Thai Bar Girls – Food, Phones and Thumbs
I recently spent a few days in the city of Udon Thani – something I do on each of my holidays to Thailand. I look at Udon Thani as my barometer of how well tourism in Thailand is doing. In Bangkok, the long tail boats on the Chao Phraya River are passenger-less, and nearby tuk-tuks stood still, but what about Udon Thani and my real barometer test. Is business for the bar girls good? If Udon Thani bar girls are making good trade, then I think it’s likewise for the Land of Smiles too.
Udon Thani has an excellent parcel of expats, but take away the peak Christmas season, and Udon has only a gentle ebb and flow of sex-hungry tourists for the remainder of the year. And any spike in numbers is easily noticed because Udon Thani’s bars become busier and the bar girl smile broadens and grins.
Media reports suggest Thailand could lose over five billion US dollars in lost tourism revenue this year,’ Big Trouble for Thai Bar Girls in Tourist Thailand’ could be another crass TV series about to happen. On second thoughts, who would have the ‘Bravo’ to produce that one. If you believe the media buzz, then there are more lucky charms rubbed in Thailand bars than breasts in hotel rooms.
My stroll down Sampantamit Road in Udon Thani’s city centre started at the Irish Clock Bar, and I headed back to the main road stopping for pick-me-ups (beers) at the New York Bar & Grill and the surreal sounding Orange Moon. There may be life on Mars, but Major Tom would discover the Moon and the lonely planets nearby had very little.
The Irish Clock has its regular fill of expats – its excellent food pulls in a steady crowd throughout the day, but your easy-to-spot typical tourist was thin on the ground. The ‘Clock’ has bar girls, but they solely serve food and drinks and do not come on to customers.
The New York Bar & Grill is one of Udon’s newer bars and is smart-looking with the added pull of a pool table and a Nintendo Wii game screen, but very few customers. The approach by the bar staff here was straight forward and head-on.
A young bar girl immediately placed herself next to me, and her intentions were soon straight-forward clear. I whispered a few kind words in her ear, and she backed off to where she’d been. When a punter doesn’t want to shunt her, and there’s nowt else about, a Thai bar girl gets back to the basics of food, phones and thumbs.
If you ever come across a charity with the slogan, ‘Thai bar girls are starving ‘ keep your hands out of your pockets and don’t believe a word. No matter what fix the Thai economy might be in, a Thai bar girl and her food will not suffer. A stroll around Udon Thani’s Nutty Park is proof of that. Thai bar girls always find the time and money to eat. Udon Thani girls are no different.
I had a chat with the New York Bar & Grill’s owner. He was American (I’m terrible with names) – New York Bar & Grill kind of gave it away anyhow and what he told me I knew. Udon Thani bars were struggling, just like the rest of Thailand. He expected foot traffic to pick up toward the year-end. I hoped so for his sake because he struck me as a genuinely nice man.
The Orange Moon had one customer, me, and this time there was no rush to sweet talk – just backed-off politeness, and as always, a show of respect. I guessed I was past my sell-by-date, or the girls had given up. I think my passport held the clue – food, phones and thumbs.
I’d guess an Udon Thani bar girl’s phone call to her Boonie mom and pop, now goes as such;
‘I’ll send more money next month, mama, now the factory has no OT (overtime).’
I could guess what juice they produce at the Orange Moon factory, but stocks must be running low. I drank my beer and paid my bill, my barometer read dead, and I was late for my date with my partner.
I met my girlfriend at the Steak Sizzler on the fourth floor of the Charoensri Shopping Mall, and as we ate, I couldn’t help wonder if life on Soi Sampantamit Road had picked up. My guess was it hadn’t, and Udon Thani bar girls would still be busy with their food, phones and thumbs.