Sundown is when the party starts at Bangla Road, Patong.
Notorious as Phuket island’s red light district, the place comes alive each night with neon lights, loud music and sexy girls at every corner. This is where members of the oldest profession in the world openly ply their trade along the 400m long street, amidst a backdrop of sleazy strip bars and clubs.
Although the arch says ‘Patong Beach’, this is really the entrance to the infamous Bangla Road. H & I were immediately accosted by dozens of people toting placards for ping pong and tiger shows. “Free entry! Free entry! Just buy drink only!” one girl nearly screamed in my face as I tried to rush past.
There were vendors selling cheap Winston cigarettes, people selling souvenirs, and transgenders dressed up in elaborate stage costumes, whom you can take photos with for a fee. At first glance and from afar, most wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from real women – until you see their Adam’s apples bobbing up and down their throats.
In steamy bars, men (and women) sat around sipping cold beers, watching as scantily clad dancers gyrated around glowing poles. Sex was everywhere.
It was all quite overwhelming, the easy way sex was bought and sold in this place. Sex was a service, and the girls (and guys) could love you long time – for a fee. Even though I was at the heart of it all, it was still odd to see all these big, burly white men walking with small, busty Thai chicks. Knowing that later that night, they would go back to the hotel and fuck. The guy would pay her, and they’d go their separate ways. Heard the phrase mixing business with pleasure? Here, pleasure was a business.
I’ve read many books written by former sex workers on the sex trade in Thailand. How some of these girls are emotionally and psychologically damaged beyond repair because of what they are subject to. Clients who torture them, who think they can do whatever they want to because they pay them. And I count my lucky stars. If I had been born under different circumstances, who’s to say I wouldn’t be among them?
I don’t think I could ever do that for money, but then again, I’m more fortunate than most people. Some of these girls have no choice, while some choose it for the quick and easy money.
We sat down to people-watch and have some drinks. I don’t drink (Yeah. I’m a prude and I don’t drink. I’m ‘uncool’ like that) but I didn’t want to be a killjoy so I ordered one with the least amount of alcohol – something called Spy. It’s this sickly sweet lady beer that tastes like soda. H had a Pina Colada.
The bar girls who prepared our drinks were all dressed sexily. Some (but not all) will be available for sexual favours, but clients will have to pay the bar for the amount of time that they take her out (it’s a loss of business when there are no bar girls working, see).
H poked me in the arm.
“I think those are prostitutes,” she pointed at a pair of girls, who were just standing and waiting. One was dressed sexily, but the other had jeans and a long-sleeved blouse on.
“What makes you say that?”
“They haven’t moved from that spot for some time now. The girl in pink keeps checking her makeup in the mirror.”
There were two older ladies with super thick make up hovering nearby. I assumed they were mama-sans. The modus operandi went like this: the two mama-sans usually targeted men walking alone, whom they would drag towards the girls. But despite the big crowd, it must have been a slow night because we sat there for 45 minutes and the girls didn’t get even one successful ‘transaction’.
If you’re just looking for good, clean partying, there are a couple of bars that offer live bands or sports TV, with no dancing girls. Note: A beer is priced at a minimum of 80B.
Further down the road were more ‘family-friendly’ shops. After all of that, I saw a Starbucks and nearly burst out laughing. Even in the middle of all this, you can’t escape….
All that walking and people watching was tiring, so before we hopped back onto our motorbike, we stopped for a crepe snack.
Okay, so I stopped at this particular stall because the guy was cute. He had dimples omg. No, I did not take a picture of him because I was shy lol.
Our Nutella and condensed milk crepe was thin and crispy, almost like a wafer. Costs 80B (yeahhhh pricey but what the heck).
Walking down Bangla Road was an eye-opening experience. Will I come back again? Maybe not. It was interesting though.
Here’s an informative article if you’d like to read more about Bangla Road and the different bars/clubs there. Link: here.