Instastory originally published on Instagram 12/22/14. These photos are a little raunchy. You've been warned.
Starting in the north of Thailand, I spent about a month making my way down to the beaches and islands of the south. There are so many of them, figuring out where to begin was daunting but Phuket seemed like a decent place to start as other islands are easily accessible from there. Patong Beach is the hub of Phuket island so I chose to begin there despite being warned of the sleaze and debauchery; tourists from around the world on their absolute worst behavior. After spending nearly a month in Thailand though I felt fairly numb to the country's multi-billion dollar sex industry as it's visible everywhere. On the ferry over to the island I realized what I was getting myself into.
High season in the islands. There is no escape from the crowds.
Those looking to kill brain cells will have no problem taking care of that in Patong. This is a 24 hour party designed to extract as much cash as possible out of every "farang" on the beach.
"Farang" is a Thai word used for "foreigner" which supposedly comes from the Vietnamese word for "French", a little vestige of the colonial era. As a farang, some Thai people in touristed areas view you as an ATM awaiting extraction and will go out of their way to get you into their establishment, possibly even trying to physically pull you in. Being referred to as a farang here is part of the experience as there seems to be an invisible line dividing Thai society and the hordes of visitors in their country. It's a strange and alienating feeling being called a racial epithet to your face even though the Thai’s insist the term isn’t racist. It feels racist to me.
Everyone and everything is for sale in Patong and there's no shortage of customers. It's just part of culture here but for a first time visitor it's definitely shocking.
Prostitution is technically illegal in the Kingdom of Thailand. Even so it's somehow a multi-billion dollar industry employing hundreds of thousands of people and countless cities and towns. Minimum wage in Thailand is 300 Baht per day or about 10 USD. Salaried employees don't do tremendously better and despite the appearance of a prosperous and relatively developed nation, poverty remains persistent. Cultural acceptance of the oldest trade in the world has meant little social stigma so many women here earn far better money by prostituting themselves. Thailand is a place of enormous cultural and natural beauty, the only Southeast Asian country to resist colonization which a tremendous point of pride for this country but there’s also a dark and ugly side. A side that is very easy for many visitors to experience first and might supersede all the other wonderful aspects of this country.
Russians comprise a large contingent of the tourist mass in southern Thailand and in places like Patong Beach, they have their own nightclubs, restaurants, and organized crime.
Many Russian girls are lured to Thailand with the promise of work in 5 star hotels and posh night clubs and instead find themselves passport-less, addicted to drugs, and walking the street in shitholes like Patong. Thailand sadly has one of the world's worst records in human trafficking
There are now officially three genders in Thailand. Male, female, and "kathoey" which is neither one nor the other and has recently earned legal status as its own identity. In Thailand the term has become synonymous with "Ladyboys," men found not just here but in every Southeast Asian country who live their lives as women. In this part of the world, gender and sexual identity are much more amorphous than in the west and acceptance of non-traditional norms has made Thailand perhaps the most sexually progressive place on the planet.