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Bangkok's Night Scene In Review

Soi Eden goes A Go-Go

01 December 2006
William R. Morledge
Soi Katoey Dying ? !
Novemberfest Reincarnate!
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December's Nightlife Newsfront
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         Our first survey of Soi Eden was in November of 2003, when we heard that there was some new nightlife activity there other than the Eden Massage.   While we found a few other venues (Dreams,    Boo Sa Bar,   Night Flight, and Bill Healthy Massage), the Soi was far from becoming a Night Entertainment Area.
A view of Soi Eden taken from the rear of the Soi looking toward Sukhumvit Road.
- File Photo

         We ignored Soi Eden for almost a full year, until one evening we saw a technicolor explosion from the Absolute 7 which had just opened up near the top of the Soi.   This tweaked our interest as, at about that same time, we heard that several bars from the doomed Asoke Plaza Night Entertainment Area and the 13 Night Market Night Entertainment Area were shopping around in the Soi for real estate to move to. A quick exploratory walk confirmed that there were in fact more new bars opening on the Soi.
After months of "under construction", Magic Table finally switched on the "open" sign on 15 November 2006 - raising a few eyebrows in the process : A Go-Go had arrived in Soi Eden.

         To make a long story short, several of the bars from the dying Night Entertainment Areas, and a few new ones did find additional real estate in Soi Eden, and in April 2005 Soi Eden crashed through the barrier - Critical Mass had been achieved - it could call itself a stand-alone 'Night Entertainment Area' at last.
Their sister Nitespot, The Ring Fashion Massage was temporarily running under the moniker The Ring Bar until they could get the Magic Table up and running (they are adjoining venues).
- File photo

         The format of the bars in the Soi at that time was indoor/ outdoor bar beer & Pool Bar; indeed the seminal bars (Dreams -soon to become Blue Star- and Night Flight) were this format.

         Some may remember that this was at the height of the former Benevolent Autocrat's Purachaian crackdown on Nightlife in general.   At that time, the Powers-That-Be were threatening close-down of various and sundry Night Entertainment Areas which were outside their arbitrary (and highly political) Night Entertainment Zones.

         As far as Soi Eden was concerned, most people thought investment in bars on this Soi was suicidal - in that it was outside the 'Zones', and in that Bangkok's Finest were making the rounds in this fair city raiding, urine testing, and closing down bars with reckless abandon.   At that juncture, the thought of having an A Go-Go bar open on that Soi was, well, unthinkable.

         But that was then, this is now.   The pendulum has swung (and is still in motion, by the way), and the Benevolent Autocrat is in hiding in a foreign country as we speak.   And, as the entrepreneurial imperative dictates, bars are once again pushing the envelope with regard to what kind of entertainment they can offer, and where.

         So the opening of Soi Eden's first A Go-Go bar, Magic Table, comes as more of a surprise to the long-term residents than it will to the newly arrived - three years ago, it would have been unimaginable.    While it should be said there are a couple of the larger Nightspots on the Soi that have had, or now have the occasional upstairs A Go-Go show, we note that A Go-Go is not a part of their daily regimen, not something one can walk in off the street and view.

         The sign for the Magic Table had been up for some time prior to last month's opening, and we were naturally curious as to why they would have picked such a name for a Night Entertainment Venue.   However, after opening this last November, we can wonder no more.   The A Go-Go girls wear halter tops and micro-mini skirts.   They dance on mirrored tables above seating that is recessed into the floor.   This is a variation of the peek-a-boo mirrors long in use in various configurations in Bangkok and Pattaya.   The absence of chrome poles is compensated for by rows of rings on the low ceiling that may be grabbed for stability.   Drink prices are reasonable.

         We wish the Magic Table well in their ground-breaking endeavor; may the pendulum always swing in their direction.


Soi 22 Reprise

            Last month, no sooner had our lead story - 'Soi 22's Other Bars' - hit the www, than we started receiving emails noting that we had erred. This month, we make amends.
         Last month we noted that the Aloha Bar was a Japanese bar. -Nope, it is often frequented by farang who obviously know the area better than we do - although Japanese would be most welcome.   We thank the kind owner and staff for brightening up this newer photo.

         We admit we were caught off guard by this one.   Traveller's Corner looks for all the world like a travel agency.   That's because it is - by day.   But when the sun goes down, the bar takes over the proceedings, and 'lounge ' becomes the operative descriptor.


Novemberfest Revisited

         Every year, early in November, when the Northeast Monsoon brings the cool, dryer air to town, Bangkok's Beergarden Mania begins all over again.   Although these beergardens, with their large and ornate pavilions, are somewhat removed from their German progenitors of the 1970's the object is still the same - food, beer, friends - and as a meeting place for new acquaintances.   Follows is a brief pictorial of Bangkok's largest such celebration at the Central World compound (previously the World Trade Center).
The Singha pavilion is overseen by the giant Singh lion.   If Thailand has a beer icon, this lion would be it.

Live music is de rigueur at these beergarden oases, and the Singha pavilion is no different.   Note the elevated area for musicians in the foreground.   Also, check out the ever-more popular beer "tanks" at the near table.

