Suzie Wong’s Magic Vadge:
Buckets of Alcohol, Ladyboys, and a Ping Pong Show
[Footnote 1: Do I really need to alert my readers that a story about a Bangkok ping pong show might be a tad explicit?]
Date: Monday, February 4th, 2019
Walking down Khaosan Road, on the island of Rotanakosin, where our hotel was located, during the day, and you’ll be assailed by tuk-tuk drivers who will literally chase you down the road even if you ignore their very existence. Mopeds and taxis drive up and down the road. Stray cats, including one with only half a tail, lounge about in oppressive sun. The majority of the shops are closed, or open late in the morning. When they do open, they sell typical tourist stuff. Balisongs, brass knuckles (with built in blades), and flashlights shaped like tasers and grenades are available on folding tables out front of shops. So too will you find “Rolexes” and other “brand” names. Later in the day, men with books full of fashion models make their pitches for tailored suits despite the fact that the temperature exceeded forty degrees every single day.
At night, however, it’s a different beast. No traffic at all uses the street. Bars overflow onto the sidewalk and the road, offering five-litre pitchers of Chang or Leo beer. Music is played so loud you can’t hear yourself think – it was a miracle that our hotel, set back from the road, shielded the noise. Deep-fried scorpions, tarantulas and millipedes are sold on street carts. So too is beef and chicken – a stick for ฿20 (about ninety cents). And grilled crocodile. Street vendors offer buckets of alcohol that are “strong as fuck” for as little as ฿150 (a few choices on offer included gin and tonic, whiskey and Red Bull and Coke, sex on the beach, kamikaze, and something simply labelled with three question marks). Laughing gas is being sold everywhere, and people are sucking on overinflated balloons. A stoned-looking Asian woman in a low-cut top dances dazedly at the makeshift dance floor of a bar that has overflown onto the road.
Here, men advertise with flashy signs for comedy shows, and for second- and third-floor bars, which overlook the bustling street. In one of these bars, we had a few drinks – my friends had Chang beer, while I had a Singapore sling. Celebratory shots of tequila followed – after twenty-three hours on planes, and months of planning, we made it to Bangkok. Eric refused his shot. I took it and, trying to explain to the bartender, ordered a brand of Irish cream I’d never heard of and created an Irish cactus. English is not a problem here, though fluency is not exactly perfect.
[Footnote 2: One part tequila, two parts Irish cream.]
The scene upstairs was minimal. Back to the street, and the others choose a patio, order their five litres of beer. The music here is painfully loud, so I leave them to it. All three of them had hangovers the next day – they were apparently dancing at that bar with a young European couple. She, Romanian, didn’t seem to mind that her boyfriend, British, was getting quite touchy and sexually suggestive with Mitchell and Eric. (‘When in Bangkok’, I suppose the sentiment would be...) Later, I would come to find out, they’d run into one of those street advertisers, shelling for a club. Ladies drink free. In they go, down a little alleyway (getting a pat-down on the way in), to discover this club is a virtually abandoned dank hole. Four or five Asian guys inside, no one else. The drink Amanda got was not a choice offered to her, but rather a predetermined house cocktail, something she described a Pepto-Bismol martini.
On my own, I manoeuvred around a street-meat cart with scorpions and tarantulas (฿10 per photo). There’s that same guy – white, dark-haired, a little overweight, unshaven, American accent – shouting repetitively about a Khaosan comedy club and handing out pamphlets. Another cart, this one with pad thai, and then there’s a guy, quieter than the rest (though not exactly innocuous), with a sign advertising a soapy massage.
T-shirt stalls abound, with elephant pants and “Snow” White singlets, featuring the Disney princess snorting a line of blow. Then you run into more suit salesmen, with their booklets of models in tailored outfits. When they’re told it’s too hot for a suit, they retort they’ll sew in an air conditioner.
My hotel was right next to a 7-Eleven, a franchise which abounds here. I stopped for some water. Behind the counter, next to the Johnny Walker and Chivas Regal, there’s a bottle of amber-coloured vodka called Smirnoff Midnight Max Guarana – it’s evidently infused with the South American stimulant to keep the party going longer. Thirty-seven percent alcohol per volume.
Back out to the street, and I’m considering asking the bar which has sprung up out front the Rikka Inn if they’ll do a Singapore sling – and if they’ll do it in a plastic cup so I can take it back to the room. But there, on that thin trail in the centre of the road, between the front of this bar and the racks of elephant pants from the shop opposite, there’s another guy with a sign. This guy has the same demeanour as the soapy massage guy – that is, quiet, not shouting or being flagrant, but neither being wholly innocuous. His sign mere says three words: Ping Pong Show.
