Sexwork Cyber Center
By Dave in Phoenix
PO Box 55045, Phoenix AZ 85078-5045

Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality

Thailand Intimacy & Healthy Sexuality Research Report

COPYRIGHTED 1999 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - MAY BE REPRINTED OR QUOTED FROM ONLY IF CREDIT IS GIVEN, and/or show link to page where material was quoted if you are getting it from our website. I request a note where it was quoted or republished or if reprinted a copy of the publication. I hope the information is helpful to many, but want to be sure it is properly credited as I try and do for all material I use.

Highlights From:
Fielding's Thailand Travel Guide 

With a great deal of information on Sex and Tourism

Source link:
This excerpt, with full credit, is being shared under the Fair Use provision of the U.S. Copyright laws and International treaties for educational purposes and for no financial gain.

Overview of Contents:
THE Oldest Profession Sex and Tourism
The Sex Tour Myth
Thailand's Sex Meccas
Thai Sex Speak 
Understanding the Thai Sex Industry
Child Prostitution
The Master Race Myth
Up-country Refugees
AIDS in Thailand

THE Oldest Profession
Sex and Tourism
Of Thailand's 7 million tourists each year, fully 70 to 80 percent are men, many of whom come for one reason--sex. Although the Thai authorities protect with an obsession their venerated national pastime, they equally protect its containment and the propagation of the illusion that it doesn't exist. As one Bangkok publican told me: "Sure, you can get to the bottom of the sex trade here. Pull from the hamper all the dirty laundry. Expose the corrupt officials and the Chinese mob. It's not a very well kept secret. You'll just end up married to a cinder block at the bottom of the Chao Phraya River before you can tell anyone about it."

A House of Cards
Bangkok is perhaps 30 to 40 times larger than the second-largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai. The Thais--like their neighbors in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar--would normally be a simple, agrarian people. However, Bangkok has become their Oz--their mysterious, golden monolith towering above the short-grain fields. It is so entirely different from the rest of the country that people here don't seem to know quite how to behave. On one corner, 13-year-old children bow their heads in respect as you pass by. On the next, kids the same age will swipe your watch. Monks are defrocked for charging call girls on their VISA cards, and call girls get visas to enter Manila nunneries.

There are many economists and urban planners who believe Bangkok will ultimately implode--that it is growing so quickly and is so diametrically opposed to the Thai psyche, that its inhabitants will suffer a collective nervous breakdown and raze the city into one giant rice paddy. If that opinion is far from the reality, you don't get that feeling on the street. The place can seem totally out of control. Every day, more than 500 additional cars are added to its already lava-flowlike traffic grid.

Simply, most travelers don't like it here. They move on quite quickly after arrival to Thailand's hill country and beaches. Those who stay aren't here for the golf and the sunshine.

Prostitution in Thailand has been illegal since 1960. But Thai officials go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that it continues to persevere and prosper. In fact, there's a special branch of the government's police department--the Tourist Police--which seems to have been specifically created to handle all of the "flaws" in the implementation of the law. They handle fake gem scams in Bangkok, purse-snatchings in Pattaya and knockout-drop train thefts in the north. But it seems many of their duties center around protecting johns from Captagon-crazed floozies banging down their doors at four in the morning, tracking down barmaids who've made off with a customer's Cartier, and primarily ensuring that sex tourists get what they pay for and don't pay for what they don't get.

In reality, prostitution in Thailand is about as illegal as driving on the left side of the road. (That's the side they drive on here.)

Although it's common knowledge in the kingdom that many tourists from abroad come here for sex, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)--unlike the Tourist Police--wasn't established to cater to sex tourists. TAT will not recommend preferred a-go-gos, massage parlors, short-time hotels and songs. In Thai tourist offices, you won't find four-color brochures of the plethora of sex shows. TAT has done its best to downplay sex tourism in the unfounded fear that the notoriety of Thailand's image as a mecca for the world's horny would hurt tourism revenues. Instead, solely because of Thailand's image as a sex tourist's paradise, tourism to the Kingdom is sluicing.

The Sex Tour Myth
The visitors aren't coming here on "sex junkets" or "sex tours." One hears so much about these "organized tours'' it's assumed your travel agent can simply pick up a phone and book you on one. Such isn't the case. Very few sex tourists to Thailand arrive as part of sex packages. Outfits that operate them are few and far between. Most "sex tours'' of Thailand are actually arranged by large Asian and European employers, who send favored employees to Thailand as a reward for hard work.

