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Drill Man: She Didn’t Want To Be A Bar Girl

Posted by BigDummyKenny on March 6, 2011

She was four months away from her eighteenth birthday and finishing high school. She loved her Issan home town and the city that was less than 30 minutes away had plenty of jobs. She wanted to go to the city close to her home for work. She wanted to work in a bank or be an accountant. However, her mother and aunt had other ideas.

This was how B began to answer my question: how did you get from rural Issan to working in a gogo bar? She didn’t want to be a bargirl. But I think it’s a safe bet to say that’s the case for most girls in the gogos.

B and I go back quite a few years and if you saw her you would never guess that she’s 32 now. You’d be more likely to guess 22. No more than 40kg and maybe 155cm, she’s managed to age incredibly gracefully. Other than one very large tattoo on her backside, you’d never guess she’d worked in the bar industry. Her English is excellent and she has a certain grace about her that you just don’t see in bargirls.

I’d never barfined B because one of her close friends at the bar I had gone with a few times, so I was her customer in B’s eyes. Anytime I’d see her friend, B wouldn’t be far away and that’s how I got to know her. Even though her friend hasn’t been working in the bar for more than a year, B has never hinted that I should barfine her, that’s the type of girl B is.

Like most people in her village, her family didn’t have much money growing up. It was a small 2 room house with a tin roof and raised wooden floor. Her family didn’t have money to send her to school but her aunt had money and told her mother she would help B. B said her aunt had a nice house and always had money. B knew of other girls in the village she had helped. They all worked in Bangkok and one girl in particular would come back and always have nice clothes and the latest mobile phone and gold jewelry.

B’s mother told her that once she finished with high school she would go to Bangkok too. Her aunt told her she would have a job for her and she could make a lot of money. So now that she was finishing school she knew where she would be going. She said she didn’t want to go because she had a boyfriend who she loved and they wanted to marry. He had a job and made enough money for them to get by but other plans had already been set by her mother. So her plans would have to wait. How long she didn’t know.

B recalled that day she went to Bangkok. Only her aunt went with her and there was another girl going too from a nearby village. On the drive down, they were told where they’d be working but not told everything about what was expected with them. They were given bank account numbers and told that any money they earned minus a small amount for living expenses were to be deposited into the account.

Once in Bangkok, she was taken to the bar where she would work and introduced to the mamasan , an older man and another girl who already was working in the bar. Her aunt told her that she was her sister and she would help her with everything. She was told the man was there to look after her and she could call him if she ever had any problems. She wondered what type of problems could she possibly have?

B said everything was a mystery until the girl started talking to her and telling her about the bar business. Her first night working was a blur. The next day she was able to put together the pieces of stories she’d heard while back home and what she’d seen. That’s how it began, her career in a business she knew she didn’t want to be in.

During the next three hours we talked about a many different things that had happened during her 14 years in the business. The good customers, the bad ones, the Thai boyfriends and how she ended up with two children. The fun, crazy nights and the slow boring ones. The stories about the other girl and her friends and how a few had found foreign men they had married and moved back to Issan with them or to Europe or Australia. The stories of how much money she made (and she made it clear she had made a sizable amount) and spent. Enough money deposited into the bank account that a very nice modern home now sits where the home with the wood floors and tin roof once stood.

Although she now has her own bank account and has saved quite a bit of money it was apparent it had come at personal sacrifice. To save money she lives above one of the bars, only eats at the food carts outside the bars and claims she doesn’t have a boyfriend.

When I inquired as to why she didn’t have a boyfriend she said that the only way she could have a Thai boyfriend was if he didn’t work during the day because that would be the only time she could spend time with him. That meant he wouldn’t have a job and would spend her money, often going out drinking with his friends. She had tried many times when she was younger but it would end the same. It also meant more money on food and clothes and she wanted to save as much money as she could for her children now. She wanted to make sure she had money to send them to school without anyone else helping.

This evening was a goodbye of sorts because B was finally leaving the bar and going back home. The last couple years she hadn’t been going with very many customers and the last time she was home her aunt and mother said she didn’t have to work in the bar any more. (Maybe not going with customers was her choice because she is still attractive and I’m certain still gets offers.) They told her they had some work for her to do in her village and in the city close to her village. (Although she wouldn’t elaborate, it’s my guess she’ll be helping recruit other girls to work in Bangkok.) She was glad to finally be going home because that meant she could spend more time with her two children.

