Thursday, 22 May 2014

Singapore Nightlife is Better than Bangkok's

Here's my second Palm Oil column for Coconuts which appeared here: 

ZOUK-OUT ZOMBIES ATTACK BANGKOK                                     Insta-Art © Jason Gagliardi

My first night out in Bangkok saw me sucked into the maw of the original Thermae, the all-night low-life last-ditch speakeasy of Sukhumvit Road. It was the second night of three without sleep (the last spent careening into ditches and trees as my mate dozed and nodded at the wheel of our jeep on the way to the most remote beaches of Koh Phangan and our first Full Moon Party; the first, saucer eyed at a rave party in Hong Kong) and a suitably surreal haze surrounded proceedings.

I popped my Singapore nightlife cherry around the same time, perhaps even in the same year, back in the misty mid-1990s. While I have no idea where the evening began or which hotels, bars, clubs and other establishments were traversed, I distinctly remember ending up at Top Ten, atop the Four Floors of Whores, as Orchard Towers is famously known.

Two maniacal grinning brothers, bald Thai twins, were the DJs at Top Ten and they played the ubiquitous commercial pan-Asian grating disco-house of the day very loud, and very fast. Super Maniac Bros. had heavy smoke machine trigger fingers, and near white outs were common. Through this swirling laser maelstrom, a great whirring and grinding of gears would periodically announce the descent of the Top Ten mascot, a Kafka-esque red-eyed nightmare insect which would drop from its ceiling lair to twitch for a spell above the teeming dance floor.

Both places were packed with mostly young (mostly) women; office girls making rent, maids making whoopee, hardened hookers with thousand-baht stares, rogue ladyboys, and the occasional throwback to the Vietnam War era, when both establishments were born and began swinging. Each is an enduring emblem of its city's nocturnal extremes; the infrared of the nightlife spectrum, occasionally ultra-violent.

insta-art © Jason Gagliardi
Hong Kong can sit this debate out. Any well-informed person knows Hong Kong's nightlife is on another level entirely from its bitchy sisters, from the underground vibe to the 24-hour-city decadence to the depth of DJ talent to the hologram harbourscapes and fantasy skyline to the shapeshifting hot spots of Soho, all flickering zeitgeists, flavours of the minute and elusive caravans of cool, to Ozone, the club in the clouds on the 118th floor to Wan Chai's subterranean basements. Generally, no one wants to kill you in the name of chemistry either.

Bangkok, conventional wisdom and barstool bores agree, enjoys the upper hand in the struggle with Singapore for nightlife supremacy. “Singapore has all the ingredients and none of the spice,”one friend sniggered. I say stow that “Singabore” patter and wipe that “nanny state” sneer from your lips. It's time to confront the unthinkable: Singapore's nightlife is better than Bangkok's.

Yes, let that sink in. It may be uncomfortable, but the evidence is overwhelming. Bangkok's two clubland institutions, Bed Supperclub and Q Bar, which were the twin compass points keeping any Bangkok night out aligned, are gone, and gone to the dogs, respectively.

insta-art © Jason Gagliardi
Two AM closing hours are back in force. Martial Law is here, and with it, perhaps curfews will begin again. Bangkok's version of an after party is a warm, overpriced and possibly spiked Singha at one of the ubiquitous, illegal and unlovely street bars which creep out like roaches after midnight to vie for sidewalk real estate with the dildos, meth pipes and Viagra.

It tells you all you need to know about the dismal state of Bangkok nightlife that the best underground music parties are held during the day – Kolour Sundays. The Lion City, on the other hand, is roaring. That's not water coursing from the Merlion's mouth; it's one continuous projectile of purest Grey Goose, a show of solidarity and a rallying cry for the city-state's hungover and hard-partying hordes.

And the Lion City party animal had better be prepared to run on booze and Red Bull exclusively, lest the new hedonism makes anyone forget this is Nu-Disco with the Death Penalty. But it's still better than Bangkok, which has become the City of Falling Asleep Angels.

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