Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Red light district unaffected by turmoil


When troops seized power in the middle of the night, Bangkok's infamous Patpong red light district did not blink. And hours later it was business as usual at Spanky's Bar and the Electric Showgirls.

"I was up to 3am looking for lots of fornication with women and I didn't see any soldiers," said English tourist Barney Humble, recalling that images of the coup had flashed up television screens in the bars.

"It was exaggerated on the telly," he added, sipping a beer under the watchful eye of two scantily clad bar girls the following evening.

Patpong is a notorious strip of go-go bars at the heart of one of the most famous red light districts in the world catering mainly to foreigners attracted by Thailand's huge sex industry.

The day after the military seized power market vendors could be seen unpacking stalls loaded with fake Polo shirts, blackmarket DVDs and illegal pornography.

Bar staff slowly trickled back to work readying for the usual influx of sex tourists, curious holidaymakers and expatriate regulars.

Joe Morrow, a 39-year-old English tourist, was out enjoying the nightlife when news of the coup broke on Tuesday night, but he said it had not affected his holiday at all.

Plans for the following night included "night market, beer, drinks, women for the ugly ones," he said, gesturing to his friends, and then "back to the hotel."

"Seriously, we're not doing anything different, just normal," he said.

Business owners and bar workers appeared to share the tourists' nonchalance about the coup, which unfolded on Tuesday night when tanks and armed soldiers surrounded key government buildings in central Bangkok.

"Everything is open, we don't have concerns about this. It is the same as before," said Noon, a waiter at Patty's Fiesta Mexican restaurant.

Naiyana Nongnuch, 32, a cashier at a Patpong bar, said that her customers carried on drinking on as if nothing had happened.

"I don't think there will be less customers as many are Bangkok-based foreigners and they know the situation well," she said.

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