Party time again in Bangkok after curfew lifted
The generals who seized power in Thailand disrupted one of the country's most lucrative industries - the go-go bars that were forced to close early because of a curfew.
Now the junta has lifted the curfew, giving a green light for Bangkok's red-light districts and other evening activities to roar back to life. For the first time in a month, Saturday night freedom returned to the Thai capital over the weekend.
"This is a party city, that's why we're here," said Dan Moore, a 40-year-old Englishman who had arrived to celebrate a friend's bachelor party. He had flown in, just like the 1980s pop song says, for "one night in Bangkok".
Moore's group started the night on one of the capital's most infamous red-light streets, Soi Cowboy, where they toasted the curfew being lifted.
"As for what happens the rest of the night? Who knows. This is Bangkok," said the groom-to-be, who asked to be identified just by his first name, Darren, to save his future marriage.
When the army staged the May 22 coup, the generals' first order of business was to impose the curfew. Initially set at 10pm, it gradually was eased to midnight, and then lifted in several popular resort areas after complaints from the tourism industry.
The junta then rolled out a campaign to "return happiness to the people" of this politically polarised country. The campaign included free concerts and movie tickets.
Yesterday, movie-goers jammed a city centre shopping mall and Bangkok cinemas for the free screening an epic film featuring a medieval king.
The junta also engineered a last-minute deal with the World Cup's exclusive broadcaster to show the tournament's 64 matches for free.
The grand gesture, however, was incompatible with a curfew that prevented people from leaving home to watch the matches. So last Friday, the junta announced it was fully lifting the curfew, saying there was no longer a threat of violence and that tourism needed to be revived.
Bangkok's backpacker haven, Khao San Road, was packed on Saturday night with many soccer fans saying they planned to celebrate the end of the curfew by pulling an all-nighter.
It struck some tourists as incongruous that all-night partying was now allowed in a country still technically under martial law.
"You would never know this place is under military control," said German backpacker Dustin Ratz, 23, who arrived on Saturday morning and was mesmerised by the evening scene on Khao San Road. "I love Bangkok. This place is amazing," he said.