Just a few terms for those new to the Land of Smiles or for those who need a refresher course.
All-night – This is the term used for taking a bargirl, whether serving girl or go go dancer, out of the bar for all night. She will be with you until morning hours. She might want to have dinner or go to a disco before retiring for the night. It is always best to make it very clear what you would like, what you intend to do, before taking a girl from the bar. If you loathe disco or karaoke, and expect to head right to the hotel, better make it clear inside the bar and before paying the barfine.
ATM – A machine in which foreign men can insert a card and magically withdraw money to spend on Thai ladies. The more you resemble an ATM machine, the more popular you are likely to be.
Barfine – The money you will pay the bar to take a young lady out of the bar for an hour or so (short time) or for all night. This usually ranges from 500 to 600 baht, although showgirls at places such as Long Gun on Soi Cowboy charge 700 baht. This does not include whatever the young lady requests for her companionship, which usually ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 baht (and up, thanks to the free-spending Japanese punters.)
Beer Bars – These are open-air bars with Thai women behind the counters serving beer and other beverages. The bars are often are made of bamboo and thatch, but sometimes of more modern material. They are mushrooming in Bangkok and seem to spread endlessly in such places as Pattaya and parts of Phuket. They may be spelled in various ways including bar bier, etc.
Boys in Brown - Thailand's Finest: the Thai police. Especially those getting rich from deals allowing bar owners to stay open late or to have the girls show a bit more of their curvaceous bodies while on stage. If you walk into a bar and notice that the dancers are all covered up, it might be because the Boys in Brown are expected to show up.
Dead Artists Bars - This is Soi (lane) 33 off of Sukhumvit Road with upperclass bars and clubs, many of which are named after dead artists such as Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and Dali. Here the ladies do not wear bikinis and go go dance but rather wear beautiful gowns and provide conversation. There are now many bars on this soi named without reference to artists such as Wall Street, Shamrock and The Office Bar. In some of these bars, about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, ladyboys (see below) come around and apply makeup. Ladyboys apparently have expertise in that department surpassing even the women themselves. So in Bangkok, transvestites/transexuals apply makeup to Thai women so the women can attract foreign men. Now you know. And, contrary to reports on Fox News, the "Painters" bars are not in Washington Square.
Dickhead - This is the guy who flies into Thailand, usually for the first time, and gets drunk in a go go bar and thinks he's so cool that he jumps up on stage and dances with the girls. At least until some Thai bouncers toss his sorry ass out. These guys are true dickheads who may not realize we don't go to go go bars to watch drunken males dance on stage. Viva les Thai bouncers.
Ducks – What angry Thai women feed your Magic Johnson to when they become incensed at your cheating and finally carry out their threats and cut it off. Whether involving wives or girlfriends, this kind of thing is said to happen dozens of times a year in Thailand and the mudguards on Thai trucks in the countryside have humorous illustrations of this theme.
Entertainment Providers (EP) - As prostitution is illegal in Thailand, there are therefore no prostitutes. And as many of the girls found in nightlife areas are more professional at rice farming than at working in a bar, the most accurate, not to mention respectful, description of these lovely ladies would be "Entertainment Providers".
Essarn – The northeast region of Thailand bordering Laos, from which most bargirls come to Bangkok. The area is somewhat impoverished and many of the girls speak Lao as well as Thai. These women are often dark complexioned with long black hair and high cheekbones and are often gorgeous, but Thai men usually prefer light skin, leaving the Essarn beauties to the foreigners. Essarn is spelled many ways including Isan.
Farang – Farang is a term dating back to when the Portuguese and French were in Thailand hundreds of years ago, and simply means “foreigner.” Thailand was pressured by Western nations but never conquered and occupied and colonized by them so, according to the traditional theory, that is why they have no problems in being nice to foreigners. All generalizations are dangerous, but in general the term farang is a neutral term, not derogatory. However, be advised that farang kee nok is “farang shit bird” and is not particularly intended as a compliment.
