Lek’s Story So Far – BTS
“Behind The Smile – The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya” is the title of a series of books about the life of the daughter of a typical rice farmer in northern Thailand.
At the time of writing Lek’s story so far, there are two books in print: 1] ‘Daddy’s Hobby’ and 2] ‘An Exciting Future’. The author, Owen Jones, says that the third book is still in the planning stage.
The first novel, ‘Daddy’s Hobby’ takes its name from the name of the bar where Lek goes to work in Pattaya, when the bank threatens to foreclose on the family farm after the unexpected and early demise of her father.
It is a family decision to send Lek to work in Pattaya, the capital of the sex tourism industry in Thailand. However, Lek goes willingly for the good of the family as a whole.
Lek’s reasons for going and the circumstances of her employment are clearly laid out in the first book. The story is uniquely told from Lek’s point of view and relates her anxieties about doing the job in detail.
The reader gets to know some of her colleagues in the sex industry and some of her clients who are euphemistically known as ‘boyfriends’ in the trade. You learn of Lek’s hopes, fears and actual experiences. You are also left to make up your own mind whether you think that Lek is a victim or a predator; a good girl or a bad one, to be pitied or censured.
You will meet Lek’s family: the mother who sent her away to work and the cousin whose bar she goes to work in. You are shown how she gets started in the sex industry, because she actually goes there as a simple bar maid with two of her friends. They set off together on an adventure together, no realising that they would become prostitutes in the eyes of many.
This is not just the story of Lek, that is clear. It is the story of millions of girls the world over and not only of poor girls in poor countries. It happens in all circles of life. Rings of people traffickers for use in the sex industry are being uncovered in the West on a weekly basis.
However, the book leaves the reader to think about whether the existence of such bars that attract ‘rich’ foreign tourists for the purposes of sex is a good thing or a bad one.
Lek, like most Pattaya bar girls, does not complain about her karma. It just IS and could turn out to be good or bad. Readers of ‘Daddy’s Hobby’ will come away with the feeling that they understand the predicament of the tens of thousands of Lek’s in Pattaya alone a lot better after reading these books.
From following Lek’s story so far, the reader will also understand the much-maligned Thai psyche better too.
Without giving too much away, the second book, ‘An Exciting Future’, follows on seamlessly from the first. It depicts how ten years as a Pattaya bar girl in the tourist sex industry has formed Lek’s way of thinking.
Lek’s story so far shows how her job has affected her: the way she deals with men and how she sees her fellow villagers, to whom she can no longer relate and vice versa. It explores the problems of ever moving back into a farming community, where most people have never been anywhere, after having spent ten years in an International city with rich foreigners.
by +Owen Jones
You can buy the books here: Bookshop