The Pattaya street where angels feared to tread

Soi Yodsak (Soi 6) as it used to be in its heyday.

North Pattaya’s Soi Yodsak, sometimes graced with the title Sexy Soi Six, was a pleasure ground extraordinaire when the city was booming with international male tourists whose idea of a leisure pursuit was certainly not playing contract bridge or taking photos at the turtle farm.

The names of the bars and clubs, mostly single shop units standing to attention, told you all you needed to know: Billy’s Boozer, Quickies, Tomcat, Bandit’s Hideout, Baby Cool, Amsterdamaged, and so on. A hostile reporter from the now defunct British scandal sheet The News of the World, finding inspiration in the title of a novel by E.M. Forster, described the street as “somewhere angels feared to tread.” This criticism sparked a craze for changing several bar names to new ones with a celestial title: Angel Showers, Angels’ Delight, Cherubs’ Hangout, Where Angels Play, etc.

Deserted Soi Yodsak (Soi 6) as it is today.

The street was more or less heterosexual in orientation, although members of the city’s substantial transvestite and transsexual community were on hand here and there to be gawked at. New tourists were counseled by the old hands in what to ascertain in the Third Gender. “Look for the Adam’s apple and check the hands for signs of having planted rice,” was a common refrain. Another suggested that “if she looks too much like a woman, she’s probably a guy.”

There was never a dull moment. A bar became famous after advertising sky-diving jaunts in an ancient plane under the logo “Are you ready for something different?” The prediction proved absolutely appropriate when the craft crashed on takeoff at an obscure local airstrip. Amazingly, most passengers and crew walked away with nothing more serious than a broken finger or two.

The long-established Queen Victoria Inn is open for business.

A French tourist, not understanding the protocol of “ringing the bell” in a bar – which means you’ll pay for the drink of everyone present – was handed at two o’clock in the morning a bill for 21,106 baht (about 500 pounds). When he complained, he was told that the 106 baht was to pay for a cheese sandwich which one of the staff had preferred to ordering liquid refreshment. A compromise was reached when the cost of the snack was removed from the account due.

Inevitably, police raids did occur from time to time as most forms of obscenity in Thailand were outlawed by the Entertainments Venue Act of 1960. During one such inspection, four gogo dancers were arrested for indecent display as they were naked on stage. One managed to escape the mandatory fine after claiming she was not naked as she was wearing a top hat. Or so the oft-told story goes. In some versions it’s a pair of earrings.

The message is welcoming but all bars are closed.

If you Google the street today, you’ll still find lots of videos, blogs and promotional sites reminding everyone of its former attractions. The coronavirus pandemic has now shuttered all nightlife in the resort although, to be fair, Soi 6 was past its busiest prime long before the pesky virus arrived to taunt the pleasure seeker. Only a couple of eateries and the long-established pawn broker’s shop are today open for business. There’s also a surviving beauty shop which has the tantalizing sign, “Here we do men and women.”

But we mustn’t forget the long-established Queen Victoria hotel and restaurant which survives majestically in the midst of the gloom and doom of contemporary Yodsak. It’s a reassuring presence and still offers an elaborate Sunday carvery for 370 baht and an ample English breakfast for 99 baht. Oddly, a notice board still promotes Cambodian visa runs even though the land borders were all closed for this purpose almost a year ago. The old Queen has certainly seen more affluent days but stands defiantly as she waits for the good times to roll again. Let’s hope so.