When I started researching all the books that had been written about the City of Angels, one thing was certain: there are a hell of a lot of books about sex in Bangkok.
And that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Bangkok is a sexy city.
Aside from the visible face of prostitution here, there’s no doubt that this is a city of beautiful people.
There are lots of young people making their way here, and the Thai standard of beauty is legendary the world over.
Scores of young tourists flock here too, as well as their willing and moneyed older counterparts.
People come to Bangkok to find love — and inevitably become entangled in the web of sex the city has to offer.
And then they write about it.
I can’t speak to the quality of these writings, but it’s likely that a few readers will find merit in some of these books. I’ve chosen those with at least a few positive reviews.
They’re a mix of sexual odyssey travel guides, memoirs and the occasional novel.
Books about Sex in Bangkok
Private Dancer is one of the most legendary books about the perils of falling in love with a Thai bar girl, and is often cited as a must-read for the gullible, vulnerable men that find themselves in Thailand’s red light district looking for love.
It’s a novel that follows Pete, who one day finds himself falling head over heels for the beautiful Joy — a pole dancer in a Bangkok go-go bar.
It becomes clear that Joy is not all that she seems as Pete falls deeper and deeper in the web of sex, drugs and deceit she has spun for them both.
Undoubtedly an enjoyable and eye-opening read — especially for those with any intimate acquaintance of the Bangkok bar scene!
This is the first book from former blogger Crazy Horse, which documents his various exploits (and sexploits) over a year period in Bangkok city.
He followed this book up with Into the Night Life — a seemingly similar romp scattered across the wider Southeast Asia.
Lauded as the book that “every dissatisfied man in a western country should read”, it’s clear that A Year in the ‘Kok is literary escapism for the generation of ‘trapped’ men as the author truly sets himself free in the Bangkok night.
Reviews are mixed — some find it repetitive, opinionated and too liberal with the ‘c’ word, while others find it an empowering read and well written.
Emblazoned with a nude Thai girl across the cover, Street promises to help his readers “travel Thailand like you really want to.”
It covers where to stay in the city, staying safe with both working and non-working girls, getting the most — er — bang for your buck, and navigating the online dating scene here.
The universally positive reviews might give you pause for thought — particularly the two by Stacy and Ruth. Stacy is apparently travelling to Bangkok with her husband and gained plenty of useful information from this book. I assume we can conclude that Stacy and her husband are open to finding women for sex in Bangkok.
Ruth, meanwhile, used the book as a guide during her walking tour of the city. Good for you, Ruth!
With a strapline proclaiming “the real-life exploits of Bangkok’s legendary expatriates are often stranger than fiction”, Bangkok Babylon isn’t so much a book about sex in Bangkok but rather a collection of profiles of 25 of the city’s most interesting expat characters.
These include a photographer of Thai bar girls for Playboy, the model for Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, and three Vietnam vets who opened a go-go bar.
Hopkins is a bestselling author and a brilliant observer on all things Thailand (and more).
I haven’t read this yet, but it’s definitely on my Bangkok books hit list.
Bangkok Buckaroo is a detective thriller in the Bangkok noir genre. I’ve included it in this list as the main hotspot of the action is none other than Soi Cowboy — one of Bangkok’s most notorious (and neon) red light districts.
The protagonist is Texan Joe DiMaggio (the author isn’t too light on cliches, apparently…), in a reference to how Soi Cowboy got it’s name in the first place.
Expect a few murders between the pages on this little neon-lit street.
Reviews are positive; applauding the writer for avoiding the usual broken bar girl cliches and creating a world of interesting characters in this fascinating city.
Bua Boonmee & Nicola Pierce
This memoir comes from the other side of the table: the Thai girls who accept money for sex.
We follow the true story of Bua and how she became a bar girl in Bangkok, after growing up in Isaan, before moving to Bangkok, being forced into an abusive marriage, moving into the hostess world and finally being recruited into a Patpong go-go bar.
It’s an eye-opening read and a humbling one. Many western men talk fondly of Bangkok’s prostitution scene, without paying too much consideration to the lives and back stories of the girls that are the face of it.
The author readily admits that the title is somewhat of an exaggeration, claiming that “the book is not the assassination job that the headline may suggest.”
Instead, this book contains interviews with people working in the Thai sex trade and is designed to be a guide to making Thailand your ‘man heaven’ versus failing to take the author’s advice and entering, er, ‘man hell’.
The main focus is seemingly how not to get ripped off while indulging in the Bangkok night scene and how not to fall for the apparent illusion presented by Thai sex workers.
The premise of the book and reading the Amazon reviews of it makes for relatively depressing reading — the idea that everyone is out to get you.
While I’m sure that’s true for some in the sex trade, it feels damaging to tar the whole of Thailand with that brush.
Charles F Chicarelli
Turning to something a little lighter, A Bangkok Vacation… is a comedy novel that follows the hapless Danny as he arrives in Bangkok, bouncing from the mile high club to massage parlours to the politics of the mia noi and, of course, sprawling around Soi Cowboy and the Khao San Road.
The book was inspired by Chicarelli’s own experiences as an expat who’s spent 40 years in Asia.
It’s well reviewed on Amazon with readers commending the light tone, realism and lack of explicit sex and violence that so often characterizes novels set in Bangkok. One reviewer memorably nicknamed it “Ferris Bueller’s Month Off”.
Dressed up as a romance novel between a western tourist and a Thai ladyboy, it’s probably accurate to say that Bonnie drew on his own experiences to write Bangkok Baby, given that he was the star of Sky Living’s Ladyboys series back in 2012.
Through its story-telling, the book asks ‘how far would you go?’ if you were in the shoes of the protagonist, and appears to have chimed with a lot of readers who have experience of going far into the world of Thailand’s ladyboys.
What’s your favourite book about sex in Bangkok?
Featured image is by Paul Sullivan (CC BY-ND 2.0 licence)