Patpong bars comprise one of Thailand’s oldest and most famous red light districts.
For almost six decades, people from all over the world have passed through many bars and the night market in Patpong Soi 1 and Patpong Soi 2 in the Silom area of Bangkok.
These bars of Patpong Bangkok have taken away memories, anecdotes, and tales that take some beating.
You get the feeling that for some bars, the owners have seen it all, or at least the sex workers there have.
Patpong Bangkok is valuable section of city’s central business district with a long history, worthy for any night warrier to discover.
Patpong Bangkok – 60 Years in the Making
How was Patpong named?
Patpong was named after the family that bought the land in 1946.
A Chinese immigrant from Hainan Island was given the name “Patpongpanich” by the King of Thailand.
He apparently bought the land for an estimated $24,000 US.
This was for building family houses between the Silom and Suriwong roads.
Later, it became known as “Patpong Soi 1.”
Prior to the family ownership that still exists today, the area was a Japanese military headquarters in World War II.
It is said that they flattened a banana plantation to build there.
How did Patpong Bangkok start?
In the late ’60s, with the influx of multinational companies and military personnel from the United States and other countries, the soi quickly burst into life.
It witnessed a rapid succession of leisure provision establishments opening between ’68 and ’73.
Restaurants, bars, clubs, and massage parlors quickly filled the shophouse units and then spilled into what is now known as “Patpong Soi 2.”
GI’s from Vietnam were rumored to be responsible for this explosion of entertainment.
They spent their dollars and time at New Petchburi Road, Bangkok.
Company employees, embassy personnel, pilots, and foreigners made up the Patpong crowd.
Most US servicemen never saw anywhere else other than New Petchburi Road in Bangkok.
Patpong at this time was, by comparison, rather refined.
Partly due to the white-collar clientele and the overseas concept that the business owners of Patpong had of them.
The Thai headquarters for most major airlines and multi-nationals such as Shell were all in this CBD area.
Businesses were keen to match demand with not only supply but with substance.
This was headed by the Patpongpanich family’s heir and most famous son, Khun Udom.
What happened to Patpong Bangkok in the 60s?
A surprising number of businesses that opened in the early days of Patpong, as we know it, still exist today.
Like characters in our life, some have aged well, and others haven’t.
The King’s Group (unrelated to the Royal Family) was the first major joint venture that helped bring noticeable success.
They were another Chinese family who leased many properties from Udom.
They then developed their own venues to either run themselves or sub-let out to foreigners.
Like most business owners, they wished to live the dream and make a go of it themselves in a very exciting hub.
Patpong Bangkok in the ’70s
Most of the early bars were unnamed shophouses.
But some of the famous ones that broke the ground, so to speak, were the Red Door restaurant, Max’s Place, Roma, and Amor.
By ’73, one had The Horny Toad, The Gaslight, The Butterfly, Grand Prix, and the Mississippi Queen.
Around this time, servicemen began to make the cross-town pilgrimage from Petchburi Road to the area.
Traffic was equally as horrendous in those days, and every taxi ride in a Datsun Bluebird had to be haggled.
Every cab had to have a meter, but there was no law enforcing that they must use it.
Sounds reassuringly familiar?
Patpong’s First Gogo Bar – Mississippi Queen
The Mississippi Queen was known for having its’ premises used in the movie, The Deer Hunter.
This was reputedly the first bar to have go-go dancers over the bar.
They were located opposite the Super Star, which later became the biggest go-go bar in the region.
Mississippi Queen also introduced American soul music to their patrons.
The honor tab was also introduced here.
A practice that you still see to this day – where your tab sits in a cup in front of you until you are ready to leave.
Unsurprisingly, people then were not allowed to forget their bill.
The staff ensured that they got paid for services and products rendered.
Today, there are many go-go bars worth visiting in Bangkok.
What Happened to Patpong Bars during the ’70s?
Patpong in the 70’s many bars were the alleged hangouts for DEA, CIA, and other clandestine organizations.
Howard Marks writes in his autobiography, Mr. Nice, that Super Star was one of the preferred venues for American “background” staff.
Madrid, The Executive, and Crystal Palace were others, and some are still open to this day.
Although Madrid is the only one to have kept its luster and appeal.
Today, most foreign tourists will have a quick look in Super Star and abruptly u-turn their way out of there.
Patpong Bangkok Gogo Bars in the ’80s
By the Eighties, over 100 bars made up Patpong Soi 1 and Patpong Soi 2
Patpong’s three-story townhouses formed a concept that you see to this day.
Lounge and go-go bars are on the street-level.
Upstairs you’ll find the illicit, explicit, and erotic shows and services.
Each with its own showers, booths, and short-time rooms.
Traditional businesses had moved out.
Then, new successful enterprises were mimicked and cookie-cut to style.
The King’s Group bars enjoyed terrific success during this time simply by maintaining high standards and sub-let rents.
Business owners then were not afraid to spend.
Draw in customers and accumulate market share was a priority.
Lavish bars such as Takura on Patpong 2 were classy in design and décor.
They had gorgeous hostesses’ adorning evening dresses.
It made for a refreshing, salubrious alternative.
Strong yet healthy competition between the bars and venues created the marketing and design phenomena.
You’ll still see this today.
There was something here for everyone.
Convenience and supply that was crucial to the two-week tourists.
Overall, it was done very well, and Patpong thrived right through the Eighties.
New Red Light Districts Emerge in the 90’s
There were clear alternatives to Patpong by this time too.
Nana Plaza: This huge complete with strip clubs located along Sukhumvit Road demonstrated more glitz and glamour. Not to mention a lot of convenience for customers since all bars on 3 floors. Check this report full overview on Nana Plaza, the worlds largest adult playground.
