Bangkok Stories by Kore Kamino
Bangkok is like heaven. It’s crazy, but safe. It’s extravagant, but affordable. It’s Buddhist but Westernised. It has gorgeous girls, but some are men… men? They are called Ladyboys. They look like the most beautiful girls you’ve ever seen perfectly coupled with a wicked, saucy sense of humour! Bangkok is the only place on earth where straight guys fall in love with their own sex. But like everything else in Bangkok, there is often more to it than meets the eye. Meet some of these fascinating creatures here and see how they inspired our collection!
KK: How do you seduce men?
NATT: Oh I stalk them! I try to get their telephone
numbers and then I keep on calling them.
KK: Who is/are the most sexy man/men in the world? NATT: Korean men. Small eyes, fair skin. Yummy!
KK: What are you most proud of? NATT: I have a great family. I have a good job. I make
KK: What’s your job? NATT: I’m a cabaret dancer here in Bangkok. But I used to work in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei too. We were very popular there because Chinese Ladyboys looked like men! (laughs). KK: What do you like the most about your job? NATT: My friends, talking and gossiping together. KK: And the least? NATT: All the fightings and jealousy between the girls. KK: What did you want to be when you grew up? NATT: Oh, I always wanted to be a cabaret dancer. I watched TV as a kid and all I was interested in were the cabaret shows. KK: When did you start to want to be a woman? NATT: As long as I can remember I always felt like a girl, never like a boy. I was ready very early! KK: And your family, what did they think about it? NATT: I am an only child and my father and mother
enough money to support myself and to give some to my family too. KK: What do you fear most? NATT: To grow old alone, without my family and friends. KK: Do you have a boyfriend? NATT: Yes. We’ve been together for 6 years. KK: If you had one last day to live what would you do? NATT: I would spend it with my family. KK: If you could change something in the world what would you change? NATT: No more fighting in Thailand. Love for everybody. KK: Is there anything else you want to add? NATT: People see me as a ladyboy, but I want them to see me as a lady. In China we used to say: “I’m a lady, not a devil” Yes, that’s what they called us there, “devils”! People want to come and see ladyboys shows but actually they are not always very open about us....
spoilt me. I was very lucky because they never felt bad about me wanting to be a girl. KK: Did you get an operation? NATT: Yes I am fully operated! (big smile) 2
Name: Emi Age: 29 From: Bangkok Job: Make-up artist
---------KK: What is your idea of happiness? EMI: My job! I like to make up people, when I do, I feel myself and relaxed. It makes me happy. KK: If not here where would you like to live? EMI: In Japan. I like the food, the mangas. I like their innocence. KK: What do you like most in yourself? EMI: My hair. Everybody loves my hair. KK: And the least? EMI: My shoulders. They are too wide. KK: Why do you think there are so many ladyboys in make-up artist jobs here? EMI: Ladyboys donâ€™t have a lot of job opportunities. But we like beautiful things and we are good at them. Thatâ€™s why you often see us as make-up artists, fashion or jewellery designers, shop assistants... Also people accept us in these jobs, because we can be ourselves and show what we are good at. KK: What do you like most about your job? EMI: Fantasy. It is a big part of it. To make people look beautiful for a special event or for the camera, to trans5
form them or to just make them look bright and fresh. KK: When did you start to want to be a woman? EMI: I was brought up by my mother. I didn’t have a father. I followed my mum everywhere, I did everything like her and I thought I was a girl like her. It’s when I got into high school that I got confused. I had to dress like a boy and wear short hair although deep down I knew I was a girl, not a boy. After high school I found myself again. KK: What did your family think about it? EMI: The first time I dressed as a woman I was 20. In the beginning my brother and my mum didn’t really accept it. But I talked with them a lot, I explained over and over. Then they accepted it. I’ve always been a good girl you know, never created any problems. I think that’s why they were OK with it after all. KK: Did you get an operation? EMI: Yes, I’m operated (smile). I did the top part 3 years ago and the bottom part I got operated on the 29th of June last year. It will be an anniversary soon! Now I’ve got two birthdays in my life! The 15th of January and the 29th of June. KK: Do you want to get more surgery done? EMI: No, I like myself like as I am now. I don’t need to * I was confused,
change anything anymore.
I knew I was a girl,
KK: Do you still feel you’re not accepted sometimes?
not a boy.