The image of drunken farangs being bused from one brothel to the next in air-conditioned coaches is an illusion.

In Bangkok, there are a few fly-by-night "sex tour'' operators that specialize in sending clients up to Thailand's northern hilltribe villages and Laos, promising "AIDS-free'' girls. They are unscrupulous, frequently changing their names and place of business to stay one step ahead of Thailand's Crime Suppression Division (CSD).

Thailand's Sex Meccas
There are five principal sex tourist destinations: Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai--probably in that order. Of these cities, Hat Yai is least visited by Western tourists. Rather, this "Capital of the South'' is the primary destination for horny, border-hopping Malaysians escaping for a few hours the dogma of the Koran. There is some action on the rapidly developing island of Koh Samui, but it is hardly a destination principally for sex.

Contrary to popular belief, for Westerners, Bangkok is not Thailand's shopping mall arcade of sex. Pattaya is. For every Bangkok girlie joint, Pattaya boasts 10. Perhaps 1-2 million tourists get to Pattaya, a place about the size of Peoria, each year to be serviced by a regular stable of more than 5000 bar girls, massage workers and freelancers. The number swells to as many as 15,000 when the U.S. Navy is in town during the annual joint U.S./Thai Operation Cobra Gold military maneuvers.

In the beach area of the city, there are bar-beers, a-go-gos and short-time ice joints snaking into every conceivable alley and driveway. Uninitiated conventional tourists seeking merely sun and surf are invariably stunned and left aghast at the seediness of it all. The Bangkok Post is continually stuffed with letters penned by outraged foreign tourists vowing never to return to Thailand--most are letting off the steam of a poorly researched vacation.

The action on Phuket, primarily confined to the free for all of Patong Beach, is being eclipsed by the swelling numbers of families visiting the island, Thailand's largest. Bar-beers are being boarded up, and the working girls complain about the proliferation in Patong of bare-busted European ladies walking their small children on the beaches. Nonetheless, this tropical paradise remains a principal sex destination.

Chiang Mai continues to be the northern hub of sex tourism, despite the fact that Thailand's northern provinces are bearing the brunt of the Kingdom's AIDS problem (see "AIDS in Thailand''). It is said that the most beautiful women in all the realm are found in Chiang Mai. Yet, like a similar claim about Vietnamese girls in Hue, what difference does it make?

In reality, Thailand's true sex meccas are Bangkok and Pattaya. In these two places, you will be treated by most of the Thais you run into as being in these cities simply for sex. It can safely be said that no single-male visitor to Pattaya is there just for sun and relaxation.

That said and done, be warned that, in this theater of the carnal absurd, the girls don't want your body, just that little blue book you get stamped at airports.

Thai Sex Speak 
"The demimondaine told the farang punter she wasn't a katoey. So the butterfly, who had extracurriculars scheduled with another paphian later after her dramshop stint, agreed to a short-time." Get that?

You'll be coming across a variety of words and phrases in this book you probably haven't encountered before. All subcultures develop their own linguistic patois; the Thai sex subculture is no different. And it'll help if you get a chance to know its vernacular before you end up doing something you'll regret (or voting for a saloon owner in the next election).

A venue for booze, schmooze and a lot of T&A. These are clubs/bars offering a bevy of babes and katoeys who dance in various degrees of nakedness to throbbing rock music on raised stages and clinging to chrome poles connected from the stage to the ceiling. Seating is either booth style, or bar style at the base of the stage for the best view. A-go-gos can have as few as one or two ladies dancing at the same time, or as many as a dozen or more. The dancers wear numbered badges on their "swim suits" for identification purposes. This is so the bar can keep track of them, rather than for the convenience of customers, as is traditionally thought. Rarely does a john ask for a girl by number. At these establishments, one must pay a bar fine in order to "release" the lady from her duties at the bar (i.e., bring her home).

Bar-Beer (Sometimes Beer-Bar)
This is simply a bar staffed by women-women who may be "bought" from the bar as they can be in a-go-gos. There is no dancing in these joints, and the women are usually modestly (and entirely) dressed. Only problem is the lady barkeep can be bought out as well. If she's especially good-looking and makes a killer martini, woe to the other customers, who will have to settle for draught beer poured by a pudgy 15-year-old from Luang Prabang.

