Without wading into too seedy of territory with Nana Entertainment Plaza (the supposedly biggest sex complex in the world) or the infamous Soi Cowboy, both apexes of the Bangkok sex tourism scene, I went to Patpong instead. Although not as popular as it was in its heyday, Patpong is a red-light district, with many kathoeys (ladyboys) dancing on polls at the go-go bars and women performing impressive and disturbing acts with their genitalia at ping pong shows.
Patpong is made up of two main parallel streets that have lots of bars of the mostly questionable variety. The third road, Silom Soi 4 caters mostly to a gay audience. While not apart of Patpong, Soi Thaniya has many host clubs that cater exclusively to Japanese men.
I had gone to Patpong a few days ago, checking out tasers at the night market and watching bikini clad women giving half-hearted hip shakes to the music while they were engrossed in their iPhones at the go-go bar, Pussy Collection. But tonight, my friends and I were on a mission.
We wanted to go to a ping pong show.
Ping Pong Shows are stuff of legends with tourists. While walking down Khao San Road, you often have men standing in front of their tuk tuks yelling at you, “ping pong show,” while making cringe-worthy loud popping noises. Alternatively, in Patpong, men come up to you with a laminated white “menu” of 20 acts. We found a menu carrier, negotiated a price (100 baht per person for entrance + first drink), and he took us upstairs to the dark and scary place called Super Pussy.
As soon as you get inside, you realize that this is not a sex show. There is nothing sexy about it. Three naked sad-looking women stood on and around the stage, in-between act rotations. We all sat down and got our beers.
First act. Woman brings out a beer bottle, a pair of tweezers, and a stack of rings on a stand. She grasps hold of the tweezers with her vagina and scuttles to the stack of rings. Using the sheer control of her muscles in her vagina, she picks up a ring, then waddles and places it around the bottle. Ring toss brought to new levels. She methodically repeated this process in silence for the other six or so rings. When she was done, she stepped off the stage with a basket for tips.
Second act. The main event. A woman has a basket of ping pong balls. She lies down on stage, legs spread, and yes, I think you see where this is going. POP! The first ping pong heads in our direction and it hits someone. Laughter erupts as the victim is disgusted. There was not much time for amusement as a barrage of balls came our way. POP. POP. POP. POP. We had no ping pong paddles to defend ourselves so we all ducked and weaved the barrage of balls masterfully. That is everyone but me, who got hit in the face. When that was done, we applauded wildly. Like the previous woman, she waved around a basket impatiently, demanding tips.
Third act. A woman was pulling out a roll of string. The string was full of flowers. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as the previous acts. She came over and threw it over us like a lei.
After that was when trouble arose. Four large gruff women came to us with a laminated sheet. 300 BAHT PER DRINK. Demanding payment immediately. Whoa, that is not what we had agreed upon. Several of the boys in our group started protesting. They started yelling back. Someone stood up to head towards the door. Got pushed hard back into the seat by one of the women. Chaos ensued. Shouting on both ends. The women close in our faces. Flashlights shining. Not able to escape until we paid. I only had 500 baht with me and I was afraid that they would take it all. One of the boys got punched in the face. Amazingly, I was handed 200 baht back in change. We ran down the stairs. Angry, anxious, and oddly exhilarated. Most people only paid 300 baht, two unfortunately gave up 1000 baht apiece.
Like typical backpackers, the natural course of action was to then go to Khao San Road.
And that was my Ping Pong Show experience. Overall, I can think of other less shady and more enjoyable ways to have a good night out in Bangkok. The acts were fascinating, but the vibe emanating from the employees was distinctly depressing, Scams involving ping pong shows are apparently commonplace. I can’t with good conscience encourage others to go. (But I did gain a newfound appreciation for the powerful potential of the female genitalia.)