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Soi Cowboy On Sukhumvit Soi 23, Bangkok, Thailand
Soi Cowboy, along with Nana Plaza and Patpong, are the most popular nightlife districts in Bangkok Thailand. The area that is today known as Soi Cowboy, is thought to have been named after a legendary retired American airman T. G. "Cowboy" Edwards, who opened one of the first bars there in 1977. He earned the nickname "Cowboy", because as a tall black man wearing a cowboy hat, he would stand out in Bangkok during the 1970s.
When Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came into power in 2001, he introduced a "social order" campaign. During this campaign, all bars and nightclubs had to close by 2 am, and later this changed to 1 am for all areas not officially designated as "entertainment zones". Soi Cowboy is not recognized as an official "entertainment zone", the laws enforcing closing times of night spots are still constantly changing in Thailand. Currently most bars in Bangkok, and on Soi Cowboy close at 2 am.
Soi Cowboy is located in the Sukhumvit area between Soi 21 and Soi 23. Soi Cowboy is within walking distance from the BTS Skytrain's "Asok Station" and the Bangkok Metro's "Sukhumvit Station". Nana Plaza is just a 15 minute walk from Soi Cowboy, or 3-5 minutes by taxi. You will not have any trouble hiring a taxi to take you to Soi Cowboy, all the cabby's know it well. Normally the taxi drivers will drop you off at the entrance on Soi 23. At the entrance you can see a large sign shaped like an arch that says "Soi Cowboy".
One of the most popular bars on Soi Cowboy is the "Tilac Bar". In Thai language, the word "Tilac", means "Darling". So a direct translation would be "Darlings Bar". The bar is open from 6 pm until 2 pm, depending on how local law enforcement is enforcing closing times. The Tilac Bar has a reputation for being one of the cleaner and better managed bars on Soi Cowboy. They are well know for their low prices at happy hour as well as their body paint shows later in the evenings. Many Soi Cowboy regulars consider Tilac to be one of the tamer go go bars, with a pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff making it one of the most enjoyable and entertaining places to spend and evening in Bangkok. Tilac Bar gained notoriety in 2003 when actor Hugh Grant was spotted enjoying a few drinks after the filming of "Bridget Jones Diary". The Tilac Bar and several Soi Cowboy bar girls are seen in the film.
The Dollhouse opened in 2002 on Soi Cowboy, after the previous location was closed down. The Dollhouse is most famous for the waitresses wearing sexy school girl uniforms. One of the things that is most popular with expats is that The Dollhouse has a legendary 'happy hour'. If you arrive before 9.30 pm, most drinks are available at just 60 baht, which is a very good deal. There are happy hours at other bars, however the happy hour at The Dollhouse seems to be attracting more customers, perhaps because they have less restrictions on the type of drinks you can order during happy hour.
You want to be very careful in the areas of Soi Cowboy, and Nana Plaza. The working girls, the vendors and taxi drivers in this area are often hardened criminals. Be very careful with your belongings, watch your wallet and keep your valuables in the hotel safe. Avoid any physical confrontations, especially with the locals, as this will only lead to serious problems. There are several bars on Soi Cowboy with live shows, I suggest you avoid these places as they have a reputation for overcharging. It is common to go into a bar that has one of these "shows", order a beer or two and get a bill for 1000THB. If you don't pay they will threaten you with violence, overall you are far better off avoiding these places. There are a lot of drugs in this area, and it is not recommended to get involved with anyone who is using drugs, this can get you in far more trouble than you realize.