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April 2010 Email this to a friend

Explore the bustling of Bangkok...

By Staff reports

Prince Raja: International Tailor, Bangkok
Prince Raja: International Tailor (Bangkok) awaits your measurements

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded article click DailyXtraTravel

Prathet Thai, "land of the free," is a place of great beauty. The natural landscape, idyllic beaches and tropical vegetation provide breath-taking vistas. The people are generous with their smiles in this society tightly woven by Buddhism and love of their monarchy. Taxi drivers still stop at small temples to make offerings and pray, and at 6pm each day people all over Thailand stand quietly to pay respect to the king. Self-respecting and fiercely independent, they alone in the region succeeded in resisting European colonization. Western tourists now flock here to share this freedom.

Buddhist culture inspires uncommon concepts of sexuality and gender roles. To western eyes the many women who work construction in hard hats contrast oddly with "straight men" on bar stages dressed only in thongs or less, or doing sex work with men. In a world of far more important dramas, sex just isn't such a big deal. As with sustenance, their attitude goes, if hungry one should eat, but modestly. Freedom's opportunities can disorient some foreigners on a binge. But others learn discretion from Thais, for whom such things are personal and family matters.

Gay rights
Traditional Thai culture was not homophobic and was open to more fluid sexual and gender expression. Thai men are also less focused on body type and age than their counterparts in Europe and the Americas. Sodomy was decriminalized in 1956, and gays and transgendered people have been able to serve in the armed forces since 2005. There is not total equality, however. Sex among men is not particularly remarkable here, but self-identified gay men may not become monks and there are no same-sex marriage or partnership rights. Rural people are less hospitable to gay-identified men than are urban people and those in resort towns along the coast. Prostitution is technically illegal, but widely tolerated so long as it's with people over 18 years old, and an important part of the economy. The age of consent is officially 15, but various legal caveats make the practical age of consent 18.

Language note: a variety of spellings for business, place or street names may confuse you. With no standard for English transliteration of Thai words, they can be written in different ways. You'll soon get the hang of it.

Getting there, getting around
At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, look for the "Taxi Meter Hire" stand. Fares to the center are $10 to $12. The subway system and the soon-to- be extended Sky Train provide convenient traffic-free transportation around the city. For travel and pass information see Bts.co.th.

The cooler months from November to April are peak season. See Tourismthailand.se or Whatson- thailand.com for general information. Budget airlines at Airasia.com, Nokair.com and Fireflyz.com.my provide cheap flights throughout Thailand and to neighboring countries.

Bangkok bars & clubs
By the Chao Phraya River, the Silom and Surawong Roads district has a thriving scene of restaurants, karaoke bars, saunas, massage spas, and go-go bars. It's where most gay visitors head first; where enterprising young local men come to meet them, and ladyboy (kathoey) mamasans emcee the sexually uninhibited shows. Clubs can have anywhere from a dozen to several dozen guys on offer, and any dancer who tickles your fancy can be had. Ask (and tip) the mamasan.
Fewer tourists go to another area of gay pubs and saunas in the Ramkhamhaeng Road area. It's a less blatantly commercial pick-up scene, a more Thai to Thai ambience, but simpatico outsiders are welcome enough. Khamphengphet Road, Sukhumvit Road and Saphan Kwai (Pradiphat) are similar.

Silom, terrace bars and restaurants
The Silom subway stop and the Sala Dang Sky Train station serve the Silom-Surawong district. Silom soi 4 has a famous cluster of bars, and a website to promote them at SilomSoi4.net. Others are on soi Pratuchai and other streets around Silom.
Balcony (Silom soi 4) bar and restaurant, known for tasty cocktails, two popular terraces, and friendly staff. Upstairs at the karaoke bar they have periodic cabaret nights.
Bearbie Bar (Silom soi 4) for bears' and friends, the meeting place for Thai Chub&Chasers; warm color metro-retro decor, big sofas to cuddle or sprawl, best karaoke equipment.
Coffee Society (12/3 Silom) 24-hour caffeine, internet access, all-day meals include veggie options.
Dick's Cafe Bangkok (soi Pratuchai) quiet oasis on a bustling street where early birds get the best seats. Thai and western breakfast, brunch, dinner and late-night snacks, plus wide selections of cocktails, wine, beer and spirits.
Maxis Bar & Restaurant (soi Pratuchai) Thai and western meals, stylish cocktail lounge, second floor balcony and open air terrace.
@Richard's (Silom soi 2/1) neighborhood pub favorite of local expats and Thai friends -newcomers welcome, Quiz Nights; international restaurant with bar-b-q cook out and buffet specials.
Sphinx Bar & Restaurant (Silom soi 4, far end) award-winning national and international food, good wines, central location with indoor or al fresco terrace seating; upstairs Pharoah's karaoke bar
Telephone Pub (Silom soi 4) longtime favorite bar and restaurant with a little of everything, shows, parties, karaoke and dancers, pulling in a crowd of many ages and nationalities. Their website has a pdf map of the Silom district, plus news, videos, photos and links.

