Bangla Road is world-renowned as the beating heart of Phuket's nightlife - there is nowhere else on the island which comes even close to the same high-energy party atmosphere! Most of the bars don't even open until 21:00 and it doesn't get really busy until after 23:00. While the official closing time is 02:00, the music doesn’t usually stop until much later than that – on rare occasions, not until dawn!
The road and all of its side sois are packed with nightclubs, beer bars, go-gos, touts, peddlers, street performers and much more. It is a lot to take in all at once and can be a little overwhelming, particularly when there are many customs and practices which you would not find in western party areas. The following is a collection of useful tips to help you get the most out of Phuket after dark.
Fun but Useful Glossary
A girl who works at a bar, usually applied specifically to beer bar hostesses.
Beer Bar or Bar Beer:
An open-air bar, specialising in the sale of cheap beer and spirits. They are staffed by girls calling you 'handsome man' with a big convincing smile, inviting you to drink there and more.
A game where you try to align four coloured tokens on a vertical board. It is a game of skill and strategy and the girls get a lot of practise at playing, making them almost unbeatable. The saying goes that "you know you've been in Patong too long when you can beat the bar girls at Connect Four!"
An enclosed place with loud music and expensive drinks, where girls dance on the stage, usually wearing very little clothing.
'Hang' and 'Wakie':
Two drinks available in small bottles and sold in convenience stores. When planning a serious drinking night out, drink one 'Hang' before the party, another after the party (if you still can), and a 'Wakie' in the morning. It seems to work.
The Hanging Bell:
Most beer bars have a bell at the bar within easy reach of patrons. Grasp the rope and give it a good ring. Guess what? You just bought a round of drinks for everyone around the bar. Use sparingly.
A popular bar game, featuring a box with nine paddles with numbers on one side and the word "•JACKPOT•" on the other. You roll two dice, giving you a choice of three numbers (the numbers on each die or the total from both of them), one of which you can use to flip over a corresponding paddle before rolling again. The objective is to flip all of the numbers and you lose if you roll and cannot make a move. It is a game of pure luck, so you have a fair chance at beating a bar girl at it.
A small drink, always more expensive than yours, purchased for the lady you are sat with. The more drinks you offer to the lady, the more attention she will pay you because she gets a cut of the cost. See it as a fee.
Transvestites, often referred to as "ladyboys". Often astonishingly pretty, tall and slim, and often exaggerate their femininity.
Ping Pong Show:
A show performed by a lady involving ping pong balls, but not in the way that you remember it played at school. Believe it or not, that is one of the tamer shows on offer...
A small back street or lane.
Ladyboys and Katoeys
Katoeys (transvestites or "ladyboys", as they are commonly known) are widely accepted in Thai society and it is not that unusual to see them in everyday life. However, they are still especially prevalent in the nightlife scene and, with modern surgical techniques, it's harder than ever to tell that they were born male. Usually wearing large, fancy, colourful dresses when walking up and down the street to attract customers to nearby cabaret shows, their outfits shrink to the bare legal minimum when working in bars.
In spite of the common joke about accidentally kissing a ladyboy in Thailand, katoeys are not generally out to trick people. Even if they know you’re not interested, they can be fun company and might even invite you to judge the quality of the silicon job, so it is up to you to give a fair opinion. Note that, at this point, a lady drink would probably be in order.
Ladyboys in other parts of Thailand have been known for sudden bursts of unladylike behaviour, including short tempers and pickpocketing, so do be extra careful and civil around them. Just use your common sense and make sure your belongings are secure. If you take photos of or with katoeys (especially the ones in cabaret outfits), some small payment (about 200 baht) is generally expected and disagreeing could prove to be a big mistake.
Getting Around at Night
At night, Soi Bangla turns into a pedestrianised walking street, with tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis waiting at both ends to provide a ride home. Prices are negotiable and tend to increase with the number of passengers, the distance and the lateness of the hour. Many tuk tuks try to charge excessive and inflated rates, so it's best to check with other visitors and locals first. ALWAYS agree on the price before you get in as it's difficult to negotiate after the journey.
Both motorcycle taxis and tuk tuks can be flagged down anywhere along any of the streets. Head for Banana Disco on the Beach Road (Thaveewong Road), where most of the tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis park. At the other end of the street, you will find plenty of transport in front of Jungceylon Shopping Centre.
Dangers & Annoyances
The streets of Patong are quite safe at night - safer than in many western cities. Incidences of violence against tourists are rare, though there have been cases of purse snatching and pickpocketing. In discos, it's rare to see any problems as the crowd is very international and not obsessed with drinking themselves to oblivion.
The most common visitor complaint is of harassment by local touts trying to lure people into anything from Indian restaurants to timeshare presentations to tailor shops to tuk tuk tours. Ignoring these characters usually does the trick. Women are generally safe to go out at night, though it's not advisable to travel alone late in tuk tuks and on motorcycle taxis.
Dedicated to visitors’ safety, there's a Police Information Centre at the beach end of Bangla Road, just over the Beach Road. If you are victim of a negative situation or witness an accident, just dial 1155 and speak slowly and clearly. The Tourist Police will help you.
Police Emergency: 191
Tourist Police: 1155