Patpong Teeters on the Edge of Greatness

Hey friends, how’s it hangin’? It’s been a week since my last report on the recent recovery efforts in the three red-light districts in BKK. This week I’ve got more updates about Patpong, or as I like to call it, The Pong, or when I’m feeling French, L’Pong, or when I’m singing in the shower, “Pat-PONNNNG-P-Pong-Pong-Ponnnnng!”

And in a shocking turn of events, the news is somewhat good. Let’s break it down…


The restaurants that were great before the pandemic are still awesome. I had dinner in Le Bouchon (osso bucco and a Bordeaux) and French Kiss (flank steak and a Bordeaux) on back-to-back nights and enjoyed a Sunday roast and fish-n-chips on separate days in Shenanigan’s. The latter and their sister bar, The Paddy Field, are doing a buy-one-get-one-free drink deal every Monday to Wednesday.

Every gogo that opened earlier in the month remains open—an astounding feat, in my humble opinion. XXX, Bada Bing, Thigh Bar, Superstar, Glamour, Black Pagoda, and Pink Panther are still rockin’ in the RLD world, each with no small number of fetching femmes.

The Strip had a soft open on Wednesday, with a smattering of old pole professionals and the musty odor of a long-closed gogo. For the time being, all beers are at happy hour prices (90b) all night long.

On the 14th, The Kings Group made a triumphant return to business, with dancers at King’s Castle 1, King’s Castle 2, King’s Castle, and King’s Garden (a beer and billiards bar). Many of the old night market vendors didn’t outlast the lockdown and have moved on to different pastures, so the tentative plan now is, when it reopens, what the soi lost in market stalls will be made up for with—drum roll, please—food trucks and a beer garden.

Sweet sassafras, I nearly wept with joy when I heard that.

There’s just one problem.

Patpong is controlled by Mrs. Patpong, godmother of the Patpong family empire. She’s a notoriously stalwart negotiator with a penchant for rigidity. She can be credited for helping Patpong to survive and thrive for over half a century, and chided for refusing to allow other people with great ideas to step up and swing for the fences. So for the moment, things are in limbo. Famous Bangkok food truck owners are already ready and waiting. I’m hesitant to name them, but I will say they involve BBQ and some of the best burgers in town, along with acclaimed regional Thai food vendors from all over the country. The beer garden would be supplied by the folks from Shenanigans. Just think of it—Patpong transformed into a social hub with a nightlife scene that caters to partygoers of every persuasion and orientation (persurientation for short, copyright BKK7). From BDSM to beer tastings. Gay, straight, LB-TQ, etc. Fine French cuisine, pub fare, Thai-Italian fusion, street food, street market, supermarket, museum, art studio—and most of that’s already here! It just needs another gentle push to become something great.

But I digress.

As I was saying, King’s Castle 1 and 2 reopened on Friday, and I visited both with a wad of 20s in my pocket. King’s 1 had 2 rotations of 16 girls each comprised of many familiar faces, and they were in peak form. It was obvious they missed working, and were happy to be back, shaking what mama gave ‘em in black lingerie. There were big white “X”s on some of the seats, indicating that customers should social distance from one another. Thankfully, the girls ignored the Xs and got up close and personal between shifts. Drink prices were the same: 170 for a SML and 220 for a lady drink. Ice and Praew came to sit beside me, and judging by their gentle petting of my arms and legs, I gathered they missed me a little bit. Both now have day jobs in coffee shops three days out of the week.

Next I slipped into King’s 2, which had a makeover during the shutdown. The bar has been moved to the back wall, and the stage is now a half-oval instead of a rectangle, allowing more room for the girls to dance. New LED lights on the ceiling provide a spacey, sci-fi, futuristic look for the place.  A lot of the old regular dancers were gone. Confidentially, I spotted them in other gogos around Patpong, Nana, and Cowboy. But there were still plenty of cheeky chicks in two rotations of eight onstage. Drink prices were the same as King’s 1. Fern sidled over for the first time in three years and asked for a drink. I guess her regular customers were MIA. I gladly obliged, and took the opportunity to play with her boobs.

Then I of course hit up every other gogo in the Pong. Each is suffering from the same problem–lots of fun, sexy, barely-dressed girls and not enough customers to keep them company. My galpal Taitle said she’s stopped dancing because the bar cut her salary to 300 per night. It costs her 100 each way on a motorbike taxi, and if she buys food, she goes home with 60 baht for a full night’s work (she’s a lesbian and doesn’t barfine). It’s a troubling prospect, to say the least.

On Saturday, I went back to the Pong and started out in the King’s bars again. The first thing I noticed was the night market stalls’ skeletons erected on Soi 1 but not yet occupied. Maybe it’ll open Sunday evening. The second thing I noticed was, at King’s 1 the rotations were smaller (only 10 dancers in each) and the roster of girls was completely different. I gather the boss has told the girls they have to stagger themselves and not all come on the same day. Pre-Covid, King’s 1 boasted a nightly roster of around 90 girls. Clearly they can’t pull that off at the moment. In fact, I heard a rumor that the King’s Group have given themselves 6 months to get back on track again. If they can’t turn things around in that time, they’ll close all of their bars. When I heard that, a shudder ran down my spine. Such a tragedy would cut the number of gogos on Soi 1 from five to two! Say it ain’t so.

But in the spirit of Thai culture, I’ve chosen to take a Thai approach and not to worry over what the future might hold, and instead, enjoy the here-and-now. I’m going to keep turning up to King’s 1 and 2, along with every other gogo in the Pong, to guzzle beer and vodka-sodas, buy lady drinks, stuff hundies in the bras of my friends, and thank my lucky stars for the privilege—as long as it lasts.

Patpong has endured decades of change, and like a chameleon, has changed along with those changes, and like a phoenix, has risen from the ashes of disaster before. So really, it’s like a chameleon-phoenix (“phoneleon”—or maybe “chamenix” for short, copyright BKK7). If the prolific owners of the various bars and restaurants can pull it off, Patpong is poised on the edge of another miraculous transformation—from touristy red-light-night-market magnet to trendy cultural hot spot for Thais and tourists alike. I, for one, will be watching closely. And probably holding my breath. Fingers crossed, everybody.