It may not be unusual to see Christmas trees outside of Thai restaurants in early January. However Christmas trees adorned profusely with dangling condoms is an eye-popping attention catcher. Welcome to Cabbages and Condoms Bangkok, a restaurant with an unorthodox name and a serious cause.
As Captain Condom, the first of mannequin condom covered characters greets visitors, the social good behind the quirky figures unfolds. With posters and pamphlets interspersed with the likes of jolly Santa’s white condom beard, the innovative approach to family planning in Thailand comes forth.
In 1974 the much loved public official Mechai Viravaidys founded the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). At the time the population growth of Thailand was 3.3%, an average of seven children per family!
Realizing the serious nature of the exploding population, PDA established a community based distribution service of contraception. With volunteers recruited from villages, the trained villagers then provided pills and condoms to their neighbours.
The Cabbages and Condoms restaurant was opened by PDA, one of Thailand’s most successful non profit, private development organizations. The name originates from Mechai’s belief that that birth control should be as easy to access as vegetables in the market.
Why would you want to eat at Cabbages and Condoms?
You mean besides having one of the most unique restaurant decors in the world? After all who who doesn’t want to dine near a bride with her skirt ruffling in white condoms?
Truthfully, the ambiance of the large outdoor terrace with thousands of twinkling lights and graceful trees is far from quirky. The condom clad characters wait patiently for attention at the perimeter of the massive dining area.
The food reviews, don’t just take our word for it, are extraordinary. With an extensive menu that arrives in a binder, there is a mind boggling variety of choices.
Some of the restaurant specialities include Massaman Curry, a sweet dish with potato, and Mieng Khum, an ancient Thai appetizer of lemon, dried shrimp and deep fried coconut. Many reviews rave about the green curry served with your choice of chicken, pork or beef.
Thankfully Cabbages and Condoms have none of the food selections found by Ryan Biddulph at Blogging From Paradise. You just have to see for yourself here.
Is Cabbages and Condoms only in Bangkok?
Although the Bangkok restaurant began as a vegetable stand, it has expanded to 400 seats both indoor and outdoor. As from Cabbages and Condoms humble beginnings, the chuckles and snickers are heard from passers by. And yet who can resist coming in to have a look at what all this condom business is about?
Now considered one of the best restaurants in Thailand if not south east Asia, Cabbages and Condoms can be found in other locations in Thailand as well as Japan and England.
Although the Bangkok restaurant has garnered world wide attention, the PDA’s work also includes community empowerment, water resource development, environmental sanitation, HIV/AIDS education and programs aimed at eradicating poverty. You can read more about the work being done here.
Shopping in Bangkok never felt so good
It took me a time to make my way to the handicraft shop on the way out of Cabbages and Condoms. After all I felt the need to chat up each of the assorted condom clad mannequins.
As you can imagine my husband made himself scarce and pretending to be looking for change, he slunk behind the waterfall. Not that I ever embarrass him.
In the Cabbages and Condoms gift shop, handicrafts made from villagers from all over Thailand are on sale. Both meal and souvenir purchases support the work of PDA.
Although some of the souvenirs may be a bit risque to take home to Grandma, there are also non-condom offerings for sale.
Oh and don’t think you will be getting a mint at the end of the meal when it is time to pay your bill. A condom will be your parting gift. Won’t do much for your breath but an interesting keepsake from dining in Bangkok.
Where is Cabbages and Condoms in Bangkok
The latex clad restaurant is found at Sukhumvit 12, less than a five minute walk from Sukhumvit Road. If you are not staying in the area, Cabbages and Condoms is easily accessible by public transit, within walking distance from Asok Skytrain Staion and Sukhumvit MRT.
What is the most interesting restaurant you have been to?
Working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, around 1991 I visited the restaurant with Mechai Viravaidya, an amazing man. USAID was the number one promoter of family planning in the world at the time, a fact ignored by President Bush’s opponents because he opposed abortion “as a method of family planning.”
It is fascinating to me that Cabbages and Condoms still exists after all these years.
Ray how fabulous to know that not only you visited Cabbages and Condoms but with Mechai! Politics often gets in the way of programs and progress. I truly appreciate you sharing this with us.
Wow this restaurant sure has a different business plan! If it works and makes money, go with it. 😎
John we have never seen anything like it in all of our travels. What we loved most is that it is a non profit doing social good and has been around for decades.
Sue – what a hilarious post! I love funky stuff like this. Here in San Diego I recently went to The Cat Cafe where I participated in cat yoga. Also went to a new Japanese place in Little Italy where they make Bao Buns into little pigs, chickens, pandas, etc. And down in the Gaslamp area is a kitschy bar with bar bites called Trailer Park After Dark. Happy Hour starts at 5pm for $1 beers and then increases $1 every hour until 9pm. Music changes each hour too from 50’s to 90’s. The decor is trailer trash.
