I can still remember the first ladyboy I saw in Thailand. She was beautiful. Her black hair was silky smooth, not a strand out of place. Her makeup was flawless, complete with the perfect winged eye liner that I can never manage get just right. A form fitting white dress hugged her curves and she rocked her high heels with confidence.
It was hard to believe that “she” was actually a he.
Even now, after seeing dozens of ladyboys, they continue to fascinatr me. These beautiful creatures are far more graceful than I could ever be. Prowling the streets at night with their swaying hips, perfect pink pouts, and come hither eyes.
I loved watching them interact with the men; some of whom were clearly uncomfortable and some of whom either didn’t care or were obviously fooled. I couldn’t blame them though, some of these ‘women’ were drop dead gorgeous.
However, despite the stigmas surrounding ladyboys, they are not all prositutes or sex workers out to trick tourists. Ladyboys are transgender or transvestite individuals who are commonly found in several southeast Asian countries including Thailand. These individuals work in beauty salons, shops, restaurants, and in tourist enterainment including ladyboy shows.
While ladyboy shows exist in major cities across Thailand, I didn’t actually go to one until I visited Chiang Mai. Going to a ladyboy show was something I really wanted to do, and according to others I met along the way, the ladyboy show in Chiang Mai was one of the best in the country. At the time, many fellow bloggers and freelancers were living in the area and it didn’t take much convincing to get a group together for a night out.
The ladyboy show in Chiang Mai is at the Anusarn Market, part of Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar outside of the Old City walls. The market is big, but these Thai ladyboys are easy to spot; their sparkles, feathers, and ball gowns stand out among stalls of knicknacks, clothes, and souvenirs.
I smiled as we approached them asking where to get our tickets. They pointed us further down the market and to the right. We thanked them and as I turned to walk past one of them cheekily grabbed my butt. I couldn’t help but laugh at that; after watching so many ladyboys flirt with men, it was definitely unexpected!
We found where to get our tickets, bought them, then walked around a bit before going in about 20 minutes early to get good seats. One ladyboy was quick to seat us, bring us each a beer, and playfully ask if we had something a little extra for her. She shamelessly pulled down the top of her red dress, exposing everything inside including the few baht she already had tucked away. We added to her collection and she smiled at us, leaving us to enjoy the show. Our group had a table in the front, with the boys in prime seating to get some extra attention- and wow, did they ever.
The next couple hours at the Chiang Mai ladyboy show were incredible. Between the costumes and the dancing we were laughing and singing along. An especially raunchy version of Lady Marmalade (see the video here) had us in hysterics as the boys of our group got facefulls of well, boobs. Two acts later, the entire room was belting out “Proud Mary” as Tina Turner re-incarnate rocked the stage. But, it wasn’t all laughs, an especially moving number showcasing the hardships of Thai ladyboys succeeded in pulling all of our heartstrings, resulting in a well-deserved standing ovation. I loved the entire show, and found it to be over far too quickly.
For me, the ladyboy show in Chiang Mai wasn’t just a highlight of my trip to Thailand, but also one of the best shows I have ever seen. In fact, I loved it so much that I went back again the next year, once again convincing other travellers to join me. I was pleased to note that the show had changed since my last visit, to accomodate new songs and acts, but the performances were just as good.
I highly recommend the Chiang Mai ladyboy show to anyone travelling to this part of Thailand. Not only does it promise to be a fun and safe night out, but it also encourages positive ladyboy tourism. These individuals don’t always have easy lives and the support the recieve allow them to continue on their journey to live the life they want.
Thing to Know about the Chiang Mai Ladyboy Show
-This is a safe, fun night out! You won’t get scammed but prepare for some good-natured flirting and they do ask for (and even expect) a small tip for bringing you the drinks
-Tickets are 350 baht/ person and include a drink of your choice in the price.
-There is a Happy Hour during the half-way point of the show, so if you want to stock up on drinks, this is the time!
-Go early, it’s not a big venue and it fills up quickly.
-Photography is allowed during the show
-You can take photos with the performers at the end of the show outside, but they do ask for a tip in return. The amount is up to you. (I really wanted a group shot and gave them 100 baht for it which seemed to go over well).
*This post was updated March 2018 to reflect price changes