Upon leaving Cambodia behind after our four-day trek to experience Siem Reap and Angkor, we returned once again to the gigantic Suvarnabhumi International Airport (see "goodies"). Of course, we couldn't just sit (or sleep) in the terminal all night long during our eight hour layover! We had “one (more) night in Bangkok” in which to maximize the trip, and thus, we hopped back into a cab, asking our driver to drop us off in Patpong, Bangkok’s infamous den of debauchery!
Well-known for its racy sex shows that predominately attract men from around the world looking for a bit of “nookie,” Patpong is easily one of the more happening areas by nightfall. We were let out at a noisy restaurant called “The Happy Beer Garden,” surprised to discover that the notorious district was much more than just a couple dusty streets jam-packed with candle-lit tents. The enclave is actually a lot more modern - albeit in a 1980’s sorta way - and believe it or not, everything does not revolve around sex... just most of it!
Culinary offerings at Happy Beer Garden were pretty bleak, and yet at this final point in the two-week journey, we were thrilled at the prospect of basic pub fare. While dining and ear-wigging on other conversations, a familiar sound emerged out of nowhere. It was the unmistakable clatter of a wooden “güiro” toy frog. Instantly, we knew faux "hill-tribe" women were nearby, selling their cheap souvenirs to those already too aggravated by the incessant “croaking.” Luckily for us, we were soon visited by one of these women who sat down to chat table side! She showed off her hideous teeth, blackened by the hallucinogen of the betel nut. Suddenly, our fried food seemed less attractive.
Afterward, we traversed down Patpong’s main pedestrian thoroughfare which consists of several market tents selling both Thai souvenirs and fashion items for the bargain hunter (i.e. trainers, “Kanye West sunglasses” and handbags). The setting was oddly more civilized than we ever could have imagined, and yet, lurking in its shadows, a sordid freak show unravels here nightly, uncaring as to which vices you may or may not hold dear.
Lining the streets are numerous bars that compete with one another for the title of “Most Shocking Sex Act.” Sordid barkers of all ages proffer shows from poorly-Xeroxed menus. “Pu**y blows balloon” was certainly one of the more comical menu options, though there were hundreds of other varietals advertised. (One of the more famous acts is arguably the “Ping Pong show.” We will let you work out the details.) Eventually, we managed to snap a souvenir photo from one of the sleazier clubs after the gentleman hawking outside refused to sell us the actual piece of paper! We figured our friends back home would never believe “Pu**y smokes cigar” unless they saw the menu with their very own eyes.
Aside from all of the depravity, tamer, more appropriate bars and clubs vie for customers nearby, similar to trendy spots you might find in London's SOHO area. We decided to escape the lunacy of Patpong’s main drag altogether and opted instead for the dead end street noted as the site of “Dick’s Cafe.” Go-Go bars like Dick’s are predominately gay and often come with even quirkier names for their drinks, but you'll have to decide whether you are you looking for a “Dream Boy” or a “Future Boy?” Neighboring Hot Male Beer Bar was so popular, it begat a sequel, Hot Male Beer Bar 2!
Even if you are not looking for sex or ping pongs, we recommend at least one visit to Patpong for its heightened sense of surreality. While the small conglomeration of well-packed streets are dizzying in their grotesqueness - and certainly not recommended for the faint of heart - if you are looking for a late night beer, accompanied by a foot massage and perhaps a few laughs, Patpong is a hoot! (And by the way, in case you were wondering... While visiting Patpong we certainly did witness the cliché exchange you may have been waiting for, an older white “sex tourist” picking up a young Thai sex worker! Anna Leonowens would be rolling over in her grave!)
Patpong District - located near Lumphini Park, Bang Rak, Bangkok
Molly Bar Khaosan
On the lookout for a casual place that offered good people-watching of Khao San’s many loons, we spotted the Molly Bar after walking up and down the thoroughfare a number of times. The charming outdoor patio bustled with patrons and easily hinted of New Orleans with its large shady tree decorated in lights. And while the enchanting scene alone easily beckons, you can be assured our quest to consume ice cold beer also had something to do with the locale’s allure.
Upon further inspection we discovered that Molly Bar is one of the better spots to meet the locals who want to meet tourists! If you are hanging out with the backpacker crowd on Khao San, Molly Bar may just be your best bet at making an acquaintance or two. The food was not half bad either.
Though my chicken papaya salad was a bit too spicy for my liking - and I paid for it later - Set of Drifter Brady’s basic green curry chicken, served in a clay pot, was a hit! We enjoyed sipping our cocktails and watching the sights and sounds of Khao San whiz by - whether on bike, skateboard, or tuk-tuk! The energy here is palpable, and yet another of the reasons this spot reminded us so much of the “Big N.O.” Don’t expect much at Molly Bar, just enough to get you going until your next foot massage down the road!
Molly Bar Khaosan - 108 Rambuttri Road, Banglamphu, Bangkok, 011 (66) 02-629-4074