The boom-boom girls of Thailand
I saw them on the pavements of Bangla Road, probably the busiest and brightest street in Phuket. It has bars all around, eating joints, a kick-boxing stadium - the works. I was gorging on my pizza and having a Red Label. In walked a girl, pouty lips, red lipstick, tight skirt, and a bag in hand. The sole lady in our group pointed her out to us. Till then I had completely forgotten that Phuket was a haven for tourists seeking cheap sex.
I saw them outside the Pizza Company outlet off Bangla Road - scores of them. Little girls, tall ones; most slim, some plump, walking the streets with regular Western clothes, handbags slung from shoulders.
It was late - we had returned from Phuket Fantasea, a fabulous nighttime cultural theme park which had a splendid show based on the Ramayana. Fantasea is spread over acres and looks like a huge, huge school fete. We finished our pizzas and hailed a taxi to go back to our hotel.
I was to meet Thailand's famed prostitutes the next day.
Next day we returned to Patong beach - the same beach on which thousands died when the massive walls of tsunami waves wrecked Thailand - and its tourism industry. The government had organized a cultural extravaganza for the 1000-odd journalists and tour operators from around the world it was hosting.
After about half an hour, most of us were back on Bangla Road and this time at a decent hour - around 10.30, I think.
We went to Tai Pan, a throbbing place with a live band that plays rock classics. We sat down for a round of Red Label.
Right outside Tai Pan, while I was looking at all the bars there - girly bars, go-go girls, transvestite pole dancers -- a couple of girls stopped me.
"Boom, boom?" they asked.
"Boom, boom?" I replied.
One of the girls, the smaller one, made a circle with her left hand thumb and index finger and started poking it with her right index finger.
"Oh, boom, boom," I said.
"Your hotel. 500 bahts for one girl. All night," she said.
"You pay less. OK? 400."
"No, thanks. Not interested."
"You not like me?"
"No. Don't want boom, boom. Married," I showed her my right hand.
"Most of them are transvestites," a colleague had told me earlier.
So there I was. The street was like the ones in Chandni Chowk in India. There was barely enough place for two people to walk together. Open girly bars were everywhere.
A doe-eyed girl in her undergarments was playing a game of dominoes with a young man, probably a European. The guy was smitten, you could see it in his eyes. The girl was indulgent. The two looked like a pair in love.
We moved on and got into a disc where a girl accosted us.
"No boom, boom, thanks," I told her.
"No boom, boom," she said.
"I like you."
"What?" The music was loud. The crowd looked like it was in a trance. It was the last song, I think. Everybody wanted to have the last dance.
"What did you say," I asked her again.
"You say no to friend for boom, boom. You say married. I like."
"Well, thank you. You are a nice girl yourself. You should get out of this profession."
"No. Can't get out. Me like you. Let's go hotel. No charge."
"What? Are you crazy?"
Within half an hour In was back in my hotel, alone. It had been a heady night. I wondered how many of those boom-boom girls had been brought back to the hotel.
I wondered about those girls. Why they were doing what they were doing. They looked like they belonged to nice families. In India, they would even be considered upper middle class. Then why, I wondered, would nice little girls get into prostitution?
The story continues... at Bottoms Up
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Published on 5/6/08