Say “gay bar” to just about anyone in Bangkok and chances are they’ll come back with “DJ Station”. Located in the city’s business district of Silom, the club is well known among gay locals, resident expats and tourists alike. It attracts a mixed crowd of young and trendy guys (and the odd girl), even if there are also the fair few sleazy old guys who are impossible to escape. DJ Station has long held the trophy as the Thai capital’s premier gay night spot, on the lips of the trendy and the place to see and be seen. But that might be about to change – because a new spot just along the road is providing stiff competition.
While DJ Station sits down the small alley that is Silom Road’s Soi 2, joined by the late-night and slightly grimier club G.O.D. (Guys on Display) and other spots such as The Expresso coffee shop and bar, Bangkok’s main gay pre-drinking action takes place a few hundred yards further along on soi 4. Here, staple joints like Balcony Bar, Telephone Pub and Tapas make for meeting points to kick off the night. This is the real hub of the gay scene in Bangkok, and One Night Only is the latest addition to the soi’s line-up. It is not brand new, though – it will celebrate its first anniversary in April 2013, but so far still manages the feeling of being a fresh burst of life in what can sometimes feel like an admittedly fun but rather tired part of the city’s all-too-often sleazy nightlife.
With a feel that says half bar, half club, One Night Only was never going to fail at getting punters’ attention – with its scantily clad, Abercrombie & Fitch style topless male models outside, each as toned and muscly as one another. All are Thai with the exception of ‘signature piece’ dancer Sascha, from Germany. Friendly and welcoming, these guys play just about every role inside too – by which we mean (huh-hmm) that they act not only as ‘bouncers’ welcoming guests in from the street, but also as dancers and waiters.The result is a friendly atmosphere that a bigger venue like DJ Station can never hope to aspire to. While dancers at DJ Station emerge on stage from behind a curtain, strut their stuff and disappear, and bartenders and waiters do just that and nothing more, at One Night Only things seem different – starting with a hello on your way in, the guys might be taking your drinks order one minute, performing on stage the next, and mingling with customers to introduce themselves a little while later.
Size helps here – because One Night Only is a lot smaller than either GOD or DJ. Split across two floors, the main dance floor action is downstairs on the ground floor as you enter from the street, with bar, stage and high tables for groups to order in a bottle of vodka, ice and plenty of mixers. Upstairs, the lounge bar was almost entirely empty when we checked it out (admittedly at the end of the night), but is billed as ‘chill and chic’ on One Night Only’s Facebook page and would certainly make for a good alternative warm-up spot instead of outside on the street.
One Night Only has positioned itself as a clearly upmarket place, and it does the job well while keeping prices affordable. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere very pleasant and the entertainment excellent – one of the drag dancers on our visit had an extraordinary voice that easily puts to shame the nightly show at DJ Station, with its resident old, obese transvestite. The clientèle is more mixed than at other spots – fewer single men looking for only one thing, and more mixed groups of guys and girls out for a good time.
The sleazy older men are still there – though seemingly in fewer numbers and better humour, taking themselves rather less seriously. One twist to our evening was the dancers coming on strong to a couple of the girls in our group, and the subsequent revelation that most of them aren’t gay at all – perhaps to be expected, but perhaps also not to be made so obvious when you have a club full of gay men paying to be there! But all in all, while DJ Station may for some time yet remain the destination of choice for the golden oldies of Bangkok’s gay scene, One Night Only is without doubt the new hot spot.
One Night Only, 74-74/1 Silom Soi 4, Bangkok (BTS Sala Daeng)
081 485 6247; www.ono-bkk.com; www.facebook.com/ono.bkk