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When did Bangkok have its ‘good old days’?

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PHOTOS: packthailand.com

When did Bangkok have its golden era? Of course it depends on when you were visiting, how long you were here, where you stayed, and what you were doing at the time. But the city has certainly had some ‘eras’ in the past that people nostalgically and whimsically recall as ‘special’. Here’s a few of the responses about when Bangkok really hit its straps, when we asked people on The Thaiger Facebook page.

Everyone falls into the trap of remembering the ‘good old days’, but was there a time when Bangkok really did have a golden era?

Denny says that it was definitely in the 1970s when he first came to Bangkok with his wife. He said his friends thought it was a ‘very exotic’ choice at the time. Denny, from Massachusetts in the US, returned in the 1990s to live in the Big Mango but says it had lost a certain visceral appeal and was beginning to be ‘moulded’ as a tourist destination.

“Whilst I stood out in the 1970s no one really took much notice of me. By the 1990s some of the ‘ugly tourists’ had already made a reputation and we didn’t feel quite as welcome as we used to. Whilst in the 1970s there were still plenty of bicycles’d been completely replaced by the 1990s by the ubiquitous ‘motorcy’.

‘Simone’ said… “Late 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, when the highest building was the Dusit Thani and the first disco was The Palace. You could just put a Motorola phone on a table at The Bubble and all girls were yours while the DJ was playing ‘One night in Bangkok’. You can write a book about those times.”

When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger

Another writer ‘Retire’ thought the golden era was a few decades earlier.

“I think Bangkok really came to life in the 60s when it started developing it’s own pop culture style in clothing, furniture, music and cinema. It sort of regressed into a bad version of everything western later or. But there was a bright, glimmering decade when Bangkok was the hip Asian city.”

When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger

‘Helmer’ and his wife were posted to Thailand as for a large foreign company in the late 50s.

“When I first visited Thailand in the late 1950s I would stand out and people would stop me in the street to take a photo with me. It was very ‘Thai’ then and very few people had any English skills at all. It was a very difficult place to live as a foreigner at that stage and things slowly improved during the 60s until we had to leave in 1969. There was no high-rise in those days and shopping was all at local markets. The only cars driving around those days were all imported and they had just started filling in the old klongs to make new roads.”

When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger

‘Malcolm’ thought the best places in Bangkok were out of the city.

“I think the late 80s in the tourist areas, then people discovered the real Thailand outside of these areas, some places are improving to this day but still not too touristy best to keep them a secret!”

‘Ray’ forecast posts from expats who would hang around the bar-girl scene at the time…

“Stand by for claims that “Thailand was so much better” when a bar girl would gush with gratitude and do cartwheels after receiving a 10 baht tip for fetching beers all afternoon and wiping down your fat, pock-marked back with an ice-cold towel.”

When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger

‘Glenda’ puts the golden era firmly in the 1970s.

“The 70’s, when we were posted there was magic. No big skyscrapers, one department store on Silom road and good shopping at small family shops. A couple of supermarkets and a great day out at what was then the weekend markets. We still visit but not what it used to be.”

‘Alicia’ first came to Bangkok in the early 2000s and recalls it as being an optimistic time for the city.

“They’d just opened the Skytrain (BTS) and the city was in its early phase of changing from ‘just another Asian city’ into a modern metropolis. I was teaching at the time, King Bhumibol was still making appearances at functions and the tourists were really starting to arrive in the millions, rather than in the thousands. Businesses seemed to be booming around that time and everything seemed happy and prosperous. It was the best five years of my life. Returning in 2017 it was a completely different city and appeared to carry the burden of a big city.”

When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger

‘Gordon’ was much more philosophical about the question…

“The “Golden Era” is relative to the age, gender, race, sexual orientation, income, social status, nationality and experience of the individual person. Hence, the Golden Era simultaneously occurs at all times past and present, and at no time ever.”

When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger When did Bangkok have its 'good old days'? | News by Thaiger

 

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    I would have two nights at Kao san road to rest after the flight, then go on to somewhere else.
    I tried Patpong, Nana, Soi Cowboy, the Beer garden, Therma, all those places, and they were ok for a night, and then on to somewhere else.
    They were never as good as Pattaya in my opinion.
    The last time in Bangkok I went to Nana, and intended to stay the night, but changed my mind when I saw the situation.
    All these places are now tourist traps, run by the scum of Thailand.
    No fun anymore.
    I think the best times for Bangkok was probably early nineties, and then they were not very good.

    • Avatar

      Latecomer

      Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      This should be nuanced.
      Yes, Bangkok became overcrowded and drowned in regular tourists, including couples, including young couples, which is particularly annoying. Especially with their phones and cameras in Soi cowboi and Nana. They could be only tolerated in Khaosan, which is where they belong. But not elsewhere. Last time I was there around New year, and it was unbearable.
      Pattaya is /was/ much better, but also too many people. There the Chinese and Indian and Russian tourists were flooding the place. But, you could find nice places in Buakhao area.
      Phuket was already lost, due to prices, scams, Australians….
      And the prices are almost on a European level, especially in Bangkok. When I go out in Thonglor or Soi 11 it is very similar to lets say Paris or Barcelona or Zurich. Even the crowd is not that different….

  2. Avatar

    junkman

    Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Cheap flights, globalization, mass tourism, internet, smart phone, gentrification, greed, scams etc etc etc.

