A Brief Rundown of Bangkok’s Red Light District

While most of us think of Amsterdam when we hear ‘Red Light District’. Thailand, and specifically Bangkok, has become one of the world’s biggest players when it comes to the sex trade. This arena has had more than its fair share of bad press, and while Thailand does not condone sex tourism in any way, it’s hard to ignore the presence of the industry in the capital.

Whether it’s lady boy clubs, go-go bars or full-scale brothels, Bangkok certainly has a thriving Red Light District.

History of the Red Light District in Bangkok

Prostitution was only made illegal in Thailand in 1960 under pressure from the United Nations, and even to this day is not seriously policed unless there are fears of child prostitution or trafficking. Until this time, Thailand had become such a hub of sex tourism from trade merchants during the Ayutthaya Kingdom to soldiers during the Vietnam War, that prostitution was somewhat normalised.

Today, Soi Cowboy, Patpong and the surrounding regions are famous for ping-pong shows and go-go bars that are popular as much amongst curious tourists as they are open ‘sexpats’.

Staying Safe in the Red Light District in Bangkok

In general, the bars and clubs in Bangkok’s Red Light District are friendly and safe and you’re unlikely to run into any trouble. However, it is worth being aware of both the rules and the scams of the Red Light District so you don’t get ripped off.

The main thing to be aware of is: no show is ever going to be free! While some bars may lure you in with the promise of a free ping-pong show with just one drink, this is highly unlikely to happen. Either, your one drink will be absolutely extortionate or you will have been charged a fee for your ‘host’ who may have brought you over a drink or talked to you at the bar. In particularly seedy establishments, there will be a tough-looking bouncer on the door who won’t take “no” for an answer when you try to dispute the bill! It’s better to choose one of the more popular and perhaps more expensive bars to ensure you can buy a drink with no strings attached.

The Bars of Patpong

While most travellers wouldn’t consider visiting the Red Light District to partake in the services on offer, many simply want to experience the lights, character and nightlife of the area. Patpong is one part of Bangkok that certainly allows travellers to have some fun! The ingeniously-named Patpong Soi 1 and Patpong Soi 2 are the two main streets in this area of Silom that are home to some of the most famous bars. King’s Castle, Safari Bar and Thigh Bar are some of the more tourist-friendly, who don’t mind you coming in for a few drinks without wanting anything further.

The Bars of Soi Cowboy

Named after the original cowboy hat-wearing bar owner who started the trend in the 1970s, Soi Cowboy is a lively strip of bars that lure curious travellers into the neon haven. There are over 30 bars to choose from so you can wander along the street keeping your ear out for music that takes your fancy of drinks prices that fit your budget. Crazy House and Susie Wong are popular spots and are known to be fairly reputable.

The Bars of Soi Twilight

This area just outside of Patpong is known to be one of the best in the Red Light District for LGBT-friendly bars and clubs. While this strip is smaller than some of the other streets around Silom, the numerous gay go-go bars and drag performances are sure to give you a night to remember with Ocean Bar and Hotmale being some of the top spots.

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