Talent! In Thailand you’ll probably see more trans men and women and drag queens than anywhere else in the world. But don’t expect to see muscled men with hairy chests and 3 day growths stumbling around in tight dresses and heels – Thai transgender men are often incredibly beautiful women. Many an unsuspecting foreigner has fallen for their charms. Plus, many have made their way to the stage where they can display their huge talents.
For the lucky LGBT tourist there are plenty of places to witness these girls in their full splendor. Life is a cabaret of fun…and I love a cabaret. Here are a few options to provide you with some entertainment and inspiration (no need to say that many of these girls have overcome challenging obstacles).
In Bangkok, Calypso Cabaret has been running for over 25 years and is one of the oldest cabaret shows in Thailand. You’ll be treated to a glamorous performance by some beautiful guys and gals, my favorite being Marilyn and the Burlesque tribute. It’s located in the trendy new Asiatique complex on the river – full of restaurants, bars and a wonderful night market (over 1,500 stalls!). Calypso also has a Thai restaurant attached to the theatre and offers a nice dinner and show package.
Another Bangkok option is Playhouse Cabaret (located at the Ratchadevi BTS station) which mixes ladyboy performances with standard dance and some comedy. If you just can’t get enough cabaret, you can also check out the Golden Dome and Mambo cabaret shows whilst in Bangkok.
Further afield, Tiffany Cabaret in Pattaya launched in 1974, making her the grand dame of Thai cabaret. Tiffany has grown into a true spectacular and has even been rated by Travelcom magazine as the 4th best show to see around the world. With sensational sets and lighting, dazzling costumes and dance, and beautiful girls, I was totally wowed by the performance which showcased cultures from around the Asian region.
In addition, each November Tiffany hosts the most well-known transvestite beauty contest in the world, Miss International Queen. The event provides opportunities for the worldwide trans population to be ambassadors for their country and help fight for equality and the right to be who they are and live how they want (and be treated accordingly by society). This year the pageant is scheduled for November 1 – if you’re a fan of beauty pageants, here’s the chance to attend a very special event.
You can also find cabaret shows in every major tourist destination around the country – in Chiang Mai (Simon Cabaret and Blue Moon Cabaret), Phuket (Simon Cabaret and Aphrodite Cabaret) and Koh Samui (Starz Cabaret and Moulin Rouge).
For those who would like a taste of cabaret without the full show, every evening the famous Bangkok gay nightclub, DJ Station, has a short performance. It always comes with more than a few laughs.
Although many Thai trans continue to face problems being accepted within their family unit, they are well and truly entrenched in Thai society and popular culture with transgender appearing in almost every TV drama, concert and beauty pageant. You’ll find them everywhere, even in competitive sports such as volleyball and Thai Boxing (the movie Beautiful Boxer is based on the true story of a Thai transgender boxing champion). And if you yourself are thinking of gender reassignment, Thailand is a world leader in these procedures (see our previous blog on medical tourism).
Thailand welcomes the LGBT community. Enjoy being treated as an equal while experiencing one of the most beautiful countries in the world in Amazing Thailand.
Here’s an interesting photo essay of what goes on backstage at Tiffany and Alcazar Cabaret in Pattaya.