by Barry Kenyon
The chunky paperback Thai Lottery and Other Stories from Pattaya is Matt Carrell’s first book, according to his comments on Twitter, and is a work of fiction. It’s the latest in a long line of novels, or novel-documentaries, which have sought to profit (literally and figuratively) from Pattaya’s sordid reputation for sexual excess and its resulting disappointments.
Thai Lottery, which takes its name from the author’s observing of the underground Thai lottery, which is several times bigger than the state-sponsored one, is one of the best of its kind. That’s because the author not only understands the farang mind – let’s go to Pattaya to get our rocks off – but also analyzes the Thai female perspective – let me make as much money as possible in double-quick time.
One big spender in the book, Charles by name, has developed the theory of the Five Stages of Man. The first occurs in the teenage years when many opportunities are missed as boys are nervous and don’t realize girls are equally eager to find a mate. But not many sex tourists in Pattaya are under 20 even though the objects of desire often are.
The golden years follow in your 20s and 30s when you have the best choice of hitting it off with the lady of your choice. The marginal years start in the early 40s when you are still in with a chance, but only just. When you hit 50, the final stage is “Invisibility,” when attractive women don’t give you a second look. The only thing to look forward to then is the crematorium.
Most punters in the Pattaya bars these days are in “Invisibility” category – balding, paunchy and fond of booze. They know it and the go-go girls know it. It’s simply a case of cash for sex. Those who expect more are in for a bitter disappointment, possibly a very expensive one. If you like reading about points-of-view in the sex industry this is certainly the book for you. Many of the encounters in Thai Lottery are hilarious.
Contradictory perspectives are everywhere. When a Thai girl tells a customer she will “love you for a long time,” that sounds like a lifetime commitment or wedding bells to the western mind. But what she is really saying is that she will stay with him till the following morning for a second boom-boom if he pays an extra 1,500 baht. Then she will shower, get dressed and head for the door if the money has dried up.
The book ends with a helpful list of Thai phrases for the lazy farang. The useful list includes bhakwan (bullshit), peeshua (butterfly), teelak (darling) and ting tong (crazy). You get the general impression anyway. The 13 stories in this volume readily accept that there are people who don’t come to Thailand for sex, but they do tend to be thin on the ground in Thai Lottery. As the Tourist Police captain judiciously puts it, “Few visitors are in Pattaya to see the waterfalls”.
Thai Lottery is an enjoyable read, but I was left wondering if it really describes Pattaya today. Hasn’t Pattaya changed in recent years? Isn’t it now more of a family resort with excellent sports and recreational facilities? What of City Hall’s aim to turn the Eastern Seaboard city into the Thai Riviera by the end of the decade?
There is none of this in Thai Lottery. There is a brief mention of golf courses but only as a cover for males wanting an excuse to visit Sin City. The up-market shopping malls get one of two references but usually as places where pickups occur. It’s sex, sex and more sex. Well maybe, but many people would doubt that the mega-rich international investors in Pattaya’s five star hotels and state-of-the-art condominiums which now litter the resort are relying on customers whose range of vision stretches no further than Walking Street and the next bottle of beer.
As Pattaya has expanded, the prostitution districts have either been bulldozed or left as they were. Walking Street, Sexy Soi 6 and Boyztown (the last of which is for gays and does not merit mention in this book) are still there, but they aren’t getting any bigger. Pattaya is surely diversifying as the sex districts, relative to size, shrink. They can be expected to shrink further as fewer Europeans, Americans and Australians visit Pattaya and the numbers are more than compensated by more sober Chinese and Indian tourists. Pattaya’s future lies in Asia and best not to assume otherwise.
Thai Lottery describes a world that is actually disappearing, admittedly bit by bit. You might think that’s all the more reason to read about it now. You can download Thai Lottery as an e-book – go to Amazon for example for the Kindle version. Or purchase it directly from www.thai-lottery.net. Price of the online version is about £5 or $7.50.