Photos by Pang Songthamniti
Bangkok is more than just cute cafes, endless malls, rooftop bars and boutique hotels. In a country that lies within the conservative spectrum, few can only go so far as to push boundaries. Therefore, we rounded up some of the places that cross the line of edginess and are a bit out there. For something completely different, go to these places that boldly go where no others have gone before.
Maison Close BKK
Part art gallery, part bar, part tattoo shop, this nifty little space strives to push what can be shown in Thailand. As you step into the dark bar area that is Maison Close BKK, you will notice the little differences that make it stand out among the rest. Pictures of people in bondage, erotic grotesque (eroguro) art and classic movie posters are placed around the walls. A glass case presenting vintage Thai adult magazines lies on one end of the room, with a classic CRT TV showcasing some old, trashy B-movies on the other.
Having opened last November, the place has held events from time to time, from exhibitions in eroguro art and abstract calligraphy to hosting a party that combines live performances of harsh, experimental noise music and Japanese bondage shibari. Music festivals are also prevalent, which include noise, hip-hop and dark bass. Of course, there are also food events such as burger nights and cocktail tasting sessions because who doesn’t love to eat and drink?
Its location within the Charoen Krung area stems from owner Stephen Besse’s love of Chinatown’s atmosphere, which remind him of brothels and opium dens.
When asked how he came up with the name Maison Close, Besse explains, “Since I’m French, I wanted a French name and we were just throwing names around and one of the first names that came around was ‘Lanterne Rouge’ or red lanterns, which were a part of Chinatown back in that era and it’s like a signal to an underground place.
“And then I just threw the words Maison Close because I just love the way it sounds and that it means ‘brothel’ in an old-fashioned way,” continues Besse. “Nobody uses that term anymore. It’s also a play on words like a closed house since for example we also do erotic events behind closed doors.”
Add the logo of the eye peeking through a key hole and you’ve got yourself a secretive place that invites curious passersby to check out the place. A place that isn’t gimmicky for the sake of gimmick but to show that there is a passion and genuine interest in the things that Maison Close offers.
“Keep an eye open as this is not your usual bar and art gallery”, says Besse. So come and have a drink, enjoy some music and experience something a little bit different.
The Hidden Closet
Looking to spice up your sex life? If roleplaying and S&M are of interest and is part of your deepest and darkest desires, why not have a peek at this wonderful boutique lingerie store, tucked inside the Black Amber barber shop on the second floor within the quite alley that is Thong Lor 6. The Hidden Closet may very well be the very first erotic shop within Bangkok .
Fulfill your fantasies by buying sensual and sexy lingerie and roleplaying outfits (latex included). Or for the more adventurous types, have a look at their selection of BDSM fetish gear, including paddles, plugs, floggers, ball gags and bondage rope. Suddenly, you are whisked into the world of Fifty Shades Of Grey (heck, now’s your chance to re-enact scenes from that if you so please).
Founder Oranan Tangpanitanon cares about the sexual well-being of others and has always had an interest in eroticism.
“I think everybody has their own secret room or secret drawer at home”, she said. “Whether they are married or single, there would be days where they would wanna play with themselves, sometimes they wanna try on some clothes or do something that their partner cannot give them like pleasing themselves. It’s hidden from everybody else but it’s for your own pleasure.”
The Hidden Closet lives up to its name by how discreet it is. Those who would wanna try some of the products can do so, the staff will close the curtains around the shop so you can try it on without any fear. In addition to selling products, The Hidden Closet also hosts hen nights and parties, although pre-booking must be done in advance.
The Hidden Closet closely works with Maison Close, where they help collaborate and organise the bondage workshops held at the Charoen Krung bar.
If you want to unleash your inner Christian Grey or Anastasia Steele, then find and seek the Hidden Closet for all your sensual needs.
Love history with an erotic twist? This private erotic art museum has you covered. Located within the 38 Mansion condominium space, Kamavijitra (a play on words between “kama” from the Kamasutra, the book of lovemaking, and vijitra, which means beautiful) gives curious historians a look in the past of Thai eroticism through the world of art, a topic which most Thais tend to not really talk about and avoid. To titillate is not this museum’s goal but to educate.
Spread out mainly in two floors, alongside flights of staircases within the condominium, you can see numerous old paintings along the walls depicting sexual situations, some of them comedic. An abundance of phallus amulets are shown within a case made of various materials whether it would be wood, animal bone or even ivory. Statues depicting sexual positions complete with appropriate mood lighting exquisitely captures the art of lovemaking.
Businessman and art collector Uthaiphun Charuwattanakitti wanted to share his private collection of ancient erotic art to the world and it was with Kamavijitra, the first erotic art museum, that he was able to achieve this, where people with a fond appreciation of the art can see what sex was like back then.
The founder’s son, Watjanasin Charuwattanakitti, who now helps manage the museum said, “Erotic art doesn’t only emphasise sexual intercourse. It shows how people live.”
As erotic art can usually be found in the temple’s murals, it is interesting to learn and see how people perceive sex back in historic times, which was seen as just natural and at times humorous. Granted, while most Thais shy away from such artwork, the museum usually attracts foreigners.
“Erotic art is not popular among Thais,” said Watjanasin. “They view this kind of thing as obscene material. We tend to forget Thai people used to be unclothed or wear nothing above the waist. It was ordinary. It wasn’t until Thailand was influenced by Western religious ideals that women were told to cover up and sex was considered bad.”