The Bar Code

You go into a bar in Bangkok, and you see a pretty girl. You like her. You want to spend the night with her. Is she available? Don't be silly; this is Thailand. Ask her.

She may not like you. She may have a boyfriend now. She may have a boyfriend who works as an unarmed combat instructor for the Thai army. There are lots of reasons why she may say "no".

She may be falling in love with you. She may need money to pay for her father's sick buffalo. She may need money to pay for the heroin she's injecting. There are lots of reasons why she may say "yes".

To take her out of the bar, you have to pay the bar fine. The bar fine may be seven hundred baht, it may be four hundred baht. But you will have to pay the bar fine.

Some people have told me that the theory behind the bar fine is that you are paying the bar for the loss of the girl's services while she is away with you. That is grossly ignorant. Not only is it incorrect, it shows an ignorance of the way Thailand works. It assumes that there is one theory that everyone believes and to which everyone is obedient. Thaiand is an anarchy. Everybody does just what they want to do. So why do you pay the bar fine?

Everyone assumes that you pay the bar fine in order to take the girl out. I even said that a few seconds ago. That is not really true. You pay the bar fine to be able to bring the girl back. If a bar girl goes with you, and you don't pay the bar fine, she loses her job. She can't work there any more. You're stuck with her. You may like that idea, but she doesn't. Certainly she dosn't want any man who is so stingy that he wouldn't pay the bar fine. So forget about not paying.

Why does she want you to pay the bar fine? It proves that you have money. It proves that you have money to spend on her. It proves that you are willing to spend money on her. It proves that you are not a "Cheap Charlie" who just wandered in on a discount airline and wants to see Bangkok for rock-bottom prices. If she falls for you, and if you fall for her, she wants to know that you have enough money to take care of her (and maybe her mother and her father and her father's sick buffalo too). So she wants you to pay her bar fine. She won't go with you unless you do. Even if you just want to take her out to dinner, you have to pay the bar fine.

Why does the bar want you to pay the bar fine? Don't be silly - it's money! Bars generally make their money in three ways: by selling you drinks, by getting you to buy the lady a drink, and from bar fines. Some bars concentrate on one, some on another. Many bars are like American bars; you can go in there and sit with your buddy until they close. Other bars are like brothels; they are renting sex and they want you to take a rental unit as soon as possible. Every bar is different. But the one universal rule is that, if you want to take the lady, you have to pay the bar fine.

Why do you want to pay the bar fine? When you ask a lady "PAY BAR?" and she says "yes", she is commited to having sex with you. She may insist on a condom, but she has to do it. I've known cases where the lady refused, and the guy went back to the bar and complained and the bar refunded his bar fine. She's not a slave, but the bar fine is a commitment on her part and the bar is her guarantor. If she won't, you can get your bar fine money back.

Let this be a lesson in how Thailand works - every party in the transation has their own reasons for participating. There's no shared theory that everyone believes in.

The greatest secret in Bangkok is that the lady gets part of the bar fine money. It's so secret that even the ladies don't know it. Each bar comes up with a complicated way to compute it so that the girl doesn't know what's going on. If you ask her, she will honestly tell you that she doesn't get any of that money.

One bar, a few years ago, had a four hundred baht bar fine. If the girl got taken out twice in a month, at the end of the month the bar gave her a three hundred baht bonus. If the girl got taken out four times in a month, she got a six hundred baht bonus. If she was taken out six times that month, she got a nine hundred baht bonus. You accountants out there will recognize that the girl is getting up to 37.5 percent of the bar fine. But does she know that? No, she only knows about the bonus at the end of the month.

