Whodathunk that some twenty-five or so years later the results of my initial research into Bangkok gay bars would finally be relevant? Having already visited Bangkok a few times, and having already visited a few straight bars that offered paid companionship, it was high time to prepare for trying out a gay club. But where were they? And what were they? The internet was still in its infancy, but Dreaded Ned’s was up, running, and offered locations as well as a basic primer on the city’s hot spots of interest to horny gay men. Still a newbie to Bangkok, the only problem was none of it made sense. Beer bar, host bar, gogo bar, club, disco, and pub? All I wanted to know was where the hot guy could be found, and what it would cost me once I found them.
Experience is sometimes the best teacher. It didn’t take long, or too many visits to the smattering of gay night life establishments the city had to offer before the plethora of bar type choices began to make sense. It didn’t take long or too many visits to discover that regardless of the type of place it was, it was part of the city’s commercial sex scene either. Pubs and clubs may not have been an official part of the industry, but moneyboys didn’t seem to care and hung out there anyway. However any of the places were identified, if it sashayed like a duck it meant there were hot, willing, and available guys to be had. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?
In those days there weren’t as many choices of places to visit and few were grouped together. The Telephone Bar and eventually Balcony were pubs on Soi 4 where you could go for a drink, a bit of socializing with friends, and make new friends, many of whom turned out to be moneyboys. DJ Station and the Freeman Club were discos that later became dance clubs and were where you went to dance your ass off as well as making new friends, many of whom turned out to be moneyboys. With some dyke friends in tow, I finally visited a host bar in some far flung corner of the city; it was low key, upscale, and I almost choked on my beer when one of the studs explained how much it would cost to have him spend the night with me. Once I finally hit a gogo bar, the rest fell to the wayside. But I never did find a gay beer bar in Bangkok.
Soi 4’s pubs have not changed much. The discos are now called dance clubs. Even in Bangkok, host bars were and still are always more geared toward a local clientele and never made much of a splash in the more heavily touri populated areas. Beer bars, once an elusive form of establishment, however, are on the rise. The punters on the gay forums like to predict the downfall of gay nightlife in Bangkok. But the truth is the scene is evolving and growing as it always has. And surprisingly, where gogo bars once held sway, all of the variations of night life establishments are today becoming an integral part of the scene. And for a handful of baht, you can still get laid at any and all of them. At a few, you may even get it for free.
For the newbie to Bangkok’s world of gay bars, knowing which type of place is which once again – or maybe for the first time – matters. With their need to know in mind, it seems like a good time to define yet again the types of gay establishments you’ll find in Bangkok.
I refer to them as gay pubs to define their difference from other types of establishments, though for most these are the closest to what you’d call a gay bar back home. The grand dames are still Telephone and Balcony on Silom Soi 4, with an overflow of like places along the soi that tend to come and go. I’d have to add both Maxi’s and Dick’s Cafe over on Soi Twilight to this group, the main difference being their location and the type of eye candy walking by.
Pubs are where you go with travel mates or friends for a quick bite to eat or to while away the evening with a cold beer or two. They are places to socialize with old friends, or to make new friends with fellow travellers. Most have both an indoor and outdoor seating area, with the outdoor areas usually filling up fast since they are a great place to people watch. Not quite the meat-market pick-up scene of gay bars back in the States, you can score here, but that’s not really their purpose. And while local gay boys do frequent the pubs, most are moneyboys looking for customers.
Prices for booze at pubs are more in line with what you’ll pay at non-gay non-commercial sex bars and restaurants in town. So cheaper by far than what it will cost you at a gogo bar. Paid companionship too is cheaper, there is no off-fee and the guys working pubs are free-lancers who will often be happy for half of what you’d be expected to tip at a gogo bar. Your safety in hiring a moneyboy outside of the few protections offered from host, beer, and gogo bars is something you need to consider and determine for yourself.
When you’ve sat long enough at one of the pubs on Soi 4, and the hour grows late enough, it’s time to move to DJ Station, still Bangkok’s #1 dance club for gay touri. If you still refer to these type of places as a disco, you won’t have quite as easy of a time meeting new friends, but providing you are willing to pay for their services, will have plenty of young hotties to choose from. Not that you’ll never find a new friend who isn’t looking to add to his bank account. The younger you are the better chance you’ll have, but with the right attitude even an old geezer can find friendly companionship at the clubs.
When the scene at DJ’s begins to die, the party moves to G.O.D. on Soi 2. As do all the moneyboys who have not yet landed a customer for the night. So do the horny local boys who aren’t looking for a fee, so your odds may even go up at G.O.D. Especially when the early morning hours come to a close.
Your cost for your night’s pleasure will be the same as what it would’ve cost you if you finished the night off at one of Bangkok’s pubs, and the AYOR aspects of taking a new friend back to your hotel with you are the same too.
