Bar Girls Explained: The Truth About Pattaya Bar Girls (Part 1)
How many times have you heard the following or similar drivel from the lips of a Pattaya newbie who''s just bumped into the "love of his life" in a given bar in Pattaya? My girfriend is different from all the other bar girls, my lady doesn't love me for my money only, my girl has never been a prostitute, my missus works only as a waitress in her bar ...
Others, misguided by lurid news stories in the Western yellow press, seem to think that Pattaya bar girls are all "ladyboys" or sexually exploited teenage girls who have been violently forced into prostitution. Accordingly, they will insist, that all foreigners with bar girls as girlfriends are "sex tourists" or "sexpats", perverts and losers who can't find a woman in their own country or, even worse, pedophiles ...
What is right, what is wrong? And what is your position as Farang when dealing with Pattaya bar girls, be it as a client, two-week "boyfriend" or long-term partner? On this page we won't only try to get to the bottom of some of the most common misconceptions about Thai bar girls, but also spotlight some aspects of love affairs between bar ladies and their "walking wallet" Farang counterparts. Occasionally your sense of humour will be taken for granted!
Note: As this article has been growing longer and longer over the years, it has been split over two pages: Bar Girls Explained: The Truth About Pattaya Bar Girls (Part 2).
1) Bar Girls have been forced into prostitution. Basically wrong. Every bar girl you'll meet in Pattaya has made her own decision for this delicate type of work, or at least they haven't been forced into prostitution physically but rather by economic restraints. However, due to the bad reputation of working as a prostitute, and to "save the face," often not even their parents ("papa-mama") know the real source of the money their daughters send them every month.
There are certainly more reputable job alternatives upcountry e.g. in factories, supermarkets etc. As salaries paid in factories, however, are low compared to the potential income of a "talented" bar girl who knows how to please her clients (i.e. not only sexually) and most girls, due to a lack of formal education, can hardly find jobs that pay any better, it is, in the first place, a financial decision why Isaan girls "voluntarily" enter the sex trade. Village girls simply follow the call of money or, let's rather say, have been forced by economic restraints when they board a bus to Pattaya the first time.
Many new girls also have relatives (sisters, cousins etc.) or friends from their home village who already work in Pattaya and invite them to work in the same bar. Unlike in Western countries, no pimps are involved usually (at least not in the foreign-oriented bar scene) and often the girls' parents would not even guess that their daughters work as prostitutes in Pattaya.
As elsewhere in the world, prostitution is definitely no reputable occupation in Thailand. That's why many girls will conceal the delicate nature of their income source from their family and tell them they are working in restaurants or hotels. Note: Prostitution is virtually illegal in Thailand. Although the act of prostitution by itself is not outlawed anymore since 1996, solicitation of sexual services in exchange for money or any other benefit is. On the other hand, it would be useless to deny that prostitution has a long tradition in Thailand and goes far beyond the scope of sex tourism; in practice it is widely tolerated and exists anywhere in the country. The amount of money generated in the sex industry is significant (one credible estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$ 4.3 billion per year or 3% of the Thai economy) so when the parents of the girls eventually find out about the delicate source of the money their daughters send them every month, most will be quite happy to ignore their own traditional prejudices. Money number one ...
2) Many Thai Bar Girls are under age. Wrong. For inexperienced first-time visitors, most Asian women look significantly younger than they are and it may take a while to get used to the often child-like looks of Pattaya bar girls. Most of these "girls", however, are at least in their twenties (some are even over 40!) and have been married previously and given birth to at least one child.
Even if you should ever happen to meet a 17-year old hostess in a beer bar (or an underage freelance prostitute on Pattaya Beach Road) chances she's still a virgin are basically as low as zero percent. Teen pregnancies are unfortunately very common in Thailand and many women still get their first children at an age as young as 14 or 15. Some underage girls who wish to work in a bar might admittedly lie to their employers about their real age and tell them they're at least 18 or 19, and some bar owners might simply not care. As most bar owners, however, keep copies of their employees' ID cards and sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is strictly prohibited - which is followed closely by the authorities - it is extremely unlikely to come across an underage girl in a regular foreign-oriented bar in Pattaya.
