Kathoey Cabaret Night

In my last post I wrote about our spiritual journey to Wat Doi Suthep.  Afterwards, upon our return to Chiang Mai we went to the Riverside Restaurant, a traveler’s institution, for dinner.  Our riverside terrace table was ready for us and having nourished our spirits it was time to feed our bodies.  Ae had chosen a great menu of northern specialties:  chicken satay as a starter, then mixed stir-fried vegetables in oyster sauce, duck in red curry with longan fruit, whole fried snapper with 3-sour sauce, and stir-fried seafood curry served in a coconut.  My contribution was a 3.5 liter “beer bong” for the group.  The food was delicious (of course) and we had a lot of fun.  After dinner, about half the group opted to call it a night.  For the rest, I took them to a Kathoey Cabaret.  Kathoeys, or Ladyboys, are Thailand’s famous, or infamous, subculture.  They are transvestite performers with a time-honored tradition as entertainers.  As westerners we might bring an inbuilt prejudice, expecting some seedy or lascivious performance or even a thinly veiled façade for prostitution. Nothing could be further from the truth.  For those with an open mind the Kathoey clubs provide a fun-filled, slightly risqué evening of energetic entertainment.  At the bigger clubs in Bangkok travelers can spend $50 for a floor show.  Here in Chiang Mai, there is a cabaret bar in the Anusarn open-air market where you can enjoy the show for the price of a drink.  I fully expected the drinks to be marked way up but they were regularly priced.  It would appear that the “girls” who go on stage here do it more from a pure love of performance than to make any money at it.   The costumes were lavish, the choreography smart and professional, and most of the girls were noticeably talented.  And most made very attractive women.  You’d be hard pressed to identify them as males if you didn’t already know.  They lip-synched their way through about an hour of western and Thai dance favorites while strutting their stuff. The waitresses, also Kathoeys, were somewhat less attractive but went about their jobs with irreverent, flirting humor and good spirits.  My group enjoyed them as much as the show.  We had an absolute blast, enjoying a roaring and raucous evening of pure entertainment.  And no one spent more than $10.  Those tour members participating were still laughing and joking for the next couple of days.  It was truly a fun evening and one of those experiences you can only have traveling (at least for less than $10) with an open mind.  What a country!