Go-go and beer bars in Bangkok
The go-go bar is an institution of Bangkok's "naughty nightlife". In a typical go-go, several dozen dancers in bikinis (or less) crowd the stage, shuffling back and forth to loud music and trying to catch the eye of punters in the audience. Some (but not all) also put on shows where girls perform on stage, but these are generally tamer than you'd expect — nudity, for example, is technically forbidden. In a beer bar, there are no stages and the girls are wearing street clothes.
If this sounds like a thinly veiled veneer for prostitution, it is. Although some point to the large number of American GIs during the Vietnam War as the point of origin of the Thai sex trade, others have claimed that current Thai attitudes towards sexuality have deeper roots in Thai history. Both go-go and beer bars are squarely aimed at the foreign tourists and it's fairly safe to assume that most if not all Thais in them are on the take. That said, it's perfectly OK to check out these shows without actually partaking, and there are more and more curious couples and even the occasional tour group attending. The main area is around Patpong in Silom, but similar bars to the ones at Patpong can be found in Sukhumvit, at Nana Entertainment Plaza (Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (Soi 23). Soi 33 is packed with hostess bars, which are more upscale than the Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza bars and do not feature go-go dancing. Before heading to these places, be sure to read the Stay safe section for some additional advice.
As go-go bars close around 01:00, there are so-called after-hour clubs that stay open till the sun gets up. They are not hard to find — just hop in a taxi. Taxi drivers are eager to drive you there, as they get a hefty commission from club owners to bring you to them — you might even get the ride for free. These clubs generally feel grim and edgy, and there are so-called "freelancers" among the girls (prostitutes). Some well-known after-hour clubs include Bossy Club in Pratunam and Spicy Club near Siam Square.
Behaving while misbehavin'
Some simple rules of etiquette to follow in a
- A drink in your hand is required at all times. Most places charge around 100-150 baht for most drinks.
- Lady drinks cost a little more and earn you the privilege of chatting with the lady/gent of your choice for a while.
- Taking a dancer out of his/her place of employment before closing time will cost you a bar fine of around 600 baht. This is the bar's share, the rest is up to you two.
- No photos inside. If you're lucky, you'll merely have your camera confiscated, but you also stand a fair chance of getting beaten up for your trouble.
- Look, but don't touch (unless invited to). Getting too frisky will get you kicked out.
- Bring along your passport. Police raids are not uncommon and you're off to the police staton for the night if you can't produce one on demand.
The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about Bangkok