Patpong is an entertainment district in Bangkok


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Sawasdee Krab,

Patpong is an entertainment district in Bangkok

Patpong is an entertainment district in Bangkok, Thailand, catering mainly, though not exclusively, to foreign tourists and expatriates. While Patpong is internationally known as a red light district at the heart of Bangkok’s sex industry, it is in fact only one of numerous

Patpong

Patpong 2

red-light districts some catering primarily to Thai men and some others, like Patpong, catering primarily to foreigners.

A busy night market aimed at tourists is also located in Patpong.

Location and layout

Patpong consists of two parallel side streets running between Silom Road and Surawong Road and one side street running from the opposite side of Surawong. Patpong is within walking distance from the BTS Skytrain Silom Line’s Sala Daeng Station, and MRT Blue Line’s Si Lom Station.

Patpong 1 is the main street with many bars of various kinds. Patpong 2 also has many similar bars. Next to these lies Soi Jaruwan, sometimes referred to as Patpong 3 but best known as Silom Soi 4. It has long catered to gay men, whilst nearby Soi Thaniya has expensive bars with Thai hostesses that cater almost exclusively to Japanese men.

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History and ownership

Patpong gets its name from the family that owns much of the area’s property, the Patpongpanich (or Patpongpanit), immigrants from Hainan Island, China, who purchased the area in 1946. At that time it was an undeveloped plot of land on the outskirts of the city. A small klong (canal) and a teakwood house were the only features. The family built a road – now called Patpong 1 – and several shophouses, which were rented out. Patpong 2 was added later, and both roads are in fact private property and not city streets. (The so-called Patpong 3 and Soi Thaniya are not owned by the Patpongpanich family.) The old teak house was torn down long ago and the klong was filled in to make room for more shophouses. Originally simply an ordinary business area, the coming of the bars eventually would drive out most of the other businesses.

By 1968, a handful of nightclubs existed in the area, and Patpong found some use as a R&R (Rest and Recuperation) location for U.S. troops serving in the Vietnam War, although the main R&R area was actually along New Petchburi Road. In its prime during the 1970s and 1980s, Patpong was the premier nightlife area in Bangkok for

PatPong Dancer

PatPong Dancer

foreigners,and was famous for its sexually explicit shows. In the mid 1980s the sois hosted an annual Patpong Mardi Gras, which was a weekend street fair that raised considerable money for Thai charities. In the early 1990s, however, the Patpongpanich family decided to turn all of Patpong 1 Road bar the sidewalks into a night market, renting out spaces to stall holders.

The consequence was that Patpong lost a great deal of its vibrancy as a go-go bar and sexual services strip, becoming crowded with tourist shoppers who were at best bemused by the nightlife and put a big damper on the strip’s power to excite and amuse. Soon the real action moved to the newer nightlife areas of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, which today far outdo Patpong as go-go bar strips. However, Patpong is the only one within the official entertainment zones decreed by the Thai government in 2004, which allow venues to legally stay open until 2am, instead of the 1am legal closing time in other areas. Enforcement of that law was initially strict but has varied over time since.

In recent years, there has been a move away from the traditional sex venues in Patpong. Twilo hip hop bar boasts two live bands every night, and is very popular with both tourists and local Thais. Also, Muzzik Cafe has been completely renovated and is a very popular live music bar playing a mixture of Rock, Hip hop and Pop.

Next to Twilo is Funky Dojo with DJs regularly playing both club and house music. Park Bridge, another high class music venue, has just opened across Patpong 2 and is accessible from either the Foodland car park or the opposite building from the third floor. Radio City and Lucifer are also being refurbished, which will mean by November 2008 Patpong will be one of the main live music areas

Sex-related businesses

Patpong has many shows featuring women doing stunts in the nude. These shows are mostly marketed by road side agents handing out pamphlets. Please be aware that, most of these shows are places of extortion, where, the customers are fooled to come in and later charged with exorbitant amounts, resulting in frequent quarrels and uncouth scenes. Earlier these places were not reported to deal with foreigners in such a way, however low season and bad business has forced them to resort to such practices. Most of these

cases go unreported as the victims are not sure whether such patpong shows go hand in glove with the police department. Go-go bars feature women dancing on a stage. The

Patpong road

Patpong road

dancers (and even occasionally the serving staff) are generally available to customers willing to pay a bar fine to take them out of the bar; the fees for sexual services are negotiated separately. Some establishments advertising “massages” are in fact disguised brothels and a few famous “blowjob bars” offer oral sex at the main bar or in back rooms.

