A Shot in the Rain: Bangkok
Photo by Jamie Rector
story and photos by Jamie Rector
When the nights fill with rain, you can stay dry inside while whetting your whistle with a cool drink and some lively company. The nightlife in Bangkok has a bit of a wild and lusty history. As the visitors of the past were mostly American GI’s and German or Arab sex tourists, the nightlife offered a wide array of scandalous choices. But as the tourist census has changed and more couples come for shopping and innocent-natured fun, the range of places available to spend an evening has grown. Still, even venues that appear innocuous, may have servers who will go home with you for a fee.
Beware of Sharks
Billiards is particularly big in Thailand. One popular haven for this pastime is the Factory. The contemporary, artsy environment offers two full bars and about 6 pool tables. Neon lights make the balls glow as they spin across the felt tables. There are also coin-operated internet kiosks where you can check your email while waiting for your turn to play. For the freaky deaky, and the right price, you can take one of the serving girls with you for the night.
Brunswick is another popular night spot. This large pool hall with a field of felt tables has more tourists. It is also a restaurant, so you can order dinner between chalking your cue stick. They often have informal tournaments going on. Just put your name up on the chalkboard and wait for your turn in the game. When you enter a game as a new challenger, it is your responsibility to pay for the game. If you win, you get a new challenger; if you lose you go back onto the chalkboard.
Warning!! The Thai people play a lot of pool, women as well as men; and they’re good at it. If you’re playing for fun, great, but make sure you know what you’re doing if you decide to start making bets.
One term you will likely hear, no matter where you end up, is Farang. You are a Farang, meaning tourist, or non-local. The locals will call you a Farang, but all in fun. They seem to quite like visitors and are generally helpful and welcoming.
Dancing the Night Away
Soi Cowboy is a bar with a glass ceiling above ground level and a dance floor upstairs. Sitting at the bar below you get a voyeuristic view of the people dancing above you. Funky lighting makes everyone glow.
Khao San Road is a favorite with the backpacker community. It is quite touristy and bars are open until all hours of the night. You can bar hop to your heart’s content. It’s safe, but you’ll want to watch out for pick pockets in this area. They know the tourists flock here so you could be a target. Keep your cash in a money belt tucked away safely under your clothes, and be aware of what is going on around you, and you can enjoy a safe and fun night out in Bangkok.
The Factory Bar
Sukhumvit Road (Thanon Sukhumvit) between Soi 5 and Soi 7 across from the Landmark Hotel
Brunswick Pool Bar & Restaurant
SNC Tower (Ground Floor)
33 Sukhumvit Soi 4, Klongtoey
story and photos by Jamie Rector
Rain on a hot tin roof only adds to all the cheering and excitable noise you’ll find at a Muay Thai Boxing event at Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok, one of the top venues for Muay Thai. Excited fans spread throughout the stadium. Money changes hands as bets are made and people cheer before the boxers have even made their first hit.
Evidence of the ritual and spiritual connection within this sport accompanies the fighters into the ring. They often have a cord, called a Mongkol, wrapped around their head that their coaches take off while blessing them for the fight. Arm bands adorned with a small Buddha figures give them divine protection.
Each fighter also performs a custom dance called the Wai Khru. The athletes give thanks and celebrate their parents, ancestors and mentors. With their movements, they incorporate the direction of their home with the corners of the compass to honor their training camp, teachers and other influences on them.
When the fight begins, you’ll notice it is a little different than traditional boxing in the United States. Thai boxers can use just about all parts of their bodies both as weapons and as targets. Fighters can hit or kick anywhere they wish, even the more delicate parts of the anatomy.
While the contenders are steaming it up in the ring, you’ll feel like you are right in the action as the humid, hot air, gives your senses a test of their own stamina. You get to be sweaty without the injuries. The wobbly, wooden ceiling fans spin valiantly but offer little relief.
If you enjoy the boxing, there is ample opportunity to experience more of it. The sport has become much more popular in the last few decades. As a result there are now plenty of opportunities for fans to watch the action as well as for the fighters to participate in international tournaments.
At Lumpini, 500 Baht, or roughly $12.50 US, will get you a seat in the back of the arena. The middle seating area is 800 Baht or around $20. If you want to get a good close-up view you can sit ringside for approximately $35 or 1500 Baht. Other boxing arenas include Rangsit, Omnoi and the famous Rajdamnoen Stadium, near Democracy Monument.
Lumpini Stadium is located to the east of Lumpini Park on Rama IV Road, Bangkok 10500 in Sathorn. Phone: 66 2 251 4303. Fights are scheduled Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.