The Ping-Pong Mafia
When abroad, we like to to do, see, watch and try all that a country is either famous or notorious for, next to self-exploring the lesser-known. What we often don’t realise is that not all of these activities are environmentally or politically justified. In South-East Asia, one of the main examples of such a tourist attraction is elephant riding. I hope that most travellers have by now figured out how much harm the are causing by engaging in these activities, so we can boycot the industry. However, today’s article is not about riding elephants, because that subject has long been talked about. This article is about another branche that I believe needs some extra attention: Thailand’s notorious Ping-Pong shows.
Attention to the faint-hearted and extremely well-behaved. This post is going to contain some vulgar language and/or descriptions that I am trying to limit, however that is hardly possible when adressing Ping-Pong shows as a subject. Continue readig at own risk…. Also, if you have little time I would ask of you to just read the final paragraph, which contains a final important conclusion on what makes these shows so disgusting and why you should never visit one.
Just a brief introduction to the obedient in our midst, Thailand is considered the place to go for sexual fantasies to come true. This is the case in many big cities in Thailand, but in this article I am going to focus on Bangkok, as that is how far my experience reaches. Bangkok has three main red light districts namely Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and Patpong The first two are mainly visited by men looking for a night of pleasure, whereas the latter one is some sort of mini Las Vegas, a circus for tourists, characterised by large neon signs stating club names such as “Super Pussy”. This are is mainly visited by tourists who come to see one of the notorious Ping-Pong shows, because hey, that is also part of Thai culture right? If you have still got no clue: Ping-Pong shows are all about near-naked women shooting pretty much anything you can think of from their vaginas, including ping-pong balls (hence the name), but also darts (which they aim at balloons held by a chuckling audience), I have even seen a girl open a can of coke with her lady parts… Yep, obviouly this is something all of us would love to witness.
No girls allowed
As we had done our research and figured that Patpong had long lost its true identity of notorious sex shows that it had gained in the 1980’s, we decided to visit Soi Cowboy first, because, if you are going to visit any red light district in Asia, you might as well make it serious business, right? The taxi dropped us off in the right district and it was not hard to find Soi Cowboy. “Soi” is the word in Thai used for a side-street and Soi Cowboy is quite literally one alley full of go go bars and sex clubs. It was already a sensation to walk up and down the alley and just to watch people. There is one club that only has she-males (it remains Thailand after all) and it is not hard to spot which one that is. Everybody their preferences… Anyway. After having paced up and down the streets a couple of times we had gathered the courage to actually go inside one of the clubs to see what we would encounter. We did not get a chance. At any entrance we got to close to, a scary-looking guard would chase us off, even before we could say anything. Apparantly two hot blond European girls (or basically anyone female) would be too much of a rival for the girls at work and obviously the business owners did not want to see any of “their” hard-earned money to sleep through their fingers. We had seen enough to decide it was time to leave and when we walked towards a taxi we had the luck to quickly spot a guy we had met at our hostel in the afternoon sneak out of one of the clubs on Soi Cowboy. Alone. Awkward…
Onto the next one
Guessing Nana Plaza would be similar to Soi Cowboy and we were thrilled to be present at one of the Ping-Pong shows we had heard about, we decided to try our luck in Patpong. When we told this to the cab driver however, he looked confused. I can’t say I can blame him, it is probably not often that he has to drive two young, blonde, European girls from one red light district to another. I repeated our desired destination, but the poor driver still did not seem to get it, until a British man in his fifties passed by and saw us struggling. He confirmed with us where we wanted to go and translated it into flawless Thai for the cab driver. He wasn’t the only middle-aged European hanging around in this district, speaking the Thai language fluently… He wasn’t ashamed of it.
The Ultimate Scam
“Ping-Pong show, ping-pong show, free entrance.” It didn’t take long before we had found a propper advertising the showbizz. They were everywhere and the all had a “very good deal” for “cheap cheap” and “the best price”. All the effort the guards at Soi Cowboy had put in keeping us out of the establishments had suddenly reversed fully into efforts to make us come inside. Having spent long enough trying to find one of these places where I could finally find out what all the rumours about Ping-Pong shows were about, we went with the first one. I knew the area was infamous for its scams, but was naive enough to believe that this would be limited to the drinks when the entrance price was free. Could I have been more wrong?
