Let’s make this clear from the start: Bangla Road is not for everyone.
But if you are on holiday, and you are even slightly curious why it’s so infamous, then a night out on Bangla has to be on your list of things to do.
Bangla Road is relatively quiet during the day. But when the sun starts sinking below the horizon, Soi Bangla starts to come to life.
Whether you are 16 or 65, a guy or a girl, you should go and have a look.
What Makes Bangla Road So Special?
How can you describe Bangla Road to someone who has never experienced it? You have to see it to believe it.
One end of Bangla empties onto the coast road, with Patong Beach just across the road. At the bottom of the beach is the wide open bay and the Andaman Sea beyond that. If you’re standing on the beach at night, it is dark, quiet and serene.
That is a complete contrast to what lies a stone’s throw from the sand. The loudspeakers, the laughter, the music – it’s full of noise, verve and most of all, fun. You do seriously feel alive walking down Soi Bangla.
The streetlights, combined with the lights from the bars, restaurants and pubs, are more than enough help you find your way. Where the smaller alleys branch off left and right there can be some of shadows, but you’re unlikely to find someone hiding in them. There is, after all, neon everywhere.
And did we mention the music? Yes, the music is everywhere, too.
The crowds on Bangla are a cross section of everyone in Phuket. It attracts people from all over the world. Some are laughing, shouting, drinking. Some are even staggering.
There is certainly a buzz to Bangla Road. You can literally feel the energy, and every movement is unpredictable.
What is Bangla Road Famous For?
We don’t want mince words here, but we will try to keep it clean.
The reason that Patong, and especially Bangla Road, is a year round tourist destination is that people come here to party. And ‘partying’ usually involves girls.
If anywhere in Phuket could be described as a ‘Den of Iniquity’ then this would surely be it. Of course, to young guys full of hormones, it is paradise.
On Bangla Road the girls are everywhere. If you are walking past a Go Go bar, the girls will try and drag you inside. When you get inside, there will be more girls. A lot more.
For some, it is a bit seedy. For others, they will think they have died and gone to heaven.
Is Bangla Road Just One Road?
Bangla Road is the main road that joins the seafront with Rath-U-Thit 200 Pee Road. The road itself is around 350 metres long, but there are side turnings with more bars and restaurants up them.
If you head east, directly away from the sea, on the right hand side there are many shops and a few bars. Some of the bars have been here for decades, like The Kangaroo Bar.
The right hand turnings as you head up the road have mostly restaurants, and the odd one has access to a hotel. At the far end you have the Tiger Bar, but for the most part, the sois (alleys) on right side have fairly limited “entertainment”.
The left hand side, however, has a number of small soi’s which are teeming with life. More bars – and more girls.
The best known of these are Soi Crocodile and Soi Sea Dragon. Soi Sea Dragon is known for having some of the best girly bars. If you are out for the evening, though, you may as well have a look at them all.
A Creative Use of Pool Noodles
One of the most iconic bars here is Suzy Wong’s A Go Go. Described as many things, including the ‘Devil’s Playground’, this bar is just plain fun. Whether you are out on the town to find a girl, or you just want to soak up the bawdy atmosphere, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Suzy Wong’s.
As mentioned above, we’re trying to keep it clean, so how then to describe Susie Wong’s. So what distinguishes Suzy Wong’s from other bars? It has to be their creative use of Pool Noodles. Not sure what that is?
Wikipedia describes it as “a cylindrical piece of buoyant polyethylene foam, sometimes hollow.” It goes on to say, “Pool noodles are useful when learning to swim, for floating, for rescue reaching…” Suffice it to say, that is not what the girls at Suzy Wong’s use them for. And do not be surprised to see little “pool noodle sword fights” going on between the girls and patrons.
What else can we say about Suzy Wong’s without being censored? How about this: have you ever seen someone get a lap dance on their forehead? We have. Let’s just leave it at that.
What Happens in Bangla Stays in Bangla
As you’ve probably gathered, the things that you’ll see in Bangla Road are little different to elsewhere in the world.
