Warning, the topic of this post is R rated, though I will try to keep the post as PG rated as possible. If you aren’t interested in more lurid topics, I’d skip this post.
You may or may not have heard of the infamous Bangkok ping pong shows. If you haven’t, google it if you dare (I would not recommend searching for it at work.) Pretty much no respectable Thai person goes to these things, and the main audience is curious tourists and pervert expats. I would say it’s a very, very unique experience that may not be for everyone, but makes a great story to tell amongst cruder minded company! Personally, I have very little interest in the titillating parts of the show myself, but just want to have very unique experience. For something equally unique that is less straight up gross and with a lesser chance of getting scammed, I would recommend the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Most of the ping pong shows in Bangkok are located in or near the Patpong night market. Even if you find touts offering shows in other areas of Bangkok, they will most likely just take you to the Patpong area, so you might as well go straight to Patpong and be harassed by touts there.
I went to Bangkok for the first time about 2 years ago, and a friend that I met up with suggested checking out a show as it was a very unique thing to Bangkok. So our small group of friends (2 guys, 1 girl), after getting cheap and great massages from a lady that said she was a masseuse at night, and went out to protest the government during the day (this was during the 2013-2014 Thai political crisis), took a taxi over to Patpong to go see a show.
Unfortunately, we end up there around 1am. By this time, the night market was packing up, and most everything was closed. But there still were touts offering shows, so we negotiated with one and got the price down from 3000 Thai Bhat for 3 people or so down to 1000 total. Unfortunately, once we settled on a price, the tout then motioned for us to get in a Tuk Tuk that would take us there, and at that point we decided things were way too sketchy and decided to bail.
Fast forward 2 years, and I’m in Bangkok again for New Year’s Eve 2016. This time, I’ve vowed to go see a show, at least briefly, just to say I have. Our group of 4 guys takes a taxi over to Patpong Night Market. I would say Patpong is one of the few areas of Bangkok that you have to be extra careful about your wallet and other valuable for fear of getting pickpocketed. At first, I’m a bit confused, as we walk down what seems like a perfectly normal night market. Then, we start walking by gogo bars. Then, as we look like a bunch of male tourists wandering around searching for something, we start getting harassed hard by touts saying: “ping pong show?” while also making a disgusting sound with their mouths as well as showing us a card with the various things that they do during the shows.
I tried doing some prior research to figure out if there were any slightly more respectable establishments that would be less likely to scam you. The answer is… not really. There’s one famous one, with a giant neon sign hanging over the market, called Super P***y, that’s somewhat well known, but also has terrible reviews on TripAdvisor. Other than that, none of the other establishments are Google-able for reviews, and are all located up somewhat nondescript staircases (some have signs) in the buildings lining the night market.
The tips I got were:
- Go in a large group so it is unlikely that anything will happen to you
- You’re unlikely to get assaulted, but the chance of having a huge surprise of a bill that you are demanded to pay is very high
- Don’t let the tout make decisions for you. Make decisions yourself.
- Explicitly ask the tout as well as the owner of the show what the cover is, what the drink fee is, if there is any exit charge, if there is a show fee, etc.
- Prepay drinks as you go along so you aren’t hit with large fees when you try to settle up later
Anyways, we were too chicken to go right away into any show as some of us were feeling very sketchy, so we grabbed drinks in various gogo bars (drinks were overpriced and not very good) then sat in a normal seeming bar while we figured out what to do. What we decided to do was have 2 of our group that were feeling more sketched out sit and wait in a normal bar with most of our valuables, while 2 of us would just carry a minimal amount of money (around 600 Thai Bhat each) and our cell phones, and go see a show.
As the 2 of us walked out of the bar, we bumped in a large group of guys led by a tout who just came out of a place that they stepped into then quickly stepped out of, and we asked if we could tag along with them. So we went along with them to one establishment, and the tout said that we could look inside for 1 minute, and if we didn’t like it, could leave. The group of around 10 of us went up the stairs into the room, but my friend and I thought it was somewhat mediocre and left. This specific tout had been following my group of friends around for around 30 minutes, and we bumped into him again leading the group of 8 other tourists. We asked the tout (which was probably a mistake) what he thought the best show was, so he led us to the place he was originally going to bring us to. We clarified with him what the fees were (no cover, no exit charge, no viewing fee, and only had to pay for drinks, which were 200 bhat each) and went up into the show!
How these things work is that the performers do their various acts, and then will go around asking for tips. You are supposed to tip between 20-100 bhat for each act. We sat next to a young tourist couple (which surprisingly, the girl had dragged the guy to the show) ordered a drink, and watched the performances. We tried to prepay for our drinks but they didn’t let us, and told us we were to settle up later. Overall, the performances were as shocking as I heard, but the girls were not very attractive at all, besides a super hot girl who wasn’t performing.
After about 10 minutes of this, which was quite gross, I motioned my friend to leave, and we went up to the counter to pay. As expected, even though we had asked about the various fees, they tried to scam us.
A lady at the counter showed me a bill that was 3,800 Bhat, composed of 2 x 300 Bhat in drinks (we were told drinks were 200 Bhat), 2 x 1000 Bhat in seat fee, and the rest in some first show fee. Given that I had already asked what the fees were, I just stood there firmly and said I was told there was no cover, no exit fee, no viewing fee, etc, and drinks were 200 Bhat each. There was no threatening bouncer or anything, so we were mostly unconcerned about that. I’m sure the lady had faced obstinate tourists before, so she kept entering lower and lower numbers on the calculator until she got to 600, which I asked if that was the total for both of us, and she said yes. 600 bhat, which is around $18 US and isn’t very much, so we paid her and quickly made our exit to our waiting friends.
And now I had a once in a lifetime experience that I will never do again as it’s disgusting and very degrading, a story to tell, and didn’t end up horribly scammed or roughed up!