I returned from a 9 month teaching assignment in Thailand a couple of months ago and the situation there is changing quickly. As the Thai bubble economy implodes, the often heavily indebted operators of tourist and prostitution businesses targetet towards foreigners get more and more desperate.
Criminal elements from Europe (incl Eastern European Mafia which loves to vacation in the Tropics) and other Asian countries are taking over control of more and more of the lucrative "ferang" (foreigner) trade. However those are staying away in greater and greater numbers. Prices are falling in response to decreased demand.
The latest two scandals around the most notorious of all (sex-) tourist resorts, Pattaya (~150 km east of Bangkok) must have been another big nail in the coffin of Thai tourism.
1) The poison killings of over 140 male tourists over 1995 and 1996 by prostitutes and pimps which was well covered up by the local coroners and police (official causes of death: "drug overdoses" or "heart attacks"). A fodder for the tabloids. All world media had a field day.
2) The negligence fire at the "Royal Jomtien" ***** hotel in July '97 where over 100 foreign and local guests died because the emergency exits were padlocked ("So nobody can slip out without paying") and the emergency services were slow at arriving. Then the injureds' and deads' possessions were looted by firemen and medics!
But Thailand still can be fun and a great bargain if you avoid any businesses targeted at foreigners and local rich people. I rented a nice furnished studio apartment (1-rm flat) in a Bangkok suburb for only 1500 Baht per month (US$60.- at the time, but the exchange rate is quickly changing in your favour now).
My place on the ninth floor had a great view from the balcony over some lakes, canals and marshes. No A/C but a nice breeze from the gulf would blow in the afternoon. Downstairs was a food store, a restaurant with billiards room and Karoake, a barber shop and a great olympic size SWIMMING POOL, where the entire neighbourhood of middle class locals and their kids met.
My classes were in the late afternoon when I was picked up by a chauffeured company car. I was the only ferang (foreigner) in the entire neighbourhood and an instant celebrity, even though I made no special effort to be accepted or popular, and I do not consider myself better than average looking. I made no effort whatsoever to impress anybody, dressing up in shirt, trousers and tie only for classes, and otherwise in crumpled shorts, T-shirt and sandals.
Since I like watersports I spent most of my days in and at the pool. Visiting mothers and fathers would introduce me to their minor daughters. Girls would follow me around, even into the men's room. They'd ask me to teach them how to swim, so physical contact was quickly and easily established. And of course they all loved to practice their school English.
As readers of the WSG probably know by now, Asian and especially Thai culture tolerates, even encourages some sexual behaviour which is strictly "verboten" in Eurocentric cultures. Without going into detail let me say I was fortunate to have many such opportunities, without ever having to spend any money of offer gifts up front. When I did it was because of real affection. The smallest presents were accepted with immense gratitude. -- I did not spend one night alone, unless I wanted to, and almost forgot how to masturbate.
Of course I had the advantage of a lengthy stay. But even the casual short time visitor can find similar opportunities. Instead of hanging out at bars, discos, billiard parlors and other unhealthy entertainment places he (and "she" too, lesbians are welcome in TH) should visit wholesomer locales like: beaches, public parks and swimming pools, festivals, markets, "physical", i e traditional Thai massage salons (as opposed to brothels camouflaged as "Body Massage"). My strategy: spend the days making contact, the nights making love. Not the other way around like night owls and bar flys tend to do. That's healthier and more economical too.
The average Thai people are very much into sex and will flirt with you readily, and are quite willing to "do it" with you, sometimes right then and there. However as anxious they seem to be to have the experience, one does not talk about it and one does not make it overt. In public, only whores will embrace or kiss you, or just walk hand in hand with you .
If you insist on experiencing the night life, again, stay away from venues catering to foreigners. Practically every restaurant, coffee shop, bar, Karoake, small hotel in the country becomes a brothel at night. Look for the places with lights arranged like a triangle or Christmas tree up their facades, often purple or pink. Freelancers and resident staff will take the first step and accost you, and if you have "special" desires they will procure them for you. Just ask, in English or in sign language. The language of sex seems to be universal. And usually somebody with enough English is around to interpret if needed.
The fees at "locals'" places are of course much lower than in the "Patpong" district or in the bars and brothels of Pattaya and Phuket. The going rate is about 100 Baht (now about US$3.75) for a "short & straight" visit, anything above will buy you as much of time as you want or any fetish you need. Freelancers often do not mention money, so as not to "loose face', but will gladly accept any amount, will love you for a small gift of clothing or cosmetics.
Stay in small hotels in residential areas. Less money, more "hits". Near the BKK airport I "got lucky" several times at the "Don Muang Mansion " (600 Baht/night, A/C), only 500 m (yds) from the Intl Terminal at 118/7 Soranakom Rd. There are several small businesses with attractive female staff, even a "Physical Massage" parlor, on the ground floor. In Pattaya I got to "know" several of the female staff and manager's relatives very well at the "Royal Knight" Hotel (300 Bt/nt, A/C) at 362/9 Soi 5 (5th Street). On Samui the "Island Resort" (250 Bt/nt) on Lamai Bch was veru "accomodating". Don't worry about reservations, there are always plenty of rooms available everywhere (except during major holidays, like Xmas, New Year's and Songkran, i e 1st Weekend in April). Follow the advice elsewhere in this resource: Do not use agents of any kind. That jacks up the prices immediately by 30 to 50%.
Freelancers of any sex and age hang out everywhere: at "food courts" in shopping malls like "Big C", at busy bus stops and terminals, you'll recognize them. If you make a mistake, no big deal. Nobody will give you any hassles. Best time is the early and mid afternoon when school's out and Lolitas cruise the bus stops, malls, beaches and parks looking for men to entertain for fun and pocket money. On the other hand, if you notice one of them in a public place after midnight, you know what she's looking for.
I took a couple train trips to Koh Samui Island in the South and Chiang Mai up North and found the situation even better than around Bangkok and Pattaya. Those bunks in the A/C sleeper car make a very cozy and romantic love nest, by the way..
Transportation: Avoid the infamous "Tuk-Tuks" (open three-wheelers) they're for suckers. Use only licensed, metered, air conditioned Taxis and make sure the meter is turned on. Get in and go, do not negotiate the destination or fare. No tipping required. The drivers have to take you anywhere you wish in or out of town, and cannot charge you more than what the meter reads. If they get intimidating just get out at the next traffic light, toss them whatever the meter reads and walk away. Never have your luggage locked in the trunk. -- Motorcycle taxis (you recognize them by the numbered vests on the drivers) have no meters, so negotiate the fare beforehand. Usually 10 to 30 Baht for a trip of 0-3 km. Anything farther is too uncomfortable and scary. Take "Song Theaws" (pick-up trucks with two benches and a roof in the back which run along all the main roads) for short trips) and meet the locals. As cozy and erotic as any Japanese subway "chican" (frotteur) could want it. Cheap too: 3-5 Bt.
Local city buses are awful (except the private MicroBus service), dirty, rattly, hot and often dangerously maintained and driven (sometimes by drivers on amphetamines). Long distance buses run by the state, especially the air conditioned ones marked "VIP" usually are OK and a good bargain. The best deal are the newer, unlicensed shuttle vans which go everywhere in the country, locally and long distance, for much less than taxis and only a little more than public buses. Trains are slow and terrible for long distances in coach class, but if you can get a reservation for a sleeper car with A/C, go for it. A tolerable train service runs from BKK Don Muang Airport (follow the yellow sign in the Intl Terminal) every 20 min or so south to downtown and north, sometimes all the way to Chiang Mai. There is even one train in the morning from Bangkok Central Stn to Pattaya.
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