Soi Cowboy: This successful Soi Grow up.. Check this report
These two new red light districts, located in other parts of town, borried from Patpong’s business model to focus primarily on foreign tourists and Japanese expats
Nevertheless, despite the new competition, Patpong’s reputation and notoriety ensured that tourists continued to visit in high numbers.
Patpong Bars Evoloving in 2000’s
Today, most of these bars are very easy to walk past if you do not know what you are looking for.
Particularly Madrid and The Old Other Office – two bars that should be on top of your list to check out while there.
Both ooze history and have long-standing owners.
They maintain the high service levels that most people only heard about.
Mizu’s Kitchen, Safari, and Pussy Collection hark from that era too.
Though sadly, it is only Mizu’s that has invested in keeping up appearances.
Other venues that opened fifty or so years ago allowed the magic to disappear.
This was the real sadness in these streets.
There are cleaner, newer, and better venues to spend your money at.
So why would you bother when the tenants and business owners do not?
Visit Patpong’s Best Go Go Bar! (2021 Update)
The simplest way to avoid being hustled in Patpong is to choose the right bar.
Present-day Patpong has a number of fun and friendly bars where you’ll find yourself at little risk of being treated like a chump.
One such hassle-free bar is Bada Bing. It is run by foreign management who is always available to approach should you be unhappy in any way. The are always many customers there!
Another good gogo bar is Black Pagada. This bar is similar to a traditional strip club you can find in the Western world.
For details on these and other similar bars, check our our report on the best gogo bars.
Patpong is Famous For…
Ping Pong Shows
Bangkok has a reputation for its ‘ping-pong’ shows, among less informed tourists at least.
Nobody who lives in or regularly visits Bangkok has any desire to see a ping pong show.
In fact, few have probably ever been to one.
It’s as if the words ‘ping-pong show’ is a secret phrase to inform locals that you are looking to be ripped-off.
Ask Patpong’s loitering locals about a ping-pong show and watch his eyes light up like a Christmas tree.
You’re better off going to more raunchy Bangkok go-go bars that will certainly widen your eyes.
Keep An Eye on your Bar Bill!
You may have avoided the nasty ping pong shows and clip joints.
But just because you are in what seems like a normal go-go bar, don’t assume you’re in safe hands.
Always make sure to keep an eye on your bill.
If you are unsure about the drink prices, don’t be afraid to ask.
Especially when buying a lady drink for any staff in the bar.
These can sometimes be much more expensive than regular drinks.
Bill padding is less of a problem at the moment.
Some bars even ask you to check and sign your bill each time you order a round of drinks.
You’ll rarely be asked to sign a bill in Nana or Soi Cowboy, where bill padding has never been a big issue.
The normal procedure is for all your bills to be placed in the chit in front of you.
Leaving you free to check them and question anything unusual immediately.
If you order a drink and don’t see the bill in front of you, then your internal alarm bell should start to ring.
Always ask to have every bill receipt kept within sight.
Check them closely to ensure they are correct.
Avoid the Patlong Hassles
Today, Patpong seems to have this reputation for being a bit of a rip-off.
Still infamous for its neon-lit nightlife and raunchy red-light scene.
Many will tell you that this is now a place where one will encounter a level of hustle and hassle.
It outweighs the fun and frolics of Bangkok gogo hopping.
In the past, it was home to Bangkok’s largest adult entertainment area.
It is now often seen as the gogo zone best left to ill-informed tourists and curious backpackers.
It’s populated by almost as many chancers, con artists, and dubious bar staff.
All looking to make some opportunistic baht from clueless foreign faces.
Just Say ‘NO’
As soon as you turn into Patpong, there’s a chance you’ll be greeted by a grinning local.
He’ll be keen to escort you to his favorite bar.
It shouldn’t take you many milliseconds to figure out this guy is up to no good.
You’re likely to find him to be a persistent pest.
Even after saying “NO” he’s likely to follow you and continue his offer of friendship, hoping to win you over.
Don’t trust these guys by any means, and certainly don’t let them lead you to any bars.
The chances are you’ll be taken to a seedy show bar.
You’ll discover the first drink/entry fee is 5 or 6 times compared to other bars.
Then, you’ll leave with a bill that will put a serious dampener on your night.
The best way to avoid this scam is to ignore them completely.
As you pass, they will try to engage you in conversation.
They’ll ask you what you are looking for, where you are going, offering to take you to the best bar in the area.
As soon as you engage in conversation with them, you are on their hook.
And your first 10 ‘NO’s’ will be ignored.
If you do find yourself having to respond, simply say ‘no,’ smile, and walk away, completely ignoring them from then on.
Their attention will soon be drawn to the next oncoming farang face.
Patpong Bangkok Map
And if you can’t find any bars you like in Patpong, check out our guide for Silom Nightlife covering all bars and restaurants on Silom Road.
What’s the easiest way to get to Patpong?
Patpong is easily accessible by taxi or by BTS.
Sala Daeng is the closest BTS station to Patpong.
It’s only a 3-minute walk from here.
Where else can you learn about Patpong’s history?
Are there gogo bars for VIPs in Patpong?
Patpong only has gogo bars. But gogo bars are not the best for VIPs.
Fortunately, over time, some bars have evolved into entertainment complexes.
They’re better known as gentlemen clubs.
While there aren’t any notable ones in Patpong, there are plenty of gentlemen clubs in Bangkok.
One of them is The PIMP Bangkok.
Who was Khun Udom?
Khun Udom studied overseas, and from ’36 to ‘46, he lived in London, Minnesota, and Hong Kong.
He was fondly remembered by all in the Patpong Bangkok business community.
He was popularly known as a shrewd yet larger-than-life, flamboyant businessman.
Unfortunately, he passed away in 1996, aged 79.