Avoid This Dirty Travel Mistake
Save yourself the regret and guilt in Southeast Asia
I am the exact reason other travelers book well-planned tours when they travel internationally. They don’t want to make the mistakes I have and have to deal with the consequences. After Bangkok, I don’t blame them at all.
I continue to travel without much prior planning and research because I love the thrill and surprise of it. However, this is a problem with this when it affects other people.
As much as we can try to practice responsible tourism, we never know what we may unknowingly be contributing to.
In this case, I’m still not sure, but I know what I feel. And something didn’t feel quite right.
My travel buddy and I were strolling along one of the main tourist strips in Bangkok when we were guided into the trap.
Before I go any further, I just want to defend my honor for .25 seconds.
Walking down the street here makes you feel like you’re in a pinball machine; so many lights and moving parts are overwhelming.
It’s a full-on attack on your senses.
It was hard to decide where to look, so we let a “helpful” local decide for us as he ushered us into his business.
The dark hallway led into an equally as dark room with some neon lights and bleacher-style seats surrounding a stage.
When we sat down, they told us that the cocktails were free tonight only, so we assumed it was a promotional thing and ordered a couple.
No amount of cheap vodka could dull what we were about to see.
Our minds started to piece together what kind of establishment this was. Judging by the poles on the stage, and the amount of guilty looking men sitting around, we were a little out of our element.
My friend and I discussed leaving, but our curiosity took over and we decided to stay “just for a few minutes.”
A few Thai girls walked on the stage, already fully naked, and each stood by a pole in a silent room. When the music started, they rotated positions, and the one near the front pole would take her turn in competing for the audience’s attention.
There was no actual dancing, or even smiling for that manner. The girls waiting for their turns looked as happy as a husband being dragged to his wife’s shopping excursion on football Sunday.
“Excuse me, can you please smile when doing tricks with your vagina for money?”
We never saw any actual Ping-Pong balls, but there was about everything else that you could imagine.
From blowing out a birthday cake candles to dropping a string of razor blades out of the women’s special place, none of the acts failed to make the audience’s jaws drop. I had enough when one girl opened a carbonated drink with the power between her legs, and the drink sprayed twenty feet across the room onto my face.
I was shocked and amazed, as promised, but something about this felt wrong. The girls looked absolutely miserable.
At the time I didn’t know much about sex-trafficking, but I started to wonder if the women were forced to be there.
We didn’t stay for very long, and I couldn’t even imagine the show escalating anymore than it already had. We got up to leave and that’s when things got really weird.
A middle-aged woman with a mean look in her eyes blocked the door. We knew we didn’t owe any money because all the other employees had told us admission and drinks were free, and we never “ordered anything” like the men who disappeared into back rooms with the performers.
She tried to make us stay until the end of the show, and when that didn’t work, she claimed we owed her the equivalent of about $350 dollars.
At first, I blatantly laughed in her face, refusing to be scammed out of that much money for the mere fifteen minutes of the show that we saw. I then realized that the situation wasn’t funny at all, and there were four big men standing around us, waiting to give back up the apparent “house mom” of the establishment.
I had pulled out my wallet, willing to pay for the drinks, and she snatched it out of my hands. I pleaded that we couldn’t pay because we didn’t carry that much money on us anyway. She wanted to know how much we had. She was oh so gracious to let us go and take what we had on us, which was about $70 between us.
That $70 would go a lot further in Thailand than it would in the U.S., but I didn’t think the girls were going to see much of it.
We ran out of there, grateful to have our freedom. The rest of the night’s activities seemed boring after that drama.
Do you still want to see a ping-pong show?
I’m certainly not here to judge, but please know that there is a very real possibility that those dollars spent could be contributing to sex-trafficking and a very shady operation.
If the idea of the show interests you, I suggest doing your research before walking into the first one you see.
Sex workers deserve to make a livable wage and have access to healthcare too, but the walls probably would have told a different story here. I’ve been to a couple of strip clubs before, and never once felt like I wanted to run away with my eyes shut.
The ping-pong show felt like a dehumanizing circus; miserable looking animals standing around doing degrading things to entertain an audience.
We had heard the term “ping-pong show” before — it was when the taxi drivers kept wanting to take us to one. I guess I’m naive enough to think that it was really just a couple of professionals playing table tennis.
Before going to Bangkok I had never heard of this spectacle, and I definitely didn’t think there was going to be razor blades involved.
The fun in traveling is the spontaneity that leads to irreplaceable memories, but in this case, a good story wasn’t worth contributing to something that felt wrong.
Being an intensely curious person has often gotten me into trouble. I always had to learn things the hard way.
If you don’t have that stubborn streak of curiosity, then learn from those before you and don’t go see that Ping-Pong show. But if you’re anything like me, then you’ll do it anyway.
If you enjoy reading about other people's mistakes instead of making them yourself, you might like this one…