Feminazi – An insecure Western female who most likely has flown to Bangkok from a country in which males are domesticated wimps in a feminized society and who finds herself totally outclassed by Thai females in looks, popularity, charm, grace, femininity, etc., and who lashes out by trying to claim that all Thai females are submissive or enslaved and that Western males who go to Bangkok bars are socially inept sex monsters or pedophiles and afraid of “accomplished older women.” It should be noted that many Western females themselves have a great time in the bar scene and not all are feminazis. (Nor are all lesbians.)
Gik – A relatively new expression. If you are the “gik” of someone you are very close to a woman as a friend and might well be having great sex with her but it is clear to both of you that it will not lead to anything serious. You are free to date others.
"Guest Friendly" - Description of a hotel which allows you to bring your Entertainment Provider back to the room with no hassle. They might or might not ask her to leave her ID card at the desk. If so, that is for your own protection, so don't fight it.
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Jai dee – This expression means, “good heart.” You have a good heart if you ring the bell and buy everybody in the bar a drink, or if you go to an ATM machine and give all your money to your girlfriend, or if you pay the bar so that a sick or tired dancer can relax and not have to dance for the rest of the night. As a rule of thumb, if a dancer says you are “jai dee” you are spending too much money.
Jao choo – Playboy. It is used by bargirls to denounce men who bought them out and then are later seen taking out another girl. Such men are called “butterflies.” The term is also a verb: “Why you say you love me but you ‘butterfly’ me?” Such action is usually tolerated if a man jao choos a girl from a different bar, but can cause trouble if he takes another girl from the same bar. Needless to say, if a bargirl “butterflies,” well, that is just business. If you butterfly a great deal, you might be called a "helicopter."
Japanese only – Each nightlife area for foreigners in Bangkok will have a few bars for “Japanese Only,” and neither farangs nor Thais will frequent such places. It is said the prices are much higher but the girls are very beautiful. Soi Thaniya near Patpong Road is an entire soi (lane) of bars for Japanese Only.
Jaw drop – This is what happens to a western man on entering a Thai go go bar for the first time. He sees dozens of scantily clad or beautiful naked women on stages and he stands rooted to the spot, his mouth agape. He quickly recovers and then tries to pretend he has seen it all before. Believe me, he hasn’t.
Kee niu – skinflint. Cheap Charlie. You refused to buy the girl sitting next to you a drink, or you refused to buy your girlfriend an expensive gold necklace three months before her birthday, or you refused to give her alcoholic father money for a new pickup truck which you knew he would blow on whiskey and gambling. You might be called a kee niu.
Ladyboy – Also known as ka-toey. These are young Thai men who dress as women (transvestites) and some have already had the operation (transsexuals). They seem to be quite popular in the nightlife areas for foreigners. For example, the Casanova Bar, Temptations Bar, Cascade Bar and the Obsession Bar, all in Nana Plaza, are ka-toey bars. Patpong has its share, the now long gone Clinton Plaza had one. Soi Cowboy has no specific ladyboy bar but sometimes there will be one ladyboy dancing in a bar or hanging about near the top of the soi. Some consider the ladyboys to be more beautiful than the women, and transvestite shows in Pattaya and Bangkok draw in the tourists like flies to a wall lizard’s tongue. Shades of M. Butterfly, many tourists have actually taken a ladyboy to bed and not known it. If the “lady” you have taken from a bar seems to have a deep voice, an Adam’s apple, large hands and feet, is quite tall, refuses to disrobe completely and instead rushes to perform an oral service on you, you might have become a member in good standing of the AC/DC club. Everybody I talk to says they don’t like ladyboys; so where are all the patrons of these bars coming from?
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Len sak – A ceremony in which bargirls bless the bar or themselves with the use of a wooden phallic symbol known as a khik. When this ritual is carried out, it is performed before the bars open. The girls often line up and the khik is thrown between their legs and then carried about the bar.
Live shows – Some of the bars have shows involving lovely women taking a shower or feigning sex with one another or using bottles or streamers or darts, etc., in creative ways. One of the best shows is at the Long Gun bar on Soi Cowboy; another was the Carnival Bar on the third floor of Nana Plaza. You may find such shows amusing, creative, disgusting, degrading, interesting, exotic, or all of the above.