Several upstairs bars still feature (technically illegal) sex shows, with women performing various creative acts such as Ping pong show. Perhaps the most notorious of these features women performing exotic feats involving their genitalia and projectile table tennis balls. Some of these second-floor bars are run by scam artists who lure tourists with offers of low prices and later present a wildly inflated bill along with a threat of physical harm should the bill go unpaid. The Tourist Police, usually stationed at Patpong 1 and Silom Road, can help in these situations.

Some establishments in Patpong employ kathoeys (or “ladyboys”) either exclusively or as part of a mixed gender staff. Unlike the kathoey bars in Nana Plaza, many of the staff at these Patpong bars are post-operative transsexuals.

With one or two exceptions, the gay bars in the Patpong area are not go-go bars, but simply traditional gay pubs, such as Telephone and The Balcony, which cater to both Thais and tourists. The commercial gay oriented go-go bars are mainly on Surawong Road or in small street Soi Pratuchai leading off Surawong.

Night market

In recent years, Silom and Surawong have been taken over by the Patpong night market, making movement in the area difficult and filling the area with farang tourist couples and backpackers. Men selling pornographic DVDs have become an increasing nuisance in the

Patpong night market

Patpong night market

area, as have touts who try to direct tourists into the bars offering sex shows. This night market is very tourist-oriented, with the accompanying high prices compared to local-oriented markets unless one is prepared to bargain very hard to get a good price.(citation needed)

If you are thinking of going by all means go, however can I recommend that you use a travel group that specialises in trips to the bar areas of Bangkok.

 

The travel group I have been to Bangkok with is called

Asian Experience Tours.

infogirls

Check out their website,

Any questions you can ask them directly.

In media

Many western films have featured Patpong, including the award winning The Deer Hunter (1978), starring Robert De Niro. The final part of the popular musical Miss Saigon (1989) is set in the bar scene of Patpong.

The movie Baraka features several shots of strippers in Patpong.

The 1994 book Patpong Sisters: An American Woman’s View of the Bangkok Sex World by Cleo Odzer describes the experiences of an anthropologist doing field research in Thailand.

Patpong: Bangkok’s Twilight Zone by Nick Nostitz is a personal photographic depiction of aspects of the Patpong night life.

The 2008 book Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender gives an intimate portrait of Thailand’s Kathoeys. It is a collection of authentic stories about journeys of self-discovery by those who have struggled with gender identity while trying to maintain normal lives and careers. The book features some of Thailand’s celebrity ladyboys such

Kiss gogo bar Patpong

Kiss gogo bar Patpong

as Boxer Nong Toom as well as the life of a magazine columnist, a cabaret performer, a prostitute and others. Some of them also tell about their experiences in Patpong. The book was written by Susan Aldous and Pornchai Sereemongkonpol and published by Maverick House Publishers.

Patpong opera is a collection of songs written by Paul Wood manager of Radio City to tunes of modern rock songs. Together they tell the story of the people in Patpong. Copies are available from Radio City.

Patpong serves as part of the setting in Tom Robbins’ book “Villa Incognito”.

One of the world’s most famous red-light districts, Patpong is where it all started (Thailand’s Go-Go culture). It has even been immortalised in a James Bond chase-sequence. Its two parallel side-streets, found between Silom and Surawongse Roads, house around 100 neon-lit strip bars offering naughty shows and the famous pole-dancing entertainment.
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Patpong has long since been usurped as the ‘king of the scene’ by Soi Cowboy, its counterpart around Sukhumvit. However, its reputation means it’s still a huge attraction, mainly for sightseers more interested in ogling at – rather than indulging in – the carnal delights on offer. But while for men Patpong is likely to mean ‘adult’, for women Patpong definitely means ‘night market’. At night this teems with hawkers and humble stalls selling what is mostly tourist tat.

The Go-Go Bars of Patpong

When it comes to go-go bars, favoured establishments on Soi 1 include King’s Castle I and II, Sphinx and the Safari Bar, while King’s Corner has the largest collection of post-operative transsexuals in Bangkok. Patpong II, or ‘Soi Quality’ as some like to call it,

Club electric blue Patpong 2

Club electric blue Patpong 2

also has many interesting sights along the same lines. Apart from a short run of rather run-down watering holes peopled by girls and men playing Connect 4, the most well-known venue is perhaps Electric Blue and, definitely the most intriguing, Patpong’s only fetish club, BarBar.

Here are the few gogo bars found on each side on the Patong area. Some are quite hard to miss and some others are just behind a discreet door. In the bars at street level, prices are usually fixed and bill is brought to you at your table, so no bad surprise with the usual 120 to 150 baht for a beer.

