GTR Archives 2000-2019

 

 

Soi 6

and Beach Road # 1

Pattaya, Thailand

Land of Smiles

By Roberto Pedreira

    You can train six days a week, like the Thais do, without getting excessively exhausted, providing you don't have anything else to do.  But in that case, you might get bored in the evening. Some guys like to hit the streets at late night and just check things out. Personally, after 13 years of doing this, it has gotten old. Because nothing much changes. The same farang tourists, the same girls from Isan, and the same "ladies of the second category". A lot of these people I met on my very first visit to Pattaya in 1990 and they are still in Pattaya.

    After 13 years, I managed to learn enough Thai to be able to hold simple conversations that go beyond "where you come from?" and "excuse me, you can buy me one cola?" One night I asked a girl in the Ruby Bar to explain the meaning of "kamoey". Which I already knew, but I wanted her version of it. She explained that it's like when you go to bed and the next day your buffalo is gone. A kamoey took it.  She helpfully mentioned that outside street girls (of both categories) are often kamoeys, whereas a bar girl is safe, because she has a bar guarantee. If you take a lady and you discover your wallet, cell phone, watch, or whatever missing the next morning, you can simply go back to the bar and complain and the management will deal with it (in theory). 

    The girls don't like men who "muttafie" (butterfly), and take it for granted that all men who can afford to will be unfaithful to their partners.  But they think it is therapeutic for a man to take a lady once or twice a month to "take care" of him. They assume that his lady won't do it.  But more than once or twice a month, and you are butterflying. If you tell them you can't or won't take a lady because you have a lady back home, they will respect you. They won't charge you less, but they will respect you.

Mai mee ngoen, mai mee puying; Maieee farang, mai mee ngoen ("No money, no lady; No farang, no money"). .

     Many of the girls at Ruby asked me to read their palms. They wanted to know what the future held for them. I could have told them that they were going to work in the Ruby or some other bar until either they died of AIDS or were too old to work in a bar, whichever happened first. That would have been cruel and anyway, would have been redundant, because they all know that already. Working in a bar is a good job, in a country where the minimum wage is 155 baht per day if you can find a job in the first place. The one exit from that future is to marry a farang. so what they wanted to know was, what kind of farang were they going to catch? I named various nationalities at random, just to see how they would receive the news. If I said "German", they'd frown. They didn't regard Germans as good husband material, although any financially solvent man is better than no man, it seemed. Germans were too "cold". Japanese didn't appeal to them either--can't understand what they are thinking.. They never heard of Brazil.  Swiss and Italians were ok, but Koreans and Arabs appalled them. Primarily, they wanted "khon Amelika (Americans), because khon Amelika "have good heart for lady". Thailand and particularly Pattaya is one place where everyone doesn't hate Americans. Like all farangs, Americans are viewed (and treated) more as economic (or criminal) opportunities, than as human beings, but at least no one is trying to blow them up with car bombs. 

    There are two categories of lady in Thailand. the first category includes what most of us would regard as biological females (puying). The second category consists of katoeys. Actually, there are many subcategories of katoey. Real katoeys are guys who for whatever reason just prefer being ladies. Most have breast implants, all take hormones (which are cheap and available in every corner pharmacy). Some go so far as to have their genitals removed surgically. There are many of them, which indicates that there are many farangs who like them. Many bars have both ladies and katoeys. Ladies seemed to believe that farangs prefer katoeys because katoeys, being (or having been) men, know what a man wants, while ladies are just guessing. Katoeys are fully accepted by other members of the community. There is no particular feeling that they need to be beaten up or killed, or at least discriminated against, as they would in some parts of North America. They are trying to get through this hard life too and for some, being a katoey is preferable to the alternative.    

    Fake katoeys however are merely dudes who dress up as girls for the primary purpose of larceny. Usually, they ply their trade on Beach Road, but in recent months have to gravitated to Soi 6 (where the Ruby is located), and have taken over the Jasmine, formerly a normal bar with ladies. If you plan to commit robbery on a regular basis, it's wise to have a disguise, and dressing up as a lady is a good disguise in Pattaya. 

    Sometimes being a katoey is just a job. I met one tough looking middle aged drunk guy at an outdoor bar near the Marine Disco. He told me he had been a boxer before in the Marine bar complex boxing show when he was younger and before that, he had been a katoey. I found that hard to believe, but it turned out to be true. At least, his mother, who was tending bar, said it was. I didn't get the impression that she thought there was anything unusual about that either.