I think I can say with confidence that neither the soapy massage nor the infamous Thai specialty burlesque show were on offer on Khaosan Road. Should you choose to go with these men (they’re referred to as ‘touts’), they’d take you, perhaps on a rather long ride, to another location. Scamming may or may not be involved.
Bangkok is home to three main red light districts: Patpong, Nana Plaza, and Soi Cowboy. They feature restaurants, bars, go-go bars, and blowjob bars – Dr Blowjob (or Dr BJ), at Nana Plaza, offers blowjobs on the menu, right next to the cocktails, and the women come dressed in nurse’s outfits. Patpong is usually the internet’s preferred location for ping pong shows, which one Redditer summed up as, “Some overweight granny wobbles on stage and squats over a bucket and disgorges some balls in to it. Then you pay a overpriced bill while some scary looking guys stand by.”
[Footnote 3: https://www.reddit.com/r/Thailand/comments/5rubi9/what_is_the_general_procedure_with_ping_pong_shows/ (Acc. 24 February 2019).]
It’s a scam. And this is probably where you’ll wind up if you solicit the services of that middle-aged tout in front of Rikka Inn on Khaosan Road. I imagine you’d be shuffled into a van, driven the eight kilometres to Patpong. You’ll probably be told there’s no cover charge, and drinks are only ฿100. Shopping, bars, sexual services. The entire thing is bathed in red light. Pickpocketing is worse here than elsewhere in Bangkok.
I’m told there’s a few places in Patpong that offer such shows – one of which is inventively named Super Pussy. Another, prominently featured when discussing scams, is located on the second floor, kind of hidden away from the street. Drink prices will not be listed on the menu, though the waitress may verbally tell you they’re only ฿100. They’ll be girls working the floor – basically strippers or some other variant of sex worker looking to sell their services. Ladyboys may be among them. At first glance, all the working girls are pretty. Yet soon the seediness makes itself seen. Every review I’ve seen says the woman on stage will be older, and likely overweight.
The drinks may, indeed, be only ฿100 – but you’re expected to buy lady drinks for the girls. A showgirl may raise a glass with you – at that point, you’re implicitly buying her drink. The bar tab is settled when you leave, not upon ordering the drink. Finally the show starts, and the woman on stage begins doing multiple things with her vagina, including holding a pen and writing, birthing a banana, and blowing out a candle, among other things. There may also be live sex on stage, including a lesbian show.
When you go to leave, however, you discover your bill comes to thousands of baht. How is this, given that there’s no cover charge and drinks are only ฿100? In addition to the lady drinks you’re on the hook for, they charge a ‘looking fee’ for each show – that is, each act performed by the magic vagina – that you watch. If you try and dispute the charges, security – described by some as gangsters or mobsters – will appear beside the bartender and intimidate you. You can usually negotiate the fee down. One woman, in a blog post, claimed she paid the stated drink price, caused a scene and ran out. Almost unanimously, every review or blog post on this claimed appetites were lost and disgust was prevalent and the writer tried to leave after ten or fifteen minutes.
[Footnote 4: https://hippie-inheels.com/ping-pong-show-in-bangkok/ (Acc. 24 February 2019).]
I had done my research. I, instead, went to Soi Cowboy. This district is a single side street, about a hundred and thirty meters in length, walking distance from the skytrain’s Asok Station on Sukhumvit Road. Every business is a bar. Some of these include Shark Bar, Doll House, Shadow Bar, and Afterskool. I went with my brother, his boyfriend, and another friend, Amanda – so, of the four of us, I was the only one with an interest in breasts and vagina.
We were dropped off by taxi – few drivers wanted a fare going to Soi Cowboy. We walked the street. Here, too, red light is everywhere. There’s about forty bars here, and almost every single one of them has ladies out front in bikinis or corsets or short shorts. They’re all very hungry for business.
Soi Cowboy was started in the 70s, named for a cowboy hat-wearing American who opened the first bar there. It’s small, but there’s no scams.
We walk all the way to the end. There’s a burger joint there called Tiger Burger. Stop for dinner. Burger, fries, a Singapore sling. Across the road a renovation is going on. Interior drywall, freshly taped, is on the outside of the building, just waiting for rain and mould.
Walking back to the west, and you find Suzie Wong. This is the only place at Soi Cowboy offering ping pong shows. No scams. There’s a thirty-something woman out front, wearing a turtleneck t-shirt and sporting a buzz cut. Two go-go girls are with her in red bikinis. She offers a drink menu. There’s a show every hour on the hour. No cover charge but you have to buy a drink. “Come in, come in,” she says in accented English, “show just started.”
There’s a handwritten sign there listing showtimes. 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, etc. It’s about twenty after nine, and I don’t want to miss any of the show, so we decide to kick about and come back. A few doors down, we discover a ladyboy bar named Cockatoo. (I wonder if there’s a double entendre there.) It’s apart of the Thai culture, so why not?
