My drinking experiences in Phra Khanong diverged from third place in Part One due to a new job overseas. Part Two was like a migrant bird: working hard in DC in (northern hemisphere) spring and autumn but playing harder in Bangkok in summer and winter. Thus, the neighbourhood became my playground on home holidays. It was fascinating to witness how it transformed and be part of the community.
The back-and-forth travelling gave me a different perspective on Phra Khanong’s development. Instead of seeing gradual changes, there was something new every time I returned: new condos, hostels, restaurants, massage parlours, shops, and of course pubs.
Catching up with Phra Khanong
After 8 months working in DC, I was excited to return to the neighbourhood and look forward to catching up with the locals. The first beer was at Ped’s at W District. The beer garden picked up more crowds and was still the place to hang out. On Pridi Soi 2, Uncle Jong’s Kitchen was still there on the soi’s end. The Rovers became another assembly pub. The one that used to be Polish’s Lubliner became Tigra, owned by a Belgian. I was pleased to perch across the Chinese funeral supply shop and watch the world flow in front of me there again.
More pubs opened in the area: Japanese izakayas, Japanese snack bars, craft beer bars, an Irish pub, karaoke bars, and after-hour clubs. Two notable places opened in 2017: Kosmo, a bistro pub in W District separate from the beer garden and Paradiso, across the entry to Pridi Soi 2.
Not everyone could sustain though. Belgian’s Tigra changed hands to Aussie’s The Last Drop in 2018. The transition was smooth. The same year, the rivalry between the two bars at W District ended. Ped’s was booted out and we stopped drinking in the beer garden against the monopoly. Ped’s reopened a new bar underneath a hostel next to the complex but it wasn’t as busy.
Pub-Crawls in Phra Khanong
It was party time. Drinking patterns evolved into pub-crawl routes. It usually started at Ped’s at W District and ended at the Rovers. On many occasions, the publican herself, the staff, and customers kept partying until late or went to Ho-Jia, a local Thai-style nightclub—another unique experience in the area. It served late-night workers with live local bands. It was wild.
Other final destinations were Marumba (ceased)—a hipster after-hour club; Moon Bar (ceased)—a dive with a pool table; and the most peculiar one, Mosquito Bar. It was just a shed in front of a condo construction at the end of Pridi Soi 2. When all pubs closed, some customers from Tigra moved, got some grogs from a late-night grocery, and gathered there. Hence, they coined the name. What a wit!
When Ped’s was out of W District, pub-crawl routes shifted to the starting point at Kosmo for happy hours. Then you chose the next one: Tigra/the Last Drop, the Rovers, Paradiso. These were just routines of a circle of mates hovering over the area. Moreover, there was always something Phra Khanong could offer everyone: shophouse diners and a street yadong vendor for locals; a beer garden and Western-style pubs for expats; izakayas and snack bars for Japanese; and a rooftop bar and wine cellars for high-end clients; and so on. If you were into all of those, be their guest.
Phu Bao Phra Khanong
Speaking of a circle of mates hovering over the area, I found out later they were called Phu Bao Phra Khanong (ผู้บ่าวพระโขนง, an Isan-language term for Gentlemen of Phra Khanong). It was coined when they hung out at the Rovers—a cute nickname in my view. Simply put, it was a loose group of regulars, mostly middle-aged white men. However, my network of acquaintances extended beyond stereotypical farangs with an Asian partner. I also enjoy drinking and talking with the Thais, making the most of being bilingual.
For some reason, I was attached to those guys. Perhaps, it was jokes we mocked around, music we took turns and fought over to play in the pubs (that was when I mastered mixing music on YouTube in a pub), stories around the world we shared, issues we discussed, life events we experienced together, or all the above and more. If you weren’t much of an asshole, you could stick as long as you’d like. If the gang didn’t fit your tribe, you could move on.
The assembled cast of Phu Bao Phra Khanong was fluid depending on an individual’s circumstances. For instance, I considered myself as the original regular cast in Part One and was a recurring cast in Part Two. Every homecoming, new characters were introduced while some OG cast were still around and many were killed off: returning to work (many were here for a holiday like me), relocating, breaking up, changing jobs, or even literally death.
One of the OG cast from Part One, who was also my neighbour in the same condo, had liver complications and stopped drinking for over a year. A week before I was back in 2018, he remerged on the scene one last time and consciously passed away. I was blessed to attend his funeral, a full Thai funeral for a white man. And we sent him off where I met him for the first time at Lubliner/Tigra/the Last Drop.
In the end, this lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. I loathed myself at the peak of it. But the world turned upside down before I could do anything about it on the next return. I was on the other side of the world from Phra Khanong for 15 months.
To be continued…