Monkey House

    Where there is alcohol, there are fights. Soi 6 is pretty laid back, but even here, fights do happen. One night at about 12 midnight, I was sitting at a table on the porch of the Ruby. A car drove by slowly. Two big farangs (English it turned out) were walking the opposite direction and one punched the car. The car stopped and the middle-class Thai driver got out, asking indignantly, "why you hit my car?" The taller of the Brits said "Oh, you want some?" and the two of them wrestled the Thai guy against the car. A nicely attired Thai lady got out the other side to protest, and the short fat Brit walked around and punched her in the mouth. She wasn't badly hurt, but was not happy to be punched in the teeth. Her husband dashed around to her side and delivered a nice tight cross to the point of the Brit's chin. The Brit fell flat back and hit his bald head on the street, and almost knocked over a fried bug cart trying to get back up. Everyone got on their cell phones calling for reinforcements. The Thai guy turned his back and the Taller Brit tackled him. On the ground, they struggled clumsily and within seconds every Thai male on the block was kicking and stomping the Brit. Since there was a watermelon vendor nearby, I expected the Brit to get hacked to pieces, but remarkably, when he finally got up, he seemed unhurt. In due course, the cops showed up, cuffed the fat Brit, and loaded him into the back of a Toyota pickup truck. There he was the next day on the evening news, and a week later on page 2 of the Pattaya Mail newspaper, sitting still cuffed in the local monkey house, possibly trying to remember what he did to .get thrown into the back of a Toyota pickup like a bag of trash, subsequently wearing hand-cuffs in a police station waiting to find out how big a fine he will have to pay. There's no moral to this story but all the Ruby girls who watched with me agreed that "man hit lady no good".   

    If you want to hit something, go to Sityodtong. You won't end up in the monkey house. 

 

Lady of the First Type

The first was when a strange person playing with a high powered pellet gun pointed it in my face while seated at the outdoor counter facing the street, at the Linda Bar, on Walking Street in South Pattaya (just a few steps south of the Marine Disco complex). The individual had just fired a round at the leg of a farang passer-by, who reacted by yelping loudly, glancing around and then limping along on his way to whatever Go-Go bar he was headed for. I knew the gun couldn’t kill anyone, but it could certainly leave them blind if fired into their eyes. When she playfully pointed it in my face, I wasted no time taking the gun from her. I handed it to the mama-san behind the bar and asked her to keep it securely out of sight for the time being. It was quick, easy, no one get hurt, no one noticed, and no police got involved. No one lost anything, except the drunk girl, and she was better off not having the gun anyway.  

The next incident took place at the Saloon Pizza bar, another few steps south of the Linda Bar. I was sitting at the outside bar watching the transvestites hustle farangs and other typical late night South Pattaya shenanigans, when I noticed that someone’s hand was in my pocket. I removed the hand along with the crumpled 20 baht note it was clutching, using another hapkido wristlock, gently restraining the “perp” while she (I guess it was a she), attempted vainly to extricate herself, as a few onlookers gawked in seeming amazement As in, why was she struggling when no one was restraining her, but merely lightly holding her wrist (it must have seemed). The story also ended happily. I retrieved my 20 baht and no one was hurt, no police involved.

The last point cannot be underplayed. In Thailand, you really do not want to have police involved. Whatever the situation is, it is going to be worse when the police get into it. For sure, they are there to protect and serve, but a fair number of them are there to hustle as well (like most people in Pattaya), and some are, it is rumored, connected to organized crime. Whatever the real dope is behind the police—whether they (some of them, that is) are hard-core criminals, or just mildly corrupt, or merely incompetent, the bottom line is the same. Avoid the police, if possible. It will usually be cheaper to let someone rob you than get the police involved.

But there is no arguing that they can be effective agents of enforcement. One night, from that same spot, I observed a farang emerge from a disco across the road loudly complaining about something or another. Possibly having been ripped-off in some form, I assumed, because that’s what most farangs complain loudly about. A Thai policeman went into the disco with the farang and came back out dragging a bar girl in the dirt by the hair. She seemed to be protesting her innocence, frequently using the word “farang”. The policeman frisked her and quickly found the farang’s wallet and then proceeded to repeatedly kick the girl in the head as she huddled in a heap on the ground. When he finished everyone returned to the disco, leaving the girl laying there motionless, possibly brain-dead for all anyone knew or cared.

