Stickman Readers' Submissions September 18th, 2003

If You Don’t Like Ping Pong Balls, Get Out Of The Farang Ghetto

I notice that a couple of recent submissions have been expressing the view that male paradise venues are largely frequented by ugly, obnoxious sex tourists and should therefore be shut down. Admittedly, many punters are loud abrasive types, however they are contributing to the economy just like anyone else. Probably more so than the discreet, miserly sex tourist screwing on the cheap because these loud brash types drink a lot more and spend thousands of baht on alcohol. Ironically, it is the low profile cheap sex tourist who tends to speak out against gogo bars and their patrons. I guess he gets a bee in his bonnet because he sees no reason for his counterparts to be behaving in such an unruly manner but I don't think he's in a position to judge anyone. A few readers are also saying that we don't have to worry about the plight of girlie bars because whatever happens, there will always be prostitutes in Thailand. Of course this is true but there are many punters who actually want to enjoy some nightlife as opposed to just a quick screw at a short time hotel.

Resident expats (those who aren't sexpats or sex tourists) and Thais remain oblivious to the gogo bars because these venues have long been a part of the bustling metropolis that is Bangkok. In a way they are an accepted institution and have certainly not done tourism any harm- visitors to the Kingdom have only increased over the years. They add a vibrancy to the city and are more of a circus attraction than a sleazy cesspool which explains why Thailand really is a unique country. Anywhere else, the same setup would probably be an eyesore of gross indecency. The bars are also confined to three main ghettos – Nana, Cowboy and Patpong which are actually tiny compared to the size of the city. Most residents of Bangkok simply avoid these areas which isn't exactly difficult.

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Farang also enjoy Thailand because there is no social discrimination amongst westerners and we're all if you like, on an equal playing field. This is what so many farang find refreshing about LOS, that they can leave all that Farangland bollocks of 'keeping up appearances' behind. No one cares about what job you do or what car you drive, we're all in Thailand to be who we are or what we want to be. There's a classic line in 'The Big Weird 'by Christopher Moore which says "Don't shatter my illusion and I won't shatter yours!''. I think that line superbly sums up one of the major qualities that farang find appealing about Thailand. We can be who we want to be, no questions asked. Now, however, it seems farang are being categorised into average sex tourists, above average sex tourists and model sex tourists. (I do also realise that some of you aren't in any of the above, so sorry if I've offended). Please lets leave this sort of discrimination at the door because it is the type of thing we come to Thailand to get away from. However, if you do categorise yourself as a model sex tourist and really can't tolerate the 'offensive' behaviour taking place in gogo bars, then it's quite simple, don't go there!

Bangkok has a plethora of mainstream bars and venues to choose from so you have no excuse! There are hotel bars and discos e.g. Spasso's, Rivas, CM2 and Futures -in fact most large hotels have their own classy discotheques and watering holes. There are jazz bars, blues bars, rock’n'roll bars, cocktail bars, salsa bars, microbreweries, Irish pubs, English pubs and even New York style wine bars. The Q bar, Bed Supper Club, Brown Sugar, Saxophones, The Bamboo bar, Hard Rock Cafe, La Lunar, El Nido, Paulaner Bruahaus, The Barbican and The Londoner are just a few examples. Bangkok has actually become a very cosmopolitan city and is even being touted as the New York of Asia. Narcissus (very opulent) and Ministry of Sound are two world-class nightclubs that are really worth a visit if that is your type of thing. If you're not opposed to a slick, urban hip crowd, I strongly recommend The Q bar which is one of the world's most famous bars and serves brilliant American style drinks. There are also plenty of fashionable Thai discotheques if you want to escape farang altogether. One such area is Rachadapisek Rd where you'll find Dance Fever, Hollywood and Sparks. If you are looking for female company but want to do it in style and have money to burn, you can even go to the ultra expensive 'Pegasus Club' where a coffee alone will set you back B1000! The cover charge is a few thousand baht, a standard drink is about B1500 and that's before you've paid for the hostess. There are also some very respectable venues such as The Living Room (has closed but will be opening soon), where you can enjoy some female company and good music minus the sex tourist hangout ambience.

So you see Bangkok has something for everyone and there are PLENTY of places to go if you don't want to rub shoulders with sex tourists. I know many people who go out all the time and never venture near sex tourist areas.

Everyone knows that Soi Nana, Soi Cowboy and Patpong are places of ill repute, (especially amongst Thais), particularly the Nana / Sukhumvit soi 3-8 area because it's hooker central, full of dirty Nigerians, Arabs and other freaks of nature – possibly the slimiest place in Bangkok. The other end of Sukhumvit around Washington Square and soi 33 is a different story- here you have the upmarket Emporium shopping center and many farang style bars such as The Bull's Head which is strictly a 'resident expat with real job' hangout. I've also noticed a lot of trendy cafes and restaurants in this area. Interestingly enough, Khao San Road is even undergoing a face lift and is now home to some very respectable hotels, shops and restaurants. Another fantastic area of Bangkok, which most farang don't really know about is Phahaonyothin Rd, around soi Areesamphan 1, which isn't that far from Sukhumvit. They have some quality apartment blocks in this area and are much better value than Sukhumvit because the rentals aren't nearly as high and very affordable. The area is a rich Thai neighbourhood, full of huge mansions, swimming pools, fancy cars and has A LOT of foliage so you don't even feel as if you're in Bangkok. You don't see many farang at all and the ones you do meet are very respectable with real jobs. Everything you could possibly want is walking distance and there is a fantastic choice of bars and restaurants from delightful 'warung' style Thai eateries to Italian restaurants to outdoor garden setting cafes.