So we continued to chat and observe the goings on in the bar. “I was like her once”, as she points out one of the teen girls next to the stage who just came back from being with a customer. She was drinking shots of tequila from a bottle with her friends and already drunk from what I guess was drinking shots earlier in the evening.

“What do you mean?”, I asked.

She went on to explain. When I was young I could get as many customers as I wanted. I would drink and party all the time. Going out with my friends to after hours clubs once the bar would close and get so drunk some times I couldn’t remember what I did the next day. I had a boyfriend and would spend everything same as that girl does. Older girls in the bar would tell me not to spend everything but I would not listen, same as her. I knew tomorrow I could have many customers again…no problem.

Although I could sense a bit of regret in her voice she is not bitter. Even after so many years in the bar her Thai cultural upbringing is too strong to let that happen. I have told her many times she still looks very young and she should look for a boyfriend who will take care of her and her children. I’ve told her she should be able to find a guy without any problem. She is less optimistic because of her age and her two children.

As the evening wound down I kept thinking of what a pleasant time I had and how her mature and calm demeanor is something I will miss. When I asked for my check she looked surprised and asked, “Are you leaving already?”. I thought, already? It was past 1:00 am. I asked her why and her response was confusing at first, but after some thought of what she’d dealt with for the past 14 years I understood what she meant. “I was having such a good time tonight. Just talking here like two regular people.” I paid my check bin I told her I’d keep in touch. Will she be back in the bar? I don’t think so. Listening to her story it sounded like up to now her life had been planned out for her by her mother and aunt and I believe that hasn’t changed.


19 Responses to “Drill Man: She Didn’t Want To Be A Bar Girl”

  1. SBDOTKU said

    Drill Man,

    Nice story, with some interesting insight. Have you had a chance to keep in touch with her? I am interested to know about the job her mother and aunt had waiting for her back in Issan.

    • Drill Man said


      I caught up with B the second week of December and she said she would be working until the end of January. I was out of the country until middle February and had a couple days in Bangkok, stopped by the bar and was informed she had indeed quit and gone back home.

      Haven’t called her because I’ve just been too busy. After all, it took me almost 3 months to get this post together (thanks BDK for the suggestions and edits).


      It was apparent to me the aunt isn’t a relative. After you’ve lived in Thailand a year or so you pick up that the Thais won’t talk about some sensitive topics directly. The Thais have a way of communicating which confirms your suspicions without direct acknowledgment. Unless the person is a really close friend they just won’t come right out and say it. The harder you push the more they will back away from discussing the topic further. It makes them feel uncomfortable.

      B never would say it was organized crime. My guess is partly because she was scared to do so. However, one of the stories she told me makes me believe that this is a side of the gogo scene that some of the establishments or girls are involved in and nobody talks about.

      B told me a story about her friend who had just gotten back from Hong Kong after spending 6 months in jail for engaging in prostitution there. I was shocked because I thought they would simply blacklist and deport her. In that instance she said the mafia in Hong Kong was involved and couldn’t do anything to get her out of jail.

      Now I would say the Hong Kong authorities knew the place where she was busted was run by organized crime, so having the girl sit in jail would have more of a financial impact to the organization than sending her back home where she could immediately go back to work. It’s simple to deduce that a family member in a rural Issan community doesn’t have connections to Hong Kong but someone in Bangkok would. B told me this girl was 21 years old and had been working in the bars for 5 years.

      I intend to call B and chat with her a bit. See how she’s adjusting to her new life in Issan.

      -Dan the Drill Man

  2. adman said

    This “aunt” had “helped” several other girls from the village and surrounding villages?

    Was the aunt really a relative?

    In many western countries this would be considered a prostitution ring. Usually run by organized crime with police protection.

    Is prostitution legal in Thailand? Nuff said. 😉

    • Maybe she’s just operating a backroom, online, rake-back scheme.

    • BigDummyKenny said

      @ RealDaffyDuck – You think maybe they’re playing poker online as well?