I love themed places. Thanks for introducing us to this restaurants that serves up birth control. The Asians do seem to go out on the limb more than we do.
Ginger I love your descriptions of these unique places. Cat yoga you say? Well now that sounds fabulous. I’m also very keen on that happy hour pricing idea. Sounds like San Diego has some great spots.
Glad you enjoyed the post. We were so glad that friends told us about it before we went to Bangkok.
Oh, I meant to comment also on the photo showing the free condoms – one bin was for Republicans and the other for Democrats. I guess at this time we know who the biggest dick is, right???? But yet his hands are small so hmmmm????
Haha Ginger you have a good eye!
What a great idea, and what a fabulous place!
Alison isn’t it fun to find these unusual spots in our travels?
Wow, how times have changed. During my high school years in the late 1960s in order to acquire a condom, a teenager would have to make the long hike to the rear of the pharmacy to approach an authority figure, the pharmacist, the dour guy wearing the white lab coat. He had questions for you though, such as “What size to do you want?” Many a teenager would be holding onto the edge of that counter to support their trembling legs while racking that hormone ravaged brain for the correct response. This was a daunting question! Normal?? Average??? Now Santa is bring them to all the nice boys…and girls too?
Allan I couldn’t stop laughing at your description. So true. Accessibility is certainly the message and the theme at Cabbages and Condoms. I don’t know if you can see it in any of the photos but at the base of each condom clad character are a bag of individually packaged condoms meant to be taken by visitors. Naughty or nice Santa encourages everyone.
This restaurant is most interesting and unique. I’m pleased that this program is being effective. Many of the families can’t afford all those children, so education about birth control is important.
Darlene you have described the issue in a nutshell. Wonderful to see such a creative way of dealing with a massive issue and the success of both the restaurant and the program. Thanks kindly for sharing this on Twitter. Very much appreciated.
Great post, Sue: Fun, interesting and important. Had a friend whose job was distributing free condoms. His garage was filled with boxes and boxes. The condom Santa would have been perfect for him!
That’s fascinating Curt. Was he doing it as a volunteer or as a distributor to stores? Either way the Santa condom character would have been a great uniform!
Those condom costumes are works of art! I had a momentary gag reflex at the sight of Santa’s beard, but I’m over that now. 😉 And the menu sounds fabulous. What fun!
Diane I think you would have come with a lot of good material for your blog at Cabbages and Condoms. I too initially felt a bit overwhelmed at the sight of it all, especially Santa. However the more i learned about the good being done through the organization the less it bothered me.
Such an interesting place Sue! I can’t imagine why Dave slunk away from you!! Thanks for the information and review, it’s very informative as well as entertaining 🙂
Haha well he’s usually a pretty good sport. Not quite so keen on me talking to non living things it seems. So unusual right?
Cabbbages and Condoms was one of those rare finds and one with a message we were delighted to share.
You can only support a venture like this, Sue, and be grateful that so many others have done so. 7 children, no matter how much you love them, really isn’t practical or fair. Thanks for sharing, hon. If ever I pass by… 🙂 🙂
I agree completely Jo. It’s not too often one sees such a great cause and it is so easy to contribute to the success. Happy to share it with you and many thanks for sharing it on Twitter too. Very much appreciated.
Amazing idea, clever, creative but also very socially responsible initiative. I had no idea about this place, so thank you for bringing it to our attention😄
Gilda isn’t it fun to discover these unique finds while we travel? So happy to share not only the restaurant but the cause behind it.
Ok. You win the prize for the most unusual restaurant selection 🙂
I can’t help but wonder if it was a deliberate attempt at irony to name the organization “Population and Community Development Association, PDA for short” … or as the acronym is otherwise know as “Public Display of Affection” 😉
All joking aside, this is important work and I cheer people like Mechai Viravaidya for the difference they make.
Joanne it didn’t even dawn on me the dual PDA abbreviation. My guess is a pure coincidence but I do like thinking there may have been some clever irony there.
Had friends not told us prior to our departure for Bangkok we never would have found this unique spot. Fabulous to see what is possible with a unique approach.
What a wonderful idea Sue, and something that you would just have to support. Brilliant cause and such an original concept. Love it.
Isn’t it grand to find these gems when traveling Jonno? Especially when it involves a good cause. Thank you for your enthusiastic response.