Silom go-go bars
Many go-go bars are in soi Pratuchai, also known as Duangthawee Plaza or "Boy Plaza" off Surawong Road. Bars change frequently, so listings and maps are quickly outdated; but touts at street level will quickly show where new places open.
Boys Bangkok (38/3-6 soi Pratuchai) good shows twice nightly, part of the Best Boys group of many dancers.
Dream Boy (38/3-6 soi Pratuchai) above Boys Bangkok, also Best Boys group, with big studs to fey twinks, explicit and big cock shows on two stages.
Future Boys (894/4-6 Soi Pratuchai) go-go boys on huge central stage, and back area shower stage.
Jupiter 2002 (Thaniya soi 2, off Suriwong Rd) fast paced go-go shows from 10pm, 20 to 30 handsome dancers, erotic big cock performances,
Screw Boys (Patong soi 2, Surawong) wide selection of dancers, plenty of contact opportunities, open later than most.
Solid Bar (39/2 soi Anuman Ratchathon, Suriwong) intimate club with go-go stage shows from 8pm to 2am, among least expensive drinks in town.
Tawan Men's Club (2/2 soi Tantawan, Surawong) amiable muscle men get off nightly onstage and offer massage onsite or off.

Dance clubs
9 Night Club (90-96 Silom Rd, soi 4) slick new disco in Silom, multi-level space, diva cabaret, fashion and dude shows, outdoor seating.
DJ Station (Silom soi 2) comedy and drag shows, over-the-top glamour, small dance floor, mostly Thai crowd.
G.O.D. (Guys On Display) (Silom, alley at soi 2) shirtless men groove to hard house and funk on large dance floor, most crowded after 2am.
JJ Park (Silom soi 2) not a dance club, but much the same crowd, with singers and stage shows, live music performances, chill-out space, mixed Thai and western.
ICK (Ramkhamhaeng soi 89/2) big, late disco, popular with Thai students. One of several gay clubs in the Lamsari Complex near Ramkhamhaeng University.
Think Pink @ Bed Supper Club (26 Sukhumvit Soi 11) fashionable Sunday night gay dining and dancing weekly event with top DJs.
g-Circuit (Gcircuit.com) sponsors annual parties that include three nights of Thai New Year celebrations in mid-April, drawing people from all over Asia. See their website for 2011 dates.

Bangkok Accommodations
Aquarius (243 Hutayana, soi Suanphlu, S Satorn Road) quiet gay guesthouse, in tropical garden at heart of Bangkok near Silom/Patpong entertainment district. Guests welcome to mingle in gay-family socials at bar, parties or in roof garden. Babylon Bangkok (34 soi Nandha, S Sathon Rd, soi 1) sauna, nightclub, restaurant, gym and cabaret, designed for all male pleasures. Lodging options from bed and breakfast rooms to garden or penthouse suites, plus three luxurious Botticelli House suites in 1920 Colonial-Thai style, set in manicured gardens.
Bally's Studio Suites (10 Silom Road Soi 2) boutique served residence, 53 fully furnished apartments, near all Silom nightlife, 24 hour security, satelite TV and Wi-Fi, in-house coffee shop and bar.
BBB Inn (918 Rama 4 Rd, Silom) centrally located clean modern inexpensive rooms, overnight or short term; private bath, double-glass quiet, 24-hour room service, TV, Wi-Fi access, fridges, multi-lingual staff, laundry facilities.
Luxx (6/11 Decho Rd, Silom; 2-635-8800) modern rooms, studios and suites with wood bathtubs, near bars, American breakfast included.
LUXX XL (82/8 Langsuan, Pathumwan; 2-684-1111) near Luphini Park, suites and executive rooms, large pool with bar, wi-fi.
Tarntawan Place Hotel (119/5-10 Surawong; 2-238- 2620) stylish hotel, simple and deluxe suites, daily newspaper, restaurant with Thai and Japanese specials.
Saladaeng Colonnade (21 soi Saladaeng, Silom; 2-636-0131) teakwood apartments, fitness center, long pool, in-room breakfast, monthly rates.
Bangkok Song (2-679-3343; Bangkoksong.blogspot.com) stylish and spacious apartments, kitchens, local pool and gym, near bars.
IBIS Sathorn (Soi Ngam Duphli Rama IV, Sathorn; 2-659-2888) modern rooms, restaurant and bar, wi-fi, breakfast until noon, in the heart of gay scene.
Furama Xclusive Sathorn (59 Silom soi 3, Phipat 2; 2-266-8030) rooms andsuites, restaurant, pool, sauna, exercise room, in-room massage, near shopping and nightlife.
Malaysia Hotel Bangkok (54 Soi Ngam Duplee, Rama 4; 2-679-7127) longtime favorite, standard and luxury rooms, restaurant, pool.
Om Yim Lodge (72,74 Naratiwat, Silom; 2-635-0169) tidy guesthouse, Thai/western restaurant, wi-fi.
Vincents Guesthouse (12/1 soi Ngam Duphli, Rama 4; 2-286-3348) spotless rooms, restaurant, near Luphini Park.

