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

Tim Newton

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

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
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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 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

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Bangkok

Bangkok plummets in popularity with expats. Taipei heads the list.

The Thaiger

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Bangkok plummets in popularity with expats. Taipei heads the list. | The Thaiger

PHOTO: This year’s #1 city for expats – Taipei, Taiwan – Time Out

Bangkok has dropped from #5 (in 2018) to #20 this year in the annual Expat City Ranking.

But Asian cities continue to dominate the annual global Top 5 in the Expat City Ranking 2019. Italian cities Rome and Milan join Kuwait City at the bottom of this year’s rankings.

Taipei managed to defend its first place from last years list. Kuala Lumpur is rated the best city for getting settled and is second overall. Ho Chi Minh City ranks first in the Finance & Housing Index but third in the overall survey. Singapore and Montreal fill out the top five spots this year.

Bangkok experienced a significant drop compared to the 2018 edition of the list, where the Thai capital ranked 5th worldwide and 4th in Asia.

“Poor environmental management and horrendous traffic conditions eventually took a toll on Bangkok ratings.”

Bangkok, as an “expat-friendly city”, now faces fierce competition with Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City taking the lead ahead of the longtime favourite.

Ranking fifth out of all the cities surveyed in Asia, Bangkok ranks third in the Finance and Housing Index, but the Big Mango’s rankings were shot down by poor scores for environmental quality and political stability. 59% of the respondents in the survey say Bangkok’s environment is poor, and 36% worry about political stability.

Singapore’s fourth place further adds to Asian destinations dominating the Expat City Ranking 2019. The four top cities all do very well regarding finance and housing, with Singapore receiving the “worst” result here – a 15th rank mostly due to the expensive housing in the city-state.

Bangkok, the Thai capital, stays in the top 3 in the Finance & Housing Index for another year although the city has dropped from second place in 2018 to third place in 2019.

With regards to how easy it is to find housing in Bangkok, 80% of respondents give agreeable answers. The ease of finding a new, reasonably priced home appears to be an attractive aspect for expats moving to Bangkok; 58% of respondents find that the housing in the city is affordable.

With its second place in the Expat City Ranking 2019, Kuala Lumpur makes it into the global top 3 after consistently ranking among the top 10 cities in the past few years. Expats rate Kuala Lumpur as the city where it’s easiest to get settled, as well as one of the best cities worldwide when it comes to finance and housing.

Following a 4th place out of 72 cities in 2018, Ho Chi Minh City manages to further improve its result to rank 3rd out of 82 in 2019. Expats rate Vietnam’s most populous city as the best place for finance and housing, with the city ranking first for all but one of the underlying factors. HCMC places second regarding the affordability of housing.

In the Expat Insider 2019 survey, over 20,000 participants were asked not only to rate their respective host country but also to share insights regarding their city of residence. Respondents rated more than 25 different aspects of urban life abroad on a scale of one to seven, with the rating process emphasising expats’ personal satisfaction with these aspects.

SOURCE: Internations.org

Bangkok plummets in popularity with expats. Taipei heads the list. | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Airport Link offers free rides on December 12 so people can watch the Royal Barge Procession

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Airport Link offers free rides on December 12 so people can watch the Royal Barge Procession | The Thaiger

PHOTO: royalcoastreview.com

Bangkok’s Airport Rail Link is offering free rides on December 12 to people heading to the shores of the Chao Phraya, and vantage points, to welcome His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn in the final act of the Royal Coromnation.

The Royal Barge Procession is the final ceremony of his coronation which was held earlier this year between May 4-6.

The procession, which has taken place for nearly 700 years, will proceed along Chao Phraya River with the government setting up spectator location along the banks for this rare spectacle.

Some of the locations along the river will include Thammasat University, Santichaiprakarn Park, Nakapirom Park, Siriraj Hospital, and Wat Rakhang Khositaram.

The State Railway of Thailand’s director-general, Suthep Panpeng says the Airport Rail Link, carrying passengers from Suvarnabhumi in the east to Phayathai in the centre of Bangkok, will offer free rides from 5.30am to midnight.

The free tickets will be available at all stations. It is envisaged that there will be other concessions and free transport available on the day to assist people getting around the city. The Thaiger will provide full information when it becomes available.

SOURCE: The Nation

Airport Link offers free rides on December 12 so people can watch the Royal Barge Procession | News by The Thaiger

The Airport Rail Link is the Red Line, carrying passengers from Suvarnabhumi in the east to Phayathai in the centre of Bangkok, linking to the Green Line.

Airport Link offers free rides on December 12 so people can watch the Royal Barge Procession | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Thai King and Queen to open Chinatown exhibition this evening

The Thaiger

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Thai King and Queen to open Chinatown exhibition this evening | The Thaiger

PHOTO: South China Morning Post

HM The King and HM The Queen will tour Chinatown in Bangkok this evening to preside over the opening of the Chalerm Phrakiat exhibition. The exhibition showcases the biographies and Royal activities of previous monarchs of the Chakri dynasty (Ramas 1-10).

Their Majesties are scheduled to leave the Ampornpaisarn Throne Hall in the Dusit Palace at 4.50pm and head to Trai Mitr Withayaram Temple where they will preside over the opening of the new exhibition.

They will tour the exhibition grounds and watch a documentary featuring the Royal activities of the former kings of the Chakri dynasty in the exhibition’s ‘LED tunnel’. Then the Royal couple will visit the Thienfah Foundation Hospital to pay respects to the statue of the Chinese goddess Guan Yin before meeting the people, mostly Thais of Chinese descent, along the Suapa and Charoen Krung roads and at Mangkorn Kamalawas Temple.

Yaowarat Road has been beautifully decorated with lighting, symbolic flags in yellow and blue, with banners reading “Long Live the King” hung across the road, to welcome Their Majesties to Bangkok’s old Chinese community.

Mr. Jitti Tangsitpak, chairman of the Thai-Chinese chamber of commerce and chairman of the organising committee, said that officials are making the final touches to all the decorative arrangements to make sure they are perfect before the Royal visit.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Thai King and Queen to open Chinatown exhibition this evening | News by The Thaiger

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