Today, Patpong seems to have this reputation for being a bit of a rip off. Still infamous for its neon lit nightlife and raunchy red-light scene, many will tell you that this is now a place where one will encounter a level of hustle and hassle that far outweighs the fun and frolics of Bangkok go-go-hopping. What was once home to the country’s largest adult entertainment area, is now often seen as the go-go zone best left to ill-informed tourists and curious backpackers, populated by almost as many chancers, con artists, and dubious bar staff, all looking to make some opportunistic Baht from clueless foreign faces.
Rise of Patpong
The truth is, Patpong is currently seeing somewhat of a renaissance. While there was a period during which many expats and knowledgeable tourist would advise you to steer clear of this area, today you’ll see many such people heading back to a number of the bars and gogo’s around Patpong. Bar prices are in-line with gogo’s elsewhere in the city, and many of the bars here are now owned and run by foreigners who pride themselves on customer service and their close relationships with locals and expats, relying on word of mouth and repeat business rather than tourist tricks and bill padding. However, this is not to say that the clip joints and scamsters have left the area completely.
While Patpong is once again becoming Bangkok’s most exciting go-go area, you’re still advised to show some alertness and use common sense in order to avoid being scammed or hustled. To help you out, here are a few tips, which should show you How to Avoid the Patpong Hustle.
Just say ‘NO’
As soon as you turn into Patpong there’s a chance you’ll be greeted by a grinning local, keen to escort you to his favourite bar. It shouldn’t take you many milliseconds to figure out this guy is up to no good. You’re likely to find him to be a persistent pest, and even after telling him you are not interested he’s likely to follow you and continue his offer of friendship, hoping to win you over.
Don’t trust these guys by any means and certainly don’t let them lead you to any bars. The chances are you’ll be taken to a seedy show bar where you’ll discover the first drink/entry fee is 5 or 6 times that of the other bars, and you’ll leave with a bill that will put a serious dampener of your night.
The best way to avoid this scam is to ignore them completely. As you pass they will try to engage you in conversation, asking you what you are looking for, where you are going, offering to take you to the best bar in the area. As soon as you engage in conversation with them you are on their hook, and your first 10 ‘nos’ will be ignored. If you do find yourself having to respond simply say ‘no’, smile and walk away, completely ignoring them from then on. Their attention will soon be drawn to the next oncoming farang face.
Ping Pong Shows
Bangkok has a reputation for its ‘ping-pong’ shows, among less informed tourists at least. Nobody who lives in, or regularly visits Bangkok has any desire to see a ping pong show, in fact few have probably ever been to one. It’s as if the words ‘ping-pong show’ are a secret phrase to inform locals that you are looking to be relieved of as much money as possible. Tell one of Patpong’s loitering locals that you are looking for a ping-pong show and watch his eyes light up like a Christmas tree.
Some of Bangkok’s more raunchy go-go bars will have shows that will certainly widen your eyes, but if you do go in search of a dedicated ping-pong show then you will most likely find yourself in one of the notorious clip joints mentioned above.
Watch your Bill!
You may have avoided the nasty ping pong shows and clip joints of the area but just because you are in what seems like a normal go-go bar don’t assume you’re in safe hand, always make sure to keep an eye on your bill. If you are unsure about the drink prices don’t be afraid to ask, especially when buying a lady drink for any staff in the bar (these can sometimes be much more expensive than regular drinks).
Bill padding is less of a problem at the moment, with some bars even asking you to check and sign your bill each time you order a round of drinks. This isn’t really necessary and always suggests to me that the bar doing so has had a reputation for bill padding in the past (you’ll rarely be asked to sign a bill in Nana or Soi Cowboy where bill padding has never been a big issue).
The normal procedure is for all your bills to be placed in the chit in front of you, leaving you free to check them and question anything unusual immediately. If you order a drink and don’t have your bill placed in front of you within a few minutes then your internal alarm bell should start to ring. Always ask to have every bill receipt kept within sight and check them closely to ensure they are correct.
Choose the right bar
The simplest way to avoid being hustled in Patpong is to choose the right bar. Present day Patpong has a number of fun and friendly bars where you’ll find yourself at little to no risk of being treated like a chump. Two such hassle free bars are Bada Bing and Strip A Go-Go, both of which are run by foreign management who are always available to approach should you be unhappy in any way, or just wish for a few local tips and juicy gossip.
For more information on hustle free go-gos in Bangkok, check out our go-go reviews!