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Thailand's not all about hedonistic pleasure

Posted on Dec 02, 09:57PM | IANS

For a peek into some hedonistic pleasures - of a ladyboy sitting on your lap and cooing love words, a transvestite cabaret dancer performing sensual moves to a Bollywood number or a willowy Thai girl beckoning - a visit to this Southeast Asian nation is a must.

For most tourists, it is the sex tourism tag that makes the country a favoured destination, but Thailand has much more to offer.

From a soothing Thai massage to relax tired muscles, to delectable food on a rooftop restarurant that gives a 360 degree panoramic view of Bangkok or just shopping, there are so many things a tourist can indulge in.

But it is a fact that the Thai cities of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket come literally alive at night.

A visit to Bangkok's Patpong is a must - if not for the go-go bars or strip joints, then for its night markets that sell knick-knacks and one could get a good bargain.

Considered to be the world's most famous red light district, the area has two parallel side streets that house over 100 neon-lit strip bars that show scantily clad girls and ladyboys performing naughty acts or the famous pole-dance. "Super pussy", "Kiss" and "Silver Star" are some of the go-go bars that dot this famous street.

Those not inclined to go inside these dimly lit bars blaring out loud music for fear of being ripped-off can get a tantalizing view of what is on offer from the street itself.

Tough-looking guards are stationed at the curtained passage to the bars, even as the girls, mostly teenagers, in their itsy-bitsy clothes and some even topless, hang on to poles overhead, beckoning customers inside.

For many, it would come as a surprise when they hear the pretty hostess - actually a ladyboy - speaking in a hoarse manly voice. Ladyboys or Katoey in Thai refers to a transgender person or an effeminate gay.

Even in the night market that runs parallel to it one can spot ladyboys - who have recently undergone surgeries to change completely into a woman - sitting and selling knick-knacks.

As Indians are frequent travellers to Bangkok, these bars run popular Bollywood foot-tapping Punjabi numbers as the girls or ladyboys perform their raunchy acts.

For many, a trip to Bangkok, considered among the world's top tourist destinations after London and Paris, is not complete without a ride in the tuk-tuk. Made famous by Pierce Brosnan in a Visa advertisement as he raced through the streets of Bangkok, the ride could indeed be a little dangerous.

There have been many instances where tourists on a tuk-tuk in Patpong have been robbed of belongings by bike-borne gangs. In fact, the tuk-tuk or rickshaws have notices warning of such gangs with the police number on it. Being alert is the best way to avoid such a mishap.

For many Indians, Bangkok is the best place to shop not only because it is just three-and-a-half hours away but also because it offers lots of options - from electronic items to household goods. Many Indian tourists throng to the shopping complexes of Central Group of Companies, one of Thailand's biggest conglomerates involved in retailing, real estate, hotels and restaurants.

The Central Chidlom, with its magnificent fašade, is a shopping complex where one can just splurge for days. If you need to relax a bit then a visit to the "sense and spirit" spa is a must.

The masseurs are the best and create magic with their hands, transporting you to a world of tranquillity.

But the visit is not over without eating at Zense - the rooftop restaurant at the Zen department store, another Central shopping mall.

Zense, known for good food at affordable prices, gives an endless view of Bangkok with its shimmering, twinkling night lights atop towering buildings.

If you are looking for a change of scene then visit Pattaya - just two hours drive from Bangkok.

There are over 200 hotels, but one of the best places is Hilton Pattaya - whose lobby is on the 16th floor and gives a 180 degree view of the Pattaya beach - atop Central Festival Pattaya. The hotel has a direct access to the 300 shopping and dining options housed within the beach complex.

It has an outdoor infinity edge swimming pool that offers an unhindered panoramic ocean view. It has some amazing restaurants like Edge and Flare and Horizon the rooftop restaurant, the highest in Pattaya.

But don't miss the famous drink - Mai Tai - a cocktail concoction of ... dry orange liqueur and orange juice.

However, the trip is not complete without watching the internationally known Tiffany show, a world famous transvestite cabaret show.

Keeping Indian tourists in mind, they have introduced a Bollywood song from the Hindi movie "Devdas".

It is difficult to believe that the agile dancers, with perfect bodies, rhythmically moving with the beat, are Thais. One has to see it to believe it.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at kavita.d@ians.in)