It’s the witching hour in Thailand. It’s around 10 p.m., right when the night life starts pumping, the Beer Chang flows freely and the country’s signature sticky, sexy heat bears down on merry revelers, preparing for the night ahead. Neon signs buzz and blink and the waitress brings another round of drinks. From down the soi, a lithe young woman walks towards the bar.
Someone comments, “Wow! Look at her!”
It’s true. Look at her is right. Her skin is the perfect tone of brown, her arms are toned and lean. She has long, silky black hair that cascades down her back and she’s wearing an impossibly tight pink mini-dress that not many people in the world could pull off. Her cleavage bursts from her dress top and the strappy white stilettos fit her feet like gloves. The woman looks at men seated at the bars with a cloyingly sweet, flirtatious gaze.
She walks closer. That skin! That hair! She looks like a model. She comes closer still. Wait a minute… What’s that on her throat? Is that…. Really?… An adam’s apple?
It turns out that in fact, this beautiful, gorgeous, model-of-a-woman is in fact not a woman an at. She’s a man. She is a Thai lady boy.
Lady boys in Thailand, also known as Kathoey, cannot be defined with one definition. Some lady boys have had sex changes to become women, some have simply had breast implants to impersonate women, and some simply dress like women (but continue to have all the requisite male body parts attached). It’s not uncommon to see a group of lady boys out on the town in places like Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok. The tall-tale continuously floats around: the foreigner who had a steamy night out with a gorgeous Thai woman, took her back to his room only to find out that, in fact, she’s one of the infamous Kathoeys.
Whether this is true or not, lady boys are an integral part of the Thailand experience. Lady boys can be seen in bars, flirting with men, dancing in cabaret shows and performing in various events. Many foreigners are fascinating by this group of people: not exactly men and not exactly women. The Kathoey subculture is especially fascinating because of their acceptance by other members of Thai society. Despite the conservative country, lady boys are very open about their sexuality and have no problem flaunting their fake breasts or their smooth nether regions. The Buddhist religion is often credited as the reason for the acceptance of sub-groups like lady boys in Thailand.
Many people have seen drag queens in their own home country, but Thailand’s lady boys are a special breed because of their seamless beauty and charm. The smaller stature and fit bodies of Thai males makes those that choose to become lady boys seem even more convincing: a good majority of Kathoey’s are very beautiful and convincing women.
To experience Kathoey culture for yourself, some good places to meet them are Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok. For a real show, buy a ticket to a lady boy cabaret: a show where kathoeys sing and dance in amazing costumes. For a more up close and personal understanding of lady boys, have a night out on the town and see if you can spot the beautiful women who is actually a man. Strike up a conversation and fall under their flirtatious charms!