The Gogo Bars of Saphan Kwai (Sutthisan)

Most of you will know Soi Cowboy, Patpong and Nana Plaza. Many westerners seem to think that, as far as Bangkok’s gogo bars are concerned, that’s it – notwithstanding a couple of outliers, eg. Soi 22’s Tina bar and Soi 7/1’s Magic Table.

But there is another, less well-known strip of gogo bars close to Saphan Kwai BTS station, but with a difference – they cater not to we farangs, but to Thai men…

Lost in Saphan Kwai

Getting to the Saphan Kwai BTS station was easy enough – it’s the second-last stop heading north on the Skytrain’s Sukhumvit line. Finding the bars themselves was a little trickier. We wandered from the station back to a footbridge by the intersection (had we gone ten yards further, we’d have spotted the bars), crossed the street, and wandered back, still not entirely sure what we were looking for.

Looking lost outside Saphan Kwai’s Big C, my drinking buddy suggested we ask a taxi driver. I predicted that the driver would rather take us somewhere he’d get a kickback. We asked a taxi driver. He wanted to take us somewhere else, and pretended he didn’t know where the Saphan Kwai bars were. Sigh.

Deus ex machina

And then came our unlikely saviour – a scruffy-looking Thai chap who asked if we were lost. He led us to the bars, a fairly long walk, chatted amicably all the way, even stopping to tell a lost farang woman which bus to take to Khao San road.

We tipped him ฿200, which we practically had to force him to accept. He didn’t want our money. He wasn’t getting a kickback. He just wanted to help. We invited him to join us in the first bar; he laughed and declined. And so our adventure began.

Back to the Golden Age

The first bar was called “something” 99 – in Thai script. My buddy thought it may have said “Tilac 99”, but who knows. We ventured inside – it wasn’t too different from an old-style Patpong bar. Stage with dancing girls in bikinis, check. Except these girls actually danced. A bottle of Heineken cost ฿120, but it was a large bottle. They don’t sell small bottles. Bargain.

A waiter came over with a big grin and asked us whether we’d like to meet the ladies. We told him we’d rather wait and settle in first. Yes, the girls will not approach unless invited. Having listened to a diatribe on exactly what’s wrong with the modern gogo bar recently, it seemed we had found an oasis of old-style gogos – no pushy girls, no pushy mamasans, no overweight trolls in bikinis claiming to be dancers, and half-price drinks. Not bad.

Over the following hours we explored more and more of the bars around here – Inter, RCA and RCA 2, Spicy, and countless more whose names escape me. I’ll have to go back with a notebook. Bikinis were the order of the day in most bars, but at least one bar had topless girls, while another had a Patpong-style “razor blade” show.

Cheap at half the price

As far as female companionship goes, the deal was a fairly uniform ฿1,500 for short-time, paid to the bar rather than the girl. This includes the bar-fine. Long-time is ฿2,000. I would not be surprised if many of the girls would baulk at the idea of going with a farang though.

We were made welcome by the staff of all of these bars. Some of the girls eyed us with suspicion, some with amusement, and some just took it in their stride, flirting and chatting away (in Thai, of course) as they would with anyone else.

Trouble brewing

The male Thai customers, on the other hand, did not seem impressed with our presence. I would even go so far as to suggest that there could have been trouble if one of us had barfined, or even flirted too much with a Thai gent’s “favourite”. In the last bar, we were receiving positively evil glares. If looks could kill…

Sensing an end to the evening, we ducked out into a taxi and headed for the more familiar, reassuring surroundings of Soi Cowboy. It was an adventure, and we’ll definitely return.

The Lowdown

As mentioned, speaking Thai is a must. You will not get very far without it. Keep an eye out for hostile Thai customers, and watch your back. That said, it was fascinating to see the other side of Bangkok’s “naughty nightlife”, and was incredibly cheap, all things considered.

To find the bars, get off at Saphan Kwai BTS station, and double back on yourself following the skytrain line to the next main road junction. Turn left at that junction until you get to the corner, and you’re there.

32 thoughts on “The Gogo Bars of Saphan Kwai (Sutthisan)

  1. Based on the first sentence of this blog I went out on Soi 22 tonight looking for Lisa’s GoGo bar. Being in a particularly stubborn mood, I walked from Sukhumvit Road halfway to Rama IV, and investigated every alley and byway (including TWO rounds of Washington Square) and returned home a little tired and very frustrated. In spite of spotting 3 dozen massage shops and about the same number of pool & beer bars, I couldn’t spot Lisa’s GoGo Bar.

    Once home, I was frustrated and stubborn enough to surf through the archives of the Bad Boy website for 90 minutes looking for the original mention of the Soi 22 GoGo bar.