EMI: No, not really anymore. Most people accept me. Maybe because I’m more like a woman now? 6
KK: Is Thai society quite open about ladyboys now or it is still difficult? EMI: Now it’s better. But there are still things… like the government doesn’t accept ladyboys for example. If
* I f I feel sad, I prefer to stay by myself
you want to work for them you just can’t. Or like on my passport... it says M, it will never say F. But if we are happy people, society will accept us. Ladyboys don’t make troubles with anybody, mostly they are good people. When they go somewhere they make it colourful. Ladyboys are fun and colourful. We’ve got it inside us! KK: Is there anything else you want to add? EMI: Deep down I want to be perfect. But when I’m not feeling so good I choose not to talk to anybody. Everybody has problems, sometimes big ones,
sometimes small ones. If I feel sad, I prefer to stay by
myself. I don’t want to annoy my friends with all my
From Nong Kai
stories. And there are some people I don’t trust. They
Job Cabaret Dancer.
will gossip about me... Some people don’t like ladyboys. But they forget that
some women are control-freaks and bossy too. I think it just depends on the person… In the end ladyboys are no better than women and women are no better than ladyboys.
KK: What do you like the most about your job? PLOY: The performance. Acting. The public. KK: And the least? PLOY: Nothing. I love everything about it! KK: What did you want to be when you grew up? PLOY: I wanted to have a beauty salon. KK: What do you like the most about yourself?
PLOY: My skin and my body.
KK: And the least?
PLOY: To be a man.
From Buriram, Issan
KK: When did you start to want to be a woman?
PLOY: I never liked women. I never liked girls. I always liked boys!! KK: When did you start to dress up as a woman? PLOY: After high school, around 13. KK: What did your family think about it? PLOY: In the beginning it was unacceptable for my parents, but my friends accepted it. Now my parents are OK. KK: What did you do to make them accept it? PLOY: Well, they saw how bad I wanted to be a girl, dressing in girls clothes, doing everything to be one. In the end they gave in. KK: Did you get an operation? PLOY: Only my boobs so far. That was over a year ago. But I want to get everything operated. I am saving some money. I want to be a pretty lady and I want to show my parents I can do it all by myself, nose, chin, eyes, sex, hips…. I want to be perfect. KK: What are your best tips to seduce a man? PLOY: I take care of him, I look after him as much as possible and then he starts understanding that I like him. KK: What are you most proud of? PLOY: I am proud to just be myself, a human, no ladyboy or girl or man, just myself. 10
---------KK: Tell us about your name? YING: Before I named myself Cherry. But when I came to live in Bangkok I wanted to be lucky. So I named myself after Ploy. She is a very famous Thai actress. I would like to be like her, as sexy as her. KK: What did you want to be when you grew up? YING: Nothing really. I didn’t have any particular thing in mind. I was playing like a boy, extreme games I mean. I had scars all over my body. But when I was on my own, I would play with my doll. And I could see this wasn’t making my parents happy, because I think they knew what I was going to be. But they tried to keep me as a boy, as their son I mean. I was feeling sad for them. But not so long ago they told me: “we are so proud of you”. So I’m very happy now. KK: What do you like most about yourself? YING: I like my smile, I like my eyes. I like my contact with other people. It’s important for my job. KK: And the least? YING: My body (laughs). Of course! I’m trying to be a 11
And I never make them angry, I never upset them. If something makes me sad I never call them to tell them. But when something makes me happy I make sure they know it straight away. KK: Did you have an operation? YING: None. But I would like it though. I want to * I felt so hot inside
change top and bottom. Anything that can make me look like a girl when I’m naked! KK: What’s your best tip to seduce a man? YING: Wow! The last time it happened was a long time ago! Let me think. First I try to get close to him. Then I whisper. I let the music flow. Then a soft touch on the shoulders, like a small massage, and then… KK: What are you most proud of? YING: Well first I never made anything to make my mum sad. I’m very proud of that.
girl, so I don’t like my body as a man!
Then I had little education, but I trained myself to be
KK: What makes you laugh?
a hairdresser. And now I can stand here (note: Ploy
YING: Anything! Anything makes me laugh!
works in a very high-end hair salon in Bangkok). It’s
KK: What makes you angry?
not good enough yet, but I’m proud to be here though.
YING: Lies. People lying.
KK: What would you like to do next?
KK: When did you start to want to be a woman?
YING: Before I wanted to be an actress or a star.
