Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dispatches 8: The Most Obnoxious City Award Goes To?

PATTAYA!! congrats. I was going to say that I hate this city but I found a really good veggie restuarant that does all these fake meats. So what I have to say is that the restaurant is unfortunately placed; it would be better in most other places in the world. Its not surprised that I feel this way about this city, I know that this city had a reputation for sex tourism but I had given my dad the benefit of the doubt about his choice of location. When I asked him a few weeks ago why he lived here he gave me a legit answer, since he can't live with his partner or in her city (she is divorced and the husband is still in the life of the children and its just not wise to be there) and Pattaya is less then an hours drive away. So she comes up every weekend and basically when else she gets off work. (she is an administrator at a univeristy and some how seems to be able to get any day off see like) Ok fair enough I say. Then I get here.

Its a playground for middle/upper class white men. Its like they all went to Miami "girls go wild" when they were in college and now at 50 want to live it over again. problem is with their aging bodies they are not getting the attention of the western college girls, sooo they head down here. Now they have something they didn't have before - CASH and this is all you need here. The city is filled with white middle aged men and young Thai men and women along with many trans women. There is a huge boyz town that blends into the rest of the city of go go dancers and prostitutes.

Its like Niagra Falls but instead of wax musuems you have go-go's. Its like a geriatics carnival and instead of prizes you get asian women. Its like a hip hop video but all the men are over 50 and white.

This is not the self empowered prostitute story. From what I have read in a few books and articles online Pattaya is the heart of trafficing from northern Thailand. Both from the hill tribes and poor towns where the families have little option of money or hope for there children, many of the girls, and I do mean children, get sold to brothals or just come down. I read an article about buddahism and patriachry. The women from Thialand argued that thai males have an opportunity to be ordained as monks and most men do this. You can stay as long as you like but many just stay for the min 3 months for forfil there duty. During this time they get access to education and other oportunties. "Because boys repay gratitude to their parents by being ordained in their youth, they fulfill their duty early in life. A girl's way to repay gratitude to her parents is usually to take care of them when they are old." And with having no catch to pay gratitude with anything but their bodies they consentually get brought down here and become prostitutes.

Once they get here its not all fun and games like it seems to all the men who say "I'll never leave". The women work for certain bars and when you want to take them home you don't pay them you pay the bars. This is all the open western sex tourist part of it. But there is a whole other level. I have been reading this book called "Sex Tourist: Traffiking Of Women In Asia". One of the mian arguments of this book is that it is not the western sex tourists that keep this industry thriving (although in Pattaya I'm sure it plays a bigger part then other cities) It is actually the Asian male that is the main customer. The thing is in all parts of Asia there is this religious/family values thing going on that keeps sex as something imorral, therefore it has to be kept underground.

Its one of those situations where the men generally see their wives as pure and therefore unable to pleasure them sexually so they go elsewhere. But since there is this whole facade of sexual purity it is all underground. I suppose that is more dangerous because here you can see the women and know that they are generally safe but in these situations the women are hidden away. Not only that but there would be a more of a sense of guilt. The western way is to make it so big and open that there can't be guilt; everyone is doing it and we will joke about it in the morning. Secrets breed guilt and guilt can develop into violence towards the one who is "making" you feel this way.

There is this boat in the middle of the bay called the Dolphin restuarant. There is a glowing number to call but no other adds and not public way to get to it. It has been suggested to me that this may be one of these underground (or floating in this case) brothals where its only word of mouth and mostly filled with Asian men.

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Just discovered this blog and enjoyed reading your thoughts regarding your travels in Asia.

I do have a couple of points where we disagree however ..

1 - Pattaya the 'Most Obnoxious City'?? Surely, this award should go to Paris? New York, even London possibly. But Pattaya?

I have lived here now for the past 7 months and have learned to 'love' the place. Yes Pattaya, like any other place, has its good and bad. But like the rest of Thailand, the 'warmth' of many of the Thai's here, is genuine and sincere.

Pattaya is also experiencing amazing growth as it 'redevelops' itselft as a 'Family Holiday Resort' and already much of the facilities are in place to enable this. Slowly but surely, the "50 year plus White guys" walking arm in arm with the petite 20 year old Thai girl, are being replaced by family groups and Farang Couples.

2 - That the girls are forced to come and work in Pattaya. I'm sorry, but in my experience the girls can't wait to come to Pattaya or Bangkok. It is 'party central' for many of them and a way to meet a potential husband for others.

I know many bar owners and can honestly state that I have never heard of and certainly never seen any girl being 'forced' to work here. Admittedly, Pattaya isn't for all of the girls and I have met a small number of them for whom Pattaya didn't turn out to be what they expected. Within a short amount of time, they return home.

My work in property development has meant that I have travelled across many areas of Thailand, I met my girlfriend in Phetchabun and she now lives with my in Pattaya. I'm 43 and she's 36, not too much of an age gap there.

I will say that my only complaint about Pattaya is the type of people it attracts. It seems to me that many of the younger drunken idiots that used to cover the beaches of Spain and Ibiza have now discovered Pattaya and the Soi's now 'ring out' to the tune of many of the UK's football teams songs ... I'm honestly embarrassed by much of what I see.

Yet, the local Thai people, the Girls, the taxi drivers, the waitresses, etc, put up with the behaviour with a grace that is unseen in the western world. Their perfect smile is available to any and every customer.

Regarding your views on Asian Prostitution, you have another post about Cambodia. A place you seemed to prefer to Pattaya and yet 'Chicken Farms' abound. Very young girls sold by there parents in Vietnam before being housed in squalar, these are the 'real' unwilling prostitutes.

Even in the more 'open' areas such as Sihanook-ville, the beach resort to the south, young girls are in every bar.

I friend and I visited there when we had to renew our last Thai visa and we first visited Angor Wat before travelling down to 'Snooky'.

Playing pool one night with a couple of the 'bar girls' was fun, but I turned down her proposals because she was too young ... I thought around 20. On a subsequent visit to the same bar which employed her, I later was told she was 15 and this in full open view.

Cambodia has no restraints on age it would appear. Thailand has strict controls over girls ages in all bar areas.

I'm sorry that you left Pattaya with such a negative view, and to some degree I can see what has led you to your opinions. However, things in Thai society are different. For example, my girlfriends ex husband is now 61.

So you see, age is not a problem here. This obviously works to the advantage to the 'middle aged' or older White Male, but it certainly isn't a negative to the girls as it's commonplace and accepted here. The most important thing to any Thai girl is that you are Jai Dee, (good heart) and will take care of both her and her family to some degree.

To summise, it's my belief that Pattaya, whilst undeniably 'in your face', to refer to the place as 'Obnoxious' is unjust. If you'd said it is visited by Obnoxious drunken 'yobs' i'd have had to agree.

Incidently, the Dolphin Restaurant which floats out in the bar, together with the other 3 'neon lit' similar vessals are actually very good seafood restaurants. You simply call the number on the side to make your reservations, then meet the transfer boat that they send to the pier to meet you at 8pm.

On board they have traditional Thai shows (not ladyboy) and music, with only one service per night, it's not rushed and you can dine in a relaxed atmosphere.

Quite a far cry from the undergound 'brothel' that you suggest.
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