Bangkok en Vogue: Phitthaya Phaefuang’s City Guide

A performer takes the stage at Stranger Bar
A performer takes the stage at Stranger Bar | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip
Photo of Chloe-Rose Crabtree
History Editor1 July 2019

Bangkok is one of the world’s top destinations for LGBTQ travellers, beloved for its vibrant clubs and drag performances. Dancer Phitthaya Phaefuang shares some of his favourite spots and explains why the city needs a vogue scene.

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Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok, has been a queer destination for a while. The city’s clubs have long entertained tourists and locals with lip-syncing drag shows, but dancer Phitthaya Phaefuang is working to develop the vogue scene.

Phitthaya ‘Sun’ Phaefuang | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip

Vogueing is a dance form that emerged from Harlem ballrooms in the 1960s and was popularised in the 1990 film Paris Is Burning and in Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ music video the same year. Phaefuang formally joined the scene under the tutelage of voguing legend ‘Wonder Woman’, Leiomy Maldonado. In tribute to his mentor, who called her vogue troupe the House of Amazon, Phaefuang performs under the name Amazon Sun and teaches vogueing in Bangkok.

Gisele Rafael poses for a photo in front of Stranger Bar | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip

With his December 2018 ‘Diversity Kiki Ball’, Phaefuang sought to nurture a Bangkok-specific vogue scene. The main challenge he faces is that there aren’t that many venues to perform in. “It’s still growing, but it is getting bigger. It’s going to take time for sure.”

Zymone performs at Stranger Bar | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip

Instead, Phaefuang partners with a collective of DJs who call themselves Go Grrrls and throw monthly parties at different venues as an alternative to Bangkok’s established gay club scene.

But that’s not to say Phaefuang doesn’t have some club recommendations: “I really recommend Stranger Bar because that is where the most famous drag queens in Thailand work and the shows are really great. DJ Station also has drag shows every day, but it’s mostly older drag queens or ones [who] have retired so they may not have the ‘best’ drag show in town but they’re historic – a lot of the lip syncs are to Chinese and Thai songs.”

Phaefuang recommends the drag shows at Stranger Bar | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip

A lot of Bangkok’s appeal to LGBTQ travellers is the number of gay clubs, bars and saunas throughout the city. “In public people here are quite LGBTQ friendly, it’s very safe, there are a lot of businesses catering the community,” explains Phaefuang. Though saunas aren’t really his bag he says the best of the bunch is Babylon. “It is one of the oldest. It’s nice because there is also a swimming pool, restaurant, gym and hotel. It’s connected to the sauna history of Thailand,” Phaefuang says.

Stranger Bar hosts performances by many of Thailand’s leading drag queens | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip

When he’s not performing or teaching, Phaefuang, who grew up in Norway, enjoys the bounty of Bangkok’s street food: “In Norway, everything is done at home after work, but in Thailand you get spoiled. I just love to eat on the street – it’s very affordable and so delicious.”

While he doesn’t have a specific stall to recommend, Phaefuang loves the variety of noodle soups available from street vendors. “You can usually get the noodles with pork or chicken and there are a ton of different types of broths. There is one soup with cow’s blood in the broth which is so good, called kuai-tiao nam tok. There is a pink noodle soup called yen ta fo, very delicious, very interesting, I don’t know how they make it pink, though – maybe it’s a gay noodle soup!”

Bangkok has a world-class street-food scene | © Nicolas Axelrod / Culture Trip

Pride 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City and the beginnings of the international Pride movement. To celebrate, Culture Trip spotlights LGBTQ pioneers changing the landscape of love around the world. Welcome to The Culture of Pride.

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