Anyone traveling to Thailand will have heard of them, and have a natural curiosity, but if you decide to visit one of the hundreds of clubs where Thailand’s party girls like to frequent, there are a few things you need to know first.
It’s generally considered that there are two types of young women in Thailand.
First, there are the relatively conservative ‘Mainstream’ girls, who are fairly easy to distinguish. They dress modestly, act friendly, but are shy and permissive when interacting with men.
Second, there are ‘Bar’ girls, who are forward with their flirtations, dress provocatively, and are most likely seen, as their name suggests, at bars and clubs. Their life situations range from being casual flirters at popular hotspots, right through to being impoverished victims of human sex trafficking.
A large portion of bar girls make up the estimated 300,000 sex workers in Thailand, in an industry that is as highly lucrative as it is exploitative.
An active ‘freelance’ Thai bar girl can earn a regular office worker’s weekly wage in a single night. It’s this offer of simple and easy money, in a country of economic instability, luring them to the trade.
For those not so independent, namely, the victims of child prostitution and basic sex slavery – it’s their exploiters who reap the majority of the billions of Baht that are spent on sex tourism each year in Thailand – an industry that is allowed to bloom despite the fact that prostitution is illegal in Thailand.
Protection of the industry comes in no small part from the commercial interests of local officials and other concerned parties.
But despite the dire cultural and social impact that sex tourism has on the country, the real human danger is that HIV/AIDS, and other infectious venereal diseases are rife in Thailand, especially inside the sex industry.
In 2008, 532,522 Thai citizens were said to be suffering from HIV/AIDS – and the amount carrying other sexually transmitted infections is almost incalculable.
The ins and outs of Ladyboys
On a lighter note, most people interested in travel will have heard a second or third hand story about a happy-go-lucky young buck who traveled to Phuket, got friendly with an absolutely stunning Thai lady only to discover, at the most pivotal moment, that he got a little bit more than he bargained for. A chance meeting with a Thai Ladyboy.
Ladyboys are a staple of Thailand’s culture and entertainment, and are considered by many travelers to be fun, good humored, and very open about their life choice. You will encounter Ladyboys in every aspect of Thai life – from nightspots and bars right through to normal, every day jobs.
Thailand, being a very inclusive and encouraging country, has made exceptional provisions to include Ladyboys into Thai society, including school programs for emerging trans-gender children, exclusive toilet services for ladyboys in some places, and prominent inclusion in popular media. Ladyboys go to extraordinary lengths in the attempt to appear female. If you think you have what it takes to spot one – lets take this little test to check your ‘Ladyboy-ometer’.
Below are pictures of groups of two girls. In each photo, one of the girls is a Lady boy.
Can you pick them?
Ok, here are the answers:
They are all Ladyboys!
So, if in the cold light of day, checking out Ladyboys is confusing – imagine how hard it can be to spot one in a darkened club.
This challenge has led to the emergence of the ‘Guess The Ladyboy’ game in popular night spots, where Katoeys (the Thai word for Ladyboy) encourage Farangs (Outsiders) to see who really is a lady.
If you want the upper hand, here are a few things to look out for:
- The walk: Thai girls are some of the most graceful women on the planet,and walk in a very unique, slender fashion. Ladyboys have trouble emulating this walk, and can be easy to spot in this regard.
- The apple: Some Ladyboys have their Adams Apple shaved down. But not all of them. If you spot this one, it’s a dead giveaway.
- The voice: Ladyboys will generally speak quite softly, whereas real Thai girls talk quite loudly in public.
- The height: If a Thai girl is taller than 5’4”, chances are she is a model, or a Ladyboy.
- The dress: Thai girls can dress provocatively, but are generally quite conservative. Ladyboys tend to dress ‘sexy’.
- The hands: Aside from having masculine hands, Ladyboys tend to use their hands to express themselves far more than Thai women.
Now, speaking of darkened clubs, there are a few aspects of the Ladyboy world that can impede on your safety that should be noted.
Like any subculture, there are the bad and the good.
The ‘bad egg’ Ladyboys are known to travel in packs of 5-7, and are very likely to go up to single or small groups of men, being overtly flirtatious and touchy-feely. It’s important to be very cautious – big groups of Ladyboys who are ‘all hands’ are usually after one thing. Your wallet.
In bars and nightspots, its always a good idea to pay attention to your drinks – there have been known incidents of nasty Ladyboys spiking Farang’s beverages with sedatives to get what they want. (Usually the contents of your pockets).
If you verbally disrespect Ladyboys or become intentionally antagonistic towards them, they will bring it back on you with full ferocity. And considering that many of them are highly skilled Muay Thai fighters, you could end up having your butt kicked by high heels halfway up the street if things get too hot.