Friday, 9 May 2014

On Street Bar

This is the name of a bar that is not surprisingly on the street in Chaweng, next to the Buri Rasa Resort. There is absolutely nothing new about this type of bar in either Koh Samui or in Thailand. After having been to this bar I am nearly totally ignorant as to why Trip Advisor rates the place as the number one bar in Koh Samui.

If you are starting up a small bar in Thailand with very little capital the best way to keep costs low is to use outdoor space with cheap tables and chairs. Beach bars in Koh Phangan, and once in Koh Samui, all followed this model. They were often made of driftwood and local materials. Most of the construction was the bar itself. Patrons had to sit outside on cushions or in a hammock. Decoration would be odd bits and pieces and of course rasta colours. Bars like this include Rolling Stone Bar in Mae Haad. They are fun, geared towards backpackers and sell cheap bottled beer.

Perhaps Koh Samui and Chaweng have insisted on re-inventing itself  for high-end tourists  so much that basic street bars now seem a novelty, and hence the unexpected favour which reviewers have bestowed On Street Bar.

The popularity of the bar seems to rest on the hospitality of the owners – Jim and More – who make guests feel at home. Many establishments in Koh Samui tend to take their customers for granted. Moreover, the late night venues in Chaweng have seen more than their fair share of drunken fools starting fights, not paying for their drinks and revealing their body parts. The staff and management are jaded with such types (but not the money they bring in). It is thus  refreshing to encounter friendly bar staff and owners who join in the festivities.

Another factor for On Street Bar’s success is its drinks list. It has some impressive items on the menu such as passion fruit and strawberry mojito. These drinks are cheaper than in the bars of the main resorts. No doubt lots of tourists decide the Buri Rasa bar drink prices are a bit on the steep side and then stumble upon On Street Bar just outside the resort that has a better atmosphere and better prices. The contrast is considerable and a good incentive to make the effort to write a Trip Advisor review.

Clearly people rate more highly cheap drink prices, fun atmosphere and friendly staff more than beachfront location, leather sofas and expensive wine.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ladyboy Shows in Koh Samui

One of the most fascinating parts of Thai culture for the foreigner remains the phenomenon of the ‘ladyboy’. Although, most other countries where gay people are not persecuted have their own transsexual scene, it seems no other country has such a flamboyant and visible transsexual culture as Thailand. In Thai they have a cover-all phrase ‘katoey’ to refer to gays, lesbians, transsexuals and transvestites. The phrase seems imprecise not from lack of interest to distinguish but because there is a deep-seated acceptance of the third sex in Thailand. All those who are neither straight men nor women are in one way or another ‘katoey’. One of the oldest running jokes in Thailand remains the situation where an unsuspecting foreign man sleeps with a ladyboy mistakenly thinking it was a woman. The movie Hangover 3 re-ran this joke, and it never appears to go stale. If such gags tickle your fancy it might be worth your while checking out of one of the ladyboy cabarets in Koh Samui. If you watch the audience you are more than likely to spot a drunken young Westerner who is lapping up the attention of a ladyboy. It seems unlikely the young man is gay but it seems likely he is about to have a ‘gay’ experience. Women on holiday are often drawn to the ladyboy cabarets. They invariably mention how wonderful the performers’ costumes are, and how beautiful the ladyboys look. There seems an element of voyeurism and rivalry in the way foreign women relish a ladyboy show. There are 3 main ladyboy shows in Koh Samui.

Starz Cabaret

This place is on the Chaweng Beach Road. There is a cover charge to enter and drinks cost slightly more than in a normal bar. There are performances at 8pm and 10pm every evening except Sunday. It is a popular show with an element of interaction: the ‘girls’ will tease each other, and sometimes they find a willing member of the audience to take the piss out of. It is all good-humoured fun of the gay variety.

Christy’s Cabaret

This ladyboy show is in central Chaweng on the beach road. The main show is at 10pm but the club opens at 8pm. There is an entry fee. For this fee you get ‘girls’ in glamorous and outrageous costumes singing along to gay anthems. As with all the ladyboy shows in Thailand, the performers and their entourage mingle with the audience and are happy to lavish attention on drunk, young and handsome men.

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge is the only free ladyboy cabaret in Koh Samui. They make up the short-fall in revenue by increasing the price of the drinks. The shows are at 8pm, 9.30pm and 11pm. The nightclub is on the Chaweng Beach Road close to the burger king. The show is big and spectacular and features musical and burlesque elements and extravagant costumes. If you just want to have a look at what all the fuss is about Moulin Rouge is the place to go. Be sure to buy at least 1 drink or you will attract unwanted attention. A ladyboy cabaret is one of those must-do things when visiting the South of Thailand, like going to the Full Moon Party. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether they want to fall in line with received wisdom.