The Artists Bars
There is a strip of bars on Sukhumvit Soi 33 that are known collectively as the artists bars. It all began back in the eighties as an alternative area for people who had got bored with the go-go bars.
The first bar to open in the area was called Renoir. This was quickly followed by Van Gough, Degas and Manet (later Monet). Hence the artist theme. But they were not all named after painters. Auction houses are represented by Christie’s and there is the usual selection of other familiar bar names as well such as The Other Office, Casablanka and Wall Street.
For the interior decor some have tried harder than others. Goya looks nice. I’m not at all sure what cowboys hats have to do with Goya but the girls do look fetching in them.
Dali looks good on the outside, all pink with squiffy windows but the interior doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Which could be a good thing after a beer too many.
My favourite is Christie’s. The exterior walls are painted pale yellow with white trim reminiscent of the Peterhof in St Petersburg. But on a much smaller scale … though I don’t suppose the Peterhof has a giant penis by the toilets. I’ll reserve judgement on the large bronze horse in the courtyard.
Inside there is a nice long bar. At the front is a smokey billiards area complete with bow-tied attendants to retrieve uncooperative cue balls out from pockets.
To the rear there is a nice Victorian drawing room with wallpaper and paintings nice leather seats to sprawl on.
The model is essentially that of a hostess bar. You buy a girl a drink and she comes and talks to you for an agreed amount of time. Otherwise the normal rules of engagement apply. The standard of English is considerably higher here and it is possible to have a reasonable conversation.
There is no pressure to buy any of the girls a drink. It’s perfectly acceptable to just have a drink and a game of pool with your buddies if you prefer. Though you are paying a premium for your beer
Few tourists venture up this way, probably because it doesn’t offer the immediate satisfaction of a near naked girl on your arm. The area is patronised largely by ex-pat residents.
This is a small strip of bars and restaurants up on the back of Lumpini Park that is popular with locals and expats. No gogo bars or working girls here here but you will find live music. Brown Sugar, a smokey little bar with live Jazz, is one of the longest running.
Thermae Coffee Shop and Bar might not everybody’s idea of a great hangout. To some it would seem like little more than a last chance saloon, attracting moth-eaten old souls to the lurid colours of its neon strip-lights. But to those in the know Thermae is MILF central.
I don’t know how long it has been as such, the bar opened in the mid 1960’s (see pic above) as the coffee shop for Thermae Massage Parlour but soon the bar became more famous than the massages.
So famous that it featured in Christopher Moores Book, A Killing Smile: “Zeno, Headquarters, HQ, the Star Wars Bar on Sukhumvit. You can’t miss it. Fake Greek columns in front of a sign that reads Turkish Bath, Barber, Massage, Espresso Coffee Shop. Fritters fried in big pots of palm oil outside the entrance. Beggars, bar girls, diplomats, spies, writers, bums, ex-Nazis, merchants, gangsters, tourists drifting in and out, eating at makeshift sidewalk cafes beside food carts and stalls. Cuttlefish and lottery vendors working the crowds. Like you, they’re all looking for shamans and ghosts.”
Sadly the Greek columns have gone, these days Thermae is in the basement of Ruamchitt Plaza at 199 Sukhumvit Road, about half way between Soi Cowboy and Soi Nana, on the same side as Cowboy. If nothing else it is a great place to stop in for a cold one on the march between the two. It’s not easy to spot. Keep an eye for the yellow sign on the wall. A number of motorbikes and a gaggle of streetwalkers are usually parked outside.
It is open from 8.00pm until 02.00am but it doesn’t start filling up until about 10.30. The bar consists of one large room with a huge ‘S’ shaped table in the middle. It’s a rather clever design because it ecourages people to look at each other. Those on the hunt for a companion orbit the table while those waiting to be ‘found’ sit still.
There’s no demarkation between the sexes here, both men and women are as likely as each other to be hunters. Though I would suggest that, since women tend to be then first to arrive, guys who fancy the idea of being the prey animal would probably do better in the earlier part of the evening.
In an acknowledgment to the idea that some people might like to sit in smaller groups regular sized tables around edges. The bar itself is along the back wall behind your left shoulder as you go in. There is never any need to go to it, waiters – who can make even the most tired old hooker look glamorous – hover, ever ready to fetch you another beer.
A juke-box plays mostly soft pop and country ballads though never too loud to drown out conversation – which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective.