Stickman Readers' Submissions February 22nd, 2007

Confessions of a Bangkok Bargirl Final Part

One of the most important lessons a bargirl has to learn is what to do with the “truth”. I mean what is the real value in it?

Did my father tell me the “truth” when he said that all Thai daughters have to show their love for them by giving them sex?

Did my mother face the ‘truth” when my father told her I was a bad girl?

He Clinic Bangkok

Nearly all the girls in the bars tell lies or twist the truth for their own benefits. But the farangs don’t understand why we “lie”. I mean, sometimes when we’re asked questions to which we don’t know the answers, we say the first thing that comes to mind, to save face. Otherwise we’d look so dumb to keep replying: ”don’t know”. That to me is not a lie, it’s a instinctive way to avoid losing face. Also if we would hurt somebody’s feelings by telling the truth, we’ll “lie”, we call it “Kreng Jai”. This issue of a “lie” was not a problem in Sutthisan with Thai customers, the activities there were straightforward, we were dealing with our own kind. On the other hand you can earn 3 fold with farangs and there are long term prospects too. However it’s a lot more complicated with farangs, who come in “all shapes and sizes”, all expecting something different.

But we’re not unique in this game of deceit, the farangs tell their fair share of lies, like some of them telling me they were single, when they had a wife and kids, when they say they only like me, but “butterfly” all the time, when they try to bargain the price ,but their wallets are full!

Most of the girls tell lies to the farangs about the plight of their families to make them feel compassionate and giving and make them feel guilty about their life as opposed to ours.

I decided from the beginning not to come up with similar stories about the need for money for my family, as I wanted to differentiate my situation. Besides, some farangs get turned off by these stories, they don’t want to support dozens of people.

CBD bangkok

So I decided to say that I was an orphan, my parents died in a motorcyc accident when I was young, and I was brought up with my Aunt and her 2 daughters.

Which was a half truth in a way.

Then I could paint a picture of me being used as a slave, without love, to justify my decision to better myself.

This way I could make the farang feel sorry for me without the danger of him getting scared of supporting the whole family.

wonderland clinic

One farang called me Cinderella and told me the story of her and the 2 ugly sisters.

I loved this story, especially the ending, I hoped one day it’ll happen to me too.

The other thing that gave me hope was the movie,” Pretty Woman”, with Julia Roberts.

I hoped one day a Richard Gere look alike would come along and marry me!

Anyway, as far as customers go, we know what they like to hear and provide it. Like: “I missed you so much” and similar garbage. This is a standard greeting anyway in Thailand, works in Thai and in English too.

The main thing is that we’re in the business of comfort and happiness and if you do your job well, you’ll reap the benefits.

I thought working in the bars was just one big party, you had friends from Isaan to eat and drink with, it was a bit like your own family of sisters, you never felt alone.

There was some rivalry among all of us, which sometimes got out of hand, because of jealousy and “ownwership” of our clients.

I became very popular in Soi Cowboy too, as I was only one of the minority of the girls who never had a baby and did not have a “map” (stretch marks). My weight was always much the same ,so my body was quite outstanding among my peers and I was young with nicely rounded breasts and nice teeth, I guess I was lucky, a lot of girls had uneven teeth or gaps.

I had a lovely smile which enticed many a farang.

Since I was young and popular, in order not to upset too many of my friends, when we’d go out to eat I’d pay more times than the others, and occasionally I’d give presents to them so they’d like me.

Unfortunately, I was used at times for “lending” them money when they were short or gambled, and it took me a while, after losing several thousand baht, to become strong and say no.

I trusted my roommate, Boom, my mentor, but most of them I learned to distrust after a while.

I could tell you many stories of my “meetings” with farangs in the last 3-4 years, most of them are a bit boring and same same.

I did not know so many farangs were “ba ba bo bo”, that was a revelation for me, as I always thought all farangs were smart and educated. But some of them are worst than anybody in Thailand. A lot of them are very gullible… good for us.

