In Bangkok, the Patpong district, its spies and its “snake”


Patpong, Bangkok’s girly bar district, is a sign of the times and now has its own museum. Because the three alleys of the emblematic location of the “Gogo-Bar” are only a shadow of themselves: here and there signs dangle from facades eaten away by moisture. The Madrid Bar is barricaded. A homeless man has laid his mat in front of Glamour’s Iron Curtain. Patpong, in a coma, has not recovered from Covid-19. Department store construction sites nearby threaten his survival. The Patpong Museum, which had opened in October 2019 just before the Covid-19 and was less affected by the hygiene regulations than the drinking establishments, is often the only animation.

The museum is the brainchild of Austrian Michael Messner, who landed in Bangkok in 2001 at the age of 22. Under the wing of the district’s godfather, a protégé of high-ranking army officers, he opened several bars there. The economic model of prostitution in Patpong has thrived thanks to a gray area of ​​the law: the girls let the customer consume drinks, who pay a fixed price at the bar if he goes with the lady. It is then up to them to negotiate their prices with them at their discretion. Key money is often sold to foreigners at exorbitant prices. The Austrian forty-something has kept shares in the nightlife, but the Covid-19 has finally pushed him to devote himself to his passion: the history of Patpong, these few streets are still private property of the family of the same name. . Its museum brings together thousands of archives, photos and objects.

It all started with a young Chinese named Tun Poon, who lived in the late 19th centurye Century. He took over his rice business from a relative in Bangkok and made his fortune recovering from the farmers a derivative of the rice husk, which was used in the then-booming cement industry. His ingenuity was rewarded by King Rama VII: he ennobled him in 1927 under the name Patpongpanich – Patpong for short.

Sent to the United States during World War II, his sons joined the Thai resistance movement in exile against Japanese occupation. They were trained by the US Office of Strategic Services, which became the CIA in 1947. They returned to Thailand via Sri Lanka in 1945, accompanied by an American intelligence officer, one Jim Thomson – who served in Bangkok as an undercover hotel manager and silk entrepreneur until his mysterious disappearance in 1967.

With the Vietnam War, Patpong collapses

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