Bar Cup
Show you are a seasoned Thailand veteran by not paying for the beer as it's brought to you in the first bar in the kingdom you walk into. In every a-go-go and bar-beer in the country, you'll be running a tab. A small cup will be placed in front of you with your bill after each drink. Look at each new bill to make sure it's correct. Lots of guys, after tossing a few, get ripped off. When you buy a lady a lady-drink, she will put her bill into your cup. Look at it.

Bar Fine
No, this isn't a penalty for being an unethical attorney. It's the amount of money you are required to remit to the entertainment establishment to be permitted to bring one of its girls with you. Bar fines in Thailand range from B300-500 (US$12-20). Of course, you must negotiate a separate compensation for the lady with the lady herself. Do it before you pay her bar fine.

Bar Girl
Any lass working in a saloon, an a-go-go, bar-beer, sex club-or any other establishment serving booze-who can be bought out from the bar for extracurricular activities. The term is normally used in association with a-go-go dancers.

The woman in an a-go-go or bar-beer who does the pouring of the booze. Usually new at the sex trade and is getting the chance to decide whether she wants to ascend to the hard-core level of bar girl or go back up-country to her family and feed chickens.

A male homo sapien who engages in wanton and undiscriminating sex with multiple women without a commitment to anyone but himself.

A highly addictive stimulant, or "upper," similar to speed (methadrine) and used by a number of bar girls to increase their energy levels. Lasses can stay awake for days on this stuff. They use barbiturates to bring themselves down. Captagon is readily available in all Thai pharmacies without a prescription.

Clip Joint
A bar-beer or a-go-go that overcharges customers, usually either through unadvertised or unannounced "entertainment" charges or a two-tiered price system: one price for locals, and a higher price for foreigners.

An after-hours watering hole for those who just haven't had enough after the 2 a.m. "official" closing time of Thailand's flesh pots. The last patrons usually leave well after sunrise.

A sexotic a-go-go, usually where some degree of sex is performed live.

Westerner. Farang (pronounced fa-long) in Thai means "foreigner." However, it's used in connection with Westerners. Thai girls never refer to other Asian men (such as those from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, etc.) as farangs.

Transvestite. Any man who poses as a lady, whether he's had a full sex-change operation or not. If you've been fooled, it was by a katoey. Also known as "lady-man" or "lady-boy."

The small, nonalcoholic beverages harlots expect you to buy a lot of for them in the bars. A lady-drink typically is about three ounces of Coca-Cola and costs about B50 (US$2). The lass pockets half from the bar.

See "Katoey."

(1) The "managing director" of an a-go-go. Usually responsible for the performance, behavior, hiring and firing of bar girls. (2) The "managing director" of a song-or brothel. Responsibilities include the supervising of the girls as well as the "recruitment" of lasses into the trade.

Mang Daa
The "enforcer" of the song. The po lao's right-hand man, the mang daa dishes out the discipline. It can be rough-even fatal.

See "Po Lao."

Po Lao
A papasan, or Thai slaver. The owner of a brothel who purchases girls from their families and forces them into sex enslavement labor until they have paid off their "debt," or the prearranged return on his investment.

An agent of a Thai or farang slaver who recruits girls up-country for work in Bangkok brothels. They are lured in many cases by promises of legitimate employment as waitresses, hotel maids or factory workers.

The owner of an a-go-go, bar-beer, saloon, etc. A Republican is not an ex-saloonkeeper who has come out of retirement.

John. Punters are the customers (or prospective clients) of hookers and bar girls. Known as "johns" in the U.S., "punters" do not come in on fourth and long for the Denver Broncos.

A condom.

An expat, as opposed to a local.

A limited-time, extracurricular arrangement made between a hooker and a john. Short-times usually last only as long as the john's stamina. Usually under 30 minutes. Customer stamina isn't tolerated.

A male homo sapien who engages in wanton and undiscriminating sex with multiple women without a commitment to anyone but himself, although he has pledged fidelity to one, more or all of them.

A brothel. More specifically, it is an institutionalized term (such as "school") that refers to brothels all across Thailand whose workers have been purchased and enslaved into forced sex.

White Slaver
Typically a farang man belonging to an international slavery network who lures Thai bar girls to overseas "work" in Europe, Asia and America through offers of lucrative compensation. They arrange for the girls' passports and visas in conjunction with corrupt Thai immigration authorities. The consenting girls are then placed in prearranged foreign brothels and sex clubs, where they are required to work as prostitutes until they have paid off the return on the slaver's investment.

