Tis’ the season to be jolly, and few Bangkok establishments reflect the holiday spirit better than the dozen or so bars at the foot of Soi 4. The ones clustered around the entrance to Nana Plaza in particular are packed with reveling expats and tourists most nights cheering on some English Premier League contest on the big screens. Or maybe nursing a Tiger beer on one of the stools facing out onto the sidewalk, swapping raucous stories with fellow boozers as they watch the jet-lagged, gawking new ar-rivals wander by.
Despite earnest efforts, I have never become a bar regular here. For one thing, I don’t care for soccer (excuse me, football). A bunch of sweaty fellows running about kicking a ball back…and…forth, back…and…forth, and if you can endure this monotony for a half hour or so, you just might see a goal scored. Nor am I fond of beer, a beverage totally alien to my sweet tooth. (Some people throw up after consuming five or six bot-tles. I can vomit after but five or six swallows.)
But it’s not the booze or cable sports that draw people to the Soi. Such enjoyments are commonplace in any Western nation. One doesn’t need to fly halfway across the planet just to guzzle down a Heineken. What at-tracts the customers is the exotic female presence that garnishes these watering holes. For newcomers fresh off the plane, these bar companions can appear very alluring (and become even more so after the third round of drinks has been consumed). I was myself overwhelmed my first few weeks here back in 2011. It’s a kid-in-a-candy-store experience. But rec-ently I’ve noticed a disturbing change.
It began when I found myself able to walk past the bars with barely a glance at the women seated out front. At first I thought I had finally be-come numb to the ubiquitous boozing and sex trade that is the hallmark of my neighborhood. But then when I started taking a closer look at what was on display, I realized the girls are simply not that pretty anymore. Meander through a Bangkok shopping mall and your neck will be sore from swiveling your head from side to side as one slim beauty after another passes by. Alas, that kind of eye candy is now absent in the bars, some of whose occupants are just plain dumpy while others have a trashy air about them — even by Soi 4 standards. Personally I’m glad they keep their heads buried in their smartphones instead of trying to entice the passing tourists. The few times one of them has looked up and beckoned to me, I’ve had to repress a shudder.
It is not just me who has noticed this deterioration. Other long-term ex-pats are complaining too, and a local blogger has devoted an entire post to the problem (see below link). The best explanation is that because of Thailand’s improving economy, young women now have more oppor-tunities and are increasingly opting for jobs that do not require them to have sex with aged, pot-bellied Westerners. If you can imagine that. This leaves the ones who are usually less ambitious (and, quite possibly, less concerned about their personal appearance) to man the Soi ramparts. The dregs, if you will.
For those still seeking a measure of beauty, the go-gos are probably the best option, though it sounds like they are also are suffering from a de-cline in quality. But it is all relative. For example, I’d take an average looking go-go dancer over a “cute” bar girl (an oxymoron nowadays) any time. Gyrating in front of customers night after night under the flashing strobe lights requires a firmer body and better looks than what’s needed to skulk on a bar stool in some dark corner of a drinking joint.
For those contemplating a visit to Bangkok in the near future to sample the “cuisine”, by all means stop in at a one of the street-side bars and take in the atmosphere. Just do your…shopping elsewhere.
Related Posts You May Enjoy
Stickman Blogger: Woof Woof!
Holiday Vacation Notice: Next posting will be Sunday, January 12, 2014.
It is the phone call or email that any Westerner who has had even a brief fling with a Thai lady inevitably receives. The initial reaction can often be one of pleasant surprise, hearing from a woman with whom they had shared a few days together, full of sightseeing and pseudo-romance (the so-called girlfriend experience). Those fellows who are especially new to the game may even be flattered (“She has not forgotten me!”).
Well of course she hasn’t. But her sudden interest has nothing to do with your charm; you have simply been pegged as someone she thinks she can get money out of. Most likely she has a list of “donors” and your name has come up. Time to make the pitch.
Her reasons for needing help are usually family-related: her mother is ill; her daughter requires school money; her grandmother has died (again). On occasion the crisis may actually be real, but that is beside the point. These predicaments, which have been polished and successfully tested on earlier flings and boyfriends, are simply devices used to elicit knee-jerk sympathies and pry open wallets.
Nevertheless, the need for money is quite real. For many women, there was a past boyfriend or husband who left them with children to raise and no support. Others have family obligations such as parents (or maybe a lazy sibling) to take care of.
