Members Only – Perceptions from an Indian Australian in Pattaya
I've always enjoyed reading the submissions on your site, never having any intention of writing a submission myself. However I felt compelled to write this after reading the submission One-Man Indian Boycott of Pattaya by Stolle. This article brought back a flood of memories of my recent trips to Pattaya and I hope this submission helps others see these aren't isolated experiences.
I am Indian by race and look every bit the Indian with black hair and brown skin but no facial hair. I was born in Australia and have lived here my entire life. I have a fairly thick Australian accent, love my footy, my Commodores and my grog.
I've been to Pattaya half a dozen times, most recently a few months back and I usually stay around a fortnight each trip. I had such fond memories of Pattaya when I first went there a decade ago. There weren't as many Indian tourists, and I was able to go into every gogo bar and did not hear the term "Members Only" used once. The girls and doormen everywhere I went were more than happy to have me visit their gogos (as I said, I love my grog) and Pattaya was a place I was longing to return back to. Soon enough, I found myself back there. Over the years, I have witnessed the changing attitudes towards Indians. Recent trips to Pattaya have been in such stark contrast to the trips I made a decade ago that I feel writing this may in some way may help others understand what it's like for an Indian-looking tourist to Pattaya.
My experiences during my last couple of trips to Pattaya
The first thing that comes to mind is how many places I was not allowed in. I can honestly say, I was not allowed to enter the majority of gogos, always getting the same response of, "Members only". It was interesting to note that some were quite shocked to hear this Indian-looking guy who sounded nothing like what they may have been expecting. Regardless of this, the majority of gogos gave an outright Members Only response. The gogos in the sois off Walking Street, those along Walking street and Soi LK Metro all gave me the same Members Only response. Many a times I would find myself standing to one side while Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and Caucasians were happily ushered in. I never took it personally as I couldn't see the point of ruining the trip by fretting too much over this.
There were a few gogos I was allowed into, but these were few and far between. Here my entry was possibly the result of a number of reasons. Could have been the door person recognising me from previous trips to Pattaya, the accent that sounds vastly different from what they were expecting, possibly the lack of facial hair or even possibly the sight of the several tattoos I have. One thing I'm confident with is my race played no part in gaining me admission. Once in the gogo, I was thrilled to finally rest my feet and started hitting the booze to my hearts content. I was happy to buy lady drinks, buy the mamasan drinks and just enjoy the night. I was happy to spend well over $50AUD a night at each of these gogos. Coming to these gogos again were always enjoyable as they realised this Indian looking guy didn't turn out to be a Cheap Charlie.
It's a business after all
There are copious amounts of evidence that gogos restrict Indians from entering because of the belief that Indians are Cheap Charlies – and rightly so. There is no doubt the rationale behind this makes perfect sense. As a business, you would want the limited seats you have to be filled with people who are going to be spending. Spending on drinks, lady drinks, bar fines, short time (ST) and long time (LT) services with the girls all contribute to the gogos profits and customers willing to spend are better for the business. So it's no surprise the bus loads of Japanese and Koreans are welcomed with such fanfare while Indians get their Members Only greeting (I'm not in any way encouraging people to inflate the prices of ST, LT and barfines by paying more than the current going rate, so do your research on costs).
Etiquette while in Pattaya and Tips to help you gain entry to gogos
This is primarily aimed at Indians who intend to visit Pattaya because by now I hope you see you're going to find it harder than others to gain entry to a gogo bar. I'm not saying by following these guidelines that you're going to gain entry but I'm sure they'll help in changing the perception that your a Cheap Charlie. If you really are cheap and intend to buy 1 drink and share that drink, please have a good long think about your actions and the consequences they have.
So the most obvious would be to buy a drink for yourself (do not share this drink with your mates obviously) and buy another for a lady. Keep in mind that you're in an establishment that values the spending customer. By spending there, your next visit is going to be far more welcoming.
If you fancy a girl, why not take her for a ST or LT (do not share the girl with your mates either, obviously). Pretty much common themes here are do not share, buy your own and spend. Do right by the Thais and spend while you're in town. You're only making it easier for yourself to really enjoy all Pattaya has to offer.
If you decided to take the plunge and get yourself a girl, consider getting her for long time and let her accompany you to other gogos. Doormen see this as a sign that you're clearly willing to spend because you have just forked out on a girl. Buy yourself, your girl and even another girl in that gogo a drink. Yeah, more spending I know, but hey, such is life in Pattaya (and everywhere else for that matter).
Don't become aggressive or start arguing with the doorman if you are given the Member Only response. Don't take it personally, take it in your stride and go elsewhere.
Also, if you're in a group, the chances of you all gaining admission reduces even further. My tip, separate into smaller groups of 2 – 3. Ideally if you're by yourself, you'll have a better chance of getting in.
To the non Indians reading this, I hope this gave you an insight in to the experiences of an Australian Indian in Pattaya. We share the same culture back home, growing up on Weetbix, Neighbours, sausage sizzles, maccas, cheering for the Wallabies, Socceroos and everything else that binds us, but such sentiment is not always shared in Pattaya. Adding fuel to the already prevalent perception that all Indians are cheap charlies greatly disadvantages those of us who like yourselves are going to Pattaya to enjoy all it has to offer.
The harsh reality facing all Indians who plan on making a trip to Pattaya, regardless of where your born is you will be judged by your skin colour. Don't take it personally and enjoy the city for all it has to offer its non members. Internet forums are filled with anecdotal evidence of ways Indians have tried to enjoy the fruits of Pattaya in the cheapest possible means to such an extent that the term Cheap Charlie is sometimes synonymous with being Indian. Maybe this perception won't ever change. However, if more Indians are willing to act upon the suggestions given here, it will make it easier for you the next time round.
Written by B.B.