It’s a go-go bar, so there’s girls outside in bikinis trying to entice you to come in. No cover charge. Inside it’s basically a strip club. A long padded bench on either side, a rectangular stage in the centre. There’s about a dozen or so ladies on stage, all in matching yellow bikinis. At first... you can’t tell.
There’s no nudity in here. They dance. When a customer shows some interest, they all swarm to that section of the stage. At one point, a middle-aged guy, who I think was Japanese, snuck a picture with his cell phone. This is against the rules – there are signs up – and he’s swarmed by four or five of the ladies, which watch him as he goes into the gallery on his phone and deletes it.
Mitchell, Eric and Amanda order Chang beer. I order a B52. The waitress, a fortyish woman dressed in black, lights it on fire and I’m pretty sure I drank a liquified portion of the straw. Then the waitress begins trying to convince us to take one of the girls into the back room – trying to convince Eric especially. She’s making the blowjob hand and facial expression, and repeatedly molests his crotch.
It’s at this point that... you begin to tell. You can see it.
Back to Suzie Wong. It’s now about five to ten. I order a Singapore sling from the woman in the turtleneck t-shirt. A waitress, a pretty-faced young thing who looks about eighteen or twenty, takes me inside and seats me as they prepare my drink.
It’s a strip club in here as well. The last show is clearly just finishing. A dozen of so women dance on stage in various forms of undress – some just wearing garters, while others still have the full bikini. One or two are dancing enthusiastically while most are just phoning it in.
The waitress seats me in the back, then brings in three young Japanese women and seats them next to me. The dancers clear off stage, and a single woman heads up there, already nude. This woman is not eighteen, but neither is she an “overweight granny.” She’s maybe forty. Not ugly.
The waitress, the pretty-faced young woman in a red cheongsam blouse, comes in with a pink-coloured drink, which I take to be my Singapore sling. Just then, however, another waitress, engaged in a spirited conversation with someone, swings her arm in a sweeping gesture, backhanding the drink out of the waitress’ hand, smashing it on the floor. The waitress, mildly surprised, takes this like it’s just one more thing in a long day, shrugs, turns and heads right back outside. She comes back in with a broom and begins sweeping up the broken glass. The buzz-cut, turtlenecked hostess comes in with her and comes running up to me, apologizing in her accented English, saying it would be just another minute.
When my new drink arrives, I ask the waitress to seat me closer, because the Japanese girls are chatting loudly and giggling drunkenly, and I can hardly see the stage. At this point the woman on stage has taken two cigarettes, inserted them into herself, lit them, and is proceeding to walk around the stage, bending over to the crowd in different places, contracting her stomach muscles and ‘drawing in’. You can see the cigarettes glow orange, then she bears down and ‘exhales’. Puffs of smoke are birthed out of her.
The waitress puts me at a table right inside the door. She may look pretty-faced and innocent, but twice now she’s removed a lip balm-looking tube from her pocket, discretely held it to her nose and sniffed, pinching the other nostril.
By now, balloons have appeared throughout the bar. Strippers are aggressively flirting with groups of men, and overfilled balloons are drifting about. The woman on stage lies down on her back, legs spread. She takes what I can only describe as a straw – only larger – and inserts the end of it into herself. She aims. A man on the far side of the bar holds a balloon above his head, his palm splayed. The loud music cuts just in time to hear the balloon pop. The woman on stage has a dart inside that straw, and through some sort of vacuum pressure through extreme abdominal contractions, she’s shot it out. The balloon was perhaps as far as twenty feet away.
She repositions and does this a few more times, the strippers flirting with men instructing them as to how to hold the balloon.
I soon find myself sandwiched between two pretty strippers wearing bikinis. They’re early twenties, pretty, slight. Both are Thai. The ravenhead on my left introduces herself as Meng. The blonde, on my right, I’m pretty sure calls herself as Maureen. I drape my arms over them. Quite aggressively, Meng immediately takes my hand and presses it to her breast. Maureen stands and encourages me to spank her.
By now, the woman on stage has graduated to the main event. She has a small plastic basket filled with ping pong balls. She is once again lying on her back. The hostess with the buzz cut and turtleneck t-shirt stands ten or so feet away at the end of the stage with a badminton racket – she has a most unimpressed look on her face. Projectiles begin flying. The hostess swats them away, her expression a mask of resting bitch face. The waitress in the cheongsam blouse begins scurrying around, picking up the discarded balls with her bare hands.
I must admit I missed some of this, as I was rather distracted by Meng and Maureen. Maureen became very grabby with my crotch, feeling around for an erection and then giggling like an innocent schoolgirl as though this is a novel thing for her. Then she repeated the act. Meng kept her hand cradled atop my own on her breast.
