Soi Cowboy is one of the best known entertainment night life districts in Bangkok. It is also one of Bangkok’s most visited tourists attractions. It is a short street, approximately 200 metres long, and is (technically) closed to traffic at night. Unlike Patpong it is not an officially designated zone but is still one of the most popular, vying only with Nana Plaza these days for the honour.
Soi Cowboy runs immediately behind Sukhumvit Road and is located between Sukhumvit Soi 23 and Asoke Road (Sukhumvit Soi 21) Map. It is one of Bangkok’s favourite late night entertainment centres in the heart of Bangkok.
Ask any tuk tuk driver or taxi driver and they will take you there. It is within fairly short distance of all the major Sukhumvit Road hotels. Alternatively you can take the Sky Train (BTS) and get off at Asoke Station or the Bangkok Subway System (MRT) and get off at the Sukhumvit Station. Both are just a few minutes walk to Soi Cowboy with the MRT being closer.
There are currently around 40 bars and gogo bars, including one ladyboy bar, but this always changes with time and bars close and new bars open. The official closing time is 02.00 but several bars more often than not run to 02.30. The early closing is due in the main that like its rival Nana neither are officially designated nightlife zones. It is currently home to probably the three most successful of all the gogo bars in Bangkok, namely Baccara, Crazy House and Shark.
A brief history of Soi Cowboy
The first few bars appeared in the early 1970s in what was then little more than a quiet back street. These were probably small Thai bars catering mainly for locals. The first bar to open specifically for foreigners was probably the Gold Label bar which opened in 1975. Then in 1977 a rather larger than life African American, and retired U. S airman, T. G. Edwards opened a new bar. The street was dubbed Soi Cowboy by Bangkok newspaper columnist Bernard Trink (the Night Owl) due to the large cowboy hat permanently on Edwards’ head and the fact he named his first bar, unsurprisingly, the Cowboy bar. As with many Sois the name just stuck. The popularity of this bar, and its owner, spawned a few other bars but nothing really major. From the 80s to the end of the 90s the Soi did grow but it had a rather downbeat, evenly sleazy, reputation. There were by now several small bars such as Fannys, Bluebirds and the Hare and Hounds. By the end of the 90s it had become popular with Japanese visitors and expats but was still nothing like the neon lit “strip” we know it as today.
in late 2001, that all changed. Two well known Western owners had opened a new bar, the Dollhouse Agogo, in the now long gone Clinton Plaza. This bar had quickly become THE place to be and was packed out every night, and most afternoons also. For various reasons the original Dollhouse was forced to close and the two owners chose the still rather sleepy Soi Cowboy as their new venue. In what was the Hare and Hounds to be precise. By this time Cowboy was fairly widely regarded as Bangkok’s 3rd bar zone. Reasonably popular with expats, and the aforementioned Japanese tourists but no-one even considered it would give Nana Plaza, or even the diminishing Patpong a run for their money. The new bar opened in February 2002 and everything changed. Up went the Soi’s first big neon sign and shortly after this was followed by the likes of Suzy Wong and the reformation began. Bacarra took over Bluebird and Pams, Shark Agogo took over the old Jukes bar and Soi Cowboy was well and truly on the map.
Soi Cowboy has endured quite severe ups and downs over the last twenty years but between around 2008 and 2015 became the most popular of the three main tourist night life zones due to heavy investment while rival Patpong continued to decline. At the time of writing in September 2017, Nana Plaza has totally revamped, almost certainly as a result of Cowboy’s dominance and which of the two now holds the ascendancy is now debatable. Both areas tend to have their die-hard fans who will swear their favourite is the better of the two but in reality there is little between them in terms of volume of bars, girls and the quality of the entertainment on offer.