Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
Bangkok's Nightscene Websites
FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY
Black Anniversary - Soi 10 !
Long Barfines - Q & A
A Thai Smile......
February's Nightlife Newsfront
Graffiti -Bangkok's Art Vandals #18
In the beginning....there was only the Night Owl, Bernard Trink, who by his own account, began his newspaper Nightscene column in 1966. It was perhaps only coincidence that Bangkok's Nightlife websites started popping up as the Night Owl started fading - from lack of support from the very newspaper that hired him. (But cause-and-effect aside, pop up they did.) After an unprecedented, and probably never-to-be-equaled run of nearly 39 years, Trink was put out to pasture, at least as far as coverage of Bangkok's Nightlife was concerned (see our Feb 2004 story here <link> ).
At first Bangkok's Nightscene websites were little more than Forums and web boards, but eventually they were becoming more and more dedicated - dedicated to an all-around coverage of the Night Entertainment Scene. (We won't go into an history of Bangkok's websites by name, as it is not relevant at this juncture. Suffice it to say, however, that all of Bangkok's Nightscene websites owe a greater or lesser debt of gratitude to the Night Owl.)
The Internet, born of this generation, is often referred to as the Virtual Revolutionary Front. It has allowed a billion people to express themselves and to access, almost without restriction, without censorship, anything their variegated hearts desire. However, it was soon realized that too much freedom of expression was not necessarily a good thing. The rise of pornography within the reach of young children, pedophilic websites -and the like- started a backlash of censorship to restrict or ban such fringe-type 'personal expression'.
And while virtually all countries now have some restrictions on Internet access, it almost goes without saying that there are certain nations that have gone overboard in the restricting of personal expression, such as China, Vietnam, Thailand and most of the Middle Eastern countries. Nevertheless, by and large, there has been an explosion of expression, an explosion of access, never before realized on this planet. And as a result - and as might be expected- the Internet has seen the gamut of the intellectual spectrum, the gamut of political views, the gamut of useful and useless information, the gamut of genius and stupidity.
But this is what it's all about : up to and including all the genius and all the stupidity. We as website users have an exponentially greater ability to access the growing spectrum of "the world out there". We have that right. And we also have a responsibility - to ourselves - to be critical, judgmental and selective of what we view. In other words, if we don't like it, we can surf elsewhere. The 'freedom to' and the 'freedom from' is right there in our mouse finger.
This is not the first shock wave of the Information Revolution, but it is unquestionably the greatest. And concomitant with the exponential catapulting of 'access' is the exponential expansion of 'freedom of expression' - in spite of the above mentioned backlash. And yet, in this Global Village of which we are all an inextricable part, there are still many who haven't stepped aboard the train - many who just don't get it - many who, for whatever reason, are destined to perpetually tilt the windmill of progress. If you are not a Nightlife website creator you would likely not believe the absolutely ridiculous and sometimes humorous demands the Luddites out there insist you and your website adopt.
And, as Bangkok is perhaps the center of Night Entertainment activity in the world today, Bangkok's websites remain a prime target for these haranguing Luddite guardians of respectability. To say the same thing another way, the world's e-whingers consider Bangkok websites to be their own personal doormat. And while they are welcome to their opinions, these myopic and tunnel-visioned views of the outside world are contra to the entire movement towards greater freedom of access and greater freedom of expression.
Having communicated with a good number of other Bangkok Nightlife websites, we are more than ever convinced it needs be said (in fact it is way overdue) - Bangkok Nightlife websites are not the Bangkok Post, they are not Public Radio, they are not The Nation newspaper. They do not have to maintain a "family newspaper" look and feel, they do not have to remain "politically correct" and they do not exist to please everyone, or even a greater percentage of everyone. We won't attempt to speak in detail about other Bangkok Nightlife websites, but we can say that this is particularly true for Bangkok Eyes. If the pockets of self-anointed lifestyle priests out there feel the need to vent their negative thoughts and feel the need to force their twisted and myopic agenda upon us, we hope it gives them immense release, however they should understand that they will be ignored by us, just as time itself continues to pass them by. (A caveat to this : occasionally a real wingnut will write in, and in such a case, we reserve the right to post that missive on our website and to exploit it's humor content in any way we see fit.)
