Many men about town are experts on bargirls and know all about what they think, what they do and why they do it. This reporter, not being an expert and having grown up in this region, felt knowledge deficient and decided to talk to the girls themselves. The reader might say: ‘Someone who grew up here should know more about bargirls than a newcomer.’ The truth is that bars hold little attraction for farangs who have lived here since they were very young (under the age of ten).
Having lived here since the age of four, Thai is one of this writer’s mother tongues, so the following forum was held in the central and Isan dialects. I had the chance to talk to five of the dancers in a Pattaya bar. Their names were Eh, Toi, Taen, Su and Tor. They requested that no pictures be taken.
JP: The first question was obviously, ‘Why did you come to work here?’
Taen: The first answer was obviously, ‘Because people told me the money was good.’
All: General agreement.
JP: Is it true?
Su: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s like anything. It depends on the tourism and the number of customers.
Eh: It used to be very good when the American navy came in, but not anymore.
Toi: Yeah. They’re all afraid of AIDS, and now coronavirus.
JP: So, if you’re not making enough money, why do you still do this work?
Tor: We can’t get jobs anywhere else.
JP: Are you sure you couldn’t.
Taen: Look, you! Sorry. Where do you expect us to work? I only finished fourth grade. To get decent jobs you have to have finished . . .oh, I don’t know. But no one wants us. And we “expire” at about age 25.
JP: Thai bars seem to do pretty regular business. Couldn’t you get jobs there?
Toi: Thai bars don’t want us. Thai men don’t like girls who look like us.
JP: I don’t understand.
Taen: Oh, come on. OK, I’ll talk. I applied to work in a Thai member’s club. They told me I didn’t have the right “personality”. That means I wasn’t good looking enough.
Su: Thai men like women who have light complexions and different body types than us. We’re too dark and skinny.
JP: Are Thai bars better than bars that foreigners come to?
Tor: In most ways they are. Thai men come to bars for one reason. To enjoy themselves.
JP: How about farang men?
Taen: Oy, yo, yo! Farang men. What a bunch of neurotics! And boring. They get drunk and we have to sit and listen for hours as they tell us their endless problems. I don’t understand English very well and who knows what they’re talking about. I’m not their mother. I want to get my job done and take care of the next customer.
All: Taen’s right. It’s true, etc.
Toi: And they all say we’re so much more beautiful than farang women. Ha!
Su: We know that’s not true. We see many very beautiful farang women here in Pattaya.
Eh: I haven’t spoken yet. Let me talk! They say we’re more beautiful than farang women. I think that the real reason is that these men themselves are not charming enough to attract their own kind. I wouldn’t want most of them as a life partner.
JP: But I have seen many bar workers married to farang men.
Taen: You like to play stupid. When we start getting past the age of attraction and meet a man who is halfway decent and responsible, we marry him. It’s a matter of life security. But we don’t think of it as romantic love.
JP: Who would you like to have as a life partner?
Eh: A gentle Thai man. Maybe a civil servant.
All: Dream on. Are you crazy?
Su: A lot of Thai men are very charming, sweet and handsome. But they lack a sense of responsibility toward their family duties.
Toi: The best thing is to have a farang husband and a Thai lover on the side (giggles all round).
Taen: Don’t talk like that! We’re looking for what any woman looks for in a man. A good person who loves and cares about his family and is reasonably stable.
Eh: I never thought about getting married. I always wanted to be a doctor, but my family was poor and I couldn’t go to school.
Taen: Dammit! You’re just like everybody else! Farang men never believe it when we tell them the truth, but accept all our lies. Listen, do you think just because we’re poor country people that we didn’t have dreams. Do you think I sat as a little girl and thought ‘Oh, how wonderful! When I grow up I can go to Pattaya and sell myself to a bunch of dirty old men?
Su: Taen, leave him alone. He’s not looking down on us. He just wants to know.
Taen: I’m sorry. I’m just a little hot head and resentful. All of us would like to have a good education like you. Everybody thinks this is easy money. Phooey! But when you’re poor and have many brothers and sisters and everyone’s hungry all the time you do anything to survive. When we find out there are opportunities, it’s usually too late. We aren’t accepted by the normal world anymore. Everyone looks at us and looks down on us. I always wanted to write stories for children but I don’t have the heart for it now.
All: Taens’s really smart. We call her teacher.
JP: If you could ask anyone for advice and help, who would it be?
All: (Very reverently) Uh, Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Her Majesty has Metta (compassion) for all Thai people.
JP: What will you do after you stop working here?
Su: I’ve saved a little money and have built a small house for my sister so she could find a good husband. I’ll go back home and take care of her children for her.
ALL: Or we can marry widowers who need wives.
JP: Thank you for talking so freely.
ALL: (Everybody Wais) Mai Pen Rai Kha. Please come back and visit again. You can be our psychologist. (Laughter).