“Tiiiiiiiip. Tiiiiiiiip,” screeched the waitress as she dropped the drinks off at the table next to us. I quickly discovered that tips are NOT optional at the Chiang Mai Lady Boy Cabaret show. David and I hastened to get our 20 Baht notes ready for the next time we ordered a drink.
Friends and family who have visited Thailand were all insistent that we see a Lady Boy show, and I must say, I was curious. After doing a bit of research, we found that the closest and seemingly best-known Lady Boy show in Chiang Mai was found in the Anusarn Market right off the Chang Klan Road. We walked there from our hotel and it took about 30 minutes – a good amount of exercise in preparation for a couple of sweet cocktails. Tickets cost 200 Baht each but that includes one free drink. Further drinks are definitely pricy. We paid another 300 Baht for a beer and a G&T, drinks that should have cost 250 Baht, but the bartender insisted on keeping the change for a “tiiiiiip.” Pick your battles.
We were a tad nervous that when we arrived we wouldn’t know where to find the show – Google street view doesn’t make it obvious – but honestly as soon as you set foot in the market, there they are, a bevy of beauties handing out flyers and pointing you in the right direction. The show doesn’t start until 9:30, but I suggest arriving at 9:00 to get a good view. By good view, I mean close enough that you can see everything but NOT, I repeat, NOT front row unless you’re planning to be part of the show. Oh yes, the poor young guys in the front row courtesy of the Contiki tour, they ended up getting kissed, smothered by breasts and one ended up shirtless on stage. Like I said, at your own risk. Or, you can adopt David’s technique, and lean forward against the table so that your lap is not inviting.
The waitresses were much less convincing as females with their burly shoulders and way too much makeup, but the main ladies in the show were phenomenally realistic. One of the most interesting acts during the show was the song “I Did It My Way” where a lady boy starts out in full makeup and as the song progresses she removes her makeup, wig and dress, then transforms into her male self. Apologies if I’m getting the transgender terminology incorrect, but it’s the best that I understand it at the moment. These ladies and men have been on my mind for a couple of days now. Many could quite easily live their days as men and nights as ladies and I think the average person would be none the wiser.
I’ve been curious as to which version of their self they prefer, or if they feel they get the best of both worlds. I’m curious how well accepted they are in Thai culture? From my tourist perspective, transgender people seem to be more accepted in Thailand than they are back home in Canada, but I could be wrong.
My internet research (ahem – super reliable?) shows that many lady boys, even if they choose to have a multitude of surgeries to enhance their feminine qualities, about 80% choose to keep… excuse the crudeness… the genitals that they were born with. In that case, I am even more perplexed as to where they stash it (again, sorry to be so vulgar) as the costumes leave very little – or perhaps even more in my case – to the imagination.
As we left the show, both entertained and David unscathed, I was once again impressed at the effort that goes into their nightly show. The makeup, the choreography, the energy and enthusiasm. All in all we had a fantastic evening.