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This is a reprint of the MIDNITE HOUR report of 01 November, 2003.  We occasionally report on a new Bangkok location that shows promise, and has the potential to develop into a viable Night Entertainment Area. So in November we went to Sukhumvit Soi 22 to visit the newly renamed Easy Square (previously known informally as Nam Thip Square).
Easy Square is located several hundred meters inside Soi 22. Going in from the Sukhumvit Road side, it is just past the juncture of Soi 22 and Soi Sai Nam Thip 2    You can go to our Area map here, or go directly to our detailed Night Entertainment Map here.
Historically, Easy Square stands on an area of land which was once part of the notorious Soi 22 slum,or chum chon, that used to stretch nearly a full kilometer along the left hand side of the soi.  While not a Night Entertainment Area itself, the slum was the 'dwelling place' of most of the Night Entertainment workers in the Sukhumvit Road area during the 1970's and 1980's due to its proximity to the workplace and it's low rents.  Many an Expat retains fond memories of 'lost nights' within that slum, overnighting with his most recent working-girl girlfriend in her 'home away from home'.  Within its warrens were the myriad tin-roofed shacks, whose walls were often only poster board -with the posters still on them, or thin metal sheeting with Coca Cola or other soft-drink can designs printed on one side.  These creaky shanties were accessible only by single-plank boardwalks suspended inches above the swamp, whose pitch-black waters also served as the erstwhile sewer and community trash receptacle.  All this, mixed with the smell of Fab detergent from countless bucket-laundries gave the slum an aroma unique unto it own.  The working girls' rooms, many without beds, had only two things in common; mosquito nets and fans, which came in useful for those who had paid their rent (electricity included).  Perhaps a third thing they had in common were leaky roofs, which would make themselves evident immediately the monsoon rain began its deafening assault on the bare corrugated metal just above.  Or so this writer has heard from third-hand sources...
By the late 1980's, the slum was in the throes of being demolished, in stages, and the swamp was eventually drained and filled.  The reasons given for the slum-clearance were the unsanitary conditions (true) and the unmanageable heroin problem (true), but what went unmentioned was the actual reason; land developer greed.  And while much of that infamous slum has since been redeveloped, the area in and around what is now called Easy Square has not.
As mentioned above, this area was originally called Nam Thip Square having derived it's name from the Nam Thip Restaurant, which was the original structure in the square. When the Nam Thip Restaurant opened in September of 2002, it was the only structure for a considerable distance in any direction, and sits on the north side of the Easy Square compound, looking inward on an almost perfectly square roadway complex which defines its area.
Other structures, other businesses were slow to come on board. However, this year the first Night Entertainment Venue opened next to Nam Thip Square's southernmost exit onto Soi 22.
The Nice Bar, having finally closed its doors on Soi Cowboy in October, 2002 (historians note: originally the old Loretta digs), began construction in Easy Square on its soon-to-be bar beer-pool bar.  It opened in January, 2003.    It was followed soon (also in January) by the Cheers Bar, previously of Asoke Plaza in Cowboy Annex. Although it now has a new Scotsman owner, the same bar beer format (plus one pool table) prevails.    Also joining the fray is the Friend Ship Bar, also a 'relocater', but this time from the ill-fated Sukhumvit Square (another offshoot of the old Friends Bar).    The new kid on the block (Oct 26th) is the Ocean Bar, which was started up by the previous owner of Cheers and two other new investors.    The Dao Bar bar beer is an offshoot of the nearby Dao Karaoke, and although only recently opened - it is already planning to close down.  We'll have to wait and see which way the wind blows on this one.
EASY SQUARE may or may not be the next major Night Entertainment Area for Bangkok's tourists and resident Expats.
The Nice Bar will get the handshake as the "Seminal Bar" in the event Easy Square survives the test of time.
But four or five bar beers and Pool Bars do not a Night Entertainment Area make. The big question is whether Easy Square will ever attain a 'critical mass', thereby becoming a viable draw to the Expat night-crawling community.  The biggest unknown is the effect of its relatively out-of-the-way location.  Virtually all Expat Night Entertainment Areas, past and present, have been on, or near a main thoroughfare.  Today's surviving Areas are all, coincidentally, on, or near, the Sky Train line.
Nevertheless, the land owner is proceeding as though Easy Square were already a household name.  Last week he installed and lit up a large sign which arches over the southern exit to the compound.  Further, he is 'rumored' to be talking to a Mr C., an American from Pattaya, about renting out the center section for the construction of a mega-cabaret - although we hasten to add that the 'rumors' favor his leaning toward leasing that area to other Pool Bars and bar beers.  To add more fuel to the fires, and to stoke the rumor index even higher, there is a very large building just behind Easy Square that may or may not become a new hotel once it is completed -- sometime early next year.  Should it in fact be a hotel, Easy Square would have an instant customer base in its own back yard - literally.
On the other side of the coin the imminent close-down of both halves (Asoke Corner, Asoke Square) of Cowboy Annex by year's end has the current occupants in a quandary about their collective future.  Many have already run recon sorties into and out of Easy Square to assess the possibilities.  Although several of these Cowboy Annex bar owners are skeptical, several are seriously considering the prospects.
Other "plusses" which could work in Easy Square's favor are the virtually unlimited free parking and the availability of good, inexpensive restaurants:-
The Nam Thip, with over 130 menu items of Chinese, Thai and Japanese, as well as Halal dishes.    The Anan, with the now popular " Moo Ka- Ta- " -translated, that's - a big outdoor barbecue, Korean style, with Thai flavors of pork, chicken, etc,, at all-you-can-eat prices.    The Khantoke, serving Chieng Mai style Northern dishes & the always-popular Isan dishes.    The Ni Hong Kai, an indoor-outdoor Japanese restaurant.    The Bua Thong. Boh Toke Kung - an indoor-outdoor pond where you can go fishing for your own live shrimp.
At this juncture, while all of us here at BANGKOK EYES wish them well, there remain too many unanswered questions, including the "Big One" - regarding the current regime's Social Order Zoning Ordinance, which has been in the "massaging stage" for the last two years.  And of course, if the ordinance is put into effect, there is still the question of interpretation and enforcement.  As it stands, there are too many "ifs", and too few crystal ball readers.  MIDNITE HOUR will be keeping an eye on Easy Square in the event it does grow to be Bangkok's next Night Entertainment Area, and of course, we will be keeping you advised along the way.
Original Report (Nov 2003)
- Richard D. Hartman
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Copyright © 2003, 2004 Bangkok Eyes / bangkokeyes.com
* With grateful acknowledgement to N. and Zootramp Publications for exclusive use of their historical database.