Friday, July 8, 2011


Shela at Pattaya

Location: 106/12-13 Lang Suan, Bangkok, Thailand

Opened: Around 2004?

Closed: Not clear when

Here's a description of the original Shela in Bangkok from gaygetter:

Shela is a lesbian nightclub near the city's major downtown park, Lumpini, with live bands playing every night, including the famous singer Palmy and the Thailand's first all lesbian band, “Friends For Life”! Fans crammed the balcony, imported whiskey was flowing at every table.

And a few words from lonelyplanet:

Lumpini Park
Shela draws a slightly more mature crowd with live music, a pool table and food. Women only.

And from

Located near Lumphini Park, this cosy all-girl restaurant and pub attracts sophisticated lesbians in their 30s, with great cocktails to go with some fabulous Thai food. Local bands perform and a pool table adds further interest.

So far Shela sounds like pretty much any other upscale lesbian bar in Asia. But how many lesbian bars get mentioned by the Great Gray Lady herself, the New York Times?

It was within the context of Thailand's military coup on September 19, 2006. The constitution was suspended, martial law was imposed. Only one problem:

Someone forgot to tell the lesbians.

Several nights after the nonviolent coup, a crush of cheering women crowded around the stage at Shela, a lesbian nightclub near the city's major downtown park, Lumpini, where a popular singer, Palmy, was performing. Fans crammed the balcony, imported whiskey was flowing at every table and a lone tom, local slang for a butch lesbian, was dancing by herself behind the pool table.

Coup or not, it was just another night out for Bangkok's puying rak puying, or women who love women. Five years ago, this scene would have been unthinkable. Lesbians either met each other at non-gay establishments or through word-of-mouth parties and restaurants. But thanks to the rapidly expanding Thai Internet, and a growing number of younger, more self-possessed lesbians, two nightclubs and several weekly parties catering exclusively to lesbians have opened in Bangkok in the past two years.

A little more background information on Thailand's lesbian community is found at girlports:

The butch-femme dynamic is extremely present in Thailand, in fact it’s almost mandatory (but here it’s called “toms” (for tom-boy) and “dees” (for ladies).  You’ll actually see toms regularly around town, fitting in easily, the same way M2F transsexuals, or very effeminate gay men or transvestites (often referred to as “kathoys”) are generally accepted in Thai society.  Western lesbians who don’t really fit into the “tom/dee” reality may find this, almost as much as language, a barrier to communicating with local lesbians....If you go to any of the lesbian bars in Bangkok, expect to be one of the only foreigners in the place.  The locals are usually very friendly though, so don’t feel shy.

Girlports and several other websites indicate that Shela (in Bangkok) is now closed, but no one seems to provide a date. The Shela in Bangkok is not to be confused with the Shela located in Pattaya, which is apparently still open. Though I have borrowed signage from the Pataya Shela, because I can't find any photos associated with the Bangkok Shela. Signage found here. Photo of Lumpini Park.

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