1 March 2013


In the imaginations of some people, Thailand is synonymous with sex - prostitutes, massages, ladyboys and sex shows. Actually, when you are here you discover that the vast majority of Thais live decent lives and are as distant from that legendary seediness as normal people are in other societies.

When I was in Kanchanaburi, I found myself in a little Australian-owned bar. It was early evening and the night of my companion Jon's birthday. We had met up with a Norwegian psychologist, a young Dutch woman whose longterm boyfriend had recently been taken away by leukemia and an English IT specialist who has spent eighteen years working in aviation in Saudi Arabia. But it's not them I want to talk about - it's the beautiful young barmaid called Noi.
How do you react  to this picture?
I had a conversation with her and she told me she had only recently moved to Kanchanaburi from an eastern province where her family were peasant farmers. She said that she wished she could go home and felt rather lonesome in this faraway town. She was perhaps twenty years old. I complimented her on her passable English and asked how she'd learnt to speak my language so well - "I learn from book," she said.

We shook hands and her pearly white smile radiated from her flawless brown face. And then the drinking and the chitter chatter continued as I ordered a Massaman curry and Jon treated himself to birthday pie and chips!

Half an hour later, I looked deeper into the bar where an old western man was sitting. I noticed him talking to Noi. Then it was more than talking. He was perhaps seventy years old with snow white hair - easily old enough to be Noi's grandfather. To my horror, I saw him pulling Noi towards him and attempting to kiss her. A few minutes later they were both in a motorcycle tuk tuk, heading off for half an hour of wild passion. She was not just a barmaid but a "bar girl", employed to satisfy the carnal lusts of lascivious customers. And now I knew why she wasn't happy and why she wished she was home. But no doubt, even her family would have encouraged her to go down this route - it is a familiar pattern in Thailand. To climb out of abject poverty - you do what you can and you use what you have got.


  1. I have to say that it's all a bit out of my jurisdiction! The world's a peculiar place and I'm just a spec of confused protoplasm tending my little web under the eaves.

    Reminds me of being an innocent abroad in Paris in '78 (that's nineteen, not eighteen seventy-eight) and getting lost looking for my hotel in the wee small hours. Chatting in "Le French" to the young ladies who were wearing far too few layers and no vest at all considering the weather, as they leaned against cars, lamp-posts, walls, huge minders ...

    I am still an innocent.

    What is verboten now was positively de rigueur a few thousand years ago, and vice-versa will be once again, when the definition of vice, and versa, is changed. The Human Race's brains long ago out-stripped the capacity of our minds.

  2. We see their efforts to improve their lives here, by marrying elderley Australian men. In a great many cases it works out well for all and they are very happy - the family back home benefit when the new husband builds them a nice house,He is treated like a king when he visits and is looked after into his old age by an attentive carer and SHE lives a life where there is money for food and clothing and a fabulous home of her own and often a doting generous partner. Of course it doesn't happen like this all the time but I have personally witnessed several of these happy arrangements which until then I had viewed with distaste.A big improvement on being a bar girl.

  3. But judge her everyone seems to do

    Me thinks that all of us should walk a few miles in noi's shoes

  4. Could we please not judge the young woman?? Could we please judge the numerous disgusting, perverted, twisted old and young men who prey on these young women - some no more than babies - for their own peculiar sexual gratification?

  5. FRIENDLY VISITORS...Thank you for your responses. All interesting. Once again Mountain Thyme speaks with my voice... To walk in Noi's shoes - yes John, that would be an instructive and no doubt salutary ramble.


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