Understanding the Thai Sex Industry
Despite Thailand's (and particularly Bangkok's) image as the sex capital of the world, it isn't. There are more hookers per capita in Taipei and Manila than there are in Bangkok. But Bangkok may well be the sex capital of the world for foreigners.

Despite the relatively recent invasion of Westerners into Thailand for sex--it was started in the late 1960s by American GIs and in the 1970s by tourists--prostitution is nothing new in the kingdom. Thai kings and royalty, until the reign of Rama VI in 1910, had surrounded themselves with bevies of concubines. As did kings, so did rich businessmen and government officials. The more ladies one had, the higher one's status.

It's tough not to draw comparisons between Thailand's treatment of women and black slavery in America. One Thai government official was granted a prostitution concession by the government, permitting him to run a massive, 600-harlot whoredom in Ayuthaya in the 1680s. Of course, the girls had all been kidnapped or bought and enslaved.

In Thailand today, a large number of men continue the polygamous practices of their ancestors, practices that are construed--rightly or wrongly--to be in adherence with Buddhism. The Thai man will wed only one woman (at least at a time). She is elevated to mia luang (or major wife) and revered the same way a Buddhist considers the principal Buddha image at a pagoda (or wat). Any other women the man takes are considered mia noi (minor wives) and brought around with him as is his Buddha amulet. Other women he may "encounter'' along the way are seen as shrines.

Surveys have revealed that between 80 percent and 95 percent of all Thai men over the age of 21 have paid for sex with a prostitute. There are songs (brothels) in practically every town and village in Thailand, perhaps 150,000 in all. College and university male bonding "initiation rites'' in Thailand almost universally require that first-year male students sleep with a hooker. In Thailand, there are as many as 2 million prostitutes. Somewhere between 3 percent and 20 percent of the female population in the kingdom between the ages of 15 and 34 are prostitutes.

The traditional and "official'' role of the woman in Thailand has--through the principles of Theravada Buddhism--been a subordinate one. However, in practice, women--especially in the north and northeast of Thailand--have reigned over households and dowries in such a way that suggests a strong underlying matriarchal social order. At the very least, there was an equality when it came to chores, manual labor and household duties.

Observers have recorded for at least six centuries that women in Thailand (then Siam) have had the final say on all affairs of the household, including financial matters and distribution of labor. Woman inherited land (and still do), and it was formerly the norm for men to live at their wife's place of residence rather than the other way around. If a man needed spending money, he didn't ask his buddies--he pleaded with his wife!

This dominance over men extended into the bedroom. It wasn't the woman's role to give pleasure to her husband, but the man's duty to sexually please his wife. And women insisted that her man take extraordinary measures (figuratively and literally) to effectively enable her to reach orgasm. In contrast with Africa--where surgery was usually performed for the sake of the man's pleasure--men in Thailand endured agonizing surgeries on their private parts to make them more arousing to women. Penis balls and bells, implanted under the skin of the penis, were common items sported by wealthy gents of Thailand's past (as well as by many men of Burma and Java). And other items--such as pins, spurs and studs--were surgically attached to the mens' genitals to give the ladies more pleasure.

Women in Thailand may have gotten what they wanted in the sack, but they've been sacked themselves when it comes to equal rights. As mentioned, it's still commonplace for Thai men to take more than one woman--expected even. A Thai woman cannot seek a divorce from her husband on the grounds of infidelity. But the husband can if his wife has got a little sideshow going. A husband is permitted under law to claim material compensation from any other person who has had sex with his wife. Even in prostitution, only the hooker can be prosecuted, as the male "punter'' has broken no Thai law in soliciting a prostitute. There is no solicitation law on the Thai books.

What drives so many women into prostitution in Thailand is their unheralded and societally unrecognized equality with men. Although they share many of the same responsibilities as do men, women are systematically deprived of the conventional success channels and ladders available to males. As they are, in many cases, solely responsible for the prosperity and survival of their families, many women enter the oldest profession simply in accordance with their role as providers. Ironically, they are forced into the function of subservience due to their very dominance.

The 1960 law didn't stop prostitution, of course. But what it did do was strip the hooker of all her legal rights. Prostitutes in Thailand are subjected to enslavement, beatings and abuse by their employers--with their only recourse being imprisonment and/or fines levied by the constabulary. Despite the scurrility, there is more money to be made being roughed up a little than sitting in a jail cell.