The Kloster pavilion, not to be outdone, has gone to some effort to please the crowds with colorful stage lighting.

Chang beer had their usual bevy of PR girls to welcome you into the pavilion.

Door Art Of The Month

     This month's Door Art Award goes to Chang Pavilion for their impressive frontage and projected emblem in the background.


Here is another look at the Chang pavilion entranceway, where the camera caught the reflection off the polished marble surface.

Tiger beer had the smallest outlet - it was done up as a Sports Bar.   While the lighting was interesting, it didn't follow the tried and true formula - and was not as popular as the other oases.

Soi Katoey Withering

            Over the last year Soi Katoey has been slowly - almost imperceptibly - downsizing.   It started around last New Year's with the portentous closing of the XcentriX and the Bangkok Home Pub.   And as the year wore on the Soi continued to shed Night Entertainment Venues.

These file photos show Soi Katoey in it's heyday.   Virtually every bar had tables out on the sidewalks, lining the streets.

         Since then, the Soi also has lost Speed, the Roxy, the Pharaoh's Music Bar Karaoke and just recently the Po' Boy Cafe/ Pool Boyz Club.   And the future does not look bright ahead.
         Traditionally, at the end of the year when the cool weather hits Bangkok, there is an influx of tourists - accompanied by several bar renovations and the opening of new bars.   But in the case of Soi Katoey, not one of these closed bars has been picked up by new owners.
         As it stands now, the remaining Night Entertainment Venue headcount remains at nine : the Tapas Room Club, the Massage Sho, the Telephone Pub, Lounge & Restaurant, the Cafe 4 Bangkok, and Bar-Bar on the left side as you walk in.   On the right is The Balcony, the Sphinx Restaurant & Pub and Noriega's.   -That's it.
         Soi Katoey in it's heyday used to run at 14 to 15 Night Entertainment Venues; where an even dozen is usually sufficient to maintain "Critical Mass".   We define 'Critical Mass' as that elusive (and admittedly entirely subjective) number of bars required to make a Night Entertainment Area self-sustaining - to become a 'destination' in it's own right.
         And although Noriega's, the Telephone Pub and The Balcony are still drawing respectable crowds, Soi Katoey has fallen significantly below that necessary Critical Mass.   And while we hope the Soi will be able to turn itself around, we see no indicators that this will happen.   MIDNITE HOUR will continue to report the news and changes in Soi Katoey for historical purposes.

 Historical Minutiae Dept.


The Galaxy


   What .... ever happened to that old 'no-hands' restaurant Galaxy?   I think it used to be on Rama 4 near Patpong back in 1976.....    


         This was an easy one - nothing happened to it.   It is alive and well, doing what it does best.

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    - In the LAND OF SMILES -

             This month the MIDNITE HOUR awards the "Thai Smile" to a young pool sharkess in the Sexy Bar in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza..

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    William R Morledge

       MIDNITE HOUR presents our monthly recap of the   
    NEWS on Bangkok's Expat Night Scene.   
    Let the  December 2006 Follies   begin...

      PATPONG  I  
                The Twilo Live is one of those Patpong bars that at first seemed like an anomaly.   The venue is open-fronted, with seating more or less outside-inside.   Nevertheless, like it's sister bars, Muzzik Cafe and Radio City, it seems to continue to draw the crowds.   Another common ingredient is the live music - which can vary from easy on the ear to some pretty harsh techno.   Keep on rollin'.

                Gone, but not gone, the hole-in-the-wall bar-with-no-name has rolled out its minuscule red carpet again - this time under new ownership and claiming a slightly larger piece of the sidewalk action (see our last month's issue).   Hardly large enough to come up on the radar, we should mention it nonetheless, if only for historical purposes.   Welcome them to the sharkpool.

                The Thaifood Restaurant & Pool Ball (2nd floor above King's Castle II) looks closed, but it is only changing out it's old neon for something a little more comprehensible.   Wishing them constancy.

      PATPONG  II  
                The Casanova (also sometimes called Casnova) has pulled the ironwork closed and padlocked it for the last time.   While, for the record, we refer to this type of bar as "pay-for-show", the more common term on the street is "rip-off bar".   No love lost - new visitors to Bangkok should always ask two questions of the touts who are attempting to hustle you inside : "Is there any cover charge?" and, "Is there a charge for the 'show'?"   If the answer is "Yes" to either, go somewhere else.   The general rule being: never listen to a tout .   (This venue, located on Soi Bookstore between Patpong I and Patpong II, was no relation to the transgenderite bar of the same name in Nana Plaza.)


    Getting Tanked

                      Note the increasing emergence of beer being offered in "tanks".   What with all the cracking-down on who can buy booze, and during what hours, and who may or may not advertise alcoholic beverages, this must have the local morality police seeing red - or at least amber....   The Bangkok Bar's new neon is much improved (over not having any at all).   Rock 'n roll, then....

      SOI  COWBOY  
                The Irish Pub wasn't dead, it was just playing 'possum - we are glad to announce.   -And they are welcoming all back to the trough.   Welcome them back to the neon jungle.


