I recently spent a few days in the city of Udon Thani, something I do on each of my holidays to Thailand. I look on Udon Thani as my barometer of how well tourism in Thailand is faring. In Bangkok the long tail boats on the Chao Phraya River may be bobbing empty and the tuk tuks nearby stood still but what about Udon Thani and my true barometer test. Is business for the bar girls on the ‘up’. If the bar girls are doing a decent trade then I think likewise for the Land of Smiles too.
Udon Thani has its fair share of ex pats but as far as tourism is concerned take away the peak Christmas season and Udon receives just a gentle ebb and flow of hormone fuelled sex hungry tourists. A spike in numbers is easy to notice, the lunchtime bars become more busy and the bar girls smile is even more sweet.
With reports circulating that Thailand could lose over five billion US dollars in lost tourism revenue this year then ‘ Big Trouble for Thai Bar Girls in Tourist Thailand ‘ could be another crass TV series about to happen. Second thoughts, who would have the ‘ Bravo ‘ to produce that one. Currently there are more lucky charms being rubbed in the bars of Thailand than breasts in the near empty hotel rooms.
My stroll down Soi Sampantamit Road started at the Irish Clock Bar and I headed back to the main road via refreshments at the New York Bar & Grill and the surreal named Orange Moon. There may be life on Mars but Major Tom would discover the Moon and those nearby had very little…..Ground control to Major Tom…. take your protein pills and put your best smile on.
The Irish Clock has its regular fill of ex pats and its excellent food pulls in a steady crowd throughout the day but your easy to spot typical tourist was very thin on the ground. The bar girls are there to serve food and drinks and in the professionally run Irish Clock any hanky panky is I think strictly off the menu. The Meeting Point bars across the road and the other two on my hit list gave out the feeling of a ‘ have handbag, can travel ‘ service approach.
The New York Bar & Grill is one of Udon’s newer establishments and it was well furnished with the added bonus of a pool table and a Nintendo Wii game screen but very few customers. The approach was straight forward, head on, the young bar girl’s curvaceous derriere parked itself next to mine and her intentions were soon clearer than the mischievous glint in her eyes…. Though I’m past six thousand miles, I’m feeling very still. And I think my loins know which way to go. Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!)…..A few gentle kind words and she was gone on her way. When a punter doesn’t want to shunt her and there’s nowt else about, for a Thai bar girl its back to the basics of food, phones and thumbs.
If you ever come across a charity with the slogan ‘ Thai bar girls are starving ‘ keep your hands out of your pockets and don’t believe a word. No matter what fix the economy might be in, a Thai bar girl and her food won’t suffer. A stroll around Udon Thani’s Nutty Park is proof of that.
A glance at the contents of the girls plates and bowls reminded me of a nursery rhyme from my childhood days ‘ slugs and snails, and puppy dog tails ‘… Forget the boys, that’s what Thai girls are made of….. How far does a 20 baht tip go in Thailand, it depends what distance the food vendor’s cart travels.
I had a chat with the bar owner, he was American (I’m terrible with names), New York Bar & Grill kind of gave it away anyhow. What he said I knew, Udon was struggling for business, wasn’t the whole of Thailand. He was hoping tricks would pick up toward the year end, I hoped so because he struck me as a genuinely nice man.
The Orange Moon had one customer, me. This time there was no rush to sweet talk, just a politeness and as always respect. Either I was past my sell by date or the girls had given up. I think my passport held the clue. Food, phones and thumbs.
In the good times the falang phone the girls and during the bad… well, even that fat Brit with the bad breath whose number you meant to delete suddenly becomes an attractive proposition. Besides he was a big payer. Hell why not.
Now in the bars and apartments of tourist Thailand phone conversations to mama back in the village will be two a penny and follow a similar line.
‘I’ll send more money next month mama, now the factory has no overtime.’
The Orange Moon factory, I could hazard a guess at what juice they produce.
I drank my beer and paid my bill. My barometer read dead. Maybe the evening would produce juice at the factory. The girls had to hope that right now in some Udon Thani hotel, Brut and Old Spice were being splashed over the wrinkles of a few Viagra fuelled old fools. Me, I had a dinner date.
I rendezvoused with Wonderful Wi at the Steak Sizzler on the fourth floor of the Charoensri Shopping Mall. As we ate I couldn’t help but wonder if life on Soi Sampantamit Road had picked up.
Far above the Moon, Planet Earth is blue, And there’s nothing you can do.?
My apologies to David Bowie for assassinating his song lyrics but he won’t mind, let’s face it his earnings from royalties are a bit more than mine from AdSense.
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