Gone are the days when Patpong Night Market and its so-called infamous Red Light District in Bangkok was known as the nightlife destination of choice for most tourists. You'd be better off roaming the red light district of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
There appears to be more diversity on offer in Amsterdam than there seems to be here. I stand to correction, but I'd be more than happy to explain this, as I have been to both these places.
And it matters not what you have read in the papers, seen on the telly or what your faithful friends may have told you. Unless you've actually been to the Patpong red light district before, you'll never really know what it's like. You may come to love it or you may come to loath it, though for two very different reasons.
If you are into the whole sex thing, then this may just be up your alley. However, please bear in mind that there are other areas around Bangkok that are so much worthier than this. It's just a matter of knowing where the finer places are.
Also, this particular adult playground is definitely not suitable for young children. Some might argue that this market is not so much in your face, but the fact is many of the go-go bars are quite frankly unavoidable whichever way you view it.
Patpong essentially consists of two streets situated between Suranwong Road and Silom Road, also known as Silom 1 and Silom 2. They are rather cramped making your journey up and down a bit of a hindrance, to say the least. The centre of the road is packed with stalls selling all sorts of over-priced merchandise.
Though this market attracts thousands of visitors nightly, there are much better markets in the city. One thing you can be absolutely sure of and that is, prices for goods here are way over the top.
It matters not how much you test your bargaining skills because you'll still end up paying two, three or even four times the price you'd find at other markets in Bangkok. And for that matter anywhere else. The prices in this market are specifically geared up to rip tourists off. I'd tread with caution if I was you.
Fake designer clothing, watches, handbags and just about anything in between are common place here as are the assortment of pirated CD's and DVD's which could get you into a little trouble back home. I personally would avoid buying any of the items at Patpong. It's best to simply stroll around and take in the ambience, the sights, the sounds and the smells.
Though it is fairly safe on the streets Bangkok, you will need to keep your wits about you when visiting Patpong. Bad behaviour in the area is extremely rare, however, pickpockets like to practice their skills and are sometimes difficult to spot. It's important to keep a tight grip on your wallet and handbag at all times.
One of the very reasons you may want to visit Patpong Night Market is to be able to go home and say to your friends... Well, I've been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt to prove it. It's certainly not at all doom and gloom either. There is this intensely active atmosphere here if not somewhat amusing too.
Walking through the Patpong market checking out all the shops and stalls, it's more than willing staff as well as the general public, can be immensely entertaining. However, you need to pluck up the courage to simply walk away when persistent touts try their luck in luring you to view some of the seedier sides of this region.
You can spend time here relaxing at one or another restaurant or bar while observing all the comings and goings. It's, without a doubt, a collective kaleidoscope of colour and chaotic charm. More than that it can easily get a tad hectic at times. Unintentional rubbing of shoulders is all part and parcel as hundreds of tourists jostle up and down for whatever space there may be.
For the more curious adventurer, there must be at least a hundred or so neon-lit strip bars offering a variety of some of Thailand's rather risque sex shows as well as the usual scantily clad pole dancers. Be aware that there are some go-go bars here that are home to what may appear to be sexy Thai girls but are in fact ladyboys known locally as katoeys.
As a first timer, it's hard to detect the subtle difference in characteristics until it's way too late. But then again, perhaps this is just what you were looking for. I wish you all the best of Irish luck with whatever it is that takes your fancy.
How to avoid being ripped off
Being ripped off is something that should not be taken without some form of trepidation in this region. It can happen in the blink of an eye. Go-Go bars located along the two streets here are free to enter, but that's where it ends.
Now we all know that you have to pay for your drinks no matter what type of bar you visit, but you need to be wide awake for the unexpected too. It all boils down to just how much that drink costs that really matters. Drink prices in Patpong can start from as little as 59 Baht but they can also increase to as much as 300 Baht. Most of the imported beers will cost you around 180 Baht.
Watch out too for girls who come and sit down next to you to offer small talk and then ask for one of their so called lady drinks. They can easily cost 200 Baht or more each. Perhaps one for my pretty sister too, she may politely ask. Before you can say Jack Daniel's you're surrounded. Next, comes the real shocker - your bill. If you are not careful, this could escalate beyond your means.
What you need to do. First, inquire as to the price of your particular drink or any other for that matter and ask for the drink slip to be brought to your table each and every time you order. The waitress will usually place the slip in a bill holder.
This way you can check each slip as they arrive which will also allow you to stay in control. Don't ever neglect this small detail and don't wait until the last minute before you leave the bar as your worst nightmare could easily become a reality.
Never drop your guard for a second. Always ask a girl how much her drink will cost. Usually, the answer will be "same as yours". However, don't be fooled by this statement. Ask again until you are one hundred and ten percent sure. If the going gets rough, get tough and ask for the mamasan to help out. You'll recognise her immediately. She'd be the one with a wart on her nose.
How to avoid the Touts of Patpong
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a tout is... They are unscrupulous beings whose sole aim it is to prey on the ignorant and the innocent. They are in your face, they are unavoidable and they are everywhere. Dodging them is not easy.
A tout will ultimately approach you with a list of what appears to be some form of adult entertainment. While this might seem fun to some, you'd be better off ignoring the offer altogether. What it really amounts to is a likeness to a rather dodgy ping pong show complete with all the bells and whistles. No need for further detail here. They are crude in manner and are a total waste of money.
What touts offer and what you get are two entirely different entities. You'll not miss a thing by giving this one fat thumbs down. By going you'll miss a heck of a lot more than just your cash. In most cases, you'll be taken out of the immediate area, up dark and dingy stairs and into a bar with no name. I'd be afraid - Because you could be ripped off Thai style. Friendly but effective.
Inside you'll get little of what was initially shown to you. What you do get is a crappy show for which you are expected to applaud and donate generously. These shows are cheap and nasty. The only thing you'll get is a bruised ego and a hole in your pocket.
It's not my intention to put you off going to Patpong night market, but quite honestly, it's a little overrated but go, if you must. After all, when in Bangkok, you should try everything at least once. It can be an enlightening experience.
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