  • The High Bar
  • Safari
  • Silver Star
  • King Castle I, II and even III
  • King’s Corner

Opposite Side

  • Kangaroo
  • Kiss
  • Pussy Collection (says it all)
  • Gold Fingers

How not to get ripped off in Patpong

Most A Go-Go bars located along the two streets of Patpong are free to get in as long as you order a drink, which costs around 120 baht… but be aware that there are tricky places that will cost you a lot more without actually delivering anything better – and they may even be worse. How to recognize the trick:

  1. Someone will approach you with a nice list of fun entertaining features such as a ‘ping pong show’ and other well-known activities with ‘colourful’ names. So far, nothing really unusual.
  2. He will say “It’s free to see for five minutes”…  which means it won’t be free after the five minutes are up  and as the guy seems trustworthy and speaks really fast, you somehow forget this fact.
  3. The place not even be on Patpong itself but if it is upstairs and the bar has no sign and no name,  get ready to be ripped off (nicely but effectively).
  4. Once you are in, the show will have only one act and you will be asked for a tip. Basically you will have to tip for each ‘trick’ performed. And believe me, these girls have mastered the art of making you feel really cheap if you don’t tip them.
  5. The girls will ask you for a lady drink, whether she sits next to you or even stands across the room… each drink costs at least 200 baht.
  6. You will not see the bill until the last minute. In most normal A Go-Go Bars or beer bars, your bill is placed in a small box in front of you, which allows you to check the damage as you drink and let you decide if you want to offer another round or not. Usually a drink is around 100 to 120 baht. In the dodgy ones the bill never comes until the last moment
  7. If you ask a girl how much her drink will cost you, she only knows once answer: ‘same as yours’, so naturally you think 100 to 120 baht… wrong, it’s 200 to 300 baht.
  8. When the bill comes, it’ll be about 1,000 baht and don’t even waste your time arguing; you won’t win… just pay up and smile, realizing you’ve got a nice story to tell your friends – just like I’m telling you now!
patpong f

Silver Star gogo bar Patpong

In fact, because of the Patpong Night Market the area’s seedy edge has been softened considerably. At night the area teems with tourists and backpackers shopping for that illusive bargain. Some pretend to look interested in the fake Gucci handbags before temptation gets the better of them and they venture inside to witness one of the famous shows they’ve heard so much about. If you go for this it pays to be careful; while now rare, there have been reports of tourists being ripped off (especially when buying a drink for one of the ‘hostesses’) and clobbered with hefty bills after heading upstairs into one of the bars.

Also, if you plan to hijack one of the girls for a raunchy rendevous, it’s advisable too to take good care of personal belongings once you’ve paid the ‘bar fine’. However, whatever your take is on the Go-Go Bar scene, there’s no denying that Patpong is still far safer than your average Western city centre. It’s very well policed – there’s a tourist police office at the end of the road, and CCTV cameras – and you’ll find entire families nonchalantly walking around during market hours.

Go-Go shopping after dark

In fact, because of the Patpong Night Market the area’s seedy edge has been softened considerably. At night the area teems with tourists and backpackers shopping for that illusive bargain. Some pretend to look interested in the fake Gucci handbags before temptation gets the better of them and they venture inside to witness one of the famous shows they’ve heard so much about. If you go for this it pays to be careful; while now rare, there have been reports of tourists being ripped off (especially when buying a drink for one of the ‘hostesses’) and clobbered with hefty bills after heading upstairs into one of the bars.
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Also, if you plan to hijack one of the girls for a raunchy rendevous, it’s advisable too to take good care of personal belongings once you’ve paid the ‘bar fine’. However, whatever your take is on the Go-Go Bar scene, there’s no denying that Patpong is still far safer than your average Western city centre. It’s very well policed – there’s a tourist police office at the end of the road, and CCTV cameras – and you’ll find entire families nonchalantly walking around during market hours.

Food, fun and games

For those not interested in the girly scene or shopping, Patpong is also not short on other pursuits. Aside from the shopping, there are a lot of quality bistros, such as the tiny French restaurant Le Bouchon and the incredibly good value Thai eatery Salasawan, both of which are on Soi 2. Mizu’s Kitchen on Soi 1, which a former Japanese soldier started in 1954, comes highly recommended for its steak.

For a quiet game of pool and a beer or two there’s the Red Parrot and the Vietnam war era bar, The Old Other Office. Finally, for audio stimulation there’s Soi 1’s Radio City (home to some great live music and Elvis impersonators), Lucifer’s and the stylish late-night dance bar Twilight, which is typically heaving come midnight. Whatever you’re into, Patpong is certainly worth a peek.

That’s all for now, until next time,Tuk-Tuk

Choak Dee Krab

Laew Phop Kan Mai Na Krab

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