YING: When I was eight, I saw a man, he was so
But not anymore. I act like one in my normal life
handsome, so attractive! I wanted to get close to him.
anyway. I walk on the street like on a runway.
I don’t know how to explain! I wanted to touch him. I
I have music in my ears, thinking I’m a super model.
felt so hot inside, it’s strange! I was so young!
Whenever I pass a mirror I imagine it’s a camera!
KK: Finally your family accepted you the way you are?
YING: Yes, because I take very good care of myself. 12
KK: What do you fear most? 13
YING: Umm, many things. I fear losing my parents. I
fear getting disappointed. When I try to do something
and I don’t succeed I get very disappointed. When
my dreams fall in pieces. I’m a perfectionist. KK: If you could invent anything what would you do?
YING: I’d love to open a school for the countryside children and give them a chance to learn English. It’s so important and they don’t get the opportunity to learn it at all. KK: If you only had one day left to live what would you do? YING: I would spend the whole day with my parents. That’s it. KK: What is your favourite colour? YING: Purple. KK: What is your idea of fun? YING: A dinner party at my house with many friends. Cooking for them Issan food and having lots of fun. KK: Do you think life is beautiful? YING: No! I never found that life was beautiful! I fight with my life everyday! Having to be at work on time, late buses, annoying customers who I want to punch! (laughs)
KK: What’s your job? NUI: I’m a cabaret dancer. I started right after school, when I was 18. KK: What do you like most about your job? NUI: The moment on stage. I like to act, to look beautiful in my costume and to make a good performance so people can see I can act well. KK: And the least? NUI: The fact that I won’t be able to do this job as I get old. You need to have a young and beautiful body to be a cabaret dancer. KK: What did you want to be when you grew up? NUI: Oh! I wanted to have a beauty salon! It’s still my dream. KK: What do you like most in yourself? NUI: I like my hair and I like my eyes. KK: And the least? NUI:My virility! KK: What makes you laugh? NUI: Comedies. Funny movies. KK: What makes you cry? NUI: Men! They break my heart!
KK: When did you know you wanted to become a woman?
KK: Why is life beautiful?
NUI: From as long as I can remember I wanted to be a girl.
NUI: Life is beautiful because I’m a woman!
KK: When did you start to dress up as one?
KK: Is there anything else you want to add?
NUI: When I finished high school. At 18. In school you
NUI: If you are not born in the right body it is OK to
are not allowed, you have to wear a uniform
choose another one.
KK: What did your family think about it? NUI: My father accepted it but my mother and sister didn’t. But now it’s better. When they saw I could get a job, make some money and support myself they accepted it. KK: Did you have an operation? NUI: Just the top part. The bottom part I didn’t. When I was younger I wanted to have it operated. But now I’m ok with it, I don’t need an operation anymore.
Name Paris Age 23 From Bangkok
KK: Do you want any other surgery? NUI: My nose! I operated it already but I want
to operate it again. I want a European style nose like yours.
KK: Tell us about your name.
KK: What’s your best tip to seduce a man?
PARIS: My name is Phatinya Boonkien and my
NUI: Eye contact?
nickname is Paris. Before it was Nong - which means
KK: What do you fear the most?
little brother - as I was the last one of the family.
NUI: To be disappointed. By everything. In general.
But 5 years ago I changed to Paris. Because of Paris
KK: What’s your favourite colour?
Hilton. She is my idol.
KK: What’s your job?
KK: If you had only one day left to live what would
PARIS: Right now I’m not working, well I help my mum
with her laundry business. And I am working on my
NUI: I would meet with my family, my friends, my
plan…. to make myself fit, skinny and beautiful to
boyfriend and I would drink and dance with them.
become a model. That’s my dream.
Everyone says itâ€™s impossible for a ladyboy, or shemale, or transsexual but I donâ€™t believe it. Lea T, the Brazilian model, inspires me a lot. I think I have everything to be like her, I can do it. KK: What did you want to be when you grew up? PARIS: I wanted to be a teacher, an English teacher. My sister started teaching me English when I was 3. Then I studied hospitality and I wanted to go study in Switzerlandâ€Ś. Well I had a lot of dreams! Also I wanted to be an air hostess, but you had to be a woman to do that then - I think today there are some airlines in Thailand that accept ladyboys air hostesses, but back then it was impossible. Anyway, after that I finally started studying fashion, because I want to become a model. At the same time I was working in a restaurant/bar too. I like 18
* I have everything to be like her, I can do it.
service jobs because you’re in contact with people,
badminton. Like the boys. I was not wearing special
you get into conversations with strange or interesting
girls clothes either. I was not interested. I would wear
characters. I was seeing many people there, first before
a t-shirt and shorts, not all that girly bullshit stuff. But
they drank and once they were drunk! When they
now I am into maxi dresses, I feel like changing style.
were drunk they would show their real personality.
