Is There Any Truth In Beauty?
AKA "Thai Girls" Cont:
To the unsuspecting 1st time Farang tourist, Thailand has an almost intoxicating effect on the first visit or visits, especially to the single red-blooded and comparably 'affluent' male. He suddenly finds himself amidst the centre of a storm of female interest and near reverence, almost to the point of embarrassment! Suddenly, he can walk into a bar or restaurant and be made to feel unequivocally like a celebrity on a visit. Now, he can't even walk down a street without attracting some form of female attention, unwanted or not, whether it be a sultry provocative stare, or outright being chatted up! A far far cry from the virtual anonymity that goes in any Farang bar back home, and the likelihood of frostbite if a western female is approached albeit a little too clumsily…. Beautiful women abound here, in what is perhaps the highest concentration of women-to-men ratio anywhere and you could be forgiven for thinking women outnumber men 7-3. This ratio is slightly misleading however, as Bangkok's migrational work force for example, happen to be predominantly female, and a ratio much fuelled by the night time entertainment and sex industry. This ratio becomes disproportionate in the red light and entertainment areas at night whereby a 'temporary ratio' of women to men of about 8-2 manifests itself!
I once said to a fellow tourist in Bangkok, that "Thailand was like a beautiful animal, handle it well and with respect, and it will return the deed. Handle it roughly and without respect, and it will bite back like a provoked reptile".
So many times in this land of smiles I see disenchanted foreigners lamenting about their lot at some bar, particularly ex-pats who have seemingly "stayed too long" and become disillusioned somehow. They seem to love and also hate the local women for various reasons…
If you observe closely, you'll often discover they're the architect's of their own doom, especially when it comes down to choosing and being duped by Thai women. Poor homework, overly active hormones and their own deceit & infidelity
serve only to make them unhappy in the end, and they end up hating the very species they once revered….!
Farang are often just as bad as the womenfolk they pursue, whereby lies and deceit reign. Through the broken pidgin English and broken Thai, one language is common, – and that's fluent "Bull"! I don't know how any man who trawls the darkest depths of Bangkok's underbelly can really expect to find nice girls or 'true love', or at the bar biers that adorn Bangkok's numerous sois and Pattaya. Wait though, on closer inspection there is seemingly some ray of hope for the love lorn tourist and ever optimistic bar girl…
One of the first Revelations I discovered upon my initial visits in this seemingly adult playground, was that it was not entirely the Farang's domain as it at first seems. I remember one hot and humid night, apprehensively negotiating my first ever go-go bar in the heady summer of 1995 in deepest Bangkok. Peeking inside, I watched the girls dancing almost robotically and in unison to the rhythmic pulses of "One night in Bangkok" [highly appropriate I thought!] Some of them wore blank expressions, others' eyes were darting about from floor to Farang to another girl, or 'chum'. Girls giggled and nudged each other getting their mate's opinion's of who was who and who was handsome or not. Their minds were certainly not on their dancing prowess, and seldom are. The place was literally fizzing with mischievousness and fun, – so I went inside…. Okay, so what else is a guy to do??
I was astonished to find that far from being allowed to make my own choices, the girls too, were making their own choices, and as I struggled to my seat, feeling 20 pairs of eyes boring into my back, I wondered momentarily who was actually on show here! Them or 'us' the customers!? In no time at all I was surrounded by a small welcoming delegation, a gaggle of gorgeous girls all 'assessing' me and frankly getting very, erm, 'friendly'! I later discovered that the air-con was often turned on full by devious mamasans to 'promote' this sort of friendliness, – a little underhand I thought. (And I always wondered why they had such cold hands?!
What's in a name?
