So you’ve landed in Thailand and you’re ready to explore all the country has to offer – from the sacred sites of Sukhothai to the powdery beaches of Koh Lanta and everything in between. There is, of course, a lot to be seen in the Southeast Asian kingdom and you wouldn’t be the first visitor struggling to figure out what they can afford to miss.
One thing that should be on every LGBT+ traveller’s list (and we speak from experience here) is a Thai cabaret. Don’t think you need to see Thailand’s famous ladyboys? Here are four reasons to change your mind!
The queer culture aspect
‘Kathoeys’, as they are known locally, have always enjoyed representation in the art of cabaret and this involvement has opened many doors for them over the years –ladyboys made it onto Thailand’s big screen as early as during the 1980s. Back on smaller stages, you’ll find that cabaret shows are one of the most immersive (and entertaining!) ways to engage with Thai history through the centuries. Lean back and be amazed by the elaborate performances depicting the country’s traditions from martial arts to music making. This truly is a glimpse into the local culture, with the occasional departure for something more international… You’ll see what we mean when they do a Cher tribute performance.
The extravagant costumes
Enjoy the flamboyant outfits of Drag Race Thailand? We thought so. There is, of course, a whole cosmos of camp design and any decent cabaret doubles as a voyage into it. The Burlesque-inspired costumes worn by the performers are so intricate and over the top, we’ve sometimes found ourselves wishing for the ladies to stand still, so we could have a closer look! From ball gowns to leotards and angel wings, every look is bedazzled and comes with sequins, feathers and diamantes. Then, there’s the glamorous make-up and exaggerated hair – no one knows how much of it is real – you better hold on to your wig!
The entertainment factor
There’s no shortage of fun experiences in Thailand, but a cabaret might just be the most joyous sixty minutes anyone could spend in the country. In fact, visitors are often not prepared for the actual magnitude of modern-day cabarets: some shows feature 4D effects, pyrotechnics, artificial rain and the kind of stunts usually reserved for Hollywood! Others again are seriously funny and pay tribute to the LGBT+ community’s favourite artists. The wonderful troop at Bangkok-based Calypso cabaret do a fabulous Marilyn Monroe bit as well as a ‘flawless’ rendition of Beyoncé. Pair that with lasers, clouds of glitter and magical tricks – it doesn’t get fiercer than this!
You’d be hard-pressed to name a more fun way to start a night out than a cabaret and many show-goers head straight to nearby bars and clubs when the curtain falls. It’s no coincidence that many of Thailand’s most popular cabarets are within the vicinity of its best nightlife – take Phuket’s Simon Cabaret, for instance. Located a short walk off Patong beach, the venue practically watches its visitors walk off its properties and into the area’s many LGBT+ establishments! We’ve had some of our most memorable nights in Thailand after seeing a cabaret… There’s just something celebratory in the air (wigs, feathers and overall gloriousness) that’s purely infectious!
Photography courtesy of Calypso Cabaret (www.calypsocabaret.com)