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Thumbnail History
1967 & Update

Bangkok, 1 September 2004

        Historically, Klong Toey has been the deep water river port since the Capitol was in Ayuthaya.   And as with any international port, waterfront bars and other entertainment venues were an integral part of the commercial mix from the very beginning.   Klong Toey's traditional Night Entertainment Area has been located at Kasemrat Road where it ends at the entrance to the deep water port near the train terminus and the southern end of the oil storage tank farms.   

        In August 2004 MIDNITE HOUR revisited Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area for the first time in almost 20 years.   Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area had its heyday in the 1960's and 1970's dying out almost completely in the 1980's when the Bangkok Port Authority claimed the land that was home to the majority of the Night Entertainment Venues.   MIDNITE HOUR therefore harbored no unrealistic expectations that our visit would reveal a 'gold mine' of bars, lounges and/or other Night Entertainment Venues, but we thought it worth a look-see and at the very minimum, make a permanent note for the historical record.

           Our first visit to Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area was in 1967 - the time of the build-up of US and Allied forces involved in the War in Southeast Asia (Vietnam War).   In spite of the large number of US military in Bangkok, either on R&R or assigned here, almost no military personnel ever visited the Klong Toey Night Entertainment Area - most of them didn't even know of it's existence.   While Klong Toey wasn't really a "best kept secret",   the source of it's custom was primarily from visiting foreign ships' crews and Bangkok's Expat resident community.   

        But the lack of any significant G.I. participation didn't stop Klong Toey from being far-and-away the rowdiest and most varied Night Entertainment Area Bangkok has ever known.   A look through our diaries found this terse December 1967 journal entry, which said it all, "...wild dancing, wild girls and wild & terrible stripshows."   

        Our nightly routine in 1967 was to depart to Klong Toey before sundown, and walk the waterfront pier, talking with ships' crews and inveigling an invitation for dinner aboard one of the cargo vessels tied up to the quay.   Whenever possible, we would angle for Scandinavian vessels, as they had homemade breads and wonderful European cheeses and, if we were lucky, wine with the meal.   This suited our backpacker budgets as well as our stomachs.   The crew saw us as "resident experts" on the Night Scene (far from true), and sooner than later would ask us where the best bars were.   We readily obliged by inviting them to at least one of the three most well known waterfront bars, not fifty meters from where they were tied up to the wharf.

         First and formost among the Klong Toey bars was the notorious Mosquito Bar.   Located on the second floor, the atmosphere -if one could call it that- was that of darkness, the flare of someone lighting a cigarette and the acrid smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer, with ceiling fans to keep everything well mixed.   At the top of the stairs, a full minute's wait was necessary while one's eyes adjusted to the darkness, but before the end of the minute, one of the freelance female denizens was attempting to escort you to one of the tables.   Tables and chairs were, for the greater part, folding metal chairs and card tables - the chairs suitable for throwing during the frequent brawls, usually started by one of the female denizens.   There was no need for 'decor' - no one would have been able to see it.   As far as could be determined, the darkness served to conceal the age of the female denizens tugging at your sleeve for attention and a beer, and more importantly - to preserve the identity of the patrons.   In spite of the total absence of redeeming qualities, the Mosquito Bar was almost always full, if not packed.   
      In the last half of the 20th Century, the Mosquito Bar's international "disrepute" as a waterfront bar was only rivalled by Quinn's Bar in Papeete, Tahiti.   While Quinn's Bar patrons were often entertained by the dancing and brawling 'Suzie No-Pants', the Mosquito Bar had it's own set of "regulars" - a cast of characters with names such as the 'Midget Rooter' and the arachnid-like 'Skinny Minnie', that dragged it into an even more ignominious state of historical infamy.
         But all that 'wonderful' atmosphere changed in the late '70's when the owners decided to do a complete renovation - fancy scalloped plaster on the walls, artificial flowers in the entranceway, partitions, paintings (reproductions) on the walls, new abundant pink lighting and real furniture.   The Mosquito Bar was never the same - there was just something about the original wild and rowdy and dark 'atmosphere' that got lost in translation.   The 'legend' was dead; it was just a matter of time...

A daytime shot just downstairs at/next to the Mosquito Bar location - we must admit we never saw the Mosquito Bar in the daytime.

