Sunday, March 31, 2013

Oh, Lady Boys

We left Pai with a plan to spend one night in Chiang Mai before moving on to our next adventure. We have to be in Singburi, a small town north of Bangkok, on the 28th, and we wanted to leave plenty of time to figure out how that was going to happen once we got to Chiang Mai.

On the crazy curvy bus from Pai, we met a couple from Australia who was just finishing their travels and headed back to Bangkok to go home. We swapped travel stories for a while, and they asked if we had seen the lady boys show yet. No, we had missed it! So they gave us directions and told us to look for the brilliantly colored head dresses that the stars would be wearing. They also told us to feel free to ask for directions, but to be warned that anyone we asked would laugh at us.

They were right! We made it to the night markets, knowing that the “Cabaret” was somewhere nearby, but we were turned around after getting dropped off by a tuk tuk driver. I decided to be brave and ask the first idle local we passed. Sure enough, we got laughed at, but we did get pointed in the right direction.

We still had about an hour before the show started, so we wandered back and forth among the markets, stopping to watch the silversmiths and fish therapy tanks. They were both captivating, but the fish were so intriguing. People would sit on benches with their feet dangling in a fish tank, and the fish would nibble at their feet. The locals would calmly sit there while typing on their smart phone, while the tourists would giggle and squirm and take photos. It was quite a sight.

Once we were tired of walking, we headed toward the show’s bar. Entry for the lady boys show is free, but there is a one drink minimum. A rather large man/woman sat us at a table near the stage and took our orders. For two beers and a bottle of water, we paid about 300 baht ($10). That’s ridiculously expensive for drinks, but a pretty fair price for a good show, so we sipped slowly and waited for the lights to go out.

I have to mention here that TJ was incredibly uncomfortable so far. We agreed that the muay thai fights were far out of my comfort zone, so this was him repaying the favor. As the audience trickled in, though, we started to realize what a tourist show this was. Seated next to us was an elderly couple, behind us was a group of friends, some of them clearly as uncomfortable as TJ, and in front of us was a gay couple that the waitresses (?) fawned over. Obviously, this show was meant for all kinds of people. We even watched someone’s grandmother get up and dance with a waitress.

This is TJ's excited face.

The show started with a flourish, with dancers dressed in bright colors and feathers. Each song featured a lead who lip-synced to every word of the song while everyone danced around the stage.

Some of the acts were very clever, like one where the singer changed from a woman to a man onstage, even removing his make-up and changing clothes. In another act, the star was a person dressed as half man and half woman. Depending on which voice was singing, he turned to show us one side or the other. It was very impressive!

At the end of the show, the cast sang happy birthday to a man in the back of the audience, and we headed for the door, waving goodbye to all the dancers that were gathering at the exit. What a show!