Whether you agree with what happens there or not, the Bangkok Red Light District remains one of the most (in)famous and iconic parts of Thailand. As such, this is a mainstay on the tourist circuit: Visitors head to Patpong, Soi Cowboy, and Nana Plaza (the three established prostitution areas) with daily regularity in the same way they frequent the Grand Palace and Damnoen Saduak, but that doesn’t mean they thrust themselves knee-deep into the action. Rather, many tourists visit the Bangkok Red Light District to find out what all the fuss is about, and to enjoy the area at arms-length for what it is—a heady, vibrant, and occasionally nightmarish area that drips hedonism from its every wall. Agree with its morals or not, this is a part of the world that has to be seen to be believed.
Red Light District
Patpong is the Red Light District in Bangkok most visited by tourists, and consequently it’s also become the largest of its kind in the city. This garish and giddy area consists of two streets, Patpong I and Patpong II, that are lined with neon lights and gyrating semi-clad figures. That’s not to say this Bangkok Red Light District is all about sex however; visitors here will find plenty of bars to drink in should they just be looking for a boozy night out (though admittedly some form of sex-on-sale is never far away in these joints). There’s also a busy night market in Patpong that attracts tourists and sightseers in its own right.
There are two other areas, and each functions as a semi-legal Bangkok Red Light District. (Prostitution is, technically, illegal here, but the government recognizes these areas as sights of tourist interest and henceforth even post Tourist Police around the go-go bars to protect foreigners who are just taking a look.) Both are situated about a mile northeast form the Patpong Red Light District in Bangkok. These are slightly smaller, less gaudy affairs though that’s not to say they’re anything but risqué in look and feel. Given the proximity of these three areas that constitute the Bangkok Red Light District to one another, doing a whistle-stop tour in one night is more than possible.
Inevitably, safety is a concern for the incoming traveler wanting to get a look at the Red Light District in Bangkok. Clearly, these places aren’t the most squeaky clean attractions to visit while on a Thailand vacation, so you need to be on your guard if you do decide to visit. That said, the government has taken measures to protect tourists visiting here, as with the aforementioned Tourist Police, and as long as you don’t do anything too stupid, getting through the night unharmed should be guaranteed. A couple of tips on this theme: Keep your money in a money belt, always ask to see a drinks menu with prices before ordering, if possible try to order bottled drinks that are opened in front of your eyes, and never accept offers of free drinks from someone you don’t trust.
In terms of accommodation, there are many safe places available in and around areas such as Patpong. For understandable reasons, however, you may wish to find somewhere a little farther away from the Red Light District—a large number of tourists, especially budget travelers, head to the Khao San Road, which as famous a backpacker area as you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Although Destination360 aims to cover all of Thailand's major attractions, we do not condone or encourage sex tourism and object strongly to sex with minors. The judgment is the traveler's, but do remember that prostitution is illegal in Thailand, and thus all travelers should treat it with caution and respect anyone involved. Some women and men willingly become sex workers for economic reasons, but others who are involved against their will due to financial hardship should not be encouraged to participate.
Top image: Blemished Paradise (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0