The Poor Bargirl and the Poor Farang ...by Steve Maidment
What do we mean by 'poor' in this context? Financially supporting parents, brothers, sisters and even occasionally children before paying for rent, food, clothes etc., would certainly leave most bargirls with an empty purse by the end of the month. If by 'poor' we mean weak and defenseless then I beg to differ. In the case of the farang, the very fact that he finds himself in Thailand should preclude the possibility that he is 'poor' in terms of an empty wallet although he almost certainly isn’t as rich as most bargirls think – and hope – though in the morning may sometimes find his wallet is empty! 'Poor' in the weak and defenseless meaning seems to me to sit better with the farang than the bargirl in most encounters I have witnessed, although this can often be attributed to naivety or more simply, alcohol.
Many are the times I have seen a 'poor' farang shafted by a bargirl before they have even left the bar where she works. How often do you find a drink menu that explains, clearly, that if you buy a girl a drink then you will pay more than the listed price? When you do buy a girl a drink, more often than not the drink she appears with is one that was bought her earlier and will last all night, the money from your drink goes straight into the purse. All pretty harmless stuff I hear you say, and I agree. Whilst I do feel a little uncomfortable with charging a farang a 300 baht bar fine to take a girl out only 10 minutes before the bar closes I guess that in the overall scheme of things this is also harmless enough. Just business ploys to make the transaction more profitable in the girl's direction – shrewd!
But, as a long-stay farang how often do you see a bargirl with her long-term boyfriend (one who sends her money every month when he is not here and is making plans for their future together) one week and the following week find her with another boyfriend (one who sends her money every month when he is not here and is making plans for their future together) and the week after that…Who is the poor victim of this situation? As a neutral observer, of course, the best time to be in the bar is the night that two or more of the boyfriends unexpectedly arrive at the same time!!
Legion are the horror stories one hears of ‘poor’ farang being fleeced by ‘poor’ bargirls to the extent of placing sometimes unnecessary doubt in the minds of all and forestalling genuine relationships – yes, this can really happen, honestly. Have you ever wondered how you can win three straight games of pool against a bargirl who appears to have never played the game before and then when she suggests playing for 20 baht (if you're lucky only 20 baht) she turns into a world champion. Yes, that innocent looking beauty is also a pool shark! Have you ever seen a ‘poor’ farang with a ‘poor’ ladyboy? Have you ever thought, "Does he know, should I tell him?" Either way it is better to stay out of it and at least he is in for a night he won’t forget quickly although he probably won’t want to boast about it to his friends when he gets back home. We have all heard the old favourites, "No money, no honey", and "Welcome to my bar, please come inside me", but what about "Tonight I'll buy the drinks – but you pay". Yes, I have even seen this one work with the ‘poor’ farang who has had one or three beers too many.
The fact that most of the ‘poor’ farang are 60 plus years old and the ‘poor’ bargirls 22 years old (are they really all 22 years old?!) should explain a lot. Then you hear the infamous "don’t worry, looks are not important" - oh yeah, really? Why these young girls find you attractive might be a good question for the ‘poor’ farang to ask himself before even leaving his hotel room. Standing in front of a mirror for a few moments and examining the evidence may help. A slightly receding hairline, a few wrinkles (just adds character right?) and sagging jowls. Heading south, that once manly chest has seen better days and the waistline may improve with a few nights off the Chang beer. Then we find the secret, that bulge in the trousers is the source of the attraction – no, not that one, the wallet in the back pocket!
So maybe the ‘poor’ farang gets just what he deserves. But at least in a normal business transaction there is a certain code of conduct that is followed and there’s nearly always a right of redress. Perhaps at the end of the day we need to feel sorry for both parties concerned in a liaison that fulfils both of their immediate needs but leaves neither happy in the long term. OK, so the ‘poor’ farang choose to come here for their pleasure whereas the ‘poor’ bargirl is often the victim of circumstance. This brings me to my point. Whilst the tide of mug punters has always seemed endless, in Chiang Mai at least most bar beers are suffering from lack of customers, even at peak season, and are losing money most of the year. If the farang are still coming to Chiang Mai but not frequenting the bar beers anymore are we seeing a change in the type of person who visits or just a more enlightened and better informed crowd? Maybe the days of the ‘poor’ bargirl and the ‘poor’ farang are numbered ... but somehow I doubt it!
As for which of the two is really the ‘poorer’, I guess you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work that one out – or do you?