Sunday, May 5, 2013

Clubbing in Bangkok: Go beyond mixed brown & white rice; Sticky is sweeter!



Getting your groove on in Bangkok leaves something to be desired for your typical tourist gay (male). You’ve got tons of little bars and lovely people watching (Balcony & Telephone, the main pre-clubbing venues) in Silom, Soi 4, but only two real late-night clubbing options DJ Station and  G.O.D. (Guys on Display) – it's pretty strange that such a prolific gay city has really a few dance floors, at least where foreigners come. But that's before you realize - there's much more to gay Bangkok!

To find authentic gay Thai scene, you've got to do your homework. There are a number of other incredible discos – all considered to be sticky-rice clubs; meaning Thai-for-Thai, there were none or maybe a couple foreigners at each. For Thais, there is not much mingling going on: you go with your friends, talk with your friends (despite very loud music), watch a go-go boy and drag show (with those same friends). It's more difficult in Asia to meet people if you're not into the online scene and even more difficult, obviously, if you don't know a local language (more on this in a future post).

See K – or K Dance Pub according to one local – is a bit far from central Bangkok (still just over 100 THB - like $3 or $4). Upon finding the club (off the road, in a pedestrian mall), an exasperated Thai guy attempted to ask what I wanted to drink. I heard Heineken and whiskey – but not vodka, so he took me to 7-11 nearby (as if I needed a chaperone) where I purchased a little (half liter) bottle of Absolute (for a whopping 270 THB, yes that’s almost $10—and YES! you can buy vodka at 7-11 mi by midnight). 7-11 is Thailand’s (and for SE Asia in general) – convenience store for everything one might need, but remember that you can’t purchase alcohol in Thailand between 2pm and 5pm weekdays (nor between midnight and 11am).


Here's at table at See-K - I cut this drag queen
out just so you could have an idea...
My Thai See K chaperone then led be back into the club, and “stood me” alone around a tall, round table. Thankfully, I spotted some other friendly foreigners immediately upon entering the small, but tall, space. Friends, I thought! Fellow speakers of English, I hoped! I immediately walked over through the rows of little round standing tables and introduced myself to a guy from Zimbabwe (of European decent), three Iranians and (inevitably) their Thai friend.

But hold up, before formal introductions commenced, I had a problem. While away from my designated table, I received 2 sprites, a soda water, bucket of ice and box of popcorn (which I obviously did not order) so I enlisted the help of the Thai speakers to try and send it back. After some arguing (and help from the Thai guy) I agreed to pay and tried to go back make friends with these new guys (instead of forcing them into being my translators!)

We didn’t talk much with loud mixture of K-pop and typical top-40 music going (and the 5 different languages between us) – but we danced in place, smiled at each other and drank. Then a semi-cute Thai guy got up and started dancing on stage alone. He was good - and I was increasingly sloshed – so, I joined him. But he wasn’t in the mood for a dance-off with some “farang” -- he ended up catching me in the jaw with one of his moves, but I just shrugged it off. 

DJ Station from the stage!
Eventually the boys wanted to go to DJ Station and I obliged, having at least explored a new venue. DJ Station is always (dangerously) packed on the weekends and at capacity usually on weekdays even. As several people mentioned, they never perform the same drag show twice so don't miss the 11:30 nightly show! You will love the dancing Thai boys – and be in awe of the older (apparently str8 and frankly hideous) queen named Ming dressed in some traditional Asian (women’s) attire as he sings Thai love songs and bats eyes with older white guys.

DJ's definitely a happening place – at the end of Soi 2 in Silom, surrounded by other smaller bars that offer karaoke as well as more intimate settings. Remember to bring a picture ID to get into Silom Soi 2 (DJ is at the far end of the street), especially if you are or can pass for Asian (if you are white you can probably get in ~18). Bouncers are stricter with locals who must be 20 to enter. Also, if you don’t have an ID and don’t want to bring your passport, you can take a picture of your passport and show them (on a smartphone).

After its too late to be at DJ Station, the next stop is G.O.D. the after-hours club that just seems a bit more stuffy - but the party is on full-tilt so the venue - nor music - matters much. Just follow the gay-parade half a block south in Silom (between Sois 2 and 4).

It turned out to be a big night for both DJ and G.O.D. despite being a Tuesday night, since the Atlantis Cruise docked that day outside of Bangkok; 2,000 gay men flooded into Silom! Sadly, it all ended at 3am – which may be the new closing time for gay bars, even on weekends; something about the venues not wanting to bribe officials or a new sheriff in town who enforced stricter closing times. All three weekends I attended clubs in Bangkok, they closed at 3am!
G-Star entrance

G-Star is another gay Thai club – although both See K and G-Star seem much more like bars than clubs (they are missing the dance floor!). It’s more like groups of friends dancing in place with their friends (and dancing boys on stage!). Anyway, G-Star was clearly the ultimate Thai venue with a large arena with stage – and even a Buddhist shrine to wai to as you walk in (imagine having a crucifix at the entrance to a western gay bar – and boys crossing themselves upon entering).
After a long night...

I enjoyed the go-go-boys and just hung with a new Thai friend (who I had a hard time convincing to attend; he’s more interested in meeting foreign guys). I made eyes at some boys – but mainly they just hung with their own crew. We stayed for the brief drag show and went back to have some rest! I also attended G-Star Vintage in Chiang Mai (which recently opened and is very similar) but I will fully cover that in my Songkran post soon.

My advice: Make some Thai friends who will take you out to these places so you can get the full gay experience in Thailand!

Also to visit: Fake Club in yet another gay area of Bangkok called Or Tor Kor.

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