If you should ever read about (female) underage prostitutes in Pattaya you can be rather sure that they haven't been employed in bars frequented by foreign tourists but in Thai-style karaoke bars catering mainly to local men, or have plied their trade as freelancers on Beach Road.
3) Bar Girls are getting sexually exploited by Western "sex tourists". Quite correct, Pattaya bar girls are getting sexually exploited, that's a part of their job as sex workers. Or, to put it less cynically, Thai bar girls who have chosen to "sell pussy" (as they like to call it) are getting sexually just as much exploited by so-called "sex tourists" as these "sex tourists" are getting screwed and financially exploited by the girls. (That's the Farang's part in the deal so-to-say.)
In other words, it's a fair trade: sex in exchange for money. After all, this is the ultimate reason why both sides, "sex tourists" and bar girls, have come to Pattaya. And, most importantly, Thai bar girls, unlike a majority of Western prostitutes, can usually choose their customers, even if it may appear the other way round. Unless they're in dire financial straits, most bar girls would likely not go boom boom with a man they find completely unattractive (of course, money can effectively enhance one's sex appeal.) Which Western prostitute can afford this kind of luxury?
As stated above: There are undoubtedly more respectable jobs available, even for the least educated country wench, and no matter how low the wages may be, they're sufficient for life in the countryside. The real problem is that a Thai labourer in a factory is getting physically perhaps just as much exploited as the hardest working bar girl in the most thriving short-time bar.
After all, what is the minimum wage in Thailand? 300 Baht per day; and often less for workers in the informal sector. Now how does that compare to an absolute minimum pay of 500 Baht for an hour of "short-time" or 1,000 Baht, and significantly more for GoGo bar girls, per night? Not to mention gold necklaces, motorcycles, clothes etc. that long-term clients (part-time "holiday boyfriends") may buy their darlings? Blame politics, capitalism or globalization - not the sexual desires of neglected Western men who fill a financial gap they did not create themselves. (By the way: Prostitution in Thailand has a longer tradition than modern-day tourism, or so-called sex tourism in Thailand, and the biggest "market" for Thai prostitutes are Thai males, not foreigners.)
4) Farangs are getting financially exploited by Bar Girls. Of course, Farangs do get financially exploited by bar girls, that's the other side of the coin. But seriously: Yes, there are endless stories of "love fools" who end up buying houses, motorcycles, cars, and tonnes of Thai gold for their short-term Thai "girlfriends" they've met in a local bar (of course, they may claim they've never paid for sex!) and who get seriously exploited financially to the extent that sooner or later they end up in both a financial and emotional disaster. And yes, there are quite a few guys who got totally screwed by their "loving Thai girlfriends" (aka hookers) and have lost all their savings to a "smart" Pattaya bar girl that has literally ripped them off. Such stories could fill entire libraries.
Then again, we've all heard these stories dozens of times before, so no one can say he hasn't been warned, can he? If someone feels the irresistible urge to send his Thai girlfriend a monthly allowance of US$1,000, build a luxury home in her village (in her name, of course), buy papa a herd of water buffaloes and her brother a brand-new pick-up truck, well, if it all goes wrong, then that's a classic case of som nam na as they say in Thai: "Tough luck!" And let's face it, while money is the definite "number one" for bar girls, these stories are rather extreme examples.
As a matter of fact, most guys simply get what they have come to Pattaya for: sex in exchange for money, a fair deal for both sides. Just stick to the basic rules of common sense if you just can't help getting romantically involved with bar girls and always remember what they are: escorts/prostitutes who get paid for providing sexual services and spending their time with you. If a relationship primarily based on paid sex should develop into a more serious love affair, well, that's a bonus. Otherwise always remember: "No money, no honey!"
