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Bangkok Nightlife - Much More than Sleaze


Thais are some of the world's biggest party animals and Bangkok is their capital, so it is not surprising that it has a humming club scene. The carousing is not confined to weekends in the many clubs offering music for every taste and to clientele of every sexual orientation.

Rooftop bars are a speciality. Classy Vertigo & Moon Bar, an open-air rooftop lounge, offers breathtaking views of the river and the city skyline. Or you can quaff premium beverages in a romantic al fresco ambience at Hu'u, a club, bar and restaurant, whose kitchens won't disappoint even the most discerning of foodies. The music ranges from Jazz, acid jazz, lounge to tempo.

One of Bangkok's biggest and best clubs, 'Hollywood', is popular with slightly older Thais and with tourists of all ages. Western dance-music is alternated with Thai cabaret in a sensational feast for the eyes as well as ears. It can sometimes be disappointing when the management have been let down by acts and try to fob the audience off with dancing girls, which is not what the place is really about. You can almost imagine the pandemonium backstage: "what, the band haven't arrived yet, OK, get the girls back out on stage, this time tell them to get their tops off, maybe that will keep the punters happy". It doesn't.

Younger visitors are advised to laminate a copy of the picture page in their passports and take it on a night out clubbing, as Bangkok's bouncers may otherwise deny them admission: When I was asked for ID by the door-man I was at first rather flattered, as I'm 30 years over the minimum age limit. Then I wondered why he had done so. He was wearing glasses, but not the sort as thick as coke bottle bottoms, so presumably that wasn't the problem. The only obvious mental problem he was manifesting was a twitch and the club entrance was fairly well-lit. I was reasonably well-dressed and relatively sober, so why wouldn't he admit me? Eventually the club's manager explained to me that it wasn't that they doubted my age and that they didn't doubt I was old enough to be allowed in, it was that they thought I was too OLD to be admitted. I was speechless. Then, in typical Thai style, his face broke into a huge grin: "ha ha, just joking but I fooled you, ha ha, we only need ID to help police". He told me that I could come in provided I promised to write something nice about his club, which I refused to agree to do, but which I can in any case do.

The club is called 'Curve' and is better suited to the younger generation, as to most older clubbers the music will sound about as harmonious as finger-nails on a blackboard (this aversion on behalf of their elders being of course the reason that the kids love it so much). 'Curves' is packed with young Thais every night of the week, doing one of the things they are best at - partying to Thai music.

If the Beijing Olympics were to include a 'partying' competition, the Thais would win hands-down, especially if teams got negative points for undesirable behavior like drug abuse and violence, which are less prevalent on the Thai club scene than elsewhere in the world. Maybe the judges of this putative partying Olympic event could award extra points for friendly behaviour like sharing your bottle with all-comers, with special bonus points awarded for dancing in a sufficiently foolish fashion as to make everybody else think that they might as well join in, as they couldn't possibly dance any worse than you do. If such points were awarded, however, then there would no point in holding the competition at all, as Thailand would take the gold, silver and bronze medals every time.

One of the nicest things about Thai night-clubs is that they lack the undercurrent of mindless random violence present in many Western establishments, where for many men the second best choice for an evening's entertainment, if they can't attract a woman, is to get into a fight with a stranger who they don't like the look of.

Things are done differently in a Thai club, which the would-be clubber is advised to take note of. Firstly, don't march up to the bar and order a round of drinks. You should just wait until a waiter comes up to you and takes your order. He will then find you one of the least packed spots to stand and go off and get your drinks. When he returns he will bring a small waist-high drinks table along with your drinks. You never need to go to the bar:

Thailand taught me yet another lesson about patience when I went to a Bangkok club the other day. I was too impatient to hang about waiting to be served, so went to the bar and ordered a drink. After a while a waiter took my order and THB 1,000, then disappeared. For a long time. As my friends tucked into their drinks I became more and more impatient and went to complain. Just after I had got into my stride moaning, the waiter turned up with my drink and the change, making me feel so stupid that I wished the cracks between the floorboards would open up enough for me to be able to dive between them. He had been delayed by having to get change for my drink, which isn't something that customers normally get until the end of the evening. I had thought that I had already learned the lesson that patience is best in Thailand, but obviously I had not learned it well enough.

One thing we have to thank deposed Prime Minister Thaksin for is for insisting that all clubs close at the ridiculously early hour of 2 am. No doubt he thought he was doing all our livers a favour, as prior to that it had been hard to resist the temptation to stay up all night in this most unabashedly hedonistic of party cities. Insomniacs and die-hards can still, however, find a late drink by going to the seedy Nana Plaza, where old dears serve unlicensed beer to the lust-lorn and where you can enquire as to the location of the latest all-night bars.

Looking for Love

If you are looking for love then wear nice clothes and don't worry about over-dressing. Thais set great store by how well you dress. If you look presentable then your friends will call you 'law jang leu-ee' (handsome) even if you are suffering from a red-eyed hangover squared and the bags under your eyes are big enough to carry your shopping around in.

Much as we'd like to ignore it, something must be said about Bangkok's sex industry. It is thriving, fuelled mainly by older Western men but also by younger ones who would like to behave better but whose hormones, like immigration officers, block their roads to better places. Trainloads of factory-farmed girls are still 'harvested' from the fields of Isaan every spring (directly after school's-out) and are then sent to Patpong, Patong and Pattaya (the infamous three P's). It is hard to know what to make of the business.


On the one hand, many prostitutes undoubtedly do very well out of the job and drag their families out of poverty through it. On the other, successful prostitutes are the exception and many of the ones who succeed are so brutalized that they seem to lose sight of all morals: there are quite regularly cases in the press about prostitutes murdering their lovers to get their hands on their money.

Bangkok's main red-light districts are Patpong, Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza. Patpong and Nana Plaza are the busiest of the three places, whilst Soi Cowboy is the least pushy.

Our reporter came to these conclusions after extensive and arduous personal research - on the internet.


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