A few days ago we saw the passing of the fourth anniversary of Bangkok Night Entertainment's blackest day. In a surprise predawn raid on 26 January 2003, approximately 400 men in "military style" uniforms conducted a coordinated swoop on the Sukhumvit Square entertainment complex located on Soi 10 Sukhumvit Road. Truckloads of men and heavy construction equipment were off-loaded shortly after 04:00 hours. They immediately cleared the Night Entertainment Area and adjacent public sidewalks of hired security and other personnel before commencing with the premeditated and willful destruction and /or removal of all structures, properties and personal effects within.
It was never any secret : Khun Chuwit Kamolwisit, the owner of the land on which Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area was built, contrived through his Mafia connections and shadow companies (Nickel, Sukhumvit Stars) to send in marauding paramilitary types to destroy every structure on the compound (approx. 150 tourist-oriented businesses). Sixty of these structures were Pool Bars, A-Go-Go Bars, bar beers, lounges and specialty bars that comprised the Night Entertainment Area.
This lightning strike, abetted by traffic police units, commenced at 4:00 a.m. and was completed before dawn. A major ancillary component of the blitzkrieg operation was the convoy of heavy construction equipment, materials, welding sets, generators and lighting tower sets as well as hundreds of massive concrete and steel sections of 'gulag wall', which were escorted through the streets of Bangkok while other National Police units looked the other way. Immediately subsequent to that, half of Sukhumvit Road was cordoned off of for three hours by yet another group of Police, while the destruction was in progress.
The public were outraged, and the Press kept the story on the front page for weeks. The world-wide coverage gave Thailand a black eye vis-a-vis international investment and tourism : many potential tourists becoming apprehensive about travel to this 'lawless Thailand'. It had once again become painfully clear that the Rule Of Man had trumped Rule of Law, and that money, influence, patronage and corruption were the real motive forces in the land. "Rule-Of-Law" was but a proper-looking facade for the outside world to see if they cared to look deeper, to look behind the tourism and the smiles.
The then Prime Minister Thaksin swore justice would be served; that no Mafia would operate on his watch, and that heads would roll. It was his first major political blunder - even he, an ex-Cop was unable to penetrate the closed societies of Thailand's Institutional Mafias. And although never spoken aloud, we knew at that juncture that Thaksin was no more than just one more in a long string of manipulative power brokers to sit in that particular chair.
Out of embarrassment, more than anything else, the Government felt compelled to conduct a show trial, and a little more than two years later, the courts found Chuwit, his puppet companies and key military figures to be innocent due to lack of evidence. ("Lack of evidence" is, in the vernacular : "wealthy and influential intervention".) The more than one hundred shop owners were never compensated for their losses (although at one stage, one of Chuwit's puppet companies offered them from between 5 cents to 10 cents on the dollar, most of the owners felt this only added insult to injury, and told them where they could stick it).
The Sukhumvit Square Incident is but one of many travesties and miscarriages of justice, many of which have befallen Farang businessmen over the decades. Nevertheless, for the most part it has, in these last four years already faded from the collective conscience. Rest assured, however, that there are those who remember.... And maybe if enough people remember, and enough people are willing to speak out, and if enough people make up their minds to do something about it, and if...
The Royal Salute Cocktail Lounge was one of the 'pioneers' of The Ramp above Patpong II, making it's debut some twenty, or so, years ago. In spite of what their sign taped to the front door says (below), we have it on good authority they have given up the ghost. We are sorry to see them go under, but the Darwinian Imperative plays no favorites.
THERMAE / THERMAE ANNEX
A gaggle of Farang playing "Survivor" in front of the deep-fried insect seller's cart. The grasshoppers went down quite well, but those little black ones looked waaay too evil....
