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sriracha john

Interesting History Of Pat Pong

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Irony. Two Buddhist monks pictured outside a nightspot in Patpong Road, Bangkok, an infamous commercial sex zone.

The banana plantation turned sex zone

September 21, 2005

Asia is full of ironies. One of the greatest is that prostitution is actually illegal in Thailand: this in a country with the world's most infamous commercial sex sector.

At one time or another, most Asia hands will have visited Patpong, the famous nightclub and commercial sex district in the heart of Bangkok. Its clubs are famous for shows that feature young women and the inevitable ping pong balls.

But who owns Patpong? The fact that so much so flagrantly illegal occurs there right under the noses of the Thai police and the Thai Government has long generated rumours of senior military, political or even royal connections.

But the ownership structure can be revealed. The area was once a banana plantation. It was used as a Japanese military headquarters in World War II. And then in 1946, it was sold to an immigrant from China's Hainan Island, who had been awarded the Thai name of Patpongpanich (sometimes written as Patpongpanit) by the king.

Patpongpanich is said to have paid 60,000 baht (then about $US2400) for the land. He bought it with the intention of building a house for his brothers and sisters and cut a road through the property to connect Silom and Suriwong Roads. This road is what is known as Patpong 1 Road today. And the street is privately owned along with the properties that line it.

Udom Patponsiri, Patpongpanich's eldest son, inherited the land and built shophouses along the road that his father built. Udom then found tenants for the buildings and the area evolved into the world's most famous red light district.

Udom, who was born in 1916, had a remarkable life. He studied at the London School of Economics from 1936 to 1938 after his early education in Thailand. He returned to Thailand in 1940 but was then sent to finish his formal education at the University of Minnesota in the United States where he earned a business degree.

Thailand's Government supported Japan in World War II and so, like many Thai students then in the US, Udom joined the pro-Allied Free Thai Movement. He received training from the US Army and from what was to become the CIA at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was to return to Thailand in 1945 to work as an undercover agent but the war ended.

In the '50s, Udom developed his family's real estate interests, of which Patpong was the largest. Patpong was quickly transformed into a nightclub zone. The massive build-up of US armed forces in Vietnam and Thailand in the '60s saw the demand for evening entertainment grow rapidly in Bangkok. By 1968, a variety of nightclubs had opened along Patpong. In the early '70s, these overflowed into Patpong 2, a smaller street that runs parallel to Patpong 1. It, too, is a private street owned by the Patpongpanich family.

The bars transformed into the "go-go" bars as they're known today and massage parlours also opened. Several clubs opened upstairs bars in the early '80s featuring more explicit shows and greater nudity than the go-go bars downstairs. The show bars became popular and gained worldwide notoriety. Patpong's further development came in the late '80s, when the Patpongpanichs decided to close Patpong 1 Road off each night and to rent out small lots on the street to stallholders. And so now, Patpong 1 Road is home to a massive outdoor nightmarket each evening with stalls selling clothing, souvenirs and pirated DVDs and CDs.

Today Patpong is one of Bangkok's most valuable pieces of real estate but it remains underdeveloped. Tall office towers stand nearby, but Patpong is lined with the shophouses that Udom built in the '50s.

One of the Patpongpanich family's biggest lessees is the King's Group, owned and managed by another Thai-Chinese businessman and his son. It runs six of the biggest go-go bars in Patpong, a restaurant and the King's Body House massage parlour around the corner on Soi Surawongse Plaza. Almost all the business owners and operators in the Patpong area are ethnic Chinese.

Soi 4, Silom Road, also known as Soi Katoey and sometimes as Patpong 3, runs parallel to Patpong 2. Like Patpong 1 and 2, it is a privately owned road. The family that owns it lives at the end of the Soi and is not related to the Patpongpanich family. Their road, too, has become home to nightclubs and cafes.

Udom died in 1996. On his death, the privately owned company Patpong Co Ltd that holds the family's Patpong interests had seven shareholders, including his daughter Varita Vajrabhaya who now heads up the family's business interests, his two remaining sisters and a nephew.

