Expats, Sexpats, and Thai Girls
Calling Patong a party town isn’t a good enough description. It’s a town where partying is a way of life. Plenty of families visit Patong and I’ve never heard of families having an issue, but it wouldn’t be a place I’d bring my kids. It’s a series of bar streets.
In the U.S. we have similar streets in New Orleans, but Patong might be twice the party, at least. Thailand has publicly announced an intention to clean the city up. For now, many people live in Patong for the small city’s nightlife, which becomes a way of life for them.
Phuket is a beautiful island and most people who live here do so just to enjoy Thai living: Thai beaches, Thai food, Karsts, and the smiles of local Thai people. But some people who come here don’t just come for the food and scenery.
In Thailand there is a name for the tourists who come to party. They are known as the sex-pats. You can classify all Westerners in Thailand as tourists, expats, or sex-pats.
There are entire areas of Thailand where the lifestyle attracts sex-pats. In Bangkok there’s an area called Nana Plaza, which is famous for its Go-Go bars. Outside of Bangkok there is a city called Pataya. We never went but it sounds like the wild west of Thailand. There’s also a full moon party on an island off the east coast, but that too we skipped. It’s known for drugs and dancing, so if that’s your thing, Google it.
In Phuket, the party is in Patong. It’s a place where the nightlife is pulsing. Bar girls, club girls, massage girls… this is one of the towns that gives Thailand it’s sinful reputation. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand and you occasionally hear of such places getting shut down. Still, the tourist party towns bring in big money and I doubt they’ll be going away anytime soon.
Patong has hundreds of bars, some small and some huge. There are hundreds of bar girls. As hard as it may be to believe, they are tamer than an American strip club! The vast majority of clubs have girls dancing but they are not nude. There are no lap dances. Oddly enough, there are board games.
Websites and books say the girls are escorts for hire but we never saw a man leave a bar with a bar girl. So that may be a specific type of bar which you’d have to seek out and wouldn’t like stumble into.
Important to note for those who are looking for a more legitimate encounter, there are clubs where local Thai guys and girls hang out and where Westerners are welcome.
There are massage parlors that offer the famous “happy ending” massages. I would bet that every message place in Patong offers such services. However, to be clear to those reading this looking to avoid such establishments, that is easily done! I got massages weekly in Phuket Town and they were 100% traditional Thai massages. Do be warned though, a traditional Thai massage usually involves an old woman bending you into yoga-type positions!
Last to mention, in regards to Patong, there are the famous lady boys on the street, cat calling and taking photos. “Ladyboys” is how transgender people refer to themselves in Thailand. They are very accepted, more so than in Western countries. In fact, the school I taught at held a school play at a ladyboy club called “Aphrodite” because their auditorium huge.
The Sex Pat Stories
There are entire books written about the crazy stories that come from the life of a sex-pat. “Private Dancer” & “Thailand Fever” are popular and, according to some, accurate. It is a very unique world and, especially if you are a male visiting Thailand, I highly suggest you read one of the books. The stories give a perspective on the lifestyle that could save you lots of time, money, and trouble.
The bars in Patong are filled with bar girls (usually natively from the Northeastern farming region of Isaan). Upon walking through the bar, dozens and dozens of girls will call at Westerns and try to pull them to sit down.
Lots of older men retire here for this party lifestyle that has no age limit. They usually live near the beach, find a local spot they like and enjoy the laid back way of life. Some may even abandon their partying ways, date or marry a Thai girl, and stop partying.
According to the stories, this sometimes (maybe often) ends badly. Some relationships are legitimate but many relationships that start in a bar or club end when the money stops flowing. The Thai woman turns out to have a Thai husband who she’s been sending money to… that sort of thing.
The Morals of the Situation
I have mixed feelings on all this. It’s easy to label a sex-pat as a pervert. People love to judge and look down on others. However, I don’t think it’s that simple. Plenty of girls in the clubs are normal Thai girls (aka, not prostitutes) being normal young people, doing the same things young women in Western countries do. Most of the Western guys living in Phuket, that I met, had been dating their Thai girlfriend for years.
Some old guys do have younger girls as girlfriends but the old guys seem to date women close to their age, maybe a little younger. So I assume they were lonely and not able to get a girlfriend in their home country. Or maybe they were just single and always wanted to retire on an island and fall in love. Or maybe they just wanted some ass. But don’t judge until you know. I’m young, married, and happy now. Where will I be in forty years though? If in forty years I’m wasting-away, alone in my house, who knows maybe a tropical island with wonderful people will be calling my name.
I met a handful of young guys who were in Thailand partying for a year and got a Thai girl pregnant. Every single one of them were staying and figuring out how to make a life in Thailand and support their family. If you’d met them a year earlier, partying in clubs, you might have judged them. Yet, these guys find out they’re dads and instead of running home, they get married and move to a developing country in Asia. Call those guys perverts and I’ll personally give you the middle finger.
A few weeks ago we went to Patong with another couple to people watch and a guy sitting near us was playing Jynga with a bar girl. He had a facial deformation. I imagine, wherever he was from, he was probably ignored by the women and was just lonely. So he came to Patong. Maybe he was looking for a girlfriend, maybe he’s too shy to date, I don’t know.
Oddly, many sit and play games like Jynga and Connect four with the girls. You could attribute this to the language barrier, as something to do since conversation is tough, but plenty speak English well enough. I point, again, to the idea that the Westerners are truly lonely.
Are Bar Girls Victims?
As far as the women being victims… that’s another mixed feeling for me. Some areas of Thailand are financially well off but remote areas aren’t, usually farming villages. Most of the girls apparently come from the North where they have very little. As far as I know, they voluntarily choose to go to Bangkok or Phuket to make money.
Based on what we heard in the year that we lived there, sometimes the case is they get pregnant from a Thai boyfriend at a young age and can’t afford the child. Many choose to leave their children with their parents, head South, find work in the bars, and send money home. It isn’t ideal but life on Earth rarely is.
I’m no expert but based on other online resources, all choices are up to the girls so many simply choose to become pole dancers. Others want to send lots of money home, so they become escorts. Most will do the job for a handful of years, then they go home. Since they were supporting their family, their village will not judge them and they can go about a normal life. The social acceptance of prostitution seems to make it a more common, viable choice for young, poor mothers.