On a belated honeymoon, my husband and I found ourselves in Bangkok, sweating. The only way I could survive was to braid my hair into a crown, Frida Kahlo-style, to get every strand as far as possible from the back of my neck. The city is unbearably hot and adding to it, humidity is palpable 80%. But alas, we were young and for once had some money, so we figured we might as well get some Thai massages, see some elephants, and hit the Red Light District. When in Bangkok?
Our night started with a slight stroll down what we were told were the main streets of Patpong. We attempted to get drinks anywhere, but were turned away at the door for not being Japanese business men. It was clear we were not the target audience, of which we did see strolling about the area with “friends” in tow. There were steakhouses and karaoke bars, all of which told me No Entry. Do I look that American?
Groups of ladies sat lazily on street corners, in plastic chairs filing their nails and engaging in gossip. As an outsider, nothing looked too out of the ordinary. Perhaps that’s my naivete. But as I learned later that night, I was to find much more if I were to go deeper.
We eventually settled at a gay bar, where naturally my husband was hit on more times in one hour than I was during our entire trip. He’s a bear. I’ve come to accept it.
After a few Red Bull vodkas to cure our jet lag, we started out again. This time, we found the lower class bars which wanted our American dollars. The first had a Muy Thai boxing match starting in 5 minutes. Why not? We slid into a small booth, which had a table with a stripper pole through the middle. What was I expecting? During the match, a man behind me grasped onto a giggling stripper while groping her breasts. We thought it hilarious, but all in all, was it?
Muy Thai is actually very exciting, but after a 10 minute match, the place turned back into a strip club, with over 30 women standing on tables throughout, in various scantily clad outfits. Lots of fishnets. I vacillated between- I’m on vacation! – and – Why am I supporting prostitution? Um, when in Bangkok?
Few more drinks in and our night kept degrading. We found more alleyways with more intense strip clubs. Agents on the streets asked us if we wanted to see a “show” and tried to direct us to their clubs. We found a club where I was the only female patron and my husband could smoke inside. The music started and about 25 women came onto the stage all in the same “sexy policewoman” outfit. They had badges with numbers of them, and the auction started.
After the first round, a second round of women in black bikinis came out, with the same badges. I could tell this would continue all night.
We left after the second round, and at this point my husband was after the “real Bangkok experience.” After finding a woman on the street who offered us a “pussy party,” we were directed up a dark flight of stairs where a smoky stage had completely naked women putting on a show. We found some seats and immediately about 5 strippers swarmed upon us, giggling and asking us questions in broken English. A woman on the stage proceed to pick up rings using a rod lodged in her vagina, and placing the rings on bottles standing around the stage. Like vagina horse shoes. Vagina shoes? I guess the specifics aren’t the point.
I must say I was impressed.
Our new friends kept asking us to order them drinks, which we quickly realized was the ploy. But they kept pointing to my Frida braids ontop of my head. “So pretty!” they would coo and all touch my hair in awe. Finally, one said, “How do you do this?” And I replied, “It’s quite easy!” I showed them a bobby pin and told them anyone can do it. One blond girl proceeded to take down her hair and asked me to produce the same hairstyle on her head. And so, I found myself braiding a prostitute’s hair in the Red Light district of Bangkok.
The other ladies all crowded around and got jealous, but I tried to be inclusive and teach them all how to replicate the hairstyle. Unfortunately, they caused too much of a commotion and their Madame swooped in to yell at them. They snapped into decorum and dissipated quickly, leaving me with a bent over prostitute, her locks half braided in my hands. Soon after the ladies demanded we buy them more drinks and the Madame tried to scam us with a ridiculous entry fee. We decided it was time to leave.
As we left, I wondered if the night was worth musing. More than anything, I was surprised at how many butt implants I could see. We retired to our hotels, with some dignity intact. I think. When in Bangkok?
Photos: Danielle Parga
What was your experience like in Bangkok’s red light district? Share with us in the comments.