Thumbnail History - Soi 4 ("Soi Katoey") Silom Road
Updated May 2002
- Richard D. Hartman
Silom Road's Soi 4 is known to most as "Soi Katoey" and is located opposite the top of Convent Road .    For a while, it was also referred to as 'Patpong 3' , however this nickname didn't stick.    Like Patpong 1 and Patpong 2, it is a privately owned soi, however it is owned by the family residing at the end of the soi and is not connected to the Patpong family in any way.
In the very early '70's Soi 4 could only lay claim to the standard array of shop houses, to include a few good local restaurants.    However by 1973, a few gay bars had opened on Soi 4 ; some from other locations, the others were new start-ups.    Longtime habitués of the soi might remember some of the earliest bars to open there: the Tom Boy , the Apollo , and the Siamese Doll (there were actually two 'Siamese Dolls' , the other was in Gaysorn).
By 1975, Soi 4 was ''on the map'' at least as far as the gay community was concerned; it had reached critical mass.    The consensus is that the Siamese Doll was the seminal bar; -although not the first bar on the soi, it was the first bar of that genre to succeed, and to demonstrate the soi's potential as a Night Entertainment Area .    None of these bars remains today, although the Siamese Doll was to later become the Rome Club .
By day, there was a substantial amount of expatriate traffic to Soi 4's restaurants, which included the Charuvan Duck Shop at the top of the soi.   (The 'Duck Shop' is the cornerpost and the mollusk of Soi 4 ; it has been there since the outset.)    Bobby's Arms had also recently opened on the soi after the success of the nearby Bobby's Aroy Dee , however it soon changed its main entrance to the Patpong 2 side of the building.   The Vietnam Restaurant also opened on Soi 4 during this timeframe.
In 1975 and 1976, the Vietnam Restaurant became quite popular with the expatriates who had come out of Vietnam after the war, as it had authentic Vietnamese cuisine.    Some of the visitors to the soi in subsequent years, however, may remember the Vietnam Restaurant under a different name.    In the early 1990's it tried its hand as a Nighttime Entertainment Venue under the name Crazy Cow .    The Crazy Cow eventually became Helen's Place in January of 1995, and underwent a spelling change to become 'Helene's' Place in September of that year.    Helene's Place is still there today.
But the nighttime entertainment action on the soi remained fairly low-key; most of the soi's daytime clientèle were unaware it even had a night entertainment scene.   All that changed suddenly, however, when the Rome Club expanded and began to advertise.    The Rome Club was also the first bar to attract a significant number of non-gay customers, giving the soi a broader appeal.
The year 1995 was unquestionably the heyday for Soi Katoey ; the Telephone Pub and Restaurant which had been slowly growing in popularity since its debut in mid-1987 was doing a land office business both inside and outside.    The Genesis Pub had closed at the very end of 1994, but would soon have a new name and owner ( -not to be confused with the 'Genesys' Pub which opened in November of 1995, and then changed its name to 'Genesis' a month later).    The original Genesis property remained unoccupied for almost 4 months, however in April of 1995, the Tapas Cafe opened there, and proved itself to be even more popular than its predecessor.    The Rome Club had already expanded to both sides of the street with two floors of entertainment on each side.    On any given weekend, most of the soi's nighttime venues were packed inside and had a thriving curbside scene as well.
In April of 1996, there was a mysterious 'fire' in the original Rome Club which, while inflicting minimal damage, caused the closure of both Rome Clubs (both sides of the street).    The Rome Club made a short-lived attempt to reopen in December, but was closed for good three months later.    The closure of the Rome Club seemed to coincide with a noticeable downturn in popularity in the entire soi; its heyday seemed to have passed.
Except for a few longstanding establishments, Soi Katoey has one of the highest turnover rates in Bangkok for bars and pubs.    The smaller, single shop house venues do not seem to fare well over the long term.    Nevertheless, the soi is still an ongoing Night Entertainment attraction - to both gay and non-gay - however recently most of the non-gay custom seems to be male /female couples.    There is even some evidence Soi Katoey is regaining some of its earlier popularity, with establishments like the Balcony (ex: Molly's Jump ) providing curbside rest and relaxation à la the Telephone Pub and Restaurant .   But even though much of the ' Gay Ninety's ' luster may be gone, Soi 4 - Soi Katoey appears on track for the long haul.
© 2001, Bangkok Eyes / bangkokeyes.com
* With grateful acknowledgement to P. and R. and N.& the staff of TP&R (you know who you are) for your corroborative input, and Zootramp Publications for exclusive use of their historical database.