It’s Pattaya, party town. But play by the rules. Some of which are unwritten and unspoken, but not hard to figure out.

My story above about the pickpocket had a happy ending—that night. The next night the girl saw me passing by a stall where she was shopping for make-up, and picked up a machete, the kind the fruit vendors use to chop pineapples, and approached me with obvious malevolent intent. Thais have good memories.

This time I did not use hapkido.

Nevertheless, hapkido wristlocks can work. You have to use them in the right place at the right time.

Muay Thai Shows

    I had plenty of time to kill in the evening. I dropped by all of the open air beer bars that feature Muay Thai shows. In years past, the shows had actually presented some fairly authentic matches, with minimal staging. The fights are not regulation of course. Some of the fighters used to be pros, others are just guys who know enough to make it look convincing to a farang audience.  The rounds are short (2 minutes instead of 3), and fewer (3 instead of 5), elbows are not permitted, and 16 oz. gloves are worn. The fighters don't even bother to wear mouth protection, which gives you some idea how seriously they take it. Occasionally, you see some displays of genuine skill. More often it's the equivalent of pro wrestling. If a farang wants to climb in the ring and test his skills, the Thais are happy to oblige. I've seen relatively clueless farangs (usually big drunk Australians) get their legs kicked to pieces and wimp out after trying to take their tiny little opponent's head off with Herculean swings, and I've seen farangs with obvious skills dismantle their Thai opponents with superior technique. The Thais are not at all nationalistic about it. If you're good, in their eyes, you're good. They especially love anyone who can throw good knees. On the other hand, they tend to despise someone who can't defend his legs or deal with the clinch, especially when it's a big farang getting thrown around by a small Thai).  

    Once in a while there are real Muay Thai fights at Pattaya Stadium. Since this is a provincial stadium, the fights showcase up-and-comers and young guys honing their skills, and young kids just starting their careers. Some of the kids look as young as eight years old, but their skills are real. They look like miniature Muay Thai warriors. 

   Farangs often fight here too. Most of them are quite good, and in fact, most of the fights I saw over the years between farangs and Thais were won by the farangs (who usually seemed to be French of Arab descent). The one exception was the Canadian guy who seemed to think he was in a taekwondo match. He went the distance though. As he left the ring to the changing room, the Thai guy next to me yelled out at him, "Hey you!--number 10!", then turned to me and chuckled.  Thais don't respect guys who can't defend their legs or deal with the clinch. 

    The Best Friend Boxing Bar has the most realistic shows, while the Marine Bar has the worst, and in addition, the highest prices, and the most petty little scams going on. Here's one: the girl in the street next to the nearest counter  bar is holding up a sign that reads "Singha Beer, 65 baht." I say "65 baht?" She nods. I say "here?" Again she nods. I take a seat. When I'm ready to leave I notice the check is for 80 baht. What's up with this? I ask. The bartender says, "this not she's  bar, she bar tee non "(over there), pointing across over to the counter bar to the left about ten feet away. The mama-san, a tough looking over-the-hill ex-hooker, steps in to explain (in English) that this bar is more expensive because of the boxing show. I point out that the ring and the "show" is visible from every bar. All of the bars are arranged in a circle around the ring. They are also all owned by the same criminal organization, local farang residents say. My facial expression probably conveyed a certain degree of irritation. "You no like, you no pay" she said. This woman was scary.  

    If for some reason you want to watch the show at the Marine Bar, just sit at a bar across the street. You can see just as well, and the Singha beer is 50 baht. You will be constantly pestered by cute little kids selling gum but no one will try to cheat you. The moderately attractive young women tending bar will suggest that you buy them a soda or lipovan D so that you don't have to drink alone. They won't insist however. 

Kateoys

   Take care if you linger in this area after 2:00 a.m. Many of those attractive looking young girls aren't girls. They are Katoeys and they seem to gravitate to a spot just next to the Marine Bar called the Linda Bar. If you take up a spot across the street and observe for a while, you'll be surprised at how many of these katoeys end up leaving with farang men and even young couples. I met a French journalist who said she was doing an article on katoeys. She told me that many European men found katoeys irresistible.

    Thais regard kateoys as abnormal but they don't necessarily think it's perverted for someone to have sex with one. The important detail is who is on top (according to anthropologists who have studied gender and sexuality in Thailand).

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Originally written around 2009 or thereabouts. Restored and slightly revised August 27, 2019.

 

 

(c) 2019 Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.