Despite the seeming masses of farangs who stream into Thailand for sex, only a fraction of the country's half-million or so (some estimates range as high as 2 million) hookers work with farangs. The overwhelming majority of Thai prostitutes indulge only with Thai men. But an estimated 3 million tourists arrive in Thailand each year simply for sex, "pumping'' into the Thai economy more than US$3 billion per year.

Child Prostitution
An estimated 10 percent of Thailand's prostitutes are under 14 years old. (It is illegal to have sex with anyone under 15 in Thailand.) [DAVE NOTES: Under the The Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act B.E. 2539 (1996) the legal age is now 18 for prostitutes.] Some estimates put the number at around 100,000. Pedophiles the world over come to Thailand for sex with children, who have been "bought'' from their parents by white or Thai slavers and only returned after the kids have earned their way out, usually after a number of years. Children are particularly prized by the Chinese, who believe that sex with unsullied children bestows them with the fountain of youth. Sex with a virgin boy or girl can be had in areas such as Bangkok's Chinatown for B5000-10,000. However, rather than farangs and other Asians, Thai males comprise the crux of the customers.

Unlike conventional sex seekers, pedophiles are not welcomed in Thailand. Any report to the police that a foreigner has solicited sexual services from a child will bring swift and fast retribution. Thai-language dailies constantly splash color photos on their front pages of police raids on hotel rooms where foreigners are sleeping with underage boys and girls. The Thai police have this uncanny knack for catching the perpetrator in the act, and the photos typically depict old men in their underwear sitting shamefully on their hotel beds, a nearly naked child next to them. As the press is permitted to accompany the police on such raids, the invasions are performed in typically Thai theatrical style--catching the punter with his pants down.

The Thai Sex Worker
First-time sex travelers to Thailand find nirvana here--or at least what they perceive to be nirvana at the time. Those demoralizing physical handicaps (i.e., obesity, baldness, unattractiveness, age, etc.) and legal/social/psychological impediments (i.e., high-school dropout, convicted bestialist) that are so overtly shunned by Western society are not only tolerated here, but regarded as being sexually and socially insignificant altogether.

Most sex tourists find in Thailand what they can't find at home in the West, as author Warren Farrell phrased it: "unconditional sex with multiple partners without commitments." Most men are so taken by the experience, they cannot readjust to the relatively equal sex roles in the West and choose to take a Thai wife. If you do so, consider the following: You won't be able to talk about the baseball strike with your new friend, nor about the power play going on in your company's accounting department for the comptroller's slot. You won't be able to discuss taxes, Haiti, the opera, nor the transmission problem in your new Lexus. She may quickly get to know your favorite gin and the number of olives you like it served with. And you may never have to wash another dish in your life. But she'll never shoot less than 276 off the ladies' tees, never return a second serve, never host a Tupperware party--and probably never leave the house. Especially if you live in a place like Oklahoma City, where there are about as many Thai expats as ski resorts.

Getting "Hooked''
Promise money and the good life in the West, and there's a good chance she'll follow you home.

Thousands of such farangs bring their new wives back to the Western world, at considerable expense. It can cost up to US$5000 or more to marry a Thai woman and get her the necessary immigration paperwork to get her on a plane out of the country. There are a number of marriage license and lovebird immigration service companies concentrated in the principal sex tourist areas. But it's not like getting a driver's license. You have to prove to both the Thai and American immigration people that you've got the means to support the lady for a long time to come. A loooong time. As many as 50 percent of all farang man/Thai lady marriages are "marriages of convenience," or for profit. It works like this: An arrangement is made between the farang and the Thai hooker whereby the man marries the lady for a hefty percentage of her future earnings as a hooker in the farang's native country. After she's paid the man back his investment, plus his profit, they are free to divorce--at the man's bequest, of course, which allows the hooker to remain a legal resident alien of the United States or other country.

In essence, you are required to "prove'' your mutual love for each other to the immigration authorities, which isn't particularly easy to do.

And if you're not quite ready for the big plunge, but would instead like to bring the gal home with you for a while to see how you both handle it, she'd better be rich. It's easy enough for a Thai woman to get a passport. But getting her to the States is another matter entirely. She has to have at least 200,000 baht (US$8000) in a Thai bank account--and it's had to have been there for at least six months (and, of course, it must remain there). That way, the Thai guys in the uniforms and American passport stampers know she's coming back--or at least has a damn good reason to. The number of Thai ladies who end up hooking in L.A., Manhattan and Dallas is phenomenal.

