Pattaya has made immense efforts to upgrade its good old sleazy image in the past decade - away from its infamous "sex image" and tattered reputation as a receptacle for so-called sex tourists, "sexpats" and all sorts of "perverts," towards upmarket family-friendly "quality" tourism.
But, let's think this over, have these official efforts been really successful? Or have the chief strategists of Thailand's tourism authority been rather naive and presumptuous with their ambitious yet ivory-tower advertising strategies for a new "clean" Pattaya? Honestly - and while acknowledging that Pattaya today can no longer be reduced to its bustling nightlife and sex industry, and the city has continuously managed to attract an ever-increasing number of recreation seekers from all walks of life, including young families and couples - well, it looks a bit like the latter. Pattaya's nightlife and sex industry is still thriving.
No doubt, Pattaya's sexy bar girls still remain one of the main attractions Pattaya has on offer for single male tourists from all around the world. Just imagine a completely redesigned "clean" Pattaya without its hundreds of beer bars and GoGo clubs and their estimated 20,000 or so bar ladies, lightly-dressed Coyote dancers, ladyboys and freelance hookers - how many tourists do you think would still opt for Pattaya as a holiday destination? Probably significantly less than the "nearly 10 million" foreign visitors Pattaya has attracted in 2013 (Source: The Nation).
Thailand and Pattaya may no longer be as cheap as they once used to be. Beyond doubt, things have changed in Pattaya; prices, not only for sexual services, have increased significantly in recent years, while the "quality" of the working girls and their "service-mindedness" may have somewhat declined compared with the "good old days" of pre-mass tourism when "everything was less commercialised"; yet Pattaya is still one of the few destinations in the world where a man can materialise his secret dream of sexy exotic women at affordable prices or, to quote a good old friend of mine, Disneyland for adults.
So who are these Pattaya bar girls at all who, no doubt, play a major role in attracting tourists to Pattaya?
Bar Girl Basics: "No Money, No Honey"
The vast majority of working girls in Pattaya's bars and GoGo clubs don't actually come from Pattaya but originate from Thailand's northeastern region commonly known as Isaan (or Isan, Esarn).
Traditionally, Isaan has always been Thailand's poorest region, rich in cultural heritage but otherwise an only little developed, hardly industrialized rural region between the borderlines of Laos in the North and East, and the old Khmer empire of Cambodia in the South. While infrastructure in the region has increasingly been developed in the past decade, and the rich-poor divide between Isaan and Bangkok has slightly decreased, many Isaan people, especially from rural areas, are still seeking higher-paying work outside the region, particularly in Bangkok. Due to traditionally low wages for factory or farm workers in Thailand, many young Isaan women (as well as men) also seek jobs in Thailand's informal sex industry (prostitution is technically illegal in the kingdom), often so in Pattaya or other centres of tourism.
Traditionally, the people of Isaan are farmers, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the average Pattaya bar girl is not a sophisticated college girl but a rice farmer's daughter from remote village areas, who has enjoyed only little formal education and, in spite of her Western appearance, is actually very traditional (or old-fashioned for Western standards). Despite "selling pussy" and effectively working as a prostitute, bar girls all pay high respect to family values.
The average Thai bar girl, no matter how young or old she is (and they are usually older than they look!) also looks back onto an unhappy history of at least one broken marriage or some hapless affairs with local men, who have transpired to be either alcoholics, wife-beaters or gamblers, or who are simply too lazy to work. (At least that's the girls' version.)
Nearly all bar girls - probably more than 95% - have also given birth to at least one child that has usually been entrusted in their grandparents' care. This means that most bar girls you will meet in Pattaya, no matter how young they are or may look, are actually mothers (single parents) and need to support their children, as well as their parents or other family members, financially.
Given their relatively poor educational background, and the lack of lucrative employment opportunities in their home region, you may now also have a guess what all these beautiful young women have come to Pattaya for and "sell pussy"?!
Look for a foreign boyfriend or husband? While this may be a beneficial side-effect for some, first of all, the correct answer is: to make money. No Money No Honey, as bar girls say. In other words, these young women haven't come here for a clubbing holiday or to necessarily meet YOU, but to make a living of their most valuable resource: their body. Money Number One! as they say; then her family and kids. While a more serious relationship may always be on the horizon, as a tourist "dating" bar girls in Pattaya, please accept the fundamental fact that you're not really near the top of the average bar girl's priority list. Always bear in mind that, in the first place, you're simply another customer paying for their girlfriend-like services. Love takes time - and usually requires a bit of money ...
Bar Girls vs Freelance Prostitutes
When an Isaan village girl has decided to seek a "regular" job as "sex worker" in Pattaya, she has basically two choices: a) work as a hostess in a beer bar (low base wages, long shifts) or b) seek a job as pole dancer in a GoGo bar, i.e. provided she's not too shy to exhibit her body in front of a male audience and is "easy enough on the eye."