A more insideous technique is for the bar to "pay" the girl a high salary, but deduct from her salary if she doesn't get taken out often enough. She may think she's getting paid 12,000 baht per month, but she's supposed to collect twelve bar fines. If she only collects eleven bar fines, at seven hundred baht each, her salary is cut by three hundred baht. If she only has ten bar fines, her salary is cut by six hundred baht. Again, we can see that she is getting 42.85 percent of the bar fine money. But the system is so complex that she does not realize that it's happening. If someone asks her how much she's getting paid, and if she wants to tell the truth, she'll truthfully say "twelve thousand baht". It's psychological. A salary cut makes a greater motivator than a salary bonus.

As I said, you don't pay the bar fine to take her out, you pay the bar fine to bring her back. One time I had a lady out for a week or so. Every few days we would go back to the bar and pay the bar fine for another three days. The bar itself said "Never mind! You love her, she loves you, you don't have to pay!" I eventually figured out that she was a compulsive liar. She undoubtedly was a lot of trouble to the bar. They didn't want her to come back, they didn't want her to be able to come back. They wanted to get rid of her, permanently. That's why the bar itself was trying to talk me out of paying her bar fine.

Some say that before you take a lady out of the bar, it is important to negotiate whether you have her "short time" or "long time". "Short time" means a couple of hours, just enough time for her to get to your hotel room, climb in bed, get acquainted, get dressed, get some money from you, and leave. "Long time" means overnight. I normally don't deal with this issue. My feeling is that I want the lady to be with me, and I have to pay the bar so that she can go with me, but she's free to leave any time she wants to. She can leave before we get to the hotel, she can leave before she crawls in bed, she can leave after two hours, she can leave after ten years. She's a free agent, she can go whenever she wishes.

The bar fine is per night. Normally, when you first take a lady out of the bar, you pay one bar fine, for one night. If she stays overnight, if she hangs out with you, then she likes you. If you like her, if you wish, you can keep her for another night. But you have to go back to the bar and pay another bar fine. If you're going to Pattaya for a few days, and you want her to come with you, ask her. If she says "yes", you can go to the bar and pay a bar fine for the next four days and take her with you. But I would recommend that you not do this the first night. See how you two get along first. Ask her the next day. And always, ALWAYS, pay the bar fine first.

This is the nightly bar fine. There is also a "permanent" bar fine. If you pay the permanent bar fine, you can take the lady out and keep her indefinitely. In one bar I know of, the nightly bar fine is five hundred baht, the permanent bar fine was ten thousand baht, but is now fifteen thousand baht. I should know, I've paid it four times, including twice for the same lady (we had a fight and I threw her out, then a year later I took her back again and had to pay again).

I took one lady out of a bar and kept her. I did not pay the permanent bar fine, I didn't know about it at the time. We lived together. But she was never willing to go back in that bar to see her friends. I could go in the bar any time I wanted to; nobody ever said anything to me about it. But she was afraid to go back there. After I found out about it, I paid the permanent bar fine so that she could visit the bar once again. So after living with her for several years I went back and paid ten thousand baht for her. The bar was decent and honest and needed to give her her share of the money. Her share of the ten thousand was four thousant baht. But they no longer knew where she was! So everyone came clean and they gave the money to a mutual friend who gave it to me who took it home and gave it to her. Normal bar hopping foreigners are not supposed to know about those things.

Maybe you like her, and maybe you take her out one night. Then you go to Phuket alone. A week later you're back in Bangkok and go see her. If she likes you, she'll come over and sit with you. To be polite, you have to buy her a drink, you have to buy her best friend a drink. That the bar code.

For a while I had a MIA NOI (mistress) who owned a bar on Soi Cowboy. So I got to sit there every night, watching and learning. We had one gal who would go out every night, maybe two or three times a night. We had another gal who would go out with a customer maybe once every couple of months. Every lady is different. And remember this: Every single bar girl in Bangkok is yearning for romance. Some are old hands, and no longer believe in romance; some are young newbies and still dream of finding it. But they all yearn for that shining knight on a white stallion who will come riding up and sweep her off her feet and carry her off into the sunset. They dream. They may be prostitutes, some of them may be drug addicts, but they still dream.

