Since the ending of the total lockdown of Night Entertainment (July 2021), the Bangkok Night Entertainment Scene slowly, and in fits and starts, began to open up. 'Officialdom', afraid to recognize conditions on the ground, preferred to cover their derrieres with too-strict policies and snail-paced repeal of unneeded restrictions.
Nevertheless, by year's end 2022, Bangkok was once again the Night Entertainment Capitol of planet earth. Below we take a look back at "The Year That Was', revisiting highlights each month...
After 2021's partial reopening, then re-closing, it was reservedly encouraging to see some of the Nitespots reopening at the beginning of the New Year.
The King's Castle, Patpong 1 Road. The few A Go-Go bars that ventured to reopen were serving only outside, as dancing was still proscribed.
By February 2022, the Omicron variant of Covid 19 (first discovered in the previous November) was increasing rapidly in Thailand. Nevertheless, it was quickly recognized as not as serious as the Delta variant. The Thai authorities continued to let in visitors under Day Pass Test & Go scheme, and into the 'Sandboxes'. Quarantining was still in effect. Several Nitespots from pre-Covid days were reopening, and a few new Venues were beginning to open.
Soi Cowboy. Cowboy was beginning to reopen along with the other Night Entertainment Areas, but somewhat more slowly. A Go-Go dancing was still not on the menu.
The Thai Government, slowly coming to the realization that "Lockdowns Don't Work", further loosened the restrictions on tourists entering Thailand. Nevertheless, they continued with an aggressive testing and vaccination program. While long-term quarantine was no longer required for those entering Thailand, an over-night stay at an approved accommodation was required while a PCR test was being evaluated.
The Jungle, Nana Plaza. As creeping optimism began to be felt in the Night Entertainment Industry, more brand-new Venues began opening - bars that did not exist prior to Covid. The Jungle is one such Nitespot.
Despite arriving tourists still needing proof of Covid vaccination, a Certificate of Entry (from a Thai consulate) and an insurance policy valued at US$20,000, proof of prepaid overnight stay at approved hotel facilities for PCR testing, and despite the high number of cases of Omicron variant Covid 19, the number of tourists continued to increase significantly. The Thai government continued to attempt to promote the 'Sandboxes' at Phuket and Koh Samui, however as there was virtually no difference between the Sandbox entry requirements and other arrivals, the Sandboxes were quickly dying on the vine.
Green Room, on Soi Eden (Sukhumvit 7/1). The live-music Green Room opened during this period, bringing back blues and rock to the Sukhumvit Road area.
While requirements for entry into Thailand were pared down slightly, one would hardly notice... A temperature scan at point of entry was required. The certificate of Covid Vaccination was still required. The 'Thailand Pass' from a Thai consulate was still required. Insurance policy requirement dropped from US$20.000 coverage to US$10,000. Travel anywhere within the Kingdom was allowed for all for the first time.
Silom Road, Soi 4 (Soi Katoey). Having no A Go-Go bars, Soi Katoey did not drag it's feet in getting the old open lounge style bars reopened. It was the busiest of the Night Entertainment Areas at that juncture.
The Thai Government, (somewhat surprisingly - considering their too-conservative performance in the past) declared the Covid Pandemic to be "Endemic", while at the same time freeing up the last of the restrictions on certain types of facilities and activities - to include Night Entertainment activities. A Go-Go dancing was back (with minor restrictions - dancers would have to be masked and vaccinated - at least technically, but enforceability was another issue...). Tourists entering the Kingdom were still required to have the "Thailand Pass", certification of Covid vaccinations, and the $10,000 dollar insurance policy. The other aforementioned requirements were dropped.
Sukhumvit Soi 11 - Soi Ambassador. This group of bar beers, nominally named the Tewly Cocktail Group operated virtually uninterrupted, 'speakeasy style' throughout the entire lockdown of 2021. Albeit, behind heavy curtains and cautious door touts... Word of mouth was the only means of advertising - but once you were nearby, you followed the muted sound of the music emanating from behind the curtains...
The two remaining stumbling blocks to travel to Thailand were removed this period - the requirement for Covid insurance and the Thailand Pass issued by a Thailand consul abroad. These two obstacles made travelling to Thailand overly complicated and tedious, especially for short stays, and were never really a meaningful control of the spread of the Corona virus. The only remaining requirements for entry were a body temperature scan on arrival and proof of vaccination. Unrestricted travel to any part of Thailand.
Thigh Bar on Patpong 1 Road. The Thigh Bar (one of Patpong's older bars) reopened this time period. However a number of Patpong 1's well-established Nitespots didn't survive the Pandemic, leaving it's future as a Night Entertainment Area in question. The Safari, the SuperStar and Kiss have all gone to history's boneyard.
'Nitery' news of the month was - it was OK to openly sell Cannabis (recently legalized in Thailand). Officialdom claimed it would be a source of tax revenue. In the sense that it would possibly encourage additional tourism, that could be true, but most of the cannabis sales are out of vans or push carts....
Soi Nana (Sukhumvit Soi 4), Nana Hotel parking lot. Shops like these had begun popping up all over town, and were, in a sense, the fastest growing source of 'Night Entertainment'. Would supply outstrip demand?
