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Patpong gets its name from the family that owns much of the area's property, the Patpongpanich (or Patpongpanit), immigrants from Hainan Island, China, who purchased the area in 1946. At that time it was an undeveloped plot of land on the outskirts of the city. A small klong (canal) and a teakwood house were the only features. The family built a road – now called Patpong 1 – and several shophouses, which were rented out. Patpong 2 was added later, and both roads are private property and not city streets. Patpong 3 and Soi Thaniya are not owned by the Patpongpanich family. The old teak house was torn down long ago and the klong was filled in to make room for more shophouses. Originally simply an ordinary business area, the coming of the bars eventually would drive out most of the other businesses.
By 1968, a handful of nightclubs existed in the area, and Patpong found some use as a R&R (rest and recuperation) location for U.S. troops serving in the Vietnam War, although the main R&R area was along New Petchburi Road. In its prime during the 1970s and 1980s, Patpong was the premier nightlife area in Bangkok for foreigners, and was famous for its sexually explicit shows. In the mid-1980s the sois hosted an annual Patpong Mardi Gras, which was a weekend street fair that raised considerable money for Thai charities. In the early-1990s, however, the Patpongpanich family turned the sidewalks of Patpong 1 Road into a night market, renting out spaces to street vendors.
The consequence was that Patpong lost much of its vibrancy as a nightlife strip, becoming crowded with tourist shoppers who ignored the nightlife. Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy drew away many of Patpong's thrill seekers. Patpong became a designated "entertainment zone" in 2004, along with Royal City Avenue (RCA) and portions of Ratchadapisek Road, where the largest commercial sex venues are found. This designation allows its bars to stay open until 02:00, instead of the 24:00 or 01:00 legal closing times enforced in other areas.