Other girls soon get tired of long regular working hours or the bossy behaviour of a bar owner and decide to ply their trade as freelancers. These girls will then be roaming Pattaya Beach Road at night - always in search of a potential "short-time" customer - or hang about in certain bars, discos and nightclubs in the Walking Street area, which are notorious for their large clientele of freelance prostitutes and even seek to attract them with discounted drinks. Other girls again might still have regular jobs in hostess bars, or not even work in the sex trade during the day, and simply seek to earn some extra cash after work.
Freelance Thai hookers can easily be picked up along the South Pattaya beach promenade or in one of the notorious Walking Street bars and discos that basically operate as "pick-up joints" for freelancers, e.g. JP Bar on Soi Lucky Star, Marine Disco, Lucifer's or Tony's. As a single male, you likely won't just easily spot them there but sooner rather than later get chatted up by one of them anyway. ("Normal" Thai ladies are much less likely to chat up or date foreign guys in Pattaya. And if they do, money or some form of financial compensation is usually still involved or expected in return for granting sexual favours. So if you really seek an affair with a "normal" Thai woman, you better try your luck on dating sites.)
Obviously, you won't be required to pay a "bar fine" when inviting a freelancer back to your room. Unless you're picking up Yaba addicts from the beach or so, prices for sexual services, however, do not vary significantly from what "regular bar girls" ask for: that's at least 500 Baht or so for a "short-time" session of an hour or two, or about 1,000 Baht for "long time" (all night). Apart from saving the "bar fine", you are obviously not restricted to opening hours of nightspots either ...
BUT please note: When you take freelance girls back to your room, you might well save a bit of money on "bar fines." Then again, if you end up in trouble, say you get robbed of your money, passport, mobile phone, or other belongings during your sleep - possibly after having been drugged - your chance to find the same girl again somewhere on the streets of Pattaya is basically as low as zero. On the other hand, if you have problems with a girl from a bar, you can always go back to the bar where she works; most venues keep copies of their employees' ID cards and will be able to help you, even if the girl should have already left her job and Pattaya.
Take care and don't end up as the main performer in one of these "foreigner drugged and robbed" stories you can frequently find in the local media and on our news page ...
Taking A Girl Out Of A Bar: Bar Chit-Chat, Lady Drinks Etc.
Alright sexy man, now let's assume you walk down Soi 7 in Pattaya on a random evening of the year. Hello sexy man! Where you go? or sometimes even an unambigious I want go with you! is shouted at you from every single bar along your way; and Soi 7 is absolutely packed with bars and ladies trying to drag you in! (Let's further assume that between 10 and 20 girls work in each venue. Now if you multiply this vague figure by the estimated total number of bars all over Pattaya you'll also get a very basic idea of how many "available" girls there are in Funtown.)
Nice sight, all these young exotic chicks competing for your attention, isn't it?! Just don't worry if your possibly low self-esteem or reason can hardly agree with their rating of your incredibly good looks (which you had never been aware of before walking down this narrow side street.) You might be old, bold and fat, so what? Even more reason to enjoy their unprecedented attention (as long as you don't fall for their sweet nothings and believe you are really as "sexy" or "handsome" as they want to make you believe!)
When you've read this page and should indeed stroll along Soi 7 one day, chances that you finally stop at one of the bars, treat yourself to an ice-cold beer and start a chat with one of the hostesses are probably pretty high. Now don't you expect a sophisticated conversation in perfect Oxford English - just remember that the foreign language skills of the average Isaan rice farmer's daughter are usually rather low. This is also why the notorious bar girl "chit-chat" always samples the same old uninspired chat-up lines, standard phrases and questions they have picked up from more experienced co-workers: Where you from? What my name you? How long you stay Pattaya?
The equally popular standard question What hotel you stay? could be an early hint at a "more profound" (i.e. financial) interest in your company. You come Pattaya first time? basically implies that your lady is trying to figure out how much of a greenhorn you are (and potentially suitable as a human ATM.)
Sooner or later "your girl" will likely ask you to buy her a so-called lady drink. You need to understand that Pattaya bar girls earn commissions on "lady drinks" (often orange juice or so); so given the low base wages bar owners pay their employees, there's nothing wrong with buying your girl a lady drink or two in order to keep her happy (prices usually approximate 100 Baht or a bit more in a standard bar). However, you should be careful when a girl pushes you too much and asks for another lady drink every 15 minutes, the more so if you've replied to her question You come Pattaya first time? with a telltale "Yes".
If you like the special girl you're chatting with - and you're tired of playing Connect Four or other typical bar games with her - you can always ask her to accompany you back to your hotel room and spend the night with you, i.e. unless she's already made her readiness to be your partner of the night clear enough herself: You sleep alone? You no have lady? I want go with you. You like boom boom? etc. On the other hand, if this should be your first bar of the night, maybe even during your first-ever visit to Pattaya, you might as well check bin and have another drink at the bar next door to see whether the beauty over there is not actually even more beautiful?
Our advice is: Take your time, enjoy yourself; don't fall for the first best girl! Remember, especially as a Pattaya "newbie": You're not in a hurry, there are more than one thousand bars in Pattaya with tens of thousands of sexy bar girls who are (nearly) all willing to spoil you and be your special friend of the night. What a sweet and alluring luxury!!