Phuket Girls, Ladyboys and Nightlife Tips
Some Fun and Useful Stuff
Bangla Road is world-renowned as the beating heart of Phuket's nightlife - there is nowhere else on the island which comes even close to the same high-energy party atmosphere! Most of the bars don't even open until 21:00 and it doesn't get really busy until after 23:00. While the official closing time is 02:00, the music doesn’t usually stop until much later than that – on rare occasions, not until dawn!
The road and all of its side sois are packed with nightclubs, beer bars, go-gos, touts, peddlers, street performers and much more. It is a lot to take in all at once and can be a little overwhelming, particularly when there are many customs and practices which you would not find in western party areas. The following is a collection of useful tips to help you get the most out of Phuket after dark.
- Bar Fine: A fee to cover a bar's 'loss' when taking a girl out of the place for a 'date'. Generally, this is non-negotiable.
- Bar Girl: A girl who works at a bar, usually applied specifically to beer bar hostesses.
- Beer Bar or Bar Beer: An open-air bar, specialising in the sale of cheap beer and spirits. They are staffed by girls calling you 'handsome man' with a big convincing smile, inviting you to drink there and more.
- Connect Four: A game where you try to align four coloured tokens on a vertical board. It is a game of skill and strategy and the girls get a lot of practise at playing, making them almost unbeatable. The saying goes that "you know you've been in Patong too long when you can beat the bar girls at Connect Four!"
- Go-Go Bar: An enclosed place with loud music and expensive drinks, where girls dance on the stage, usually wearing very little clothing.
- 'Hang' and 'Wakie': Two drinks available in small bottles and sold in convenience stores. When planning a serious drinking night out, drink one 'Hang' before the party, another after the party (if you still can), and a 'Wakie' in the morning. It seems to work.
- The Hanging Bell: Most beer bars have a bell at the bar within easy reach of patrons. Grasp the rope and give it a good ring. Guess what? You just bought a round of drinks for everyone around the bar. Use sparingly.
- Jackpot: A popular bar game, featuring a box with nine paddles with numbers on one side and the word "•JACKPOT•" on the other. You roll two dice, giving you a choice of three numbers (the numbers on each die or the total from both of them), one of which you can use to flip over a corresponding paddle before rolling again. The objective is to flip all of the numbers and you lose if you roll and cannot make a move. It is a game of pure luck, so you have a fair chance at beating a bar girl at it.
- Lady Drink: A small drink, always more expensive than yours, purchased for the lady you are sat with. The more drinks you offer to the lady, the more attention she will pay you because she gets a cut of the cost. See it as a fee.
- Katoeys: Transvestites, often referred to as "ladyboys". They can sometimes be prettier, taller and slimer than 'real' girls, but are often given away by their exaggerated femininity.
- Ping Pong Show: A show performed by a lady involving ping pong balls, but not in the way that you remember it played at school. Believe it or not, that is one of the tamer shows on offer...
- Short Time: A very brief date with a bar girl, generally lasting no more than a couple of hours.
- Soi: A small back street or lane.
Bar Girls in Patong - First Dates
Beer bars in Patong (and throughout Thailand) have up to 10 'hostesses' willing to go with visitors for money. Many girls are looking for a boyfriend, some for a short time, others longer term, though in both cases they are usually looking primarily for a financial asset. If you get on well, she may well accompany you on trips around Thailand, providing fun company and local insight, but you will have to negotiate a rate first. You will also have to pay a 'bar fine' each time you go for a 'date'. After that, it's up to you!
The bar fine is the non-negotiable fee to cover a bar's 'loss' when taking a girl away from her place of work and can vary with each establishment. Prices start at 200 - 500 baht for the evening and can go up to 1,000 baht and more, with the amount generally depending on the quality and location of the venue. If you're planning to spend a few days or longer with the lady, you'll need to negotiate the fine with the bar. This does not cover the girl’s fees, which are best discussed directly. Night rates vary between 1,000 - 4,000 baht and, like everything else, are negotiable.
The same rules, terminology and approximate price structure applies to the gay areas of Phuket, too.
Bar Girls in Phuket - A Few Tips
It's generally good advice to stay with a girl for only one night. This avoids the situation where, after two nights, she considers you her boyfriend. This can produce jealous tantrums if you look at or are tempted by other girls - even if you are paying! If you decide to take her on trips, be prepared to pay for meals, tickets and extras. A gift will be expected, usually anything gold or valuable.
Bar girls have been frequently associated with certain scams, so any dealings with them beyond the first date should be taken with extreme caution. The above is general advice based on general experience, but not every working girl is the same. You can have lots of fun and a great time, if you remember that working girls work for money!
Ladyboys and Katoeys
Katoeys (transvestites or ladyboys) are widely accepted in Thai society and it is not that unusual to see them in everyday life. However, they are still especially prevalent in the nightlife scene and, with modern surgical techniques, it's harder than ever to tell that they were born male. Often taller, slimmer and sexier than real girls, usually with more pronounced curves, they tend to be a lot more 'feminine' than necessary and sport a flouncing walk. Usually wearing large, fancy, colourful dresses when walking up and down the street to attract customers, their outfits shrink to the bare legal minimum when working in bars. If you are still not sure, a good way to catch them out is from their voices, though some have had years of practise and can still fool you.
The absolute failsafe for telling a lady from a boy is to ask to see their identity card, which will always show the gender they were born as. Generally speaking, though, katoeys are not out to trick men who are looking for ladies who were born as ladies. Even if they know you’re not interested, they can be fun company and might even invite you to judge the quality of the silicon job, so it is up to you to give a fair opinion. Note that, at this point, a lady drink would probably be in order.
Ladyboys in other parts of Thailand have been known for sudden bursts of unladylike behaviour, including short tempers and pickpocketing, so do be extra careful and civil around them. Just use your common sense and make sure your belongings are secure. If you take photos of or with katoeys, some small payment (about 200 baht) is generally expected and disagreeing could prove to be a big mistake.
Getting Around at Night
At night, Soi Bangla turns into a pedestrianised walking street, with tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis waiting at both ends to provide a ride home. Prices are negotiable and tend to increase with the number of passengers, the distance and the lateness of the hour. Many tuk tuks try to charge excessive and inflated rates, so it's best to check with other visitors and locals first. ALWAYS agree on the price before you get in as it's difficult to negotiate after the journey.
Both motorcycle taxis and tuk tuks can be flagged down anywhere along any of the streets. Head for Banana Disco on the Beach Road (Thaveewong Road), where most of the tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis park. At the other end of the street, you will find plenty of transport in front of Jungceylon Shopping Centre.
Dangers & Annoyances
The streets of Patong are quite safe at night - safer than in many western cities. Incidences of violence against tourists are rare, though there have been cases of purse snatching and pickpocketing. In discos, it's rare to see any problems as the crowd is very international and not obsessed with drinking themselves to oblivion.
The most common visitor complaint is of harassment by local touts trying to lure people into anything from Indian restaurants to timeshare presentations to tailor shops to tuk tuk tours. Ignoring these characters usually does the trick. Women are generally safe to go out at night, though it's not advisable to travel alone late in tuk tuks and on motorcycle taxis.
Dedicated to visitors’ safety, there's a Police Information Centre at the beach end of Bangla Road, just over the Beach Road. If you are victim of a negative situation or witness an accident, just dial 1155 and speak slowly and clearly. The Tourist Police will help you.
Police Emergency: 191
Tourist Police: 1155