OK, if you have ever been to Nana Plaza, Patpong or Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, then Bangla won’t shock you. But if you come from a quiet village in a respectable part of your home country, be prepared to have your mind blown. (Only your mind. We said we were going to keep it clean.)
But seriously, this whole place can be nothing short of mind blowing. And as they say about Las Vegas, what happens in Bangla, stays in Bangla.
We are not suggesting that happily married men go out and commit adultery – not at all. But if you are young and single and out for a good time, you will definitely not be judged on Bangla Road.
How It Works? A Beginner’s Course
So what if this is your first time in Thailand, and you want to sample the goods from Bangla Road? We’re not endorsing the behaviour, nor are we judging it, but if that’s what you want, you need to know how the system works.
If you are in a bar, had a few too many and decide you want to take the girl home with you, you need to pay a ‘bar fine’.
A bar fine is the fine (or bill) you have to pay to take a young lady home with you. The time you spend with your new friend, is down to you and her (that you have to pay for separately). But the proprietor of every establishment will expect you to pay for her release from work.
Again, the bar fine is only what you pay the bar owner. You still have to negotiate the terms of your relationship with your new girlfriend, which will depend on how long you want the relationship to last, and what things you will expect of her when you get to your hotel.
You don’t hear much these days about ‘long time’ and ‘short time’. In the days when most Thai girls spoke very little English, when the G.I.s were coming here in large numbers, girls would woo you with offers of either a short-time or long-time relationship.
Short time was just for the night, or shorter, depending on your sexual prowess. Long time was a sort of ‘be my girlfriend for the rest of your holiday’ relationship.
How About a Club?
If you are more of a dancer than a lover or romancer, then you might want to try one of the nightclubs.
Most of the biggest nightclubs in Patong are in and around Bangla Road. There’s a choice of clubs including: Tiger, Hollywood, Seduction, Illuzion and White Room. Tai Pan is at the eastern end of Bangla, just across Rath-U-Thit 200 Pee Road.
All these high end night clubs are what you would expect in Southern Thailand’s party capital. They rock and they go on into the early hours of the morning. They all have first class sound systems and amazing lighting effects.
Just around the corner on the sea front you also have the Bananas Discotheque. Bananas has been there for over 25 years, and is still a great place to go after you’ve finished with the bars. To find it, go to the bottom of Soi Bangla (toward the beach), and turn left when you reach the sea front. A hundred metres or so down the road you’ll see the big banana.
As with any bar in the Bangla area, expect to find plenty of working girls around. And we don’t mean the 9 to 5 type. They are pretty easy to spot.
If you don’t want to attract their attention, just don’t make eye contact.
Or do, if that’s what you want. It’s up to you!!
To truly enjoy Bangla Road you need to embrace the Thai attitude of “Sabai Sabai”. It’s hard to translate exactly, but it basically means: “Relax, chill out, and let it go.”
Live Music in Bangla
There is live music all over Phuket. Whichever area you are staying in, you can likely find a good band most evenings.
But Patong has more live bands than anywhere, and Bangla Road area is just full of them.
There’s a mix of styles, so if you have a stroll around the area then you’ll be sure to find a band or singer you like the sound of. Many of the bands are either Thai or Filipino, and in top venues they’ll be of the highest quality.
If you love live music entertainment then here’s some suggestions: New York Bar, Monsoon or Red Hot. (If you want live music, but you want a more “traditional” bar, go to eastern end of Bangla, and turn right on Rath-U-Thit Road. The Hard Rock Cafe is just 850m down that road on your right.)
For most non-Thais, Ladyboys are a curiosity. “Wow! Is she really a he!!??”
In Thai the word for Ladyboy is kathoey, which generally refers to someone who self-identifies as a man, but who has characteristics of a woman. This can be a man who dresses as a woman, and has undergone hormone treatments, Adam’s apple reduction, breast implants or other “feminising” medical procedures. Or it may be a man who uses make-up and styles his hair like a woman, but dresses like a man.
In other words, Ladyboys are usually either effeminate gay men or transgender. They tend to work in predominately female occupations. You will notice a lot of kathoey working in shops, hotels, restaurants, and beauty salons, but the ones you don’t see also work in factories (Thailand has a high proportion of female industrial workers).
