So you just got to Bangkok and you already have an idea of the places you want to visit. Soi Cowboy is naturally on the list, but you don’t know what to expect. This ‘Red Light District’ of Bangkok is well known for its entertainment nightlife and go-go bars.
People go to Soi Cowboy for various reasons, good and unfortunately, bad. Passport Heavy visited this neon-glowing attraction for the sheer entertainment factor of dancing girls, drinks and music in located on one street, after all, you will not see anything like this anywhere else in the world!
Soi Cowboy is located between Sukhumvit Soi 23 and Asoke Road, you can get there by tuk-tuk (they’ll know) or the efficient BTS. The first bar was opened by African-American airman T.G ‘Cowboy’ Edwards, known for his big cowboy hat. With more than two dozen bars lining up both sides of the street, you’ll have your pick of which bar to explore.
Once you step in, you’ll be engulfed by the red glow of the entire street. An array of ladies in revealing outfits will be standing by bar fronts; some resting, some eating and most beckoning you to patronise them. Entrance to the bars are free, just walk in and take a seat. Drinks have a range of prices from 100 – 200 baht depending on how popular the space is. It’s not uncommon for staff to sit next to you and encourage you to buy drinks. Now, if you walk into any of the bars with the expectation of pole tricks and loads of gyrating, you’re in for a sore disappointment. Most of the girls are pretty conservative with their movement, but there’s still a lot of see within each space especially if frequenting go-go bars isn’t your thing.
PH lucked out with being able to take pictures inside one of the bars, something we do not recommend you do without asking. We ensured that the women were fully aware of the camera at all times and could opt out on revealing their faces.
It goes without saying that there’s naturally a lot of negativity attached to the sex industry all around the world. Slavery, coercion, and continuous trafficking come in repetitive waves despite crack-downs by the law. The truth of the sex industry can be obvious, hard, and miserable. Other times, not so much. Smiling faces of workers often carry two very opposing sides of the sex industry.
Currently in Bangkok, some organisations are working to eliminate the sex industry entirely, and other organisations are fighting for sex workers, the ones that to keep their jobs. Truth is, some sex workers enter the industry voluntarily and while the police and non-profits fight to eliminate prostitution and trafficking, workers find themselves facing human rights abuse at the hands of the police and job loss that in turn, affect the families they support. WHO, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other agencies are calling for the decriminalisation of prostitution and for sex workers to be granted equal labor laws, a task easier said than done.
Interesting reads: What Thailand’s Sex Trade Crackdown Means For Sex Workers, Legalizing Thailand’s Sex Industry Unfathomable, Amnesty International Says Prostitution is a Human Right – But It’s Wrong, The Worldwide Debate About Sex Work: Morality Meets Reality.
SoiCowboy is a complex space for those with both high and low morals, for the veterans and for the curious and occasionally, for the plain lost! But for any avid traveler/explorer, it remains a place that has to be experienced.
Keep an eye-out for our full Bangkok guide coming out!
Photography by Yagazie Emezi