I remember a time long ago…… blah blah blah…… yep this is another submission about the good old days.
My dear Grandmother (bless her soul) gave me a hansom 21st birthday present in the form of $2K and I sat on it for a little while until a mate of mine suggested we go see what the big wide world had to offer. He had just completed university and his father was waving dollars at him as a reward so he decided he ought to be in.
We discussed possibilities for the itinerary but I insisted Thailand must be on the agenda. I had already had a few Asian girlfriends in Australia and I had begun to develop a healthy case of yellow fever. Before our departure I had tried to do some homework on the subject of Thai red light districts but apart from a few R&R scenes from Vietnam war movies I had little knowledge of what I was in for. It is amazing what a valuable information tool the internet is. But in 1991 there was no internet, so with the song “One night in Bangkok” ringing in my ears we set off on our journey. We both got off the plane as two young rookies and we definitely had no idea what to expect.
I remember oh so many things that will live in my memories forever. My first night in Bangkok we checked in to a dump of a back packer joint in Koh Sarn Road complete with cockroaches and communal toilets. This guesthouse still exists today and hasn't changed a bit other than half a dozen internet computers in the cafe downstairs. We dumped our bags and headed straight for Pat Pong Road. We were gonna jump straight in the deep end and learn to swim the hard way. We sampled a few GoGo Bars and I flirted with gorgeous girls which I later found out to be of the ladyboy variety. Then we hit a disco in Pat Pong 2 Road. Later this disco was closed around 1995 and is now a pharmacy. We had come straight from Bali and were still dressed in thongs and T-shirts – most inappropriate for a Pat Pong Disco. I remember asking the DJ if I could have a go at the turn tables and he thought it was really cool that I could scratch and mix. Then I looked up and a really beautiful Thai girl was staring at me. Later I went over to her and tried to strike up a polite, courteous conversation. She giggled and smiled a bit and was happy to talk to me. I remember thinking I had better be careful in case I was chatting up some Thai dude's girl and he would want to come over and start a fight with me. The night was getting on and we were on a tight budget so I asked the girl when she would be back at the disco again. She told me she would be back the following night. I couldn't quite understand that. Later I learned that she was exactly the same as all the other hot chicks in the joint. She was on the menu. Oh naive I was back then.
Back in those days Pat Pong had the street market but it wasn’t quite so big or busy and you could get around easily, unlike today when you trip over all the shoppers in your drunken state trying to get from one GoGo bar to another. Pat Pong did have many more bars in the old days and I don’t think it matters how far you go back in time – those bars were always grotty, worn out and run down with ancient light shows and crappy sound systems. There was a big kick boxing bar down one end of the Pong that did really good business. In 1995 I met a great chick called Nok at this bar and I have often wondered whatever became of her. The kick boxing bar had no shortage of lady boys as did many of the PatPong GoGo bars. It seems that the Thai ladyboys have been around forever too.
I remember a pizza restaurant upstairs on Pat Pong 2 and I always stop in for a pizza when I am in Thailand. It is a bit of a tradition. I’m not sure if it is still there. Pat Pong has had some great discos in its past history. Many good discos have come and gone. It seems every time I go to Thailand I find a new disco down Pat Pong but then I go looking for the old discos and they are usually closed and forgotten about. There has also been some really good pool halls around the Pong and these places have been a great source of enjoyment for me over the years. Again these pool halls seem to come and go with the same frequency as the discos. In the old days there was a lot more dodgy hardcore GoGo bars including many small ones hidden in positions that you may never spot. There were a lot of discrete little GoGo bars that I discovered and enjoyed the hospitality and entertainment of.
