Patpong is an infamous adult entertainment area in the Silom section of Bangkok. It may be best known for its ping pong shows even though they are just the tip of the iceberg. While Patpong has surely seen better days the area continues to house venues ranging from agogos to blowjob bars and everything in between. The truth is that adult venues can be found all over Bangkok and Thailand as a whole. So what makes Patpong special?
Original Bangkok go go barOriginal Bangkok go go bar
Patpong retains its reputation in part for historical reasons. Exploits of the past perhaps with a bit of exaggeration have been recorded for posterity. Famous Hollywood movies like The Deer Hunter used Patpong as a backdrop. Entire books like Patpong Sisters have been based around the area too. There are even Thai songs that mention the area and its attraction to the fucking farang. “Tom, Tom, where you go last night? I love Thailand. I like Patpong” is the refrain. Welcome to Thailand.
The history of Patpong
Not so long ago Patpong was a basic banana plantation with a single wooden house sat next to a canal. Later the area was purchased by Chinese immigrants who still own Soi Patpong 1 and Soi Patpong 2 to this day. They developed the area and added shop houses. It became a sort of “downtown” for Bangkok. The adult entertainment came afterward.
1972 Thai go go dancer1972 Thai go go dancer
In the late 1960’s Patpong became a frequent stop of soldiers on rest and relaxation releases from the Vietnam War. With that came the rise of go go bars and prostitution. Like Angeles City and Pattaya which have similar histories the place later drew in civilians from around the world. Patpong started to slip in prestige a few decades ago right around the time a night market opened up in the middle of the street. Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are probably more popular today. But plenty of still people still visit Patpong.
Walking down memory lane
Clearly there is a lot of history to uncover here. So it was no surprise to me when the Patpong Museum opened its doors in late 2019. I was glad to see that the place does not shy away from the somewhat sordid history of the area however. I am now happy to see that the museum is going strong.
Grand Prix disco bangkokGrand Prix disco bangkok
Quite a bit of the history of Patpong and other farang-oriented adult entertainment zones in Bangkok has been documented online over the years. But it can be scattered and incomplete. The best digital source for such information including photographic evidence is probably Bangkok Eyes. But as the resilience of paper books has shown seeing things in person is still important. The same applies when it comes to the history of Patpong and its environs. That’s why the Patpong Museum has drawing power.
The Patpong Museum
I am sure that there are people who visit the museum in the way some visit the killing fields. They want to gawk at the terrible behavior of those others. Those who have read this site probably understand that I visit in an attempt to understand just another aspect of human behavior. After all, you and me ain’t nothing but mammals.
The Patpong Museum has it all. You can learn about the role of Tony Poe and the CIA in the area or view modern watercolor paintings of go go dancers by Tawan Wattuya. My favorite section goes through the history of go go bars in Patpong and shows the differences between go go gals of the 1970’s and today. There is even a replica of the first go go bar in Bangkok on premises!
There is a lot to unwrap about Patpong for those who are interested. And there are many ways to really dig in. One is to browse the internet for information. There is plenty of it out there. Another is to strike up a conversation with some of the old hands in the remaining bars from the old days. At least one gal working an upstairs venue has been around for decades. Finally there is the Patpong Museum which is an interesting place that should appeal to a lot of different people.