Here I list the most infamous red-light districts in Asia. These are corners in major Asian cities where the sex trade is thriving. From Tokyo to Bangkok, to Singapore, these red-light districts have occupied a place in the minds of many tourists who have visited them. And there are many more still dreaming about visiting in the future.
But before you consider adding these notorious red-light districts to your itinerary, read below about these places. Here are a few of Asia’s most infamous red-light districts, ranging from outright sexual free-for-alls to sanitized tolerance zones and violent neighborhoods where tourists should never be seen. Consider yourself warned!
THE MOST INFAMOUS RED-LIGHT DISTRICTS IN ASIA
Countdown to the most infamous red-light districts in Asia
12. KABUKICHO, TOKYO, JAPAN
Right in the middle of one of the busiest tourist quarters of Tokyo, Shinjuku, sits this sex-packed part of town. Here, bars staffed exclusively by pretty young men and women host visitors, and rates coincide with the club’s reputation. In most of these establishments, the men and women are paid to dote on customers. There are bars where sex is for sale are certainly on nearly every block in this part of Tokyo as well.
Management can get extremely aggressive about how much a customer owes for drinks during any visit. Beware, your bill will not match the price quoted upon entering the establishment. It’s also worth noting that foreigners are sometimes excluded from these venues. Sex work is technically illegal, though there are ways around these laws, and organized crime plays a major part in Kabukicho.
11. WANCHAI, HONGKONG
Virtually 99% of the women you will find in bars here are working as prostitutes. Most are from the Philippines. The places in Wanchai are not known as “strip clubs” but as “discos”. You would get approached by a countless number of women asking for HK $1,000 or more for sex.
10. BLOK M, JAKARTA, INDONESIA
Blok M is a business and shopping quarter located in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, Indonesia. It runs east from Iskandarsyah street to Bulungan street in the west. North from Falatehan street to Melawai street in the south. On a daily basis, crowds of people throng its street, and even more so during night time. Much of the popularity of the quarter is due to the prices of goods (which are often low due to the relatively inexpensive property costs for vendors), and the nightlife. There are many bars and cafes, and many prostitutes frequent those places.
9. BUKIT BINTANG, KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Bukit Bintang is the heart of the night time activities. It is full of bars, “play centers” and just people everywhere. Take caution here as many people are out to scam you and everything else. While prostitution is illegal in Malaysia, it is still rampantly practiced and services are widely available. The demand is particularly high in Kuala Lumpur. Most of the sex workers are trafficked from neighboring countries like Vietnam and China.
Kuala Lumpur is a rising star in Asia for sex tourism. There are girls from all over Asia coming here to sell cheap sex. You can get a Thai girl about 30% cheaper than in Bangkok. That is crazy and doesn’t make any economic sense, but the reality speaks for itself. Kuala Lumpur sex scene was once the domain of local prostitutes, but now foreign prostitutes have swamped the locals.
And as prostitution grows in Kuala Lumpur, it seems police don’t bother to take any action. The streets in the center of Kuala Lumpur after midnight, get busy with streetwalkers.
Bukit Bintang is an upmarket red-light area in the center of KL popular among tourists. The main street is Jalan Bukit Bintang. Nearby, Beach Club Cafe is the most popular pick-up bar in KL. Most of the prostitutes come from Vietnam.
8. PATONG, PHUKET, THAILAND
Plenty of travelers land in Phuket with visions of palm-lined beaches, the turquoise Andaman Sea, and pristine beaches. And all of that can certainly be found across Thailand’s most famous tropical island. However, in Patong, there is a street known as Bangla Road or Soi Bangla. This is the party hub in Phuket, and rowdy nightclubs and bars pound with live music until late.
Much like Bangkok’s red-light districts, you’ll also find all manner of for-pay sex, sex shows, and anything you can imagine along with it. Along Bangla Road, some of the more notorious bars and clubs can be found, along with sex workers on seemingly every sidewalk. Keep your wits about you, as you would in Bangkok, as even entering one of the go-go bars can come with pretty steep fees for drinks, often aggressive management, and more-than-pushy demands.
