Hello there, friend. How’s your Sunday going? My name’s Bangkok Seven, and this is my blog.
Even before Covid-19 devastated the country’s tourist industry, Patpong and other red-light districts in Thailand were seeing less foot traffic. The advent of Tinder and online escort services made the ole gogo bar nearly obsolete, causing some of the most successful pole-dancing establishments to shut their doors. Patpong was in a state of flux when the pandemic hit, and now, as we plow through month 6 of an ongoing tourist ban, it looks like the changes will be permanent. Changes like the loss of the night market, which some astute whoremongers see as a good thing. Even now, there are tentative plans to replace it with a beer garden and food festival. But Patpong shouldn’t stop there. The oldest adult entertainment zone in Thailand is in metamorphosis, and the change it undergoes must be complete, and its new identity must be revolutionary.
And Patpong is already well on its way, thanks to Shenanigan’s, The Paddy Field, and the Patpong Warriors who have taken over management of Black Pagoda, The Strip, and XXX Lounge, as well as producing a new culturally iconic spot—The Patpong Museum. Recently, the museum’s owner Michael asked for my take on what should be added to the geography of the Pong to truly make it great again. Here are some of the ideas I offered, as well as a few that I should have but didn’t…
Inside the Patpong Museum is a replica of the interior of the old Grand Prix bar. One idea I had was to build a bar somewhere on Soi 1 with the look and feel of one from the 70s and 80s, like a red-light time capsule, with décor and music from that era and bar staff in period costume. Something that would give the old expats a shot in the junk of pure uncut nostalgia. Even I, as a recent monger only here for a decade, would go to a place like that, partly to see what all the fuss was about, and partly to get a taste of the bygone days from whence the Patpong legend was born…like stepping into a scene from The Deer Hunter. How cool would that be?
I also suggested a treasure hunt tour, which I’ve recently learned is in the works. This exclusive tour would take adventurers on a scavenger hunt-style romp through some of Patpong’s most legendary locales, role playing and clue-hunting with the help of a phone app providing navigation through a wholly unique red-light experience. The only obstacle now is pulling it off.
One suggestion I forgot to mention to Michael was a proper burlesque show, like the one they have in Phuket (pictured). Lately the tourist demographic in the Pong has been mainly Thais, who’ve come out of curiosity and a loosening of cultural taboos. And while they might not be ready to waltz into King’s Castle, they’d likely be up for something a bit more hi-so. A revival of the old-time cabaret-style shows of the early 20th century would give viewers something more refined than girls on poles doing the skytrain shuffle. Although given that there’s already a ladyboy cabaret on Soi 2, an all-lady show would need to clearly set itself apart so as to avoid any confusion or gonad-related surprises.
Additionally, I’m desperate for a wine bar in the Pong. Le Bouchon serves great wine, as does French Kiss, but they’re restaurants. I’d love to see an establishment dedicated to wine, with at most a cheese and meat platter on pairing. Something refined and classy. I even know what it should be called: EnVino. I see it clearly in my dreams. It would showcase three French regions: Bordeaux, Brouilly, and Hermitage, plus an array of Shiraz and Nebbiolo, and a small eclectic collection of Champagne and vintage Port, with regular tastings, wine flights, and food/wine pairing events. But more than anything—and maybe this could be combined with the wine bar—more almost than gogo bars, I want to see a proper cigar and whiskey bar, with a walk-in humidor, decorated in mahogany and high-backed leather, with live piano, hot waitresses in elegant gowns, and an outdoor patio with a view of the Patpong hustle and bustle.
And of course, if I had my druthers, I’d bring back The Steakhouse Co. Bangkok Andy’s brief shift from gogo maestro to restauranteur was a magical time for consistent Pongmongers, who in that heavenly oasis enjoyed a kind of epicurean overdose, partaking nightly in their excellent and decadent food menu (excadent for short, copyright BKK7), along with their obscenely fantastic (obscastic) wine cellar before indulging in the carnal delights of the gogos. Those precious months were a perfect storm of promiscuous pleasure, and when The Steakhouse folded, it left many of us Pongrats in a state of gastronomic despondence. I’d give almost anything to have that bastion of comestible delights back on the Pong where it so belongs. Instead, Andy just opened a suspiciously similar eatery in Pattaya called Route 66. So I guess a trip to P-town is in order.
Thankfully, there’s still the aforementioned Shenanigan’s and Paddy Field, plus Le Bouchon—arguably the best bistro in Bangkok, as well as French Kiss, a culinary powerhouse in its own right. But how much better would the Pong be if it had a cigar bar, a wine bar, a burlesque show (with girls, not ladyboys), and a throwback bar from its heyday? At least, that’s what this polecat-slash-gogo rat thinks, anyway.
Tune in next week for another installment, and between now and then keep your balls warm, your stick tricky, and cheers to everyone keeping the red-light afloat whilst the government fights a virus with a 99.96% survival rate. Peace.
(Photos of old Patpong courtesty of the Patpong Museum.)