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 doing. 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 good? If Udon Thani bar girls are doing good trade then I think it’s likewise for the Land of Smiles too.
Udon Thani has a good parcel of expats, but as far as tourism goes if you take away the peak Christmas season, then Udon receives just a gentle ebb and flow of hormone fuelled sex hungry tourists. And any spike in numbers is easy to notice because Udon Thani’s bars become much busier and the bar girls smiles are even more eye-catching.
Media reports suggest Thailand could lose over five billion US dollars in lost tourism revenue this year, ‘ Big Trouble for Thai Bar Girls in Tourist Thailand ‘ could be another crass TV series about to happen. On second thoughts, who would have the ‘Bravo‘ to produce that one. If you believe the media buzz then there are more lucky charms being rubbed in the bars of Thailand than breasts in hotel rooms.
My stroll down Sampantamit Road in Udon Thani’s city centre started at the Irish Clock Bar and I headed back to the main road stopping for pick-me-ups (beers) at the New York Bar & Grill and the surreal sounding Orange Moon. There may be life on Mars but Major Tom would discover the Moon and the lonely planets nearby had very little.
The Irish Clock has its regular fill of expats – its excellent food pulls in a steady crowd throughout the day, but your easy-to-spot typical tourist was thin on the ground. The ‘Clock’ has bar girls but they solely serve food and drinks and do not come on to customers.
The New York Bar & Grill is one of Udon’s newer bars and is smart-looking with the added pull of a pool table and a Nintendo Wii game screen…. but very few customers. The approach by the bar staff here was straight forward and head on.
A young bar girl immediately placed herself next to me and her intentions were soon as clear as the mischievous glint in her eyes. I whispered a few kind words in her ear and she backed off to where she’d come from. When a punter doesn’t want to shunt her and there’s nowt else about, a Thai bar girl gets 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 Thai economy might be in a Thai bar girl and her food will not suffer. A stroll around Udon Thani’s Nutty Park is proof of just that. Thai bar girls always find the time and money to eat. Udon Thani girls are no different.
I had a chat with the New York Bar & Grill’s owner, he was American (I’m terrible with names) - New York Bar & Grill kind of gave it away anyhow and what he told me I knew already. Udon’s bars were struggling, just like the rest of Thailand and he was anticipating foot traffic would pick up toward the year-end. I hoped so for his sake because he struck me as a genuinely nice man.
The Orange Moon had one customer, me, and this time there was no rush to sweet talk me – just distanced politeness, and as always, a show of respect. I was either past my sell by date, or the girls had given up – I think my passport held the clue. Food, phones and thumbs.
In good times farang phone bar girls and during the bad – even the fat Brit with the bad breath becomes a very sexy man.
Right now in the bars and apartments of tourist Thailand bar girls phone conversations to their rural parents must be going a lot like this, ‘I’ll send more money next month mama, now the factory has no OT (overtime).’
I could hazard a guess at what juice they produce at the Orange Moon factory – I drank my beer and paid my bill – my barometer read dead and I was late for my date with my partner Wonderful Wi.
I met up with Wilai at the Steak Sizzler on the fourth floor of the Charoensri Shopping Mall and as we ate I couldn’t help wonder if life on Soi Sampantamit Road had picked up. My guess was it hadn’t and Udon Thani’s bar girls would be still be busy with their food, phones and thumbs.
Read more about Udon Thani nightlife and bars.
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