Given the almost unpronounceable Thai names and language, I was more than a little relieved when the girls started giving their shorter nicknames, like Lek, or Nok, Aey or Ahn, Joom, Jiep etc, etc. They seemed a little to be like 'stage names' in fact, and in some cases the name was left behind in the bar when they went home, reverting to another street name. An identity safety measure I suppose, to guard against family or relatives finding out about their profession, and to prevent harassment from unwanted advances or farang. It's not uncommon either for 2 farang to know one girl, but by a different name…
A skilful and experienced girl will often 'juggle' her visiting boyfriends so each has no clue about the other's presence. Claiming too that all previous relationships have 'finished'. Appearing to be 'single' is all
important, and some even have 'steady' Thai boyfriends or spouses and lead a totally separate private 'double life'…. You could say these girls are performers or actress's, and yes, lies abound to protect each other
or mates from harm or unknown enquirers. Keep one's tongue firmly in cheek, take everything with a pinch of salt, no matter how beautiful the girl or sincere she seems. Take care, and don't let that "little boy in a sweet shop"
take over, – don't lose your head, or your temper.
Of course human nature plays tricks sometimes and occasionally intense human bonds do actually form. A great deal of unseen drama, sadness and desperation is sometimes played out in the quiet gloomy sanctity of the girls' room as she rings her fists and sobs quietly, – having just being dumped by [yet] another insensitive farang. Or discovering he's 'relocated' deliberately back to his home country or another distant resort Hotel without telling her… Her friends will help pick up the shattered pieces, calm her and help her back on stage, mend her makeup too, after all the show must go on? They can't mend her heart and spirit though, that takes much longer. A bar girl no matter if good or bad, may have her heart broken this way a hundred times in her 'career' and its little wonder they sometimes de-sensitize themselves and become case-hardened. 'Love' if found, can be uniquely cruel in this environment, and has even proved fatal on a few recorded occasions. Remember, hell hath no fury….
I want to be careful here so as not to sanitize or 'glamorize' things. Things for these girls are really quite tough and uncompromising against the lurid back drop of bars and clubs. Politeness and cheerfulness often arise only out of the Thais' resilient tolerance and ability to overcome and manage life's hardships. It's not always a sign of true happiness, but perhaps at least testimony to the Thai female spirit.
Anyway, I was overwhelmed by their shear charm and cheerfulness and obvious impeccable manners. [In most cases!] This was not the darkened 'slave' industry so often portrayed by news articles and CNN specials… Sure, there's a darker side of course, [try the upstairs bars?] perhaps the subject of another article, but let's dwell on the more well heeled and positive aspects for the time being?
Oddly enough to some, the immediate questions were "where [do] you come from?", to "how old [are] you?" – an 'impertinent' question seemingly to some, – but not meant as such. Basically it's the girls' way of measuring you up, (!) and their history shows that they prefer older guy's. 'Age and maturity' goes with the Thai cultural values of wisdom, esteem, stability, and yes, that often means money too. However, we're not looking at a group of "oriental gold diggers" here, [alright, of course there are some!] it's not as simple as that, so let's take a closer look….
From the very outset these girls are looking for these illusive qualities in this highly charged and unlikely environment, a fact so often overlooked or mistaken for something else by the novice traveller. Sometimes it's hard for the visitor to distinguish
between sweet talk and genuine affections and he must be thinking "no money no honey" in the back of his mind?
If the girl finds herself and attractive older foreigner, it raises her own esteem amongst her fellow colleagues, and the girls seemingly get a competitive 'buzz' out of this, especially with new, unrecognized farang. [Fair game as it were!?] The 'pinnacle' of any Thai woman's dreams is to get married and raise children, unfettered by financial burdens and problems, and to be a good mother. Now, does that female goal sound familiar guy's?? You can dress it in saffron and mysterious oriental inscrutability, but the 'needs' are the same…. It's kind of like a parallel universe.
Sadly, this fresh naive girly approach can often be misinterpreted by otherwise arrogant or surly tourist's who cut to the quick and ask for 'sex' only to be, horror of horrors' – rejected?! The bruised ego of the tourist often cannot handle this, – this is not what he'd expected, or paid for, – so what's the deal here?? Indignant, he'll often stomp out to another playground, only to befall the same fate due to his attitude. Sure, he'll find a girl eventually, but nowhere near as nice or well mannered. Losers like this don't respect others, not even themselves for that matter.