Another waitress (not the one picking up ping pong balls) came up and asked if I want another drink. I still had some of my Singapore sling left, so I declined. Meng and Maureen, however, began asking for lady drinks with a cutesy petulance. Fine; I got them drinks. They were soon delivered. Maureen had gotten a shot, which she sucked back. She has to go on stage and dance, she said in broken English, now that the show was finishing. (It was about twenty after ten.) The waitress then handed me my change. Both strippers wanted it tucked into their g-strings. I made a snap decision; I’d felt both sets of boobs, but hadn’t seen them yet – I’d tuck the bills in their panties if they each brought the girls out. They did. The cash was deposited. Maureen rushed up to the stage. Meng stuck around, but by now my drink and the show were both done. Suzie Wong does have a ‘bar girl’ option (that is, a fee you can pay the bar to take a girl away for an hour or the night; her own fee will be on top of this), which perhaps Meng was about to lead into, but that was when I left.
Walking down the street at this hour, the go-go girls out front each bar were far more numerous and aggressive. I was accosted by bikini-clad women urging, begging me to come into their clubs. I was starting to feel the alcohol at this point. I passed by two women in red corsets, one of whom was tall and slender, the other one petite. This younger one looked as though she were about fourteen. Both of them grabbed hold of my arms and tugged me towards the door. “Come inside,” one pleaded. The other was probably talking about drink prices.
Looking drunkenly at the petite one (who in my mind’s eye I recall wearing braces – not sure if this was actually the case), I asked, perhaps rudely, “How old are you?”
“Tweenty ooone,” she drawled immediately, as though she got that question all the time.
I tried to decline, but they were forceful. They both semi-hugged me, sandwiching me. The young-looking one, her head to my chest, jerked back, claiming to hear my heartbeat. She then forcefully grabbed my head to pull to her chest so I could listen to her heartbeat. Admittedly, this part if her felt a little older than fourteen. I had to tear myself away from them.
I found my friends sitting out front a hole-in-the-wall bar towards the one end, one of a select few places that didn’t offer the female persuasion. This place was tiny, dark, and had a single table with six stools out front. They were chatting it up with three grizzled, bearded and surly Aussies, perhaps about of sixty years of age, who hailed from central Queensland. The one bloke, who resembled a white-bearded Gimli from Lord of the Rings (this resemblance included his height) was named Jim; I never got the names of the other two. Everyone – both my friends and the Australians – had Chang beers.
I quickly stepped inside and directed the bartender as to how to make an Irish cactus, which he did with a curious look on his face, and then billed me for each individual shot mixed into the drink. It cost me ฿450, which is probably close to what I’d spent at Suzie Wong’s. I returned to the table as the one bloke, pot-bellied with a long white goatee, was asking if we’d seen the ladyboys. He was clearly blitzed. He went on to speak of his home country more stereotypically than any foreigner ever could.
“They’re pests, they’re pests,” he insisted, speaking of kangaroos. “They stand eight feet tall, and if you hit one with your car, you’ve just totalled your vehicle.” He then said he’d eaten kangaroo before. “We eat our entire coat of arms down under. I’ve had kangaroo, I’ve had emu, I’ve had crocodile.”
He taught us some Aussie slang: “Where you would say Australia, we’d say ’Stralya.” He said that Sydney and Melbourne weren’t worth seeing, as they were just cities same as any other, and that to see the real ’Stralya, you need to go into the Outback. Then he contradicted himself by saying Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) was too far into the back of beyond. “It’s a rock in the desert. The only people that go out there are black folks.”
“Aborigines?” I asked.
“Yeah, black folks. That’s what we call them. My great-grandfather was a black person.”
He then started talking about penal colonies, and said that fear of Australia’s wildlife was overblown. “I’ve been bit by spiders exactly zero times in my life,” he said, pressing his thumb and index finger together in a circle. Then, less than sixty seconds later, he proudly boasted that oft-repeated factoid about Australia being home to seven of the world’s ten deadliest snakes.
Next he launched into a five minute rant about climate change being a hoax perpetuated by scientists, the government, and the IPCC. “The climate’s always changing, the climate’s always changing,” he blathered. By this time Jim had stood up at the other end of the table, and the other two followed suit. They soon left, cheerfully wishing us good luck. I think there was another comment made about ladyboys.
We had no luck flagging down a cab on the main road, so we used the Grab app (a cash-based subsidy of Uber used across Southeast Asia) to head back to Khaosan Road. The party there was in full swing, as usual.
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Anonymous. “Ping Pong show” TripAdvisor, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g293916-d447439-r446215221-Patpong_Night_Market-Bangkok.html, 22 December 2016. Acc. 24 February 2019.
Anonymous. “Beware the ping pong shows scam!” TripAdvisor, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g293916-d447439-r146941997-Patpong_Night_Market-Bangkok.html, 7 December 2012. Acc. 24 February 2019.
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