Soi Cowboy is a short (150 meter long) street in Bangkok, Thailand, with some 40, mostly go-go bars. It caters mainly to tourists and expatriates. Soi Cowboy contains one of the three largest groups of foreign-oriented bars in Bangkok, the other two being Patpong and Soi Nana Tai.
Soi Cowboy is near Sukhumvit Road, between Sukhumvit Soi 21 (also called Soi Asoke) and Soi 23, within walking distance from the BTS Skytrain's Asok Station and the Bangkok MRT's Sukhumvit Station. The Grand Millennium Hotel is nearby.
The first bar opened in Soi Cowboy in the early 1970s, but it was not until 1977 that a second bar opened on the street by T. G. "Cowboy" Edwards, a retired American airman. Edwards got his nickname because he often wore a cowboy hat and the soi was given its name in reference to him by longtime nightlife columnist Bernard Trink. The number of bars grew to 31 by the end of the century, all located on the ground floor.
When Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was elected in 2001, his government instituted a "social order" campaign. As part of this, all bars, nightclubs and restaurants had to close by 02:00, later changed to 01:00 for all areas not officially designated as "entertainment zones". (Unlike Patpong, Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza were not so designated). A mandatory midnight closing time was even discussed.
Over the years this policy has eased, and some Soi Cowboy bars stay open as late as 02:00.
At their entrance, all go-go bars carry government-mandated signs in Thai and English. The sign reads:
UNDER 20 YEARS
In popular culture
In 2000, the Norwegian group Getaway People released a song called "Soi Cowboy" about the area. The American rock band Sun City Girls included a song called "Soi Cowboy" on their 1996 album 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda. In the albums booklet it is said to be based on a traditional melody.
Actor Hugh Grant visited Soi Cowboy in December 2003, while shooting the movie Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. The Tilac Bar and several Soi Cowboy bar girls are seen in the film. The Sun wrote on 23 December 2003 that Grant was chased by bar girls and had to flee, though this apparently was untrue.
In December 2010, scenes for the film The Hangover Part 2 were also shot here, with one of the bars being temporarily renamed for the film.
- Fuller, Thomas (2007-10-27). "At Home Amid the Red Lights". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-25.
- Steinfatt, Thomas M. (2002). Working at the Bar: Sex Work and Health Communication in Thailand. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 30–32. ISBN 9781567505665.
- "Guest Friendly Hotels Near Soi Cowboy". 2015-11-23. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
- Hugh Grant story[dead link]
- "The Story Of Ploen", Stickman's Guide to Bangkok, 20 August 2006, archived from the original on 9 May 2008, retrieved 29 November 2016
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