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The legendary Madrid


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#1 reader

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Posted 22 October 2017 - 08:06 PM

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While posting about the Jim Thompson film in Beer Bar forum, I got to thinking about the Madrid restaurant in Patpong. Although he met his demise two years before it opened in 1969, Thompson would have felt right at home considering the clientele who frequented the place in its early days.  The Madrid also makes occasional appearances in the trip reports, particularly those of vinapu. And as for price, what more testimony do you need than that of Christian who finds it a good value. Here's some takes of how it's been remembered over time.

 

Madrid-Bar-Patpong-Bangkok.jpg

 

Bangkok Post (August, 2013)

 

The ornate black door with the coats of arms and shields looks heavier than it is, and opens up from the gaudy seediness of Patpong Soi 1 into a world where time moves differently _ although not necessarily slower.

 

The Madrid bar and restaurant has evolved since it opened in 1969, then catering mostly to US soldiers fighting in Vietnam and later gaining a reputation for hosting pilots from the CIA's Air America and even as a place where covert operations were planned.

 

A woman who asked to be identified only as Jenny now runs Madrid; she took over the business from her Thai mother, who helped get the bar up and running with Jenny's American stepfather. The clientele was about 95% American in the old days, including many CIA and DEA agents and US embassy workers.

 

The most famous regulars were the Air America pilots who conducted clandestine operations against communists in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s. Most have now gone: Many have died, others have stopped drinking out of health concerns, and some have moved upcountry because they find Bangkok too expensive these days.

 

Pilots are still popular at Madrid, but these days they are the commercial rather than conspiratorial kind. This is helped somewhat by the fact Jenny's husband, Andre, flies for Vietnam Airlines.

 

Screenwriter Dave Walker, who calls his recent project The Poorest Man ''a Khmer Rouge story with a happy ending'', has been coming to the Madrid regularly since 1981. Of all the changes there, he says it's the people he misses the most.

 

''I miss the characters,'' he says.

 

''It was living history. The conversations here, you couldn't imagine. These guys really lived life.''

 

Stickman (May, 2013)

 

One of the great dames of Patpong, Madrid opened in 1969 and has been popular with generations of expats. Hundreds of bottles of alcohol are stacked behind the bar, yet the single-shophouse Madrid with small booths along one wall is more restaurant than bar.

 

In a city with unlimited dining options, Madrid still compares well. Madrid opens early and the eggs Benedict is a favourite. There's a daily special but Madrid is perhaps best known amongst expats for its pizzas, amazing given that pizza is the one item of farang food that polarises expats. Who doesn't think the best pizza comes from their hometown?

 

The area above the bar is said to have been a CIA safehouse in the '70s, a place where clandestine meetings were held and planning for many missions over Laos carried out.

 

Easy to walk past, Madrid is located on the main Patpong soi, about 50 metres or so along on the left-had side if you enter from the Silom Road end.

 

The Guardian (March, 2017)

 

There’s only one Vietnam veteran’s bar left in Patpong, the notorious red-light district. When Khun Daeng and her American GI husband opened the Madrid Bar and Restaurant in 1969, the first thing they did was swap the grand piano for a record player. Soon after, it became a hangout for CIA types. Men like Jack Shirley, a legendary former CIA official, drank here. The current owner, Jenny, Khun Daeng’s daughter, has not altered the decor since the Madrid’s hey-day, and it still serves the unappetising-looking but much-loved army dish known as SOS. This either means “shit on a shingle”* or “save our stomachs”, depending on who you ask. It is a mush of chipped beef, mixed with milk and gravy, slapped on toast.

 

* I can attest that it was the former, from basic training to discharge. reader

 

Teak Door blog (November, 2008)

 

The Madrid was an old CIA hangout during the Air America days. At that time, you most likely would run into Jack Shirley or Tony Poe downing a few beers in the Madrid. Tony Poe is who the Colonel Kurtz character from Apocalypse Now is based on. The photo below is an old one from the Lucy's Tiger Den. The walls at the Madrid are plastered with photos of customers new and old. Jack Shirley is on the right and Tony Poe is sitting with him to his left.

 

BillPoeShir.jpg



#2 vinapu

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 03:14 AM

I almost got heart attack looking at forum and seeing tittle 'The legendary Madrid ', for some reason I thought it to be abbreviation with full tittle like " the legendary Madrid  closing next Sunday " or something .

 

With great relief few seconds later I found I was wrong.

