The private streets of Patpong 1 and 2, named after the onetime owner, Chinese millionaire Khun Patpongpanit, comprise what is probably the world’s most notorious red-light district. In the 1960s the area was the home of Bangkok’s entertainment scene – the go-go bars sprang up to satisfy airline crews and US GIs on leave during the Vietnam War. Since the 1970s, the sex shows have been sustained mainly through tourist patronage. A less visible gay scene exists in adjacent Soi Silom 4, while Soi Taniya’s hostess bars are frequented mainly by Japanese clients.
The tourist police department monitors Patpong, and the area is surprisingly safe. A night market, with stalls selling souvenirs and original and fake fashions, gives the area a thin veneer of respectability.
A bookstore in the center of Patpong is one of Southeast Asia’s major outlets for books on feminism and exploitation. Many visitors come to Patpong out of curiosity rather than to indulge in the flesh trade.