Thai discos have been a growing staple of the local nightlife scene for some time now. If you like your music minimalist, they’re possibly not for you – but if you want pop (almost always covers) belted out with gusto, often by young women whose clothing leaves little to the imagination, they make for an unpretentious, fun night out. The Thai disco experience revolves around the plastic garlands, which patrons buy from the flower girls (they’re usually about $10) and toss over their favourite performers. We check into four and pass verdict…
Best for out-there performers
Located in a carpark guarded by two surly doormen, Ratchada offers a more effusive welcome once you’re inside (save for a garland-vending harridan who resembles a bulldog chewing a wasp). Delightful hostesses join you tableside for ‘one-six’ (an incomprehensible dice game) and iPad games, but there’s no pressure. This is the real deal, with a sprinkling of Singaporeans but a largely Thai crew and clientele – and the stage is a colourful riot of glitter and light.
The music is vibrant, and while the singers could work on their vocal cords, their sheer enthusiasm goes a long way. Judged purely on aesthetics, Ratchada’s super-smiley performers win hands down – one comely girl group donned bunny ears, while another scantily clad quintet executed a routine I can only describe as the ‘lesbo nurse special’. Boys gaily join in the fun, too, and a pool table and video games amuse punters during intervals while the DJ blasts out techno, as flesh-exposing, brass-embossed mock-deities watch on from the walls. Tacky, but fun.
Verdict It has colour and character, though there is an edge of seediness, especially on quieter nights.
#04-03 Cairnhill Place, 15 Cairnhill Rd (9631 6168, email@example.com). Mon-Fri & Sun 7pm-3am; Sat 7pm- 4am. Beer $42 per jug.
Best for Thai rock
This sprawling giant on the top floor of Orchard’s seediest mall has the widest musical remit of all our Thai discos (though despite its name, not a lot to do with Michael Jackson). Done up like a vast TV studio, the stage variously hosts rock covers bands, dancing girl groups and soloists blaring out everything from Nirvana to The Cranberries. Screens show Premier League games (which no one seems interested in) and garish rear-side sofa booths elicit drunken girl/boy fun. The overall vibe is professional enough – one ah beng waster is shown the exit after one shandy too many – yet it’s noisy, impersonal and about as inviting as a boxing ring, with poor service and grim toilets. It’s clearly made its name, though, having hosted gigs by Thai rock luminaries Endorphine, Potato and, er, Big Ass.
Verdict Top Thai bands aside, you’re better off at Ratchada or NaNa.
#05-20 Orchard Plaza, 150 Orchard Rd (6738 5855, www.clubneverland.com). Nightly 10pm- 5am (happy hour 10pm-midnight). Beer $13 per mug.
Best for Adele haters
TAB’s ‘Asian Fusion’ nights
TAB’s late-night offering (after gigs) – in conjunction with the edgier Neverland – is a watered-down, slow-burning snooze-athon. Lengthy techno intervals punctuate the karaoke, which ranges from gleefully silly girl quartets to skimpily clad soloists massacring Adele tunes. None of the mostly female ‘idols’ look Thai, and seem to receive garlands in inverse proportion to singing ability. If the bad singing doesn’t drive you away, the utterly clueless service quite possibly will.
Verdict Don’t bother.
Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Rd (www.tab.com.sg). Nightly from 10pm. Beer $15 per pint.
Best for dancing – WINNER
The crowd is young, dumb and full of fun at Club NaNa, the city’s oldest bastion of Bangkok-style naughtiness. The nicely not-too-big, not-too-small interior aims for an upscale ambience with its mini-chandeliers, lampshades and scarlet walls, and superior house and pop on the decks, though on our visit it was somewhat lost on the wastrels bar-side. Singers, similarly, look the part and hit their notes more often than not, though we’re not sure why one raised her middle finger when a punter offered her a drink.
By the end of the night, when a curiously amorphous ang moh lady gyrates down the runway, the joint has descended into a seething morass of polysexual frolicking. It’s about the only Thai disco where the crowd actually dances. Bar staff come across as a tad reluctant, but for such a successful club it remains friendly – there’s no pushy garland selling, and nothing unduly seedy.
Verdict With dancing and rabble-rousing, this is as close as the city gets to a Thai superclub.
#01-02/03 Central Mall, 5 Magazine Rd (6535 3030, www.nana.com.sg). Sun-Thu 8.30pm-5am; Fri & Sat 8.30pm-6am (happy hour nightly from 8.30-11pm). Beer $15 per pint.