The reason we mention ladyboys in relation to Bangla Road, however, is of course because many kathoey also work in entertainment and in cabarets.
If you venture from one end of Bangla Road to the other, whether you realise it or not, you will see ladyboys. Sometimes you can spot ladyboys right away because they are advertising a cabaret and are really playing to crowd on the street. Other times you can walk past a kathoey, and turn your head for a second look at that beautiful woman, still oblivious to the fact that she was a man.
That’s usually around the time your friend, who has spent years in Thailand punches you in the shoulder, and proceeds to laugh about it all night.
But here’s the thing you need to remember: kathoey are still people. They have feelings. They are not on Bangla to be gawked at and certainly not there to laughed at.
Generally speaking, if you strike up a conversation with a kathoey you’ll usually find they have an excellent sense of humour, which includes laughing a little at themselves.
In other words, you’ll figure out pretty quickly that they’re just human.
One more note on ladyboys. If you’re planning to take a girl home with you in Thailand, you should probably make sure she is a girl.
It is not uncommon for kathoey to look more feminine than some of the girls. And if you find yourself chatting up a kathoey, don’t expect them to say, “You know I’m a man, right?” They probably won’t.
There are guys out there who are interested in ladyboys – even looking for ladyboys – so the kathoey may very well assume you know already.
Try to figure it out for yourself. If you’re still unsure, don’t go there. If you did take a kathoey home, and it was not what you were expecting or wanting, it would be embarrassing for both of you.
Anyone for Ping Pong?
On a scale of 1 to 10 for seediness, this is probably the one thing in Bangla that people would rate at 11.
Now, it doesn’t do much for me personally. But we have to admit that when we’ve had friends visiting on holiday, we’ve taken a few of them to these places because they wanted to see what they were like.
We feel very sorry for anyone who actually gets a thrill from this sort of show. Yes, the first time it’s a bit of a laugh. But once you’ve seen a ping pong show, you really don’t want to see another one. And you get the feeling that it can’t be much fun for the young girls taking part either.
Maybe if it were just ping pong balls involved, but you have to draw the line when frogs and fish enter the frame. Say no more!
In the whole scheme of things, Soi Bangla is not really seedy. It is just fun. These shows are not sexy at all, just shocking, and they do lower the tone somewhat.
Things To Be Careful Of
As with any tourist area, there are always a few things to be wary of.
You have to be a little bit careful of the prices in some bars. If you get dragged into a ping pong show because they have offered you free entrance, be prepared to pay extortionate prices for your drinks. Sometimes these can be as high as 1000 Baht (over US$30)!
Always know the price before you order, as you may find it does not justify the price of a ping pong show – a show about which you are not really that enthusiastic to begin with.
Also, if you’re playing pool with a nice young lass in a bar she will always insist that you order her at least one drink. For her, it is usually a mixed drink or a cocktail. But even if you are drinking the exact same thing yourself, expect hers to be more expensive – maybe even double the price.
This is standard practice, and if you don’t like the sound of it, don’t order any drinks for any of the girls. Of course, you may find you have no one to play pool with if you don’t.
The same warning applies to go-go bars. In fact, it goes double. If you are sitting in a girly bar all night, watching the girls dance and buying them drinks when they come and sit on your lap, be sure to pay for the drinks as you go.
If you are running a tab, the bill adds up quickly. Not only do you have the same higher price for the girls’ drinks as for your own, but you can easily lose track of how many drinks you supposedly bought.
It’s a regular occurrence to see a super drunk guy ask for his ‘check bin krap’ (the Thai for “bill please”), then hit the roof when he sees what he owes. If that happens to you, treat it as a learning experience. Pay your bill and leave without starting an argument.
The drinks prices can be very different from bar to bar. If you just want a beer and want to watch the world go by, then choose one the bars on the main street, like ‘The Ausisie Bar’ or ‘The Kangaroo Bar’. Something with an expat sounding name to it.
The beers are generally cheaper here and you’re unlikely to overpay or be swindled.