    • Avatar

      Keoni Mat

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 2:24 am

      I was a US Army paratrooper, who was assigned to JUSMAG/MACTHAI, from 1972-1973.
      I spent my time in Bangkok, Lopburi, Chang Mai, Chang Rai, Viang Pa Pao, and Pattaya.
      When I was with MACV in Vietnam, from 1971-1972, I went to Thailand for R&R.
      The enlisted men lived at the Luxury Hotel, the NCOs lived at the Windsor Hotel, and the officers lived at the Chao Pya Hotel.
      The Chok Chai building was the tallest building in Bangkok, at that point in time, and was the US Army Headquarters.

  3. Avatar

    David M

    Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    Sounds like “Farangs” and their looking down on Asians have been the demise of “The good old days” of Bangkok. The constant referrals of Bar Gris and Red Light districts, tell me all I need to know about .your outlooks towards Asians

  4. Avatar

    Rinky Stingpiece

    Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    The best times anywhere are when everything is cheap compared to your disposible income, which puts the millennium, the years just after the Asian Financial Crisis, and just before “The Beach”, where Thailand was great value for money in way it perhaps wasn’t/isn’t either side of that period.

  5. Avatar

    Le Ja

    Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 12:39 am

    For me, “good old days” is every time I visit Thailand. Good food, great scenery and good value for your money (yes even at current rates). I have visited almost every country in Asia (except Burma and Indonesia) and Thailand still gives best value for the money. The country is also divers and a great place to use as a hub when traveling in Asia.

  6. Avatar

    Perceville Smithers

    Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 2:21 am

    Denny is from the U.S., huh? Unless they’re just trying to be different or get noticed, Americans don’t use the term ‘whilst’.

  7. Avatar

    Robert Fleming

    Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 4:33 am

    I lived there from 1966 to 1970…times were good. There were nice farang restaurants, the Two Vikings, The Topper Club, Intercontinental hotel, great French place on Silom Chez Suzanne, Restaurants in the Erawan were great. Went everywhere and never felt threatened, good bars, crummy bars etc. Thai nightclubs with one or two farangs. Another good place on Suriwong, Helena’s small bar and great food near Bank of America. Would love to live that over!

  8. Avatar

    James Pate

    Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 7:05 am

    I miss the mid 90s, before people were addicted to mobile phones,before girls thought it was cool to act, pout, frown and talk like soap opera characters or anime cartoons, when the best hotels were 3000 baht rack rate. I don’t miss pre-BTS traffic; but I guess I’m just a grumpy old man.

    • Avatar

      Hikaru kerns

      Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 12:38 pm

      Congrats! Well-written article and good topic.

      • Avatar

        Keoni May

        Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 2:26 am

        Where are you now ?
        Japan or Hawaii or ?

    • Avatar

      Ray

      Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 7:04 pm

      Your comment about the girls is spot on. I also came to BKK in the mid 90s for the first time. Later, on my second visit, I recall taking the BTS for the first time. It had opened not so long ago and the Silom station was deserted. The train was virtually empty during the ride. Suppose it was too expense for most Thai at the time. I remember there was still a slum next to the tracks on or near Silom.

  9. Avatar

    Joseph

    Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    First time in Bangkok Christmas 1979,of the ship,10 days I fell in love with Thailand, great people,good entertainment good food.finish from the MN started going to Pattaya 2-3 times a year,left in January. Looking forward to get back.

  10. Avatar

    Peter

    Friday, October 2, 2020 at 9:14 am

    From a personal perspective the mid 80s to the early 90s were fantastic times, great exchange rate and cheap prices, you could live like a millionaire, in restaurants you looked at the menu and ordered what you fancied without checking the price, you COULD afford it. The girls were slim,toned, tattoo free and weren’t wearing dreadful teeth braces as a fashion accessory or permanently on their mobile phones. Some of the go-go dancers actually DANCED, can you believe that, 1997 was pretty good too the currency collapse helped no end, especially elderly men who suddenly became handsome men once more. I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

  11. Avatar

    J West

    Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Bangkok was quiet tree lined streets for the most part, until the Lonely Planet came out in ‘85, then everything went to hell.

  12. Avatar

    Issan John

    Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    Pretty good in the 80’s for someone in their 20’s.

    I could cycle from PratuNam to SanamLuang then enjoy an early morning jog around the park with many others (Thai) without worrying about the traffic and “air quality”, and farangs were still very much either the “temple tour” or “Patpong” crowd, depending on age and waistline.

    Pattaya was a pleasant hour and half’s drive away, very obviously developed to cater to the sex tourists (which nobody had a problem with at the time), but for anyone in their 20’s or 30’s who was in reasonable condition there was also plenty of non-commercial hospitality, as there was elsewhere.

    Times change, and so do perceptions, needs and expectations.

    ….. odd that this should be resurrected …..

  13. Avatar

    Preesy Chepuce

    Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    Reposting old articles? Why?

  14. Avatar

    Peter Pan

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    Only happened to visit Bkk for 6 months last year. I think I like how digital age makes it easy to live and navigate through Asian city. Also online apps and “free” dating mean that you don’t have to pay for sex at some sleezy bar and date proper Thai girls.
    I do agree that Phuket, Samui are scummy to a point of being unlivable. But there are still locations that are fine and not too expensive.
    And still on a regular western salary you can have a very nice lifestyle.
    Can’t wait to get back in 2021.

  15. Avatar

    Jeff

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Thailand has overpriced itself into just another Asian country. It used to be real attractive as a destination, now it’s just another destination.

  16. Avatar

    SpikeR

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    First arrived in 1967 as a kid. Bangkok was Bangkok…no fast food (maybe a KFC on Sukhumvit) Thinking back to those years is fun, as I have fond memories of that time. But Bangkok today is one of the coolest places on the planet and is why I have retired here now. My opinion is the these are the good old days. Nostalgia is overrated.

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