As you make your way down Soi 33 you will notice a lot of nice ladies sitting outside bars with names like Monet, Goya and Renoir, hence the term artist bars, or painter bars.
These girls are not dressed the same way as most of the girls that you will see in the bars or go-gos. They are in nice evening dresses and the great majority of them look as if they've had their make up applied by a professional beautician.
The bars found in Soi 33 are very low pressure. You will not find yourself being assaulted by dozens of girls all looking for you to buy them drinks, although in a few of the places such as Napoleon's you may find yourself being asked if you would like the company of a lady. If that's not what you desire at that moment, a simple 'not yet' or 'no, thank you' and you'll be left alone to enjoy your drink.
The Drinks prices are generally more expensive in these establishments than most other bars you may find yourself visiting in the Bangkok nightlife scene , so if you want to check the area out, and you are on a budget, it may be worth your while visiting before 9 pm as that is when most of the bars finish their happy hour. The prices vary slightly from bar to bar but after 9 pm you can figure on spending 150 baht on a beer. A bottle of whisky or Jack Daniels will set you back roughly 2500 baht with free mixers. The bars do have a lot of promotions at any one time but obviously this varies from bar to bar. You'll find that when a bar has a promotion the price for a bottle of spirits drops to around 1800 baht.
A lot of people like the painter bar's purely for the attitude of the girls. They leave you alone in the majority of the cases until you wish otherwise. After they've had a few drinks with you, however, they are no more held back than any other working girl you have come across in Bangkok. A lot of people have had very wild parties in some of the bars though I would say that the ability to speak a bit of Thai is definitely an advantage. The most important thing to bear in mind is not to listen to anyone that tells you that some of these girls go and some do not go with customers. This is utter nonsense. Certainly some of the girls like to play hard to get and you may have to make return visits, but in the end you are playing the same game as in most of the Thai Nightlife areas.
If you decide that you like one of these girls, there are a few different things that can happen. In a bar such as Van Gogh's, the girls that are working behind the bar cannot come around the other side to see you until you have bought them 2 drinks. There is no problem, however, with the hostesses who are already on your side of the bar. The barfines, however, are more expensive than the vast majority of tourist orientated places in Thailand - depending on venue anywhere from 1100 to 1400 baht.
The rate you pay the girl, however, is as always between you and her and this can vary from individual to individual as with every other area in the city. Another good thing about Soi 33 is that if you do take one of these girls you can take them just over the road to the Peep Inn, probably one of the finest short time hotels in Bangkok.
So are the places really worth the extra money? If you are talking about the quality of the girls then it is only fair to mention that a lot of them could be found working at nearly any other nightlife venue in the city, although it has to be said that there are some truly stunning girls working here, too. How much of the attractiveness is due to the skill of the make up artist and the expensive dress you will find out for yourself in the morning.
Soi 33 is like a stop gap between the Normal farang go-go or beer bar scene and the more expensive Hostess scene and should be seen as such. If you want to play in the Clubs that are generally considered to contain the "stunning" girls then Soi 33 prices wouldn't even cover your tips. Note an important thing to bear in mind, the really expensive members clubs cater to what is considered the Thai or Asian Ideal of beauty (over simplified, tall with white skin). If you are one of the Buriram, Surin, Sisaket fan club as so many of us are then you will wonder what the fuss is all about.
The main thing that sets Soi 33 apart for a lot of people is basically the atmosphere in the bars and the attitude of the girls once you decide to party with them. In closing, I would say that if you've done everything else that there is to do in Bangkok and you're starting to feel jaded with the normal nightlife scene then go and give the artists bars a try.
You may become hooked. A lot of people are.