Connect with us

Tourism

Prostitution, the CIA, David Bowie and Patpong – Undercover in Bangkok infamous red light district

Tim Newton

Published 

 on 

Prostitution, the CIA, David Bowie and Patpong – Undercover in Bangkok infamous red light district | The Thaiger
  • follow us in feedly

PHOTO: patpongmuseum.com

Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start. Where did Bangkok’s Patpong get its name?

It actually goes back to a Chinese immigrant named Luang Patpongpanich. He purchased the land when it was just a banana plantation (I can hear the Benny Hill theme already). During World War II, so the story goes, Patpongpanich’s son and heir, Udom, studied in the US, where he joined a newly secretive “Office of Strategic Services” which eventually became the CIA.

All this comes to light in the new Patpong Museum which has just opened. More than just a saucy jaunt through the history of ping-pong shows, the museum tracks the area’s much more fascinating contribution to the Vietnam War, the CIA’s covert war in Indochina and it’s value as a ‘relief’ to US soldiers fighting the communists in the 60s and 70s.

How did it evolve from these agricultural and covert beginnings to become one of the world’s most famous red light districts, before a lot of the ‘red’ moved to Soi Cowboy and the Nana Plaza?

The museum’s curator, is Michael Messner. He says he founded the space to document the area’s rich history, beyond the bar girls and bawdy entertainment. He says he’s included a lot of details no one realised contributed to the thriving business and tourist zone.

King Prajadhipok, Rama VII, bestowed an honorary title to Poon Pat, whose family moved from China in the 1880s. He becomes Luang Patpongpanich in 1930. Luang started ‘Siam Cement in 1921, his son attended training by the Office of Strategic Services at Fort Benning in Georgia in 1945, then the Patpongpanich family bought a banana plantation on the outskirts of Bangkok in 1946 for US$3,000. In the 1950s the Patpongpanich family build shophouses in the area and name it ‘Patpong’.

During the 1950s, at the height of the ‘Reds under the beds scare’ freaking out the Americans, Patpong became a front for several CIA operatives, supplying arms for various anti-communist groups. All this, and the locations where a lot of these shenanigans happened, are detailed in the museum.

And it wasn’t just the Americans that flocked to Patpong. Michael Messner recalls how one of the earliest, and most popular bars, was opened by a former Japanese soldier.

“Mizu’s Kitchen was opened by a Japanese ex-soldier who was part of the occupational force but he liked it here in Patpong so much that he wanted to stay.”

He wasn’t the only one that liked it. It was during the middle of the 1960s that a lot of US troops, weary from their tours of duty, came to Patpong for some R&R. Demand started the supply and the are became known for a place of relief and relaxation.

Prostitution, the CIA, David Bowie and Patpong - Undercover in Bangkok infamous red light district | News by The Thaiger

Other pioneering Patpong tenants during those years included the US Information Service library and “a CIA safe house” above the Madrid Bar where, in later years, retired CIA officials reportedly drank and met buddies. There’s plenty of sordid stories along the way, that all add to the colourful mythology of the famous area. But it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Patpong started attracting a wider tourist crowd.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Curator Messner says… “I’d say today everybody knows Patpong.”

“But nobody really knows what Patpong is about. People associate it with a very narrow segment today, and it would be ‘Patpong ping-pong,’ something like this. And we’ll get to ping-pong, we’ll show that too, but there is so much more.”

The 300 metre museum covers just about every aspect of this fascinating corner of Bangkok, even the ping pong shows. A The silhouette of a woman has, between her thighs, an industrial-strength ping-pong training machine, which pumps out ping pong balls for museum visitors to catch.

Messner describes the exhibition as an interactive display.

“Here on Patpong, everybody wants to see the ping-pong show.”

The museum is a rich trip down a secret memory lane, revealing a lot about the Patpong area that few people know anything about.

Have a very quick timeline tour down Patpong’s history HERE.

But we’ve only scratched the surface. You really need to spend a few hours to open your eyes to a part of Bangkok’s history that reveal Patpong as a lot more than skin deep. And you might even get to catch a ping pong.

And David Bowie? He visited the area back in 1983, shot a video clip there, and ‘got lost’ for quite a while, so the story goes.

• Building 5, 2nd floor below Black Pagoda Bar, Patpong Soi 2
Open daily, 10am to 11 pm; 091 887 6829
• Tickets are 350 baht for visitors and include headphones offering narration in English, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish
• The entrance fee includes one free beer or soft drink

• Museum souvenirs are on sale, including ping pong balls

Prostitution, the CIA, David Bowie and Patpong - Undercover in Bangkok infamous red light district | News by The Thaiger

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Bangkok. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

40 arrested in a suspected gambling house in Nonthaburi

Avatar

Published

on

40 arrested in a suspected gambling house in Nonthaburi | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Last night, police raided a house in Nonthaburi and arrested 40 people for allegedly gambling.

