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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review

Soi 22 - A Macro View

01 July 2005
William R. Morledge
DINO's ! -A Blast from the Past
Tina - A Solitary A-Go-Go
Deja Vu - Crackdown Continues
Rumor Of The Month
July's Follies in review


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         Sukhumvit Road's Soi 22 has only relatively recently been a source of expat Night Entertainment - and yet at different times has hosted as many as three separate Night Entertainment Areas within.   After the closing of Easy Square this year, the remaining two, Washington Square and Queen's Park Plaza continue to thrive among an ever-expanding Nightscene.

         During the era that saw Soi Cowboy come into being and to grow to critical mass, Soi 22 was a less-than-impressive roadway that passed through what was mostly swamp land.   That swampland was covered almost entirely with teetering clapboard slum dwellings built inches above it's black scummy waters.   These slum dwellings provided inexpensive rooms for the girls working in Soi Cowboy and in other bars, but the only expats attracted to Soi 22 at this juncture were coming to sleep over at their bar-girlfriends' rooms.   The only other excitement, if you could call it that, was having a bowl of noodles at the roadside.

A New Soi 22 Map
*Click* on Map to Enlarge

Also check out our
Soi 22 Area Locator Map .
*Click Here*

         But in 1985 the first bar opened in Washington Square, which was adjacent to Soi 22.   Less than a year later, Cowboy (the man) opened his second Cowboy bar there.   And there was no turning back - Washington Square, while not literally on Soi 22, was on it's way.   -And it was the catalyst - it wasn't too long before the 'overflow' of Night Entertainment Venues from Washington Square began to trickle out, both up and down the soi.   And as it worked out, the timing was perfect - the shanties were being torn down, area by area, and the swampland slowly filled in - providing more readily useable real estate.

      Titanium is one of the newer Night Clubs on Soi 22.   We did a double-take when we last visited - all the hostesses were wearing Vietnamese ao-dai - not unattractive, to say the least.

         Then in 1998, one year after the economic collapse, several ad-hoc bar beers popped up on a large plot of unused land on Soi 22 - not more than a hundred feet past the Washington Square exit.   Two years later, in the first year of the new Millennium, that land was leased long-term and permanent structures were built for use as bar beers - the first time in Bangkok's history that permanent structures were designed and constructed expressly for use as bar beers.   It was soon to be named Queen's Park Plaza - Soi 22's second Night Entertainment Area.   

A steam job and blow bath by any other name smells just as, well, aromatic...

         Following on the coat-tails of Soi 22's mini building boom, Bangkok was hit with what can only be called "massage fever" - it seems that every unrented shop was being converted into a "traditional Thai" massage parlor.   And Soi 22 had, as it works out, several shophouses suited for massage parlors - the process of conversion proceeding to this day.   However, as the number of massage parlors kept increasing, the competition increased proportionally.   Many of these traditional Thai massage parlors were also providing 'oil massage' and other 'special' massages, which included sexual services.   A steam job and blow bath by any other name smells just as, well, aromatic...

...if you weren't an A-Go-Go bar you had to have a pool table.

         The only other item of 'personal consumption' to impact on the Soi 22 Nightscene with greater force than aromatic oils and muscle balms, was the pool table.   So rapid was their influx and incorporation into Night Entertainment Venue standard furnishings that the term "Pool Bar" came into almost immediate use as a Night Venue descriptor.   It was almost as if you weren't an A-Go-Go bar you had to have a pool table.   And once again, Soi 22's real estate lent itself to such 'embellishment' - many of it's Nitespots incorporating at least one pool table.

         Tina, Soi 22's only A-Go-Go, is tucked away in a small cul-de-sac - raising no eyebrows.   It's owner has watched 'em come and watched 'em go - his first A-Go-Go's being the Rosemarys on Soi 16.   He was one of three A-Go-Go bar owners who pioneered Nana Plaza, later selling out and opening Toy Bar on Soi Cowboy.   He moved to Soi 22 when he sold Toy several years ago.

         So, less than twenty years after the first bar opened in Washington Square, Soi 22 has become a center of quieter, low-key Night Entertainment, eschewing (with one exception) A-Go-Go bars, show bars and live music extravaganza bars.   And it continues to grow in spite of the inclement Night Scene climate created by the Benevolent Autocracy...   Hopefully the weather will clear shortly.