5) Bar Girls do not like their job. Truth is: most bar girls in Pattaya pretty much enjoy their job, or at least have no problem with it. Most ladies already have friends or relatives (sisters, cousins etc.) working in the same bar, so it's relatively easy for "fresh" girls to get used to the job. Those bar girls who can't get used to their special kind of occupation, or the sex part of it, usually find this out after a couple of days only and leave Pattaya again.
Most girls, however, decide to stay. After all, what is wrong with working in a bar? Due to the relative cultural tolerance of prostitution in Thailand, there is a rather low "inhibition threshold" for Thai women to prostitute themselves. And working in a bar can't simply be equated with prostitution anyway. Bar girls are more like escorts, and "selling pussy" is just one part of the job. Most bar girls, perhaps unless they work in "short time" bars, wouldn't serve more than maybe 1-2 customers a day; and bar ladies who are lucky enough to find a regular customer who "books" them for the entire length of his vacation ("holiday boyfriend") often won't have to work between the sheets every night anyway ...
Let's face it: Aside from the important "money factor," physically it's definitely not a tough job to work in a bar - chatting with punters, enjoying "lady drinks", playing games and going to the fridge occasionally to serve a bottle of beer, neither requires a keen intellect nor physical effort (the latter at least not as long as they haven't been bar-fined). And unless they're busy with their main job assignment, namely to "take care customers" either at the bar or in the privacy of their hotel rooms, they can chat with each other, eat their favourite Lao dishes, watch soap operas on TV, play games on their smartphones or manicure their fingernails, possibly all at the same time.
Most importantly, however, the bar job pays a lot better than an exhausting factory job. Although base wages are rather low (roughly 2,000-5,000 Baht a month in a beer bar) girls can increase their wages by earning commissions on lady drinks and bar fines. And bar girls who know "how to do the job", i.e. to the full satisfaction of their clients, can easily make enough money to support their parents and kids in the village and make a living for themselves. A rough estimate would be to place the average monthly earnings of a working girl in Pattaya at between 10,000 and 20,000 Baht, i.e. not including the money eventual "boyfriends" occasionally send from abroad. For girls who can't find enough "customers" and earn significantly less than that, it simply wouldn't make sense to work in a bar for longer than a few months. (Dancing girls in GoGo bars - who not only have much higher base wages of approx. 10,000 Baht/month but also charge significantly more for extra sexual services - should easily make at least 20,000 to 30,000 Baht a month, some significantly more.)
As far as the "sex part" of the bar job is concerned, well, this is a rather difficult question to answer: Do Thai bar girls actually enjoy having sex with clients, apart from the fact they're getting paid for it?
To start with, let's get this straight: The sex work they complete during the night is probably the most difficult part of the job for many bar girls, especially if they are new in the job and have little experience only, or come across the odd "weirdo" or Cheap Charlie who refuses to pay or tries to negotiate previously agreed prices down. Aside from the constant risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or HIV, many bar girls may also get abused by their clients one way or the other e.g. get talked into unprotected sex or performing "non-standard" sex practices they would normally reject. So here's a basic rule: Be nice, fair and polite with your girl and treat her just like you would treat your new girlfriend! But to get back to the original question whether bar girls actually enjoy sex with clients, i.e. provided the above mentioned objections can be ruled out ...
15 years ago I would have naturally replied: "Some do, others don't." And quite a few girls (often the best performers between the sheets who enjoyed having sex most) were sometimes willing to spend the whole night with you for free and absolutely enjoyed every minute (and inch) of it, provided you were Fun to be with, halfway good-looking, and knew how to "do your job."
