Two Steps Forward, One Step Sideways

Happy Sunday, reader. If you’re one of us—and by “us” I mean a Bangkok expat punter/monger enduring the super slow-motion post-Covid bar scene reopening—you know the familiar roller coaster feeling of seeing one or two venues in your favorite red-light district open their doors, only to realize you can’t actually go inside, but then you see a gaggle of girls in dresses hanging around on the patio, only to realize that a long conversation with a girl from Buriram isn’t as  stimulating as watching her shake her moneymaker onstage. You know the emotional tug-of-war that comes from finally getting to drink a cold beer in the company of a semi-attractive come-hither part-time concubine, even as you glance down the row of bars—whether you’re in Nana, Cowboy, or Patpong—to see that 90% of the gogos are still shut. You know the familiar heaviness in the pit of your stomach when you hear that Jomtien was shut down the other night, and the govt’s reason was “because there were too many people,” and you look nervously into the eyes of your mini-skirt-clad companion, wondering if the paltry handful of bars in your red-light will even be open tomorrow.

When I first heard that Jomtien was closed down, and then heard the reason why—not because of an outbreak, or a super-spreader event, but simply because the Thai authoritaria—I mean, Thai authorities–thought there were “too many people,” I had visions of a dystopian future for our beloved adopted country, like a Thai version of V for Vendetta. But as we who’ve lived here for a time know, it’s not uncommon for the powers that be to make shit up on the fly. I’d say the country is run by retards, but as an American, I’m hardly one to talk.

So rather than dwelling on the possible future negatives, let’s cover the good things that are happening in the Bangkok nightlife scene for the moment.

Soi Cowboy showed the first signs of life this week. Kazy Kozy and Baccara opened their patios and decorated them with girls in cocktail dresses. Most of the dudes I saw looked familiar—old faithful expats who’d been waiting with bated breath for their fave RLD to flip its lights on again. I was accosted by a large local sporting a French accent who prattled on about how happy he was to be out of his apartment. Speaking of lights, while most of Cowboy was depressingly dark, the Oasis restaurant and its next-door neighbor, Spritz, also flooded a portion of the soi with light and life. Crazy House remained shut, but there was a flurry of activity in and around the joint, which is surprising considering the cops have told them they can’t open unless they make several adjustments, not the least of which is changing their name.

On Soi Cowboy, I experienced something that’d been missing from my life for years. A few of the girls gave me the “hungry eye.” You know—the look a shark must give a juicy fish as it swims casually by. As an aging, dogeared, familiar face in the red-light, it’s been a long time since a pretty stranger looked at me that way. ‘Twas nostalgic, I tell you what, and also a bit sad. It took a global pandemic to make me desirable to females again. And by “me,” I of course mean my bank account. But at my age, you have to let go of your ego.

Since I’d made the trip to Asoke, I figured I might as well hit Scruffy Murphy’s.

After taking a seat outside and demanding a menu, the barmaid informed me that on Fridays they serve up a free bbq. Winner-winner, sausage dinner, and a 99b Tiger pint to boot. I followed the lead of a Thai guy who was clearly a free bbq regular. The staff all knew his name, and his was the only table provided with napkins. He watched the grill chef like a hawk, and when the food was ready he was up and first in the queue like a bolt of lightning. I was 2nd. The spread was surprisingly good. Chunky potato salad, homemade coleslaw, smoky-sweet sausages, chicken wings, and pork (or was it beef?) patties. For the price, it was a grand meal. My compliments to Scruffy.

After downing two drinks on Soi Cowboy, I swung into Nana Plaza to check whether any additional places had opened since the previous week. The short answer is “No.” Your choices are Lollipop, Twister, and the beer garden. BigDog’s finally flipped the lights on and was filled with happy regulars. Soi Nana itself was positively pumping with crowds similar to pre-Covid days.

On Patpong, a couple more places have opened up. The week before, there was only King’s ‘street seating’ outside Tip-Top on Soi 1, and XXX Lounge (see the bevy of babes above right). As of Saturday, BarBar, Bada Bing (white dress above), Black Pagoda (back-tatted blondie), Crown Royal, Crystal Palace, and the Patpong Café were open again, along with a handful of the gay bars at the far end of Soi 2. I tagged along with Jack Nites to a couple of photo shoots in BP and XXX and snapped some pics which are included below.

Shenanigan’s are almost back to full strength despite the idiotic rules handed down by the local cops. “You can serve beer on the patio, but not to customers who sit at high-top tables. You can serve to high-top tables indoors, but there’s no smoking indoors. You can’t serve any booze between 2 and 4.” Fucking hell. But new beers and food are added daily, and all the old live music acts from before the Koof have returned, and they sound better than ever.

The Old Other Office (pictured at right) has also put out its welcome mat (literally and figuratively). Thus, in terms of sheer volume, Patpong has the highest number of re-opened establishments, in spite of the obstinance of the local police and landlords, which is a testament to the resilience of this old red-light district.

The overall feeling across all 3 RLDs is one of joy and optimism. It’s a through-line that colors our common drama, even as the spectre of new possible lockdowns looms just offstage. My advice is to keep thinking positive thoughts, and send your good will out into the universe by spending your money in the few places that had the courage to open. Tip the girls. Buy them drinks. Give them encouraging pats on their lovely backsides. Let them know you appreciate the effort. With any luck, each coming week will bring more reopenings, more girls, more music, and more mirth to a world that has endured the darkness for far too long.

Until next week, keep your chins up, your balls shorn, and if you’ve got a glass, raise it. Here’s to the comeback. Here’s to you. Here’s to fun, and most of all here’s to the greatest country on Earth—Thailand. Cheers, everyone.

And if you’re craving more content but are too lazy to read, we’ve got you covered. Check out’s first ever video podcast here: