Hey there. I’m Seven. I live the dream in case you can’t. This is the first in yet another series I’m doing called “Red-light Morning to Night” which consists of….well, exactly what the title says. There are 3 red-light districts in Bangkok so this will be part 1 of 3, narrating the experience of spending the entire day and evening in the RLD. For the first one, I chose my own back yard.
It’s easy to spend the day on the Pong, because it’s not exclusively a red light district. In fact it might be as well-known for the night market as the gogo bars. Also there’s a 24-hour restaurant—Took Lae Dee—inside the Foodland supermarket, as well as a number of beer bars that open as early as 11 a.m. And now that Shenanigans opens daily for breakfast, it’s a downright treat to spend the entire day in that bastion of beer, baubles, and debauchery known as Patpong. So I did. Here’s how it went:
9:30 am—I arrived at Shagginz (commoners know it as Shenanigans) bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hungry for their all-day breakfast and a coffee. The place was empty except for myself, the PR guy, and the staff, but I could already smell good smells from the kitchen. They know I don’t like black pudding so the chef subbed in an extra hash browns, which feels a lot like finding a hundred baht bill in the street. You get a sense that the day’s gonna go your way.
11:30 am—Figuring it was close enough to lunch time, I ordered a Kilkenny. Just as the waitress was setting it down, I got a message from my friend Lucky that he was at Paddy Field for a pint. So, since Paddy and Shagginz are owned by the same folks, I picked up my beer and walked it over there, plopping down at a table next to Lucky on the small patio next to the street. It’s a good spot to people-watch and pass the time. I arrived just before our other friend, Mao Moo. Lucky was half way through a Tiger pint (good price point at 99b), and Moo led off with a Guinness.
Patpong feels a little bit magical during the day. The gogos are shut tight, and there’s no naughty mischief to get up to, but you can sense the potential for it. There’s a feeling of anticipation, like when you’re getting your house ready for a party. Random people pass by or hang about. You can usually spot a few of the gogo bar staff or owners going to and fro. They must work long hours. Of course there are smatterings of tourists who through ignorance or misinformation are walking round looking for sex 10 hours early (or late). Then there are the ones that really stick out, like random school kids, in full uniform, crouching curbside on their phones, obviously ditching Saturday school. Grocery shoppers for Foodland, night market vendors prepping, delivery trucks full of kegs of beer, the occasional ladyboy prostitute sniffing around for afternoon delight. And then there’s us—the beer-devoted, who love nothing more than a Kilkenny at elevensies. We can count the half-hours by the pint, and so 6 pints later it’s 3 pm—the witching hour. It’s when your brain first tells you that what you’re doing is insane and you should quit immediately and go home and go to bed. This is a crucial moment in the day. It is a test of will, and of fortitude, and of peer pressure. Because even though everyone is yearning for a soft pillow, anyone who brings up a nap is immediately ridiculed by the rest for having tiny, baby sized-testes. The trick is to power through, perhaps refortifying with a snack.
4:00 pm—After a Paddy cheeseburger I began to get my second wind. This is where it all turns around for a day-drinker. Sluggishness gives way to a feeling of giddy pride, the slow haze around your brain begins to clear, and you almost feel as though you’ve sprouted wings. It is at this point where a less-experienced lush would go right back at the booze, as hard or harder than when the day started. But a seasoned tosspot knows better. The second wind only works if you glide on it, like a lazy buzzard. It’s a mind game now, between you and your more practical self, the latter slowly being drowned and drowned-out by the real you, the drunker you, that begins to see the potential in the coming evening. It’s also where you lose track of time.
6:00 pm—The sun began to set, casting the Pong in the loveliest purple-blue light. I blinked, focused beyond the lip of the glass, and noticed the early employees opening bars up and down the soi. One by one the signs lit up, then neon blinked to life, and just like that Patpong was awake, stretching and yawning, fresh as a rinsed handkerchief, ready to take on the punters and their money. This is always the best time of the day, because the girls begin to arrive for work. They’re dressed in their civilian clothes, and good Lord do they look amazing. The most frustrating thing is, you often see an absolute stunner and wonder, “Now where in the fuckity fuck does she work? I’ve never even seen her before!” but you can’t just abandon your pint and chase her because that would make you look insane. So you crane your neck and try to clock the direction she’s heading, brain scrambling to think of all the possible destinations, trying to remember and plan to go down that way later, all the while knowing that you’ll eventually forget and likely never see that heavenly creature again. C’est la vie.
Suddenly Lucky remembered there was some Aussie football game he wanted to watch that was showing at Shenanigans so we staggered back there, trying not to spill our pints along the way. I couldn’t care less about sports but I knew that Jason, one of the owners, would pour me a Midnight in the Garden—a pint of half Guinness half Hoegaarden. I know, it sounds awful, but in point of fact, it’s effing delicious and also a beautiful sight to behold. So I went along, not for the footie but for the booze. The game was half over when we arrived.
7:00 pm—After slowing down drinking upon the onset of the second wind, I started to feel sober again, and just in time, because the early gogos open at 7. All three of us knew what would happen next. We exchanged glances, Moo said “Kiss?” Lucky and I nodded, we paid our check-bins, and ambled down Soi 1, dodging the market vendors putting up their yellow tarps and tables and straight into Kiss, where the music was already pumping. The girls weren’t quite ready—some were putting on makeup while others changed into their gogo uniforms (tank tops and short-shorts) right out in the open, oblivious to drunk oglers. We didn’t have to order. The staff know our poison. Mine’s always Witte—except when I went digging in their cooler once and found a stash of Triple Karmeleit nobody knew was there. Depleting that hidden beer treasure was a glorious two weeks. But once it was gone, they didn’t order more, so I went back to Witte. Not as good but still delish.
The Kiss girls are always good for a laugh. They know us—Lucky, Moo, and me—by name and like to sit with us and chew the fat. We hung out with them until they started pumping us for drinks and tips, which is always the cue to leave. I had to make a quick stop in Kings 1 to shake hands with people and put a couple of girls’ minds at ease. Lucky and Mao Moo took up stools next to the stage. I needed more room, so I sat against the wall, book-ended by Praew and Ice, 21 and 18 respectively. We seat-danced, shared some laughs, I bounced their boobs around a bit and checked that they were properly trimming down there, to their embarrassed delight and feigned shyness. Then it was kiss-kiss bye-bye and we were off again, in the direction of Soi 2.
8:00 pm to 11:00 pm—Three hours passed in a blurry haze of beer and vodka. I’m pretty sure we hit Bada Bing, Glamour, Pink Panther, Black Pagoda (where we lost Moo) and finally The Strip. After reaching the bottom of a vodka soda, I looked up. Lucky was being accosted by two girls. He had one over his lap and was playing her ass like 2 conga drums while the other tried to wedge her hand down the front of his jeans, so I left him to fight off their groping hands and vice versa and went for a nightcap at The Steakhouse Co. They have some great wines by the glass, and I had a cigar I was yearning to smoke, so I ordered the Shiraz and sat on the terrace, watching the throng of people passing by. Drunk meandering novices, couples, barfined gogo girls with their customers ducking into the short-time hotel, idiot tourists pushing babies in strollers, tomboys with their girlfriends, and the familiar faces of the handful of regulars who, like me, can’t get enough of this place. When the wine was gone and the cigar became a smoldering nub, I called it quits and grabbed a motorbike taxi home. Like most nights, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow, and like most nights I dreamed of pretty girls in stilettos with golden brown skin and long black hair. This is the life I have chosen. It’s by no means easy. You need stamina, determination, and a lot of Cialis. But you won’t encounter much hardship. The biggest #Thailandproblem I’ll face tomorrow is, do I do it all again onPong, or head down the road to Nana?
Stay tuned for part 2: Morning to night in Nana, and while you wait, follow me on Twitter @BangkokSeven