Believe it or not, some of these girls have 'standards' and dress code, and don't automatically become the 'property' of some customer, no matter how many Cokes he buys her! Thais generally often look askance at shabby ill-dressed
foreigners and merely tolerate them. Bar girls overlook this if they 'have good heart', but remember, smart dress and appearance goes so very very far. Be polite, give money with alms and sparingly, never be rude or raise your voice
and dress well. You will reap the rewards fellow traveller and be made to feel like a King….
So my learned friends, respect and politeness are everything in the land of smiles, and please remember the latter, "respect"…. Just because these girls work in bar beers or gogo bars doesn't make them lesser citizens, and class-assumptions shouldn't be made. Just remember, nothing here is as it seems…. Class, as I have found comes not from money or status, but from the heart and how a person 'holds them self' against others. This goes for a girl fresh from the rice paddies or the hi-society socialite who works in a high street bank. People are often born with class, seldom 'made' and I know many a boorish rich person or newly rich premadona.
Thailand has its fare share of senior overly-made-up female "Taipans" or rich socialites who seemingly take pleasure in 'bullying' younger subordinate females, to bitter older mamasans lambasting their bar girls over their own lost
or misspent youth. Sad really.
The younger girls often have no choice as to their 'profession' and there's a very grey area between prostitution and starvation in most cases. That 'word' almost doesn't apply here, not in a place where some women have no choice and no governmental support. Women in Asia simply don't have the choices of Western women, and a more well traveled person will tell you that.
These go-go girls, or Bar Beer [Bier] hostess's are literally putting food onto the tables of their families! Seldom however, do the distant village parents know what their beloved daughters doing for a living in Bangkok or wherever. Some of them
do not want to know, and hence turn a blind eye… It's a sort of necessary quiet 'living humiliation' for the parents, and in some cases the girl herself…. It's quite often too, the female members of the family that 'put
bread on the table', sometimes she's a dancer or bar beer hostess, but no lesser a person for it, – the same as any girl who works in the high street bank or accountancy office in many cases.
It's a fact that many a female office or department store worker has repeatedly shed her prim spectacles and formal office attire for thigh length boots, a skimpy bright pink bikini, and gone dancing to make better money. This, and the powerful, powerful exciting allure of meeting foreigners in anticipation of a better lifestyle, or even 'life'. Far from the sex-slave industry it's painted to be, this is quite common now, as opposed to days of old when some girls were 'sold' into it. [Still happens by the way] It's treated now more and more as a commercial business almost like any other and the negative stigma is fading, especially since it was legalized by the Thai Government. An action to be applauded really, and one up for basic human rights.
A wise mamasan once observed to me, "70% bar lady Thai in Bah-kok mai dee, [no good] ohn-lee 30% chai dee…." [good heart] There was wisdom in her words, and it rang true, but you could almost apply this to the rest of the world, it was just more 'condensed' here into one smaller melting pot or area, only the ratio needed slight adjustment….
If she's got any real sense, the [still young] bar girl finally returns to her home village or 'country' as they term, where they're often newly revered by their families and friends. She'll return almost as a conquering heroine with no questions asked. Suddenly held shoulder high amidst their village folk with money now behind her. Suddenly too, she's a better marriage bet, and may even have plans for a business of her own, leaving the go-go bars far behind her somewhere on the distant horizon. If she's lucky, she'll indeed marry and settle into some blissful domestic obscurity, never to be seen again as some sex object, but to find some truth in her own beauty that she once sold at a price….but never, never her heart.
Bar beer girls and go-go dancers have had lots of bad, bad press from self appointed moral guardians in newspapers, magazines and self opinionated pillars of society to politicians. [Wow, politicians is a dirty word, and they have little room to speak!] Some of it justly so perhaps, but so often it's what the tourist does or how he handles these girls that ends up 'blowing back' in his face. Many a scathing article has been written by someone's unrequited love of such a girl due to his own naivety and clumsy handling. He'll often only display his arrogance yet further in his verbal diatribes against them, which often tells us more about men than the girls in question.
A good overview of the industry.