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Soi Cowboy | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Soi Cowboy | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

A Guide to Bangkok's Red Light Districts

Picture of Kelly Iverson
Updated: 9 February 2017
The ‘sexpat’ community is Bangkok is thriving. With multiple sois (streets) and plazas all tailored to the sex industry, it is no wonder they flock to the Kingdom. While these sexpats do make up the majority of Bangkok’s red light districts, they are intermingled with tourists who go to these areas to get an eyeful of the flashing neon. Regardless of your reason for being here, here is everything you need to know about Bangkok’s red light districts.

 

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Sex tourism flourishes around the world, but Thailand is certainly the epicenter of it all. Besides Bangkok, you can find like-minded streets in Pattaya, Phuket, and even some parts of Chiang Mai. While prostitution has been around for a long time in Thailand, it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that the sexpat, or the foreigner sex industry, really blew up. It was during this time that many foreign soldiers were coming to Thailand to live in one of the bases set up here. Tourists soon replaced these soldiers. Prostitution has been illegal in Thailand since 1960, but those who violate the law oftentimes just pay the local police. Unfortunately, many Thai people are reliant on prostitution and the money it brings in.

Soi Cowboy

Soi Cowboy is located just adjacent to Terminal 21, one of the most popular shopping malls in Bangkok. It is filled with risqué bars and clubs, where women line the street all waiting to grab an unlucky (or lucky, depending on your point-of-view) walker. This street is approximately 150 meters long, and every square inch of it is cram packed with go-go bars. The first bar was opened here in the 1970s by a man wearing a cowboy hat, which is where the infamous street got its name. Soi Cowboy is our favorite of all the red light districts. It is more easygoing than the others, making it possible for someone to simply walk through with no intention of buying a single thing. That being said, feel free to venture into one of the go-go bars. The employees are relatively friendly, and the drink prices are fixed, so you do not need to worry about getting ripped off. There are no entrance fees into any of these bars, either. You can even visit a ladyboy bar here. To get to Soi Cowboy, take the BTS Skytrain to Asok and take exit three. Then, follow the tourists or the neon lights to make your way to the naughtiest street in Bangkok.

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Soi Cowboy | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Nana Plaza

Just one BTS stop away from Soi Cowboy you will find Nana Plaza, or ‘The World’s Largest Adult Playground.’ It is at this go-go complex that you will find ladyboy boy bars intermixed with go-go bars. On the ground floor of this three-story high plaza are mostly open-air, stool-ridden bars. It is here you can have a beer (or two) to prepare for the evening. One floor up is where you will find the majority of the go-go bars, including Spankys, Fantasia, and Rainbow 3. Nana Plaza is located off BTS Skytrain stop Nana. Then, take exit two.

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Nana Plaza entrance Bang 7-9-14 | © Courtesy of Paul Sullivan/Pixabay

Patpong

Be careful, as Patpong is notoriously known for ripping people off. Entrance into all of the clubs and go-go bars on the ground level of Patpong are free. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. If someone approaches you with a ping pong show card filled with fun activities and a free entrance, walk away. They will normally steer your clear of Patpong, maybe even a few streets over, to a dodgy, nameless strip club, where you will be overcharged for drinks, asked to tip often, and shouted at when you are confused about the steep bill. If you know how not to get ripped off, this strip-club ridden area is great for people watching. If you cannot get into the scene at Patpong, feel free to explore the Patpong Night Market that caters to tourists in this area. Remember that because it is aimed at tourists, the prices are marked with this in mind. Get ready to bargain. To get here, take the BTS Skytrain to stop Sala Daeng and take exit one. You can also get here on the MRT Subway by getting off at Si Lom and taking exit two.