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Thread: History of Soi Twilight

  1. #1
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    History of Soi Twilight

    With the lack of current activity in the nightlife scene and plenty of forum members locked-out of Thailand, perhaps this would be a good time to put together a history of the late Soi Twilight. There are occasional posts about Soi Twilight on this and other fora, but I have yet to come across a proper chronological history of it on any of them. Given the role that it played in the development of the gay scene in Bangkok, long before Pattaya took-off, a proper history of that Soi is surely in order. It would be fab if those of you who have direct knowledge and experience of the earlier history of Soi Twilight would actually contribute to this thread. A proper history of Soi Twilight really should reside somewhere on the net and this is as good a place as any.

    The closest thing to a chronological history of Soi Twilight is from the stub history and monthly updates of Bangkok's nightlife scene on Bangkokeyes, which has been chronicling Bangkok's nightlife scene since the 90s. However, Bangkokeyes is mostly focused on the straight nightlife and while they hope to add a history of Soi Twilight to their site (alongside the existing histories of all the other straight nightlife areas of Bangkok), their information on the history of the Soi is still somewhat patchy. In any event, one would think that the best place for a comprehensive history of Soi Twilight would be this forum.

    The skeleton of a chronology, as I understand it, would be:

    1966 - The original Twilight bar opens on New Street
    Beginning of the 70s - Twilight moves to Soi Pratuchai
    Somewhere in the 90s Banana Bar opens
    2005 - Soi Twilight begins to see a rapid influx of new bars
    2010 - 2014 - Soi Twilight reaches its peak, with an average of 19 establishments in operation
    2019 - The curtain falls on Soi Twilight

    I will also post an excerpt from a recent email chat between John Morley of Bangkokeye and myself here, in which he elaborates on the history of Soi Twilight.

    Our first adventure into Soi Twilight was at the invitation of author Jerry Hopkins, now deceased, who, like yourself, played in both houses. At that time he recommended we include Soi Twilight in our monthly updates on BKK Eyes. He recommended we call the soi, "Soi Hard-On", but as the gays and taxi drivers (and a surprising number of bar girls) already knew it as Soi Twilight, we ran with 'Soi Twilight'. However at that time, there were too few Nitespots on the soi (it had not reached "Critical Mass"), so we adopted a "wait-and-see" position. We revisited some 6+ months later to find it had in fact reached the 'tipping-point' - the magical 'critical mass'.

    As a result, our history (genesis) of Soi Twilight is very sketchy. Our only meaningful interview with anyone on the Soi (who had been there for any considerable time) was with the owner of Banana (became New Banana, later relocated to Soi Katoey, Silom Soi 4 on the closure of Soi Twilight). Banana was just across Soi Twilight from the then-Hot Male. He recalled that the original Twilight bar had been there at least 20 to 30 years, and perhaps since as early as 1966, but couldn't give an exact date. We also asked Bobby of Bobby's Arms, now deceased, if he knew how long Twilight bar had been there. (Bobby had a more-than-passing knowledge of the gay community). He recalled that it had relocated there from New Road many years ago, some time in the early 1970's, but likewise could not recall an exact time (-note: this is unsubstantiated as of this date, so we have not included this in any 'historical' writings on Soi Twilight ). The only thing clear is there is no clarity.

    For a long time, Soi Pratuchai remained without any Nitespots other than the Twilight , which was at the Surawong entrance. We, regrettably, have had no access to any accounts of the build-up prior to our visit there towards the end of 2005. Also, there is unsubstantiated chatter that a number of gay venues transferred to Soi Twilight from Surawong Soi Than Tawan during the 2005-2010 timeframe. The original Twilight bar became the New Twilight at some point in time not known to us, and eventually went out of business, being picked up by Hot Male at that juncture ( Hot Male remaining at that location until they relocated to Patpong 2 on closure of Soi Twilight).

    Soi Twilight (Pratuchai) was a privately owned soi, which allowed it to become a 'Walking Street' at night - keeping out vehicular traffic. At its 4-year peak, (December 2010 - November 2014) Soi Twilight maintained on average 19 Nitespot venues.

    Regrettably at this point in time, our only chance of improving / expanding on the history of Soi Twilight would be from readers' submissions of old photos and/ or accounts.



    Some of the obvious questions in trying to put together a proper history of the Soi would be whether the early clubs that operated on Soi Twilight / Soi Pratuchai were new clubs or whether they had been operating elsewhere before that?