LOS – Land of Smiles. Thailand is justifiably known by this name. It is wise to remember, however, that a Thai smile may not necessarily indicate pleasure or agreement with what you have just said or done. As in Japan, smiles sometimes are simply employed to conceal nervousness or embarrassment or anger.
Maibenlai – This Thai term simply means, “never mind,” or “no sweat.” When you complain to your bar girlfriend that she has used up most of your savings and yet you saw her out with another guy, and you found out that her mother wasn’t really sick after all, and that in fact she has a Thai husband in Udorn or Ubon or Nakorn Nowhere, she will give you a beautiful Thai smile and say, “maibenlai.”
Mama-san – The lady who knows what is really happening in the bar. She may have once been a bargirl or go go dancer herself. Smart customers usually buy the mama-san a drink and get to know her a bit. She is a good lady to have on your side if you are after a particular girl or if you have trouble in the bar.
Mangda – A kind of repulsive Thai beetle or cockroach. The term is applied to a Thai pimp or other male who takes the money from the girl that you gave her and spends it on himself.
Mechais – Condoms in Thailand are sometimes called “mechai’s,” after a well-known Thai individual, Mechai Viravaidya, very active in family planning and who has done much to make sure people, especially those employed in the nightlife scene, are using condoms. Mechai is actually a senator, and has at least two or three Condoms and Cabbages restaurants, and donates much to charity, especially funds to fight AIDS. At his restaurants, condoms are given out after the meal instead of an after-dinner mint, which titillates tourists and gives them something to talk about once back home in Boredomville.
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Men – “menstrual period.” Higher class Thai: pra jam deuan. Men is the usual term bargirls use when referring to menstruation. The young lady you are dying to take back to your hotel may tell you she cannot go with you because she has “men.” If you don’t know this term, you may think, “But I am a man. What’s wrong with me?” Don’t worry about it: she either has “men” or she is using that as an excuse because your many charms have failed to impress her. Either way, it is up to her if she wants to go with you or not, so do not make a fuss; just move on to another lady or another bar. By the way, a reader pointed out that if you can read Thai you will see that "men" is not the same word as the Thai word "men" for "bad smell." Apparently, it is just an expression taken from the English word "menstruation."
Mia noi – “minor wife.” Many Thai men who can afford to (and some who can’t) will take on a minor wife in addition to the main wife (mia luang). A wealthy Thai man may have one or two (or more) mia noi’s and buy each an apartment and give each enough money to live well. He may visit them regularly or infrequently. The main wife is usually but not always aware of the existence of minor wives. Women who lived with American servicemen during the Vietnam War years were sometimes referred to as mia chao, “wives for rent.”
Mother sick – Mother she sick, buffalo him die, brother him no have money for school, father him in jail, etc., etc. This is the story many young ladies in bars tell to get money from sympathetic foreigners just arrived from abroad. The stories are sometimes true and (your) money is sent back to the girl’s family. The stories are often false and (your) money is spent on whiskey and gambling. It’s your call.
Off – Each girl working in a bar has a number. Most of the bars have a sign somewhere within the premises listing the numbers of the girls. On the left side of the sign are the girls who are dancing, “den,” and on the right side of the sign are the girls who are “off,” i.e., who have been bought out by a man (or woman). So if the mama-san tells you the girl you like is sick and didn’t come in but you know the girl’s number and it is on the “off” side of the board, chances are the mama-san is simply being diplomatic so as not to hurt your feelings.
Patpong – The most famous nightlife area in Bangkok for foreigners, somewhat screwed up by the night market and some upstairs ripoff bars. Other well known areas for foreigners into the nightlife scene are Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy, Soi 33, RCA (Royal City Avenue), Ratchadapisek Road. Clinton Plaza and Soi Zero (formerly, Buckskin Joe’s Village) are all closed up and now part of history. Washington Square is another nightlife area but is more for expatriates and ex-Air America types than for tourists. RCA has transformed itself into upper class clubs and bars mainly frequented by young Thais. But farangs are welcome. Even the Khao San Road "backpackers" area has quite a bit of nightlife and is expanding not to mention upgrading all the time.
