If Disneyland is a virtual world where grown-up men feel like young boys again, yep, “Disneyland” is a suitable description for the teenage-years-revisited experience Pattaya has on store for adult male mammals who still feel young at heart and like putting their virility to the test. But beware – to retain the Disneyland allegory – you better bear in mind that Scrooge McDuck, in the real world as in Disneyland, is usually more popular with the local Daisy Ducks than his hapless maternal nephew Donald. In “Pattaya speech” – “no money, no honey!” Or at least that’s the general rule you should obey to start off on the right foot when dating Pattaya bar girls …
Pattaya – Disneyland for Adults!
True, Pattaya has made immense efforts to upgrade its “good old” sleazy fame in the past decade – away from its infamous “sex image” and tattered reputation as a receptacle for so-called sex tourists and “sexpats” – towards upmarket family-friendly “quality” tourism. Then again, let’s think this over, have these official efforts been really successful? Or have the chief strategists of Thailand’s tourism authority been rather naive and presumptuous with their ambitious yet ivory-tower advertising strategies for a new “clean” Pattaya?
While acknowledging that Pattaya today can no longer be reduced to its bustling nightlife and “sex industry”, but has managed to attract an ever-increasing number of recreation seekers from all walks of life – let’s face the facts – Pattaya’s nightlife and “bar girl industry” are still thriving – and remain the top draw for a large percentage of visitors to Funtown.
Here’s a thought experiment: Simply imagine a completely redesigned “clean” Pattaya without its hundreds of bars and GoGo clubs and their 20,000 or so bar ladies, lightly-dressed coyote dancers and ladyboys – how many tourists do you think would still opt for Pattaya as a holiday destination? Probably significantly less than the “nearly 10 million” foreign visitors Pattaya attracted in 2013.
Of course, things have changed in Pattaya in the last 10 or so years. Not only has the general “atmosphere” changed with the influx of increasing numbers of Russian, Chinese or Indian tourists, most of whom do not care much for bars but stick to the beaches and “mainstream” attractions. Pattaya is no longer as cheap as it once was either. Prices, not just for booze and women, have increased substantially in recent years, while the “quality” so-to-say of the working girls and their “service-mindedness” have certainly somewhat declined – at least compared with the “good old days” when mass tourism was in its infancy and “everything was less commercialized”. But don’t just listen to the moaners and groaners – Pattaya still remains the world’s central hub of raunchy nightlife and “adult entertainment” unrivaled anywhere across the globe; a virtual “Disneyland for adults” where a man can materialize his secret dream of sexy exotic women at relatively affordable prices; not forgetting the infrastructure and general safety provided for tourists – aspects where aspiring similar destinations like Cambodia or the Philippines simply lag light-years behind Pattaya.
Men come to Pattaya for sex – the core service that bar girls provide. In that respect, the girls of Pattaya have been the driving force behind the city’s boom – an attribute they were never given kudos for – and still keep on making the world go round in that little parallel universe that Pattaya resembles for single male tourists. And well, if it ain’t broke, you wouldn’t fix it, would you?
But who are these Pattaya bar girls really, what’s driving them to this surreal city, and what should you Farang be prepared for – and aware of – when engaging with them?! Here are some basics you definitely need to know …
Bar Girl Basics – “No Money, No Honey!”
To start with, the vast majority of working girls in Pattaya’s bars and GoGo clubs don’t actually come from Pattaya but hail from Thailand’s rural northeastern region commonly known as Isaan (or Isan, Esarn).
Traditionally, Isaan has always been Thailand’s poorest region, rich in cultural heritage but otherwise an only little developed, hardly industrialized rural region between the borderlines of Laos in the North and East, and the old Khmer empire of Cambodia in the South. While infrastructure in the region has been developed continuously since the turn of the millennium, and the rich-poor divide between Bangkok and Isaan has slightly decreased, many Isaan people, especially from rural areas, are still seeking higher-paying work outside the region, particularly in Bangkok. Due to generally low wages for, e.g., factory workers in Thailand, many young Isaan women (and men), however, also seek jobs in Thailand’s informal sex industry (prostitution is technically illegal), often so in Pattaya or other centres of tourism.
