Nightlife & the Arts in Bangkok
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Bangkok's nightlife truly runs the gamut. You'll find swanky velvet-rope club scenes, beer bars doubling as brothels, and everything in between. The curfew might be 2 am, but this city never sleeps; after-hours clubs stay open for late-night carousing until 5 or 6 am. Of the many great aboveboard nightlife neighborhoods, some of the most notable are the area off Sukhumvit Soi 55 (also called Soi Thonglor), which is full of bars and nightclubs; Soi Sarasin, across from Lumphini Park, with friendly pubs and cafés frequented by yuppie Thais and expats; and Narathiwat Road, which starts at Surawong, intersects Silom, then runs all the way to Rama III, where trendy new bars and restaurants are opening every month. If you want to meet young locals, head to the mega-discos on RCA, which stands for Royal City Avenue. The minimum drinking age in Thailand is now 21; it was raised from 18 in 2006.
In addition to plenty of aboveboard entertainment, there's also an undeniably smutty side to Bangkok's nightlife. The city's famous red-light district is actually not one but three areas: Patpong, Soi Cowboy, and Nana Plaza. Though live sex shows are officially banned, they are still prevalent in these parts of town, as is prostitution, which is also illegal. Patpong is the largest and most touristy, and it includes three streets that run between Surawong and Silom roads. Lining Patpong 1 and 2 are go-go bars with hostesses by the dozen. Shows are generally found one flight up. The Patpong area is well patrolled by police, so it is quite safe, and there's a large night market that is very popular among both tourists and Thais.
Soi Cowboy, off Sukhumvit Road at Soi 21, is a less raunchy, easier-going version of Patpong, frequented more by expats. Some bars have go-go dancers, while others are good for a quiet beer (with or without a temporary companion, who is paid by the drink). Nana Plaza, at Soi 4, is popular with expats. The plaza is packed with three floors of hostess bars. The newest bars have spilled out along Soi 4. Those who pay for sex in Thailand risk contracting HIV or another STD; being robbed; and even incarceration, despite the common notion that the government turns a blind eye.
Most gay bars and clubs happen to be located near Patpong on a pair of dead-end alleys off Silom Road. Soi 4 is filled with posh bars, thumping discos, and live music venues. Other gay establishments are found near Sukhumvit Road.
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