It’s always given me great joy to have an open mind to the life experiences of others, and to not judge, both which have served me well. Recently I befriended a local Thai girl who worked in the bar scene of Bangkok for several years and it was one of the most eye-opening discussions I have had in recent times.
I sat down with Nan for noodles and coffee, 3 hours later she had totally removed some of the myths that I had been holding about bar girls, and, had me in fits of laughter through to complete shock at some of the things that guys request and situations they end up in.
I had always held a dark image of the bar scene being a place where girls are forced into prostitution and are ran by seedy gangs who are undoubtedly connected to drugs.
And that may well exist, but as Nan revealed, many bars are owned by one owner and the bar girls are managed separately from the bar business itself. The bar will hand over a commision for any drinks they sell, plus share in any “bar fines” collected if a guy takes them home.
A mamasan will usually look after the girls, organise everything, participate in negotiations, help resolve any issues, and be a shoulder for the girls to lean on. Nan almost described it as a family while away from family.
In Nan’s case, all of the girls at the bar came from villages. Some from poor families but not always. Some girls came from families that were by no means poor and the girl was there simply to make money, not for sending home to a needy family, but to buy things that improved her social status which in her eyes was luxury handbags, shoes, and expensive phones. While her family was not poor, they were never going to buy her those things. Working at a bar could.
In some cases, once a girl decided to work a bar the family would disown her, and not want anything to do with her. These girls had to make a tough choice in a fight for their economic freedom and an unwillingness to live a subsistence existence in a rural area.
Some girls are sending money home to the family, supporting their mother and father as is the tradition in Thai culture, some are also single mothers supporting one or two children.
From the bar managers perspective, girls are employed to simply attract guys and earn regular money through “lady drinks” which the visiting guy buys for them and the girl gets a cut from the bar as mentioned earlier.
If a girl decides to go home with a guy, that’s her choice, and as Nan told me, there are many guys that she wouldn’t go with for one reason or another. The bar or the mamasan has no real influence over that. When she did decide to go home with a guy that was her choice, and 90% of the time that was driven by money.
What kind of money does a girl earn per month?
Every girl is different, some girls work really hard and are very money motivated, some are happy just to earn money from bar drinks. A beautiful girl could take home 40,000 baht or much more per month.
Compare that to the factory worker getting 6,000 baht per month, or somebody fresh out of uni in their first job getting at 15,000 per month. It’s understandably attractive.
All of the girls Nan has known over the years have been there of their own free will, attracted by that lure of economic freedom.
Is it true, bar girls don’t feel love?
Not true. It’s business, does every guy come looking for real love? Nan stated, and then continued to say that girls often see guys that they really like walking by, and have the feeling, and also like to have fun. They’ll probably go home with that guy for free. But don’t expect it.
Do girls often leave the bar to live with a guy as their partner?
Yes, often. But often things go wrong too, There are so many bad guys as Nan describes. Guys who get bored after one month, guys who leave the country and say they are coming back but never do. And guys that simply lied about having enough money to care for a Thai girl. Nan describes many foreigners as thinking that the Thai girl is going to fall for their looks and follow them like an obedient puppy. The truth is, Thai girls have financial responsibilities to the family and also love their own independence and the guy needs to support that if he wants to take her out of the bar.
What are some of the weird things you and your colleagues have experienced?
The seventy-year-old. No one could believe, a seventy-year-old walked into the bar, had a few drinks and chatted with the mamasan. No one was so interested but the mamasan said he is willing to pay more. Nan needed that cash and took it up. She regrets it to this day, she said they sat in the restaurant together while he ate and it got worse, bad enough that the guy was an elderly, now, he also had food dribbling down his long scruffy beard. She said it was just a matter of thinking about family, and keep saying to herself just 30 minutes, just 30 minutes and the worst of it is over. Interestingly she said she never forgets those unsavory experiences of which there has been a few, and that they also have a smell, all the bad experiences have a smell she says, a smell that haunts her sometimes.
The dress guy – An American guy came in one night and took a fancy to a girl in a red dress. He left without her and returned the following night looking for that same girl, the girl was right in front of him but he didn’t recognize her. Upon describing the dress, one of the girls went and got it, and he said that’s it, the girl went and put it on, a different girl mind you, and they left together. He came back the following night, and asked for the girl in the same dress, a different girl went and put it on and, they went home together. He really liked that dress it seems!
The costume guy – some girls will get back to the guys’ hotel room and the guy will have a costume for them to put on. Schoolgirl uniforms, office girl uniforms, sexy lingerie, plain t-shirts, and whatever else you could imagine that tickles some guys fantasy or memory. None of that was so bad Nan said, sometimes it was fun, but she drew the line at pulling on used stockings not knowing what else had been in there before her.
The leave everything on guy – most girls will throw off the shoes and start taking off their clothes as soon as they enter the room and get straight into business. Most guys are already ready to go, being part drunk and pre-excited by the sights of the bar, and bar street. Some guys no. Some guys wanted everything left on, including shoes, throughout the whole transaction.
The foot jockey – my jaw kinda dropped on this one. I’m kinda still in shock to be honest. They had a semi-regular at the bar, he would be in Thailand for 2 weeks then gone again for a month or so. Whenever he was in town he would come to the bar and take a girl home for the same thing. She would undress, he would undress, he would bend over, and she would tickle his arse with her foot and proceed to, well, ‘foot him’.
The foot licker – a short guy came to the bar, sounds like the start to a joke and to be honest I sure laughed, anyway, apparently, he sat down and told the mamasan that he could ‘read feet’. So, he read hers, with bizarre accuracy, he then proceeded to read others. But he didn’t like any girls feet until one of the bars pretty, but chubby, girls came forth. She was never that popular with guys and accepted being last pick on most nights. But, not today. The tiny guy was in love, in love with her big feet. They went to the room, and she need not undress as he asked to lay back while he licked and caressed her feet. While cleaning her feet, cat style, he let his own pants fall down and took care of himself.
The video guy – A European guy who was a regular would come and take a girl for a week at time. Nothing too strange with this guy, except, that everytime they had sex, he would make a video call to one of his friends in Europe and chat away while going through the motions. Every time, and everytime a different friend.
The watchers – Nan has had guys that never laid one finger one on her from the minute they met, to the minute they left each other. Once they got to the room she would either have to watch them, or they would watch her. On some occasions, she would be asked to “take care” of herself while they watched, and in some cases, the guy would take two girls home and simply watch while they pretended to perform on each other. The kicker? They were the best tippers.
The groups – some guys come in groups, western guys will all go one by one with a girl. But not those from a large country in South Asia who’ll often take one girl between a group of 5-6 guys. The guys will go one after the other as if it were some bonding experience. Nan was never comfortable with it she says, but some girls were as it meant a lot of cash on one night.
It was an eye-opener talking to Nan, at times I wanted to vomit, other times laugh like I had never laughed before, and other times in dismay at how the human experience is for some of us. I’m not here to judge, this is the real life, raw and uncut.