But this does not explain the entire picture. Many go-go dancers actually make good money, especially if they service a customer at one of the short-time hotel rooms a few times a week. The problem is that the girls have cash management skills that would make Enron blush, lending to friends and spending frivolously. Money does not merely slip through their fingers, it dissolves there.
Another reason for the perpetual poverty stems from people’s attitudes. The Thais’ idea of long-term planning is deciding what to order at Mc-Donalds. The Aesop Fable about The Ant and The Grasshopper would find no traction here. Why save for the winter when there in fact seems to be no ultimate season of grim reckoning? Just get by…day by day.
So what to do when one of your former one-and-only true loves tries to get back in touch? The best solution is to ignore them, though their per-sistence may surprise you. One of my ex-communicated harem members, after a month’s hiatus, recently called me three times within a five minute interval with a dozen rings per attempt. She was both desperate for more money and fully aware I was avoiding her. Her neediness oozed out of my ringing cell, making me want to hide behind my sofa. But I have not heard from her since, meaning I can safely venture outside.
“Nice to meet you. My name Neon.”
When entering a Thailand watering hole, I first look for a pool table, then a halfway cute partner. Failure to select someone means you will likely be paired with one of the less attractive girls while the bar proprietor keeps the “lookers” stationed out front to draw in more suckers. Neon clearly stood out, then further impressed me by taking one out of three games of Eight Ball. As one who has little patience with women who whiff shots then giggle uncontrollably, her left-handed, no-nonsense pool stroke was refreshing. I quickly bought her a beer as I nursed a Jim Beam and coke.
Unlike the U.S., when you buy a woman a drink in a Thai bar, the question is not if she will go home with you but when. It definitely cuts through the BS one runs across back home and most important, elimin-ates the need for the guy to have some dynamite pickup line. (Me, I could not talk an alcoholic into entering a liquor store.)
With the booze flowing, we soon were having a merry time, not really caring who won each game. Soon I broached the idea of our going home together, with Neon quickly consenting. Paying her bar fine (the fee for taking a girl out of the establishment), I gallantly escorted her around the corner and up the street to my studio apartment.
In my room I already had the usual weapons of mass romance in place: candles, Elton John’s greatest hits, a used towel immaculately folded, a used toothbrush carefully inserted back into its wrapper… For one frigh-tening moment I feared I had misplaced the condoms, but when I brushed against my suitcase and it rebounded off the wall, I realized where they were.
Nevertheless, there was one unforgivable oversight: I had forgotten the wine! What was Neon going to think, entering an apartment that lacked a robust Chardonnay?
There are moments in your life when you stand at the precipice. When the difference between ruin and redemption hinge on a few well-chosen words.
Neon supplied them: “You have whiskey?” A pretty, lithe, brown woman with a mischievous smile asking if I had hard liquor?!?! This was beyond anything I had ever fantasized about. Nervously, I suggested that though I was out at the moment, perhaps a run to the nearby 7-11 could be done to pick up a bottle (or two or three).
Neon said that was fine and while I was out she would take a shower.
The neighborhood 7-11 is right around one hundred meters from the front gate of my apartment building. I made it there in .03 of a second under the gold medal time at the Beijing Olympics.
Arriving back at the love nest with the booze, I immediately poured her a Seagram’s and water, then hurriedly took a shower of my own. A few minutes later I was back in the room and noticed her empty glass.
This concerned me. Had she spilled it? Seeing no evidence, I decided to make her a second drink and stood slack-jawed as it quickly vanished.
“I corny! You make me very corny!”, Neon suddenly and repeatedly ex-claimed as she climbed onto the bed and began sliding towards me. (And just what the hell was she saying? Horny?)
To my horror, and far too late, I realized the monster I’d created. Grab-bing the Seagram’s bottle (the one non-organic object with a chance of sustaining her attention), I slowly backed into the bathroom. In a last, desperate attempt to stave off a sexual version of the Alamo, I raised it over my head. “Stop!” I cried, trying to keep the terror out of my voice. “You try boom-boom me, no drink more whiskey!”.
My neighbor found me the next morning. The door was partly open and I was curled up in a fetal position in a corner of the room, mumbling some-thing about Davey Crockett. I was taken by a friend to a local physician who prescribed some sedatives while gently poo-pooing the idea of a woman with an uncontrollable sex drive. While intrigued to have met a Thai who had obviously married an American girl from the Midwest, I nevertheless tried to convince him of the lethality of the local species and the need to warn other foreigners. But it was an exercise in futility. Find-ing his condescending attitude infuriating, I finally stormed out of the office.