Time Capsule
The Soi 29 Strip

      Our appeals for old Night Entertainment Venue photos occasionally pay off, and the payoffs are always pure 'gold'.   Such was the case when a regular reader located some old photographs of Dino's.   Residents and long-time returnees to the Kingdom will remember Dino's as one of the bright spots in the Night Entertainment Scene - we at MIDNITE HOUR being among them.

      In our enthusiasm we (along with Josh and Andy one night out in front of the Silver Dollar) recreated the Soi 29 Strip found in the map below - each of us remembering a different bar - each recalling our own revelries in that bar after being reminded.

The SOI 29 Bars
(A 29-Year-Old Map)

         But of the four bars, Dino's was the one that most people from that era remember (the others being the Papillon, the Hawaii, and the Dirty Old Man Club).   When we at MIDNITE HOUR first frequented Dino's in 1975, we had no idea it was already a mollusk of the Night Entertainment Scene, dating back at least to the early 1960's.   But it in fact did make the transition from the pre-R&R era into the 1970's, becoming one of Bangkok's most popular A-Go-Go bars / Show Bars in the process.

          Not to be confused with Dino's in Pattaya (which was Pattaya's first ever A-Go-Go) Bangkok's Dino's was home to Khun Mukda.   There is no question that Mukda was a mama-san's mama-san, and by the mid 1970's, she had trained her A-Go-Go girls to really dance, often dancing in synchronized steps, often performing artful strip-tease or candle dances.   Up-country shufflers either got with the program, or were sent packing.   Mukda was the mother of the "Shake It - Don't Break It" school of A-Go-Go dancing.   So popular were her shows that expats employed in the Kingdom at the time would visit Dino's surreptitiously during the working day, usually stretching a lunch break to two or three hours - or so we, ahennnh, are led to believe from third party reports...

         Among Mukda's other talents was her insistence that girls accompanying men out of the bar practice on peeled bananas - any teeth-marks, and the girl would have to practice again on a new banana - but perhaps that is enough about Mukda for now...other than to say she eventually moved on to Soi Cowboy and, regrettably, passed on a few years after that.

         A great shot of the old Dino's juke box.   It would be equally interesting to see the selection of music they had in 1963 & 1964...

          Although (at least at this juncture) we don't have an exact closing date for Dino's, we believe it finally folded in the early 1980's, leaving only the Dirty Old Man Club, next door, to carry on.   (Note: both Dino's and the Dirty Old Man Club were owned by the same people, and there was actually a 'back way' to get from one to the other.   The Dirty Old Man Club was also a restaurant, so snacks and bar lunches could be ordered at Dino's.)   In it's later years, as the center of expat nighttime activities shifted north to Soi Cowboy and then to Nana Plaza, the Dino's became a hangout for local louts and mangdas, further driving away any paying customers.   It's demise at that point was inevitable.

         Nevertheless, Dino's and the Soi 29 Strip were an historically significant highlight of the Night Entertainment Scene for almost twenty years, and have more than 'earned their notch' in the Bangkok Night Scene archives.

? Old

Any old PHOTOS of
Bangkok's Nightlife ?

Please CLICK HERE and send to us for publication.   

Many Thanks,
William R Morledge

Rumor Of The Month
JULY 2005

" Where there's   "

      "Rumor" is defined as "no-fault confabulation, chain-reaction speculation...."    Nevertheless M IDNITE HOUR again presents the most outrageous / prevalent rumor to cross our desks this past month:

"The area where the 13 Night Market stood, and where the original Thermae Coffee Shop stood before that, will be opened back up for a new bar beer area in the near future.   Proof of this is that the hotel abuilding next door has not yet absorbed it - as was originally intended."

MIDNITE HOUR includes as part of our Rumor Of The Month an ongoing evaluation as to the accuracy of said rumors since the inception of the award.

Due to the March 2005 Rumor having come true, as of 01 APRIL 2005, the Rumor Accuracy Quotient is now at -
   Note: This variance from "0%" is due to ONE and only ONE rumor to ever have come true.

See our Archived Rumors at their worst : click HERE.

July's Follies
begin here

      MIDNITE HOUR presents the NEWS on the Bangkok Night Scene; - the 'history-in-the-making' for all major Night Entertainment Areas  - for the month ending  1 July, 2005 :

            Funky Dojo (where do they come up with these names?) is the newest addition to the Twilo complex abuilding between the Patpongs these many months.   We don't know whether to call Funky Dojo a Patpong I bar or a Patpong II bar, in that it sits half way between the two on Soi SuperStar.   If you are in the mood for something a little less raucous than the live band at the Twilo Live, this might be the place.   
         If you look carefully, you can just make out the name of the bar on this sign.   Also check out the fantastical laser stars dancing on the sidewalks.