    • Dude, you may be onto something — but I bet they are sending the profits to each other via US Postal Service. I mean, it’s cheaper, better and more efficient!

    • BigDummyKenny said

      Yea, you know it’s like this: More Something. More Another Thing. More Something Else.

      The place should be easy enough to spot. Just look for the house with new pickup trucks with 1 million baht stickers.

  3. BigDummyKenny said

    After 14 years I’d be interested in knowing how much money she’s managed to put away for herself. How much is left in the other account that she was told she had to put the money into when she first arrived in Bangkok?

    • Drill Man said

      Couldn’t tell you how much she’s saved and I never asked about how much was deposited in the other account. What she did tell me is she’s earned and saved enough that she can send her children to the local university if they want to go.

      Good on her for coming out on top after 14 years in the business I say.

    • BigDummyKenny said

      “Good on her for coming out on top after 14 years in the business I say.”

      Yea, she got her personal life in check and figured out she needed to provide for her kids future, but at what cost? She’s 32 and a single mother. Moving back to Issan what are her prospects for finding a guy? Also, if she is working for her aunt she really isn’t out of the business, she’s just not in the part where she’s working in the bars anymore.

      From what you posted and your comments I guess she’s ok with this?

      Maybe I just can’t grasp this because I don’t live in Thailand and haven’t grown up in the Buddhist thai culture.

  4. adman said

    Nobody talks about the organized crime’s involvement in go go bars or the massage parlors. As much as it’s part of prostitution in other parts of the world such as the Russian Federation, Europe and the Americas why wouldn’t it be part of prostitution in Asia?

    Not to sound racist, but the Chinese could give a shit about people. Look at their products with all types of defects that they ship around the world that’s caused deaths to people and their pets.

    I am sure it’s part of prostitution in Thailand. It’s just one more thing people don’t discuss.

    • MongerSEA said

      “…why wouldn’t it be part of prostitution in Asia?”

      The largest organized crime group in Thailand, the Royal Thai Police, won’t tolerate the competition. What the weak-minded suckers don’t realize is that every time they pay a barfine, every satang of that ends up being split between dozens of cops on the one hand and the tax-dodging bar owners on the other.

      Barfines do not go on the books as revenue 99% of the time. Doubt this fact? Pull the revenue statements of any quality gogo bar, see what the declared sales are, divide by the average days of operation and average drink price. That gives you an average headcount; the average number of punters you should see in the place from a random of sampling at different times in different seasons. Generally you’ll find that to be fairly accurate.

      But cast your eyes on the whiteboard with the dancers numbers and look at the “offs” column at the end of an average night (and make further allowance for the girls who pull multiple short-times in a night). A dozen or 15 barfines or more at 600 per works out to at least 200,000 baht a month, and usually closer to 3 million or more per year. That figure is usually close to the declared sales figures which are already accounted for in drink sales.

      Why is this kept off the books? For the simple reason that the police don’t give receipts for the bribes they extort from the bars. To meet their demands there has to be a slush fund. The police, in fact, calculate their bill based on how much pussy they think the bars should be selling, plus up-sells like topless, full nude, shows, etc. The point about not having a receipt is a simple one: no CPA will sign off on the annual statement of a bar business if money is mysteriously unaccounted for.

      Now do you think the boys at Lumpini (Nana Plaza) or Thong Lo (Soi Cowby, Soi 33, etc.) police stations are going to let another criminal enterprise cut into their action? Especially when they can — with complete impunity — simply off anyone who tries it?

    • Hence, it stands to reason that the Nigerian and Russian pimps providnig black, russian and thai hookers are able to do so because they provide substantial donations to the BiB as well?

  5. BarRaider said

    Good observations but wrong conclusion. The Mafia in competition to the Boys in Brown? To say that is mostly bullocks. The BiB need the Mafia. The Mafia needs the BiB. It’s a collaborative partnership. You’ve forgotten the BiB have rules to follow. The Mafia can get away with things that the boys in brown can’t. Fact. Thailand government is seen as legit only as long as it follows most of the legal and political protocols expected by the international community. If not for close US ties it would be stuck in 3rd world status like it’s regional neighbors. Agreed?

