An aerial view of the Sukhumvit - AsokePDRC protest site. The PDRC protest stage can be seen at the right of the photo under the SkyTrain and the large Thai flag. As evening approached, protest supporters would arrive along Asoke Blvd, stretching to the left. Simultaneously, bar girls on their way to work - and their customers - would filter through the seated protesters on their way into Soi Cowboy Night Entertainment Area (left of the photo). The juxtaposition of widespread, often deadly civil disobedience and crowds out for a good time in the local bars, each oblivious to the other, was bizarre in the extreme.
We at the Midnight Hour have held back these last couple of months in an attempt to gain a sense of perspective and to fairly assess the effects of the anti-Thaksin protesters on the Nightlife Scene here in Bangkok. At this juncture, as it appears the protests are poised to contract - at least to some degree - we see this as an opportune time to summarize the effects of the current political upheaval on both the Night Entertainment Scene and how the politics of the day affects Bangkok's expat community.
Sustaining an ongoing social protest the magnitude of the current PDRC juggernaut requires massive funding. Just the expense involved in the 'audio-visual' aids alone is staggering. Not to mention the cost of keeping their own television station Blue Sky on the air.
As noted in the past, we remain reluctant to take up subject matter relating to politics unless there is a specific "Nightlife" component to unfolding events. We had suspected from the outset that the "mobs" could only be 'hurting business' in Bangkok's Night Entertainment Areas, therefore we have remained keen, if quiet observers.
What others have been saying
Below are three emails Midnight Hour republishes this issue relevant
to the effect of the current political crisis on Expat safety and the
effect on Bangkok's Night Entertainment Scene:
28 February 2014 I Can See Dead People
It is no longer a matter of conjecture whether the Barscene is being affected by the protests. In Patpong alone over the last two months, the Pussy Galore has closed, combining it's staff with sister bar Kiss. Camelot Castle is closed most of the time, while it's staff go to other King's Group bars on what is being called a "temporary basis". This month, the King's Castle II is closed - again indefinitely, while their Club Karaoke and King's Corner 2 A Go-Go on the connecting soi to Patpong II have closed.
Meanwhile, people at the protest sites continue to be killed with military weapons (available to anyone, by the way), and the officials claim they have no idea who did it. Yet again, Thais killing Thais - somehow a political squabble is more important than human life itself. I think we can, however, safely assume Kamnan Suthep's people aren't shooting and hand-grenading themselves - is it possible that the entire country suffers from Clark Kent Syndrome? (You know, when Clark Kent is wearing his glasses, no one can recognize him as Superman?) Come on, people, and that includes you at Bangkok Eyes, is the color of a shirt, in this case, black, your "Clark Kent Glasses"? Aren't you aiding and abetting the ongoing mayhem by your criminal negligence, your indifference?
22 January 2014 The Legless Emergency Decree
An Emergency Decree? What Emergency Decree? Nothing has changed. It would appear that earlier surmising could be correct - that Suthep Thaugsuban of the PDRC would attempt to escalate activities only to the minimum amount necessary (minimum bloodshed) to the point where the military steps in - which would be better than losing another election. Also, with so many areas not represented in any forthcoming election (unable to register due to protests), the loser of the election could fairly claim the election was not representative, not "democratic" - bringing the country back to square-one - nothing solved.
I went to the Suthep rally at Asoke-Sukhumvit the other night. His warm up acts included popular singers, etc. When he showed up, with a beaming Thai Smile, and all, the crowd was extremely enthusiastic, extremely supportive. He joked and laughed with the crowd, double entendres on everything from whistle-blowing to you-name-it - drawing repeated across-the-board laughter from the crowd. He then got political, to the deafening blast of thousands of whistles. He was obviously more than just popular with the masses - at least that night, that location. A much different feel to the "mobs" than at the Red Shirt rallies I attended 2 and 3 years ago, which had an abusive, belligerent, anti-monarchical edge to them - always a violent undercurrent.