    Also, what and where were the bars located prior to the move to Soil Twilight? There were and are, of course, the bars on Soi Tantawan; but, at least over the last 15 years or so, they are of a very different sort than the Soi Twilight bars.

    Finally, what happened to the original Twilight Bar? Did it simply shut-down, with Hot Male simply taking-over the premises or did Hot Male also take-over some of the talent / management from Twilight, so that it can claim to be an affinity with the original Twilight?

    If anyone has any direct information to add, it would be fantastic if you could, Note though, I am hoping that we get real information on this thread, not just reams of opinion... =)

    Cheers,
    Jay


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  3. #2
    Forum's veteran Brad the Impala's Avatar
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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    Is it just the history of Soi Twilight bars that is of interest? The busiest street for Gay bars was in Soi Four Silom before Soi Twilight become known for more than the Twilight Bar.

    I'm sure that we have touched on this topic before, probably more than once, and you will find that there is an excellent search facility here. So that is worth a try too. I'd put in "History", and it won't all be about the Wars of the Roses!

    EDIT. I now see that even your own post has at the bottom "Similar Threads" which includes some of this information.

    https://sawatdeenetwork.com/v4/showt...ow-Gay-History

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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    This archive has a pretty impressive collection of scanned Thai gay magazines from the 80s, 90s and 00s
    http://thairainbowarchive.anu.edu.au/catalogue.htm

    The "Thai Guys" magazines only go back to 1999, but have good maps (although it should be noted that this company was well known for leaving out bars that didn't pay to be in their listings, or which they didn't like) http://thairainbowarchive.anu.edu.au...s/contents.htm

    As for Soi Twilights peak, I would assume that was 2001-2002 before Purachai's "social order campaign" started, everything went downhill after that
    Buffalo me die! Send Money!

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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    Below I post an expanded chronological history of Soi Twilight, from its origins in the early 1970s to its demise in 2019. This is hardly the last word on the subject, but should serve as a reasonable core to which members can add their own recollections of the Soi and its bars. As a new account, I can't post the pictures and maps to go with the narrative, but perhaps an eager veteran can chip-in.


    The Origins of Soi Twilight

    The origins of the phenomenon that became Soi Twilight go back far indeed. The original Twilight bar was founded on New Road in the Surawong area, possibly as early as 1966. By the beginning of the 1970s, however, it had moved to a small privately-owned street almost directly across Surawong Road from Patpong 2 called Soi Pratuchai. The Twilight Bar occupied the first shophouse on the left as one entered the soi from Surawong Road, operating on the first floor (which Americans would call the second floor). Early-on in its time on Soi Pratuchai was renamed New Twilight Bar. This earliest part of the Twilight Bar’s history was documented by John Morley at Bangkokeyes / Midnite Eyes magazine when he interviewed the owner of the original Banana bar, across from the original Twilight, in 2006.

    As the seminal bar that gave rise, and its name, to Soi Twilight, a description of the original Twilight Bar is in order. The best description of it was given by forum member Fountainhall in a post on this site on 1st July 2014. I, respectfully, quote his, abbreviated, description:

    It was dark inside, had a long bar at one end behind which was a small stage on which 4 boys would rotate, all standing without any attempt to dance. Twilight was run by two older ladyboys and usually had lots more working boys than Apollo. Around 10:00pm, the mamasans would bark orders whereupon the boys briefs came off. After four had been on stage and replaced by another four, the original four would come through the audience and stand around a small pillar. Not sure if touching was permitted, but back then it happened a lot. Chairs would be put in the centre of the space as warranted by demand. Round two sides were padded benches where you could be more intimate with some of the guys in relative darkness.
    A visit to the toilet would usually result in one or two guys coming in to show their wares. Upstairs were at least a couple of rickety dirty rooms and a cold shower. Most nights there’d be a show on stage, with a pair of the coupled boys clambering on to the bar. If you bought a drink for a boy, touching and feeling seemed to be the norm. Most weekdays there seemed to be not more than 20 punters in the bar. At week-ends, though, it would be absolutely packed, almost exclusively with Thais.


