Other than being a famous tourist attraction for its faboulous beaches and exotic islands, Thailand is also a famous tourist destination for its sex trade. In Thailand, even though it is illegal, sex is the largest of the underground businesses winning out over drug trafficking, arms trading, contraband in diesel oil, trafficking in human labour and gambling. It accounts to up to 14% of the gross domestic preoduct (GDP). Sex tourists come to Thailand from all corners of the globe. What makes Thai sex so attractive to foreigner is the availability of child prostitution. The demand for child prostitutes from both Thai men and foreigners, including tourists, is high. Western European men are among the most numerous sex tourists in Bangkok and Chonburi (a province with beach resorts).
There is a marked difference between the Western conception of prostitution, and the open-ended prostitution in Patpong or Pattaya. Because in the West, you see prostitution as an occupation. You go to them directly and then you strike a deal, and then you go straight to business
But in Thailand, the girls don't usually talk about the price at first. They would try to establish rapport first. Thai girls themselves are prepared to extend their relationship for a number of days or weeks or even years. Sometimes the farang (foreigner usually from West) himself ends up spending the entire vacation with one girl and sometimes he comes back. Sometimes she becomes his mistress or even a wife.
I think in most cases, the girls enter into the relationship from a strictly financial motivation. The girl will attach herself to a client or a farang more permanently if she finds the relationship enjoyable.
Once the relationship is extended, the girls' involvement with the farang often gradually changes. Her stay with the man is usually conditioned upon his readiness to support her or to take care of her financially. The line between money and love becomes very fuzzy, because the money itself cannot be distinguished between signs of affection, tender caring and love itself. Mutual or material dependence frequently engenders some sort of an emotional attachment on the part of the girl herself.
So, what starts out as a money-orientated transactional arrangement becomes a mixed involvement, a more complicated relationship. In extreme cases it becomes even possible that the attachment comes from pure emotion. It somehow gradually detaches itself from the material aspects or the money. And in prolonged cases, open-ended prostitution can be characterized as an ambiguous compliment of love and money.
When sex tourists come to Thailand, they are struck with, first, not hard-core prostitution, not a deal, not the thing that they're accustomed to in the West, at home. But they are struck with girls who are all over them, who are trying to establish a relationship, and display physical attraction to them -- which I think would be very confusing to a man in that position when they are not accustomed to receiving that kind of play.
So when the girls stage sexual interest or attraction to the farang, sometimes she may praise his good looks. In some case, who knows, the feeling may be genuine. And there is no talk about money in the first place. They will talk about his background, what kind of job he has, why he's here, if he has a family or not, something like that. Remuneration is never presented as a payment but rather as a reimbursement for lost income from the bar. It's always this trick that confuses the newcomer into this world.
The farang's sense of the world, his cognitive map, is thrown into chaos because he cannot make sense of what is going on in this deal. He cannot apply his concept of prostitution to the Thai situation. And he somehow would feel very uncertain whether a girl is with him for love or for money.
Some farangs try to convert the girl, try to rescue her from this hell hole and give her a chance to recover her own dignity, in a Western concept. This problem of meaning will continue to bother him for many years to come. He is in a kind of a dilemma. If he decides the girl is not a prostitute, and she continues to stay with him because she likes him, he wonders what makes him so attractive in the first place because at home, he usually never could find a girl, could not get a date, is shunned by the girls back home.