"As someone who has always enjoyed the sport of 'People Watching', I quickly found Bangkok and specifically Nana one of the finest places in the world to partake. Nothing over the last 15 years has diminished the fascination this hobby exudes. Soi Cowboy is just too loud and bright and busy for me to get any good quality 'research' done. I have a favourite side soi of Sukhumvit Soi 4, usually relatively quiet and with a good watch on a number of short-time hotels. Occasionally you get the added joy of an innocent holiday maker checking into a hotel on the soi. I have identified many different personality types, but I'll outline some of the most common:
The Old Timer
The Old Timer, may or may not actually be old but he is relaxed and at ease with what is going on. He doesn't care what anyone thinks. He is under no illusions, if you chat with him he will happily tell you that he has just purchased a bar-girl for a quickie. He'll walk in with his girl laid back and they will usually leave together. You may even see them look quite friendly, on occasion they may even have a night-cap together, so to speak.
One of the most enjoyable punters to observe. This chap doesn't want anyone to know what he is doing, he feels utterly ashamed at his actions. He's wondering what his dear old mum would think if she saw him. So he will walk slowly either 3 feet in front of or behind his lady. He will try to look like he is innocently wandering down this sub soi (perhaps just looking for a 7-11?) and then he will make a sudden dash into a short-time hotel. He will awkwardly stand and let his 'friend' sort out the details. He will always leave either before of after. You'll never see him leave with his friend. Try to catch his eye and grin as he walks out, and this will add to his shame.
The Delusional youngster
The delusional youngster tends to be aged below 35, and will want you to think he is out with his girlfriend or an old friend, perhaps work colleagues on a drink out? He'll be laughing loudly at something, he might have his arm around her at times. He'll be trying to make it really clear to anyone watching that there is nothing unusual going on. Some of them do actually believe they are different from the other punters. "You see there's a difference between fat falang and someone like me. With me, the girls are actually attracted and may want to date me." Words I've made up? Nope that's a direct quote from a delusional chap I spoke with once!
The morally outraged
The morally outraged may be the best of them all. He will be utterly appalled at what goes on in Nana. He will speak quite vocally about the exploitation and how wrong it is. He will proudly lecture you about his fine feminist credentials. If he works in Bangkok he will have a number of female farang friends who think he gets it, he understands why it's all so wrong. After about a year in Bangkok he will crack, and just once he will pay for sex. Not from a bar, no no he doesn't believe in that sort of behaviour. He will use a smartphone app, the first time. Then a massage parlour in a quiet part of town where he will never be seen by people he knows. He will continue to voice his outrage as he becomes a regular user of commercial sex. A wonderfully confused individual!
There are many more, Bangkok and Nana are nuanced subtle places, nothing is simple! Many of these characters and their bizarre stories are featured in my novel 'Bangkok Delusions', available here.