And if you really are in love with the Thai gal (or think you are), in the majority of instances, you've thrown your money away. Namely for the reasons above. In a year, she'll be back in the bar. It's what she knows. There are few gutter-to-rose-garden stories among Thai hookers. Why? Because for the Thai sex worker, the gutter is the garden. Some of these gals make serious cash.

The Master Race Myth

Most Western men are under the illusion that all Thai ladies are dying to meet and marry foreign (i.e., American and European) men--the Adonis Ambassadors. Not so.

Unlike in other East Asian countries such as Vietnam, where it is easy--if not de rigueur--to be romantically pursued by perhaps dozens of eligible, respectable Asian bachelorettes, farangs in Thailand carry a preordained stigma. Quite simply, it is reflexively assumed by the "respectable'' women of Thailand that you are in their country solely for sex. You are treated accordingly. Many Thai women in more socially acceptable stations in life are tolerant of Western men at best. Snarly at worst. This isn't always the case, but it's damn close to a rule, at least in the cities. Thai women of greater means and social status than sex workers are almost uniformly more attracted both sexually and emotionally to Thai men than to foreigners. Most farangs with Thai wives other than hookers or former hookers are either ambassadors, attaches or subsidiary presidents.

However, it's only fair to say that there is a certain mystique about the Western man to the Thai woman, just as there is a mystique about Thai women to the Western male. "Respectable'' Thai women never approach a foreigner--even those who are obviously not in Thailand for sex--for mainly three reasons: 1) out of custom, 2) out of shyness, and, 3) out of fear of being mistaken for a hooker. (Number 3 is the biggest reason.) However, once it's gleaned that you clearly have other priorities in Thailand than getting laid, and that you are regularly seen in socially acceptable environments (better those suggesting affluence, such as an expensive health club), many Thai ladies will be delighted if you initiate harmless or idle conversation with them, which is entirely void of any sexual innuendo.

There are decidedly two different tiers of Thai females. By virtue of your intentions in Thailand, and by the behavior of your forbearers, you've been condemned to the lower tier. And, even on this level, don't be fooled. The bar girl of your dreams may have told you she hasn't dated a Thai man in six years, that Thai men are intolerant, drunken butterflies who beat their women--but the chances are your starlet Thai goddess has a Thai boyfriend back at their apartment, kicking back with a Singha and taking in a kick-boxing match on the tube.

Up-country Refugees
The vast majority of Thai hookers hail from ``up-country," the far north and northeast of Thailand. They are drawn to the Bangkok (Pattaya, Phuket, etc.) flesh trade simply out of economic need. They can earn in day what would take them weeks or even months toiling at home in the fields (some estimates say 20 times as much). Much of their earnings are sent back to their families to pay off debts and enrich the lives of their impoverished parents. Many have children, fathered by Thai husbands who have since abandoned them or died.

Despite being in a profession that tends to sterilize emotions, Thai hookers are insanely jealous. A girl may sleep with a half-dozen men a night, but if it's discovered by her or her colleagues that you have messed around with even one other lass than herself, you become the target of gossip and ridicule, and won't be taken seriously by any girl who's heard the account--whether it be true or false. And, in many instances, stories will be fabricated, maliciously intended to defile you as well as hurt anyone you're close to. And, if the hooker even remotely likes you, you will ``crush'' her heart by sleeping with another woman. Even the most seasoned Thai hookers (particularly the most seasoned) routinely go on three-day plunges into alcohol, drugs and despair if they discover that you've even so much as been seen with another woman. On the surface, this may seem more indicative of a substance abuse problem than a genuine emotional setback; but it's actually more a manifestation of a typical Thai woman's history of neglect, abuse and infidelity practiced not by her previous farang customers, but by her erstwhile Thai boyfriends/husbands.

A Word About Katoeys
Katoeys (or lady-men), in a nutshell, are transvestites. They range from simple cross-dressers to men who have had expensive, sex-altering operations, enabling a fair number of them to become the best-looking ``girls'' in Thailand.

Thailand, of course, is famous for its transvestite revue shows--performed even at star-rated hotels. The glitzy Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok, for instance, offers one of the best (if not the No. 1) transvestite show in the Kingdom. Others of note are performed in Pattaya and Phuket.

From the bar scene perspective, katoeys, who've had a real number done on them, work in the same venues as the real women--and often get more johns than the ladies! The men who buy them out don't have a clue, as Thai men, through their general hairlessness and soft bone structure, are more fitted for the transvestite role than are Western men. And most katoeys who work in the bars where real women work never reveal their true genetic codes.

