The Great Anticlimax

Well gents, Thailand’s grand reopening rolled out on November 1st with little fanfare. One could even say it was a total flop, thanks to a combination of factors, though the common thread, unsurprisingly was outright idiocy on the part of people in charge. Instead of a joyous, triumphant return to normalcy on Monday, the Bangkok fun machine had a sputtering, stuttering, week-long jumpstart that felt more like hotwiring a junkyard jalopy than revving a magnificent muscle car of mongering—the fastlove Ferrari of fun that BKK nightlife used to embody.

It turns out that during the past seven months of forced closure, a new certification (translation: hoop to jump through) was created for spaces accommodating groups of people post-scamdemic. It’s called a SHA (Safety and Health Administration) certification, and on Monday night, squads of police made the rounds, closing and fining joints that tried to reopen without one. On top of that, several establishments simply weren’t equipped to start up. My two favorite spots—Paddy Field and Shenanigan’s—didn’t have enough staff on hand to open. Sarica, the cannabis restaurant on Surawong, was open and serving food and booze. There was just one problem: they didn’t have any cannabis. So sure, you could order a cannabisless pad krapow for 300 baht—but why would you? Madrid on Patpong Soi 1 was open for weeks before Nov 1, but was forced to shut until Wednesday while they sorted out their SHA cert. What’s that you say? Why didn’t these establishments use the past seven months to adequately prepare for the end of the fun ban? That’s a great question. Maybe the only answer is, TIT.

Speaking of, the SHA cert wasn’t the only impediment to reopening. The authorities also tacked on a laundry list of inane, nonsensical stipulations that seemed almost deliberately stupid (stupulations for short, copyright BKK7). Here are some examples: The Roadhouse was prohibited from serving draft pints on the ground floor. Bottles only, and drafts on the 3rd floor. Why? Don’t know. G’s couldn’t serve any alcohol on their terrace until Wednesday. Why? Don’t know. Booze service must end at 9 pm citywide. Why? Don’t know. It’s almost as if someone in govt is randomly throwing darts at a dartboard of rules and doling out the ones that hit. As a result, in the whole of Patpong the only open restaurant on Nov 1 was French Kiss, brightly lit and crowded, an oasis of fun on an otherwise dark, empty street.

My personal reopening week went like this…

Monday—Straight to Patpong, excited to hit Paddy Field and Shenanigan’s but found them shut. I passed up French Kiss because there were no empty seats, and followed my nose, winding up in Roadhouse. They had a special on: order 10 buffalo wings, get another 10 free. But in their lack of preparedness, I was informed that there were only 18 buffalo wings in the entire restaurant. So they offered me a tiny Caesar’s salad to make up for the two missing wings. I grabbed a beer from the fridge—can’t remember the name but it was a dark brew (maybe a stout) with a black label and a steer’s head on it. ‘Twas tasty. I followed that with a bottle of Asahi, left 4 uneaten wings on my plate and lumbered home. Not much of a night out, but better than the previous 7 months’ worth.


Tuesday—After checking Paddy and Shagz again and finding them still closed, I went to head to Mash, but as I passed Sunrise Tacos it began to piss down, so I swung in for some al pastor tacos and a margarita. Goddamn, that giant glass and lime wedge was a sight for sore eyes. The tacos were just OK, as I knew they would be. And that was all she wrote for Tuesday, thanks to the rain and 90% of places still closed.

Wednesday—Again, after checking Patpong and finding only one change—Madrid had reopened—I went to G’s and, seeing someone sipping a beer on the terrace, went in to try their new meat platter along with a couple of high-end beers: Delirium Tremens followed by a bottle of Aecht Schlenferla Rauchbier Wiezen, which was simply magical. The first sip tasted like bacon, and was a perfect compliment to the meat plate, especially the Black Forest ham and coppa. Both were fabulous.

Thursday—French Kiss for a rich Parisian cheese plate and a lovely glass of red that had to be served in a nondescript cup because they hadn’t received their SHA cert yet. At one point, Yazoo played in my iPod and I had a momentary flashback to sitting in a café across from Notre Dame in 2008. Then I sauntered back to G’s for lots and lots of delicious beer. ‘Twas a fantastical evening, though I was in bed by 9 pm. In the absence of gogo bars, there’s not a lot for this aging whoremonger to do in the evenings.

Friday night was a glorious night, because Shenanigan’s finally reopened. I raced home from work, showered, got a quick BJ from one of my harem, and then sped to Shagz, arriving at 6 pm. It was already jammed with loyal fans. The terrace was full, and indoors had only two empty tables. I stayed till 9, when restaurants are required to stop serving booze, and reluctantly slunk away as a schoolboy from his books, toward home with heavy looks, determined to return on Saturday.

Which I did.

On Saturday I found an open table on the terrace and managed to enjoy a nice Cuban H Upmann with a glass of Jameson and a cheeseburger. The staff managed to rig up a primitive internet connection to show the Man U v Man City match, and for a few precious hours life almost felt normal again. Happiness is nearly restored.

The people I felt most sorry for were the small, meandering clusters of exasperated tourists who wandered the streets of Silom in a cloud of chagrin and bewilderment (chagriderment for short) as they came to grips with two immutable facts: 1—the restaurant they’re looking for from their travel book closed a year ago, and 2—they still can’t hit a gogo bar, and probably won’t be able to for at least another month. Whoever thought tourists would be satisfied with only temples, floating markets, and beaches is a moron.

Here’s hoping we get our red-lights back soon, friends. For now, let’s appreciate what we have—we have our pubs back, and though it’s not enough, it’s enough for now. Cheers, everyone.