            Popping back out of their crypt yet again, the Pussy Collection has thrown open it's doors and tossed the welcome mat back out on the sidewalk.   We never found out why they closed, but in that it was for exactly 30 days, might it have been a wrist-slap by the powers-that-be?   What matters is they are back full-tilt.   Welcome them back to the wargames.

             What we thought was another lounge bar abuilding at the Patpong II end of the Twilo complex was in fact a restaurant.   The Sala Sawan Thai Restaurant, already open, is putting the finishing touches on the interior and exterior decorations.   Below, the awning is being prepared for hoisting into place above the windows.   Although not a Night Entertainment Venue, per se, we nevertheless welcome them to these neon sois.

             Officially MIA this month is the Side Walk Cafe Bar.   -And they wasted no time in gutting the interior - we suspect renovations for it's turtle are about to commence.   The solid Rock & Roll music that emanated from within the Side Walk Cafe Bar will be missed - even by those who only occasionally walked past.    They took over from the Blue Sky Bar last July - almost exactly a year ago today.   Ashes to ashes - so be it, then... PATPONG I I

            The Rainbow Bar (Rainbow I) completed renovations and reopened -as promised on 3 June- amid fanfare and party balloons.   Despite the new Rainbow 4 (upstairs) supposedly being the Rainbow Group's flagship, the newly refurbished original seems to be doing a land office business - just as before.   Welcome back to the piranha pool.     NANA PLAZA
                  Their collective modestys having been outraged yet again, Bankok's Men In Too-Tight Uniforms swooped down on the Deja Vu this last June.   Open less than a month, Deja Vu has been summarily accused, tried and tied to the whipping post for showing several shades of pink more than the law will allow.
         The consensus among those on the ground in Soi Cowboy is that Deja Vu's one-month spell in the Penalty Box has less to do with any real infraction than it does with showing the new owners who is boss.   Great shades of Electric Blue all over again...!   (All things considered, Deja Vu's minimalist chrome-pole 'showings' pale in comparison with one of their sister-bars on this very Soi.)   Shake it, don't break it, gang - you should know better than most that the only way these oatmeal-brained apparatchiks can demonstrate their dedication to the cause (of legislating virtue) is by making regular high-profile examples of whomever.    SOI COWBOY

            Up on the second floor of the Peep Inn complex a new Night Entertainment Venue has opened it's doors in a most inscrutable fashion - their neon is only in Japanese - no Thai, no English.   'Orientation; Oriental' in this case sounds a little redundant.   We will be keeping an eyeball pealed, and if they further identify themselves to the outside world, we will advise.   Welcome to the trail of tears.

            Last month the Patou Massage was rushing to open before 1 June, and just barely missed by a couple of days.   They have now opened with a vengeance, their neon appealing to the English speaking and the Japanese for business.   Ostensibly, they are a traditional Thai massage, however they are as ambiguous as their neighbors on either side.   Welcome to the briar patch.

            Papa's, which has been closed since last November, has given up the dream.   For the last eight months, they have been putting out bigger and bigger "Under Renovation" signs, fooling no one but themselves.   The Christie's Club Group now officially drops back to four bars on Soi 33: - in addition to Christie's, there is the Napoleon, the Santana and the Brick: - a source within says the real problem is they just plainly couldn't recruit enough hostesses to make a go of it.   -Another way of saying too many clubs is a conflict of interest.   We wouldn't be surprised if they were looking for a buyer right about now...

            Struggling to keep up with the competition these last couple of years, the Cool Spot Pub has finally found a way out from under it all - they have sold out lock, stock and chrome barstool to the Bar Bar.   The Cool Spot Pub was one of the early bars to start up on Soi Katoey - we hope they find things more to their liking a little further on down the road a piece.   Meanwhile Bar Bar's hammers and saws are flying - it looks like they will be open sometime in the early days of July.   SOIKATOEY
         Our night lens captures an advance shot of the Bar Bar neon, which has been installed but not yet turned on.

            Only last month MIDNITE HOUR recommended that Christina Bar repair their sign so that passers-by would at least know the place was open.   Too late now; their next-door neighbors, Players have done it for them.   This June Players took up the option, and a name change was in the offing.   Now called the Butterfly Bar, there is absolutely no question that they are open for business.   Let's hope Fate deals them all aces and faces.