The man lead us to a building, up a staircase. I assume we were rather early to engage in all the action of a Ping-Pong show, as the room was rather quiet. We got appointed a seat in the back corner, which I was rather happy about, as it was awkward enough sitting here as two girls, looking at a stage that would soon host girls our age shooting Ping Pong balls from their vagina. Soon, more people started to enter the room and a sloppy looking waitress with a smile that I can pretty surely remember was missing a tooth came to ask us if we wanted a drink. Here I started being cautious, we had agreed to both have one drink to be polite as the drinks were probably going to be horrifically expensive. When I asked for the menu however, it said that a beer was “only” 100 Thai Baht (or €2,50). Still we decided to not have more than one, just in case. I wanted to pay straight away as I had read that is one way to avoid being scammed. However, the waitress would not let me. This was the moment I realised we should have walked out, without even having the drink. We stayed seated as a group of young girls started coming up on stage wearing not much more than a string and bra. This was to be expected, but what shocked me was the look on their faces. They looked so impassively into the distance, as if someone had just told them they had to work overtime after a 9 to 5 job. Their faces came across as if they were doing a chore, rather than giving a performance. It was not sexy at all.
The show started as the girls handed out Ping-Pong paddles to the audience. I refused to take one, both because I thought this was going to result in extra charges and because I did not really want to have a ping-pong ball being explicitly aimed in my direction that would be shot by a vagina. A girl laid down on a table on stage and started inserting the balls down there, after which they started flying around the room. I must say, she aimed well. The waitress had come to sit next to us in the meanwhile, a pink drink in hand. We were the only ones that had come together as two girls. The other visitors that had walked in were mainly couples (romantic hey) or guys together. A group of young guys had sat themselves promptly in front of the stage, where they got a lot of attention from the girls that were not busy shooting stuff. The attention would later turn into lapdances and many banknotes being slipped behind bra straps or in mini-strings.
When the first part of the show was over, the waitress left and left her pink drink behind on our table. Oblivious, I thought she would come back and pick it up later. Next, a few of the girls walked around the audience, holding a tray to collect money. We gave the girl a few Bath and remained in place for the next few shows: pussy shooting darts, pussy writing, pussy opening can and pussy smoking.
It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen in my life. It had gotten busy in the meanwhile, and since we had been the first to enter, we would be the first to leave. It was a moving-up system. Quickly shotting my beer, which I had been drinking very slowly before to avoid being forced to have another one, we walked to the counter to pay. We had seen enough and were not at all dissapointed that we were not allowed to stay longer.
This is when trouble started. When we went up to the counter to pay, we were presented a 2800 baht (€70,-) bill. Apparently we had ordererd a “lady drink”, the bright pink drink left by the waitress on our table that we both hadn’t touched, our beers were twice the price they told us to be and we were charged “show fees”. Apart from the fact that I did not have this much money on me, I would not have paid the price if I had. The argument started by neatly stating that we had only had one beer each and had tipped the girls neatly after each round, but the atmosphere started getting grim as guards suddenly popped up in all corners of the establishments and we were not allowed to leave without paying the full price. I raised my voice, got mad and started threatening to call the police. I did not actually have the police number in my phone, but I must have come across rather confident as they started lowering the price. I don’t fully recall the price we agreed upon, but I think we ended up paying 1000 baht (€25,-) together. Although this was still higher than what we had actually wanted to spent we left it at that. I had a 1000 baht note on me, so I could hardly argue that I still wanted any change and it was worth getting out of that grim place for this price. On the way out I turned to look at all the other poor spectators, especially the guys right up to the stage who had probably blown all their money on lapdances already, they had no idea yet….
The Ping-Pong Maffia
All in all watching a ping-pong show was an experience I will never forget. However it was not one I would recommend anybody for multiple reasons.
1. Ping pong shows are not sexy at all.
2. The show is a big scam
3. No girls in their right mind would sign up to shoot stuff from their vagina as a job.
Call me naive, but I had not thought about that at all. These practices are not good for a woman’s body, they are damaging themselves down there, just to earn a few bucks, let alone the mental damage. Furthermore I have done some more research into this branche after we returned at the hostel, because I thought the response of the employes about the money was rather agressive. It turns out that Thailand has some sort of mafia network that keeps these shows going, the same group also supports prostitution, often of minors. Chances are that the girls are not performing at free will, they certainly won’t see much of the money that is wringed from curious tourists and you yourself can get into a bit of trouble if you start a fight with the owners about the price you need to pay. It turns out we were rather lucky we came away so easily. The mafia group of Patpong-Silom is considered to be dangerous and they will do anything for money, people are telling stories of them getting out baseball bats…
Please, please, bring no money to this industry and stop human exploitation. Thailand has a huge problem with sex slavery and as long as we keep visiting these shows we are part of the problem. I know that I went to see one of these shows myself, because I was naive and oblivious, but in the end I ended up being more upset about the fact that I had supported a mafia network, rather than being ripped off a few bucks. These girls did not choose to perform in such a ridiculous show. It is not worth your time, your money, the hassle and moreover, you would not want to support the Thai mafia, would you? Slavery still exists…
If you want to see more on the prostitution industry in Thailand and other countries, check out the movie: “Whores Glory”.
If you want to find out what you can do in the area instead, such as PatPong’s night market. Check out the Lonely Planet.