Nowadays many Pattaya old-hands probably have the impression that less bar girls actually enjoy the sex part of their job but simply "do it for the money." Unfortunately that's probably right; in the same way as Pattaya has become more "touristy" and commercialised over the years, many bar girls have developed a more professional, i.e. money-oriented attitude and appear to "enjoy" their job less than just a decade ago. Of course, thanks Buddha, there are still quite a few bar girls who genuinely like the sex part of their job, or at least are good at pretending it; you may just have to search a bit longer than in the "good old days".
6) Bar Girls earn "big money". Unfortunately wrong. Although many good-looking and "talented" bar girls, especially stunners working in GoGo bars - with relatively high base wages - have the potential to make "big cash", most bar ladies simply aren't able to save anything of their monthly earnings; not so much because they actually waste it (some do) but because they send the major part of their income back to their parents and kids upcountry (and 95% or so of Pattaya's bar girls have at least one child and parents in need of financial support.)
As outlined above, the average monthly earnings of a bar girl in Pattaya realistically tend to be between 10,000 and 20,000 Baht, i.e. not including the money eventual "boyfriends" occasionally send them from abroad, and often plus free accommodation. Coyote girls, dancers or show girls in A-GoGo bars, who not only have much higher base wages but also charge significantly more for sexual services, should easily make at least 20,000-30,000 Baht per month, some significantly more. This is good money for Thai standards.
However, due to Thailand's traditional "social security" system that expects children to support their needy parents and other financially less privileged or elderly family members, even those bar girls with relatively high wages (and generous foreign boyfriends aka "sponsors" who regularly send money from overseas) unfortunately do not become rich in Pattaya. Aside from regularly sending money back home to their families and the relatively high cost of living in Pattaya, another major factor why most bar girls find it hard to save money is that Thais in general, including many bar girls, love gambling. Regularly spending a large chunk of one's income on the latest mobile phone model and shopping for other luxury items, drinking with friends in karaoke bars etc. certainly doesn't help much either. Thais are a pleasure-seeking and little economical bunch of people that preferably live for the moment, and bar girls are no exception. Some ladies, unfortunately, also waste their money on drugs or secretly entertain Thai boyfriends.
There are certainly a few exceptions to this rule, and some bar girls admittedly manage to save a decent amount of money within a short period of time (not necessarily by "skimming" a foreign sponsor). These lucky ones may soon retire from the sex trade, move back to their home provinces and start an own small business there, e.g. a noodle soup stall or mom-and-pop shop. Then again, exceptions prove the rule ...
7) Bar Girls prefer young men. Wrong. In general, Pattaya bar girls prefer older men as their financial situation is usually secure enough to provide reliable financial support to them on a regular basis, i.e. money sent from his home country when he's not in Pattaya. In addition, older guys seem to be under the misconception of cheating less on their girlfriends than their younger counterparts. Finally, if a girl doesn't enjoy the sex part of her job, an older man (unless he takes Viagra) usually means "less work" for more money.
8) Bar Girls prefer old men. Wrong. If a good-looking and well-off young bloke can offer the same financial support and security as an older chap, most bar girls, unless they are looking for a "father figure", prefer younger men. Simply guess why! (On the other hand, an age difference of sometimes 20 or 30 years between spouses is traditionally not an issue in Thailand but "accepted" and seen as "normal" by Thai society; which explains why many bar girls usually don't have much of a problem with having sex with Farangs old enough to be their fathers. As Thai society, however, has been rapidly changing in recent years and same-age relationships between Thais appear to become the "norm", most observers may argue that especially younger bar girls are increasingly reluctant to accompany men double their own age or more.)
9) Bar Girls do not like Thai men. Usually wrong. Although most girls who seek a job as hostess in a Pattaya bar have previously made negative experiences with ex-Thai husbands or boyfriends, and are now looking for a Farang partner, it's surprising how many bar girls in Pattaya, especially GoGo girls and younger birds, secretly have Thai boyfriends. Some of these quasi-pimps are even getting financially supported by the girls, respectively their unaware foreign "boyfriends". While bar girls with Thai boyfriends are basically an exception, due diligence is highly recommended, especially if your "future bride" is only half your age and continuously demands more (and more) money. For example, if she lives on the village and claims she needs US$1,000 a month, you are strongly advised to have a closer look at her good-looking "little brother" ...
