Old timers – and you don’t need to be that old to qualify – still call it Soi Twilight in honor of the original gogo bar of that name in Duangthawee Plaza. Newbies haven’t a clue why since that bar at the head of the soi eventually morphed into Hot Male although the popular name for the soi never followed suit. Over the years the bars that make up the gay tourists’ soi of dreams have changed names, occasionally changed decor, and at times have seemed to change boys far too infrequently. I remember a guy I offed from Barbiery, which eventually became Dream Boy and eventually moved across the street into the soi who was still plying his trade a decade later and still claiming to be 23. Somethings change along the soi, somethings don’t. That it is a place many gay tourists love remains a constant. As is that it is a place many gay sexpats hate. Regardless, Soi Twilight just keeps truckin’ on.
The boys on the boards love to predict the end of the gay gogo bar scene in Bangkok, but those posters tend to die off before seeing their predictions come true. Bars do come and go, but more often than not it’s nothing more than a change of name. There’s an ebb and flow to what – and how much of it – you get to see inside of those bars too; crackdowns have always been part of the soi’s history for one reason or another and the most recent – while once again being championed as proof the soi is on its way out – appeared to me to be more of a rewind back to the days when visiting a bar did not mean having a screaming little queen fucked on your lap. And I think that’s a good thing.
I’m pretty sure first time visitors are just as enthralled with the shows today as most of us were on our debut visit to the soi regardless of just how much flesh is, or isn’t, on display. For most, it still is beyond anything they could see back home. And the take away aspect of the bars’ business has always been the larger lure. Those waxing nostalgic over what once was, when the shows titillated more than took sex acts beyond any act anyone actually performs while having sex would probably enjoy today’s shows. If they could allow themselves to quit bitching about the cost of a drink. But then that’s one of the things that hasn’t changed – sexpats have been complaining about the high prices charged on the soi (and predicting its downfall because of that) for as long as the soi has existed.
The first gogo bar I ever visited was the pre-Dream Boy Barbiery and if you grabbed a seat by the door you could catch quick flashes of what the boys wouldn’t show on stage as they headed for the dressing room. By the time Twilight became New Twilight, every night at 10:00 they had a rotation with the entire stable appearing buck-ass naked. Within six months, Future Boy had guys swinging from the rafters while being impaled. I’d bet history will be repeating itself and nudity followed by outrageous feats of orgasmic couplings will be the standard on the soi again before the year’s end.
The soi has changed over the years, constantly updating itself. A few of the bars have changed little, others have changed names with the seasons. Rub and tug shops have done the same; Red Massage became Mario’s Massage by changing a sign; Bangkok Massage took over the space where X-Man once was – then closed and reopened as itself again. Restaurants are now part of the scene thanks to Dick’s success, but once there were no street-side cafe’s where you could while away the hours watching the action on the soi. Beer bars have popped up more recently and add a fresh look to Soi Twilight. Not that that idea itself is all that fresh. When Fresh Boy X and its not-long-lasting successor Siam Angel Boy closed their doors a beer bar cum pool hall opened in their place to much head shaking and predictions that that wouldn’t last. And you can still rack up a set of ball there today.
It seems that Soi Twilight’s demise has been a favorite topic of discussion almost as long as the soi has existed. Ten years from now that will probably still be a perennial favorite among those who never really enjoyed the soi in the first place. Every time a bar closes, sage heads nod, sure they called it right. When a new bar opens in its place said sage heads begin to whine over how much the place dares to charge for a drink, claiming the soi will soon go dark. All over again. The internet, massage shops, Gay Romeo, and Grindr have all been anointed as the new trend that will sound Soi Twilight’s death knell. And yet the sound of, “Show Now!” still reverberates down the soi. Because Soi Twilight has never been about what it isn’t, but rather about what it is.
Soi Twilight has always been in a state of flux. But that’s not about its death, it’s about its growth, it’s about its ability to change with the times. Soi 4 has been around even longer. And has witnessed even more changes than Twilight. But you seldom hear anyone claiming that soi will soon be a thing of the past. But then the face of Patpong has changed greatly too, as has Nana Plaza. And Soi Cowboy. Reinventing itself is something Bangkok has always done well. Despite what you may have heard, Soi Twilight and its bars are not a dying scene. It is an even fresher and more lively scene than it was a decade ago. And probably will be even more so in the decades to come. ‘Cuz just when you are ready to write off a historical landmark in Bangkok, someone steps in and gives it a new life. Just look what happened to Don Muang. Unless they decide to turn Duangthawee Plaza into the city’s newest shopping mall, of course.
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