    Alone on the Edge of the World

    Soi Pratuchai – the Street of the Gate of Victory – hardly seemed destined to become the centre of Bangkok’s boy bar universe at this point, and its glory days were still several decades away in the future. Indeed, for about two decades, Twilight remained the only gay bar on Soi Pratuchai. The centre of action was elsewhere. By the early 1980s Silom Soi 4 had emerged as the centre of Bangkok’s gay bar scene, although that street had already hosted gay bars and pubs since the 1960s. Sleazier options were to be found on the nearby Soi Tantawan. [Of the 80s sleaze bars on Soi Tantawan, four still remain as of 2020: Tawan, Nature Boys, Super A and Golden Cock, of which only Golden Cock has remained in the same location since the beginning.] Soi Pratuchai remained a backwater throughout this period, with Twilight still the only gay bar on the soi even at the beginning of the 90s. [The Spartacus Guide, 1991].


    Things Pick-Up


    Over the 1990s, however, what would later be known as Soi Twilight began to take visible shape as a number of new gay venues opened-up on Soi Pratuchai. Their number rose steadily through the 90s, so that as the millennium drew to a close, there were about 7 or 8 gay venues operating on the soi by the end of 1999. Apart from the original Twilight Bar, these included Dicks’s Café, Sprite Boys, Blue Star and The Boys Bangkok. The latter two were owned by the BBB Group, which also owned Dream Boys on the other side of Surawong Road. Also worth noting is that the bars that operated on Soi Twilight in the 90s were not transplants from other areas; rather, they were new bars and marked an expansion of the A Go-Go scene in Bangkok. The soi had now emerged as a distinct gay nightlife area in its own right, but had not yet achieved the iconic status that was soon to come.

    In addition to the gradual build-up of bars on Soi Pratuchai itself, several other bars in the immediate vicinity also contributed to Soi Twilight becoming the epicentre of the boy bar universe, forming part of the local eco-system. Screwboys was located on the Suriwong end of Patpong 2, where it still remains today. On Soi Thaniya 2, beside the Suriwong Hotel, were located two of the boy bars that have remained at the top of the game for the last three decades – Jupiter and Dream Boy. Dream Boy had previously been known as Dream Boys Barbeiry, being a continuation of the older Barbeiry boy bar. Barbeiry itself had been one of the earliest gay A Go-Go bars in Bangkok, operating on Soi Thanuya 2 since the early 1980s and offering a classier experience than the sleaze that Twilight traded in. Barbeiry was also distinguished by having an all-Thai line-up, which Dream Boy adopted as official policy. Similarly, the black light and body paint dance shows that it offered back in the 80s also continue to form part of Dream Boy’s shows today.

    A massive change in the bar scene in Bangkok – both straight and gay – took place at the start of the millennium as the Thaksin government launched a crackdown on the overt sleaze that had become an entrenched part of Bangkok’s A Go-Go scene. Explicit fuck-shows disappeared from both the boy bars and the girlie bars for a while, and bars that were known to offer under-aged boys or girls were shut-down. The crackdown in this period may have hurt Soi Twilight in the short-term, but probably helped it over the longer-term. The forcible shut-down of many of the sleaze bars pushed patrons towards the surviving bars on Soi Pratuchai. The more sanitised bars also appealed to a wider base of clients. Alongside that, Bangkok’s gay nightlife scene also benefited from the growth of the World Wide Web, which made it easier for travellers to find information on the gay nightlife venues, which were now much less scary places for the first-time visitor. Added to that was the rise of low-cost air travel in the region, pioneered by the much-loathed and loved Air Asia. Additionally, Soi Pratuchai was a private soi, which enabled its owners to close it to traffic at night, allowing This confluence of elements set the stage for the next phase of Soi Twilight’s development.

    The number of bars on Soi Pratuchai remained fairly stable for the next several years, even as the number of patrons steadily increased and the soi itself increasingly began to be referred to as Soi Twilight. As late as 2003, though, gay magazines referred to “Soi Twilight” in inverted commas. The name was already in-use amongst those in the know, but it was now about to break into common usage. Ironically, though, the Twilight Bar did not get to long enjoy its status as the namesake of the new entertainment district...

    Soi Twilight Takes-Off

    In late 2004, the original Twilight bar was taken-over by new management and was rebranded as Hot Male. Hot Male continued to operate from the same location and maintained both the phone numbers for the old Twilight (02-236-1944 and 02-237-837), which was indicative of the continuity. Hot Male, which continues to operate as of 2020, can claim to be a lineal descendant of the original Twilight.