Unfortunately, so many farang are stuck in the girlie bar ghettos and think Bangkok consists of only Nana, Cowboy and Patpong. Then they complain because there is an obnoxious sex tourist on every barstool. There is so much more to this city than bottom of the barrel whoremongers and cheap bargirls. It all depends on your perspective. So if you don't like gogo bars and want to meet decent quality people, stop hanging around sex tourist areas. Get a different perspective of Bangkok because there is a whole city to explore and a cross section of interesting people to meet. It's the same as the backpacker who only sees Khao San Rd, his outlook is also going to be warped. The tourist who stays cocooned in The Oriental hotel for a week is going to have a different perspective again. The resident expat working for a multi national and living in a luxury apartment is going to have a different perspective again. Stick, as a teacher in Bangkok, your outlook is also going to be different isn't it?

I would much rather the gogo bars stay where they are because they add another dimension to the city and are there if you want them. The key words here are FREEDOM and CHOICE. It's nice to have the freedom to choose where we want to go and what we want to do. After all one's man's meat is another man's poison. We all have a different idea of what constitutes a good night out. Some of us love big, flashy nightclubs whilst others hate them and just want a quiet pint in a quiet bar. Some of us enjoy gogo bars whilst some of us really can't tolerate them. No, Thailand probably doesn't need sex tourist yobbos but at the same time, it doesn't need to eliminate the elements that make it different to other places.

This next paragraph is in relation to the submission by Barbiere.

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I want to say that this an extremely biased view of the naughty nightlife scene and highlights some of the many misconceptions that foreigners have of Thailand. If only we could learn to keep an open mind instead of speaking from a 'collective thought' mentality. Firstly, the sex shows that incorporate ping pong balls and goldfish are certainly not everybody's cup of tea but I can't see why they are that big a deal. The girls are taking other things into their genitalia, namely male appendages so why should these other things be so shocking? If you find the shows offensive, that is fair enough, so don't watch them. I mean do we complain about the sadomasochistic dungeons back in our own country? No because we remain oblivious to these sorts of things. If you take the stance that these shows are degrading to women then you can go as far as to say that men's magazines and prostitution are degrading so where does it end? I personally won't be affected if the sex shows should come to an end but I really don't think they do anyone any harm except may be the goldfish. What's more, the article suggests that farang are the main perpetrators of kinky sex shows and the parading of women. Asian men are just as bad, however saving face is very important in Asia so they go about their business more discreetly than farang. I would hardly categorise the Japanese as an innocent party in all of this because they are perhaps the most deviant of the lot. Japan has all sorts of bizarre sex practices that include sniffing girls' underwear and eating sushi off naked women. Japan also has A LOT of strip clubs featuring naked farang women. Singapore and Taiwan also have their sex venues but we just don't hear about them. Singaporean and Taiwanese men are not the innocent bunch that many people think they are.

Secondly, prostitution exists in every country and strip clubs exist in most countries. It is an accepted fact of life and even more so in Thailand. Contrary to what most foreigners believe, Thais regard prostitution as an inherent part of society and have done so for hundreds of years. There are brothels (providing for Thai men only) all over Thailand including the provincial and more traditional areas. Even without any farang in the country, the sex industry would be thriving. In fact in Thailand, more prostitutes are used by Thai men than farang men. There is always the very ugly side to this business and even in Australia we hear horror stories of brothel workers being drugged, beaten and forced to work. In Thailand we hear of pre pubescent girls being sold by their families and bargirls being forced into sex slavery. Sadly, such cases do exist but they are in the minority and are far more prevalent in poorer countries such as India and Cambodia. Thailand is not as third world as many believe and contrary to popular belief, MOST BARGIRLS CHOOSE TO DO WHAT THEY DO and have weighed the pros and cons of what they're doing. They are not forced to work in the bars, can leave when they want to and are not enslaved. Most have made a conscious choice, are making far more money than they normally would and seem happy doing so. Whilst there are undoubtedly unfortunate cases, the 'poor Thai bargirl' is indeed a bit of a myth. How many stories have we heard of a bargirl receiving multiple monthly payments from different farang? We lose count. Some of these girls make A LOT of money and that is by anyone's standards. In fact some are making more than the hookers in Australia because the Aussie dollar is so weak. Also how many farang say that renting a bargirl is more akin to having a girlfriend than a hooker? This is because the bargirl is often taken out to dinner, taken shopping and squired around Thailand. Many bargirls have quite a good life and are enjoying themselves.

Prostitution is a highly debatable topic and there is no easy solution because it will always exist irrespective of the laws of the country. Is it therefore better to keep the sex industry in Thailand the way it's always been or force the industry to go underground? We either approach this issue from a humanitarian or practical point of view. Some of us are humanitarians who don't want to see any girls working as prostitutes full stop and think it s totally immoral. On the other hand some of us see prostitution as an accepted practice and not an immoral activity but a business transaction.

Finally, the stigma of the 'evil farang sex tourist exploiting poor Thai bargirls' is a perpetuated fallacy that is alive and well. Men all over the world visit prostitutes and strip clubs (featuring naked women and lap dancing) so why should a farang in Thailand be any different? Undoubtedly, many of these farang are undesirable specimens, however many men that use prostitutes in Farangland are also undesirable specimens. Let's not forget that many farang women fall in the extremely undesirable category, and are equally as desperate to get laid. On the other hand, many farang men that come to Thailand are normal, capable, financially secure men who long for a refreshing change from western women. They do not go to Thailand because they cannot get laid but because they have lost interest in white women for whatever reason. Some men simply prefer the company of Asian women and Thailand is a particularly nice place to meet them.

Stickman says:

You sure didn’t win me over with your arguments on why Thailand should keep the gogo bars and the naughty nightlife areas. You only addressed what I perceive as your desire for them to stay and failed to look at the generally negative effects that the industry has on the girls long term.

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