Immediately sent this to my daughter who works in public health, mostly in Africa and mostly with family planning and HIV, both of which involve lots of talk about condoms! I eagerly await the next outposts of this restaurant in Kigali, Accra, Kampala, and more! 🙂
But seriously, this field is one where it takes all kinds of information and persuasion to make a different in people’s habits across diverse cultures. Using humor and fun is one good way to destigmatize something like condom use, and I have to think Asia is a great place to start as they are already pretty cool with talking about sex!
Lexie it sounds as though your daughter is doing some incredible work. One can only hope the work she and organizations like PDA spread far and wide.
I do think using a casual sense of fun is a wonderful way to make the topic of condom use an easy topic. I do think the most creative educational concept I have ever seen.
I think this is brilliant! To combine a really really good restaurant with positive social impact is fantastic. At first as I was reading and seeing the photos it seemed somewhat weird ~ no really definitely weird ~ but as I continued to read, it totally totally makes sense.
Clearly more people would use condoms if they were handed out readily available, cost nothing etc. It is always the case, that people use things they get easily or for free. And how great that they do community empowerment and provide so much to help those communities in need.
BRAVO!!! Thanks for sharing this and helping get them more attention and customers.
Peta I think my feeling was very similar. I was keen to visit Cabbages and Condoms after friends mentioned it but on first sight I was a bit taken aback. However as the evening went on and we learned more about the work of PDA the whole thing seemed absolutely brilliant. You are so correct about human nature and if something is available and free then it will be used.
I appreciate your enthusiastic feedback. Always wonderful to share a good news story.
I haven’t made it over there yet but this post may be the prod that I need. Seven children per family would be a totally unsustainable number. Pretty crazy to think how much so many cultures have changed in just a generation or two regarding the number of kids they have.
Jeff it is definitely worth a visit. Friends had told us about it before we left for Thailand otherwise it’s not something we would have stumbled upon. I agree that kind of population growth is unsustainable.
That sure is an interesting restaurant with an important message. I just love those mannequins – to combine the creative with education and make it all look attractively tasteful and pretty is a feat. Plus, not really a place you’d expect in Thailand. Thanks for sharing this different twist in the restaurant and education world. If we ever go back to Bangkok, we will surely have to check it out!
Definitely a unique take on family planning education Liesbet. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing it and we would certainly recommend it to anyone making a trip to Bangkok.
This def feels like Bangkok Sue LOL. Good cause too because hey; we have enough freaking human beings already!
Certainly a creative way to bring awareness, education to the masses. I think living in Canada with our vast areas of land we often lose sight of the challenges of over population in other parts of the world.
Thanks for sharing my link Sue!
A pleasure Ryan. Well not so much a pleasure to look at that insect buffet but a valuable analogy form your story.
I love it! This is certainly a great marketing technique to bring awareness. And no Sue, I cannot imagine that you would ever embarrass your husband! Mine would have probably knocked someone over bolting for the door.
That made me laugh out loud LuAnn. How could one resist not chatting it up with these characters? All for an excellent cause.
Wow. What a concept for a restaurant, and a concept drawn from an important cause. The condoms do make very believable outfits…though I don’t know how breathable they might be. Wouldn’t have been surprised if you actually stopped to chat to the mannequins there since you are an extrovert and if so, you would probably be seen as a very nice visitor 🙂 After reading your post, all restaurants I’ve visited pales in comparison to this one 🙂
My extroverted ways get me in all kinds of pickles. I chuckled at your insight into the non breathable outfits. Well I had not thought of that. All for a great cause.
Darn Sue! We spent a couple of weeks in Bangkok, and I’m not sure how we missed this all-purpose establishment. In fact, our little apartment was in the same neighborhood. Oh well. Next trip I’ll find it. Interesting art and ideas like this make me realize how stuffy we are in the US. A worthy cause and message delivered with a bit of humor and panache – what could be better? ~James
James this may be a first! Since you two are the masters of finding unusual and unique spots I shall feel quite smug having found something you did not. 🙂
I love this initiative for so many reasons. I can’t imagine the reaction here in Calgary. We North Americans have a lot to learn.
I remembered this post last week … this is unbelievable, but I met up with Jeff and Kristi Bell in Bangkok, and this restaurant popped up on his phone as bring close to where we were having a rooftop beer! Crazy life coincidences, eh? (We did eat there.) And he said he has met you guys, too! Under the transitive property, I think this means you and I need to meet!
Lexie of course we must meet and how fabulous that you met Jeff. Kristi was ill when we were in Bangkok so sadly we didn’t get a chance to meet her.
You would be more than welcome at our home in Calgary. Have we mentioned the Rocky Mountains nearby? 🙂