Thursday, March 05, 2009

March 1, 2009 - Patong, Phuket, Thailand

I do love a party town, and Patong is Phuket's party town. It is touristy and tacky and I love it. Just as one can't really experience Bali without an evening in Kuta, one can't really have been to Phuket without a night in Patong. It isn't quite "one night in Bangkok," but it is as close as we were going to get on this trip to Thailand.

So many of the cultures that we have encountered these past two years have embraced transgendered individuals. The mahus in Tahiti are perhaps the most well known example on the cruising route. Mahus are anatomically male, but are raised as females because their families determine that they need a girl to do tasks that their culture (and ours) define as girl-stuff - housework, caring for siblings or an elderly relative. We met many mahus working as shopgirls and as waitresses. They were still all man, physically, but they knew how to wield an eyeliner pencil to great effect.

In Thailand, the katoeys, or ladyboys as they are known to most farang (westerners), have gone way beyond eyeliner. Thailand leads the world in gender reassignment surgery. Katoeys work in all industries, but the tourist is most likely to encounter them working in bars. Along Bangla Road in Patong we saw some of the most fantastically beautiful human beings we've ever seen.

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