It doesn't look like Suthep and Co. is a force that will just go away - not by a long shot. He knows how to work the crowd - I was reminded, for some reason, of the hysteria generated by Hitler's speeches to the multitudes we used to see on old newsreels, etc. People seem uninterested, uncaring about his borderline personal history - he is currently viewed in 'celebrity status'. His 'Thaksin Regime' theme/ thrust is, accidentally or on purpose, a powerful uniting tool - the words 'Regime' and 'Reign' in Thai (depending on which full definition of 'Regime' you use), have some commonality - and there is apparently a strong connotative meaning and effect to many.
27 December 2013 I Love The Smell of Tear Gas In The Morning
Stuck in Din Daeng with the Pratuang Blues Again....
The sporadic crack of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets being fired into the crowds - some of it sounding too much like gunfire.... The sound echoing off the government buildings and flats and crackling through neighborhoods adjacent to the Thai- Japanese Sports Complex.
Likewise, the tear gas itself, visibly undetectable in today's hazy weather, spreads slowly ever outward on the mild breeze. The bull horns and larger, more professional sound systems blaring the incessant railings of the "Anti-Thaksin Dynasty" mob, as they continue to attempt to dissuade candidates from registering for the upcoming, proposed, election.
The helicopters circling slow and low over head, every so often dropping 'behind police lines' into the sports compound itself to extract the wounded, and presumably on to a nearby medical facility. The sirens and bleatings of the occasional passing emergency vehicle adding to the drama.
A report, a rumor, a buzzing of one dead. If true, the line has been crossed - no longer "civil disobedience", now having become murder and incipient anarchy.
Non essential persons from the next door Thai Ministry of Labor making their way outward and onward. Distraught Moms and drivers lining up in front of the nearby Piboon Prachasan School to whisk their teary eyed, frightened children homeward and out of the way of the increasing tear gas incursion.
Meanwhile, 3 blocks away in any direction Thai life goes on uninterrupted, unperturbed, uncaring.
(Editor's note: The apparent sound of gunfire in the above mentioned first-person account was indeed weapons fire: Two dead, one civilian and one police officer.)
In summary, the protesting PDRC's (and several sister protest groups) objective was, and is to bring down the Thaksin Government and the so-called 'Thaksin Dynasty'. They have questioned the legitimacy of the current Yinglak Thaksin government - was the election which brought her to power legitimate or tainted with cheating? Who has the right to unilaterally change the constitution? Who has the right to claim political amnesty over a long laundry list of political and criminal activities? Who is responsible for the catastrophic Rice Pledging Scheme which has caused billions of baht to be illegally siphoned off, and or wasted? Who should answer for other incidents of gross corruption and violations of the existing Constitution? All legitimate questions, to be sure, however these issues are outside the purview of Midnight Hour. Suffice it to say, these issues have been inflammatory to the extent that they have sustained months of civil protest - protest which has hurt tourism, general commercial activities, and in particular, the Night Entertainment Scene.
Some protest supporters at the several protest sites had a 'full-time job' waving the flag.
SOI 26 SUKHUMVIT ROAD
But what about the safety of visiting tourists and resident expats - especially as affects those who will want to visit Bangkok's famous / infamous Nitelife Scene? Where exactly do the current political 'mobs' fit in to a general security equation? How dangerous are they? First, to keep things in perspective, there is, or can be, civil protest, graduating to civil disobedience, to civil rioting and mob violence, to civil insurrection, and finally to anarchy. For sake of discussion, these 5 general levels of 'unrest' can and have existed in Bangkok, or parts thereof, for longer or shorter periods in the last 50 years. However, the PDRC (and their predecessors, the "Yellow Shirts") have, almost without exception, never exceeded level 2, or 'civil disobedience'. (The violence committed against them, however exceeds this greatly.)
Mini-graffiti stickers found in many parts of the city in support of Suthep Thaugsuban and his PDRC. Their push for 'No Vote" was motivated by their belief that any election could not be 'democratic' or meaningful if the political status quo remained unchanged.
