As you make your way into Patpong Night Market, located just off busy Silom Road in the heart of Bangkok, you'll feel overwhelmed by the sheer selection of (mostly-fake) goods being sold being sold there, from Havaianas Flip-Flops to "Rolex" watches, from designer handbags to electronic gadgets.
Within a few minutes of arriving, however, an older Thai man will walk toward you and mutter three words.
"Ping Pong Show?" (This is particularly likely if you are male or with men).
You don't need a whole lot of imagination to realize what's he's talking about: A "Ping Pong Show" involves a young woman, a ping pong ball and, well...
Indeed, the ping pong show itself is usually a front for something much shadier.
How Much Does a Show Cost?
If you follow the older Thai man who invites you into the ping pong show, you might be under the impression that a ping pong show is free. "No cover charge," he'll probably say, "and cheap drinks – only 100 baht."
To be sure, you'll breeze into the venue, where you will initially find yourself pleased by how beautiful, young and friendly the girls are. In most cases, however, the tables will soon turn.
Why Are They a Scam?
It's never good to judge a book by its cover, but the longer you sit inside the ping pong show, the more you'll notice cracks in the façade you initially saw.
The girls who actually perform the dirty deed are usually not as young, good-looking or, frankly, female (Thailand is home to the Kathoey, or third-gender), to say nothing of their skills.
But the real scam comes when you receive your bill. You see, while you indeed won't have to pay anything to enter the bar or club, and the drinks you enjoy might indeed cost around 100 THB a piece, what the old man who invited you into the show didn't tell you is that you are expected to buy drinks for the girl(s) who perform for you, which usually doubles or even triples your bill.
The real kicker, however, is the so-called "Looking" fee, which can range from 3,000 baht to 6,000 baht or even more – that's $100-200+ based on today's exchange rates.
Are Ping Pong Shows Only in Bangkok?
If, for some reason, you still want to see a ping pong show in Thailand (and let's face it, there's really only one reason to want to see one), you needn't head to Patpong Night Market to do so, although that's where you'll find the greatest quantity of performances available.
The unfortunate news is that while ping pong shows are available in other parts of Bangkok and Thailand (namely Phuket), they remain a scam regardless of where you see them. If anything, the scam is a more real threat outside of Bangkok, where you might actually have some recourse in the wake of getting scammed.