Kookai works in Pattaya’s bars for the money, but still is holding out hope for true love.
Like many young women from Thailand’s poorest regions, Kookai (not her real name) had few options in life. Unmarried and having to support her family, she was drawn to Pattaya at age 19 by the lure of big money, more than she could ever hope to earn in a factory, shop or office.
Well aware of the stigma attached to bar work, she started out only doing “PR” or promotion work outside. Then she donned the short shorts and halter tops to dance “coyote” style. Finally, she graduated to full on bargirl work.
But even now she refuses to call what she does, prostitution.
“I wanted to give this up many times, but I thought I’d just work to get a certain amount of money for a certain period of time to launch another career,” she said.
It’s now been nine years and that new career hasn’t blossomed. She admits her lifestyle is unhealthy, particularly its de facto requirement of drinking alcohol and staying out late every night. But she says she hasn’t made it her life.
“I’ve never felt comfortable with this job, no matter what many people think,” she said.
She said people may look down on her, but notes that some of those same people work in bars on the sly as a secondary job.
The financial benefits of her work have been undeniable, however. She’s been able to afford a house and a car and other things.
The plan remains the same: Work for a while to save up enough money, then do something else. But, maybe, she said, there’s hope she’ll still find a good man who will marry her and take her away from Pattaya’s neon for good.