How much do you pay her? More significantly, when do you pay her? When she leaves. As long as she is with you, she is your lady, and you have to support her. I have spent twenty minutes with one lady, and twenty years with another lady. But during that time I supported her and I took care of her as best I could.

Do not pay for promises. Don't pay in advance, don't pay anyone for what she's going to do for you. Cash after delivery. And, to be decent, do not pay her for what she does. Pay to support her, for an hour, or a day, or a year.

How much do you pay her? One thousand baht is the absolute minimum. More is polite. Pay more if you can. If she quotes you a price before you pay the bar fine, then she's just available for sex, that's her price, take it or leave it. If she demands more money, you can pay it to her, but don't ever take her out again.

One time in Roiet a lady wanted to go to my hotel with me. We agreed and we were leaving when she said she'd go with me for only five hundred baht. So I gave her five hundred baht and went to my room alone. I figured that if she wanted me, she could have me; if she wanted my money, she could have my money but she wouldn't get me. I'm a romantic.

Another time I met a lady in a bar in Vientiane, Laos. She could not speak any language. I call her "Ut-ut". when she opened her mouth, that's what came out; just vowells. She could not yell at me, she could not cuss me, and I thought "I gotta spend this night with this lady." So my gestures told her I wanted us to out together, and she agreed. She did not work for the bar; there was no bar find. When she got to my hotel room she pulled out her phone and typed the digits "500". I assumed that was Thai Baht. So I smiled and pushed the phone away and gave her 1000 Thai baht.

The Americans call what goes on in Thailand "prostitution". The Americans call what goes on in America "alimony". Think of it as alimony. You must support her as long as she stays with you, and for a reasonable time afterwards for her to get over the heartache of losing you and to give her time to find another man.

As far as I know, the above protocols apply whether you are a man looking for a bar lady, or a man looking for a bar man, or a lady looking for a bar lady. If you are lady looking for a man, go to a disco; I know of no bars in Thailand offering heterosexual men. If you're a caucasian lady with big boobs and an ugly face, half the Thai men in the country think you're terribly sexy.

There are three gogo bar areas in Bangkok:

  1. Patpong is world famous. Patpong is for dumb tourists.
  2. Nana Plaza is for foreigners living in Bangkok who want to get laid.
  3. Soi Cowboy is for lonely people looking for love.

The star attraction? the wonderful wonder of wonders? The top of the line?

She is working in a bar in Bangkok. She has been working there only a few months. She has a one year old daughter who is living with grandma back in the village. She is working in the bar to make money to support her daughter and, maybe, her mother and father also. She gets to see her baby for a couple of days once every few months.

She is sweet, shy, and kind. And beautiful. If you can afford to support her and her family she will stick with you forever and tolerate almost anything. If you like the kid, bring the kid to live with you, it's not every man who can give his lady a baby when they've only been together a few months. The more she loves the baby the more she'll be commited to keeping you satisfied. You're the head man of the family now; Your word is law. It's your job to support her, and her child, and her parents, for as long as you are together. Everyone knows that if you two break up, it's back to the Bangkok bars for her. And don't forget her father's sick buffalo.

Her mother is your greatest ally. Your lady may get angry with you, and run to mommy and say "I can't take it any more!" Her mother will scold to her and say "Grit your teeth and get your ass back in there!" And she will.

When you talk to an interesting lady in the bar, find out where she lives. That is, where she sleeps. Most bars have rooms upstairs where the lady can sleep. If she sleeps somewhere else, if she has an apartment, chances are good (not sure, but good) that she's got a Thai boyfriend stashed away. You don't want to get involved with that situation. Look for a lady who sleeps upstairs.

They say that lesbians make the best prostitutes, because they never fall in love with their customers. On the other hand, lesbianism in Thailand seems to be a matter of degree, not of category.

Warning - this material is out of date. Even if I wrote it yesterday, it is out of date.