Door Art Of The Month

         MIDNITE HOUR's nod for best Door Art Of The Month goes to the Queen's Park Plaza's recent addition, Flaming Moe's.   The sign captures all the humor of The Simpsons' tormented character - and then some.

            Their neon on the blink for the last six months, Diva's has finally called the electrician over to get it fixed.   It may be our imagination, but they do seem marginally busier for it.   Keep on keeping on.

            Gone, but not gone, the on-again, off-again Crystal Bar has performed it's umpteenth Houdini-like resurrection, throwing the doors open and welcoming all back to the trough.   We wish them constancy.

            A new marquee was put up in front of Sukhumvit 1 Plaza primarily to bolster the number of visitors to the Night Entertainment Area - but also because, heretofore, only Morning Night II was represented to the outside world, causing a minor amount of angst amongst the other Nitespot owners.   A good idea, perhaps, but we should remember that it does not behoove a Night Entertainment Area to be too 'shiny' in these neo-Victorian times - especially a Night Entertainment Area that faces onto Sukhumvit Road...   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

            Up on the second floor, the Isaan 40 Degree Bar has only last week put the welcome mat out and spread the coasters out on the wet bar.   While we have heard more inviting names for a bar, this particular bar beer seems have the right attitude - a bar being run with all the enthusiasm of someone who has never owned a bar before.   Let the nightgames begin...   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

            Also on the second floor, the Junk Bar has popped back up out of it's casket (after having been closed briefly last month) - and has hit the deck running.   Good to see them back in the fracas.   Let the good times roll.   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

            The owner of the Night Night Joop Joop was kind enough to advise MIDNITE HOUR early last month that they would be subdividing; - one half to remain the Night Night Joop Joop and the other half would become a Sports Bar (name still under consideration at that time).   They have in fact completed the partition, however both are still using the original Joop Joop name.   With the Benevolent Autocracy's pinch-brained Sign Gestapos lurking in our midst, it is certainly wiser to proceed slowly - and put any new neon shingle up only after it becomes official...   Let the band play on.   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

            When the second storey bar first opened back in March of this year, we interviewed the new manager, and we swear we heard him say that the name of their new bar beer was "Smile".   Now that they have the neon nailed up, front and center, we read, Happy Bar.   We've scheduled an appointment with the ear doctor - what?...what was that?   Let the beat roll on.   SUKHUMVIT1PLAZA

            Tobacco Road (Soi Zero) continues to underwhelm.   As mentioned in earlier issues, when a prospective expat customer has to wade through a series of soup stalls, push-cart bars and locals drunk on Mehkong and Singh and lao khao, he is going to think twice...   Obviously, no one else sees it this way - and MIDNITE HOUR can only surmise that it is just a matter of time before Tobacco Road dwindles and winks out...

             My Typewriter Made Me Do It Department.   In MIDNITE HOUR's June edition, we co-listed Night Flight and Dreams as Soi Eden's Seminal Bars.   In fact, the sequence of bar openings (the prototypical bars) was as follows:
** Boo-Sa-Bar opened its doors on 11 July 2003,
** Night Flight a week later.
** Dreams opened on 31 July 2003. (Note : Dreams has
          since become the Down Under.)
This being the case, the nod to Seminal Bar goes to the Boo Sa Bar.
(Many thanks to Andrew and Srim for their historical updates.)
The Seminal Bar.   The Boo-Sa-Bar was the prototypical bar on Soi Eden - they 'set the stage' for what was to follow.

            The impressively lit Champagne Room is now popping corks for the bubbly set.   It is located just around the corner from Soi 4 - Nana Tai next to Bully's.   That area has not been popular in the past; in part due to location, location, location - maybe they should call in the mor feng shui and get him to rattle some runes...   We wish them luck as they leap into the maelstrom.

            Shortly after 'Case' moved over from Clinton Plaza and opened his Bush Garden, we spoke of his plans to open the upstairs as a large Pool Bar.   He departed shortly thereafter to Phu Khet and his dream was never realized.   However the seed was planted; this last week, M's Bar opened in grand style - it has a row of cat-bird seats overlooking Sukhumvit and the traffic in & out of the Thermae.    Other than the music being too loud - and too techno - all systems "go".   Prices for beverages are in line with the Thermae's.   Welcome them to the rough-and-tumble.

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                   William R. Morledge


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