I remember on my third night at the Pong back in 1991 I spent 15 minutes in a boring GoGo Bar. I decided to check bin and hit the road. I was presented with a 2K Baht bill and I told them to forget about it. The manager came out and showed me a very small dirty sign on the back of the GoGo bar door that read “First show free, 500 baht per show after”. I am a 6ft2” guy and I offered him 50 baht for my Singha to settle the bill. The tiny little fellow started getting aggressive and in front of all his staff he started to get physical with me. He tried to push me and hit my body but he never threw a punch to my face. I couldn't believe this little fellow wanted to take me on in front of all these girls, it simply didn’t make sense to me. I shouted at him to fuck off but it just got him even more worked up. I told him to go and get the tourist police to sort it out but he would not hear of it. Back home in Australia I would have simply pushed him out of my way and walked out the door, there would have been nothing he could have done to prevent me. But I had it in the back of my mind that there must be some Thai kickboxing security guys hiding out the back waiting for a good punch up. Why else would this crazy little fellow act like this? So I threw 500 baht at him and headed for the door. He kept yelling but he did not follow me. Remember 500 baht was a lot of cash in those days. I never did find out if those kick boxers were hiding out the back.
Probably the best thing about the Pong in those old days was that the girls did not have to wear a number and they did not have to stay working in a bar. Certainly there were girls that were in the employment of the bar, but there were also many freelancers who just did what they want. Today they would be considered vagrants and the Tourist Police would be on to them in a flash. But in the old days the freelancers were a vibrant part of the Pong. They made it more colorful and crazy. They gave the Pong a carefree feeling and it was a lot more fun. You could just hang on the corner of the street between Part Pong 1 and Pat Pong 2 and watch the world go by. Lots of crazy things were always going on. Vietnam war veterans and other falang misfit hobos would be stumbling around. Freelance bargirls would be fighting with each other for their little bit of turf and the ladyboys were always fighting with everybody. You would see a drunk German trip over a one legged beggar and fall onto a ladyboy who would spill her drink onto her ladyboy friend and then all hell would break loose. She would pick up a plate of food from a roadside table and throw it at the drunk but it would miss him and go all over a street cat with a crooked tail sitting in the gutter minding it’s own business. Then some security boys would throw some drunk falang down the stairs out of a disco for starting a fight with a freelance bar girl who had ripped him off the week before. There was always something crazy to see.
These days the Pong seems very clinical and sedate to me. It simply lacks that old excitement and freedom and innocence. Now days it is just business. And the stupid Pat Pong market doesn’t help the atmosphere one little bit either.
Guess what? In 1991 Nana Plaza did not have Pharaohs Bar or any other bars in the middle of the plaza. In fact it was completely open in the middle and it was a lot better then. I remember seeing Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked in the middle of the Plaza every night along side numerous motorbikes. I don’t know where they came from or who owned them but at 21 years of age I sure was impressed. The Third floor of the Plaza was rather dead and I don’t remember if Hollywood actually existed back then. The popular GoGo Bars were on the ground floor and particularly down the RHS of the Plaza. My experience was the same as most others you read about. The Plaza was cheaper than the Pong, had less ladyboys, the girls were not as attractive but they were a lot more friendly and generally Nana Plaza was a better place to be. Above all, when the Plaza closed at 2:00am, it was only a small walk to Nana Disco.
Back in those days many of the girls who worked in GoGo Bars in Bangkok and Pattaya would go to the local popular disco after the GoGo bar closed. These days it seems that the GoGo girls and the disco girls are two completely different breeds of bargirl. Even before the early closing time rules came into effect, I would rarely find a GoGo girl finish work at 2:00 AM and head off to the disco for a few more hours to see what she could find.
The Nana disco has long been my favorite disco in the world. I always dress up for the occasion and I feel like the moment I walk in the front door, I am on the menu. I just love the women fighting over me. I am happy to watch two girls get into a punch up and roll around on the floor pulling each others hair out over who will have the honour of sharing my bed that night. Nana Disco has always been trashy and it hasn't changed a bit in my 13 years of patronage. But the door charge, the expensive drink prices and the 2:00am closing times make it far less appealing to me these days. It may be my imagination but I also notice that the Nana Disco security seem to be more prone to beating up farangs. Wherever there is an altercation of any kind, the security seem to run thru the crowd knocking people everywhere and all jump on some poor falang on his own who had the misfortune to question the waitress if she gave him the correct change or not. I don’t remember the Nana Disco security being so eager to beat up farangs in the old days. In fact I remember that they actually used to smile in the old days.