Of course we can be gullible too, especially when we’re dined and taken on holidays and we think we’re actually better than who we are. Then we’re back where we started from and the roller coaster ride starts again. This repetition can actually be detrimental to us in the long run, because we get the taste of the good life, then we’re back to reality in our dingy rooms. One time I was taken to the Laguna Resort in Phuket, I lived like a Princess for 5 days, massages, 5 star resort facilities, some of the staff who waited on me had university degrees and there I was ,a poor Isaan girl lapping it up. Except, at times the staff could not hide their disdain and had that false smile on their faces. It made me rather uncomfortable, knowing that I don’t really belong in places like this.

My visits with farangs were generally good and uneventful, mostly either short or long times with the periodic trips to Pattaya and occasionally to Phuket. These resorts never ceased to amaze me. First of all, I did not realize so many of “my sisters” were involved in nighttime activities, especially in Pattaya. A funny thing happened on one of these trips. I went to Pattaya with a young farang from Germany and we ended up in a beer bar, where, lo and behold I saw my girlfriend from back home, the one I used to play around with.

You can imagine our delight in meeting up again and she joined us for drinks which turned out to be a great party. The next thing I know, the 3 of us are heading back to the hotel for the night. The festivities continued in the room, we cleared out the minibar and the farang became a spectator to our romp on the bed, until he could not take it any longer and joined in the fun. Sadly, the next day we were due back in Bangkok, so I had to bid a tearful good bye to my girlfriend, but promised to keep in touch by cellphone. When the farang left me in Bangkok he gave me a bonus of 1000- baht for the “special show” with my girlfriend.

That’s when I realized that I could increase my income this way and have fun at the same time!

The other thing that amazed me on these trips were the habits of some farangs at beaches.

I’ve never seen people exposing themselves so much in public places, not only on the beach but in shops, restaurants or walking around in the streets.

Farang women sunbathing topless on the beaches, fat farang guys wearing g-strings with their bellies hanging out, they had no shame.

I’m a bargirl, but I would not dare to do this on front of everyone in broad daylight!

And they like to cook themselves in the midday sun.

Now I know why they like my dark skin so much, they all try to get as dark as possible, even though they have lovely white skin! “Ba ba bo bo”, I tell you!

Like I said, my experiences with my customers were generally Ok, but on a few occasions I did have some frightful incidences. They usually happened with guys who could not handle their alcohol. Some people are happy drunks, others are violent.

I could not always tell in advance which ones I’m dealing with, perhaps because at times I was also under the weather.

One incident sticks in my mind especially.

One night I was sitting in the bar with an American guy, late 50s, I guessed, a heavy drinker. His name was Chuck and he told me he used to be based in Ubon when he was a soldier, during the war in Nam, that’s what he called it.

By around 11 pm he was quite drunk and he started a verbal fight with another customer, which should have warned me about the kind of drunk he was.

The Mamasan intervened and tried to calm him, and before I had any chance to decide for myself, I was barfined and the 2 of us were assisted out of the bar.

We ended up in the Crown Hotel in Soi 8, where Chuck had a room. I thought I’d tuck him into bed and let him sleep it off. He had other ideas, none of them to my liking.

It turned out to be a replay of my nightmare with the “Jaw Paw” during my Sutthisan days. But this guy was even rougher and while he did the deeds he kept screaming “gook bitch” and other things I could not understand. The room had mirrors on the ceiling and walls, as he abused me I caught reflections of us in the mirrors, which made it all the more shocking. It was like seeing a horror movie, except I was one of the main actors. This guy was a beast! I still have flashbacks about it to this day! I ended up fleeing the room while he was in the toilet, but I could not work for a few days until my bruises went down.

When I saw Mamasan again and she saw my condition, she let me off for a few days without docking my salary. She felt responsible for getting me to go with the guy in order to get him out that night.

I had a few other violent experiences, sometimes due to disputes about payments or my services not meeting expectations. At times like these I was thinking that it would be nice for Richard Gere to show up already and take me away from all this.

One of the things my roommate, Boom, had going for her was 2 “sponsorships”, which she explained to me were important to help you over lean times. The bar business is seasonal and during the rainy season the pickings are not so good. Apart from the regulars who live in Bangkok and are too savvy, there are few tourists to share among all of us.

So it is great to have some sponsors from afar, who had “fallen in love with you” and want to pay you a monthly stipend to keep you away from the bars, staying “faithful and exclusive “to them until they return.

