to the cabaret on Phuket has a different meaning than almost anywhere else in
The island boasts extravagant cabaret shows with stunning costumes,
bright lights, expensive sets and a unique feature, most of the performers are
men dressed as women.
In Europe and America, the tradition of men dressed
as women for theatre roles dates back five hundred years when a respectable woman
could not be seen on the stage. During World War II, many of the great English
pantomines featured men dressed as women as there were no women on the war fronts
where the shows took place.
However, in Thailand, due to the considerable
tolerance of the culture, a great number of males who feel more natural as females,
find a career as cabaret performers.
On Phuket, one can join the fun at
Simon Cabaret where lavish sets and brilliant costumes amuse the audience. Performers
lip-synch songs popular in countries around the world. In nearby Patong, transvestite
performances can be enjoyed at Andaman Queen Cabaret and in many of the neighboring
open air bars.
The Royal Paradise complex has Tangmoo Cabaret with several
shows a night. The most popular transvestite cabaret happens each night at the
Boat Bar which mixes a floor show with a disco.
Many of Phuket's five star resorts feature transvestite cabaret performers
for special occasions. The demand is so great that a number of performing cabaret
groups travel each night from club to hotel and to resort to present a rehearsed
one hour show.
Pictured are a group from the Tyara Show who made a special
performance at Baan Rim Pa for a group of computer executives from Singapore and
Hong Kong. They left the audience clapping for more.
But behind the scenes,
the life of a transvestite cabaret performer is seldom easy.
of the performers are transvestites with more normal jobs during the day, many
are actually transsexuals who have undergone extensive surgery to transform themselves
from biological males to technical females. The man most responsible for the transformation
is Dr. Sanguan, whose office in Phuket town is busy with Thais and foreigners
who come to Phuket for sex reassignment surgery.
"I am kept very busy
changing the sex of young men who want to live their lives as women. I trained
at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok with Thailand's top sex reassignment surgeon
and I get many males who come to Phuket for the operations as they are much more
affordable here," explains Dr. Sanguan.
In his Mae Luan Road office, he displays breast implants and diagrams
of what is involved in transforming a man into a woman. "My patients are
generally much happier after the surgery as they can live their lives more honestly.
Many become cabaret performers," he continues.
The popularity of transvestite
and transsexual cabaret performers has spread to most parts of Phuket. Now one
can be entertained at bars on Karon and Kata beach as well as in karaoke bars
in Phuket town.
The cabaret artist works hard. Many elaborate costume changes
are required for each show. And these are seldom in adequate changing rooms but
done in hallways, outdoors and wherever there's any space. Complex dance routines
have to be memorized and extensive makeup and hair styles created for each show.
And then there's always the rush from one performance to another.
can always count on a remarkable display of emotion and talent by these professional
performers who overcome many obstacles to share their talents with visitors to