night out

On the Night Bangkok’s Bars Reopened, We Asked People How It Felt Partying Again

“Last week, I was drinking at home alone and listening to John Mayer. It was the worst.”
03 July 2020, 9:59am
bangkok-nightlife-coronavirus-lockdown-bars-reopen
Collage: VICE / Images: Phoebe Storm

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

Drinking at home in your underwear can be fun. But when it's the only entertainment option on the table for over three months, it gets pretty sloppy — in more ways than one. With most of Bangkok closed down in mid-March and the majority of residents working from home, nightlife in the most visited city in the world, was nonexistent.

Thanks to swift action by the government, including airport virus screening, mandatory quarantining, and contact tracing, Thailand is actually one of the least affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with only 3,180 cases and 58 deaths as of writing. As local transmissions ebbed to just a few per day and, eventually zero, restrictions began lifting, and Bangkok is slowly coming back to life. The city’s famous bars have reopened and people are finally drinking, seeing live music, and bar-hopping again — while still social distancing, of course.

VICE hit the bars of Bangkok on July 1, the first night they were legally allowed to serve alcohol. It was a rainy Wednesday that would have seemed routine — boring even — three months ago, but the nightspots were packed and it begged the question: “How does it feel to be back in an actual bar?”

Jana, 24

Location: Sway, hip-hop bar

“After four months, I became OK with staying at home all the time and now, coming out doesn’t feel the same. We used to party three or four times a week, but now I think it’ll be once a week. The last months have totally changed me. It’s nice to be here but I’m not the same anymore.”

Bobby, 20 and Poppy, 21

Location: Sway, hip-hop bar

Bobby and Poppy

Bobby: “It’s lit. Everyone was missing seeing everyone else. Our usual lifestyle was interrupted. Friends couldn’t meet. During the day, it’s all about work, so this is our time to socialize, we were here all the time. We missed it. We came here tonight since it was one of the only clubs that made an announcement that they would open on a Wednesday, and as a main spot, ‘we gotta go there,’ we thought. It feels good to be back, it really does.”

Poppy: “Today is the first day, but it’s not at 100 percent yet, there aren't tons of people here. We need to wait a month or two for people to come back. No one’s dancing. The only time I’ve danced in months was on my birthday in March; I had a house party. I miss dancing. During lockdown I just played video games for fun.”

Stacy, 25

Location: Arena 10, nightlife complex

“I come here for music, music, music! And to dance a little bit. I sat home for three months. I’m a hip-hop artist. I was working on music during the lockdown but I need to hear hip-hop and be out with people. The energy is so different when you’re out with people.”

Irin, 23

Location: Kiki, K-pop bar

“It’s a blast to be out again. I always drink here. We’re not supposed to be dancing but we’re dancing anyway. Shhh. [During lockdown] we were having Zoom parties and just drinking a lot at home. I bought this [dress] to come out tonight. I was excited. This place gets crazy. One of my friends broke this table in half with his hands before lockdown.”

"This bar is for crazy people that like K-pop! It’s Wednesday but I don't care, I had to come. This is a place where everyone becomes friends. If someone here throws up, even if we don’t know them, we take them to the toilet and hold their hair, get them a wet towel."

Oak, 25 and Natsu, 26

Location: Kiki, K-pop bar

(L-R) Natsu, Irin, Oak

Oak: “It’s really, really, really refreshing to be here. Even though it doesn’t feel normal. There are all these rules in place about masks, sanitizer, room between tables. But we really missed it. This bar is our second home. We’ve been hanging out here for three years. Actually we all met here.”

Natsu: “It’s not like we didn’t see each other during lockdown. We had Zoom parties and played Korean drinking games. We all bought alcohol ourselves and then one person played DJ each time. But it wasn’t as good as being back here together.”

Sara and Tony

Location: Ekkamai Beer House

Tony: “I don’t want to talk about what I did during the lockdown. I don’t want to relive it. Just staring at my family members and doing a lot of online shopping. Staying home."

Sara: “When I heard we could come out again it was like, ‘Ohhhhh gooooood.’ It was like heaven opened up. I had surgery on my hand during lockdown and then toward the end I could just start moving my fingers, the first one I could lift was this one (lifts middle finger). That’s how I felt about lockdown. No, but seriously, I’m happy to be born and live in Thailand. Whatever they told us to do, we did it. We wore masks and stayed at home. That’s why the outbreak wasn’t so severe here.”

Arifeen, 34

Location: The Old English Pub

“It definitely feels different. Last week, I was drinking at home alone and listening to John Mayer. It was the worst. The lockdown was horrible for me. I was not feeling drinking at home alone and watching Netflix. I didn’t even feel like I could get drunk, even though I was drinking a lot. I’m actually less than a block [away] from my apartment now, but it feels so different. It’s so great to just sit here and talk about football. I really wanted to be here. I was craving connection.”

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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