Patong’s nightlife is almost entirely different from what people take as ‘normal’ in the west. The epicentre of all the frolicking is on Bangla Road (known locally as Soi Bangla), with its off-streets such as Soi Freedom, Soi Gonzo, Soi Easy and more.
This is where you will encounter go-go bars, beers bars (often known as bar beers, for no obvious reason), and more. It all may seem so wild and new to you, but you’ll soon discover that even in this glamourous and outlandish new world, there are rules to be observed and frontiers not to be crossed.
Dedicated drinkers may claim that downing eight beers in one sitting is mere child’s play. At Thai beer bars, you can combine that sort of child’s play with Jenga or Connect Four and fill the hours with laughter. The beer bars account for a majority of the hangouts along Bangla Road and its numerous side streets.
A bizarre sight unique to beer bars in Soi Seadragon is a collection of hammers, nails and large chunks of wood. The game: competitors see who can be the first to drive a nail into the tree trunk. Not only is it a good lesson in the inverse relationship between alcohol consumption and coordination, it's a great place to experience complete humiliation as the noodle-armed bar staff beat you with practised ease.
There are plenty of pool tables in Patong, for those that like more traditional games, but don’t be fooled by the casual indifference of your opponent. They've been playing every night for weeks, months, or maybe longer; sinking shots and clobbering customers is second nature.
Most beer bars hang a bell within easy reach of patrons. Grasp the rope, give it a good ring, and bask in your newfound popularity: you just bought a round of drinks. The details of who benefits from your generosity varies from bar to bar – in some you buy only for the staff, in others you buy for all the staff, customers and any passing opportunists with sensitive ears – it’s best to ask or specify beforehand.
Ladyboys, Transvestites and Katoeys
Thanks to movies like The Hangover Part II, ladyboys in Patong are treated a little like tourist attractions - a fact that they have chosen to use to their advantage. Dressed like beauty pageant contestants, they meander through the crowd, selling photo ops to tourists. Point your camera with care - they'll expect a tip.
Phuket Ladyboys Shows
At Simon Cabaret and a few bars in Paradise Complex (Patong’s gay area), these transgender wonders put on shows that are engaging, funny, and always entertaining. Simon Cabaret’s productions are bigger, flashier, and more expensive, while the shows in Paradise Complex can be enjoyed for the cost of a drink.
A Go Go Shows
While not as prevalent as many people expect, Patong does have its fair share of go-go bars. When the dancers aren’t on stage, they’ll let you buy them drinks in exchange for conversation. It's an all-night party with a very friendly atmosphere.
Irish Bars and Live Music
If the exoticism of Patong's nightlife gets too much for you, there are places where you can get a more sedate experience, which is more like what you might expect at home. Even these places still have that little bit of Thainess to them, though: Hear local bands play songs from your country better than the original artist ever did; plop a whisky bottle in the middle of the table and draining it with a few friends; have a glass that’s always full, despite your repeated efforts to empty it. Imagine your favourite corner bar. Relax the rules and increase the smiles. Perfection.