Between Khao San Road and Patpong you’ll find whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a late night speakeasy, a Burger King, or a hooker with a Coke bottle…
What infamy a road can bear. A Disney Land for backpackers, the strip for bar goers, a long brothel for whores. Lady-boys cat-call, preachers scream, drug dealers whisper, merchants fast-talk, and drunks sing the blues.
It is a gutter running beneath a hundred signs reading bigger and higher and stretching farther to the middle of the road. They reach out so far they seem to threaten collapsing the supportive building walls. They read D&D inn, Thai cozy house, Sawasdee Inn, and at the end Burger King to threaten it all.
At night the road is lit bright under the hundred signs. The merry travelers celebrate beneath. Just beyond the perimeter is a pack of anxious looking taxi drivers. They loom, laughing amongst themselves until a traveler leaves the bright signs. They yap at each other and then the traveler until the victor ushers him off into the night.
It is a road where everyone suspects there is more than meets the eye. Something just beneath its surface, probably illegal, and you can go if you’re “in the know”.
When the bars close and the bright lights turn off, on the left at the beginning of the street, a man pops his head out behind a metal gate. He snaps his head left and then right looking for police. If there are police, without a word, he retreats his head behind the bars and walks to the dark back of the room. If there are no police, he ushers two or three at a time, quickly, into the room and shuts the gate. Once inside, the room is empty and dark. Chairs and a tables lit by the remaining street light are unused. The man strides to the corner. Light peeps out between a cracked open door and beneath a heavy curtain.
The curtain is pulled back. Bright light bursts and momentarily blinds. Cheers in six languages, pool balls crack, an announcer screams “Gooooaaaaal!!!” The room is busy and full. The waitress grins, money changes hands, beer is everywhere. Thais and Europeans cram a large room full of billiard tables and beer tables and a huge T.V. that all the chairs point to. The room is like a gin joint from Prohibition but international. Here, the hardiest of Khaosan’s patrons spend the early morning into the late morning.
When the warm sun begins to show on Khaosan the ensemble staggers out the gate and finds refuge in shade under the signs. The road never ceases. Some of the travelers are whisked away by arriving busses to other countries. Some return to their guesthouse to sleep away the heat. Some head to an open bar to never stop.
Everyone says to go and see Patpong. The name is only that of a series of wide alleys but it is the heart of Thailand’s sex scene. Taxi drivers insist on it. Foreign business men oblige. Everyone agrees it’s a show.
The alley is crowded and space is made much less by everything grabbing for attention. Vendors waive leaflets of naked whores in the face of passerbys. Doormen yell slogans like “fucky fucky, young, fucky,” over and over again. Huge neon lights hang over the alley with names “Super Pussy” and “Pussy Collection”. Transvestites mix with girls and no one is real sure of what they are seeing unless they rent one of the many fuck rooms. It is enough to demand one’s sexual attention and curiosity.
The alley bleeds excitement and sexual danger and pleads to give in to the taboo. Apprehension is lost for most when they are immersed in a total acceptance and market of sex.
But like most things made for westerners in Thailand, the goods are a cheap bright plastic substitute.
Seven girls stand naked on a stage centered in a dark room. There are many open booths surrounding the dimly lit stage. The girls dance unenthusiastically, shifting their weight from side to side with outward palms at their hips. They all have slim builds and plain faces that nod to blasting techno music. The music is too loud for small conversation or for nervous witty remarks.
The scene is bland. It lacks a good stripper’s sense of tease and play. In an immediate shot everything is given to the audience. The naked girls look bored or expressionless as they shuffle uninspired. Sometimes the girls touch their breasts but mainly just squirm back and forth with awkward outreached palms. The stage is close to the surrounding booths and the proximity lets the girls face individual customers. The dynamic between the girls and audience is awkward and very much like bad sex.
A disco ball lights in center stage. An excited announcer’s voice cuts into the music. The abruption sends most the girls scurrying off stage. A remaining girl is handed a full coke bottle that in no ceremony or prelude is shoved up her vagina twisted and removed without a cap. The audience suddenly looks more enthused. The girls off the stage look on expressionless. The woman on center stage re-inserts the open coke bottle lies on the floor and lifts her hips high in the air. The fluid drains into the girl. She stands, looking blank and reveals an empty coke bottle to the audience. Several in the audience applaud. The girl straddles the bottle once again and the coke drains back in.
Another girl comes on stage holding a banana out of its peel. Abruptly she sits on the stage floor and inserts the banana into her vagina and pops it out into her hand. She does this several times and the audience looks unimpressed until she scoots to the stage edge and takes aim. An unlucky man at a booth pleads to be spared, waiving his arms is defense. The girl smiles for the first time, raises her pelvis into the air, contracts and the banana shoots. It flies low and hits the man in his khaki pant leg leaving a wet mark.
Another takes stage and shoots darts from her vagina that miss and fly into the audience. Another pulls a string of razor blades from inside herself, another draws a picture with an inserted marker.
A man in the audience leaves with three of the performing girls. He returns before long looking embarrassed but convicted, like he fulfilled an unpleasant duty. The girls return blank faced and resume shuffling on stage.
The show is not sexy or sensual. But its rawness and novelty are offending and captivating. The acts are incredible feats set to the pretense of carnal and primal lust. It is a parade of carnival tricks done by whores. It is a great show.