    Finally I found the original reference! It turns out to be TINA (as opposed to LISA) which is a mere one-minute walk from my Soi 22 apartment! (Yes I live here with all the bar girls and go go dancers). I’ll definitely have to visit Tina this week and find out if it was worth the trouble; somehow I’ll be surprised if it is.

  2. Binn, despite my chuckles, I feel for you. Walking long distances can be pleasant in some cities, but in BKK it’s usually an opportunity to counteract the beneficial effects of physical exercise with the deleterious amounts of stress, frustration and airborne particulate pollution.

    But, obviously, this situation raises a serious issue. I think it’s obvious to all and sundry that it’s high past time we put some serious quality control on our webmaster here. I will be very interested to read a field report on the TINA bar. Maybe we could set up some sort of slush fund for these types of ventures with a peer group elected board overseeing the dispensation of funds for appropriate QC operations.

  3. Dang. I just read my previous post and noticed that besides the one (maybe more?) grammatical error, somebody out there might not read between the lines…. Blame it on the multiple bottles of Zywiec beer (Polish…I’m currently enjoying Little Poland here in Brooklyn), but I was trying to be humourous, not polemic.

  4. I will get round to writing up the Tina bar soon enough – a slush fund is obviously a terrific idea.

    For example, the Poseidon massage complex has “Penthouse girls” for something in the region of ฿18,000 a throw. I think it would be in the interest of the internet for me to road-test the complete set, and I think it would be in the interest of my bank balance for you to pay for it.

    Leave cash in non-sequential used notes in the bin outside the Star of Light.

  5. Given what I’m paying for the information on your website I’m not complaining… actaully the walk was good for me (and Soi 22 is, for the most part, obstacle-free with good walking paths on both sides of the street). I actually thought it was a little funny.

    I saw two places (Larry’s Dive & Tina) that I thought might have caused confusion in your piece resulting in “Lisa’s” so I did check a bit…

    Larry’s had a glass window and obviously wasn’t a go-go bar.

    I walked all the way up to Tina and the lady outside jumped up and opened the door for me… from 8 meters away I peered through the door, but at the absence of any loud music decided it must be just a very quiet bar and left without actually entering.

    BTW — This place is right next to my apartment building, and there are several bars and restaurants here (the Honey House has serviceable Thai & Western food, and the Italian place is very good). I’m surprised the owners of these places don’t get together and put a contract out on the female touts at the front of the square, as they probably do little more than drive away potential business by their annoying pestering.

    My friend at the BigMango website seems to be very high on two places at the moment ~ Poseidon is one, and the other is Soprano. I’m thinking of a field trip to Soprano this weekend. If I make it, I’ll try to file a ‘field report’. I’ll definitely let you know what I turn up at Tina this week.

    For what it’s worth, my opinion is very good for Titanium Bar right next door on Soi 22 ~ highly overpriced drinks, but two distinguishing features: (a) 6-person all-girl band that plays good music that is a little different from what you hear everywhere else (Jonie Jett, et al) (b) a walk-in-freezer on the mezzanine level where you can get your choice of flavoured vodka shots served at -12C.

    Best go-go bar? Hands down the answer is Rainbow 4… more good looking women per square meter than anywhere on the planet.

    For the more budget-minded who still want atmosphere I like Hillary Bar on Soi 4… pool tables, live band, freelancers… what more could you ask for?

    And for a sampling of Thai nightlife with laugh and only a small dent in your wallet, take your girl to Coliseum at Thong Lo… just 2 minutes from the train station, dinner, drinks & show for two people at just over 1000 baht with no cover. You can spend a happy 5 hours there and take your woman home in a good mood ~ or go by yourself and ‘pull’ a girl while she’s drunk and laughing at the comedy. I’ve done it before, and — trust me — if I can do it, so can you!

    That’s it for my quality control reporting this afternoon. As I said at the top, advice is worth what you pay for it, so don’t complain to me if you don’t agree with me. (My quality of reporting will improve if I get a cut of that slush fund).

  6. As I understand it, Tina’s is nothing to write home about, other than its existence outside the three farang gogo zones. I’ve been to the very pleasant vegetarian Italian restaurant next door (“Govinda”, if memory serves), but haven’t yet been in the bar.

    Rainbow 4 certainly has some beautiful girls, but there are some ropey old slappers in there too – and the attitude of the former can be downright hostile unless you’re Japanese or waving a fistful of thousand-baht notes (or both).

    I should write up Coliseum – watching (and attempting to understand) a comedy show in Thai is quite an experience. It’s also the place I experienced my first man-on-man in-toilet neck massage, which was something of a surprise.

  7. Not sure why you had trouble finding the bars in Saphan Kwai – they are mostly right on Suttisarn – a major road in Bangkok.

