State of the Red-Light: Nana Plaza

Of the three red light districts in Bangkok, Nana has always been my 2nd favorite. But the times, they are a-changin’ gents, and the RLD isn’t immune to it. Used to be I’d hit Cowboy and Nana once a week, just for the chick variety and change of scenery. But over time I’ve kind of stopped going to both of those areas, one because I’m lazy and it’s 10 minutes further than I want to go, and two because I’ve got lots of friends in Patpong, and it’s more fun to go where everybody knows your name. And to be honest, a lot of what made Cowboy and Nana so great has diminished in the last couple of years.

Be that as it may, I did go out of my way to visit Nana last week, to check on the state of things and look for new girls to chase after. Here’s the lowdown:

The Plaza looks fantastic. Nearly all the gogos have new, bright, inviting signs that light up the whole place like Christmas in Times Square. The Taco Taxi is still parked across the street in the Nana Hotel car park, so I started the night like every time before with a quesadilla/margarita combo. I always get a thrill of excitement when walking into Nana. There’s an air of promise—of good times about to be had. Of hot babes in tiny bikinis behind every curtain. It’s enough to make a tired old pimp feel young again. And here’s some icing on the T&A cake: Nana has opened a craft beer bar. It’s called Witchcraft, and they offer a nice list of niche beers such as Arrogant Bastard, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Tangerine Express from Stone Brewery, PBR, and Pirate Life IPA. It’s a welcome change from Leo/Chang/SML.

I started out the night, as I always do, in Mandarin, and was shocked to see a stage full of gals who were decidedly…..thicker….than I expected. The pickings were abysmal, and I was about to violate gogo rule #1 and leave before the rotation when a tall, lythe stunner emerged from upstairs. At the rotation, the new set of girls was equally chunky. The one girl was the only fit one in the whole place. I downed my beer and made a hasty exit. Thankfully it was only 90 baht (that’s the happy hour price).

After Mandarin, I made a point to visit Geisha, the gogo that replaced a ladyboy joint on the 3rd floor. It was enormous. So enormous that the air con struggled to cool the place down, and with no beer condom for my bottle of SML, it reached room temperature fast. No happy hour. 175 baht for a hot beer in a hot gogo with no hot dancers. 20 girls onstage and only one cutie among them. Depressing.



One gogo that never failed to employ smoking hot chicks was Billboard, so I flitted over there hoping for an eyeful of high quality talent. But they also were not immune to the ugly epidemic. The ratio again was 20 to 1 unappealing to hot. It was the same in Butterflies. The gogos are packed with not-hotties, and also with customers. Everywhere I went was doing gangbuster business. I guess if you’re not picky, Nana’s still good fun. I just found it depressing, personally. In Patpong, the ratio of uglies to hotties is around 10 to 3, which is a helluva lot better. It makes me wonder about the ratio at Cowboy. But that’s a subject for a later blog.

In most of the places I visited, the girls looked as though someone had hooked each of them to a tire pump and filled them with air. I blame the integration of Western junk food into the average gogo dancer’s diet. They were swollen versions of the dancers I remember.

I can see why people like Nana, and why I used to be a regular. Earlier I compared it to Times Square. A better analogy is Las Vegas. Nana is a miniature version. There’s so much eye candy and sensory input that it takes a while to realize you’re not having fun. Although to be fair, it’s preferable to living in the West, where you’re just one compliment away from a #MeToo situation, and all the women are fat, stupid, entitled assholes out to suck your bank account dry. So as in all areas of life, it’s relative.

And Nana does have some unique aspects one can’t find in the Pong, for example the live shows at Spanky’s and Angel-Witch. They’re a welcome change for these pole-weary eyes, and are alone worth the trip over town every once in a while. Plus, I’ve got an old stripper friend, A, who works at one of the Rainbows, and who is a thrill to see onstage. She’s the only remaining hold-over from my old circle of Nana friends.  The others either graduated, died, or moved to Cowboy (I’m not kidding, in the last six years two of my Nana girls—May and Som—were killed in motorbike accidents).

All in all, the state of the Plaza has remained fairly steady over the last half-decade. The noticeable differences are the dearth of hot girls and higher barfine and short-time prices. In other words, less-attractive girls have the nerve to demand more money.

I’m not saying Nana isn’t worth a visit. Of course it is—it’s world famous. But I can’t see making it a habit. It’s OK once in a blue moon. Admittedly, Nana’s gogos are nicer and more commercial than the ones in Paptpong. But that’s the only thing Nana has over Patpong. In Patpong, the ratio of hot girls is better. The prices are lower. And there’s a lot more to do. If you want, you can take a detour to a retro bar that feels like a time warp, or have a nice meal at a French bistro. There’s billiards, dance clubs, an all-night diner, a pizza parlor, three live music venues, and a night market. I like hitting Nana a couple times per year just to get some variety, but if it closed tomorrow I wouldn’t bat an eye. Having said that, I hope Nana stays strong. We need all the red-lights we can get.

Tune in again on Friday for another chapter of Delirium Days, and cheers to every gogo owner, dancer, bar staff, and mamasan keeping the wheels of fun turning. We who are about to monger salute you.