facade to us, the passing public.
SOI AMBASSADOR (Sukhumvit Soi 11)
The the latest attempt at a 'comeback' by the Happy Station 11 Bar Beer (last month) ended once again in the dumpster. In that it opens and closes whenever, we are of a mind to only report when the physical bar is torn down and removed..... Hmmmm.
What was, for a few brief months, The Gents is now home to Wood Stock L.P. Music Bar. We must admit it does sound tempting - a bar where one actually could go to listen to music, rather than the fabricated, overloud thump-thump dregs of what used to be 'disco', or worse..... rap.... Welcome to the long uphill...
QUEEN's PARK PLAZA (Sukhumvit 22)
The Simple Bar 1, which was closed when we passed by last month, has reopened and is going pedal to the metal. Welcome back, (though you weren't really gone....)
What with Soi Dead Artists having become predominantly a construction site, with scattered JapaneseVenues - and what with almost nightly rains, things are veeeery quiet. Below is a For-The-Archives pic of the Charming Massage. Located in Soi 33/2, which used to be a very active subsoi, they are now the sole-survivor of that cul-de-sac. May they prevail through the travail.
The upstairs X Size has gone the way of the Phoenicopterus Copei, however the real estate is not going to waste - they have opened the X-Size Massage in the downstairs portion. We could be wrong, but this appears to be yet another sign that the gay Twilight Zone is experiencing terminal contraction. Further, we've heard numerous stories of price-gouging from some of the PP1 denizens of the night....
Bangkok Eyes goes back in time to
Who was new - And who was through
in the Expat Night Entertainment world.
How many of these old 'oases'
do you remember ?
The King's Castle I reopened after a short closure. It is still at that location today.
*The Club Habanos and Observatorey (sic) came into being, co-located with Butterfinger (which was part of Gold Finger's) - none of which are extant today. Club Habanos was a bar for those who chose to smoke cigars while drinking.
*The upstairs Casanova, just opened the previous month, closed down. They would soon reopen. Those digs currently being occupied by Happy Bar - a 'pay-for-show' bar...
*J.B.'s Bar opened newly in the then-recently closed Popeye's Bar, located between Cowboy 1 and Cowboy 2. Those digs would become today's Spice Girls.
* The Masquerade opened newly on the 3rd level. It has long since been replaced by a string of other bars.
*The 3rd level Taboo Massage opened newly on the 3rd level. Likewise, it has been replaced by a number of other bars over the years.
* The Play Skool added "A-Go-Go" to its signage - something everyone knew anyway...
Soi Katoey ( Silom Soi 4 )
*No changes that month / year. -
Buckskin Joe Village (~ November 1988 to November 2006)
(Also known -originally- as Tobacco Road or Soi Rot Fai or, 'The Tracks', and later as Machim [Thai] and Soi Zero)
*The Vanilla Bar, having just opened the month previous, closed its doors.
Paul Smith's flagship store was 'b0mbed' ('spraypainted') by a graffiti 'artist' this last week. The building, a shocking pink, has become a Los Angeles landmark for a most unexpected reason - it has become a 'selfie wall'. For whatever unfathomable reason the heretofore unadorned slab of pink has 'gone viral' as a place to have one's photo taken - usually by way of selfie-stick. Even minor celebs and fashion models have joined in the endless lemming-parade to photograph themselves surrounded in pink.
It was foregone, however, that these giant pink slabs would prove too tempting to local street artists; one night not so long ago he, or they, swooped in to adorn one entire wall with "Go Fuck Ur Selfie". What irony (!) - where a plain pink wall (described by Superlative Journalism's breathless scribes as 'iconic') couldn't raise an eyebrow in the International Press, defacement by graff vandals became instantly most newsworthy, indeed.
It would seem that, after viewing the photos above (and virtually identical photos in a hundred other outlets), the consensus would be there had been a gross defacement of a commercial building. While there were many who saw it that way, the overall response was surprisingly mixed. For example, many neighbors were 'in common cause' with the sentiment expressed in spraypaint - because of the unending torrent of selfie-seeking tourists who have been taking up the lion's share of parking - to include parking designated for residents during certain hours. Other dyed-in-the-wool pro-graffers predictably praised the spraying as 'an expression of art'. And there were others who just saw the pink wall as symbolizing the vanity, the self-indulgence and the manifest irrelevence of the social media set in general - many of them sending their message by (you guessed it) taking selfies in front of the spraypainted sentiment, their middle fingers raised, off-flipping the world.
And as expected : the unending back-and-forth texts and chats by those social-medialogues who firmly believe they, and they alone, know the true path to social responsibility. They, each of them, are damn-sure going to teach those other chat-heads who don't agree. ...Or at the very least, get in the last word. It is too bad these huge swaths of the human population don't have lives to go back to once, or if, they go off-line....
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....