According to the deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, 33 are Thais and 7 are migrant workers of the casino. The officials also confiscated decks of cards of the Dragon-Tiger game, plastic chips and some cash as evidence.

During the raid, the migrant workers allegedly revealed that the gambling operations at the home had only been going on for 2 days and that the owner planned to move it to other locations.

Police have been cracking down on gambling after the Covid-19 outbreak at a Rayong gambling den in line with the PM’s order made last week to shut down the illegal venues and tracking down “influential figures.”

SOURCE: National Thailand

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Continue Reading

Thailand

Former finance minister proposes legalisation of gambling

Avatar

Published

on

Former finance minister proposes legalisation of gambling | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Tabloid

With Covid-19 cases linked to some illegal gambling dens, causing a headache for health officials trying to track down elusive gamblers to contain the virus, the former Finance Minister floated the idea to legalise gambling.

The former Finance Minister and current leader of the Kla Party, Korn Chaitkavanich, claims legalising gambling will help contain the spread of Covid-19. He also hinted that it will gain more tax revenue. If it’s legalised, gamblers will spend their money in legal casinos that pay taxes, drawing in more money the government can use for public improvements, he says.

The Royal Thai Police spokesperson insists police are pursuing legal action against owners of the illegal gambling dens. Interior Minister Anuphong Paojinda has also told provincial governors to suppress illegal gambling dens and take responsibility if more gambling dens are found.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Continue Reading

Air Pollution

Bangkok enveloped in bad smog Friday

The Thaiger

Published

on

Bangkok enveloped in bad smog Friday | The Thaiger

Get out the anti-pollution masks and turn on the air purifier, air pollution in Bangkok is at unhealthy levels. 64 locations in Bangkok were reported with high levels of the air pollutant PM2.5, according to the Pollution Control Department.

As a cold weather front in China weakens, air circulation is also slowing down, causing dust to accumulate and drop to a lower altitude, according to the director-general of the Pollution Control Department. A north east monsoonal airflow blows a lot of the smoke from burn-offs and agricultural activity in Thailand’s north, south and south westerly.

Bangkok is just in the flow of the winds from up north. Drivers are advised not to keep the vehicle’s engines running while parked. Farmers are also asked not to burn farm wastes in open fields.

Everyone should reduce outdoor activities, he says. 64 areas in Bangkok recorded the dust particles reaching unhealthy levels. The highest PM 2.5 levels were reported in Amphoe Muang of Samut Sakhon and were classified as “very unhealthy.”

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Continue Reading
Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15 | The Thaiger
Thailand9 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 day ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 days ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 days ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11 | The Thaiger
Thailand4 days ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Thailand News Today | 305 infections, No happy ending for massages, Phuket quarantine mooted | Jan 7 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | 305 infections, No happy ending for massages, Phuket quarantine mooted | Jan 7

Thailand News Today | 10,000 schools closed, 900 new migrant infections, Gambling crackdown | January 6 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | 10,000 schools closed, 900 new migrant infections, Gambling crackdown | January 6

Thailand News Today | PM reverses lockdown, Southern P.D.A. crackdown, Covid update | Jan 5 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | PM reverses lockdown, Southern P.D.A. crackdown, Covid update | Jan 5

Thailand News Today | Record daily infections, Covid restrictions, British arrivals ‘on hold’ | Jan 4 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Record daily infections, Covid restrictions, British arrivals ‘on hold’ | Jan 4

Thailand News Today | Pattaya restrictions, 2021’s extra holidays, Covid update | December 30 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Pattaya restrictions, 2021’s extra holidays, Covid update | December 30

Thailand News Today | Covid update, Bangkok restrictions, Gold rush | December 29 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Covid update, Bangkok restrictions, Gold rush | December 29

Thailand News Today | No national lockdown, Bangkok schools closed, Abortion Bill | Dec 24 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | No national lockdown, Bangkok schools closed, Abortion Bill | Dec 24

Thailand News Today | Covid outbreak update, migrant workers ‘dumped’, Phuket’s fake cases | Dec 23 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Covid outbreak update, migrant workers ‘dumped’, Phuket’s fake cases | Dec 23

Thailand News Today | 427 new C19 infections, Pattaya countdown cancelled, Elite Visa update | Dec 22 | The Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | 427 new C19 infections, Pattaya countdown cancelled, Elite Visa update | Dec 22

Follow The Thaiger by email:

Trending