It’s a warm, sweaty one-hour walk in the early evening from my hotel, through the alleyways of the north-east flank of Bangkok’s Chinatown, to the Patpong Night Market.
Patpong lives up to its reputation: street food hawkers offer a fabulous array of local and tourist fare at tourist prices. The big name watches and sunglasses forgeries are for sale. The myriad sex parlours and girl (and to a lesser extent boy and girl-boy) dancer bars ply their trade.
Being an Aussie, I feel it’s my obligatory duty to climb the entrance stairs up to the Kangaroo Club. Big mistake. This is no stairway to heaven. This is my introduction to a Bangkok “Blowjob Bar”. Hey, everyone to their own, but this just isn’t my cup of tea.
Hurriedly back down into the throng of Patpong, and it didn’t take long to suss out the scenario: the beautiful hostess draws customers into the bar but she will only make money if you buy HER a drink – a shot of spirits for 180 baht ($7 Aussie) and the bar owner gives her 40 baht ($1.60).
So to make reasonable money she needs to go back to the hotel with a customer (a bloke or a couple in, uhmmm, an “experimental” frame of mind) for a negotiated fee of 1,000 to 2,000 baht ($40-$80) for a “session”, or longer as required.
The beautiful but somewhat self-absorbed dance girls (and other gender varieties) are available for 3,000 baht ($120) and upwards. The bar owner may also charge a “leaving fee” known as a bar fine of several thousand baht if she goes before her shift is finished. Hey, that’s just good business sense I suppose.
I buy my two lovely hostesses at the Pink Panther Club several drinks in return for the candid chat, and a ringside seat at the club’s 11pm nightly muay thai kickboxing bout. I can verify that the boys lay on the leather, knees and feet for real, cos there’s money at stake and this is their livelihood. It concludes with a third-round knockout (I backed the wrong one, bugger, but he was the short guy, tried hard and was easily leading on points), and the spectators tip them generously as they have earned every baht.
I can also verify that the bar hostess receives real spirits cos I sampled it (I instructed her on the correct procedure to “lick, sip, suck” for a tequila shot).
She also graciously points me in the direction of the, shall we say, “less enterprising” tuk tuk drivers. The late-night trip back to my hotel costs only 200 baht ($8) and I’m very impressed with the driver’s street knowledge. I have been to many big cities across the world but Bangkok’s Chinatown is a quantum leap in labyrinthine street design. But more on that later.
Tonight I might venture over to Sukhumvit Road, which is popular with Aussie tourists and ex-pat workers…