Bangkok Nightlife – Washington Square, Off the Beaten Track
People familiar with Bangkok or researching for a visit know about some of Bangkok’s more famous — and infamous — nightlife venues. The best-known is Patpong, which dates back to the 1960’s and was popular with soldiers on leave from the Vietnam War. Also well-known are Nana Plaza just off Sukhumvit Road on Soi 4 (Soi Nana) and Soi Cowboy.
In fact, there are several other entertainment areas that have become better known over the years, such as Ratchadapisek Road, Rama IX Road, RCA (Royal City Avenue), Soi Thonglor, and Soi Ekhamai.
But there is one venue not on the maps of most information sources: Washington Square (and environs).
Washington Square fronts onto the south side of Sukhumvit Roadbetween Sukhumvit Soi 22 and Sukhumvit Soi 24, closer to the former than the latter.
Washington Square is actually an enclosure with three cheek-by-jowl, longish buildings occupying much of the center, with a drive going along all four sides, the drive framed by a row of buildings. The Square can be entered directly from Sukhumvit Road via a short access drive to the inner drive or from Sukhumvit Soi 22 directly opposite the Regency Park Hotel about a hundred meters from Sukhumvit Road.
The Square is a rather curious place. There are several bars, including two that serve food as well, some that serve only drinks, and yet others that are more restaurant in nature than bar. There are some bars catering to Japanese. Nestled off by itself in the northwest corner of the Square there’s even a gay bar, but for most patrons of the Square, it may as well be on another planet. There are also several massage parlors. There are several companies located here, including a printer and a travel agency. The middle of the three side-by-side buildings used to house a movie cinema but now offers a large pool-oriented bar on the ground floor with a “ladyboy” cabaret show upstairs in the auditorium.
The largest single group of regulars in the Square — and it is very much a regulars’ sort of place — is American, though numerous other nationalities are represented, especially Canadian, British, Australian, and New Zealander, but with numerous others represented by at least one or two folks. For the most part, regulars of the Square (a group dubbed “Squaronians”) are a slightly older group and almost entirely male.
The Western-oriented bar-only places and two of the bars that also serve food are not for the faint-of-heart, as they can be quite raunchy. Not always, but sometimes. The same holds for all the drinks-only places. When they’re calm, they’re great places to relax, whether you want to sit on your own listening to music or watching television — all the places have both — or to strike up a conversation with other customers or employees. Of course, if you like rowdiness, you can find that, too. Drink prices are particularly competitive, especially compared to hotel bars and bars in the well-known venues. In all, there are about a dozzen places catering primarily to Westerners.
Along Sukhumvit Soi 22 there is the occcasional bar, plus one small block of (mostly) bars on the other side of the soi from Washington Square and a little further down. These are all Western-oriented and have numerous regular patrons.
This is a good area to get a feel for the resident expatriate’s lifestyle that’s very different from that of the corporate expat’s. Most folks around this area are full-time *and* long-term — not rotating out after a tour back to their home country. Many have Thai wives, and some have children. A sizeable number are retired (including quite a few retired U.S. military people). The largest working group is made of of people in the oil business or construction (often oil-related) as field workers.
A locally-based British writer once wrote an article in which he described the regulars of the Square as “men with thousand-yard stares,” and that’s a good metaphor. Newcomers are always welcome, but Squaronians like to get a sense of them (and don’t suffer fools at all, never mind gladly!).
I should note that while I’m very much a Squaronian myself (and have been for way over a decade), I have no business interests anywhere in Washington Square. I sometimes get asked because I do write about it frequently.
It’s worth checking out, and is close to the Skytrain station at The Emporium as well as slightly further from the Asoke Station; the walk is easy from either one. Figure on about four or five minutes from The Emporium station and about eight-ten minutes from the one at Asoke.