However, as women have some uncanny ability to detect gay men better, most of the lasses know who the katoeys are without being told. Some of the lady-men are obvious, their surgeries not having gone the full nine yards. Their hairlessness, bone structures, mammary glands and private parts may not give them away--but their vocal cords and Adam's apples do. Others, however, are breathtakingly less evident. Some of the most beautiful women I've seen in Thailand started out in life as a guy. And those katoeys who've had the kitchen sink done on them are indiscernible from the real thing.

Countless times I've watched broad-shouldered John Wayne wannabes peacock out of bars, clutching the buns of gals who would've tabled them in an arm wrestling match at a pool hall a couple of years ago. Drunken U.S. sailors who claim to have slept with Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfieffer and Rebecca DeMornay at the same time swagger into hotels with former Thai kick-boxing champs. A famous European snooker player boasted to me at a pub one evening that he had proposed to a Thai fashion magazine editor--and that she accepted, although ``she'' was actually a former Rayong dynamite fisherman and Bangkok public utility lineman.

How to Spot a Katoey
1) Katoeys tend to wear a lot of makeup and exaggerate their purchased femininity--usually by being more scantily clad than their female counterparts and, most importantly, remaining that way even when not dancing. Real girls tend to--although not always--cover up after their dance stint is up. Sex changes do not include stretch marks.

2) Katoeys are usually taller than their truly female colleagues.

3) Katoeys are insecure and make a point of being seen by male customers giddily talking ``girl speak'' on the dance stage with other lasses in the bar in an effort to show johns their nonexistent gender bond.

4) Katoeys are rarely seen seated in a-go-gos chatting with other dancers/bar girls between acts, only on the dance stage. Most immediately schmooze with the patrons when finished dancing.

5) Real ladies, who are naturally wary of katoeys, tend to tell selected customers who the katoeys are, particularly if the real lady is interested in you. If you know one of the bar girls casually, ask her if you suspect a lady isn't a lady at all. Worst case, she won't tell you.

6) Despite their physiological rebirth, most katoeys still have lower voices than women.

7) The best shot going for you yet. If you're unsure of the genetic blueprint of a lass who's got your groin prickling, simply ask a bar girl or tout/manager in a neighboring bar. They'll know and they want your business.

1) PATTAYA Here's a city with more places to find a woman than places to find a newspaper. Family-type tourists are shocked by Pattaya Beach and the seedy bar-beers and a-go-gos that make Vegas seem like a Montana ranch. Tourists seeking sun, white beaches and clean water are well-advised to amend their itineraries. But there's a seedy funkiness found here. The place seems to revel in its anti-hipness. When the U.S. Navy's in town, the resort swells to 15,000 or more hookers, some from as far away as Chiang Mai. An entire soi in South Pattaya is "zoned" for gay entertainment- Boystown. Pattaya may be Thailand's gay mecca. For the greatest variety of sexual entertainment options, without having to deal with Bangkok traffic to find them, Pattaya ranks as Thailand's premier sex destination. It receives our grand prize as the Pagan of Siam. 

2) BANGKOK This is where it all started-as far as foreigners are concerned. GIs on R&R from the war in Vietnam transformed a haven for Asian sex seekers into a den of sin, American style, by overrunning the recently developed red-light Patpong area. For sheer outrageousness and variety of sexual entertainment options, Bangkok is perhaps unsurpassed in the world. The city's Patpong area is the most legendary sexual mecca on the planet, where anything and anyone-despicably, at any age-can be had for a price. Elsewhere, sickeningly, bogus "escort" and "guide" services provide children as young as 10 years old for short-time sex. Child prostitution and slavery is the biggest boil on Thailand's back, and nowhere is it in more abundance than in Bangkok. From 200-baht short-time hookers to 30,000-baht call girls, from the a-go-gos of Nana Plaza to the tea houses of Chinatown, from full body massages to secret snuff sessions, Bangkok is the big reason why at least 70 percent of all foreigners who visit Thailand are male. But Bangkok is a huge, rank city with the worst traffic problem in Asia, if not the world. It can take an hour to move only a few hundred meters. The City of Angels is rapidly losing its appeal as a hub for Southeast Asian tourism, as more and more potential visitors are asking themselves: Why bother? But the city's fleshpots will continue to prosper, even in the worst of times. 

