Want to know more about the Patpong red-light district?
One of several red-light areas of Bangkok, Patpong is known mainly for servicing foreigners, particularly Westerners. It has a busy night market which attracts a lot of tourists as well as plenty of go-go bars, clubs and performance venues. As well as competing with shoppers, the streets are usually packed with touts trying to attract customers to their bars and shows. It is a cacophonous area of Bangkok which is increasingly become less of a hotspot for the sex industry and more of a general tourist attraction. However, there are still some gems to discover in Patpong, if you know where to look.
In this guide, we take a look at the history of the Patpong red-light district as well as how to find it. We also give you a full run down of what you can expect along with our recommendations for the must-visit venues.
Location of Patpong Red-Light District
The Patpong red-light district is situated in the south west of Bangkok close to Lumphini Park and in an area known as Silom. The adult entertainment area is primarily based down the two roads which run between Silom Road and Thanon Surawong. These two alleyways are called Patpong 2 and Patpong 1. However, most of the action is on Patpong 1.
The bustling open-air night market is located on the same road and fills much of the street from 6.00pm until the early hours of the morning.
Silon Soi 4 (also called Patpong 3 or Soi Jaruwan) is where much of the area’s gay bars are located. Also nearby is Soi Thaniya where you can find the posh hostess bars which generally cater to the tastes of wealthy Japanese tourists and businessmen.
You can easily reach Patpong on foot from the BTS Skytrain Silom Line’s Sala Daeng Station, and MRT Blue Line’s Silom Station.
History of Patpong Red-Light District
Much of the area around the Patpong red-light district is owned by the same family of Chinese immigrants after which the streets are named. The Patpongpanich purchased most of this land in 1946 when the area was an undeveloped part of Bangkok’s outskirts. Having built much of the infrastructure, including Patpong 1 and Patpong 2, the area was initially a very ordinary commercial district.
In 1968, a couple of nightclubs had opened and quickly drew the interest of U.S. troops stationed in Bangkok for R&R (rest and recuperation) breaks during the Vietnam War. As is the case with most of the city’s other red-light areas, this association quickly led to a rise in the number of prostitutes and adult entertainment venues. This only grew after the war as more foreigners came to explore the districts made infamous by the exploits of the armed forces. By the 1980s, Patpong had risen to fame for its sexually explicit shows, diverse range of go-go bars and street prostitutes. Catering almost exclusively to foreigners and with most women speaking reasonably good English, it was the premier destination for sex tourists at the time.
However, in the 1990s, the Patpongpanich family came up with the idea of renting the streets to vendors to turn Patpong 1 into a night market. Consequently, the area began to attract a different kind of visitor and shoppers began to replace the usual mongers looking for some late-night action. The proximity of Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza also competed for the attention of the latter and Patpong began to lose much of its original appeal.
In 2004, Patpong became a designated entertainment area of Bangkok which means that bars can stay open for longer. This has helped bring back some of the thrill-seekers to the area and Patpong remains one of the city’s ‘must-visit’ attractions.
A Guide to Patpong Red-Light District
Patpong is definitely becoming less of a hotspot for the red-light tourists but it is still the original area where go-go bars first became popular in Bangkok. For this reason, Patpong is the Mecca for sex tourists heading to the city, or anybody looking to hookup in Bangkok with a certain type of lady. You can still find some good go-go bars but generally speaking they are more expensive, busier and a little less vibrant than their counterparts in Soi Cowboy or Nana Plaza; the latter isn’t called the ‘The World’s Largest Adult Playground’ for no reason.
Go Go Bars
Just like in Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza, the biggest draw for tourists looking for some late-night thrills are the go-go bars. These clubs and bars have a selection of topless and nude dancers who will perform on a continuous loop in the stage areas of the bar. When not performing, the girls will circulate with the customers and (for the cost of a girly drink) keep the men company. If you want a bit more then you can pay a bar fine to the club and take the girl off rota for a short time and avail yourself of her personal services. Some clubs have rooms on the premises for this very purpose whilst others simply have curtained off, or dark, corners where this can take place. For some guys, it is preferable to take the girl off site and head to a nearby love hotel (see below).
Bar fines vary by venue but you can expect to pay between 300-600 baht ($9-$18) with the coyote dancers sometimes being upwards of 1200 baht ($36). On top of the bar-fine you will also have to negotiate on the price for sex with an average fee being between 800 baht ($24) and 1500 baht ($46). Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a love hotel plus the girly drinks on top.
There are lots of great go-go bars in Patpong, each having a different theme or style with some of the better known ones being:
- Bada Bing
- King’s Castle 1 & 2
- King’s Corner
- The Black Pagoda
- The Strip
- Pink Panther Pub
Patpong is most notorious for its live sex shows, the most infamous of these being the fetish ‘ping-pong’ shows. Touts are common on the streets and even tuk-tuk and taxi-drivers are part-time agents who will happily take you to a show. Often advertised as being free, the unfortunate truth is that many of these venues run scams to ensue that visitors run up some enormous bills for drinks, extras and private shows.
Clubs normally employ burly security guards who will make sure that you pay in full. Arguments and disturbances from these venues can be frequent and very few have a good reputation. However, for some visitors, it is worth the risk of spending an extortionate sum just to experience an ‘authentic’ Bangkok sex show. Few places on earth offer anywhere near the mind-blowing spectacle of a nude Thai dancer opening a bottle of beer, shooting a ping pong ball or ‘smoking’ a cigarette with her unmentionables as you can find in Patpong.
Shows are often located in upstairs bars off the main routes of Patpong 1 and 2 but you will have no trouble finding a tout willing to take you one…but, you have been warned.
A lot of the bars in Patpong listed above have kathoeys (ladyboys) working for them but for some reason, most of those that do are post-operative, unlike many of those found in Nana Plaza.
King’s Corner 2 is a popular bar for anyone who wants to see some fine ladyboy go-go dancers but the original, Kings Corner 1, is much more relaxed and low-pressure on the girly drinks.
Street Prostitutes & Love Hotels
Patpong has a lot of freelance street hookers who loiter around the stalls, bar entrances and corners of the alleys.
Best of the Rest
If you are heading to Patpong for some authentic night-time Thai action then make sure you hit up the Kangaroo Club on Patpong 1. A cosy blowjob bar offering cold beers and a quick blowie on the first floor, you can even stay to watch porn. However, the bar has had its fair share of controversy with some reports of scamming when it comes to the bill.
The BarBar Fetish Club is also a good venue to drop in on and although there is an admission charge, you wont regret paying it. Far from being a BDSM club, the tone here is just on a slightly kinkier go-go bar and the girls here are more confident and sassy.
The Safari is another venue worth visiting even though it is no longer a go-go bar. Instead, the club has moved ‘upmarket’ and, instead, offers hostess and companionship services where customers can sit and chat with the ladies. Of course, there is more on offer but the atmosphere is less rowdy and offers a more mature way to pick up. It is not so popular with backpackers and tourists but has a lot of expats.
Featured image via Wikimedia.