Thailand At Work is a mini series that looks at the working lives of three Thai women striving to better their future in three very different industries within Thailand. The first of these posts looks at a woman who is trying to snare a rich foreigner to secure a better future for herself and her three children by working as a Pattaya bar girl.
If you asked a cross-section of bar girls in Pattaya how long they had worked there you would quickly become accustomed to the answer – one week. Most bar girls know almost every western man wants a girl who’s blind to the artful ways of Pattaya’s stereotyped bar girls – they want one who has little experience working the bars and as a rule-of-thumb that’s want most westerners want.
To a Thai bar girl, inexperience is a better barter tool than five years treading the boards because when they’re face to face with a customer loaded with money for honey, a small white lie may get them a ‘higher price’, a better restaurant meal and possible relief from the mundane life many of the bar girls live.
Dawan has only worked in Thailand’s wild child resort for one week – I can only report what she told me. Her English language skills were very basic but my basic instincts told me she’d done the rounds a little longer than she admitted to. Our interview took place at the Shark Rider Bar in Soi Buakhao and was aided by the bar owner’s Thai wife whose English was much more polished than her employee.
The Shark Rider Bar in Soi Buakhao is one of those same same type of bars that blend in with the many ‘businesses’ and other bars that are currently struggling in this sex tourism city. If Pattaya’s streets are paved with gold then Soi Buakhao’s road is peeling and a nasty green rash has started to poke its head above the surface. Pulling punters must be a challenging task for most of the bar girls who work there.
The road from Ban Lad Ya in Kanchanaburi Province to Pattaya is one that Dawan may have helped to lay when she previously worked in a road gang earning 200 baht ($5.50 US) a day. Dawan quit working the roads a few months back when the lure of Pattaya boulevards overpowered the smell of hot steaming tar and she headed for the coast.
Dawan is separated from her Thai husband and with three children to school, clothe and feed, she’s traded road gangs for bar life in the ‘Theatre of Teens’. At 41 years of age, Dawan has to overcome serious competition from fit, lean youthful bar girls, and more so, from their slightly older and vastly experienced peers.
Darwan’s work duties read bar cleaner and hostess – all for the princely salary of 2000 baht ($55) a month. Customer tips may add 500 baht, but that’s hardly enough to keep the wolf from the door – a door that’s hungry for a ‘bang’ from a baht-laden westerner.
Dawan gets two days holiday a month which give her little time to visit her children who are currently being taken care of by her elderly parents in Ban Lad Ya. Dawan realises she needs to quickly improve her basic English skills to ‘bump’ her salary and better fund her children’s education. She smokes and enjoys an occasional shot of lao khao rice whisky - luxuries a low-income Pattaya bar girl cannot afford to abuse.
Dawan misses her two boys and daughter, she also freely admits to being a staunch yellow shirt supporter, and would you believe, her dream is to marry an Englishman. My basic instincts kicked in once more, and I knew, if I was German, Dawan would have pidgin-toed about Munich, Jurgen Klinsmann and flushed at the thought of writhing on the back seat of a BMW. Pattaya’s seven-day cycle has some fast learning curves.
Beyond The Mango Juice wishes Dawan all the best in her quest to find the perfect western man but somehow I think on my next visit to Pattaya, Dawan will have swapped the smell of city’s sewers for the sweeter smell of burning road tar. It’s a tough life in Pattaya for an inexperienced ageing bar girl.
Good luck Dawan.
© 2009 – 2014, Martyn. All rights reserved.