    So, yea, things on the Sois things are run differently but the BiB can’t be openly seen running the operations. I can tell you with 100% certainty there was a time (probably still true) the BiB ran an underground lottery in conjunction with organized crime in a certain entertainment areas. This was run using the legit government run lottery with all types of option games provided on the side (how many consecutive number of x would be drawn, the sum of the numbers drawn, the single digit number which occurred the most in the winning number and position, choosing a 2 or 3 number sequence that is in the winning number and so on) Who were usually the people buying into these illegal lotteries? Duh. The bar girls and servers. Who would be running from bar to bar taking the money and paying out the winners and otherwise running the racket for the BiB? One of the people from the mob.

    The mafia has another advantage that the BiB don’t have. Organizational structure. BiB are organized by local boundries. BiB need to reorg each year. Crime syndicates don’t have those rules to follow. They make their own rules. They have access to the girls upcountry. They arrange the employment contracts. They offer protection and take care of things the BiB can’t because of the rules. If it was run by the BiB the girls would be treated better. The mob only cares as long as the girl is producing.

    Bugger all, this isn’t some fairy tale business where the girls all end up with nice foreign husbands or a big bank account with a modern home upcountry. These are the girls who end up at the bottom of the barrel. I can tell you it’s a small number of the girls. But they’re very expendable and the turn rate is high. They;re only kept around as long as they make money. The mafia gives them a crumb here and there to make them stay. The bank account thing happens. Yea, it’s money the girl has earned, but she’ll never see most that money. It’s the banana that keeps the monkey in the tree. How many of the girls are bought into the business this way? 1 in 10? 2 in 10? Don’t know but it’s not a big number. A 14 or 15 year old girl from the far northeast ends up working in a Soi Cowboy go go bar how? Drill Man gives a good example. Giving these girls money doesn’t help their situation. If she’s not making them money eventually they’ll cut her loose. They won’t support someone who’s draining the account. The girls earning money they keep.

    It’s not just prostitution and drugs. Construction, taxi stand operations, motocy taxis, sidewalk bars. Legitimate and illigitimate business that the BiB can’t be openly involved. The mafia is their business partner. The BiB go through their yearly musical chairs. The mafia and organized crime doesn’t have any of those rules to follow. They stay as long as there is money coming.

    Call the people handlers, mafia, organized crime, whatever, They take the first cut and split the rest. Drugs, prostitution and a few legit business in areas of the kingdom where the families have power and money. BiB provide additional protection. They permit the activities to take place. Most the girls know but don’t dare talk about it. If you know one well enough that shes a genuine friend or out of the business, ask. Like most unsavory things in Thailand, the Thais want to keep it hidden. But you can find stories and personal accounts that hint at it if you look around.

    The first one is really good. About as close as a you get to honestly discussing the issue of the BiB and their unsavory business dealings. Everything is for sale in Thailand. Even the BiB.

    Chuwit and the sex bomb:

    Aids killing 50 Thai sex workers in Japan a year:

    Local mafia destroy the efforts of tsunami relief volunteers:–30043974.html

    Samak’s lucky numbers:

    Downfall of the Sino-Thai families:

    Good note about the white board in the bars. Another nugget. Bars do a monthly tally with the girls numbers either the last day or the first day of the month. So if your favorite girl is telling you she doesn’t go with other customerss go in and see if the number of barfines you paid matches up with that white board number? No? Don’t be surprised.

    • BigDummyKenny said

      I’ve seen the hookers and drug dealers from Eastern Europe and Africa on Sukhumvit so it would make sense that there’s some organized crime element going on.

      The numbers MongerSEA provides shows it’s certainly profitable enough to justify the involvement of both the BiB and organized crime.

      What’s my point? I don’t have one. Just bored at the moment. 😉

  6. adman said


    Good find on the Chewit and the sex bomb link. Interesting read.

  7. BarRaider said

    Chuwit – Yea, now there’s a card. I can’t wait for elections as the scowl on his campaign posters are classics. Who the hell is his campaign manager. That’s right, he is.

    You got plenty of money Chewie, buy a campaign like everyone else.

  8. Union Jack said

    Fourteen years in the bar business? That’s one hell of a lot of bar fines, lady drinks, bedrooms and latex.

  9. Spot On said

    She may not have wanted to be a bar girl, but it seems that she adapted and adjusted quite well.

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