7. SOI COWBOY, BANGKOK, THAILAND
Soi Cowboy is a short 150 meters long street in Bangkok, Thailand, with some 40, mostly go-go bars. It caters mainly to tourists and expatriates. Soi Cowboy contains one of the three largest groups of foreign-oriented bars in Bangkok, the other two being Patpong and Nana Plaza.
Soi Cowboy is near Sukhumvit Road between Sukhumvit Soi 21 (also called Soi Asoke) and Soi 23, within walking distance from the BTS Skytrain’s Asoke Station and the Bangkok MRT’s Sukhumvit Station. The Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit Hotel is nearby.
The go-go bars follow the pattern common in Thailand: alcoholic drinks are served and women in bikinis dance on a stage. There is topless or even nude dancing.
6. FIELDS AVENUE, ANGELES CITY, THE PHILIPPINES
Fields Avenue is the name of a major street running through the Balibago area of Angeles in the Philippines. It is the center of the red light district and the bar scene of the biggest entertainment district of the Philippines.
The name derives from the common military practice of naming roads adjacent to airfields as “Field” Street or “Field avenue”. Originally the name referred to the Clark Air Base and was “Clark Field Avenue”. The name evolved to become Fields Avenue.
5. PATPONG MARKET, BANGKOK, THAILAND
With its sky-high temperatures and fast pace of life, Bangkok is essentially primed for all things steamy and sordid. Sex work here is not exactly legal, but not illegal either. When you walk in Bangkok, you feel the devil is walking next to you, as the song says. You are certainly in for an experience walking the streets around Patpong Market, Soi Nana, and Soi Cowboy.
A tour of Patpong Market, past the mouth-watering street food stands and tables full of cheap T-shirts, is an assault on senses and sensibilities. You’ll hear hawkers selling everything from ping-pong shows to live sex, and most, if not all, of the participants, can be had for a price. However, if you talk to most people who’ve witnessed these escapades, the effect is far from arousing. For those who do choose to step into the bars and clubs in these parts of town expect strictly enforced (and exorbitantly priced) drink minimums, aggressive management, and high-pressure sales tactics.
4. GEYLANG, SINGAPORE
Geylang is the largest legal sex-work zone in Singapore. There are a number of brothels that operate in Geylang, though you’ll find that the whole district isn’t quite as wild as it once was. Sex work in Singapore is subject to regulations, ostensibly with the hope of making it safer for workers and patrons. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and low-budget hotels in the area. Geylang is also one of the most famous local-food districts in the entire city.
Geylang is incredibly central, though be warned that packs of gawking foreigners have been known to meet with less-than-happy locals.
3. NANA PLAZA, BANGKOK, THAILAND
Nana Plaza occupies a three-story commercial building in the Khlong Toei District of Bangkok about 300 metres from the BTS Skytrain’s Nana Station in Sukhumvit Road. It is the self-described “worlds largest adult playground”. Its name originates from the influential, property-holding Nana family, Lek Nana being the most prominent member.
Along with Soi Cowboy and Patpong, Nana Plaza is one of Bangkok’s three most concentrated red-light districts. All attract primarily tourists.
The plaza’s U-shaped building is roughly square-shaped, with a single opening on the west side, and consists of a ground floor and two additional floors arranged around a courtyard. Around twenty go-go bars operate in Nana Plaza’s three-level court.
2. ORCHARD TOWERS, SINGAPORE
Orchard Towers is a shopping center in Singapore located on the corner of Claymore Road and Orchard Road. It has a combination of bars and retail outlets. During the day the building functions as a retail and office style building, but the building is best known as a landmark entertainment complex famously described as the “Four Floors of Whores”. At any night, there could be up to 7,000 prostitutes working in Orchard Towers.
1. WALKING STREET, PATTAYA, THAILAND
Walking Street is an entertainment and red-light district in the city of Pattaya, Thailand. The street is a tourist attraction that draws foreigners and Thai nationals, primarily for its night life. The Walking Street area includes seafood restaurants, live music venues, beer bars, discothèques, sports bars, go-go bars, nightclubs, and hotels. Also on the street, tourists are often offered the opportunity to watch a variety of sex shows.
Although prostitution in Thailand is illegal, there are estimated to be 27,000 prostitutes working in Pattaya, many in Walking Street.
Many of the prostitutes work as bar girls in the bars and clubs along the street. Their clients are often required to pay a bar fine to take them out of the bar.
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