Of course, anyone who has been in Thailand more than two weeks will remember this traditional folk-dance classic. Nevertheless, while it is on the tip of our tongues, we just can't seem to place it.... Driven by throbbing guitars, he was dancing up, and acting up, a one-man gig that wouldn't quit the other night out in front of the Alibi bar beer.
See? It says so right there on the banner. The Lollipop will be celebrating their 10th anniversary tonight. ...Not. The Lollipop has been pumping for way longer than that, gang. Hint : you would have been a little closer to the mark if you had said fifteen years, thereabouts.... Who is doing your books? But don't let that stop you, rock 'n roll is the name of the game.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Chi Haru Karaoke Club is no more, having caved in this last month - and immediately selling out to the La Vogue Club. The La Vogue wasted no time rolling out the red carpet and unlocking the liquor cabinet - their soft opening only about two weeks ago. Too soon to have their new neon nailed up, but we did score a business card (below). Welcome them to the nightgames.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS
The Arsom Sabai Thai Traditional Massage is giving it another shot. We noted in last month's issue that they wouldn't be answering the bell for the next round.... It seems, however, that they weren't really dead, just playing 'possum. They are located down at the far end, back in Sub-Soi 5.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS
The street between The Balcony and the Telephone Pub, Lounge & Restaurant has effectively been arboured with light strands. An unusual, colorful and, we are willing to bet, a soon-to-be copied idea.
We knew the Kangaroo Bar bar beer had been sold, but we weren't expecting a name change... The new owner has settled on The Belgian Dog Bar. He is currently in a running gun battle with the Sign Gestapos, who won't let him have an illuminated sign, and come to think of it they won't let him have a neon sign, and they won't.... well, you get the idea. He says it's only a matter of time before he gets approval (that is, if you consider the old adage, 'time is money').
It was as we suspected; the Top Secret was closed last month for a few days on New Year's. It was not out for the count. The rock still rocks; the roll still rolls....
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
What long ago was The Sport Bar in the now defunct 13 Night Market (Thermae Annex area) became the Sports Bar 2 when it pioneered it's way into the history books as the first bar to open in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza. Last year, it changed it's name to Beaver's, only to change back to just plain old Sports Bar again last month. Same friendly Poolbar. Roll with the tide, you gotta roll with the tide.
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
The Sexy Bar Poolbar has been embellishing it's neon as well. Looks much better, no?
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
As the air conditioned Only She Bar was swallowed up by Fate's dark waters, so floated to the surface the bright new Angel Bar. (No relation to either of Soi 22's long-standing Angel Bar bar beers.) Poolbar remains the modus operandi. Welcome them to Bangkok's neon circus.
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
Last month we had planned to do a "thumbnail" on Suzie, the bar owner / mamasan extraordinaire, and include some of her New Year's Eve party photos. Well, the road to Hell (and anonymity) is paved with good intentions - we dropped the ball. Suzie is probably one of the last of the old-time mamasans (although she owns her own bars). She knows how to handle the new girls, she knows how to handle the shrewd old crones that would like to keep their hand in it. She knows how to deal with the few katoeys and transgenderites that work for her. She knows how to keep one half of one eye on the cash register. She knows how to wrangle the customers, be they first-timers, or old-timer sugar daddys. She knows how to deal with Farang who would be 'partners' with her in the bar owners' merry-go-round. More importantly, she knows how to deal with landlords and the Men In Too-Tight Uniforms. And lastly, she continues to shake it, not break it (she would have done Mukda proud). Hats off to Suzie, one of a unique breed.
SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
The old (closed) Bar Lover Shot Bar would like to reopen in the worst way - as the X-Love A-Go-Go-Boys, however, as their sign reads, 'anyone interested in partnering, enquire within'. It may, or may not, be opening soon - we'll believe it when we see the whites of their eyes.
(No News !)
--- Datzit Fernow
William R. Morledge