Parachute Journalist – These are journalists from places such as London and Sydney who come to Bangkok for a brief period of time and try to make a name for themselves back home by writing salacious stories on Thai nightlife. As with feminazis, these cretins already have an agenda; and are less interested in facts then in fame. Local journalists in Bangkok hate them because, in its angry response to such one-sided press coverage, the Thai government sometimes tightens up visa restrictions for all journalists.
Photos – Almost all bars now have a “No Photo” sign. In the old days, it was perfectly OK to photograph go go dancers. Now, however, many are very skimpily dressed, to say the least, and photography is not permitted. For one thing, the bar owners might get into trouble with the police. Also, many girls do not want to see themselves up on websites, especially those which have altered her attire or features. They may also have told their family that they are working in a restaurant or as a brain surgeon and do not want others to view pictures of them working in a bar. The bars are very serious about this and if you do take a photograph, you may be asked to leave your film as well as to leave the bar. Not-too-polite Thai bouncers may assist you in realizing your folly. This, however, applies only inside the bars. Outside, photography is fine.
Sai Sin – You may notice a string around the wrist of the dancer for whom you are buying Tequilas. That was given to her most likely by a monk in a temple or buy her father. It is for luck. And it obviously works because you are buying her Tequilas, right?
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Sanuk – Pleasure, joy, fun, happiness. The Thai attitude toward life is sometimes summed up in the phrase, “If it’s not sanuk, it’s not worth doing.” Also often used by foreign men to refer solely to the pleasures of Bangkok nightlife.
Short-time – My preferred genteel term for such activity is “casual stay,” but, whatever you call it, it is a period of about an hour, more or less, that you will be inside a hotel room or some sort of room with a bed with a female, after which she will most likely return to the bar, and after which you will wonder why you didn’t come to Thailand years before you did.
Sin sot - The dowry that the man provides his bride-to-be with at the wedding reception. The amount it will be is usually discussed and agreed upon beforehand. It might be money plus gold and silver and is in prominent display. Some regard it as a normal Thai custom; some regard it as a ripoff of farang men. Sometimes it is just for show and is given back to the married couple; sometimes not. I have asked many Thais about this and the majority say it is still normal practice among Thais. Of course, if farangs are dumb enough to pay far too much, buyer beware.
Sister – Many Thai women will refer to their close friend as their “sister,” leaving it unclear if she is a real sister or not. As is the case with most Thai logic, further inquiry on your part will only lead to further confusion on your part. Never assume you know what is going on in Thailand.
Starfish - This is the girl you have barfined because she is so hot a dancer and lively in the bar; but once upon a bed, simply lies back inert and passive, resembling a starfish washed up on the shore. The term may also be used as a verb, as in: "She looked lively as hell in the bar but once in the hotel room she starfished on me."
Tom - This is a Thai woman interested in women. She is the one playing the male role in a relationship with a more "normal" Thai female. Her hair is usually quite short, she may be quite short, and it is not difficult to figure out that she is not looking for a farang boyfriend. Not dissimilar to the Western "dyke." The female is known as a "dee" from "lady." I have beaten dees at 8-ball but their toms always beat me. I guess they practice a lot.
Train Wreck - That is how a bargirl describes a situation in which two (or more) of her regular customers enter the bar about the same time. If each has come from abroad, and if each thinks he is her one and only, and if each has been sending her money, the scene could end in disaster for the girl.
Unisex – Many bars in Thailand have bathrooms for men and women which, in fact, are part of the same room. Foreign tourists are often shocked to head for the “men’s room” urinals and notice that beside or behind them, several lovely, scantily clad go go dancers are putting on makeup or brushing their lovely black hair in a wall mirror. Culture Shock Extremis.
Upcountry – This term actually refers to any area outside of Bangkok, not only to the north of Bangkok. Many of the bargirls working in Bangkok are from “upcountry.”
Water buffalo - "Water buffalo him struck by lightning - send money!" Actually, a lot of farmers have switched over to the iron buffalo and don't even have water buffalo anymore but this excuse for asking for money is one of the bargirl's favorites along with "mama sick" and "little brother need money for schoon (sic)." But, don't forget, their story might actually be true.
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