SOI 26 SUKHUMVIT ROAD
By way of comparison, the Red Shirts, in their riots of 2 and 3 years ago, committed arson - burning down theaters and shopping malls and shophouses and banks, ransacking of shops, smash-&-grab of 7-Elevens, terrorizing of neighborhoods with motorcycle gangs and the threats of gas truck detonations, capturing large areas of Bangkok creating exclusive barricaded territories unto themselves - without police or municipal protection, the burning of city busses and police booths. In other words, there were several large parts of the city under anarchic control of the hard-core Red Shirts.
As time wears on, the "Mob's" political lampooning descends, inevitably, into character-assassination and vulgarity. Some would say counterproductively so.
SOI 26 SUKHUMVIT ROAD
The political upheaval of the last couple of months has been, and continues to be benign in comparison to these earlier Red Shirt incursions. In spite of what can now be called habitual ineptitude of the foreign Press, tourists and expats in Bangkok were not, and are not in any danger if they are outside the seven (and now lessening) number of protest sites. Injuries and deaths within these areas of protest, (brought about by Red Shirt supporters), to include the voting areas, have not been sustained by foreigners, or directed against foreigners. The message is clear. Come to Bangkok - enjoy the Nightlife, have a good time, and read about the political situation in the local newspapers.
What ever happened to the "Bratwurst" lady that used to sell sausages and other food from her cart in Soi Cowboy?
I used to love to buy something from her and take it home to eat after a night out on the Soi.
If you are talking about the sausage lady we think you are talking about, we wish we had a definitive answer (as we would like to track her down ourselves), but we can tell you one thing for sure, she is not selling her tasty snacks on Cowboy while the bars are open.
Recently (see photo above), Bangkok's Finest, in a further effort to protect us from ourselves, have been closing off Soi Cowboy to vendors, beggars, children under 18 years, pushcarts and motorcycles between 8:00 PM in the evening and 02:00 in the morning.
Our best chance of locating her would be along Sukhumvit Road between Soi Asoke and Soi 5 late in the evenings, as most of the Cowboy vendors used to transport themselves from Cowboy to their secondary 2-'till dawn locations once the bars closed. It is also possible she still sells to the daytime Thai crowd, however that doesn't help us much, as we are never down in that part of town in the daytime. If we find out anything further, we will let you know.
Both the King's Castle 3 and the King's Body House were closed a month ago, however they were going pedal to the metal when we passed by yesterday evening. Welcome them back to the nightcircus.
The King's Castle II has closed it's doors - they say 'temporarily'. We'll be the judge of that... We will be keeping an ear to the ground, and should it reopen, we shall put up some pics in the follow-on edition.
- File photo
The King's Camelot has reopened - again temporarily - as the King's Group continues with their game of musical chairs...
The Cozy Club up on The Ramp was closed again - opening and closing as they can, with business generally suffering in the night scene. We will keep an eyeball peeled, they will likely reopen again.
- File photo
The Star Of Light has some new eye-catching neon put out there where you can see it. Modus operandi unchanged - an oral services bar. May they continue to do what they do well....
The King's Corner 2 (Sometimes labelled King's Garden A Go-Go) -located on the soi connecting PPI and PPII- has packed it in and moved their girls, and other reasonable facsimiles, over to the King's Castle 3, (which we noted above is now open again). The King's Group musical chairs continues at an ever-increasing tempo....
The King's The Club, which was going by the handle The Club Karaoke last month, has closed due to lack of business, say the insiders. The downstairs portion, now with pool tables, is still rocking along. Located on the soi connecting PPI and PPII. One would have to say that the King's Group of bars has fallen on hard times.. but let's wait and see - we hear the "mob" may be dissipating in the next few days....
Denizens of Soi Cowboy spill out of, and into the political protest "mob" where the Soi joins Asoke Blvd. A meandering mix of gawkers, curious bar girls, barcrawlers, protesters, bar beers, food sellers, off duty police (they must be off duty, there are two young ladies 'manning' their police booth....), clothing and brik-a-brak sellers, and of course shutterbug tourists. Overhead, the Soi Cowboy sign, a banner proclaiming we should not continue to kill our neighbor, and a Thai flag. You couldn't make this zoo up if you tried....
