See the Ping pong show in Bangkok. The seediest side of Bangkok. It’s disgusting and yet fascinating all at the same time.
A local attraction that is actually more frequented by couples and groups of friends than weirdo old men, and one that has women patrons sitting firmly cross legged for some time after the experience.
Yes! Ping pong shows have become a Bangkok institution and way back in December 2011 we wrote an article on our first experience visiting a ping pong show.
Recently some friends of ours travelled with us for a couple of weeks. They asked if we would take them to the Ping Pong Show whilst we were in Bangkok. As we were already accustomed to the “hustle” of the shows we agreed to go as negotiators. This time around, they didn’t attempt the old scams on us. Experience may have worked in our benefit and we’ll let you in on all the things we did so that you can avoid getting seriously ripped off too – The best strategies for 2019 and beyond.
So here’s our updated version of what to expect when visiting a Ping Pong show in Bangkok.
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Where are the Ping Pong Shows in Bangkok?
The district is still the same: The Patpong Market in Silom. This “red light district” is still the place to go to find, ladyboys, ping pong shows, GLBT bars etc. On the streets and around the bars men will approach you making “poping” noises with their mouths, followed by “you want ping pong?”. I actually had to explain to my friend why they made that noise at us, LOL. If you also are not certain, have a bit of a think about it. If you’re still clueless, ask someone you know who has a filthy mind….I’m sure they will figure it out and be able to explain.
There are also plenty of guys offering ping pong shows on and around the streets of Khao San Rd, the main tourist area of Bangkok. I’m sure these guys are legit – as far as touts can be legit – but they’ll just put you in an expensive tuk-tuk to travel to Silom and see the same shows! Take a metered taxi to Patpong Market first and then start haggling with the local touts.
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How do I get into the right clubs? What is the entry fee?
We were approached by a guy from the club “Showgirls” (East end of Patpong, south side of the street). In no way, shape or form should this be compared to the movie “Showgirls”. If you’re having visions of Demi Moore type young beauties shimmying on poles, then you will be horribly disappointed. Sadly for these women, they are not beauty queens, nor are they even young or fit, which is probably, and quite depressingly, how they have fallen into this line of work.
When at the door you do have to haggle with touts for the entrance price and then again with the “madame” inside the club. In our 2011 we arranged to get in for 100 Baht plus the compulsory purchase of a beer (100baht). This time around (March 2014) prices were same same. So let’s call it a 200 baht entry fee ($6.50 USD) per person.
Unlike 2011, where we got stung for way more than we had agreed to as we tried to leave and pay our bill, they asked for the money up front, and that’s it. Much more civil. However, other readers have reported that the scams are still very much alive. So it is essential you read how the scams work, later in this article, so you can be prepared to deal with them.
The shows and the tips
Before entering we made sure that, unlike in 2011, we were not going to be charged extra for each individual show, but that the 200 baht was total for all the shows. They assured us we would not be charged BUT tips are expected after every short show.
If you’re a little lost here, let me explain further. You see, there is not just the serve and return “ping pong” show – Yes, you do get a ping pong bat. In fact, there are a variety of shows where you can see women doing a selection of strange and surreal things with their hoo ha’s.
- The Darts Show – where audience members get to hold balloons and have them popped by a vajay-jay propelled dart.
- The Ribbon Show – where all childhood memories of clowns pulling a never ending line of handkerchiefs from their pockets is forever ruined.
- The Razor Show – where, umm yep, she pulls a string with razors attached out of her lady garden and then makes paper men using the still dangling razors! You get to keep these paper creations too – a perfect souvenir to take home to Gran maybe?
There are many more shows, but you’ll have to go and check them out yourselves!
Most of the hostesses will tell you that it’s customary to tip 100 baht ($3 aprox) per person for each of these shows. Some staff even want 100 baht just for collecting the tips or collecting the used ping pong balls off the floor – admittedly an unpleasant job. Politely tell the collection lady that you will only tip for the showgirl.
A Thai guy we were sitting next to told us to only pay for the shows we liked and that he was only tipping 20 baht (about .75 cents). As these women are putting on a show (kind of) and pulling out or launching things from their furry taco’s I’m sure most of you can manage more than a .75 cent tip… but it’s up to you. They will persist for tips, let your conscience decide.
At this point one of our friends got really uncomfortable and we decided to leave. We had seen all of the above mentioned, and also had lubed up, sloppy ping pong balls projected at our heads – we had experienced enough.
