Thailand is renowned throughout the world as a destination for sex tourism where Go-Go or ‘girlie’ bars, bar girls and massage parlours are at its very centre. In every popular tourist destination and even in quieter areas of the country, there will some sort of Go-Go or bar girl scene.
Part of the attraction of the sex scene in Thailand is that it is all rather a low key affair and very different to say, Amsterdam’s Red Light District. This is certainly the case on Koh Samui, even though many of these types of bars are a prominent addition to the night time scene in areas such as Chaweng and Lamai.
For example, sex and bar girls on Samui are sold or promoted to anywhere near the levels that you might find in other places in Thailand, such as in Pattaya and Patong in Phuket.
However, throughout Chaweng and Lamai you will still find scores of pretty young ladies standing outside bars, wearing next to nothing, trying to attract the attention of a male passersby, in the hope of tempting them into the bar to buy drinks or to have some ‘fun’ and earn some extra cash for themselves.
The vast majority of Koh Samui bar girls are from Isaan, in the north east of the country, which is amongst some of the poorest areas in Thailand. These girls travel to Samui to work in the islands bars in order to earn money and support their families back home. Sometimes several generations of one family could be dependent on this money. Whilst the financial rewards for working as a bar girl are not great, they are certainly much better than many of the employment opportunities than can be found at their home.
The social and economic reasons as to why girls end up working in girlie or Go-Go bars are often overlooked by many foreigners who visit Koh Samui. No matter if you agree with the concept of bar girls and girlie bars or not, before make judgement on these girls it is important to remember that many of them did not choose to be bar girls and if they could earn enough money to support their families by another way, then they almost certainly would.
Sex Tourism on Koh Samui
One of the first things that will probably be hard not to notice when visiting places such as Chaweng and Lamai, is that sex tourism is a fairly prominent part of the nightlife in both of these areas. That’s not to say that it is the only nightlife here, but it does play a large part and goes a long way to explain why there are a large number of bar girls in Chaweng and Lamai.
However, as mentioned above, sex tourism on Koh Samui is not nearly promoted or sold to the same levels as is it in say, Pattaya, which has built up a reputation for being a destination aimed solely at sexual tourism. Many of the girlie bars on Samui aren’t nearly as aggressive in their tactics of enticing men in to establishments and to date there are none of the large brothels that you can also find in Pattaya.
When it comes to sex tourism, things on Samui are just a bit friendlier and low key than in other areas of Thailand, with many of the bar girls in Chaweng and Lamai adopting a more personal approach rather than the aggressive ‘hard sell’ tactics that are employed by some bar girls.
One thing that is quite common amongst the sex tourism scene on Koh Samui is the practice of ‘holiday’ or temporary girlfriends. This is when a foreign guy will spend his entire holiday on the island with the same Thai girl, often buying her presents and giving her money. In return she will spend all of her time with him, showing him around the island and no doubt providing him with other ‘services or ‘entertainment’. At the end of the holiday it is quite common for the guy to give his ‘girlfriend’ a lump sum payment as a way of saying thank you. It is probably the case that the girl will then use this money to send home to her family.
Before you start passing judgement on every foreign guy and Thai girl you see together on Samui, you should also be aware that not every girl you will see is a bar girl. There are many long term Thai/foreigner couples that live on the island, which probably wouldn’t take too kindly to being referred to as anything that might be to do with bar girls etc.
The reverse of this is that many men can often get into a tricky situation with a Thai girl they think they ‘pulled’ or got lucky with the night before at one of the islands bars of clubs. Problems can arise, when in the morning the girl asks for payment for her services from the previous evening.
It can be very flattering when a beautiful Thai girl approaches you but the truth is that the majority of Thai women would rarely approach a foreign guy, unless they were a bar girl or had some other sort of financial reasoning behind being so forward.
If you are unsure as to whether or not you are in fact in a girlie bar, a good rule of thumb can be to look out for girls challenging you to a game of pool or Connect Four.
The Attraction of the Samui Bar Girl Scene
For some people, Samui bar girls are something they choose to ignore, for others they are one of the main reasons they visit the island. For the girls working in the bars it offers them a way to be able to support their families financially and offer them a better way life than if they had chosen to work in a rice field or factory.
The bar girls and the whole scene in general is tolerated by the authorities, not just on Koh Samui but throughout Thailand, who take a different view to what is essentially, prostitution.
Whichever way you look at it, Koh Samui’s bar girls are an important part of Samui’s tourism industry. Many just see their work as a way to help support their family just like and other job. Generally speaking, many of the islands bar girls are not treated poorly or subjected to harsh or unpleasant conditions by their employers.