The Candy Land opened on schedule this last month (see our note in our last issue). They are up on the second floor in the old G-Spot digs (Previously Madisons, and originally New Fushicho, for you history buffs.) Let the good times roll....
NANA PLAZA - (Sukhumvit SOI 4)
The Zen Bar (or the The Lounge Bar if you are entering from inside the NEP) has closed most suddenly. They seemed to be keeping busy, so perhaps they were eaten up by the rent..... Or perhaps they have just found a way out from under it all.....
The M Bar has opened, at least softly. They await a license or two before they have their grand opening bash. They are located in the old Big Mango digs on Soi Big Mango (or now do we call it Soi M Bar?). May the Fates deal them all aces and faces....
The After Dark was closed at the end of last month (Election? Chinese New Year?), however that was only a very temporary condition. They are now back, full force - located in the Rajah Hotel compound. The rock still rocks....
The Good Massage, closed last month, is back to their slippin' and a slidin'. Status quo ante.
The OK Massage opened last month in the Rajah Hotel Compound (see our note last issue). This month we publish a slightly delinquent photo. May they keep on keeping on....
In the "We Don't Make Mistrakes Department" we noted last month during our monthly survey the closure of the Overground Bar & Cafe. But somehow, it didn't get a mention in this column. We note it is still closed this month, so we will be striking it from the register....
- File photo
SOI 22 - (Sukhumvit)
The mamasan at the new Terminal 69 beckons us in for a drink. The Terminal 69 was carved out of the adjacent Shag Bar (which is still there). Welcome to the neon jungle.
SOI 22 - (Sukhumvit)
The new Anatasia Massage has opened in the old New Sakura digs (just closed). Located in Soi Lemongrass. Welcome them to the Big Uneasy....
SOI 22 - (Sukhumvit)
The Yuuka Snack Bar (snack) has opened at the deep end of Soi 22 (just across the street from the New Cowboy Bar). May the capricious night gods see things their way....
The Fortune Club Girl's Bar & Massage has opened newly in the long defunct premises of the Magic Massage. Located on Subsoi 3 (Soi Wall Street). Note: this is not a bar for girls, as the name may imply. Welcome them to Partytown.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Joy. opening and closing as it chooses, has decided to close again this month.... Go figger....
- File photo
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Naree Massage, noted last month with lights out, was, and still is closed. We note by way of confirmation only, as we dropped them from the rolls last time around.
The Wax, successor to the just closed Bash, is either open now or opening soon, if we are to go by their sign.....(But it looked very 'open' to us....) But they have wasted no time in getting their facade in order.
SOI AMBASSADOR - SOI 11
The Doublewide (in the Apoteka building), has reopened after a brief closure. All is as it was. Welcome them back to the neon jungle....
- File photo
SOI AMBASSADOR - SOI 11
The Marshmallow Kitchen & Bar has taken over the downstairs portion of the Koreana - which still maintains the upstairs karaoke. Let's welcome the Marshmallow as they cast their dice against the pitted wall of Fate.
SOI AMBASSADOR - SOI 11
The Niraon Massage has quietly stepped in for the just-closed Joy Joy Massage. Located on the Side-soi 11/1.
The Golden Massage located above the Night Flight, has, it seems, thrown in the steamy towel. Darwinian - considering the number and variety of massage parlors found at the front of the Soi. May they find greener pastures....
Bangkok Eyes goes back in time to see
Who was new - And who was through
in the Expat Night Entertainment world.
How many of these old 'oases'
do you remember ?
* As reported in this column last month, the Smile Club continued with it's preparations to open in what was previously the Mars Party House (Originally the Napoleon). Those digs today now occupied by the new Lust Bar & Club.
* The Snooker Club opened on the 2nd floor of the 'Cosmos' stairwell' (opposite Foodland). There is no Nitespot at that location presently.