                The newly renovated Degas, under new ownership, has been threatening to open for almost a month, but now it looks like they are just days away from doing the deed.   As this photo was taken a couple of days ago, it may already be open....   At any rate, at some point this December , get ready to welcome them back to the vicissitudes.

                The ongoing renovations in the old Koi Gokoro digs (noted last month) kept right on going, consuming the next-door shophouse as well.   We have no idea what this ultra-trendy Nitespot will be, but we can tell you that it is so ultra-trendy it doesn't even have a front door.   We look forward to it's opening, if only to see what it will end up being.   Word on the Soi says it will put out the party balloons and roll out the red carpet 'round-about New Year's.

                As the Club A fell short of their promise to reopen in November (we mentioned we would give you a come-back on this one), we will be 'dropping them from the rolls' this month - the Darwinian Imperative plays no favorites.

                One of the most popular transgenderite revues, the Mambo Cabaret Show manages to pack in a dozen or so tour busses of Taiwanese, Chinese, and occasionally farang tourists not once, but twice a night.   After the show, they have a "meet the cast" get-together out front, where patrons take photos, get autographs (?) and, of course, give the performers tips (photo below).   While this may not be everyone's cup of tea, there is no denying that it is a part of the Night Entertainment Scene in Bangkok.

      SOI  KATOEY  
                Bobby's Arms Bobby has tried several formats for this venue, but the last two, the gay Pool Boyz Club and the Po' Boy Cafe just plain didn't work.   Fellow owners on the Soi have opined that he should have just left it as Bobby's Arms.   We passed by this weekend - only to find it swaddled in darkness.   Let's hope the next incarnation will be a winner for him.
    - File photo

                If 'B 52 Bar' sounds familiar to any of you, that's because it is.   Originally in the long-ago destroyed Asoke Plaza, it later moved over to Soi 22 - just across the street from the entrance to Washington Square.   It recently closed down at that location, only to pop up again here, inside the QPP in the old Tube Bar digs.   Welcome back to the briar patch.

                Khun Oraphin had been mooting a move with some old friends, also bar beer owners, for some time.   Word on the Soi was that she was planning to move to the Suwannaphum airport area.   Well, it finally happened - Oraphin bar beer has hustled it's last - she finally found a way out from under it all.   But there to step into the breach was the Away From Home, marching to the same Pool Bar beat.    We welcome them as they step into the line of fire.
    With their new neon nailed up along the footpath, the brand new Away From Home bar beer is hard to miss.   (The For You neon is also visible in the background.)

      SUKHUMVIT  1  PLAZA   
                The Honey Bar II (2nd floor) had barely rolled up it's welcome mat and gone South, than the Guess Bar ? nailed up their own neon and threw the front doors open again.   Format remains the same - Pool Bar .   Welcome to the big uphill.

                After months of rumors, the fat lady finally sang at the Revolution Salsa Bar.   Sources on the ground said they wanted to head Phuket-way.   Greener pastures.
    - File photo

      SOI  EDEN  
                Last month the original Blue Star had it's soft opening as Blue Lightning, however we were there a little too early to see the neon switched on.   This month they are up and running on all twelve cylinders - keep on keeping on.
    SOI  EDEN  (SOI  7/1)

                We were beginning to wonder if we would ever see the day - months in the building, they have finally completed Magic Table, and rolled out the red carpet.   But it was well worth the wait - a large and comfortable verandah out front, and inside a long bar and, as you may have read above, A Go-Go.   As mentioned in earlier write-ups, this is the "other half" of the next door The Ring Fashion Massage (same owners).   Let's welcome them as they wade into dark waters.
    SOI  EDEN  (SOI  7/1)

      SOI   TWILIGHT  
                The latest bar on the scene in the Soi is the X Size (2nd floor).   As advertised, it is an A Go-Go boy-bar, with two shows per night..   Welcome to the fray.

                The Bar Lover Shot Bar has closed down for the second time in 4 months.   Judging by the door touts' asking whether we were interested in buying, it sounds like this time around it is no 'renovation'.   RIP
    File photo

                Located on the corner of Suriwong Road and Rama IV Road, the Roadhouse BBQ is also a thriving pub bar.   A wide selection of imported beers and a good weekend crowd.   Also, if you're hungry, when you walk in, you came to the right place.

     NANA  PLAZA  

    (No News !)



    - And now to Bangkok's own brand of Graffiti....

    Graffiti #099
    Air Stairs 1
    (Dilapidated Building)

    Graffiti #100
    Air Stairs 2
    (Dilapidated Building)

    Graffiti #101
    4 ft. high x (running)

    Graffiti #102
    5 ft. high x 7 ft.

    Graffiti #103
    (Dilapidated building)

    Graffiti #104
    7 ft. high x 10 ft.

    Graffiti #105
    6 ft. high x 12 ft.

    Graffiti, graffiti , and more Graffiti - Bangkok's original and ONLY graffiti Site !

       The M IDNITE HOUR Graffiti Page is prepared by Staff Contributor "Boge" Hartman .

    (Boge's photo, above, is not a graffiti per-se, although there are those who have insinuated....)    

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                   William R. Morledge


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