Readers' Submissions

Bar Wars – It’s All Fair In Love And War

  • Written by TG Lover
  • October 1st, 2004
  • 14 min read

By Mr. Anonymous

There's a few myths in Thailand, perhaps one of the most famous or rather, 'infamous' is the Thai Vs tourist relationship, often associated with the girly bars and clubs that abound Thailand. It's a thorny and embarrassing problem for the Government of Thailand, as it brings with it unlimited and unwanted attention, but draws in about 4.1 billion Thai baht per year in revenue, not to mention countless jobs.

Thailand has an affinity with the west like no other Asian nation, and this probably began when she opened her relatively closed doors in the early 1900's thanks to King Rama 5th during his reign, and his forward thinking. So began the 'westernisation' of Thailand as we know it but things went slightly awry in the 1970's.

With the advent of the Vietnam War, there was a sudden insurgence of westerners and GI's namely pouring into Thailand's dormant air force bases, and towns like Pattaya. (U Tapao Airport/base) Suddenly flourished with the new arrivals, often too soldiers on R+R from Vietnam itself. And so the sex industry as we know it was born out of the antics of a minority with too much money and time on their hands. For a relatively poor and developing nation, the lure of rich foreigners was the spark to the flame, and clubs and bars started springing up all over the more heavily populated areas of Thailand.

Indeed, some GI's didn't go home at the war's end, they 'stayed on' after the Vietnam war in 1967 and opened yet more bars and clubs, – fuelled now by girls eager to get a piece of the action, and a burgeoning tourist trade. (Soi Cowboy?) Thailand was going through a tumultuous change, a cultural 'big bang' (!) if you will, that would change its face forever. The inertia of theses changes during and immediately after the Vietnam war were unstoppable now and went almost unseen, blooming and spreading out almost insidiously. Fuelled later by growing plane loads of farang and sex tourists, it grew and grew to the monster business it is today. This, much to the chagrin of the Thai government, but too weak to do anything about it due to the huge income it brought…. Corruption, ineptitude, or plain old politics have allowed the industry to bloom unfettered to a point, although more recently this is showing signs of change. (Thaksin / Thai Ruk Thai party policies)

There are numerous reasons why the industry flourished, some highly complex and deeply embedded in social and cultural issues, and not least poverty with an ever burgeoning, unemployed populace.

The sex industry went though some painful birth pangs in the late 60's-70's, and girls were often forcibly sold into it even by their parents or in-laws. Desperate for money or for food from the rural areas, so began the growing and perpetual influx of sex workers from the poorer and less fortunate districts. It was not unheard of for a daughter to be sold for something between a mere 5,000-20,000 Thai baht by starving parents.

The sheer need for food and money often 'numbed' the sting as young women and girls made their painful transition from innocence to something entirely new, and that would change their lives, and Thailand forever.

For reasons unknown, the women took to their new fate seemingly with gusto and are a far cry from the bitter, harsh drug addicted prostitutes we see in Europe or the U.S. Far from being as 'rough as nails', these girls are charming and polite, and treat their customers almost like [surrogate] boyfriends than their European counterparts. They put Farang at such ease, that he could be forgiven for thinking he's found someone 'special', and often men visiting and experiencing this for the first time are completely absorbed by it. Depending on his level of maturity or naivety, intelligence or whatever, he may experience a new sexual awakening to something never before even imagined….

Thai girls will in most cases admit to 'switching off' during the sexual acts, sort of 'blotting it out' and just act it out for the benefit of the customer. I've been with various types of girls, and some of them give as good as they get as it were, which surprised me at first.
It reminded me of that movie "West world" whereby androids cater for the needs of a few jet setting tourists of the near future, and can live out their fantasies safely and cleanly, even winning a Gunfight with a black leather clad bad guy. (Yul Brynner/James Brolin)

Far from being robots, these girls were sensitive, gentle, polite and had feelings it seemed and shattered any preconceptions I might have had…. I didn't feel as though I was doing something immoral or wrong, it was complete adult consent on both parts, but slightly surreal all the same.

