Americans in Bangkok: Bar Girls and Why Not

Bar girls are a mistake that countless guys make when they first leave the United States. Bar girls are a mistake in two ways. First, lots of gringos think that the girls are typical of the women of the country. Second, they get tangled up with a hooker and perhaps marry her. This is bad juju. Not a good idea at all.

Let’s use Thailand as an example. Everyone has heard of the sex trade there. Most Americans seem to think that Thailand is a nation of prostitutes, and that seven out of every three have AIDS. This isn’t true. The sex trade exists, but the overwhelming majority of women have nothing to do with it. The problem is that very few outlanders get beyond the whorehouses, so they think there is nothing else to Thailand.

The fact is that the Thais are culturally conservative, have fairly high standards of sexual morality, and regard foreigners (farangs) as depraved barbarians who want only sex. This typically is accurate. But the women you first will meet will be hookers. Let’s go through the drill.

You land in Bangkok and check into your hotel. Of course that evening you head for one of the farang bar districts because, well, it’s easy, and although in principle you are looking for a wife, in practice a little practice never hurts. I mean we are, after all, guys. And Bangkok at night is a sexual candy store.

There are three girly districts of note, Patpong Road, Soi Cowboy, and Nana Plaza. Patpong is perhaps the best known and the nicest. (Actually there are Patpong I and Patpong II, streets right next to and parallel with each other.) The taxi drops you off. What do you see?

A narrowish street, garishly lit, jammed with at least three-quarters of the entire population of Asia, milling and shoving and squirming through densely packed rows of stands selling clothes, trinkets, souvenirs, pirated music, antisocial tee-shirts, everything. Keep your hand on your wallet. (I wear a photo vest with inside zippered pockets.)

The street is lined with bars, many of them thumping with godawful disco music too loud to allow conversation. Go into a couple just to see what they are. There will probably be a long stand in the thumping murk raised a couple of feet above the floor. From this a dozen brass poles will rise to the ceiling. Dangling somewhere will probably be one of those beachballs covered with fragments of mirror to reflect the lights, which will be red and green and purple. Some of these places look to have been designed by Dante, but this has never been established.

On the stand, one per pole, will be Thai girls in bikinis or hot pants or whatever. They will be bumping and grinding in boredom. Depending on your age, recent deprivation, ethanol intake, experience in Asia, and testosterone levels, you may find this titillating, tiresome, or sad.

A girl will very quickly come to your table and offer you, well, herself. She will speak little if any English and be a peasant girl from up-country. She will have the appeal of the young, willing, and female. Do as you choose. She has nothing to do with our goal of finding a permanent squeeze, so we will drop her at this point.

Now go to one of the non-disco bars. The last time I did such things a good example was the Takara, on Patpong I, upstairs by way of an elevator. It may still exist. Here, given your quest, you could get into trouble. The Takara, technically a massage parlor, is small, quiet, pleasant, with a bar and a couple of tables. The barmaid, overage at thirty-two or so, speaks English well. She is pretty and seems nice. She is in fact nice.

At the back of the room is a plate-glass window. Behind it is a series of platforms, one above the other, like very wide steps. On these sit a dozen lovely Thai girls in what look like gauzy evening gowns. Each has a tag pinned on her with a number. You can drink a beer or two at the bar, chaff with the barmaid, and then, if so inspired, ask for Seven. The barmaid will inform Seven that she is wanted, and Seven will then come sit by you at the bar.

Here is where, if you have not encountered third-world bar girls before, especially Asians, you need to be very careful. Seven will be sweet, and sleek, and charming. She will not have any of the iron-clawed vulture in her that one encounters with many American hookers. She will smile and seem to mean it and she will be…that word again…feminine, and she will give you a neck massage and, if you buy her a second beer, a third-leg massage. She won’t be crass about it, though. Thais aren’t.

And you will think, “My god, she’s really…nice. Not what I expected. Why, I like her.”

The combination of loveliness, femininity, and sex is potent stuff. Sure, after a bit she will want you to buy her another drink, but at the Takara they aren’t pushy about it, and anyhow that is how the game is played. She has to make a living. And of course before too long she will ask if you want to go upstairs. Of course you will want to.

So you will go into a little cubicle, one of many, with a massage table and a big bathtub, and she will tell you to strip and do so herself. This will not lower your opinion of her attractiveness. She will tell you to get into the bath tub. Thais are a clean people and believe in bathing before further proceedings. She will wash you, which will not decrease your enthusiasm. Then you will find yourself lying on a long rubber mat while she massages you by pouring warm soapy water on you and sliding up and down you. That is, she serves as an animated sponge. During all of this she will laugh and chat and be a sweetheart. The Thai experience is not like a quick-and-nasty against an alley wall in Washington, DC.

Being new to all of this, your thought will be to come back the next night and buy this wonderful creature out of the bar. To do this you pay the “bar fine” to the barmaid, usually 500 baht or about twenty-five bucks. Seven is now yours for the night. You can take her out to eat, then back to your hotel. Sex will be good, if a tad mechanical around the edges. Thais are not sexually inhibited.

Here is where the trouble can start. You can easily begin to bond with her, to become enamored or, as we used to say, fall in love with her. She will not discourage this. After all, bonding is her business. Her less-agreeable side, which we all have, will not appear. You will eventually hear about her five-year-old boy that she had by a boyfriend who abandoned her, and how she was half-starving selling soup on the street but went into hooking because it paid better.

And you may begin to see yourself as a Galahad rescuing this sloe-eyed princess from the vicissitudes of life. Of course part of your spirit of charity will flow from her having really nice tits. It is easy to confuse love with horniness.

But a fair number of inexperienced guys end up marrying a sweetie out of a bar, who turns out to be screwed up in the head, which is true of most bar girls, and makes his life hellish. You find that she isn’t as bright as you thought, has a fourth-grade education, or just wants to lie around in bed all day and watch television. For good reasons they are often ambivalent about men, and their whole lives revolve around getting men to give them things. I have known a couple of marriages to bar girls that worked, but it is very rare.

They are not evil people, or no worse than the admittedly sorry baseline for the human race. They are human beings. They have real problems and a tough life and it is reasonable to be sympathetic. But you can’t solve their problems. After the body massage, give her a big tip, buy her a last drink, and disappear over the horizon.

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