Living in Bangkok, I thought I’d seen a lot of the city’s seedy underbelly: from women blowing out candles with their vajayjays to bar girls showing me dick pics on phones. These moments often walked a fine line between making me laugh and giving me the heebie-jeebies, but the weirdest -- yet oddly, the most innocent -- experience by far was the time I went to a host club exclusively for women.
Here’s what I learned:
Host clubs are still underground...
After so many crazy nights (and hearing even more crazy stories from friends), I thought you could find anything that tickles your fancy in Bangkok. After all, this city of around 6 million is filled with everything from secret S&M dungeons to not-so-secret streets devoted entirely to prostitution.
So you’d think locating at least one club where men catered to women would be a slice, right?
Surprisingly, not really. After a whole lot of Googling, my friends and I turned up only a couple of venues. Lucky for us, though, one was right around the corner from my apartment. We saddled up on a few martinis and headed over.
Like, SO underground it’s an office building
We ended up in a building I know very well (my office! Just kidding, that'd be crazy.) -- a high-rise office complex where my local bank and pharmacy occupied the ground floor. That was weird. But it only got weirder inside; when instead of the regular overflow of office workers, we found empty silence. The security guard slept in his chair under the glare of bad fluorescent lighting, waking just long enough to tell us to take the elevator to the top floor.
When we arrived there was a print shop on the left, a nondescript office on the right, and a small staircase in the middle. That staircase took us to a hallway covered in sparkly streamers and balloons, as if we were headed to a kid’s birthday party. But when we emerged from the hallway, there were no balloon animals -- just the club, almost totally empty.
When you arrive at a weird empty club, you make the most of it
As you can imagine, none of this was turning me on. In fact, I was losing my happy gin buzz fast. But before we had a chance to even think about making a break for it, the club manager shuffled us into a booth and gave us the spiel -- free entrance for buying a bottle of whiskey. And if we wanted a male escort to join us, we could do so for the cost of buying him a drink ($10). Taking home a guy would entail paying what’s called a "bar fine" of $40 -- although copulation would not be guaranteed and negotiated separately.
As we were already here, we paid for a bottle and a guy to come sit with us. When in a Thai host club, right? Before long, a group of 15 dudes was lined up neatly in front of the booth, and I started chuckling because they reminded me of the bank tellers that worked downstairs -- button-up shirts, dress pants, and appropriate amounts of hair gel. Then I realized how unbelievably rude that was, and even ruder, that I actually had to choose one now!
So yes, it’s awkward
My friends and I looked at each other, stammering like idiots. None of us had any experience in this kind of decision-making. It was kind of like choosing who was going to be on your dodgeball team as a kid, except for the whole soliciting-another-human bit. Plus, I had no idea how well these guys could throw a rubber ball.
I didn’t find anybody especially cute (full disclosure: I’m not really into Asians), so I asked who could speak English, and a few hands meekly went up. We ended up hastily pointing to the one that looked like a Thai Harry Styles. The rest filed away in a straight line, and it was bizarre. I couldn’t imagine being paraded in and out like that.
You're gonna want to drink the whiskey
As it turns out, The Chosen One had seriously exaggerated his English skills. We asked a few questions but couldn’t get anything close to a decent conversation going. So what's a girl to do in such a situation? Well, invite your new Thai manfriend to awkwardly watch you and your crew knock back a bottle of booze, that's what.
Two more guys over here, please! Yes, we invited two more guys over. One showed me photos of fast cars as we took selfies adorned with cartoon borders on his iPad, while the other spoke solid English and regaled us with tales of working in a host club. Long story short: it involves Asian businesswomen, doing shots, deep conversation, and a whole lot of not getting taken home by anybody. Almost brings a tear to your eye.
There are free parting gifts
For me, the best part of the night was all the free take-home stuff not named "Thai dude with questionable English skills" -- like a pair of pink flashing Minnie Mouse ears and some temporary tattoos. Also, there were heart-shaped chocolates and cheap perfume in the bathroom, which no doubt found their way into my bag. I told you I was trying to make the best of it.
That being said, no mouse ears could appease the next day’s raging headache and revelation that I’d spent a bunch of money to talk to guys, and then didn't even really talk to them. Also, I don’t like whiskey. Goddammit!
What seemed like it was going to be a hilarious evening actually turned out to be disappointing. A few lessons learned, though: one, men and women are very different in what they look for in host/hostess clubs. And two, dating is always kind of weird and awkward anyway, but paying for it doesn’t make it any better.
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