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THAILAND NOTES

Written in about 1989 after a 3 week trip to the far east taking in Hong Kong, Singapore and, Thailand
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        .Say the word 'Thailand' and instantly all the stereotyped images come out of the old brain box, images of massage parlours,temples and food so hot it will blow your brains out.

The hit song ,'One night in Bankok', probably summed it up for most of us in the West, Thailand for better or worse, has an image which certainly attracts tourists. Just as Spain is beginning to wonder,however, if it wants the drunken louts it's hot sun and cheap booze attracts, Thailand too seems to find that some of it's customers leave a little to be desired.

One of the difficulties for Gay tourists in a place like Thailand is that everybody assumes you ARE going there to get laid by some of the most beautiful men on earth. There are of course guys from all over the world, who go there precisely for that reason but supposing you do actually want to go for a holiday, perhaps with a lover, is it a place worth visiting ?

One thing you will have to come to terms with before you go is the fact that many of the people who wait on you and serve you in the hotels and bars, are being exploited. Begging on the street while not as widespread as in India, does exist and very young children are used by their parents to gain your sympathy and your money.In your hotel the very beautiful girls who serve your drinks or wait at tables, were probably recruited from a village in one of the more remote parts of the country and the small wage they earn is vital in helping to support their family.

For the same reason, it is very easy for a Western tourist, gay or straight, to exploit local people. To be fair many do not. There are without doubt, genuine friedships formed but if you are sitting having a drink outside a bar or cafe and a young boy comes up to you and quite simply offers his body, you may need a certain amount of mental strength to resist. Not all such boys are innocent. Some will be professional prostitutes and may well be 'employed'in that capacity but there will also be others who do simply enjoy the company of Westerners and while sex may be on the agenda.there will also be a chance of communication on other levels.

Sorting this all out on a short visit is not easy. Walk in the Patpong area of Bankok in the evening and touts will offer you any kind of sexual pleasure you desire. Even while eating a hamburger in a Western style burger bar, you may well find young men being extremely friendly. If you smile at a man on the streets of London, you are likely to get punched in the face, do it in Bankok and it may well take you half an hour to shake him off, that's if you want to !

But the temples are fabulous, the food so good and the city very human in scale compared with the high tech atmosphere of Singapore or the rabbit warrens of Hongkong, that it has to be worth a visit.

One place where it is well worth spending some time if you want to relax in the sun, is the resort of Pattaya which lies 2½ to 3 hours south of the city. Here there are hotels ranging from the modest to the de-luxe, with all the excitement and colour of a frontier town but with quieter beaches if that's what you prefer.

I travelled with a friend and stayed at the Asia Hotel. This hotel stands high on a cliff with a small secluded beach at the base served by small beach bars, free towels and sun loungers courtesy of the hotel.I have to say that the ten days or so that I spent there earlier this year provided one of the most relaxing holidays I have ever spent.

Although the hotel was full a large percentage of the guests were Japanese. These I discovered just do not have time to sit on a beach. They are constantly in flight like delicate multicoloured birds boarding coaches or boats to go on yet another 'trip'. They don't sit and take their time over food lingering over a long,cool drink, their whole holiday is scheduled from the moment they arrive to the time they depart.For the British tourist this is great. You have a lovely beach all to yourself with only the beach boys for company. True there are a few Germans and Australians but the Germans seem to prefer sunning theirselves by the pool and the Australians are so used to the sun it's no big deal

The local people who work the beach offering manicures, pedicures,water sports, hang gliding and endless souvenirs seem to like the British mainly because they spend money but also because they are friendlier to them than some nationalities. Perhaps the fact that Thailand is one of the few countries we did not colonise helps as well.

Pattaya has a Gay scene but you can have a good holiday without it. The bars are listed in free magazines such as 'What's On In Pattaya' available from hotel reception desks but don't expect British style bars, a bar here is a place to buy sex along with your drinks. 

There are several 'transvestite' Cabarets in the resort and these are worth visiting as an experience but you will see better Drag in London any day. The two most popular are 'Tiffanys' and 'Alkazar' Both set out to attract straight tourists and run coaches and minibuses from the hotels. Admission is around £5 which includes a drink. Frankly you need the drink even if it is watered down coke or beer.

The shows are held in large warehouse type buildings with tiered seating. The only problem is that extra seating is crammed in everywhere a seat can possibly be put. The London Fire Brigade would have a fit and if fire ever did break out, your chances of escape would be about zero.

Most of the audience seem to be Japanese on one of their 'Trips'. The constant flashing of their little Canons is worth watching for it's own entertainment value as is the frantic climbing on seats to get a better view and the sheer amazement they seem to have at watching a man wearing a dress perform on stage.

The British tourist industry is definitely missing out here. Rent a warehouse out at Staines, bus the Japanese in from Heathrow and get David Dale, Maise, Lily and all the others to do a turn and everyone would make a fortune.

Despite a sound level which could waken the dead,spectacular computer controlled lighting effects and fabulous costumes the shows do lack one thing, talent.

The Tiffany show was the worst. The boys danced as though they had cement in their shoes and transvestites they most certainly were not ! I suspect it is just our old friend exploitation with young boys being recruited straight off the farm, dressed up in fancy costumes and being drilled like young soldiers to go through a routine . Even their faces showed total boredom and one fellow guest in the hotel told me it reminded him of a boy scout's 'Gang Show'on a bad night.

The rival Alcazar Show was much better. Many of the boys could actually dance, they smiled and did look as though they might be enjoying theirselves. There was also a sense of humour in some of the routines although miming to 'I who have nothing' with a balloon stuck up your dress will be painfully familiar to most British visitors. 

Both shows feature a mixture of western music, Japanese songs and Thai and Chinese numbers, something for every nationality in fact.

I enjoyed Thailand and found that it's reputation while well deserved doesn't have to get in the way if you are out to enjoy a straight forward holiday with a friend or lover. This is not in any way to knock those who go there in search of sun,sea and sex but just as Amsterdam is a beautiful city in it's own right, Thailand too has a great deal to offer tourists gay and straight besides massage parlours and go go dancers.

Experienced Thai travellers tell me the best time to go is during our winter with the weather getting a bit too hot for British bodies from mid April onwards. There are plenty of packages from many operators but independant travel should not present too many problems.Getting around is quite easy although English is not a widely spoken as in some other parts of the far east.

Just one word of caution. Taking a guest back to your hotel may not be easy especially in the better establishments, there are 'guards' everywhere. I heard one lone straight traveller sounding off against the travel agent who had put him into a good class hotel where he had tried to get a young lady into his room without success. It's nice to know that straights have there problems too.


NOTE. Thailand is a place I keep meaning to go back to. The trouble is the world is so large and there are so many places but one day........


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