Essential Credentials: Watch out for the ladies, boys

Viola Pruss - Essential Credentials (Tom Bateman/AQ)

She wore a tight, black skirt showing off a pair of clean shaved legs. Her hips moved playfully to the beat of the music. Red lips revealed a set of white teeth; her dark eyes twinkling as she moved towards her prey. Her arms around his neck, they soon vanished into the crowd, a pair of lovers lost in the charm of cheap whisky and late-night desires.

If she was clever he never noticed the secret between her legs.

It’s not unheard of that young travelers return from their vacations with one odd sexual tale or another. The more unusual experiences include encounters with transvestites.

The latest Hangover movie may come to mind when thinking about exotic places and people. Though the storyline was terribly exaggerated in its portrayal of Bangkok, it is very likely for travelers to meet the Kathoeys, or the “lady boys,” on Thailand’s streets.

Kathoey are a visible part of Thai culture. The most famous ones make it into modeling or movie careers. And even in the smallest villages, their beauty contests are common.

I first encountered them on Khao San Road, the infamous party and backpacker alley of Bangkok.

At night, they swarmed out like mosquitoes, dressed in sparkling dresses and high-heels, with scarves wrapped around their necks. They would lure their lovers in with their exotic charm – and later leave them to the mirth of their friends.

You meet them outside the bars, advertising sales and drink specials. They mingle in the crowd on the dance floor. But often enough, you find them in a bathroom.

While you’re busy releasing yourself, they suddenly appear behind you, and ask to massage your back.

Rest assured though, Thai culture is friendly and rarely aggressive. A simple “no” will do.

Europe’s red-light districts are well known for their own share of transvestites. Yet Western cross-dressers are easier to spot.

Thai men have slim hips and smooth skin. Western men have more muscles and need to shave every day. Perhaps that makes so many of us uncomfortable around them.

Thailand is full of stories of young men waking up in the morning beside a “Steven” instead of a “Stephanie.” These tales are passed on from one backpacker to another with great amusement. Yet I often wondered if there could really be so much surprise – or if the Kathoey just filled a role for those willing to try something new.

At least these “ladies” know what men like.