One of the world's most (in)famous red-light districts, Patpong is where it all started (Thailand's Go-Go culture). It has even been immortalised in a James Bond chase-sequence.
Its two parallel side-streets, found between Silom and Surawongse Roads, house around 100 neon-lit strip bars offering risque sex shows, purchasable pole-dancers and post-op ladyboys. But while for men Patpong is likely to mean 'adult', for women, families and the kids Patpong definitely means 'market'. At night this teems with hawkers and humble stalls selling what is mostly tourist tat.
For the serious flesh-seekers, Patpong has long since been usurped as the 'king of the scene' by its counterparts around Sukhumvit. However, its reputation means it's still a huge attraction, mainly for sightseers more interested in ogling at - rather than indulging in - the carnal delights on offer.
GO-GO Shopping after dark
In fact, because of the Patpong Night Market the area's seedy edge has been softened considerably. At night the area teems with tourists and backpackers shopping for that illusive bargain. Some pretend to look interested in the fake Gucci handbags before temptation gets the better of them and they venture inside to witness one of the famous shows they've heard so much about. If you go for this it pays to be careful; while now rare, there have been reports of tourists being ripped off (especially when buying a drink for one of the 'hostesses') and clobbered with hefty bills after heading upstairs into one of the bars.
Also, if you plan to hijack one of the girls for a raunchy rendevous, it's advisable too to take good care of personal belongings once you've paid the 'bar fine'. However, whatever your take is on the Go-Go Bar scene, there's no denying that Patpong is still far safer than your average Western city centre. It's very well policed - there's a tourist police office at the end of the road, and CCTV cameras - and you'll find entire families nonchalantly walking around during market hours.
When it comes to go-go bars, favoured establishments on Soi 1 include King's Castle I and II, Sphinx and the Safari Bar, while King's Corner has the largest collection of post-operative transsexuals in Bangkok. Patpong II, or 'Soi Quality' as some like to call it, also has many interesting sights along the same lines. Apart from a short run of rather run-down watering holes peopled by girls and men playing Connect 4, the most well-known venue is perhaps Electric Blue and, definitely the most intriguing, Patpong's only fetish club, BarBar.
Food, Fun and Games
For those not interested in the girly scene or shopping, Patpong is also not short on other pursuits. Aside from the shopping, there's a lot of quality bistros, such as the tiny French restaurant Le Bouchon and the incredibly good value Thai eatery Salasawan, both of which are on Soi 2. Mizu's Kitchen on Soi 1, which a former Japanese soldier started in 1954, comes highly recommended for its steak. For a quiet game of pool and a beer or two there's the Red Parrot and the Vietnam war era bar, The Old Other Office. Finally, for audio stimulation there's Soi 1's Radio City (home to some great live music and Elvis impersonators), Lucifer's and the stylish late-night dance bar Twilight, which is typically heaving come midnight. Whatever you're into, Patpong is certainly worth a peek.
How to get there: Located between Silom and Surawong Roads, it's within easy walking distance from the Skytrain station (Sala Daeng) or the MRT station (Silom).