Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Paving Over Paradise

My first visit to Bangkok was in 1990. I stayed at the Malaysia Hotel on Soi Duplei, once the 60s haunt of the infamous backpacker murderer Charles Sobhraj. Lush trees bordered the basketball courts of the military school next to the Lumpini Muay-Thai stadium. I shoot hoops in the morning and evening. The sun allowed no exertion during the midday. Patpong was a twenty-minute walk away through the small sois. The city retained the charm of its past, although nothing like the Bangkok of the 1950s.

Back then prominent farangs and Thais drove 1958 Ford Fairlanes and Chevy Impalas. The other vehicles on the roads were tuk-tuk and trolley. The Hotel Royalle had an unobstructed view of the river. A beer on the veranda was 10 baht. The waitress wai-ed with a smile.

Many people traveled by the klong ferries. Kids swam off the docks and the water was drinkable. Klong Toey was the after-night destination for Thais and ex-pats. The infamous Mosquito Bar featured dim-lighting and girls. First and foremost among the Klong Toey bars was the notorious 2nd floor Mosquito Bar on Kasemrat Road.

According to old-timers this dive's seedy decor was camouflaged by a stygian darkness dispelled by the occasional flicker of a match. The gloom suited the female dok-thongs, since their age in the gloom was indecipherable to the drunken patrons. The beers were reputably cold and no one ever got killed in the frequent chair-throwing fights.

Equally disreputable was The Venus Bar, which the late David Musserie had claimed was Thailand's seminal go-go bar serviced by Klong Toey slum girls.

When asked about bar fines, he laughed with his ample belly jiggling like Jello under electro-shock.

"I think it was 10 baht. The Venus was paradise, because it was only for locals. We knew each other. Sort of CHEERS for the wicked and the little angels, until they got mad and then it was every man for himself running for the door."

Now hundreds of bars line Soi Nana. I can't say I like drinking in any of them.

If only I had a way-back machine.

Wouldn't it be nice?

For further information on these bars please go the following URL


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