Not for me it isn't -- or so I'd always figured (not realizing how right I was). But life is about trying new things, and last Friday night I did something I'd promised myself I'd never do. After a total of 16 months based in Bangkok, and less than two weeks before returning to Melbourne (the Singapore deal fell through, much to my disappointment and relief), at the request of my American girlfriend who is visiting Bangkok from Germany, I took the final plunge that I'd been avoiding since I first heard about it from a female German tourist I was hanging out with on my fourth night in Bangkok last year: I agreed to go to a "ping pong" show.
We had no idea which one to go to, so we were forced to depend on the kindness of a stranger -- a man wearing a very bad wig who approached us one road back from Silom -- to lead us to the best one. If the place he guided us to was the top of the line among ping pong shows, I'd hate to see what things look like at the bottom. I wished we'd stayed at Hot Male, where several cute guys (workers, not customers) had been making eyes at me. But you only live once (twice, if you're a James Bond fan who believes what Nancy Sinatra sang). Right?
And you really can't say you've lived until you've had the pleasure of paying 400 baht apiece to sit in a dark nearly empty bar while an amazingly well preserved 53-year-old woman (the proprietor -- or madame -- whose grown son pours drinks behind the bar) hits on you (Don't the words "I'm gay" mean anything anymore?) and a procession of bored-looking women disrobe onstage.
The one with the most, um, skills -- the apparent veteran of the bunch, she looked like she should have been reading bedtime stories to her grandchildren somewhere -- did a stunt where she pulled a string with razor blades attached to them from her vagina, using one to engage in an arts and crafts project which she then presented to my friend and me, hoping for a drink in return. Note to sex-trade employees: If you have to beg customers for drinks and tips, you just haven't earned it yet, baby.
Another attached a Coke bottle filled with water and then one filled with Coke to her vagina, occasionally positioning herself so that the liquid trickled inside of her. I was terrified that she was going to pour the remaining contents of those bottles on us.
The least enthusiastic showgirl of the bunch spent her entire time onstage just swaying to the beat like she didn't have a care -- or a spectator -- in the world, apparently too shy to remove the bikini top and bottom she was wearing. I'll never listen to Maroon 5's "One More Night" in quite the same way again.
"What the hell is this?" I asked my friend as we watched the badly choreographed proceedings. In a city where hot females outnumber hot males by a significant margin, I couldn't believe that the owners of this particular ping pong joint couldn't find one woman who could hold a candle (which, thankfully, wasn't one of the props) to any of the guys we'd just seen parading about onstage at Hot Male.
It had been my second time in Hot Male, and I don't believe I'll ever get used to a show that involves several groups of two having unsimulated sex onstage. This time a few of them even took the act into the crowd for a little bit of audience participation. God must not have been listening to my prayer because one twosome stopped right in front of us so that the "bottom" could rest his head on my lap while the "top" stroked my chest. "How do they keep it in when they're walking around like that?" my friend asked as they returned to the stage. I didn't have an answer for her.
I was at a loss to explain the vagina Olympics, too. Just as my friend and I declared that we'd had enough and were preparing to exit, the moment we didn't realize we'd been waiting for arrived. One of the women started to emit ping pongs from her vagina, while a customer seated in a chair in front of the stage tried to hit them with a ping pong racket.
Ping pong. Ping pong. Ping pong. "Please don't let one of them hit me," I prayed to God, who, this time, answered. I've always hated ping pong (speaking of things nobody ever should have thought to invent), but if I ever get the urge to play with balls after midnight, at least I'll know where not to go. And I don't mean Hot Male.