I really am a disco man and I don’t bother with small talk at the bars all that much. It is for this reason that these days I spend my time at Pattaya where the early closing policy does not seem to have any effect on the party town and the discos go all night long.
I can’t tell you much about Cowboy because I only got down there about half a dozen times of so in the 1990’s and I don’t remember too much. But I can tell you about Thermae. Thermae was everything people say it was and more. It’s reputation as the Star Wars bar of SE Asia where all the misfits of the universe hang out was a very accurate description. I have made it to 6:00am closing time at Thermae many many many times and I am certainly a veteran of that bar. I clocked up a lot of frequent flyer miles in that old joint. I never made it to the original Thermae but my guess is it would have been small and claustrophobic. Thermae 2 was the perfect size and the perfect layout. The drink prices were extremely reasonable, ladyboys were not welcome so you didn’t have to worry if the chick you were talking to had a dick or not. The waiting staff were very helpful if you tipped them well, you did not have to pay to use the toilet like you do now. By 4:00am you could find yourself really cheap company. Sometimes it was with girls who for whatever reason did not have a room to stay in that night and would settle for anyone or anything. Sometimes you would find really smart girls who worked as bank tellers or something like that and they were in the market for a falang boyfriend. On many occasions I found girls who had left Thailand and married to Western men but had come back for a short visit to Thailand to see friend and family and they were just out for a bit of fun on the town.
The drink prices were so damn cheap and the girls were so damn dodgy that I remember getting countless number of Thai girls pissed out of their minds and taking them home. It was cheap and easy to take two Thai girls home and often they were so pissed that I had to let them sleep it off and wait till we woke up in the afternoon to get my well earnt shag. Thermae certainly managed to attract a bizarre breed of patron. The riff raff of freelance girls was only outdone by the male dregs of Western society. You would walk down the stairs, open the front door and be confronted by a very piss poor excuse for humanity. Thermae the rubbish bin of society but it sure had character. You could never get bored in Thermae it was just too much fun and too colourful. I remember one time meeting some huge professional WWF wrestlers and one of the guys was so pissed he wanted to pick me up and show me how to do a pile-driver. His friends tried to talk him out of it but he just had to do it. In his intoxicated state he dropped me on my head and really hurt me badly. Then he wanted to fight with me, I think because he thought I made him look bad in front of everyone. Crazy drunk idiot American.
If you are new to Thailand and you have never seen Thermae in its true form then I certainly pity you. In my opinion Thermae is the epitome of the Bangkok red light district. It is one of the only things I really miss about the good old days.
I am 32 years old and I still have a lot of fire left in me. I will never get married and I hope to one to die in the sack. I miss the old days but I accept that countries and societies develop and change. I don’t live my life in the past. I am young at heart and I want to make new memories not dwell on old ones. I am not old and I still have a many more good years left in me so I am happy to move on and make the most of new opportunities. I work very hard in my business at home but when I travel now I am spending most of my time in my favorite country in the world – Cambodia.
The good old days, all right. Even in the relatively short amount of time that I have been here, the naughty nightlife industry has changed drastically. I can remember spending a few Saturday nights down at Cowboy until it closed, finding a quiet bar where there would be maybe one or two other customers only. I'd practice my Thai with the girls, have a laugh and at 2:00, disappear up to the Thermae. It was genuinely fun, there was little pressure and even if you weren't interested in buying huge numbers of lady drinks and had made it clear that you would not be taking a girl home, they'd still be happy to sit and chat with you. The attitude at Cowboy has changed markedly over the past 2 years. As for Patpong and Nana, fun is not a word I would use to describe them. Interesting, never dull, but fun? No more.