Bangkok residents – particularly the young ones – tend to be light-hearted and fun-loving by nature, and their city presents plenty of reasons for getting out and letting your hair down. But it’s also the tolerant attitude to the naughtier side of nightlife that has also made Bangkok famous the world over. Of course, it’s unfair to label Bangkok solely as a sex city, for it also boasts a sophisticated and refined evening atmosphere found in the numerous expat bars, plush restaurants and quiet lounges.
Bars and clubs in the more popular tourist spots of Bangkok offer choices that should suit just about everyone. Tourism plays a strong role in the proliferation of Bangkok bars and nightlife, with whole areas given over to certain tastes.
For example, off Silom road there is an entire street of karaoke bars exclusively for Japanese patronage. Bars offer up local drink specials, local and imported beers and international cocktails.
The city has a modern and chic crowd and you’ll find everything from rave clubs to live country music, or ambient lounges and tiny roadside cocktail shacks. There are also plenty of bars full of ladies looking to be your companion for the night, the locals treat them with indifference, the atmosphere is harmless and it’s a big attraction for some. See more on Bangkok nightlife.
If you’re interested in sticking with bars that cater to foreign visitors or expats, Sukhumvit road is the place to head. You can do a pub crawl here that’s truly international here and includes a number of English, Irish, German and American-style establishments to choose from. You won’t generally find Thais frequenting these pubs as they are a bit pricey for locals on the whole. The same area boasts a good selection of clubs with talented DJs and large dance floors which draws in trendy locals and foreign visitors as well.
Another area popular with tourists is Silom (Sala Daeng BTS station) where a variety of bars, shopping malls and street vendors mingle. Aside from the famous two lanes of Patpong, which are packed with the real showgirls of the go go scene, Soi (lane) 4 is a liberated mix of gay bars and trendy bar lounges where the city’s fashionable like to hang out.
The Khao San Road area is packed with bars featuring a wide variety of musical genres. You can listen to house, rock, Thai, hip hop and drum and bass among others. The venues here are filled with backpackers and other foreign tourists and are lively while being reasonably-priced. More recently this has become a popular place for young, cosmopolitan Thais as well.
Bangkok’s go-go bar scene brings hordes of tourists throughout the year to the city’s three main red light districts: Patpong, Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. The latter two are on Sukhumwit road and the action is more regulated and tamer than it was in the 1980s and 90s, but it’s still heavily sexual and isn’t likely to compare to anything you’ve seen at home.
Typically you’ll be invited in with the ubiquitous ‘hello, welcome’ from the scantily-clad ladies loitering outside, the atmosphere is generally fun and friendly with perhaps some pole dancers on stage.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em these places are plentiful – but they’re also clustered in the three main locations, so you can avoid them if this isn’t to your liking. Others simple wander through for some ‘people watching’ and you needn’t feel uncomfortable in such areas, the Thais think nothing of these girls earning a living fraternalising with foreigners. The famous ‘ping pong’ shows are found mainly at Patpong, if you step inside you will be expected to buy a drink, always ask for the bill and pay it before taking a sip! More on Bangkok go go bars and how it all operates.
Other Thai cities also boast gay and lesbian nightlife, but it is Bangkok in particular that’s noted for the diversity – and is a magnet for gay travellers from around the world. In the capital city, the largest concentrations of bars are found off Silom road on Soi 2 and Soi 4 – with Soi 4 attracting a mixed clientele at several bars. Off Surawong road there are several more gay establishments which are a little seedier. Along Soi Anuman Rachathon and Soi Tawan, a number of bars cater more to Thai and other Asian gays. In addition, there are a few venues to be found off Sukhumvit Road (notably on Soi 23) and in Banglampoo, on Tanoak road.
The scene for men is blatantly obvious, but this is less so for women. Lesbian venues are not as well known and the scene is more linked to circles of friends, with no particular area known as ‘lesbian’. For information on gay gathering places, women who are interested can contact an organisation known as Anjaree…more on gay Bangkok.