Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tips and Advice for the Tourist in Bangkok

Tourists in Bangkok are frequently subjected to scams of one sort or another. Many tourists don't realise it; others do realise it and arguments ensue. For the person visiting the city it is very useful to know what to look out for.

There is one tip which is very important and applies to any foreigner in Thailand......If you see any Thai's arguing or fighting amongst themselves steer very clear. Do not get involved. Even if it is a Thai man and woman. If you try and help you are likely to end up as the target for all the Thais in the vicinity. Thais sort out differences their way and if a foreigner intervenes the Thais lose face and that can have deadly consequences for the foreigner.

The tips on my main site are great for the general visitor to Bangkok but below you will find tips specifically aimed at those readers who frequent the entertainment areas and bars in the city ( and other places ). You can have great fun in these areas but try and take heed of some of the advice shown below so that a great night or holiday does not turn into a nightmare.

These tips are 'tried and tested'. I have lived in Bangkok many years, as have others who will say the same. Ignore the advice at your peril.

1. Beware of the some of the 'a go go bars' on the second floor of buildings in Patpong. Most do not display prices and hit you with a large service charge when you leave.

2. Beware of bill padding. Quite often you will buy a few drinks, for yourself and the girls, only to find that when you 'check bin' (pay) that there are more drinks on your bill than you ordered. Some unscrupulous girls add drinks to your bill for their friends - especially if you are drunk, or go off to the toilet !

To avoid this, pay off your bill every couple of drinks.

3. A lot of middle aged men come to Bangkok and fall in love with an 18 to 25 year old woman they meet in a bar. The girl showers them with 'love', affection' and 'undying love' - and the man is overwhelmed. Get real - these women have no feelings whatsoever for the man, just for his wallet. They know that a lot of Western men get emotionally involved very easily, especially if the mans love life in the past has been rocky; and they play on it to extract money from him. Simple as that.

Many of these girls have Thai ( and sometimes Foreign ) boyfriend's in Bangkok, and/or husbands and family living hundreds of miles away. They are working to support them.

4. A lot of men do get emotionally involved with bar girls during their brief stay in Thailand. When they go back home, they end up sending the girl money so that she does not have to 'work bar' and can live well until their man returns. 99 times out of 100 this is a crazy thing to do. I know some girls who not only get money every month but they have condos rented for them as well. These girls are 'working', and part of their business is extracting money from as many men as possible - both when the man is inside, and outside of, Thailand. So my advice is - don't do it.

I can assure the reader that even if the customer 'buys' the girl out of the bar and then the man leaves Thailand, the girl carrys on 'working' as before. Perhaps not in the same bar, but they still work - no matter what they say. There is a saying in Thailand that 'You can take the girl out of the bar, but you cannot take the bar out of the girl'. So very true.

I know one girl who has been 'bought' out of the same bar 3 times in a year. The bar owner is happy ! He gets a 10000 baht fee from the customer every time !

So the man 'buys' the girl of his dreams out of the bar, goes home for a few months and eventually returns to Thailand. His girl acts as though she has not been working and has 'missed the man too much'. Her story is always backed up by her 'bar girl' friends. The man is happy and parts with even more money for a gold bracelet or chain for his darling. As soon as he leaves again this is either sold or pawned....and the cycle continues.

It is not unusual for a girl to always take their 'customer' to the same jewellery shop where they always choose the same item. Then they can sell all but one of them, and always have the one their 'boyfriend' bought for them ! They can also get commissions from the shop.


Some girls have 5 or more foreign men on the go at the same time. I personally know one girl who gets money every month from six foreign men. All of them think she loves them and is waiting for their return to the land of smiles. So naive.

This particular girl has a Thai boyfriend who has a brand new BMW car and has not worked in years. This is not unusual.

5. How can you tell if things are wrong ? One tell tale sign is when the man is in a bar with his 'girlfriend' and her mobile phone rings. She checks to see what number is calling - then runs out of the bar, or to the toilet, to answer it.

This is not because she can't hear a caller because of the background noise in the bar, its because she does not want the man she is with to hear her speak English to the caller, and she does not want the caller to hear the background noises from the bar or other people speaking English.

If the caller is Thai she will stay and talk where she is.

Then there is the bar girl who tells her foreign 'boyfriend' that she will work as the bars cashier instead of a normal bar girl. It's the same job. If they do not go with customers when the bar is open, they frequently do when the bar is closed, or go to one of the many 'freelancer' discos that are open most of the night....

Another tell tale sign of a potential girlfriend/wife being a professional bar girl is the girl who left school at 13 years old and states that she has just come from the farm to work in the bar. The thing is they forget that their command of the English language gives them away.....think about it.

Another scam, but I haven't heard of it much these days, is the girl who tells her foreign 'boyfriend' that she 'got the money he sent yesterday but her bag with the cash in it was stolen'. Again, she plays on the foreigners good heart to try and get more cash from him, then laughs all the way to the bank. There are many similar scams bar girls are skilled at !

I could go on, but one thing I will say, which I am not ashamed of, is that I have had drinks and nights away paid for by girls who have just received cash from their 'boyfriend' overseas. I am not ashamed because these men know what happens but think the 'bar girl' they have known for 4 weeks is different..... Of course there are exceptions but they are rare.

The men that fall in the trap eventually find out the truth and the resulting emotional and financial trauma is usually severe Suicide and severe depression is a distinct possibility.



6. Always pay your bill. Dispute it if you want to, but do not lose your temper or fight with staff. What happens to those that do not pay depends on which bar you are in. Most call the police, but some use other methods of enforcement. If you want to fight with the staff make sure your medical insurance is current first!

All this sounds bad, and there is the odd exception to the rules, but take the advice and you will have the time of your lives. As the Thais would say, 'Its up to you'.

This advice is for men frequenting areas in which bar girls operate, this advice does not necessarily apply to girls met in areas outside of the tourist areas.

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