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Beating the exit scam
Tommo and I told our friends to get ready to run as we were going to have a fight on our hands. If you have read our previous article, it was at this point in 2011 where we were told we had to pay an extra 300 baht for each of the “individual” shows even though we had tipped them every time. The ladies had grouped around us demanding the money until we finally just had to make a dash for the door and hope like hell there were no security guards to block our way.
This time round it was very different. We grabbed our half full beers and headed towards the door (expecting a fight) the lady on the door said good night, and we were down the stairs and out into the humid Bangkok night before we knew it. Phew! It was so nice not to be harassed by a bunch of partially clothed women, drooping boobies swinging as they tried to squeeze every last baht from our wallets.
We know for a fact that the “Showgirls” bar had the scam in 2011 as it had been the first place we walked into last time and were warned by westerners coming down the stairs not to go in.
UPDATE May 2019: Other visitors to Showgirls have confirmed that they may still try and pull the exit scam. Most of the clubs likely still do.
It’s worth noting, if you are hanging around some of the less desirable parts of Bangkok, it may be worth having travel insurance. Pick pocketing is pretty common, losing your passport, drivers licence, bank cards etc. can be more than just an inconvenience. If someone steals your laptop from your hotel room while you are out for the night, that could be even worse!
What is the exit scam?
Essentially, you agreed with the tout outside that entry “for ping pong show” is 100baht and you must buy at least one drink for 100baht or more. So, 200 baht per person. You must also leave a tip for each showgirl who performs.
You sit down. The show starts. You get heavily guilt tripped for extra tips – as described above.
You watch a few shows, get the general gist and decide to pay and leave. Now comes the scam. They tell you that you owe 3,000+ baht. They even become quite verbally aggressive. They say “you watch many show, not just ping-pong. You pay for all show”. You get intimidated and pay. If you are up for an argument, you get a price drop but still pay over the agreed price.
In 2011, on our first visit, after much argument, we told them we’d only pay the original price. Handed them 200 baht per person and walked out. Although they shouted at us, there was never any feeling of it turning into a fist fight. There were no big bouncers, the whole operation was run by women.
That said, as a disclaimer, who knows. If you think things are going to get violent… It’s your call. Just be aware they’ve been running these scams daily, for years. They know it’s a scam. They know some people will pay, some won’t. They know that intimidation is a successful way of making more people pay.
Here are our tips to help you based on how we avoided the exit scam.
- We told them it was our second visit and we knew the scam. So it is worth lying that you have been before. Seriously, be blunt that you know “how it works” and won’t stand for it. If they don’t like it, go to another club and be blunt there too. Play them at their own game or expect to get stung.
- Agree the terms of the prices repeatedly. Go over the costs twice so that it is clear you have made a specific agreement. “100 baht for ALL shows, total, not for each individual show”. Confirm the price is “baht” not “dollars”.
- Pay the entry fee and price of a beer in advance so that you don’t have to approach the owner before you leave. Then, after the show, leave, quickly. Don’t feel guilty – you paid the asking price. If they wanted a higher price they should have asked for more upfront.
- Don’t go in by yourself. There were 4 of us. The more there are of you, the harder it is for them to be aggressive in order to scam you. They may still try, but you’ll have an upper hand. Having a big guy in the group helps.
- Take less money and small change only. You won’t be getting change, so big notes are a bad idea. Unless you want to see all the shows and tip like a rockstar, 500 baht (in 20s, 50s and 100s) per person for tips, one beer and entry fee is enough. If they hit you up for more you can legitimately say “this is all I have left. If you’d told me it would cost more I would not have come in as I don’t have enough”.
- Ultimately, we may have just been lucky. But taking precautions against getting scammed is always a good idea. You’ll also be in a stronger position to bargain if they do attempt the scam.
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Ping Pong Shows: A novelty but not a pleasant experience
It may have been a less scammy experience this time but it still wasn’t a nice, or even for the pervs out there, a sexy experience. It’s a novelty, a bit of fun. But it’s also sad and depressing seeing these unenthusiastic, half dressed women standing around holding poles, not even trying to give off any impression of sexiness. Waiting their turn to disrobe completely and fling some random objects from their nether regions at a gawking audience.
Even after our first visit, we weren’t keen to go again. It was only that our friend wanted to go, that we agreed to go along and help haggle. It’s entirely up to you if having sagging, miserable looking middle age women fire lube and ping-pongs at you is really worth it just to say you’ve done it.
It’s a strange curiosity that takes you to the Bangkok red light district. And we get it, we did it. Twice now. But it is an experience that leaves an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. Even though it may be just shits and giggles to us these women can’t be making more than a few hundred baht a night (100 baht is about $3 USD) after the house takes its cut of the tips.
That’s the sad realisation of it all. No wonder they are so miserable.
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