    Been there a few times, and had exactly the same experiences as you report. Evil eyes from a few of the Thai guy customers, rejections from some girls that don't want to deal with farangs, language problems…..BUT cheap prices, mostly friendly girls and some lookers. Some of the girls here look dangerously young. A very different night out, but go with a friend (not on your own).

  8. @Mochalover: We walked the wrong way from the BTS station. Will have to head over there again soon.

    @Stevie G: Get in taxi. Say "Saphan Kwai BTS" to driver. Sit in traffic for an hour or two. Pay taxi driver several times the price of the BTS fare. Voila.

  9. @BINN i live on 22aswell can you help me with directions to the go-go?
    i hear from a friend that soi26 has some absolutely amazing girls nut i am yet to check – can any1 confirm?

  10. Stevie G – may be I was getting the wrong idea I thought you were one for chasing from bar to bar to find the best skirt and bar, if you are living in Thailand then you should know the bars change some times on a daily bases you can not be sure what you can get when you are in the fringes of Nana or SC, what B3 may find tonight will not always to be the same tomorrow unless for a few which you can count on one hand in the main strips.  So the “absolutely amazing girls” first is in the eyes of the beholder and second what’s here today is gone tomorrow. Over the twenty three year I have seen the good bar which where good on one trip and a few months later they are a very poor, they come and go and what we have now is not good, the girls attention to wooing is gone in fact a girl said to me after seeing a airplane fly over “why don’t they throw the money out of the windows then they can turn around and go home” the exception I hope but you get the idea. The late eighties where my best times, alas unable to recapture them, even with B3’s helpful column.  So you are not dumb I just did not elaborate and may of got the wrong idea. I leave soi 22 for when I am bored and want to explore and not worry if I take home or not.

  11. All bars look alike in Soi Intamarara … with one exception, the Harlem Music bar. There are less gogo dancers than in the major farang bars (You may find only two or three girls on stage at a time) but the girls are pretty and know how to dance (as opposed to some of the dozing off on Cowboy.

  12. Knight i agree exactly with how wildly the quality of bars can change in just a few months
    i have been left red faced when taking visiting friends  to bars that i have assured are high quality only to be greeted by old woman and bored girls doing the 'shuffle'

  13. Tina's is similar to the bars on Washington Square. I wouldn't really call it a "go-go bar", though there are poles. The girls (women) are mostly old(er), but there can be 1 or 2 younger ones sprinkled in there. The place is usually empty and rather sad. I wouldn't recommend it, but it takes all kinds.

  14. The poles at Tina's seem to have disappeared, and there's no more action in the bar.  Instead, I was recently urged to pay a ฿500 barfine, plus a ฿500 short-time room fee, plus ฿1,000 for a hefty-looking girl. Review coming soo- oh, who am I kidding?

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  19. I’ve actually been a regular visitor to Tina bar on Sukhumvit Soi 22 since around 2003. I’ve seen it at its best and at it worst. At the time they were written, I would have to agree with all of the above comments. One of the things that I always liked about Tina bar was that it is off the beaten path, and the girls in there have always been really fun to hang out with (even if you never took them out of the bar).

    The thing I always hated most about the bar, was the old man who owned the joint, “Papasan”. He always lurked outside the bar, coming in to look around from time to time, and he just generally gave me the creeps.

    I stopped in Tina last night, and I was extremely happy to learn that Papasan is gone! He sold the bar to his niece, “Apple”. She’s a real looker herself, and she’s already started making improvements by recruiting new girls from up north. Based on the awesome time that my buddies and I had there last night, I think this may be my new favorite hangout in the Land of Smiles.

  20. I had several good nights at Saphan Kwai and go back occasionally… 1500baht is correct and the girls are animals…filthy dirty little animals… love it! Forget the massage parlors and 5000 baht lookers… couldnt get your know sucked badly with those bitches… give a 40 kg 160cm dark skinned little english real thai girl any day…they will blow your fuckin mind!

    Other options are Soi 4 sukhumvit… go for the street girls, but walk in a little… maybe take a break at the chill bar upstairs at the go go bars hang a right up the esculator and turn right hard 59 baht per… 1000 baht short time but make sure your stuff is secure in your room…there are several simple questions and they all know what your asking…1st are you a girl…if your not sure ask for a peek or a feel if your game… ask if they have had kids…especially if their heavily clothed… you dont want some hag with a stretched out belly… get their age … usually if their 18-21 their cute but fucking useless and dont be negative about the over 30’s…some of the best sex I have ever had! ask them if they have had someone already… I prefer if they havnt… and dont be backward sniff that pussy and if its ok give it a lick… suddenly you will find you dick in her mouth… they love it… here’s one for the slow blowers… try two girls… yahoo.

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