3) PHUKET Slowly becoming a shadow of its former self for sex tourists, more and more sun seekers and conventional vacation tourists are overrunning this idyllic tropical island. Bar-beers and sexotic shops are beginning to close up shop, as the fear of AIDS is keeping increasing numbers of sex seekers away. Patong Beach is where the action is, with a number of a-go-gos and perhaps 100 bar-beers. A much younger clientele is found down here than in Bangkok. But Phuket is becoming expensive, and so are its girls. Gays will have a more difficult time consummating their pursuits in Phuket than any other sex destination in Thailand. 

4) CHIANG MAI It's a shame people target Chiang Mai as a sex destination, with so many other things to do in the magnificent region of Northern Thailand. And not many folks do, fortunately. As a sex destination for farangs, Chiang Mai's offerings pale in comparison with Pattaya, Bangkok and Phuket. The options are quite limited and confined to a very small section of the city. But if it's sex you're seeking, you'll easily find it here. The number of sex tourists has dramatically fallen off in recent years, according to the locals, as well as tourists in general. The traffic problem is getting worse here, as companies relocate here from Bangkok, seeking to escape the capital's chaos and myriad pollution and mobility limitations. Problem is, they're bringing those problems with them. 

5) HAT YAI A boom town, but a sexual and touristic backwater. Few farangs come here to get laid. Hat Yai is a huge sex stop-but instead for Thai Muslim insurgents and horny, Koran-circumventing Malaysians who hop across the border once a week to get a nut and go shopping. Hat Yai has none of the bar-beers and a-go-gos found in Thailand's other sex stops. Instead, girls are offered at hotels, barbershops, hair salons and the region's vast number of songs-or brothels-which outnumber 7-11s by about 11 to 7. Many of the hilltribe girls bought out from their families by sex slavers end up in the southern provinces. Some don't see the light of day for years, until their debt is paid off. 

AIDS in Thailand
No book on Thailand would be complete without this dreaded section.

The rate of HIV-infected Thai prostitutes is most realistically (see below) estimated to hover around 14 percent of the between 250,000 and 2 million sex workers in the country. But you're better off believing Dan Rather, -Morley Safer and Ed Bradley, who have told Americans it's around 90 percent! 

In Thailand, somewhere between 3 percent and 20 percent of the female population between the ages of 15 and 34 are prostitutes.

Think you're headed for the AIDS capital of the world? Think again. The good ol' US of A has the highest HIV-infection rate per capita on the planet.

In the United States, AIDS has surpassed accidents as the leading killer of young adults. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV infection has become the No. 1 cause of death among Americans--primarily men--aged 25 to 44. In America, although most young victims of AIDS are black and Hispanic males (primarily needle drug users and homosexuals), heterosexual transmission of AIDS is on the rise, particularly in the Northeast and the Midwest.

As in America, more Thai men are infected with the HIV virus than are women in Thailand. So stay away from them. But contrary to popular belief, Bangkok is not the AIDS capital of the world. But another place in Thailand well may be. In the northern village of Ban Wanaluang, 95 percent of the villagers tested positive for HIV.

Bangkok accounts for only 10 percent of the reported HIV cases in Thailand, according to the country's Public Health Ministry. If this seems like an insignificant statistic at first, consider that of Thailand's 60 million people, perhaps between 12 and 15 million of them live in the greater Bangkok area. That means what amounts to about 20 percent of Thailand's population has only 10 percent of the cases. Bangkok, for all its notoriety of being the sex death capital of the world, is perhaps a whopping 30 or 40 times larger than Thailand's second biggest city--Chiang Mai in the north. Nearly 55 percent of all reported HIV cases in Thailand have been found in the six northern provinces, including Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The area has the highest concentration of HIV-infected people in Thailand. And it is in these provinces where the disease is spreading most rapidly.

Punters should be particularly aware of these danger zones when hitting the night scene in places such as Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai, as well as the rest of the north. In the northern burgs, uneducated girls from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and southern China work unprotected without the benefit of any sex education or AIDS awareness. They most certainly have never heard of Mechai Viravaidhya, whose tireless program beginning in the early 1990s to ensure universal condom use in the kingdom has been the most successful AIDS awareness campaign in the developing world.

Can You Avoid AIDS in Thailand?
A good condom. That's all that 15 years of AIDS research has taught us--and bought us.

Back to the Thailand Report Contents Page

Back to the Home Page