The people of Isaan are mostly farmers, hence, the average Pattaya bar girl is obviously not a sophisticated college girl but a rice farmer’s daughter from remote village areas, who has enjoyed only little formal education. In spite of their Western appearance and rather “infamous” occupation, most bar girls are actually rather conservative (or old-fashioned for Western standards) and all pay high respect to family values. The Thai family is the traditional cornerstone of Thai society, especially in rural areas, and if you’re in a relationship with a Thai woman you will sooner or later learn that her family, in particular her parents, will always have priority. This strong attachment to their parents, siblings etc. certainly also means that they’re often expected to financially support their less fortunate relatives who usually struggle to make a living in their day labourer jobs.
The average Thai bar girl, no matter how young or old she is (and they’re usually older than they look!) also looks back onto an unhappy history of at least one broken (common-law) marriage and some hapless affairs with local men, who eventually transpired to be either alcoholics, wife-beaters or gamblers, or were simply too lazy to work. (At least that’s the girls’ version.) Nearly all bar girls you’ll meet in Pattaya – we’d say probably more than 95% – have also given birth to at least one child that has usually been entrusted in their parents’ or grandparents’ care. The obligation to not only support their kids financially but also their parents or other family members who look after the children, certainly adds to the financial pressure bar girls have to cope with.
So given their relatively poor educational background, the lack of lucrative employment opportunities in their home region, and the social pressure to support other family members, you may now also have a guess what all these beautiful young women have come to Pattaya for and “sell pussy”?!
Look for a foreign boyfriend or husband? While this may be a beneficial side-effect for some, the correct answer is: to make cold hard cash. “No money, no honey”, as bar girls say. To put it straight, these young women haven’t come to Pattaya for a clubbing holiday or to necessarily meet YOU, but to make a living of their most valuable resource – their body.
“Money number one!” as the saying goes; then the family and kids. While a more serious relationship may always be on the horizon, as a tourist “dating” bar girls in Pattaya, please accept one fundamental fact: In the first place, you’re just another customer paying for their girlfriend-like services and aren’t really near the top of their priority list. Love takes time and – in the Thai bar girl context – usually requires a bit of an investment …
Bar Girls vs Freelance Prostitutes
When an Isaan village girl has made up her mind to seek a job as “sex worker” in Pattaya, she has basically two choices: a) work as a hostess in a beer bar (low base wages, long shifts), or b) seek a job as pole dancer in a GoGo bar (high base wages, less working hours). Of course, the latter option will only be available to girls who aren’t shy to exhibit their body in front of a large male audience and are “easy on the eye”.
Other girls soon get tired of long regular working hours or the bossy behaviour of a bar owner and decide to ply their trade as freelancers. These girls will then be roaming Pattaya Beach Road at night – always in search of a potential customer – or hang about in certain bars, discos and nightclubs, mostly in the Walking Street area, which are notorious for their large clientele of freelance prostitutes and even seek to attract them with discounted drinks. Other girls again might still have regular jobs in bars, or might not even be working in the sex trade, and simply seek to earn some extra cash after work.
Freelance prostitutes can most easily be picked up along the Pattaya beach promenade or in one of the notorious late-night bars and clubs on Walking Street that basically operate as “pick-up joints”, e.g., JP Bar on Soi Lucky Star, Insomnia, Marine Disco, Lucifer’s or Tony’s. As a single male, you probably won’t just easily spot them but sooner rather than later get chatted up by one of them anyway. (“Normal” Thai ladies are much less likely to chat up or date foreign guys in Pattaya. And if they do, money or some form of financial compensation is usually still involved or expected in return for granting sexual favours. So if you seek an affair with a “normal” Thai girl who really isn’t involved in the sex trade one way or the other, you better try your luck on dating sites.)
Obviously, you won’t be required to pay a “bar fine” when inviting a freelancer back to your room. But unless you’re picking up Yaba addicts from the beach or so, prices for sexual service do not vary significantly from what “regular” bar girls ask for – that’s at least 500 Baht or so for a “short-time” session, or about 1,000 Baht for “long time” (all night). Aside from saving your money on “bar fines” and lady drinks at inflated prices, you are obviously not restricted to opening hours of nightspots either …
But beware of the numerous traps for unwary tourists who take freelancers back to their room. Sure, you might well save a bit of money. Then again, if you end up in some kind of problem with your girl – say you get robbed of your money during your sleep, possibly after she’s spiked your drink with sleeping tablets – your chance to find the same girl again somewhere on the streets of Pattaya is basically as low as zero. On the other hand, if you’ve got problems with a girl you’ve “bar-fined” in a bar, you can always go back to the bar where she works; most venues keep copies of their employees’ ID cards and will be ready to help you in such (extremely rare) cases.