That afternoon I left an envelope addressed to Neon at her bar. Inside was the doctor’s business card. I figured he deserved a walk on the wild side.
First, some forthright Pattaya candor is called for. The ladies are here for the money. To take a bar girl home costs anywhere from thirty-five dol-lars for a few hours (known as “short time”) to the entire night for maybe twice that. Note that the prices will, from your perspective, fluctuate in accordance with the exchange rate. Not that this really enters into the cal-culations once you’ve had three Tiger beers and the girl is rubbing your arm and looking at you like you are the most handsome man she’s seen in years.
So how does one handle an evening with a woman more interested in the wallet in your back pocket instead of anything on the opposite side of the body? Here are some of my secrets honed over the course of almost ten nights of diligent study.
Have three or four in the bathroom ready and waiting. Recommend you keep a separate one for each of your special friends with their name on it. Do not be afraid to leave them lying out. This lets your date know you are a bonna-fide Ladies Man (called a “butterfly” in Thailand) and gives you a bit of leverage in what is, after all, a business relationship.
Do NOT make the mistake of getting some fancy-pants French vintage that you can barely pronounce. This only would confirm a Thai’s view of you as a rich wimp who cannot get girls without a barrel of alcohol. You might as well just open your wallet and shake out the bills.
Instead, consider Thai wine. Or Listerine Mouthwash to save a few baht. They taste about the same.
The real challenge here is not in avoiding the life-threatening STDs, but rather the tenacious cellophane wrapping the packages come in, which seem to have been designed to withstand a terrorist attack. Begin your ef-forts to open these early in the afternoon while still sober. Use a sharp knife, or if the seal is particularly resistant, explosives.
Hitting The Streets
Choosing A Bar
Amble slowly down the street, keeping an eye out for ones that have a few attractive faces with hardly any foreign customers, thus assuring that you will have the bulk of their attention. This is called the “lone rooster in the hen house” approach and is one of my favorite methods.
Choosing A “Date”
As you enter the establishment, you will be confronted by a harem of smiling ladies. Slow down and give yourself a chance to select one that strikes your fancy. Do not worry about reciprocal feelings. Despite her attentions, she’s there for the money.
Now here is how the game is played: she will encourage you to buy a few rounds for the two of you. Do not take offense; this is part of her job. To pace yourself, go with mixed drinks, which the bartenders water down to the level of Kool-Aid.
Eventually, if you have not made any moves, she will ask if you would like to take her home. Hypothetically speaking, you now have a decision to make, but in reality you are as much in control of the situation as Custer at Little Big Horn. Do not waste precious energy deliberating. In many ways, the choice was made the day you bought the plane ticket here.
Home Again, Home Again
For most of the men in Pattaya, foreplay begins and ends with the sound of their trousers being unzipped. I would like to go beyond that pseudo-Neanderthal approach with a few romantic suggestions.
Music & Slow Dancing
For the first date, let her dial in one of the local radio stations to find something she likes. (All Thai music is going to sound the same to you.) Then, when a halfway slow tune is played, gently take both her hands and ask if she likes to dance. If so, try to keep it simple. The awkward, stuttering steps you learned in the junior high school gym will suffice. Pattaya is basically a bunch of middle-aged men reliving juvenile fan-tasies anyway. As you embrace and she rests her young head trustingly on you shoulder, run your hands through her hair and reflect that this could not happen to you in a hundred years in America. At least not without risking arrest.
I call this move “embracing diversity”. Keep this phrase in mind when you return home and are interrogated about your vacation.
This can really make a good impression, probably because fire was only discovered in this country within the last century. However, it can be difficult to start if you are using one of those cheap lighters from the 7-Eleven. Be especially careful if you are somewhat intoxicated; you might get the fire going, but in the process lose your balance and set more than just the candle ablaze.
Remember when those touchy-feely books came out with advice on how to give a woman ecstatic pleasure? Forget about them. Instead relax and immerse yourself in the moment. Get in touch with those inner feelings!
The Morning After
In many ways this is one of the best times. The lady sleeps in, then takes a shower, grabs her purse (along with your money) and is gone. No guilt or remorse. No concerns regarding whether you are emotionally available or are struggling with “issues”. No demands about being respectful of each other’s needs. Just the sound of the door closing.
Suggest going right back to sleep. You will be needing the energy, for to-night the game begins anew!