Red Light, Green Light
After some deliberation, I decided I’d hit Bangkok’s Patong area and take in some of its vibrant nightlife options. Being settled on Khaosan and quite bored with its offerings, it makes no sense that be stricken to its boundaries in the evening. But a venture into Patong, the city’s red light district, would be a risk on my part, uncertainty the loftiest of obstacles. But I was determined. After combatting the chains and buckles of comfort and laziness, I fought through the water fights already in full swing on Khaosan and jumped in a taxi with only a few drips of battle wounds already evaporating.
The ride was quick and far cheaper than negotiating with the tuk-tuks or motorcycles. They’ve been ripping me off in Bangkok since I arrived under my assumption that the cold blaze of an air-conditioned taxi costs far more. The opposite is actually true. My driver dropped me in front of a market area crawling with tourists: older Westerners of the fanny pack/camera amulet variety. Thick ankles in Tevas, men with hats not on their heads but placed atop… this was Patong?Yes, the red light district, given its tourist draw, is nothing but a market surrounded by bars and clubs. Some seedy looking and named after small cats. Some silly and gimically farang. But hardly the den of sin I imagined. I smiled at the prejudgements that may have kept me away, as if Thai silk and handicrafts were not the fuzzy mossy overgrowth in every attraction I’ve seen thus far.
The bars and gigantic themed clubs are aggressive with a street team of staff shoving drink menus in your path, prices are showed for both single cocktails and… buckets. There are an abundance of Thai women with older white men everywhere but it seems more pathetic than anything else. As I strolled determinedly to my destination, Radio City, I realize that maybe the red light district is a dangerous place… for alcoholics and men. Being blessed to be neither, I was a fly on the wall in a playland for middle aged men and their young Thai girlfriends; a witness to a Peter Pan world where filling in the gaps of your desirability is possible with a lucrative exchange rate.
I found Radio City easily and thankfully and grabbed a seat in front of the stage. Oh, what brought me here was the bar’s nightly performances: Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. Impersonators, of course. It’s been on my Thailand to-do list since well before I left America. Arriving about 30 minutes before the King’s 11:15 showtime, entertainment would be ample as I waited, with the house singer belting out such hits as “House of the Rising Sun”, “Black in Black”, I Just Called to Say I Love You” and “LaBamba”. Beers weren’t cheap so I stretched my two out the 3 or so hours I was there, the performers both intoxicating and hilariously talented (surprisingly). The sets were long and were not just the standard hits. Both of these men do what they do well, their voices spot-on, and I was thankful I had the chance to see them.
And Tom Jones, the midnight show. What this man lacked in image he more than made up for in voice and mannerisms. In that second picture note the “granny panties” on the microphone. Tom, looking a bit perturbed, let them hang on the microphone after the Thai woman who fed off attention removed them and threw them on stage. They would later be thrown around the bar like a hot potato.