June 11, 2011

Tourism Authority Promoting Soi Cowboy and Ladyboys

Clipped from The Nation - June 10, 2011

It's no secret that times are difficult for Thailand's tourist and MICE industry. In addition to the political crises that seem to pop up every year, the currency in Thailand (baht) has been performing strongly compared to the US dollar and Euro, which have been in the toilet for quite some time. The tourist industry in Thailand affects a lot of people across the social strata (from the owners of the 5-star hotels to the taxi drivers), so the government has invested heavily in promoting tourism through the Tourist Authority of Thailand.

The powers that be are either playing off the popularity of Hangover 2 or are very desperate for more visitors. From this ad I clipped from the Nation, they are actually pushing the brothel/ladyboy image that the Thai government has been trying to shy away from for decades. The article reads:
Infamous as it seems, the brightly neon-lit Soi Cowboy is a celebrated must-go among tourists looking for the wondrous nightlife in Bangkok. It is not as raunchy as the equally known Patpong alley in Silom, as it is open-minded and welcome to both male and female clinetele.

...but it is not hard at all to imagine seeing a middle-aged Caucasian expat walking hand-in-hand with a charming Thai ladyboy, or a Japanese young family brushing shoulders with black chador-clad women.
I don't judge the Tourist Authority for this, because, for one thing, the wife and I go to Soi Cowboy occasionally (er, Country Roads is a great place to play pool, I swear). The more important reason is that people in Thailand of all stripes need to make a living, and the decline in tourism has affected a number of people. Don't ever mess with people's ability to make money in Thailand. Therefore, I applaud the Tourist Authority's savvy marketing strategy.

However, I wonder what their colleagues in the Ministry of Culture would have to say, since they made such a big stink about some young girls going topless during Songkran. What would they have to say about the go-go bars being recognized tourist landmarks?

Also, If anyone knows what the hell "chador-clad" means, please email me.


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