No matter where you are in Bangkok — the markets, subway cars, restaurants or bars — you’ll see elderly male tourists with young Thai men and women. It’s no secret that gay or straight, sex tourism is a huge draw for many Westerners visiting Thailand, especially Bangkok.
Prostitution is a part of most cultures, but for me, it’s not nearly as the empowering or liberating in Bangkok as it is in a place like Canada or the US. I first learned this after watching Michael Glawogger’s film, Whores’ Glory, which features Thailand as one of its subjects.
I’ve wandered through one of the straight red-light districts in the city, Patpong, where women in lingerie are out in the streets luring men into their bars. There is a gay red-light district too, on Soi Twilight (or “Soi Pratuchai” in Thai), which I recently went to for the first time.
It’s a small alleyway northeast of the Patpong Night Market, but it’s so small that it doesn’t show up on Google Maps. As I approached via Thanon Surawong, I was assaulted by a clutter of neon signs reading things like, “Dream Boys,” “Hot Male” and “Fresh Boys.” A reddish-purple turned pinkish glow radiated on street level; it was like being on the set of a steam-punk thriller.
The walkway was so crammed with men that I had to push my way through. Right at the entrance, a waiter from one of the bars tried to usher me to a table that was at the side of the walkway.
“One drink,” he said in broken English.
“I’m going to a go-go bar,” I told him. I learned in Bangkok not to be intimidated by the hustles on the street. This was just business as usual for him, but I was stern, avoiding eye contact even. “I don’t want a drink.”
“One drink,” he repeated.
I laughed. “No, I’m going over there.” I pointed past his shoulder.
“Come on, mate,” someone to the side of me with an Australian accent said. “Join us for just a drink.”
There were two bears in their 50s sitting at a table to the right of the walkway. I found the quiet guy, who hadn’t spoken, quite attractive. He was beefy with big arms and a gut — your classic bear.
“Fine, maybe I’ll join for just a drink.”
They both cheered, throwing their hands in the air as a sort of victory. I took a seat on one of the bar stools next to them and ordered a large beer. They were obviously trashed and told me that they’d just arrived in the city that afternoon.
Their names were Andrew and Will, and they were visiting from Melbourne, but Will, the cute one, was originally from Brisbane. It turned out that they’re a couple, so I toned down the flirting, although it sometimes came out involuntarily.
They visited Bangkok often; at least once a year, sometimes twice if they could. It was a vibrant city, which is why they kept coming back. They loved the food, particularly the street food, which I’d only just started sampling, I told them. I had a phobia of intense food poisoning that dated back to my time in India.
Andrew didn’t beat around the bush. He admitted that they had come for the Thai men. They were bona fide sex tourists, it seemed.
“Which go-go bar were you going to?” he asked like a true aficionado. He loved it — I could tell by his delinquent smile. It made him happy just to ask the question.
“I don’t know — which one is best?”
“I’d start at X-Size Bar. It’s just down there where the big ‘X’ is. They have the hottest guys.”
He gave me the rundown about how these places worked. If you see someone you like, you essentially rent them out and bring them back to your hotel; however, you need to negotiate the cost and the specific sex acts.
“Most of the guys are straight,” he warned. “If you just want to get your ass fucked hard, then it’s not a problem. If they’re straight, and you want to fuck them though, they may say they’re into ‘everything,’ but then you take them home and they refuse to bottom. Those ones won’t suck you either.”
He pointed to a cluster of young Thai men sitting around a table at the bar opposite us. They were very thin, twinky types, and were chatting to one another, while looking over at us and smiling. “You’d be better off with one of them. They’re obviously gay, so you can fuck the ass off them all night.”
The waiter started laughing when he heard him say that. “He’s gay too,” Andrew added. “We’ve had him several times. He’ll let you do whatever you want to him. Fuck him, suck him, come all over him.”
This made the waiter very bashful . . .