Life in Pattaya

In the 18th century, the South Pacific Polynesian islands offered European sailors a most welcome experience. After months spent cooped up on a ship filled with dozens of other restless, unwashed men, they disembarked at islands like Tahiti to find lovely grass-skirted native women, who might share their lovely, exotic bodies with these sex-starved sailors. For them, Polynesia truly was paradise on Earth.

In our modern Western society, there are many men that are similarly sex-starved. Though women are all around them, they sleep with few or none of them. Some of these men are too shy or socially awkward to talk to women. Others are too old, fat, and/or poorly groomed to attract a desirable mate. But fortunately for these men, they do not need to take any steps to increase their social confidence, get in shape, or buy decent-fitting clothes. Instead they can just buy a plane ticket to their own Tahiti, a paradise for the pathetic dregs of Western masculinity.

Welcome to Pattaya.

Thailand is a famously sexually open culture. There are the ladyboys, the ping-pong shows, and the massage parlors, to name a few elements. Of course the culture is infinitely more complex, and like any country, has many different layers, most of which the casual tourist never sees. For most foreigners, mention Thailand and they will tell you three things: great beaches, spicy food, and abundant prostitutes.

The prostitutes, go-go bars, and all the rest can be found in just about any sizable city or island in Thailand. From Bangkok to Chiang Mai to Phuket and every city in-between, there inevitably exists one or more red-light districts of varying sizes. Perhaps this could be said about most cities of the world, though in Thailand it is a much more overt, and accepted, part of the landscape.

Pattaya represents this reality in its most concentrated form. A beach town only a few hours drive from Bangkok, Pattaya must certainly be a contender for the title of Sleaziest City in the World. Guidebooks perpetually warn that if you are offended by the sight of 50-year-old Western men walking around with (hopefully) 18-year-old Thai girls, then steer clear of Pattaya.

I had read all this about the city, but I was still impressed by the sheer scale of the sleaze. The town literally feels like one giant red-light district. Unlike Bangkok or Chiang Mai, where it’s there if you want it but not in your face if you don’t, Pattaya really has no other draw.

(Bizarrely, in addition to the legions of Western sexpats, there is actually another large block of tourists: the Russians. They constitute a world unto themselves, traveling usually in large family groups and speaking only Russian. It was always a fascinating juxtaposition to see Russian parents carrying small children along the main pedestrian thoroughfare of the city, “Walking Street,” amidst the throngs of sex tourists, prostitutes, ladyboys, ping-pong show touts, and go-go bar promoters. How did Pattaya, of all places, become a Russian package holiday destination? I won’t bother to hazard a guess. The Russian tourist is still a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.)

While staying in Pattaya, it struck me that the city, as the culmination of the most stereotypical elements of Thai sex culture, really is the ultimate beta male fantasyland.

By and large, the stereotypes hold true. The vast majority of the Western white men there are middle-aged or old guys, fat and unkempt or pale and geeky, nearly all wearing old tennis shoes, baggy khakis, and oversize t-shirts. And they’re inevitably walking around with a (usually at least somewhat) attractive little Thai woman, or cruising the bars chatting to the working girls.

The girls are there to make money, and in Thailand they’re hardly shy about trying to pull men into their bars or massage shops. “Hey handsome man, where you go? You want massage?” Sometimes they just grab you by the arm (or other body parts) and attempt to pull you in. They dress in sexy clothes and high heels. They bat their eyes and look adoringly at you and touch your arm (or other body parts). It doesn’t matter if you’re ripped or obese, young or old, stylish or pitiful. The girls don’t discriminate.

Thus many of these men who, judging by their appearances, wouldn’t get very far with the ladies back home in the U.S., Britain, Australia, Germany, or wherever they come from, can get on a plane to Pattaya and for no money at all, be surrounded by cooing, alluring bar girls and prostitutes. Then by paying the girls (a paltry sum by Western standards) they can take these girls back to their hotel rooms.

Perhaps I have no right to judge these guys. I know nothing about their lives, their pasts, their decisions to come to Thailand, and the specifics of the relationships that they engage in while there. Perhaps I am just another one of the other group of tourists, the ones who come to Thailand and haughtily wrinkle their noses at the sex tourists.

I’ll leave aside arguments of exploitation of third world girls by rich Western men. It’s absurd to say that a man should stay in his home country, and that if he travels to poorer countries and has relationships with women there, he is automatically “sleazy.” A man who can meet and enjoy the company of women in his home country, and then can duplicate that experience in any other country in the world, is deserving of no condemnation.

The Thailand sexpats, though, are labeled sleazy for the reasons I touched on earlier. In their home countries they are social beta males—poorly dressed, poorly groomed, and poorly socially calibrated. Sad, though not deserving of judgment. However, instead of taking steps to improve themselves, they travel to a relatively poor country and leverage their money and citizenship into sex with prostitutes. That’s what bothers me about these guys.

Rich guys have always had this power. You can see ugly rich guys with hot women that they’ve paid for. Lower income dudes can only attain a similar experience by traveling to a country that allows them to live like kings, to be situationally rich.

Once when I was working in a bar in the U.S., a cute female bartender that I worked with was venting after we had closed for the evening. She was complaining about how many male customers whom she had absolutely no interest in would ask for her number during every shift. “Why do they keep thinking I’m interested in them?” she asked.

I tried to explain it to her. “You’re working for tips, so you flash a big smile, your push your breasts forward, you flirt with the guys. Logically they know you’re working for tips, but they’ve got this hot woman in front of them, smiling and laughing at their stupid jokes and flirting with them. It’s easy to forget, and to start thinking, ‘Hey, maybe this hot girl really likes me!’”

I feel like this phenomenon plays strongly into the mindsets of the Pattaya sex tourists. These guys leave their quiet lives of desperation in their home countries, get off the plane in Thailand, and suddenly feel like kings. Cute dolled-up girls are throwing themselves at them, smiling, flirting, laughing, touching. It feels good. The pressure of having to take the initiative, to face down fear and cross a room and talk to a woman, the possibility of rejection ever-present, is totally lifted. The women do all the work.

If these men stopped to think about it logically, they would acknowledge that the girls are working a job, extracting as much money as they can from the (relatively) rich foreigners. The smiles, the flirting, the laughs, the touches, they’re all part of the job. But it’s easy to forget.

I wonder…does the sex tourist of Pattaya understand his situation there, or has he deluded himself into believing that he truly is a studly king? Perhaps being conscious of the distinction is utterly superfluous—his enjoyment of his time in Beta Disneyland won’t be affected in the slightest.


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