Boom’s been doing it for a year and she was real good at keeping these guys juggled, so they’re unaware of what she is doing. She told me she has 3 mobile phones, 1 each for the guys and one for her local use. It’s a bit expensive, but the guys are paying for it so it’s not her money anyway.

I’ve actually listened to her conversations when she was talking to them from overseas and that’s how I learned how to say the right things and have emotion in your voice.

Soon after, I put what I learned into practice and now I already have one sponsor who sends me money each month so he can save me from this work.

His name is Sven, he is from Sweden, a 38 year old computer salesman. He is blonde and good looking and kind, I’m very attracted to him .I guess opposites attract. He loves me because I’m dark and beautiful, he says, and I’m “narak”. He even pays for English lessons at ECC, 3 classes a week, but I don’t always attend, sometimes I feel “keekeeat”

or sleep in. In any case, it’s so hard, you see, all the books are in English, but I can’t read or write English. If I want to message Sven on the mobile, I always ask Boom to help.

Right now I have a young English guy crazy about me, he is here on holidays and comes to barfine me every night. I started to work on him already, about how miserable my life is as a bargirl and I think by the time he departs he’ll be my number 2 sponsor.

He is only 26 and a “boilermaker”(? ,I don’t know what it is), I think he is too young to have a lot of money, but even 10000- baht a month would come in handy as a start. He is cute and funny, I quite like him, the only problem is that most of the time I don’t know what he is talking about, he talks funny, he says that’s because he is a “Geordie”, whatever that means. In any case, I’ll promise him that I’ll quit the bar and learn to be a hairdresser or something, he’ll have to pay the tuition! And I’ll wait for him, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes I even believe it for a minute or two.

Ok, Everybody, don’t give me that look!

I really don’t think I’m a bad girl, I occasionally go to the Temple to give offerings, donate money, try to speak nicely to everyone, don’t steal and most of all give a lot of money to my family . Now they have a new house on the farm and all the kids go to school. I don’t want them to end up like me. I don’t have any choices at the moment, I make more money than most of the hi-so girls working in offices in the city. Why should I be a seamstress again to work in a sweaty factory for 4000 baht a month? That would not be smart, would it?

I think at my age I’m at the “top of the tree”, I always have guys who want or even love me.

The trouble is when they say they love me, it always comes with conditions, which restrict my freedom. On the other hand, for me love means commitment for them to look after me in the future. I think when a guy comes along and shows me he is sincere and takes care of me and marries me, maybe I could be reformed and be a good wife and a mother too.

But until then I’ll continue this way while I’m still desirable.

I remember Lookpapa, you said to me one day: ”Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”.

Well, not for me, it’s still early days, but we Isaan people like to have our Sanuk.

Anywhere, anytime!

Epilogue… By Lookpapa…

For those of you who are curious about Toy’s fate:

I had to leave Thailand for an extended period of time and to tell you the truth, I had my own problems to attend to; Toy was the furthest thing from my mind.

Six months later I was staying in the Sheraton Hotel on Sukhumvit, on an assignment to write a story about the political upheavals and the beleaguered Prime Minister Thaksin.

After a long day of interviews at the “Nation” and reviewing material on my laptop I was bushed.

It must have been around 10 pm, but although I was tired, I was not sleepy; my mind was too alert from all the data I tried to sort out from the day’s work.

I decided to go for a stroll and unwind.

As some of you know, at that time of the night Sukhumvit Road from my hotel back to Soi Nana is teeming with crowds. I crossed over on the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the road, where there are numerous street vendors hawking their wares and was looking to buy a few knick knacks to take home for friends, when suddenly I felt a tug on my arm. I spun around and I’m faced with a smiling girl who looked somewhat familiar.

My first reaction was that she is a rather aggressive freelancer trying to make a score.

I was just about to free myself from her clutches and beg off, when she says to me “Hello, Papa… It’s me, Boom!”

Lo and behold, it was her, Toy’s friend and roommate!

I asked her why she was not at work at this time of the night and she replied she just finished a short time job nearby and she was on the way back to Soi Cowboy.

I asked her if she had a bit of time to spare to have something to eat with me and she replied she did, as “her short time” was quicker than anticipated.

We found a little eatery nearby and started chatting about this and that and she told me she is doing quite well ,even though there’s a lot of talk about the Thaksin and the protesters may cause the Army to take over and if that happens the farangs might stop coming to Thailand.

