Patpong is in a state of flux. For the first time in half a century, it’s transforming into something new. Specifically, it’s evolving into a more inclusive place. Alongside the old gogo bars and ping pong shows, a variety of new venues have popped up, including gay bars, cabarets, sports bars, and restaurants, along with a disco, an art gallery, and a museum. A casualty of this change is the closing of some gogo bars. They just have to go, one because in 2019 there’s less foot traffic to such places, and two because they need to make room for the new, mainstream attractions coming in.
Last year, I bid a sad to farewell to my all-time favorite joint—Electric Blue. But sadness gave way to joy as The Steakhouse Co. sprang up in its place, replacing hot gyrating dancers with supremely excellent food and wine—my other two vices—to keep my heart and belly full. In the time between then and now, three other would-be heartbreaking closures took place: Bada Bing, The Strip, and Thigh Bar. I say “would-be” because, in the case of the two former, they reopened again shortly after, and in the case of the latter, didn’t close at all but kept right on going, even as the owner was deported.
When word got around that Bada Bing would close, I was crestfallen. I love the Bing. I met many of my harem through the Bing, and the thought of it closing filled me with despair. But when I talked to the owner (who also runs Glamour), he assured me that it wouldn’t close, and rather that his old business partner would take over while he himself moved his booze and girls to his other bar. Yet everyone else on the soi—including the staff at Bing—insisted it would close. So I published a perfunctory farewell blog and prepared myself mentally for the loss of another watering hole. But then the closing day came and went, and the doors remained open, and to my surprise the stage filled up with a whole new set of stunners. Since then the place has been going like gangbusters. Happy news, indeed.
Next I heard rumors that The Strip would shut. Patpong regulars discussed the news in sad, hushed tones, blaming the change in tourist demographic with heads shaking, eyes downcast into their beer glasses. I was chagrined, to say the least. There was a time when I’d happily spend an entire night in The Strip, with no need or desire to go anywhere else. Some of the best looking girls in all of Bangkok called The Strip their home, and I was content to be in their company every night, ordering pizza delivered and handing out sweets to those hip-thrusting goddesses. And after losing EB and the false alarm of Bada Bing, I wasn’t sure my heart could take the loss. Then The Strip made the announcement on their Facebook page and everyone had to face the truth—another great gogo was throwing in the towel. But then, a few days later, out of seemingly nowhere, the doors opened again. When I ventured inside to investigate, I met the new owner, Mr. Masa, a Japanese entrepreneur with a penchant for gogo dancers and lofty dreams of a Strip rebirth. He quickly replaced the old sign with one that reads “The Strip 2.0” with a firm goal to reignite those wild party days of yesteryear. Needless to say, I couldn’t be happier.
The story with Thigh Bar was different, but no less a close call than the others. Their owner—who’d overstayed his visa for more than a decade—got nabbed by the cops and sent packing. Everyone was convinced the bar would close, scattering the dancers to various other venues on the soi. But instead, the old Thai owner stepped in to keep the lights on without even missing a beat. One downside, however, is that several of the hotter girls did in fact seek greener pastures—specifically King’s Castle 1 and The aforementioned Strip. Another downside is, with the change in ownership came a change in the beer menu. Belgian beers are no longer served there. Personally, that makes me far less-motivated to visit. But I still stop in every now and again because the girls and staff are so friendly and fun to hang out with. Maybe that’s why they have such a large contingent of Thai customers, an anomaly for a Bangkok gogo bar.
In the eyes of an old whoremonger like myself, the preservation of these three bars feels a bit like dodging three bullets, especially given how quickly any empty space has been scooped up by the gay mafia of late. I’ve nothing against the gays and their bars. I just wish they wouldn’t replace the places I like to gogo with places I’d never ever go. It really limits my range of bar hopping. Which is why I’m so pleased that, what could’ve been three sad goodbyes turned out to…not be. Bada Bing, The Strip, and Thigh Bar remain open, serving, and chock full o’ chicks. Now if the old Radio City would ever get round to opening, this old pussy-grabber would jump for joy.
Patpong is resilient. At least, the naughty aspect that made it famous in the first place is resilient. People have been decrying the end of the Pong for decades. If you read the Bangkok blogosphere at any time over the previous four decades, you’d know it’s perpetually about to close, constantly on the verge of implosion, just one bad season away from crumbling. And yet, the Pong soldiers on, in the face of all detractors. In spite of every Debbie Downer and Negative Nancy with a website. Patpong continues to defy the popular din of low expectations. Anyone looking for proof of this red-light life after death, look no further than The Bing, The Strip, and Thigh.
These classic gogo spots, that took a fucking and kept on trucking, are a glimmer of hope in the hearts of those of us who still hunger for the red-light scene. And while I’m happy that other people’s pastimes are getting a chance to shine on the Pong—whether it be foodies and their gourmet eateries, or gays and their gourmet gay-gos (gay gogos), or vanilla tourists and their pubs and dance halls, there’s room for everyone. And if the girly bars aren’t being pushed out in the process, so much the better. Because we can all have what we all want in Thailand. That’s part of the appeal. Everybody gets along by going along. Live and let live, or maybe in this case, go and let gogo.
And cheers to another week with more than ten Patpong venues featuring hot ladies in high heels and short shorts. When dudes talk about “living the dream,” they’re probably talking about Thailand.