One night in Bangkok and your heart is thumping

Posted: February 27, 2011 in South East Asia
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[Parental Disclaimer: this blog may contain descriptions of an adult nature, so senstive eyes please turn away because I will not be held accountable for any cardiac arrests]

Or so we thought. In reality, one night in Bangkok and the only thing thumping is your head as it reels from too many badly poured Margaritas in glitzy bars with an 80s like addiction to neon. The red light district is one of the most famous parts of Thailand and its pingpong shows the stuff of legends. Everybody we know who has visited Thailand has ended up at one of the clubs to absorb the bizarre sight of a succession of women demonstrating the power of the body and mind. So we decided that, before Muneeza’s parents arrived, we would take a stroll up Th Silom and seek out the notorious Patpong district. Come to me my ladyboy beauties…..

Man, woman or ladyboy

It’s the only game to play on a night like this. The gateui (ladyboys) are well known and an integral part of Thai society, even if their social standing and level of acceptance is not to be written home about. In fact, life for a gateui can be incredibly  cruel. In Thailand only 2 genders are recognised; male and female. A ladyboy is registered as male from birth and is unable to change this legally, so if they apply for a job they have to apply as male but at interview their appearance is female. This leads to inevitable discrimination and a really tough time. Perhaps this is one reason behind their reputation for being quite touchy and hot tempered.

Anyway, I digress. We decided to play the game and guess what gender each ‘woman’ was. You might think this is easy and that all ladyboys are given away by masculine features, such as a prominent adam’s apple and chunky sausage fingers. Wrong. Some of the gateui are incredibly feminine and, though it worries me to say, often very beautiful. There I’ve said it. Whilst many of you will assault me with charges of batting for the other team, those of you who have been to Thailand will know exactly what I mean, even if you won’t voice agreement via this public forum. But I know who you are. For every 5 o’clock shadow there is a shapely set of pins and you really have to focus to work out who is genuine lady material. If I was a single man and interested in some companionship out here, I would assume the mantle of Doctor and do the cough test before retiring for the night with my new friend.

Needless to say, we soon got bored of the game and decided to mainline some foul tasting cocktails.

Muneeza makes a new friend in the toilet

We opted for a few drinks on Th Convent before hitting a pingpong show. At Molly Malone’s, I packed Muni off to the ladies and waited at the bar in the loving embrace of my JD. She came racing back and told me she had met a lovely half Thai girl (did she mean midget?) in the toilet who invited us upstairs because it was better up there and her friend was an actor. I’m easily persuaded, so we went upstairs and hooked up with Jennifer, her actor friend Johann and a few other mates. It was a fun few hours and the drinks flowed a little too easily. Actor dude was actually quite a nice guy though displayed the occasional American tendency towards over-exaggeration and sounding like he knew everything about traveling. I didn’t recognise him, which in true style I told him and asked him to come back when he was A-list, but he is apparently in The Hangover 2. He was interesting to talk to about the fun and games of earning a living as an actor and thankfully not in the least bit lovey darling, sweety sweety.

We asked Johann for some advice about the clubs, not wanting to get ripped off, and given that he’d lived in Bangkok for 4 years we assumed he would know the place. Both of them certainly talked like they knew the deal and whisked us off towards Patpong to find the elusive bars where tourists don’t get fleeced. 30mins later we wished we had said a polite goodbye at the bar. Jennifer was wasted and was quite oblivious to where she was taking us and the large bundle of notes she was brandishing. We went in to 2 bars and made swift exits as Johann announced they were shoddy and we shouldn’t be there. Funny that 4 years of experience down the road and neither of them had any clue what was going on, even with their reasonably fluent Thai.

Anti – the only climax we found

After being led a merry dance, we opted to ditch them and in the midst of a busy throng, made a quick turn and fled down a side alley. We made our minds up to find a show ourselves and see what all the fuss is about. Oh how we wished we hadn’t. The Lonely Planet is bang on the money when it says any charm that the area used to possess has long since departed, replaced with a soulless tourist sideshow. The clubs are sandwiched either side of market stalls flogging poor quality ‘replica’ goods. You can’t walk 5m without being hassled by at least 3 touts and promoters who don’t listen to a word you say. In the end we switched off and ignored them, not caring if that was rude.

Inside the club, forlorn and disinterested looking women stand listlessly on stage, vacant eyes staring out menacingly into the crowd. On cue one woman opens a beer bottle with a certain part of her body. The next one crouches down and out pops an egg. A pingpong ball appears and a third lifeless soul goes through the motions. We didn’t come here for sexual excitement, it was simply for the experience but this really is not an experience worth having. It left us cold and me slightly sorry that the one voyeuristic indulgence I persuaded Muneeza to witness was rather soul crushing and deeply dispirited.

We left sharply to the protests of money hungry owners and beat a path back to the hotel to make sure we woke up in time to meet Muneeza’s parents on Saturday. I was on the verge of passing out when my jani opted to randomly get up, walk down the corridor and stick her head out the window at the end, muttering something about fresh air. It took me a long time to coax her back to the room.

love jamer & muneeza x

At Molly Malones in Bangkok

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