For most visitors to Bangkok a prerequisite visit to Patpong red light district is a must. It’s alluring go-go bar lights and chrome stripper poles have attracted tourists from all corners of the globe. But today Patpong is not just a front for the sex industry anymore. With more and more commercial businesses propping up it has become more of a watered down sleaze district.
Located in the commercial business district called Silom, Patpong is indistinguishable from 다낭유흥 any other local businesses without its neon signs turned on. But by sundown and when the shops of the popular night markets have finished setting up on the streets of Patpong 1 the surrounding area takes on a whole different energy level.
You can easily find Patpong red light district without any problems at all. There are two train systems, one underground and the other an elevated train system with stations just a few minutes walk to Patpong. And any taxi driver will without a doubt know where Patpong is just by mentioning it.
Patpong was once the king of Bangkok’s 3 red light districts. Though its glory days are surely not gone and forgotten. As of writing Patpong’s major go-go bar group King’s entertainment has followed suit to its brethren Soi Cowboy red light district and started making improvements and renovations in their own clubs.
And that’s not all where its transformation ends. After Patpong was deemed as an official ‘Entertainment Zone’ by the Thai government back in 2004, more mainstream business have started between the niches of go-go bars and sex shows. There is more of a noticeable police presence – and with that no more prostitutes working on streets of Patpong no matter how clear sex for sale goes on inside of the go-go bars.
Is Patpong safer? Well Patpong was never dangerous. Although occurrences of pick pocketing happens as it does in any other tourist heavy destinations. Patpong has always been relatively safe back since the days when American soldiers stepped through the doors of a go-go bar during the Vietnam War era. Though the only real annoyance are the touts trying to sell you on taking a trip to up the stairs of a go go bar to see a sex show.
Today many hotels have opened up near Patpong drawing vacationers of all varieties – not just sex tourists. So you will often find many families, retirees and honeymooners strolling through the lanes of Patpong shoulder to shoulder and ogling at the scantily clad women prancing on stage. Patpong may go down in history as Bangkok’s prime red light district but it certainly has an all new appeal for visitors looking to trek through the sleaze without getting too dirty.
People familiar with Bangkok or researching for a visit know about some of Bangkok’s more famous — and infamous — nightlife venues. The best-known is Patpong, which dates back to the 1960’s and was popular with soldiers on leave from the Vietnam War. Also well-known are Nana Plaza just off Sukhumvit Road on Soi 4 (Soi Nana) and Soi Cowboy.
Washington Square is actually an enclosure with three cheek-by-jowl, longish buildings occupying much of the center, with a drive going along all four sides, the drive framed by a row of buildings. The Square can be entered directly from Sukhumvit Road via a short access drive to the inner drive or from Sukhumvit Soi 22 directly opposite the Regency Park Hotel about a hundred meters from Sukhumvit Road.
The Square is a rather curious place. There are several bars, including two that serve food as well, some that serve only drinks, and yet others that are more restaurant in nature than bar. There are some bars catering to Japanese. Nestled off by itself in the northwest corner of the Square there’s even a gay bar, but for most patrons of the Square, it may as well be on another planet. There are also several massage parlors. There are several companies located here, including a printer and a travel agency. The middle of the three side-by-side buildings used to house a movie cinema but now offers a large pool-oriented bar on the ground floor with a “ladyboy” cabaret show upstairs in the auditorium.
The largest single group of regulars in the Square — and it is very much a regulars’ sort of place — is American, though numerous other nationalities are represented, especially Canadian, British, Australian, and New Zealander, but with numerous others represented by at least one or two folks. For the most part, regulars of the Square (a group dubbed “Squaronians”) are a slightly older group and almost entirely male.
The Western-oriented bar-only places and two of the bars that also serve food are not for the faint-of-heart, as they can be quite raunchy. Not always, but sometimes. The same holds for all the drinks-only places. When they’re calm, they’re great places to relax, whether you want to sit on your own listening to music or watching television — all the places have both — or to strike up a conversation with other customers or employees. Of course, if you like rowdiness, you can find that, too. Drink prices are particularly competitive, especially compared to hotel bars and bars in the well-known venues. In all, there are about a dozzen places catering primarily to Westerners. Along Sukhumvit Soi 22 there is the occcasional bar, plus one small block of (mostly) bars on the other side of the soi from Washington Square and a little further down. These are all Western-oriented and have numerous regular patrons.
This is a good area to get a feel for the resident expatriate’s lifestyle that’s very different from that of the corporate expat’s. Most folks around this area are full-time and long-term not rotating out after a tour back to their home country. Many have Thai wives, and some have children. A sizeable number are retired (including quite a few retired U. S. military people). The largest working group is made of of people in the oil business or construction (often oil-related) as field workers.
A locally-based British writer once wrote an article in which he described the regulars of the Square as “men with thousand-yard stares, ” and that’s a good metaphor. Newcomers are always welcome, but Squaronians like to get a sense of them (and don’t suffer fools at all, never mind gladly! ). I should note that while I’m very much a Squaronian myself (and have been for way over a decade), I have no business interests anywhere in Washington Square. I sometimes get asked because I do write about it frequently.
It’s worth checking out, and is close to the Skytrain station at the Emporium as well as slightly further from the Asoke Station; the walk is easy from either one. Figure on about four or five minutes from the Emporium station and about eight-ten minutes from the one at Asoke.