Thursday, 7 July 2005

salty fried bugs, gogo girls and a micro-penis!

Patpong is the Disneyland-esque, sleazy underbelly of Bangkok. It is a surreal experience of neon lights, flesh and some seriously dodgy characters that typify the sex tourist stereotype. There are two main streets and a couple of subsidiaries that act as the hangout area for the hardcore gay and the Seriously Dodgy: capital S, capital D.

The two main streets have market stalls selling fake Gucci handbags and the like, lined on either side by a mixture of sex shows and respectable dining establishments. As you wander down the streets you are hounded by guys with menus offering various shows with such ominous titles as 'pussy needle', 'pussy ping-pong' and 'pussy banana'. Crude drawings scrawled down the sides of the menus demonstrate the acts in question – just in case you hadn't quite grasped the concept of the shows.

As Paul (Irish man from plane) and I wandered around, I discovered, rather disturbingly, that the bar owners approached me rather than him in their attempts to lure us into their 'great' live sex shows. Unfortunately, having just eaten, the thought of having an up-close encounter with a saggy vagina attempting to shoot ping-pong balls around just didn't appeal.

Instead we checked out the hardcore gay street, which we stumbled upon by accident. We only realised half way up the cul de sac that I was the only female in sight so we turned round and walked sheepishly back the way we'd come, trying not to gawp at the extremely camp young Thais and some disturbingly old and fat westerners.

We also found ourselves on Seriously Dodgy street with shops ladened with young Thai girls sat row upon row, waiting for their next clients. I found it quite disturbing, especially when I saw a couple of leering grey westerners fondling a couple of girls as they walked down the street together. It was so in-your-face it made me feel quite sick.

Having found our way back on to the main streets, I decided to cure my nausea by trying out some local bug delicacies. I managed to force the seriously-squeamish soon-to-be doctor, Paul, to eat one caterpillar; I managed five! They were fried and salted and tasted like crisps. I'd have eaten the whole bag had my father not mentioned that they kill the bugs with DDT. After five I felt I'd had a reasonable dose of DDT and left the rest.

We then found a bar filled with the standard array of prostitutes (although ours must have been some of the ugliest in Thailand), and sat with a pint watching the sights walk by. And there were quite a few. Men with ladyboys (I sincerely hope they knew because they were pretty obvious); a man I would put money on being a paedophile on the hunt for a couple of young-uns (I'm talking tight pink t-shirt tucked into very tight trousers pulled up to just beneath his nips, dodgy facial hair and a certain 'look' about him which didn't place him in the gay category or the standard sex tourist category); and the usual lager louts having a laugh.

After the beer we decided to find somewhere altogether livelier, although I still wasn't up for a ping pong show. Instead, we were drawn into a gogo club by a sign advertising 'FIFTY GORGEOUS GIRLS AND A FEW UGLY ONES'. Who in their right mind wouldn't check it out?

Delving into the darkness of the club, we were faced with twelve poles and twelve pole dancers jiggling around as enthusiastically as hungover office workers waiting at a bus stop on a rainy winter day. Not a single smile in sight. They were bored shitless and made no attempt to hide how they felt. We decided to get a pint of watered-down draught beer anyway.

Fortunately for our entertainment purposes, a drunken English guy appeared from nowhere and started dancing with some of the prostitutes, who were walking the floor between sessions on the pole. His dance – resembling that of an epileptic chicken –made for amusement all round, and we shared a giggle with one of the friendlier prostitutes. Said drunken Englishman then felt the need to show off his wares and dropped his trousers to reveal what can only be described as a micro-penis. The prostitutes laughed hysterically, to the extent that they were pushing him away and refusing his business. How unfortunate. To be turned away by a prostitute is impressive. To add insult to injury, the friendly prostitute came over to chat to us and was giggling away and pointing at him saying 'he no big penis, he no big penis'. Seriously unfortunate.

Not satisfied with just showing off his wares said drunken Englishman then decided to shake his booty with the rest of the pole dancers. With his trousers wrapped about his ankles, he treated us to the most unusual pole dance – a one-off I doubt I'll ever witness again. The saddest thing of all was that he was in the club alone. He wasn't playing up to friends or doing it for a dare. He was just a lonely soul who obviously felt his penis was worthy of showing off to very experienced Thai prostitutes. Poor chap!

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