KK: What did your family think about it? PARIS: They were mostly happy. My brother was a bit against it. But my mum and dad were OK. I think my brother still feels a bit strange about me but I don’t
* I think ladyboys should be proud to be ladyboys
care. I care about what my mum and dad think. KK: What is it to be a woman according to you? PARIS: I don’t know. I mean many ladyboys want to use Miss in front of their name but I’m very proud to use Mister. I think ladyboys should be proud to be ladyboys. I don’t want to hide myself to be a woman, have long hair like women do… 3 years ago I had short hair because I wanted to be different from all the other ladyboys. Now I need to grow it because
KK: When did you know you wanted to be a woman? PARIS: It was during high school, that’s when I started taking hormones and knowing many friends like me. I researched a lot about being a ladyboy on the internet, I absorbed a lot at that time. But when I was younger, I had many “100% boys” friends who would protect me like if I were a girl. When we played football, they would send me to be a goal keeper, never in the front or middle... I never played Barbie or that kind of things. I’m not like that. I played football, or basketball or 20
of the modelling I want to do, but it doesn’t change what I think. KK: Did you get an operation? Which one? PARIS: No, no yet. But I will. Not the breast though, but I will change my sex yes. At the moment I am thinking about how to lose weight, that’s my priority. KK: What’s your best tip to seduce a man? PARIS: Well, I have a boyfriend already. But I didn’t get to seduce him so much when we first met. He’s not handsome, he doesn’t have a good body, he’s pretty chubby, but he’s really lovely. He’s a bit like 21
the Pooh bear (laughs). KK: The sexiest man in the world according to you? PARIS: Keanu Reeves. I find him so sexy! I love his face, his eyes, his body... KK: What do you like most about yourself? PARIS: My kindness I think. When I feel bad or sad, normally it just lasts one minute, and then I pull myself together again. I’m proud of it because I have many opportunities to feel crap or sad. Being a ladyboy in Thailand is very difficult for many things. There are a lot of disappointments that come with it. KK: And the least? PARIS: Laziness? Sometimes I can exercise like crazy for 3 weeks and then I stop and sleep and eat… KK: Why do you think it’s difficult to be a ladyboy in Thailand?
* Be what you
PARIS: It’s not an open country like America or the U.K.
want to be
I don’t know why. It’s difficult for government jobs, for managing jobs… you just can’t, if you’re a ladyboy. KK: If you only had one day left to live what would you do? PARIS: Stay with my family. And my boyfriend. If we are still together. Because I don’t believe in love
I find it relaxing to watch it… to have a bite and then
forever. I make the best of every day.
go back home. I quite like to stay at home too, it’s
KK: Your favourite colours?
a habit I kept from when I was younger, staying at
PARIS: Black. It’s a colour forever.
home with my parents, listening to the radio.
KK: What do you do when you go out to have fun?
KK: If you could change the world what would you do?
PARIS: Shopping. Also I go to the river, the Chao Praya,
PARIS: I wouldn’t change anything. This is nature. I
think it’s a very suitable world. Even if I had magical powers I wouldn’t change anything. Everything in the world teaches me to be strong, to go forward, it teaches me very important lessons all the time. KK: What makes you laugh? PARIS: My boyfriend. KK: What makes you angry? PARIS: Nothing really. I don’t often get angry. I think anger is not good for you. It’s bullshit, when it happens I throw it away. KK: Why is life beautiful? PARIS: Life is beautiful and very important. I believe in Buddhism. When you are born as a human you have many opportunities to do things. And I feel very lucky to have a healthy body, with no limbs missing or anything. KK: Is there anything else you want to add? PARIS: I want societies to open up about ladyboys. And if you have a dream you should do it, don’t walk away from it. Believe in yourself, love yourself and go for it! Be what you want to be.
©Kore Kamino 2012 24
Published on Oct 8, 2013
This book is a journey in the daily lives of these boys who decided to change their bodies and become the most beautiful ladies of Bangkok:...