In Da Club
Trip Start May 18, 2005
35Trip End Jul 10, 2005
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My dad and I caught a taxi to Patpong 2, the epicenter of sex, drugs, prostitution, and clubs in Bangkok. It was exactly that. Upon stepping out of the cab, we were assailed by people holding cards and posters of "sexually explicit" pictures and invitations. The narrow, littered street was lined with clubs and bars boasting the best showgirls (or boys). Each bar had a gaggle of people outside advertising it, following passers and tugging at their arms to try to get them to see. Patpong 2 was predominantly "girlie bars," and my dad and I walked down the entire street. Not finding the club I was looking for, we walked down a few other side streets. One of these was the gay equivalent of the first street we toured, except the boys outside these joints were very aggressive. Several grabbed my arms and attempted to pull me in different directions, not wanting to believe that I actually didn't want to go see strip shows (much less four of them).
After several failed attempts at finding the club (DJ Station), we did find a small dead-end street with several of the places the guidebooks listed. We found my dad an internet cafe that was open until 4am, and I left him there. I went back to that dead-end alley to a bar called "Telephone." I walked around the place, both inside and out, and felt as though I were on the catwalk. Bar stools line the walkway on one side, and tables crowd from the other direction. Everyone seated and standing looks down every person who walks by. I wouldn't say it's humiliating, but it doesn't feel flattering.
After discovering no empty seats inside in the AC (big surprise there), I went outside, and a waiter directed me to a table for two. I sat down and ordered a Coke (since I don't drink). And there I sat, a spectator in the parade of Thais and farangs who ventured down the street, looking for prostitutes, drinks, friends, or just whatever they happened to encounter. I finished my Coke and quickly tired of listening to dull conversation and loud music around me. I called to my water, who promptly brought me the bill. Stout, for just a Coke. I asked him where DJ Station was, and he explained it to me. Then he asked me to wait, and a few minutes later he brought me a map of the area and pointed out exactly where the club was. Thanking him for his help, I paid my bill (and let him keep the change), took my map, and set off for DJ Station.
I found it quickly thanks to my waiter at Telephone and the map he gave me (although I didn't look at the map after he gave it to me - maps are for the weak). At the entrance to the street (which was more of an alley, and so I shall call it), there was a stand with an official checking IDs. There was a sign that said "No one under 20 permitted. Present your ID or passport." Nevertheless, I gave the man my passport, which clearly showed that I was 19. He looked at it closely, looked up, and scrutinized it again. Then he handed it it back and gestured that I proceed. I smiled, took my passport, and continued on my way.
At the end of the alley was DJ Station, people filing into it as quickly as the loud techno music drifted out. I sat on a low, uncomfortable metal bench just outside, saturating my ears, eyes, and mind with the new sensations, the new environment, people, sounds, smells. The entire alley was bars - each with its own pounding music, chic clientele, and uniquely uniformed bartenders and waiters. Part of my hesitation to enter DJ Station was the sign that said "No one under 20 admitted. Strictly enforced." and the three doormen, one stamping wrists for reentry, one checking IDs, and one collecting money. I passed one checkpoint, could I pass another? Feeling that I had nothing to lose, I marched confidently up to the guy checking IDs and handed him my passport. He looked at it, nodded, and gave it back. I paid my entry fee (200 baht = $5 US), got my wrist stamped, and entered the mass of writhing people and steady breakbeats.
At first, it seemed like any other club I'd been to, with the exception of the demographics. There were three floors, the first one was the dance floor and two bars, the second was a standing area (for watching the dance floor) with one bar, and the top floor was a lounge area. Almost everyone was Asian (and hesitantly, I say Thai). There were a good number of farangs too, though. As I pressed my way through the crowd, looking for a good place to stake out as my dance spot, the crowd closed in around me as more people entered than left. I found a place and started dancing, close to many people, but not too close to any one. Just how I like it, at least to start out. As the night progressed, however, the crowd grew thicker, so much so that I couldn't move without bumping into at least three people. By 12:30, you couldn't dance without dancing against at least five other people, and chances are good that you're not surrounded by five people with whom you would want to dance. I was still enjoying it - the music, the people, the crowd, the freedom. I took a break and stood against the wall.
There was one guy I noticed, who was dancing on a barstool among several other people. Something about him reminded me of Andy Roddick. Not appearance, that's for sure, although he was attractive. The way he held his head, the cocky, self-aware look in his eyes, the way he moved. Of course, I didn't approach him. It wasn't that type of attraction. Perhaps more of an admiration.
Apparently there are no rules of etiquette, because groping, feeling, and general touching (more than what is necessary to navigate the crowd) was both ubiquitous and frequent. It makes you feel (or made me feel) some combination of annoyed, humiliated, amused, flattered, and dirty. I don't know if that cumulative feeling is positive or negative. It was definitely new. I knew that people in the US were liberal with their touching in clubs, but this was just radical (to use the same terms).
When it got to the point that I could neither move nor dance nor stand still without being pushed and groped in and from several different directions, I figured I'd go. It turned about to be just past 1, and the police shut down clubs and bars between 1 and 2 anyway. So I found my dad exactly where I left him, and we hailed a Tuk-Tuk back to Khao San Road.
If I were a good writer, I'd end with something witty or profound to conclude this narrative. Instead, I'll conclude with:
Bangkok has a nightlife beyond anything I had imagined. In one night, I discovered a menagerie of emotions, feelings, and sensations that no club or scene in the US had ever evoked in me.