10) Thai Bar Girls Prefer Caucasian Men Um. Rumours have it that things have obviously changed a bit in the last decade and that Caucasian men are rather "out" with Thai women, or simply less desirable. Especially younger Thai chicks seem to prefer white-skinned East Asian men these days, particularly Koreans or Japanese. Other than just 10 years ago, your chances with light-skinned middle-class chicks especially in Bangkok are now reportedly highest when you're a member of a Korean boy band or at least look like one. Fortunately for western men, most bar ladies in Pattaya are dark-skinned Isaan girls (Asian men prefer white-skinned babes) and East Asian "sex tourists" that would qualify as singers in a K-Pop group are still a rare occurrence in Funtown; so there's little competition here for pot-bellied Caucasians ...
11) Pattaya Bar Girls just want your money. Partly correct: Which prostitute in your home country does not want your money? Always keep in mind that the girls you meet behind the counters of Pattaya's beer bars and on the dancing stages of its chrome pole palaces, have initially come here for only one reaon: to make enough money to support their families, raise their kids, afford a halfway decent lifestyle and, possibly, meet a potential Farang future husband who can take care of them financially. If it wasn't for money in the first place, why would all these pretty girls have come to Pattaya and become what they are effectively: prostitutes? Then again, money alone may not be enough to win the heart of a Pattaya bar girl, so if you're seeking a more serious relationship with a Thai girl you need to understand that, yes, you may be able to temporarily rent a girl and her body, but you can't buy a Thai woman and her love with cash alone.
As Thai women in general, Pattaya bar girls also appreciate polite behaviour and men who smell and dress well. If you haven't taken a shower or changed your clothes in the last seven days, or have no command of the most basic rules of polite behaviour, then you will probably have a hard time finding a suitable sex partner (or Thai girlfriend if that's what you're looking for) no matter what a "rich jerk" you may be.
Aggressive behaviour and shouting, constant moaning and groaning, being a "Cheap Charlie" (khi niao in Thai) and permanently arguing about bills etc. are patterns of behaviour that will definitely not raise your esteem in the eyes of a Thai girl. When it comes to choosing a boyfriend or potential future husband, for whom they would readily give up their bar jobs, not only money is an important factor but also whether the "chosen one" is a "good", polite and reliable man who can credibly promise her a better future and is serious about their relationship. Interpretations of what qualities constitute a "good man" may certainly vary individually, but the factors listed above may be a first useful hint for those men who come to Pattaya to find a Thai girlfriend or wife that isn't just keen on their money. "Butterflies" don't qualify.
12) Bar Girls in Pattaya are all Ladyboys. Complete nonsense. While it's true that Pattaya has a large, and seemingly increasing, number of ladyboy sex workers, katoeys mostly work in designated ladyboy areas and bars e.g. on Soi 6 and in the Walking Street area, or ply their trade as freelancers at the "Coconut Bar" on Pattaya Beach Road. And while some "conventional" bars in Pattaya, i.e. those catering to 100%-straight customers, may occasionally have one or two ladyboys working among the female staff, we'd estimate that roughly 95% of Pattaya's bar girls are actually real women. So relax and forget about all that nonsense you may have picked up from comments on YouTube: If you stick to "conventional" bars and Gogo clubs and stay clear of busty "girls" that are taller than you, you'll be reasonably safe from accidentally bar-fining a ladyboy only to have an unpleasant surprise in your bedroom. If this doesn't appease you, you can more details on how to spot (and avoid) ladyboys in Pattaya, or perhaps just to find out where you can meet these bizarre creatures of the night, on our dedicated Pattaya ladyboys page.