Bangkok Saunas & massage
Adnonis (44/11 Convent Rd, Silom) massage for men by men, luxury rooms in renovated Silom townhouse, large selection of handsome masseurs, free parking, seven day service with weekend hours until 11:30pm.
Aqua Spa (34 soi Nadhna, Sathorn) club for gay men at city center for fully-equipped gym workouts and sensual massage from (then relaxation with) one of their talented staff. Also with restaurant, bar and garden.
Babylon Bangkok (34 soi Nadhna, Sathorn) wide range of accommodations, lavish sauna complex, pool, gym, massage services, restaurants, wild cabaret, erotic and drag shows. All the pleasures of a man in one place.
Body Club (4/24-25 Sukhumvit Soi 8) massage for men by men, seven days a week noon to 10pm, many types of able guys.
Candle Paradise Spa (18/464 Rama 4 City Court) escape stress and hassles with premium spa therapy and massage in a warm, comfortable, private and peaceful environment.
Chakran Sauna (32 soi Ari 4, off Phaholyothin soi 7) fully equipped sauna, upscale decor, pool, restaurant, bar, Thai and Asian clientele.
Heaven Sauna (119 soi Mahesak, Silom, 4th floor) steam room and sauna, rooftop spa and garden near Skytrain station Surasak, popular with local office crowd.
Sauna Mania (35/2 soi Phipat 2, off soi Convent, Sathorn) small gym, rooftop terraces, busy underwear night, mostly Thai crowd, wide range of ages.
Senso (5/8 soi Saladaeng, Silom) erotic massage spa open daily 2-11pm, well-equipped, wide range of masseurs, hotel outcalls, and escort services.
Urban Male Massage (24/6 Sukhumvit 23) modern intimate boutique spa for men, spacious showers, private rooms, aroma therapy, highly skilled and personable masseurs.

Bangkok Shopping and Grooming
Silom Road has price-pleasing flea markets nightly except Monday.
Siam Paragon Center, at Siam Station has fashion shows, an aquarium, designer boutiques and department stores.
The huge MBK shopping mall is at National Stadium.
Cutey Beauty (Third Floor, Thaniya Plaza, Silom) hair coloring, cuts, massage, facials, body waxing.
Global Medical Clinic (281/15 Soi Silom Road; 2-635-5414) cosmetic surgery, botox, lipoatrophy treatments.

Bangkok Sights
The Grand Palace, the Wat Phra Kaew complex, and the Wat Pho and Wat Aruntemples are magnificent sights.
The National Museum has many artifacts of ancient Siam. The nearby National Gallery Museum houses traditional and contemporary works by Thai artists. For these and more see websites Bangkok-museum.com and Thailand Being Travel Guide
In peaceful Dusit Gardens the Vimanmek Teak Mansion is a museum dedicated to King Rama V.
Boat trips on the Chao Phraya River depart every half hour from Sathorn pier with cruises to places of historical interest. See Tour-bangkok-legacies.com for details on these and other destinations.

Trips to the Floating Market of Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi may be arranged through A&F Travel (120 Silom Rd; 2-266-5105). Phra Pathom Chedi, the holiest Thai structure, is on the way at Nakhon Pathom, 35 miles south of Bangkok. A&F books travel throughout Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Gay Thailand has a variety of general information.
Bangkok City Boys has videos of gay competitions and Pride parades.

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