 

Yes, I confirm I'm fan of the place and it pizzas, particularly 'white spinach ' variety ( spinach with cheese topping ), since Christian introduced it to me few years ago , no trip to Thailand goes without visiting it at least twice.

 

Last month it provided not only meal but also shelter as I reached it just in time heavens opened with deluge, conveniently at lunch time.

 

Can't comment on good value part with medium pizza costing 265 baht for simple reason, this is only place in the ENTIRE world I like pizza from so no idea about it's cost in BKK elsewhere. I gladly pay whatever they want and can't wait for repeat.

 

I have nothing of it's fame as spy den and place where clandestine operation of bombing Laos were planned as this part brings shame on all involved and disgrace to otherwise great American nation. ( for you youngsters, Laos was neutral during Vietnam war and it's bombing was illegal and hidden from American public) but it's true it has some old times atmosphere with old fashioned bar and old pictures on the walls.

 

Genius loci of place is still well and alive, when we were dining with Christian there and talking , you guessed rightly about the boys, serving lady was clearly eavesdropping on us but since we did not mention anything compromising we let her have her fun.    



#3 steveboy

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 07:11 AM

I almost got heart attack looking at forum and seeing tittle 'The legendary Madrid ', for some reason I thought it to be abbreviation with full tittle like " the legendary Madrid  closing next Sunday " or something .

 

With great relief few seconds later I found I was wrong.

 

I would never get a heart attack over the fate of a restaurant, no matter how tasty their pizzas, believe me!  Thank God you survived.

 

But I was somewhat disappointed to see that this thread "The legendary Madrid" did not deal with the gay life in the capital of Spain, a very gay friendly nation.  I still have to visit Madrid, I have only been in Barcelona and the city Sidges on the Mediterranean, a very gay-ish resort.  I know nothing about gogo boys there, but the gays I met there were very nice. Latinos are my second choice after Asians.



#4 vinapu

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 07:20 AM

 

 

But I was somewhat disappointed to see that this thread "The legendary Madrid" did not deal with the gay life in the capital of Spain

I was hungry before  dinner so I sensed correctly it must about restaurant



#5 steveboy

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 09:19 AM

I was hungry before  dinner so I sensed correctly it must about restaurant

 

I am hungry for nice young Spanish boys like one sees in their parades and saunas, so "Madrid" brought a different image to mind.



#6 reader

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 07:46 PM

I am hungry for nice young Spanish boys like one sees in their parades and saunas, so "Madrid" brought a different image to mind.

 

So instead of trying your best to take this thread off topic, why don't you post a trip report about Madrid the city.  Or post pics of nice, young Spanish boys in photos forum. Maybe that will succeed in sating your hunger.



#7 reader

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 08:11 PM

 

Can't comment on good value part with medium pizza costing 265 baht for simple reason, this is only place in the ENTIRE world I like pizza from so no idea about it's cost in BKK elsewhere. I gladly pay whatever they want and can't wait for repeat.

 

 

I consider it fairly priced because you're getting quality ingredients, almost all of which (except veggies) have to be imported (cheese, pureed sauce, flour, olive oil).  In Bangkok, there's no better place to enjoy thin-crust pizza and no place is more convenient--or legendary--than Madrid.



#8 vinapu

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Posted 24 October 2017 - 07:25 AM

....., why don't you post a trip report about Madrid the city.  Or post pics of nice, young Spanish boys in photos forum. 

great ideas , both . Steve , roll your sleeves and start typing



#9 steveboy

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Posted 24 October 2017 - 09:11 AM

great ideas , both . Steve , roll your sleeves and start typing

 

I don't know... ask the reader.

First he is paranoid about the thread going off topic, then he asks precisely for that. 



#10 vinapu

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Posted 24 October 2017 - 09:40 AM

I don't know... ask the reader.

First he is paranoid about the thread going off topic, then he asks precisely for that. 

stating new thread is easy



#11 floridarob

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 04:27 AM

Since Totally Oz introduced me to that place is a regular stop on my trips to BKK. The waitress is funny, she remembers what I drink and what pizza I like. Tried their hamburgers too and are good....



#12 Mick44

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 12:35 AM

Madrid is always my first drink when I come to Patpong 1.  Then I always go over to eat at another old staple of the PP area, and that is LeBouchon on Patpong 2.  Down on the left past the Pink Panther bar.  Very good French food, in a very comfortable atmosphere.






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