Thailand's full reopening was, of course, a necessary step. However, in that it did not immediately bring in the anticipated flood of tourists, the Tourism / Night Entertainment industry was not benefiting. Many Nitespots were wondering if they had been too optimistic in rushing to reopen...
Soi Cowboy. Cowboy's'big bars' were coming out of mothballs, and rolling out the red carpet once again. Slightly slower than their neighbors, Nana Plaza, there was residual concern as to whether Cowboy's pre-Covid-closed 'Iranian Bars' would ever reopen.
Thailand’s Centre of COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) announced the ending of the nationwide COVID-19 Emergency Decree and also stated that from 1 October, 2022, international travellers to Thailand will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or ATK test results.
The various expat-oriented Night Entertainment Areas were reopening at different rates. Perhaps the first / fastest of the major Entertainment Areas to commence reopening was Nana Plaza, followed by Soi Cowboy. However, other areas remained in the doldrums, as was the case for Patpong 1.
Patpong 1 Road. While showing incremental progress in reopening, the former epicenter for Night Entertainment remained a comparative bleak landscape.
Although the Covid 19 virus was still found in Thailand, it was officially treated as - "a communicable disease under surveillance". Unofficially, while wearing of masks was 'recommended' in the Night Entertainment Areas of Bangkok, virtually no one was wearing masks - the Plague of the last two years completely forgotten. The increase in the number of tourists on the streets was readily apparent, and areas around Sukhumvit Soi 4 to Sukhumvit Soi 13 were unmistakably 'crowded'.
The crowds inside Nana Plaza and outside on Soi 4 were often surging into the street, slowing the already snail-paced parade of taxis and samlors.
Mid-year, 2022 the Thai Government announced a goal of 10 million foreign tourists before year's end. Most everyone scoffed, believing it to be pie in the sky. In early December the nation's Prime Minister announced that the tourism goal had been reached - insuring he had adequate Press coverage, of course. By year's end the number will be seen to be significantly higher. This year, the tourism gates will be open once again to China, so barring any resurgence of Covid in 2023, Thailand will have typical tourism figures going forward.
Patpong 1 Road. While many had given up on Patpong 1 surviving the Pandemic, this New Year's Eve it looked as though it was coming alive once more...
...On Dream Boy, in the October issue, there is an erratum, where you say,
“The Dream Boy Bangkok has moved over one slot and now occupies the 2nd level digs formerly occupied by Dream Boy Paradisio. The original Dream Boy Bangkok is now just Dream Boy.” Dream Boy actually moved into what was had previously been Lucky Boys, i.e. the old Super Queen.....
Thanks for writing in. While I got the 2nd floor correctly, in my hasty edit I should have recorded 'Lucky Boys', which was the 2nd floor bar at that location (old Super Queen), as you have stated. Late night edits just don't work well....
For those who are asking whether or not the night market will return to Patpong Road, the answer is... they already have. Currently the new night market extends from Surawong Road down one-third of the way to Silom Road, however it looks like they have marked out space for additional stalls extending all the way down to Silom. The reappearance of the night market has received mixed reactions - some are saying that Patpong 1 now at least looks brighter and alive again, while others lament that the night market (since 1989) was the cause of the slow dying-off of Patpong 1 (as a Night Entertainment Area) in the first place. A big 'wait-and-see' item...
Patpong 1 Road on New Year's Eve - what a difference a few overhead lights can make. We noted a lot more people on the street - probably because now they could see where they were going. Many of the street pundits are now saying there is hope for Patpong 1 after all... We agree.
The Muzzik Cafe in party-mode early on New Year's Eve - already the customers are showing up...
Last month we noted the Nippon-oriented Kami-Kaze (3rd level above Shenanigans) was poised to reopen. They did just that, having already rolled out the red carpet before New Year's Eve.
Delaney's had a good crowd on 30 December and New Year's Eve - and good music in a subdued atmosphere is the reason. Many on the street are saying this style of Venue may be the new face of the Patpongs. (Historians note that this would be a return to the pre-A Go-Go 1960's, where lounge bars with live music were de rigueur.)
Last month we noted that the Dreamboy Bangkok on the connecting soi (PP1 - PP2) was either transitioning from Patpong 2, or a separate, new venue, or an extension of the original bar. One of our regular correspondents (you know who you are) has advised us that the two entrances are for different ends of the same bar. He has kindly provided the below photo for publication.
Photo excerpt used with permission. Copyright remains with owner.
On New Year's Eve, the Kazy Kozy / The Corner were taking it to the streets (as in pre-Covid times). They put up a temporary outdoor stage at the Soi 23 end of Soi Cowboy for the musicians, who rocked into the wee hours of 2023...
No, your eyes are not lying to you. Rising from the ashes of the Kiss / Sahara is the Rainbow. Apparently the Rainbow group had moved into all the empty bars in Nana Plaza, so they had no choice but to start in on Soi Cowboy. We estimate they could open in February.