Getting 'involved' however, isn't a good idea, and can lead to all kinds of complications needless to say really, but no matter what you tell anyone, they go right ahead and do it. Common sense prevailing, it can sometimes be hard to even know when it's happening, until she suddenly starts showing signs of possessiveness or jealousy. Unless you're a complete "Neanderthal" or slob, you can see tell-tale signs that she [really] likes you, and she'll make concessions from the start if she does.

Even professional and 'harsh' looking beauties have turned suddenly 'mushy' after a few encounters in my experience and it's so hard to determine whether or not it's genuine. Tact and diplomacy are called for, but I often took the cowards way out using evasive tactics of which I am not proud of.

I remember vividly once, I'd been seeing a beautiful girl called "Poy" from a Bangkok Bar [Alright then, Safari Bar!] in 1997, she was lovely and seemingly had a heart of gold to match. I used to shake my head sometimes wondering if she was for real or just play-acting, until that is, one night she admitted to being in love with me. I liked her a lot, but didn't know really how to handle that, was she telling the truth? If she was, what the heck was I gonna do about it? I decided at the time to just cuddle and reassure her, and tell her that I too had feelings, but love wasn't a word I ever used 'cheaply' or too soon, in any relationship, but we'd see how things would go….

It really hit me one night when we were at CM2's in Siam Square sitting at the Bar, we'd only been there a short while when her mood suddenly sobered and she said, "Please, if you go somewhere, tell me right? – if you change Hotel don't not tell me okay?" I was stunned, the thought never even occurred to me, and all I could do was just look at her dumbfounded, I was 'gob smacked' frankly. I think I downed my drink in one, looked her in the eye and said "I'd never ever dream of doing that Poy" [I meant it] It was obvious to me by her expression and her newly expressed feelings for me, she was getting serious, and that sadly, this event of 'desertion' had evidently taken place before…. I swallowed my drink and thought long and hard about human actions and consequences there that night, wondering what I was getting into, and I suddenly, inexplicably felt very low. I wondered if my mood, body language or temperament had told her something even I didn't realise, and that she saw into my heart somehow and was suffering an acute 'attack' of insecurity. I could give her a lot, but not 'security' even though she'd dropped even asking for money, I still supported her as recompense. I suppose I did give her a taste of security and dependency, transparency and honesty, a fatal combination if you're not looking for something else.

It dawned on me that this girl, lovely as she was, was showing signs of having fallen in love, – unconditionally, and I could believe it too, she was a soft as butter after all, and all the other girls spoke so highly of her. I took their jokes, nudges, winks and thumbs-up routines with a pinch of salt, but they all seemed to adore this girl!

Maybe I should've realised when she started making things so 'easy' for me, deferring payments or bar fines etc, even buying me the odd drink… No wonder some of the other girls looking on laughed at her behavior. Earlier on into our meetings and one night in her bar with an Austrian mate of mine, she 'begged' and pleaded me to bar fine her until I relented, but then 'refused' my offer of payment, – "until tomorrow she said" …. "Take me out instead to Disco??" My Austrian pal got into a huff and strutted off somewhere else, but it seemed Poy's needs were urgent that night and 'outweighed' my plans, so I took her out of course.

I'm sure there's hundreds of guy's out there that can recount similar situations, and are thinking, "oh here we go, she doing a con-act on him" But here we were sitting at a bar with her bombshell remark about me deserting her??? What gives? The worrying thing about all this was I didn't think anymore she was joking or putting on any act. It was later that same night she fessed up about being in love, and repeated it, and I can still hear her saying it today, in her soft Thai accent…. "I love you, I cannot help it, I just do, I understand if you not love me… but I love you, I don't care what happens…."

Suddenly I was living the myth, – do or can bar girls fall in love? How many foreigners would 'like' to be in my shoes right now? [then] Far from dismissing her feelings, I thought long and hard about things, but was already 'married' in effect to my job back then, which involved intense travelling globally, and what after all, did I have to offer her? I didn't have any girlfriend back in Blighty, and hadn't intended to 'find' one in Thailand, not really…. My feelings were running between feeling trapped and real warmth towards this girl who was professing so much and exposing herself to high emotional risk really, – but I was not in love….not now, at least after searching my feelings.

Cautionary instinct, desire to remain single, her background as a bar girl or whatever deterred me from going the extra mile I'm sure, but ending the relationship without hurting her would be impossible, wouldn't it?

One night over dinner at the Oriental on the river, and nearing the end of my leave, I did the 'dirty deed'. In so much as telling her as it was off, I relented from finishing it completely, and wanted to leave some good feelings intact. I had to effectively finish it, but leave some hope for the future, and a time when perhaps, my mind would change….
As god is my witness, I swear I heard breaking glass that night as I could almost hear tangibly her heart breaking into pieces, she didn't cry, she didn't have to, I knew, – as she just bowed in sorrow. So did I, – I felt so lowsy as I have never felt before, and for several days thereafter, my self-worth took a pounding.

So how do I end this story? Not happily I'm afraid for any romantics out there, and cynics of Thailand will dismiss this as rubbish I'm sure, well let them. I know what I felt, and what she felt too, it was real on her part, perhaps it was me kidding her along this time? Whilst I felt great fondness and affection for her, it wasn't love for me, but circumstances played a big part in tempering my feelings. Had things been different, it may have flourished, as I'm sure some romances do, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind in the long term…. Sometimes, people just don't know when to let go, until it's too late and people get hurt, yes, even bar girls….

It didn't quite end there, there's a little more….

About a year later In 1998 I returned again to Thailand for a long vacational break, and sought Poy out but found she'd left the Safari Bar and gone somewhere else, no one else knew, or would tell me most likely.

I didn't have to look far, and discovered her dancing again in Camelot, she was seemingly overjoyed to see me and we embraced much as friends do, but I wanted to see that she was okay, and doing alright for herself. I needed to see her even if only to reassure myself of that.

Poy and I went our separate ways just after these latter day brief meetings, but I got the distinct impression Poy had left Safari Bar possibly because of loss of face or something, even though she never vocally attributed it to me, or our involvement. She somehow had the air of a girl putting her life back together. I don't know why I had that feeling but her demeanour was different and she still seemed to be silently 'hurting' a little through her obvious exuberance and warmth. It might not have had anything to do with me as such, you never know, but I don't think so somehow, and she'd never say so if it did, she was that sort of a tolerant girl. We eventually parted on good terms with the usual promises of meeting again, somewhere, sometime but never did, and I surely didn't want to hurt her again….

There are times, when I really feel these girls can be better than we are…. Why?? I hear you shout! They often show such tolerance and humility toward the mighty farang, but they too are as vulnerable to feelings as we are. Any reasonable judge of character with a modicum of common sense can choose a nice enough girl, even in a bar or expensive night club, no matter what her background might be. Even though 'high society' girls will claim and scream they are different, they're often not, the basic mentality's so often the same, and there's good and bad in them all. Farang are worse, the cynics who disdain them are often poor judges of character and victims of their own lack of judgment more than anything, but far from it for a farang to admit his failings…. Farangs go with the inaccurate concept they are beyond reproach, and devastate people's lives often with impunity. A girl once said to me, "You are a man, you can do anything you want" 'Uncomfortable' as I was hearing it, it was true, you have so much money, and yes, 'power'. It's a thin line between love and exploitation, wafer thin in fact….

I've 'retired' from the Bangkok bar scene nowadays, I don't know maybe I've changed, but it doesn't have the same allure for me anymore, in fact it's quite sad. I often relate to the previous situation with Poy and use that to guide me away. As I get older I feel more out of place now in those places, although some even older guy's never do!!

God and Buddha bless Poy wherever she is now…. she's an angel really, – life just didn't give her the wings to fly above it all….

Stickman's thoughts:

This is a nice piece indeed although the initial part on the history of the place is not quite right….still, a good story and a nice read nonetheless.