Located in Sukhumvit Soi 4, Nana Entertainment Plaza is Bangkok's sleaze central. Notorious for its racy themed go-go bars - from school-girl and leather dominatrix to ladyboy - it's literally a 'sex mall', with three storeys of eye-popping activity all focused around a square-shaped central atrium. Unlike at the better-known Patpong, Nana is a 'strictly adult' scene. That means no families, no markets and few curious tourists strolling in for a look. It also means a lot more men hell-bent on renting bodies.
Walking down Soi 4 from Sukhumvit Road, you'll know you're approaching Nana when you spot the line of street vendor carts preparing an array of weird and wonderful bites. These include 'som tum' (spicy green papaya salad), 'kai tod' (charcoal-grilled chicken) and fried insects, among other odd delicacies - comfort food for the bargirls who mostly hail from Thailand's northeastern Isaan Province. Tired young girls in halter tops and short mini-skirts can be found filling up bags of crispy invertebrates, which they chop up and eat with rice and a dash of 'nam prik', chili and shrimp jam (watching them refuel on these down-to-earth pleasures, even joining in, makes for an interesting diversion from the other sorts of pleasures found here).
Welcome to Bangkok's Sex Mall
Greeting you when you pass beneath the monstrous 'Nana Entertainment Plaza' entrance sign is a mass of glowing neon signs, yelling at you from all directions. In the hot light of day, when the girlie bars are shuttered, and the neon is switched off, this complex is a sagging mess of grey concrete. At night however, the gaudy lights just about succeed at distracting attention away from the ugliness of it all, and at masking the sticky, grimy residues of the many nights that have gone before. Shouting even louder than the neon is the intriguing cast of upfront characters - ladyboys, midgets and, of course, girls - who will try and accost you. They can be in your face, but it's all light-hearted and unthreatening.
On the ground floor there are mostly open-air beer bars to choose from. With salacious names like Lollipop and Red Lips, girls here will try and tempt you in for a drink, a game of Jenga and, probably, more. Some will step into your path or give you a gentle jab in the kidneys to encourage you (about as subtle as flirting gets here). Others will resort to trying to drag you in - a shrug and a quick side-step is usually enough to shake them off. A few go-go bars line the right side. Playschool, Rainbow 1 and Rainbow 2 all pack them in - both the bikini-clad girls and the punters.
Nights in White Satin
Ascend up the escalator to the first floor and it's mostly go-go bars. These include Spankys, Fantasia and Rainbow 3. Rainbow 4 is one of the biggest, with hordes of Japanese-looking girls attracting a busy mix of Westerners and Japanese spectators. G-Spot, Cassanova and Temptations are among the most popular, and it's no surprise - they're ladyboy bars and put on dazzling shows. Angel Witch, on the left, with its risquÃ© lesbian and dominatrix shows is also a big hit. A lot of thought and energy clearly goes into the costumes and performances here - girls in elegant but provocative strips of white satin were strutting gracefully to 'Nights in White Satin' on our visit.
For relative calm, head for The Big Mango bar just to the right of the escalator. This is a humble watering-hole, serving beers, cocktails and some of the tastiest burgers in town - a great spot to survey the scene and see whose coming and who's going. If you're not here to 'pick up', the staff are very welcoming and will happily whip you at pool. Across from that there's also The Cathouse, a similar pub-style drinking den with beers going for 30 baht during happy hour.
Up on the relatively quiet second floor, again it's more of the same. Bars here include Carousel and Hollwood Strip (another ladyboy bar). To summarize, if you're into the scene you'll love it. If not, Nana might just represent all that's wrong with Thailand. More than Patpong, this is the place that really puts the bang in Bangkok.
How to get there: It's within walking distance from Nana Skytrain (BTS) station, but a long way from heaven.