Who says you can’t go home again? Landing in Bangkok always feels like a home coming to me. The friendly greeting I get arriving at my usual digs seems more like I’d just left the day before rather than the six months it really is. And when I step into Soi Twilight, my entire being breathes a sigh of relief that I’ve made it to the happiest place on Earth once again. At least until the first barker grabs my arm. But then that’s part of the fun too. As is giving him a close look to weigh his potential as an off. Some things never change. Life on the soi, however, has. But ya really gotta look for it to find anything that’s different.
The biggest change I noted on this trip was how little of the larger changes evident back in the spring still lingered in and around Patpong. The military presence is no longer present. And the night market seemed to have a bit more life to it too. Amazing what a little free-market bootlegging can do. And how little decrees from above manage to last in the Land of Smiles.
Back when The Good General had just taken over the country and was busy making Thailand a happy place, the crackdown on the Thai version of capitalism meant knock-off watches, bootleg DVD, and fake designer handbags quickly went underground. They’re all back. Even if the customer count is still low and few if any are buying. No doubt hopeful vendors are happier with the current status quo, but I miss those days when instead of just pointing to which Rolex watch you wanted you had to step to the back of the booth and make your choice surreptitiously from a vendor’s hidden stash. That added to the ambiance of the market. A sense of naughtiness ruled the night. It was like the lure of knowing for a few over-priced beers you could watch ‘pussy blow candle’ just steps away versus the reality of how not erotic watching a tired vagina wheezing out a puff of stale air really is.
Knock-off vaginas too were once a staple of Patpong; you never were really sure if that gorgeous creature throwing itself at you was a woman or a ladyboy. Until you remembered you were in Thailand. So obviously, it was a ladyboy. And like with buying a fake Rolex, many visitors purchased something different than what they thought they were paying for. And went home with a memory to last their lifetime. I’m not sure why the ladyboy brigade moved to Sukhumvit, but Patpong is less than what it once was because of it.
On Soi Twilight, the Big Cock Show! is back once again. And still seldom features cocks that most would consider to qualify as big. But exposed they are and that’s a nice improvement from six months ago when the full monty was a no-no. The gogo bar shows have yet to degenerate to full-on sex acts on and off stage once again, but high season is fast approaching.
The beer bars that sprung up along the soi in answer to the sorry state of the world’s economy haven’t proven to be the magical elixir that they promised to be. If anything, their empty chairs accentuate how slow bidness is on the soi. But then bidness is slow everywhere you look. Planes landing at Suvarnabhumi are not packed to the gills, the lines at Immigration are non-existent. Taxis are plentiful everywhere in town, reservations are not required anywhere, and even the aisles at MBK offer customer-free passage.
Still, the beer bars appear to be one of the few missteps bar owners on Soi Twilight have made. The soi was never viewed by customers as a communal hang-out. That’s what Soi 4 is for. Twilight’s stock in trade has always been its shows. And the naked boys you could take back to your hotel. The Asian clientele that makes up the soi’s customer base these days walk right past the beer bars. And the long-time sex tourists looking for cheaper prices known those are available just down Suriwong and come with exposed dick. Fortunately for newbies the confusion over what is what and where the boys are is alleviated by the barkers who still take them firmly in hand and usher them into their bars. And life is good.
Dream Boy is still the bar of choice to those customers whom the bars’ barkers allow to make a choice. And if you are into nostalgia, their show is the same as it was ten years ago. Hot Male still tries to be the sleaziest bar on the soi, but since there is still some degree of prohibition on naughtiness, their attempt is a watered down version of what once was. X-Size still has the most diverse line-up of bar boys; despite the occasional attempt at being something else, Classic is still home to the soi’s twinks. And Zeus looks the same as it did when it was Ocean Boys, which was just a slightly updated version of Future Boys.
Bar owners are relying on an old stand-by when it comes to pricing schemes too. Bidness is down so prices are up. That gives long-time visitors something to bitch about. Just like it did with the old prices. And the prices before that. But the steady stream of men headed up Dream Boy’s staircase suggests for most visitors whatever the bars decide to charge is well worth the money.
The biggest change here is that more and more boys are stating their expected tips up front. Some have even given themselves a raise. Quoting a fee in advance was unheard of when farang were primarily the customer base. The irony is that now that the soi is filled with customers from nearby countries where haggling over prices is the norm, no bartering is allowed.
Across Suriwong, Jupiter looks more like Soi Twilight than it ever has in the past. But its stable of men is still filled with male runway model types, and its chairs still filled with more women than a lot of gay men like to see in an establishment that supposedly caters to their own. Always a leader in wanting the highest tips for the least amount of work – or time – the captains quote fees these days. And their Asian clientele gladly pays the asking price.
That sigh of relief my entire being exhales when I step into Soi Twilight becomes a massive inhalation of testosterone laced air when I step through Tawan’s doors once again. I’m surprised the ladyboys who appear in Tawan’s show far too often don’t hold their breath the entire time they are in the club out of fear of what that heady scent will do to their carefully managed estrogen levels. Tawan should bottle that scent and offer it as air freshener.
The faces have changed at Tawan, the bodies have not. Nor has the overt friendliness of the staff. On Twilight the bars make an attempt at professionalism in their shows; at Tawan they take a much more lackadaisical approach. It’s more like a party at a frat house. Where no women showed up and boys being boys do what boys like to do anyway. On Twilight they make a production out of their not-so big cocks on parade; at Tawan those cocks appear at random both during and between shows. And if you hit it on the right day, the night ends with a chuck-wow contest. Just like it always has. Maybe it’s about location, but Tawan still offers what it always offered, regardless of who is running the country.
Welcome to the new Soi Twilight and Patpong circa 2014. It looks a lot like it did in 2013. And 2012 too. To old timers the minor recent changes, both good and bad, are barely noticeable. To first-timers it’s still an eye-opening experience. And it’s still like no other place in the planet.
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