So far she did not mention her friend Toy, even though she knew that I had a special interest in her and after a while I just had to know!

You know, curiosity killed the cat, but I could not help myself asking about Toy.

Boom told me that Toy had departed for Sweden a month ago after Sven arranged for a visa. She landed in Sweden in the middle of the winter, the temperature around minus 10.

Toy rang her the next day, telling her it’s nearly dark all day there and she is freezing within a minute of stepping outside, which should be avoided at all cost, as no matter how much clothes she wears , her eyes start watering and the tears freeze on her cheeks.

Sven lives in a condo and goes to work 5 days a week.

She rang again the second week, crying on the phone, she’s been cooped up alone in the condo for days, without Thai food, she can’t understand the Swedish language on TV. She keeps ringing Sven at work all the time just to hear his voice and he is getting pissed off already. On the weekend Sven drove her to meet his parents who were very cold to her, they of course spoke Swedish all the time, made her feel useless.

A week ago she rang again, this time she could hardly talk, her voice was very faint and raspy and had fits of coughing. She said she felt hot and cold and shivering. While they were on the phone Sven came home and some conversation took place. Then Sven got on the phone.

He told Boom they have to hang up, as Toy is running a high fever, he suspects she might have pneumonia and must rush her into hospital.

That was the last communication between the two of the girls.

Boom asked me what I think had happened to Toy.

I told her that with antibiotics and in a hospital in Sweden she’d have a good chance of full recovery. I also told her that chances are when she recovers she’ll probably be back on the first plane to Bangkok, so keep her room ready for her. A big smile lit up Boom’s face and she said she’ll be waiting for her with open arms.

We then said our good byes and I told her to remember me to Toy. Boom turned one way and went back to her world; I turned the opposite way and returned to mine. Two friends, worlds apart……


The persona of Toy is real and factual. I did not write fantasy. In this case I was just the “mouthpiece” of someone who was willing, with a bit of prompting, to throw some light onto the other side of the “coin”. I’ve added only a few additional snippets from some other information I was privy to, due to my interactions with other girls. This in no way alters her basic story and events, it only serves to make her thoughts more representative.

I tried to write the piece with simplified English to some extent, after all I did not want her to come across as an educated native speaker. On the other hand, if I wrote it in Thailish, it’d be too tiresome for most readers.

In my assessment Toy is basically an “honest” girl in a “Thai” context. She does not steal, drug customers and rob them. She does not “borrow” money from friends and run away from her responsibilities. She does not intentionally hurt anyone and she tries to deliver her services fairly. She is “streetsmart” and willing and eager to learn; but a simple Isaan girl who is a victim of her circumstances. Lack of education means no real choices in her life. So she is making the most of what she’s got, who can blame her?

Her misrepresentations of herself are just a marketing ploy. We in the West are leaders of using sex to market anything from soap to cars, you name it, there’s no limit! I think most of you could do a lot worse than meeting a “Toy”!

I gave a short version of her story to highlight the “milestones” in her progress.

The full story, with a lot more detail (some sordid, some romantic) and a different title will take a book, which my agent is currently negotiating with publishers who want to include options for film rights; there lies the difficulty of clinching a deal. I’d want some control over that, so it does not turn into a Z grade porno movie.

The stories on Stickman regarding farangs and TBG’s only present the Western perspective. Obviously because of the target audience and English language usage only, we hardly ever get the alternate view. That’s why I’m speaking on behalf of Toy. If you were able to click to a Thai version, you’d probably get hundreds of Thai respondents. This would be beyond the scope and abilities of Stick. However, we must keep in mind that unless we hear both sides of an argument, we should not rush to judgment.

The stories of the many “Toys” in Thailand will be never ending until social reform reaches the people of Isaan.

The rural folk of Isaan are exploited firstly by the Chinese / Thai rice merchants and moneylenders, who are making big bucks on their backs and secondly, by the urban middle classes, who don’t care about the plight of their county cousins.

The inherent racism evident in Thai society targets the rural poor first and foremost.. Wholesale changes in the Thai political system would be needed to give these people proper representation. Probably not in my lifetime.

Stickman's thoughts:

A very interesting series indeed. The lives of many young women born in rural Isaan can be heart-breaking.

nana plaza