Popular Thailand nightlife columnist Stickman, has recently published a great piece on the on the difference between Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy (see here for the full article). As readers will know I have been around Nana Plaza for over 12 years and therefore, I am somewhat biased towards that area.
With regards to the go-go girls, I agree with Stickman’s view that Nana Plaza beats Soi Cowboy in terms of Q Factor (a quantity of quality). As the Go-Go Guru, I refer to the go-go dancers and exclude the coyote dancers, because they are not on the menu and they are fully clothed. Unfortunately, regarding the coyote girls, it’s a case of ’no show and no go.’
First lets do a bit of background; Soi Cowboy got its name from T. G. “Cowboy” Edwards, a retired American Serviceman who opened one of the first bars there in 1977. A tall African-American, Edwards got his nickname because he used to ware a cowboy hat. The first bar was called the ‘Loretta’ after his daughter.
In the 1980′s the Cowboy had a reputation for being more ‘laid back’ than Patpong (Nana Plaza was at that time tiny by comparison with restaurants and a popular snooker hall on the 3rd floor). Soi Cowboy was populated by less sophisticated Thai girls, many of whom came down from the northeast province ‘Isarn.’ In those days, they lived and worked in the bars. The thinking at the time, expounded by people like Bernard Trink, (who wrote a weekly called ‘Night Owl’ for the Bangkok Post ), was that the girls on Soi Cowboy were more down to earth and less money orientated than their Patpong sisters were.
As the popularity of the Soi Nana area grew (largely because of its proximity to the ever growing number of middle range hotels and apartments in the Sukhumvit area), so Soi Cowboy languished. The Nana Hotel and the Grace Hotel had since the 1970′s been magnets for working girls looking for foreigners, many of whom were on the infamous Bangkok ‘stop-over’. Hence the popularity of the song, ‘One Night In Bangkok.’ (I wish I received a dollar every time I heard that bloody song, because I would be rich!)
The Revival of Soi Cowboy
A series of recent movies and an explosion of neon lights has stoked Soi Cowboys popularity, as the street was filmed in 2003 Bridget Jone’s Diary, Bangkok Dangerous in 2006 and two other movies this year. This location may have been chosen simply because it was easier to film there, but the result was a revival of ‘Cowboy’ as a main contender on the Bangkok naughty nightlife scene. Recently we see more and more money being pumped into bars there with major makeovers taking place. The Country and Western theme has given way to more modern glass, chrome and blue neon. There are now several go-go bars that feature coyote dancers. The problem is that these girls cannot be bar fined and therefore, they are not on the menu. This shows an interesting adoption of a more western model to the go-go bars. Will it take off? Well, the go-go bars hiring coyote dancers are among the quietest in Soi Cowboy, with the only exception being Tilac Bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Several go-go bars owned by ‘The Man From Iran’ are renowned for coyote girls, which turns go-go into no-go. Rather than Thai takeaways they resemble museums, wherby you can look but you can’t touch. Unless you can arrange a date with a coyote girl, it all seems rather pointless.
Nana Plaza has grown and grown in popularity over the past two decades. There is in my opinion more talent and more choice than ever before. Large go-go bars such as Billboard, Rainbow 3 and Rainbow 4 have emerged. Also, fun and frolics returns to Nana Plaza in the form of Spankys. Angelwitch expanded its seating capacity and is home to the best shows in Thailand. Then there is the location – Soi Cowboy is relatively speaking stuck out on its own in a more exclusive part of Sukhumvit Road, whereas Nana Plaza has a whole host of beer bars, hotels, shops, pubs, clubs and restaurants within walking distance. However as the video shows Nana can be a bit ‘full on’ and a lot of Bangkok expat residents find Soi Cowboy easier to navigate than the rabbit warren of Nana Plaza. One other downside of Nana Plaza is the infestation of lady boys prowling the Soi Nana vicinity. I leave it up to you to decide for yourselves.
Coming up will be my Bar Scout feature where I will give you all the latest nightlife news on what’s hot and what’s not. Visit regularly as more updates are coming soon.