To make this clear: Not only is the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease usually much higher with freelancers, but unfortunately they’re also much more likely to rip you off, e.g., grab your money from your wallet and run off while you’re sleeping or just taking a shower. To be on the (relatively) safe side, we’d advise you to engage only in “short time” activities with freelancers; don’t leave them alone with your drink (they might spike it while you look away for half a second); and always keep an eye on your cash and valuables or, even better, lock them away in a safety box if you’ve got one in your room.
In a nutshell: Take care and don’t end up as the main performer in one of these “foreigner drugged and robbed” stories you can frequently find in the local media. Most freelancers may be good girls just trying to do their job; then again, it’s better to be safe than sorry, ain’t it?
Taking a Girl Out of a Bar – Bar Chit-Chat, Lady Drinks Etc.
Now let’s assume you walk down, for example, Soi 7 in Pattaya on a random evening of the year. From every single bar along your way, swarms of girls will shout at you: “Hello sexy man, where you go? I want go with you!” etc.; and Soi 7 is absolutely packed with open-air beer bars and ladies trying to drag you in! (Let’s further assume that between 10 and 20 girls work in each venue. Now if you multiply this vague figure by the estimated total number of bars all over Pattaya you’ll also get a very basic idea of how many “available” girls there are in Funtown.)
Nice sight, all these young exotic chicks competing for your attention, ain’t it? Don’t you worry if your possibly low self-esteem or reason can hardly agree with their rating of your incredibly good looks – which you had surely never been aware of before walking down this narrow side street. You might be old, bold and fat, so what? Even more reason to enjoy their unprecedented attention, i.e. as long as you don’t fall for their sweet nothings and believe you are really as “sexy” or “handsome” as they want to make you believe …
Chances that you eventually stop at one of the bars, treat yourself to an ice-cold beer and start a chat with one of the hostesses are probably extremely high. But don’t you expect a sophisticated conversation in perfect English now – remember that the foreign language skills of the average Isaan rice farmer’s daughter, unless she’s a “veteran bar girl”, are usually rather low. That’s also why the notorious bar girl “chit-chat” will always sample the same old uninspired chat-up lines, standard phrases and questions they’ve picked up from more experienced co-workers:
Where you from? What my name you? How long you stay Pattaya?
The equally popular standard question What hotel you stay? could be an early hint at a “more profound” (financial) interest in your company. You come Pattaya first time? basically implies that your lady is trying to figure out how much of a greenhorn you are (and potentially suitable as a human ATM.)
You buy me drink? Sooner or later “your girl” will probably ask you to buy her a so-called “lady drink”, i.e. regular drinks in most cases (often orange juice or so), however at slightly inflated prices, which allow the girls to earn a commission. You might not like the concept, but given the low base wages bar owners pay their employees, there’s nothing wrong with buying your girl a lady drink or two in order to keep her happy (prices are usually around 100 Baht or a bit more in a standard bar). However, you should be careful when a girl pushes you too much and asks for yet another lady drink every 15 minutes, the more so if you’ve replied to her question You come Pattaya first time? with a telltale “yes”.
If you like the special girl you’re chatting with – and you’re tired of playing Connect Four or other typical bar games with her – you can always ask her to accompany you back to your hotel room and spend the night with you, i.e. unless she’s already made her readiness to be your partner of the night clear enough herself: You sleep alone? You no have lady? I want go with you. You like boom boom? etc. On the other hand, if this should be your first bar of the night, perhaps even during your first-ever visit to Pattaya, you might as well “check bin” now and have another drink at the bar next door to see whether the beauty over there isn’t actually even more beautiful?
Our general advice is: Take your time, have a look around and enjoy yourself; and don’t fall for the first best girl. Especially as a Pattaya “newbie”, you’re surely not in a hurry to make a decision. There are more than one thousand bars in Pattaya with tens of thousands of sexy bar girls who are all willing to spoil you and be your special friend of the night. What a sweet and alluring luxury …