That said, the prices in Patong have gone up considerably over the years. In the old days, the price of a beer was fairly similar to anywhere else on the island, but in some places today they charge way too much. If there is nothing posted, ask for a menu or a price list, and see what you’ll be paying before you order.
Again, if there’s a dispute, don’t start anything with any bar owners or workers. Just pay what they ask for and walk away. The best thing is to just be respectful.
Everyone who has lived in Thailand for some time, knows just how nice the Thais are. Try to be nice, too, and smile. The workers in the street are earning a living, so please respect what they do.
The girls in the bars will always do their best to drag you inside, then help you to part with your money. This will usually take the form of betting on pool (you will lose), and buying over-priced drinks.
If you don’t want to go, don’t get annoyed. Just smile and so no thanks.
But if you are up for a drink or a game of pool with a cute girl, apart from inflicting some damage on your wallet, it’s usually a pretty good time.
A Few More Tips From Us:
Do Not Antagonise the Ladyboys – We’ve sort of touched on this already. Any Ladyboys you meet on Bangla are either working or there for fun just like you. And just like you, kathoey can be a bit aggressive if you upset them. Not that we ever have, but we have seen ladyboys lose their tempers with others and heard plenty of stories.
They may have a different lifestyle to you, but remember our new mantra: Sabai Sabai.
The Obvious Tip if You Are Misbehaving – If you decide to misbehave, make sure you practise safe sex and have some protection with you. Obviously, we’re not talking about wearing a crash helmet during sex. Just another type of helmet.
Don’t Start a Fight With A Tuk Tuk Driver – This is extremely important to remember. At the end of the night when you’re ready to head home, there will be a convoy of Tuk Tuks on either end of Bangla Road. They generally don’t run a taxi meter, and they will quote you a fixed price. Late at night, that price usually gets much higher.
You can try negotiating, but do it in good fun, with a smile on your face. Whatever you do, don’t get into a fight with a tuk tuk driver.
These guys won’t be intimidated by you, no matter how big you. If they don’t take you on themselves, they’ll call their friends over and it won’t be a happy ending for you.
We’re talking about waking up in the hospital with a fairly nasty concussion, or much or worse.
Is It Dangerous?
For a place full of lust and decadence you’d expect a little trouble every now and then, but it is surprisingly calm as far as skirmishes, violence and theft are concerned.
People are having fun, and they don’t seem to have time to lose their tempers. Everyone is generally too blown away by the surrealness of it all to start any flights.
Any thieves tend to stand out like sore thumb, but you still shouldn’t leave your wallet or phone on the bar if you’re going to the toilet. As in most bars, they won’t be there when you get back to your seat.
But if you are concerned about personal safety, there isn’t that much to worry about. It’s fun, but not that rowdy.
Quite honestly, there is just too much laughter in the air. We have never seen any violence, muggings or fighting on Bangla Road. We’ve heard about some scuffles on occasion, but we’ve never actually witnessed any of that.
There isn’t really an open police presence either, because there isn’t that much need for them. But don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t there. They are just down at the beach end of the road, so the place could be teeming with them in just a matter of minutes if needed.
Bangla is all about having a good time, the party atmosphere, and of course the girls. It’s just a fun place to hang out.
If you don’t like this sort of place, and you’re not even curious about it, then there is no need to go there. Phuket offers plenty of other diversions, which do not involve playing pool with bar girls, or engaging them in a battle with pool noodles.
For most people a trip to Bangla Road is all about having fun and taking in the sights. Remember our key phrase: Sabai Sabai. We regularly see families with children there, and even old age pensioners – and this is after the girls have arrived for the evening. Everyone is just having a good time.
But if you are looking for a place to let down more than just your hair, then Bangla Road might be the perfect place for you.
See our other articles on great things to do in Phuket:
Phuket’s Weekend Market (Naka Market)
The Sea Turtles of Mai Khao Beach
Exploring the Phan Nga Bay Caves in a Sea Canoe
Phang Nga Bay – The Best Day Out Ever!
Phang Nga Bay’s Floating Muslim Village
Phang Nga Bay – A Day Trip to James Bond Island