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A Post Lockdown Night Out In Bangkok



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

It was a couple of days after we had arrived at the other half’s folks in deepest Isaan, when the call came through. Roger was going to be in Bangkok for a few days to visit Alan and their respective partners and kids would hang out together – meaning that a boy’s night was possible. Would I like to join? It was some months since I had been in Bangkok. The last time was in March when I had scared the shit out of myself – I was there for the ides of March which turned out to be prophetic. I had needed to be there for a meeting, however I could easily have cancelled. Truth is I need a night or 2 on the darkside a couple of times a year to keep myself balanced. On this occasion, me and a friend painted the town for a couple of debauched nights just as the lockdown was about to descend. The bars were emptying, and rumours swirled on our return of Covid cases in at least one of the bars we had visited. Subsequently the idea of a night out has been out of the question and seemed likely to be so for many months, if not years to come.

Since that fateful March trip the tyranny of lockdown has dominated our lives. The freedom of a night out seems a long time ago, in another age. I broached it with the missus and she said of course, why not, it will do you good. So that was that. I booked a flight on Wednesday and she would join with the kids on Saturday – 3 nights on the town. It’s extraordinary that it was also safe to do so considering what’s going on with Covid in Europe and in the States. However cynical you are in regard to lockdowns, we can all agree that Thailand has coped better with the virus than many other countries. By the way, please don’t hit me up with conspiracy theories as I’m not interested.

On the Wednesday I ended up working late online and didn’t have my first drink until 10:30 PM. My friends weren’t arriving until Thursday, so I was alone. I left the Airbnb I had rented in lower Sukhumvit at 11 PM and popped over to Artbox to check it out, having heard it had become a meeting point of sorts. It was dead so I picked up a bike to soi 4. I had cheap pint at an almost deserted Hanrahan’s before crossing the street to my favourite freelancer joint, Hilary 2. It was also as quiet as I have ever seen it, but it did have a vibe. Last time I was there drinks were a whopping 180 baht, but prices have fallen to a more reasonable 140 baht. The normal tables filled with giggling drinking freelancers were there, with a smattering of blood-shot-eyed expats. I did the circuit but cursed being on my own. It’s always a challenge to break the ice with a table and you don’t want to pick poorly. I ended up taking a moment near the door sat on a stool by the pool table. A smiling attractive lass started giving me the eye, so I waved her over. She had great patter – turned out she was Vietnamese, didn’t drink and my gut told me no. Over the years I have learned to trust my instincts. I don’t want a mechanical, transactional experience. I want random silliness, drunk and disorderly, unplanned escapades and a bit of no string’s tenderness, otherwise what’s the point? I made my polite apologies, and as my beer was out and no staff had chased me to order for another (a total rarity in Hillary as normally they are hassling you when there is an inch of beer left!), I walked up to the bar. The gobby one out of a table of 3 tipsy freelancers gestured me over and I thought why not? Nok, Ae and Lek turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. After some small talk, I ordered drinks for all of them and we soon started having some good banter which was just what I needed after 3 months of lockdown.

Nok was a willowy Lao beauty who I took a shine to and we were soon getting intimate with dirty dancing and some jokey canoodling. The girls lost Ae and decided to drag me into the plaza. As I was intrigued to have a look, I thought why not. I am not a massive gogo fan at the best of times, but at the moment it’s fairly scary if you are unaccompanied. Girls outnumber customers by such a huge margin, it’s hard for the bars to get an atmosphere going. I think the bar was Spanky’s, and beers were again discounted, this time to a reasonable 160 baht (for a gogo). I unloaded some more of my hard-earned cash on more drinks until closing time. Must have been after 1 AM by this point. We said goodnight to Lek and Nok and I made our way to the condo. I was so drunk that I had little recollection in the morning of whether anything has happened, and it was only Nok producing hard evidence that convinced! It is a shame if you have a top night out and forget the best bits, one of the issues of age I guess. Normally I don’t particularly care to have a girl in my bed the next day, but it was different with Nok. She was very pleasant company, in an unfussy way. When she left at 3 PM I was genuinely sorry to see her go.

My friend Rob arrived a little after Nok’s departure and we readied ourselves for a big night out with Roger. We checked in at Margarita Storm and proceeded to knock back happy hour pints and demolish a burger. We left to pop our heads in at Cowboy, had a quick beer at Lollipop before departing to Soi 4. None of us are too keen on gogos to be honest. First off, they are seriously expensive. And they are a dated concept. I do rate a few places but let’s be real – money is tight for obvious reasons so why unload unnecessary cash? A few drinks and a freelancer are much more my cup of tea.

We were back at Hillary 2 once more (for me anyway!) and there was Nok looking happy to see me and I thought why not, which turned out to be a great decision. Rog and Al soon found companions and we ended up at a street bar of one of the even sois having a fantastic time, just like in the old days. Actually, everyone was happy to see us and treated us well the whole night. Good times.

There seems to be an unhealthy obsession with price in some submissions, and while I certainly want good value too, I do think that there is a glaring issue here. Unless your heart is made of stone, most people are hurting at the moment. It just feels wrong not to help. If you can afford it then make sure you tip and pay girls a reasonable fee – don’t be a kee-neaw. If you are jai dee there are great times to be had that I suspect, we will talk about for many years to come. “During the lockdown….” will become the start of many a tall tale…

Remember: it’s important to be nice.

There are amazing deals to be had at most places that are open. Look out for happy hours and special meal deals in lower Sukhumvit. Having said that, many hotels and shops remain closed. If you come with low expectations, there are good times to be had. I would recommend looking at Airbnb – some great deals at the moment and you can have a little after party when you get back from your night out. It works out less than 1000 each per night, great value.

The author can be contacted at [email protected]