        Equally popular -at least to the Expat locals- but with less notoriety, was the Venus Room.   The Venus Room was also upstairs, and was quite large, and best described as a primitive A-Go-Go and show bar.   In addition to the A-Go-Go area, it had a small wooden dance floor, which was never used.   It was very well populated, many of the staff being local Klong Toey slum girls.   The Venus Room can be credited with the first use of "door girls", whose sole job was to beckon passers-by upstairs for a drink.   While door girls are de rigueur today, with bars advertising specifically for the position, in the '60's it was an original and welcome relief from street touts.

This is the 'outside' area under the wide overhang, where the building curves slightly, and very near the Venus Room.   (And if memory serves us well, in the distance is the entrance to the "Freedom", but we will need to confirm that before we etch it in stone.)

        Less popular, at least in terms of volume of trade, was the Sea Man's Mission.   It was open during the day, closing in the late evening.   One had to cross a covered wooden foot bridge which spanned an as-yet unfilled swampy area.   In the covered area, and on the front of the mission itself were a variety of posters in support of the International Trade Union movement, and other Socialist and Communist causes - placed there apparently without fear of having them torn down by the Authorities.   Inside was a long and otherwise unremarkable bar.   It's one 'saving grace' was the abundance of daytime and early evening freelancers, who would readily come to share a beer with you.   It, like it's next door neighbor Mosquito Bar, was completely renovated, and is now named The Mariner's Club of Bangkok (Samoson Mariners in Thai).   It is still open today, and as such, is the last soldier standing -the last barnacle on the rock- of that which used to be Bangkok's night-time "Wild-West".   The Mariner's Club currently sports no Night Entertainment activity whatsoever.

         This shot taken from the middle of the street towards the main building (as shown in our map) - the Mosquito Bar is upstairs on the corner (nearest to us), although you wouldn't know by looking at it.   At the right, you can just see where the small soi leads off to the Sea Man's Mission.
         We would like to thank Willy for these three photos, -his website K O M P A G N I E T, is at http://www.snesejler.dk .   The site is in Danish, however it is worth a look just for the photos.   Thanks again to Willy for some great photos.   (All 3 photos taken in the late 1960's or early 1970's.)

        Klong Toey in the '60's and '70's would have qualified as a Night Entertainment Area - even by today's stricter criteria.   There were over a dozen Night Entertainment Venues at that 'bend in the road' as well as a good seafood restaurant and local restaurants - more than enough to have reached that self-sustaining 'critical mass'.   In that this Night Entertainment Area probably arose at this specific location at the time the permanent port facilities were originally put in place, it likely predates anyone still alive today, so there could be no determination of which venue was the 'seminal bar' - the bar that got the whole scene started.   

        As you have already surmised, MIDNITE HOUR's walk up and back the length of Kasemrat Road, provided less relevant information than it did old memories.   In that the aforementioned The Mariners Club Of Bangkok is now a non-starter, we saw only three places open to the public that would qualify as Night Entertainment Venues.

        The Sea Dragon Spa - offering a variety of non-traditional massages, and the Sea Dragon Karaoke (upstairs) are to be found near the Expressway (away from the Port).   They are almost exclusively for Thai clientele - only the spa has the occasional foreign tourist.

        Two doors down from there, at the entrance to the Expressway is the Man Nee Karaoke (Thai sign - heavy on the Christmas light sets).   All the rest we saw that night were just so many ghosts from a once-raucous, slightly out-of-control past.

        With anecdotal stories of the Sea Man's Mission and the Mosquito Bar going back at least to the '50's, Klong Toey qualifies as Bangkok's first full-scale Expat-oriented Night Entertainment Area, although it ceased to qualify for such Night Entertainment status from the mid-1980's.   As such, it holds a premier place in Bangkok's Night Entertainment history.   

        Should anyone have any old maps, photos or names of old bars, or anecdotal stories about Klong Toey Night Entertainment Areas or Venues, and if you would like to include them (attributed or otherwise) in the Klong Toey history, please email them to us at    bangkokeyes@bigfoot.com - -   Click Here

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Copyright 2004 Bangkok Eyes / bangkokeyes.com
With grateful acknowledgement to 29th Engr. Bn. (Base Topo) and Zootramp Publications for exclusive use of their historical database.