* The New Pink Pussycat closed it's doors once and for all. It never really caught on like the original Pink Pussycat before it (...we'll bet there aren't many who remember that great A Go-Go bar). The Cockatoo now calls those digs home.
Nana Plaza * No changes that month / year.
Soi Katoey(Silom Soi 4) * No changes that month / year.
Graf artist shot in Bogotá ...SO COLUMBIA TRIES "LEGALIZATION"....
A sampling of Bogotá, Columbia's graffiti. Bogotá? Who would'a thunk......
- Received as unattributed works - all rights to copyright holder, if any.
In spite of Bogotá, Columbia's large number of talented and imaginative graffiti artists, Bogotá used to be one of the most dangerous places on earth to be caught-out spray-painting. This is not idle hyperbole - in 2011, police gunned down a graffiti artist under a bridge - caught in the act of committing the heinous crime of spray-painting. The initial public outrage was heightened further when police attempted to claim they had shot a suspected armed robber. The two police officers responsible were eventually arrested.
The shooting death of Diego Felipe Becerra, who was spray-painting his 'trademark' Felix the Cat at the time, spawned a new tolerance for graffiti painters in Bogotá, culminating in the Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro issuing a decree proclaiming graffiti to be a form of artistic cultural expression. But he didn't stop there - he designated part of the city's real estate as 'legal walls' - meaning these areas were available for graffiti artists to ply their spray-paint and their imaginations to their hearts' content. Nor did he stop there - he went the extra step of contracting certain graffiti artists to paint public murals in some of the "legal" areas. And, as hard as it may be to believe, Bogotá now boasts guided tours to various graffiti locations in the city.
But did it work? Did the "if you can't lick 'em, join 'em" policy of MayorPetro keep graffiti contained to the "legal" areas? Well, yes, and no. Much to the consternation of the police, who still had the onerous task of policing the 'illegal' graffiti, this new freedom given to graf artists spawned a tsunami flood of graffiti in numerous areas outside the "legal" areas - much of it, in the opinion of local Bogotanos, completely devoid of artistic content. And everyone, it seemed, was jumping on the graffiti bandwagon - to include Pop Music's spoiled-brat-of-the-moment, Justin Beiber (in one of his vainglorious attempts at proving he was a real person). -After his concert in Bogotá, Beiber went downtown - with a Bogotá police escort - and pretended to be a graf artist for yet another "bad boy" photo-op.... - And the irony? Justin painted his 'contribution to the art world' in an illegal area - under the noses of the local constabulary. This of course, made it virtually impossible for the police to arrest anyone at all, as the miscreant spray-painter could claim the same privileges and protection given jaunty Justin.
In spite of MayorGustavo Petro's best intentions, he failed to see the inherent contradiction - the "graffiti paradox". Graffiti is only graffiti if it has no restraints whatsoever as to content or where it is thrown up. Creation of "legal walls", while providing a place for spray-painting, violates that "freedom" tenet. The 'legal wall' concept is, quite simply, a contradiction in terms to the hard-core graf artist. How free would a tagger be to criticize the government, or society, when painting on 'sanctioned walls' and under the scrutiny of virtually everyone? To him, 'the thrill is gone' - and then some.....
Alas, Bogotá, Columbia remains a city with a foot in two camps, and still has a fair way to go before striking that "Wisdom of Solomon" compromise with it's graf artists.
Curious? Have a look at what the boys in Bogotá are throwing up.... * CLICK HERE *
- And now to Midnight Hour's own brand of BangkokGraffiti ....
Free To Fail
8 ft high x 12 ft
Dis Hat Don' Fit Me Haid
6 ft high x 6 ft
Look Above The Rooftops
8 ft high x 7 ft
8 ft high x 8 ft
Red White & Blue You
8 ft high x 7 ft
9 ft high x 7 ft
7 ft high x 7 ft
Graffiti,Graffiti , and more Graffiti -
Bangkok's original graffiti Site !
The MIDNITE HOURGraffiti Page is prepared by Staff Contributor"Boge" Hartman .
(Boge's photo, above, is not a graffitiper-se, although there are those who have insinuated.... -