The Land Department valued the Patpong site at around $US100 million at the time of Udom's death.

Today, the family is believed to collect $US3 million ($A3.9 million) a year in rent from its Patpong holdings. It does not own any of the businesses in the area but simply lets premises, many of which are sub-leased again.

So this is who is behind Patpong: the Patpongpanich family owns the land and many of the buildings. Others operate separate businesses from those buildings. And the Thai police collect large sums from many of those businesses to provide advance notice of imminent raids.

And while it's true that Patpong could not exist without the patronage of foreigners, that is not true of Thailand's large sex industry more generally. The biggest users of the sector across Thailand are Thais.

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The banana plantation turned sex zone

==========================================

Interesting........DJM

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And while it's true that Patpong could not exist without the patronage of foreigners, that is not true of Thailand's large sex industry more generally. The biggest users of the sector across Thailand are Thais.

The most important sentence in the entire article!!! :o

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Very interesting. I've heard so many different stories about the history of Patpong--it's nice to get the record straight. Interestingly, most of what I heard was fairly accurate, except for amounts, dates, etc.

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My first visit to Patpong was in 1968. Max's was the place to start out back then. Not many, maybe none, of the original places still in business now although the restrauant, which was a few doors down from Max's is still open. I can't think of the name. Back then there were many airline offices located on Patpong and on Patpong 2 it was mainly the Other Office and the Thai Room (restrauant). A guy named Rick Menard had one of the best places, the Grand Prix. You could easily hit every place on Patpong in a night. Thanks to Sriracha John for a interesting history of Patpong.

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My first visit to Patpong was in 1968.  Max's was the place to start out back then.  Not many, maybe none, of the original places still in business now although the restaurant, which was a few doors down from Max's is still open.  I can't think of the name.  Back then there were many airline offices located on Patpong and on Patpong 2 it was mainly the Other Office and the Thai Room (restaurant).  A guy named Rick Menard had one of the best places, the Grand Prix. You could easily hit every place on Patpong in a night.  Thanks to Sriracha John for a interesting history of Patpong.

Correct. Max's Place and The Gaslight were the only real pubs on Patpong in 1968/9. There was a Thai dark place called Rome (or a name of that type - there were a number with Rome/Roma in Bangkok) and an upstairs dance place. Red Door believe was first eating place. That was it. Grand Prix was the first place on other side of road but came in, I believe, 1969 or 70. In 1968 it was still mostly airline offices. New Pehtburi Road was the bar area for US forces - very few want to Patpong. Patpong was mostly civilian and embassy types.

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Hi All,

There is a Thai lawyer by the name of Adul Tinaphong whose office is on Silom and he frequents Pat Pong every night according to his book "Patpong Road untold story".

I met and chatted to him a couple of times in Goldfinger, he gave me his card and I told him that I hope I never have a need for his services! He is an happy guy, studied in in the states and very sociable.

One of the photographers sold me the book after I recognised quite a few of the people in the photographs such as the photographers, flower sellers, waiters, street vendors, etc. If there is anyone interested I will endeavour to post some photos from the book.

It was not until later that I realised who the author was! I enjoyed the book and it does generally confirm the post by Siracha John but as you can well imagine has far more detail

SSBN: 974-92367-2-6 retail 350 baht.

A google search >>> patpong road untold story Adul tinaphong review <<< brings up 28 results.

Try this link which also show a picture of the front cover:

http://www.dcothai.com/product_info.php?products_id=533

Cheers,

John_Betong

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if you visit some of the upstairs bars these days i believe its still possible to see bananas being planted , good to see a healthy respect for the old ways.

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if you visit some of the upstairs bars these days i believe its still possible to see bananas being planted , good to see a healthy respect for the old ways.

:o:D

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  Thanks to Sriracha John for a interesting history of Patpong.

You're quite welcome.. it took me many weeks of research and numerous days to write this up... :o

seriously tho'...thank you for your contributions to it... :D

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