The full name of the new Venue is L-Seven Cafe Beer... Being a brand-new Venue on the Soi, we thought we'd stop in for a beer. "No have."... Is they is, or is they ain't a Night Entertainment Venue...? Time will call the tune... The L-Seven took over the digs of the Covid-closed Pine 26.
If we are measuring crowds by persons-per-square-meter, Soi Katoey was the busiest Night Entertainment Ares in Bangkok on New Year's Eve... Full-on party-mode - shows, tinsel falling from the skies, noise-makers...
The brand-new One Two Two, closed on New Year's Day night, will be open by the time you read this. Located on the corner of Soi Ambassador and it's Subsoi Havana Social, it is being touted as a 'Nightclub'. May the night demons hector them less severely...
(Sukhumvit Soi 11)
The axe has fallen on the long-running Ava Bangkok - it was up and running before we first spotted it in September 2013. Ashes to ashes, so be it then...
(Sukhumvit Soi 11)
Venues that transitioned from December 2022 through 1 January 2023. -Not inclusive of the above.
*Lotus Massage - REOPEN - in Subsoi
*'Tewly Cocktail' group of bar beers - Now up to 7 counting the VW van bar. - In future construction area.
There seems to be some confusion as to the location of the Green Room. It is located half way down Soi Eden (Soi 7/1). It's proving to be Bangkok's most popular live music ( blues / rock) bar. The only problem is it is but a single-shophouse wide - just too bloody small to handle all the custom. They need to take over at least one of the adjacent properties, and let 'er rip... Get down tonight...
SOI EDEN (Sukhumvit 7 / 1)
Shortly after the Cool Sports Bar closed, it reopened again. Or, at least something did. It does have a pool table, and it does have strings of Christmas lights. But what it doesn't have is a bartender, a cashier, khon serbs or a sign. Well, if it works for them, then it works...
hemid-60's was a turning point in Bangkok'sNight Entertainment. Generally known as the "R&R Era" (for US soldiers on leave from Viet Nam), however, the reality was that even before the official R&R Program had commenced, there was a build-up of US military in Thailand (eventually surpassing 20,000 troops). Bangkok's JUSMAGTHAI activities included the 5 major air bases (Joint Thai-US) spread around the Kingdom - spurring the growth of Night Entertainment in Thailand like never before.
In Bangkok, entrepreneurs seeing the successes of the established bars on Patpong 1 & 2, and in the 'traditional' farangNitespot areas of New Road and Gaysorn, began opening new bars at an ever increasing rate.
Additionally Thailand had, by that time, started to become a "tourist destination" - to include the swarms of backpackers on the so-called "Hippie trail" from the four corners of the planet. 'The Word' was out... and there would be no turning back...
This month we go back to April 1966, a pre-"A Go-Go" era where most Nitespots had 'hostesses' and live entertainment of a more 'traditional' mélange.
Mikado brought in banjo player Eddie Peabody for two nights. Eddie who? Only inveterate banjo players might now recognize the name. He was America's most well-known banjo player for 5 decades, appearing on radio and TV, as well as entertaining the troops during WWII. New Road Night Entertainment Area.
The Cafe De Paris featured the Mabuhay dance troupe from the Philippines, as did other Bangkok Venues. Silom Road, opposite Patpong 1.
The triple-shophouse-wide Keynote on Patpong-1 announces the reopening of their restaurant - the Keynote was not just a Music Lounge.
Narcing Aguilar moved over to Domino in the Gaysorn Night Entertainment Area. Were there any major Night Entertainment Venues in Bangkok where he didn't perform?
Most of us in the '70's & '80's knew the Thai Room as a late night restaurant (usually after the bars closed), but in the mid-late '60's it was a popular Nitespot. We note that at that juncture, Narcing Aguilar played there every afternoon, before moving over to his evening gig at Domino in Gaysorn. Located in the Plaza Hotel (now the Pavilion Hotel) on Patpong 2.
It might be said that the Oriental Hotel has been bringing in Night Entertainment from abroad longer than any Venue in Bangkok. Their Bamboo Bar remains as active as ever.
The long-gone Rama Hotel was active Entertainment-wise in the earlier years, the Tropicana its main Venue. The Tropicana was among the several Nitespots that kept a steady stream of imported entertainment cycling through.
As noted in an earlier issue, the Sani Chateau (arguably Bangkok's most popular Nitespot at the time) was heavily damaged by fire the previousChristmas. Their sister Nitespot, the Mikado Bar took over the bookings and some of the staff while the Sani Chateau was being rebuilt. We see in the above the planned reopening would be May 1966.
April 1966 marked the first known time Bernard Trink used photos larger than 'thumbnails' to accompany his fledgling Nite OwlEntertainment Column. Here we note (in reply to recent inquiries) that the Club 99 was indeed open in the '60's (Silom Road near Patpong)...
Forbes(online) recently published a grand summary of "Covid" graffiti from around the globe. The present seems to be as good a time as any to take note of the "Pandemic That Was". This month we have excerpted three of those Covid graffiti - but for the complete spread, please link directly to Forbes < link >.
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 photographs or artwork resides exclusively with the creators.
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 creators.
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....