Maybe it was accidentally being booked into a Parisian brothel called ‘Le Chat Noir’ as an art student, or hunting out the forbidden red light district in Amsterdam at 16.
Either way I’ve always been in awe of the alternative, darker side to city life so skipping out on the notorious Bangkok Hang over tour based on Bradley Coopers hedonistic explorations was not an option.
We booked the tour expecting to mingle with a rowdy gaggle of Ozzies, Brits and other wolf pack enthusiasts but very quickly it became uncomfortable when we realised that it was only us that evening.
2 tall, pale western women in their early 30s.
Our guide was a very exuberant Thai woman that came to pick us up at out hotel and drive us to the first bar.
We crept through a quiet backstreet before entering a doorway with ominous thick, red velvet curtains. Too late for second thoughts as we were ushered into an dim, empty nightclub complete with a small stage and odd wall projections of Celtic symbols. We were escorted in front of the dimly lit stage and handed 2 ice cold beers. We giggled nervously as we were handed ping pong bats. Our thighs sticking to the sweaty leather seating, whilst guzzling down as much strong, cool beer as we could to settle our nerves.
What began can only be explained as a procession of petite Thai girls, faces blank as they performed a multitude of tricks involving darts, balloons and candles.
Their expressions instantly played on our conscience and only worsened when our empathetic guide told us they repeat the performance throughout the evening maybe up to 10 times and get very sore and tired. Not ONE girl smiled, why would they?
Each were there to preform a trick they had preformed hundreds of times before, to 2 nervously giggling females rather than the usual paunched western, middle aged men that frequent these places.
Watching the incredibly skilled performances, the girls completely tuned out to what was going on around them and just trying to get the job done as quickly as possible made me do something quite unexpected.
I stood up and clapped loudly and cheered. At first my friend looked at me with horror before she saw the expressionless girl on the stage look at me, rooted to the spot, before a huge grin broke out on her face. Before long we were both clapping and cheering for each girl, feeling the guilt lessen slightly as they turned to us and giggled and smiled.
I can think of no other explanation to my outburst other than as a woman myself, feeling guilty of my presence there, pity for what they have to go through each night and to show an odd appreciation of their talents. A really screwed up girl kind of power.
The rest of the night followed a succession of strip bars and lady boys from infamous scenes in the film and fake Tyson face tattoos. The mood actually lightened after the drink started flowing and we left the first bar and we started to enjoy ourselves. We climbed on a bucking bronco in one strip bar and had competitions with the local dancers to see who could stay on the longest. We shared drinks and danced together.
As for the Ladyboys, they have to be the most feminine, dainty beautiful women I have EVER seen.
All in all, we did have an unforgettable, amazing night. A one off experience to be remembered. That was the point of it after all. Our guide was amazing, spoke great English and made sure we were looked after at all times.
I just haven’t been able to shake off the look on the girls faces. Even when you’re aware a lot of the girls are considered lucky to have a job and provide for up to 3 generations families. Where there is a demand, so it will always be.
And I would be a COMPLETE hypocrite unless I admitted I have been in plenty of strip clubs with friends, drank at the bar with the girls and appreciated not being hassled by any guys. But it was a completely different scene over there. A real sense of ownership over the girls and how many are there over their free will?
I just think next time, when it comes to Bangkok I will not add to its numbers.