Aussie Sex Tourists: IT’S a warm Monday evening, and somewhere in southeast Asia an Australian man is about to enter a bar filled with beautiful young women.

Dan isn’t ashamed to say that he’s spent a lot of time in karaoke bars and red light districts around Thailand. After all, he’s just one of many Western men doing the same thing.

But while Dan could be your average Australian sex tourist there’s one thing that sets him apart; he’s actually an undercover rescue worker, searching for underage girls and trafficking victims.

“It’s a rough industry,” he admits, as we talk of the girls he has seen rescued and the men who travel to Thailand to purchase them.

While the exact figures vary, research has shown Australian men to be among the largest contributors to sex tourism in southeast Asia, with cities such as Pattaya becoming a “home away from home” for an increasing number of Australian retirees.

However, despite being surrounded by beautiful beaches, cheap dining and endless sex, Dan says that many of the Western sex tourists he meets still feel like “something is missing”.

“These men who’ve moved to Thailand, moved to Pattaya, moved to Bangkok, they’ve all got the same story,” he says, sharing with me about the sex tourists and expats he’s gotten to know over the years.

“They think coming to Thailand for sex is going to fill a void in their lives, so they pursue this dream — and then they realise that the lifestyle they’ve chosen is empty and meaningless.”

Dan and journalist Jas Rawlinson preparing to walk into one of Bangkok’s red light districts. Picture: Jas Rawlinson
Dan and journalist Jas Rawlinson preparing to walk into one of Bangkok’s red light districts.
Over the years Dan has spent time talking to many western sex tourists, many of whom — he says — seem to share a hauntingly universal story of broken relationships and regrets.

“[At first] they say, ‘I get sex whenever I want, it’s great!’ But when you go a little bit deeper they always talk about their broken relationships, and how [their marriage was] the only one time that they felt true intimacy and love; that they could truly trust somebody,” he reveals.

In particular, Dan remembers an Australian man who threw away his relationship back home to follow a lifestyle of freedom and pleasure in Thailand; a decision the man admitted was the ‘biggest regret of his life.’

“He tried everything [to fill the void],” says Dan. “Sex with young girls, sex with ladyboys, everything. And then one day he got to a point where he was like, ‘what’s next? What’s left to try?’

“I was sitting next to him, and out on the street in front of us were deaf girls, prostituting. He said: ‘Hmm, deaf girls. Do you think they might be a good root?’

The balconies of Nana Plaza one of Bangkok’s red light districts, where men visit to fulfil their every desire. Picture: Jas Rawlinson
The balconies of Nana Plaza one of Bangkok’s red light districts, where men visit to fulfil their every desire.