    At the same time, Dream Boys moved from Soi Thaniya 2 to Soi Twiight in late 2004, taking-over the premises of Blue Star, thus beginning its run as the king of Soi Twilight. Throughout its time on Soi Twilight, Dream Boys had both the largest number of boys and drew in the largest number of customers. The number and quality of the boys in its stable was all the more impressive given its strict Only Thai Boys policy. Together, these two events - Hot Male operating under a re-invigorated management and BBB having consolidated much of its operations under the hugely-popular Dream Boys provided a shot in the arm for the growth of Soi Twilight. Note. that as Dream Boy replaced Blue Star and that Hot Male took-over Twilight, neither of them actually added to the number of bars on the soi.

    2006 was the seminal year in which Soi Twilight took-off, with the number of establishments on the soi almost doubling in the first six months of the year. By June 2006, the following establishments were operating on Soi Twilight:
    As you entered from Surawong Road, on the left-hand side of the soi were Hot Male, Bar Lover, The Boys, Dream Boys and Fresh Boys. On the right-hand side were Banana, X-Boys, X-Man, Fresh Beach Boys, Bunny Massage (Bonny Massage), Dicks Café and Future Boys. Further down Soi Twilight, towards the Rama IV entrance were Classic Boys, Balls Sports Bar and Five Star. Five Star alone among the entertainment venues on the soi was not gay-oriented. How it managed to survive for all those years one gayest street in Bangkok until Soi Twilight itself came to an end must remain something of a mystery.

    The number of establishments on Soi Twilight continued to rise in the years after that, hitting a peak in the four years from 2010 to 2014, when there were an average of 19 night-spot venues on the soi, including two massage parlours and several beer bars, apart from the A Go Go bars themselves. By this point, Soi Twilight’s status as the centre of the for-pay gay scene in Bangkok as firmly fixed with just about any internet search pointing the hungry and the curious alike in the direction of Soi Twilight. What is easy to miss though is that the boy bars were not exclusively gay. Women patronised the bars as well, with some of them having a regular female clientele. The Boys Bangkok, in particular, was popular with Asian women and that women customers have become an increasingly important part of the boy bar scene.

    The composition of the Soi also continued to evolve. While stalwarts like Hot Male and Dream Boy remained where they were, other clubs saw changes of name or location and wholly-new venues continued to open. BY the end of 2016, for example, the old Banana had become New Banana, Fresh Beach Boys had become Fresh Boys, Classic Boys had become New Classic Boys (in exactly the same old place)

    The Curtain Falls
    By 2018, however, rumours were circulating that Soi Twilight was going to be re-developed and that the bars would have to relocate. The rumours proved true when the ThaiBev Group, brewers of Chang Beer, acquired the soi as part of the massive property development that they are carrying-out on Rama IV Road. By the first quarter of 2019, the curtain had fallen on Soi Twilight and the majority of bars moved across Surawong Road and into Patpong, long the home of venerable institutions like Super Pussy and the fabulously-named BadaBing. The move has not gone down well with the majority of Patpong’s old-timers who view the area as hallowed ground, sanctified by decades of ping-pong shows. Nonetheless, the gay ghetto at the head of Patpong 2 has got-off to a strong start.

    Epilogue, not Epitaph

    Hot Male, the descendant of the original Twilight, has continued to thrive in its new location on Patpong 2. Counting its antecedents from 1966, it has now been operating for up to 54 years. The idiotically-named Freshboys has also made the move to Patpong 2. Classic Boys has vanished as a stand-alone bar, but its human stock is now to be found in two locations. The new Lucky Boys is a combination of Soi Twilight refugees X-Boys and]Classic Boys.

    The original Banana that sat at the entrance of Soi Twilight for decades now sits on Soi 4 as “Banana on 4”. Above it is the Banana Bar, which includes staff from the old Freshboys and Classic Boys. Neither of these is to be mistaken for the moronically-named Sweet Banana on Patpong 1.
    Screwboys continues to occupy the same position on Patpong 2 that it has for years. Nonetheless, it deserves mention as a Soi Twilight bar, not just because it spent a brief period on Soi Twilight before returning to Patpong 2 long before the demise of Soi Twilight, but because its close proximity to Soi Twilight always meant that it formed part of the Soi Twilight eco-system, unlike the more distant and quite distinct bars on Soi Tantawan.
    Dream Boy, the last vestige of the once-virile BBB empire sits comfortably on Patpong 2. Its decades-old policy of Only Thai Boys, thankfully, remains in operation. For those who might ask what difference that makes, the only reasonable answer must be that you haven’t spent enough time with Thai boys. Thai boys, after all, are the reason that this site and many others came into being in the first place. They are, quite simply, a cut above the moneyboys from neighbouring countries who have colonised the bar scene.