Host bars are gogo bars without the gogo. Kinda sorta. The only host bar in the Silom area I know of is My Way, which has been around for decades. There are numerous host bars in the Sapahan Kwai area, many of which are dual-billed as karaoke bars. Host bars, like gogo bars, are there to provide you with a companion for the evening. The guys working at host bars are employees of the bar and are usually dressed in everyday clothing, though some may be shirtless. Host bars do not put on shows, nor will you find any of the nudity typical of a gogo bar. I differentiate between a host bar and a beer bar by form: host bars are not open to the street, beer bars always are. Their function is almost identical.
Historically host bar prices for both alcohol and companionship are lower than what you’d pay at a gogo bar, and higher than your costs at a pub.
If a host bar is a gogo bar without the gogo, then a massage shop is a host bar with a happy ending. At some, you can even get a massage. I think the lack of hosts bars, and their lack of popularity, is largely due to the many massage places around the city. The scenario is much the same: you walk in, pick a guy from the line-up – or have one assigned to you – and then pray for nirvana. The only difference is that at a massage place you finish your business on the premises (though at most you may also indulge in the take-away experience).
One of the pluses to massage shops is that most are open during daytime hours. So you don’t have to wait for night to satisfy your itch. Another is that the cost of your happy ending is a bit less than what the same orgasm would cost you at a gogo bar.
I’m not sure saunas belong in this mix, but since you can find an orgasm or two there too, I’ll cover them briefly anyway. Babylon is the king, or maybe that’s queen, for touri. Others cater to a local and/or mixed crowd and have their fans too. If you are looking for companionship without the accompanying costs, one of the saunas are your best bet. Not that you won’t find moneyboys there too, but local gay guys who are just looking to get off without much ado are far more numerous. You may even strike up a friendship with a hottie that will extend beyond the walls of the sauna.
Larger, glitzier, and more explicit seemed to be the way the scene was going in Bangkok for years. Gogo bars ruled and while some opened and closed from one trip to the next, there were always new ones to take their place. The idea that beer bars – especially on Soi Twilight – would ever become the norm was not the expected outcome, at least in my opinion. But then I’ve never been that good at picking stocks either.
Where once beer bars for gay clientele were few and far between in Bangkok, Soi Twilight alone now hosts a good half dozen. Two that barely qualified have been operating at the mouth of the soi for years, Hot Male’s downstairs open-air bar and directly across the soi, the Banana Club. I say barely qualify because part of the beer bar operation includes local guys to off and neither have ever been heavily populated by offable guys. But then traditionally, that is part of the difference between a beer bar and a host bar too. At beer bars, free-lancers were always welcome and made up the majority of those bars’ stables. The newer beer bars that have sprung up along the soi have hosts employed by the bar as well as free-lancers who work them.
The growing popularity of gay beer bars in Bangkok is thanks to three things. The world’s economy has taken a downturn and visitors are a little more careful about the money they spend; both drinks and guys are less expensive at a beer bar than at a gogo bar. Additionally, and partly because of the economic state of the world, more and more visitors from Asia are hitting Bangkok and less and less visitors are from western countries; beer bars are a friendlier, more approachable type of entertainment especially to visitors from neighboring SE Asian countries. And lastly, as difficult as it may be for a newbie to picture, the extreme sex shows put on by gogo bars for many have become boring. Hard to believe, but after your initial few visits it doesn’t take long to become jaded. So why pay the additional costs of hitting a gogo bar when you can have just as much fun, and find the guy you want even quicker, at a beer bar?
GOGO BARS:Despite the advent of beer bars, gogo bars are here to stay. Nowhere else in the world can you see hot guys naked, hard, and in action like in the shows at Bangkok’s gay gogo bars. And though compared to the city’s other types of venues gogo bars are more costly, compared to anything similar elsewhere in the world they are incredibly cheap. And incredibly exciting and sensual for newbies.
Gogo bars, whether on the ground floor or up a rickety flight of stairs are always indoor affairs; what goes on inside is not something to be casually viewed by those strolling down the street. They are not the place to go to meet other travellers or make a new friend or two, though if you are willing to pay for the pleasure the guys you meet there are more than friendly. And there is a gogo bar for every taste.
Some gogo bars specialize in twinks, others in male model-like physiques. Some offer a stable of guys who spend most of their free time lifting weights, others offer a little bit of everything. And the smaller bars down the street from Tawan will serve you with a high dose of sleaze (and at a reduced price to boot!)
As a first time visitor to Bangkok you may want to start off easy, hot a pub, maybe work your way up to the relative amiability of a beer bar. But don’t leave Bangkok without taking in at least one gogo bar show. You will be hooked. And you will come back for more.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy: