What A Sorry Bunch Of Old Barkers!
What's with all the ugly girls cramming the increasingly crappy bar scene these days? And the growing number of Arabs? I just got back from Bangkok, where I've been a few times the past couple of years. I also spent a week in Phuket for the
Now granted I'm no regular girlie-barfly but I've been around enough to know a looming death scene when I see one. Bangkok, or at least Soi Cowboy and Patpong (I never got around to Nana this time) were nothing like I remember. Sure it's low season, but they were both poor remnants of their former selves.
Patpong was always the least entertaining of the three main zones, but absolutely zip was happening at all. The girls were ugly, with I swear not one pretty lass anywhere. OK, to be fair there was one girl I would possibly have given an unenthusiastic thumbs up to after a large 'Bangkok coke' and a desperate night out – but that's hardly the point. To think I used to wet myself for choice.
Most bars in `the Pong' were near-empty with maybe two or three decrepit old aunties shuffling morbidly around a pole. The one gogo that I'd visited a few times a year or so ago was now at least two-thirds katoey. The other sour-faced tubs of lard skulking around were there to make up the numbers. Another bar close by, which I once used to like because it was chockers with nice-looking girls in sexy white underclobber, was jammers with barkers. Not one I'd score above 4/10. As I remember, most girls in most gogos used to be OK-to-good with some real stunners among them. There was always the odd hound thrown in of course, which I always assumed was for a bit of a laugh. This time it wasn't so funny.
Now I confess I've never actually taken a girl home, but I used to love a few beers while watching the fun and games, and maybe having a chuckle with the girls who tried their luck. For me it was all good entertainment, as long as you were sensible enough to level the good with the bad. This time I went home completely deflated, excuse the pun. What a crap night! Honestly, I'd rather have stayed back at the hotel and watched a local soap.
Soi Cowboy was much the same, perhaps not as bad as Patpong. The odd reasonable girl, but most were well below par – many seriously ugly. I heard that most of the prettier girls make a bomb in high-season and then head home for the low season, which makes sense, but I've been to Cowboy the same time last year and it was definitely a lot better than this.
The one thing I hadn't seen in Cowboy, or anywhere else, was full-frontal exposure. Admittedly I'm no regular. I think it was Suzie Wong's (I could be wrong here) where a sorry mix of girls were wearing nothing but low belts and boots. The belts were gradually hitched higher as the shift went on. Nice touch, which a year ago would have sent me racing, but this year was very much a case of "shame about the face"!
Phuket was a real disappointment as well. I visited one gogo after another (not many there anyway) only to find less than a handful of ugly, fat girls or obvious katoey doing squat all around a pole, in front of even fewer customers. Really, really pitiful stuff. And I'm not exaggerating.
Suzie Wong's (I presume a spinoff of the Soi Cowboy version?) was on a par with everywhere else. Soi Bangla had very few western tourists walking around…but plenty of middle-east vistors with, strangely, their burkha-clad wives in tow! What's that all about? Soi Eric and the other side-strips were miserable. A few ugly fatsos daydreamed against the bar in baggy jeans and grimy t-shirts – a far cry from the running stream sexy vixens I used to see saucing it up in their best gear in Bangkok every night.
The only fairly busy strip on Bangla was an outdoor area where katoey from the local Simon Cabaret hammed it up top of a bar counter, followed by a hunt for a few miserable baht's worth of conversation. Why do katoey love showing their new twats to all and sundry, whether asked for or not, often accompanied by a drunken Joan Collins-style lunge at some horrified and embarrassed punter? There were a few real girls hanging around on the fringes looking for strays, but a motley crue from the ugly end of Isaan's gene pool at best.
So what is the meaning of all this, Stick? Are my eyes merely growing stale along with my memory, or is there something going on here? Have all the pretty girls been bought, or did I just happen to go out on a bad night? Is this just a temporary low-season, er, low? I don’t have the longevity and experience in this neck of the woods to figure a plausible explanation. Perhaps someone can?
The one thing I did notice, as I mentioned earlier, was the large number of Arabs around, especially in Phuket. I've been to Samui, Chiang Mai a few times and, of course, spent quite a bit of time in and out of Bangkok the past few years, and can’t recall anywhere like the numbers of Middle-East tourists that I'm seeing now. Some of them, judging by the accent, are muslim Lebanese from Sydney (where I live). I know quite a few of them in my own suburb and before I left for Thailand many of them told me they had cut their annual holiday to Lebanon this year for obvious reasons. Some went to Phuket instead. I wonder how they fared in Koh Samui, a noted hard-arsed Israeli haunt the last time I was there in late 2004?
On a wholly different note, Stick, good on you for sticking to your guns on the white on black typeface issue. It sucks but it's unique. Admittedly it tires my eyes out a bit, usually solved by running my cursor over the font and reading it in reverse!
I too think the bars are not what they used to be, but it is the attitude which is much worse in my opinion – that has clearly taken a nosedive.