    Finally, a quick note on Jupiter, which has, in one form or another, been in operation since the late 1980s. While it has never been on Soi Twilight and, in many ways, has held itself aloof from the Soi Twilight crowd, it nonetheless contributed to the growth of Soi Twilight. Its long presence on Soi Thaniya 2 brought customers to an area that was not, at that time, the centre of the gay go-go world. While it has often received bad press on this forum, Jupiter has been on top of the game for decades. It early-on recognised the need to court Asian patrons and to attract women to make-up for the decline in its traditional customers. What is clear is that the bars that have moved from the comfort of Soi Twilight into the big, bad word of Patpong will have to move in that direction as well, if they are going to continue to thrive. The owners of Hot Male have already recognised this by setting-up the highly-successful Moonlight bar, which occupies the site on Soi Thaniya 2 that Jupiter occupied from the 1990s until its move to Soi 4 in 2017, focusing on Asian and female clients.

    Those of us who were lucky enough to play in Soi Twilight at its peak will probably look at its passing with regret, but Bangkok’s bar scene has always been in a state of flux. Soi Twilight itself was, in fact, a relative newcomer to the boy bar scene. The last to arrive, it has also been the first to go, taking with it the promise of decades more of pleasure on that little soi. Night has now fallen on Soi Twilight, but its place as brilliant, if brief, neon flash in the annals of Bangkok’s nightlife is assured.

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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    My own posts reveal an interest in the history of Thailand's commercial sex scene and so I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time and trouble to research and provide such an interesting account, particularly when it is so well- written.

  9. #6
    Forum's veteran Brad the Impala's Avatar
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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    Thank you for this thorough and detailed report, which is all accurate, as far as I am aware, as far as memory allows . It should be stored safely somewhere.

    On a minor note, for such a factual report gathered from various sources, a couple of the strongly held personal opinions did seem a little out of place!

    Quote Originally Posted by JayToff View Post
    moronically-named Sweet Banana on Patpong 1.
    I thought that was a rather good name, given amongst all the varieties there is indeed a sweet banana. I was once offered such a thing by a boatman in Luxor!


    Quote Originally Posted by JayToff View Post
    fabulously-named BadaBing.
    The fabulousness of this name escapes me.



    Quote Originally Posted by JayToff View Post
    the much-loathed and loved Air Asia
    Were feelings really so strongly held about Air Asia?


    As I say just minor comments that jarred while reading your otherwise excellent history.

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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    I only first visited Bangkok / Soi Twilight in 2015, however I also find the history of the scene very interesting (being in my early 30's on that first visit meant I wasn't fortunate enough to experience the 'old scene'). I still haven't visited the new scene in Patpong, as most of my subsequent visits have been straight to Pattaya / Cambodia / other SEA countries. But the new Twilight is definitely on my list once travel is finally practical again!!

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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    The "new" Twilight has (or had until recently) some of the same bars that the old one had. Unfortunately, they were not situated in a gay soi and it was this that made Twilight unique in Bangkok. Like Boyztown until recently, the pleasure were not restricted to the go go bars- P and I never visited any- but the bars like Dicks and Banana in Twilight and Panorama and Oscars in Boyztown where we could sit , have a drink and watch the world go by.
    The loss of gay areas over the past decade is not restricted to Thailand; as we gain more acceptance across the world, the need for such areas declines.

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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    Thanks Jay for the putting together some history of Soi Twilight. Much appreciated.
    Just another reason why I love living in Thailand


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    Re: History of Soi Twilight

    guess I was lucky enough to have caught BKK at its best and worse...been there when just about every gogo bar om soi twilight had a full on fuck show twice an evening...sometimes even a 3rd...and the shows were quite something..even had a guy who could shoot darts out of his butt hole..truly amazing...even made me stand on the stage holding a balloon between my knees...dart would shoot out of his butt and would pop it...then the depression when the new government banned all such shows and we had to tolerate mock fuck shows held under mosquito netting...

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