The Thai Sex tourism industry is considered to be deeply disgusting by some people, and yet is much loved by others, I guess it all depends on your perspective. Whatever your viewpoint, there is no denying that sex tourism in Thailand is big business. Just about every town has got a venue where sex is available for money, but there are some stark contrasts between that which is targeted at tourists and that which caters for local Thai men.
The Bangkok red light district, Bangla Road in Phuket, and just about everywhere in Pattaya are much more 'in-your-face' than the industry that serves Thai men, mainstream Thai sex attitudes are discouraging of open promiscuity. That said, even Pattaya these days has got much more to offer its visitors than just the naughty stuff. You could even dispense with the Thai sex tourism scene altogether these days as there are other options for finding female company.
The online dating scene is growing at a rapid pace and western men are a highly sought after commodity!
There are many reasons why Pattaya, sometimes referred to as sin-city, is the number one sex tourism destination in Thailand (and the world). The first reason relates to its history; US troops taking a break from the Vietnam War were the first sex tourists to arrive on its shores and the industry there has grown from that time right up to the current time.
Secondly, Pattaya is the closest beach resort to Bangkok. From Bangkok, you can get there by car in less than 2 hours. Many Bangkok residents frequently take their breaks in Pattaya. This is also true of Bangkok expats, and that further adds to the demand for the companionship of Pattaya girls. Bangkok itself is more expensive, and the nightlife is more regulated with bars typically forced to close at midnight; Pattaya is just getting going at that time.
Third, it’s not just about serving tourists, there is an extra demand for the sex industry from foreign expats that have chosen to live in Pattaya. This largely male body of people is a rapidly growing population. Condominium blocks are being constructed all over Pattaya and they are often 70%+ sold out before construction is even completed.
Fourth, most of the girls working in the bars are from the Isaan region of Thailand. This is the poorest region of Thailand which means that there are relatively more girls there struggling to provide enough money for the families via any other means than sex work. The closest beach resort to Isaan that attracts western tourists in large numbers is Pattaya. Add all this together and you have all the ingredients for a thriving Thai sex tourism industry i.e. high demand (from international visitors, local expats and Bangkok expats) and high supply (from the nearby willing Isaan ladies). I can't see this situation being reversed anytime soon.
Whilst it is difficult to see any other area of Thailand overtaking the Thai sex tourism industry in Pattaya, it is also true that the city is now attracting many different sorts of visitors, visitors with completely different interests…
Nearby developing economies are being targeted by the local tourism authorities. The international cuisine, low prices, world class shopping facilities, beach sports, water park, underwater world, scuba diving, tiger park, crocodile farm, floating market, world class golf courses, world class hotel resorts, excursions to nearby islands and so on means that there is something for everyone. The new breed of regular tourist is the fastest growing type of tourist in Pattaya these days.
I've already set out my advice on long-term relationships with Thai bar girls; I've also advised on how to treat the girls if you do partake in the pay-for-pleasure scene, but I think that there are a few extra words of caution to add to this that need to be written regarding the age of the girls.
The Thai sex tourism industry is no stranger to the employment of underage girls, although the authorities are doing a good job at gradually stamping it out. The legal age of consent in Thailand is 18 (but I believe it is 16 provided that the parent’s consent). In many western countries the age of consent is 16 and this can lead you to think that you will be okay with Thai girls of that age. Not so, suppose you are 19 and have sex with a girl of 17, perfectly natural you might think, but it could lead you to find yourself looking at jail-time. This is especially so if the girl's family were to get involved and press charges against you. On the other hand, if the family say all is fine, you won't have any trouble.
It's a tricky situation... suppose you get approval from the family, do the deed, and then the family deny having approved anything - they could easily try blackmailing you for money! My best advice is to stick with girls that are 18+, you will know that they are 18+ because they will have an ID card stating their date of birth. It will also guarantee that your girl is not a man! You need to know what to look for on the ID card though, as it is written in Thai... but you can always ask your hotel receptionist to look at it for you.
I have no particular view on the rights and wrongs of Thai sex tourism, and I’ve set out why that is in my report about Thai prostitution. Whatever your view, the industry exists and it will probably continue to do so for a long time to come.
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