Just arrived in Bangkok? Then Silom Soi 4, ‘the gay Soi’ is a must do for your first nocturnal gay adventure. This small and infamous Bangkok lane has developed greatly over the years, from one or two gay bars to one of the best gay night spots in Bangkok. It is filled with locals, tourists and expats.The evolution of Silom Soi 4 now includes a host of friendly bars and dance clubs, a wide variety of places to eat, karaoke bars and even a Bear’s Bar (Bearbie, the first bear and chubby lounge bar in Bangkok).
Most of the drinking and eating action is done at tables outside each of the small bars where the steamy Asian heat, loud music, gaudy lighting, chatter of international voices, odd spontaneous drag shows and smiling Thai waiters ensure you will have a fabulous time. Don’t worry about being alone, you won’t be for long. This is not a place to come looking for peace and quiet or solitude. The boys outside the bars will become your long lost friends in a matter of minutes and will perform a type of ritual mock-battle to get you to choose their bar and not the one next door or opposite.
The two most famous bars sit snuggly opposite each other, about half way down Silom Soi 4. The older more famous Telephone Pub and restaurant is an iconic gay watering hole. The telephones at the bar and tables have sadly disappeared in a world of iPhones and texting but the atmosphere is international, mostly mature men and lots of fun. Although most people sit outside, there is an air conditioned bar inside and a very good, inexpensive, casual restaurant upstairs serving a wide selection of Thai and international food.
The Balcony Bar is almost a mirror image of the Telephone Pub with a slightly younger clientele and is always busy. The bar boys, with their brightly coloured shirts are keen to make you very welcome. Both bars have a happy hour and encourage flirtations across the lane.
The Sphinx restaurant, a little further up the lane, is another gay landmark where they serve an extensive selection of delicious Thai and western food. We have eaten there many times and the food and service is always good and at a reasonable price.
For an upbeat European eating experience in this street, try Spanish ON 4 right next to the Balcony Bar. This indoor, outdoor bright, airy and spotlessly clean cafe has the best Spanish tapas and can provide a welcome change from the spicy Pad Thai noodles and chicken satays. We chose the Escalivada- roasted peppers with onions and aubergine topped with anchovies, the delicious meatballs in tomato sauce, the pork tenderloin and the prawns, dry roasted in sea salt. The Spanish manager is also a hot treat.
After dinner there are always plenty of people staying around for a few drinks and indulging in the favourite pastime, people watching. There are so many bars to try and when you are ready to move on from Soi 4 you might want to make your way out of the lane , turn left, walk past all the street stalls until you get to Silom Soi 2. Here you will find the famous dance club DJ Station and a number of other gay venues. If you’re still looking for some dance and man action at about 2am then the place to go is GOD (Guys On Display), just one lane back (Soi 2/1).
Be prepared to get hot and sweaty here as the bars are usually very crowded, especially at the weekend and on Thai holidays like Songkran (Thai New Year). Don’t worry about taking your shirt off, most guys do and you can dance to some of the best music in Bangkok. Most clubs close around three in the morning and it is always good to have a card from your hotel to show the taxi or tuk tuk driver when trying to get home after having a bit too much fun. Good luck!
This article was also featured in the Sydney Star Observer (June 2015)