Search Results for: Hugh Hamilton

MAY 2015


MAY 2015

How to Spot a Ladyboy from 50 Yards (45.7m)

This is an article I wrote some time ago for my blog, but the information is likely to remain up to date for some time. If you are planning a trip to Thailand anytime soon, this should make useful reading. If not, it sure is interesting. B list celebrity (I’m being kind!) Bruce Jenner has recently become Caitlin Jenner, provoking a flurry of media attention. This story has dominated the celebrity media, even spilling over to the mainstream, demonstrating the rarity of changing sex in the west.

How or why there is such a comparatively large number of Transgender people in Thailand is something that is both fascinating and puzzling to me. Unfortunately, I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist so can shed no light on the the matter. I have met and even socialized with many Transgender Thais though, better known as ladyboys or Kathoey, so here is my guide on how to spot them.


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I might add, this is not for the purpose of avoiding them necessarily: they are a hoot to hang out with. I just think a man should know what’s going on for fear of…surprises. Enjoy.

There are hundreds of online articles purporting to give definitive advice on how to spot a ladyboy (Kathoey) in Thailand. Most of these are copy and paste jobs that quote the same tired old advice that is more closely related to the difference between men and women than anything else. They forget that a lot of ladyboys have taken hormone treatment very early, sometimes before puberty has fully kicked in. This means that some ladyboys are far more convincing than others.

Also worth noting, I think, is that we have not evolved an innate ability to spot ladyboys anymore than we’ve evolved an innate ability to spot, say, gay monkeys. For the vast majority of our history it just wasn’t necessary. As far as I know, spotting gay monkeys is still largely unimportant, unless you’re a monkey breeder, in which case someone may have written a helpful manual on the subject similar to this one. I digress. As a consequence of this fact, taking the advice to trust your instinct is dangerous, if not courting outright catastrophe.

There is no one definitive way to tell a ladyboy due to hormone treatment and plastic surgery. But if you are aware of a number of traits that give the game away, you should be able to spot Kathoey with a large degree of accuracy. Here are some that, in my experience, are the most prevalent characteristics of the species. I’ve listed them in terms of the distance at which, with sound sight and lucid mind, you should notice them. Good luck.


50 Yards (45.7m)

Height – The average height of a Thai woman is around five feet tall (155cm), so if the object of your desire appears to be considerably taller, this should raise the first red flag. Of course there are exceptions to every rule.

Walk – Ladyboys tend to have an exaggerated walk (think model on a catwalk). They usually swing their hips just a little too much to emulate a woman’s walk convincingly.

Dress – Kathoey tend to dress very glamorously, or overtly sexual. Heels and short skirts are the norm. This is due to the fact that they are often entertainers or sex workers, and also because they seem to enjoy glamming it up.


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30 Yards (27.4m)

Shoulders/Hips – The shoulders of ladyboys will be wider than the average woman’s, not because of muscle (female hormones successfully eradicate this), but because a man’s skeletal frame is larger than a woman’s. Hips will be smaller. Hips to shoulder ratio is a good way to measure this: if the hips are wider than the shoulders, you’re good to go. Vice versa…

Breasts – Hormone treatment will give a ladyboy small breasts without surgery, but most opt for the surgery if they can afford it, so think fake breasts: large, high, hard.

Hair – Ladyboys, like Thai women in general, are extremely fond of their hair. The difference is most ladyboys can’t leave theirs alone. They will almost certainly have flicked or tossed their hair at least once in the last 20 yards.


20 Yards (18.3m)

Jaw and Chin – A man’s jaw tends to be squarer than a woman’s, and his chin often protrudes more. However, hormone treatment will soften the edges of a ladyboy’s face, especially when taken early enough. So although it’s not definitive, if the jaw and chin look masculine, you’re probably looking at a ladyboy.

Makeup – Ladyboys tend to wear very glamorous makeup, which is often caked on. This is both due to the nature of their jobs and to mask bad skin caused by hormonal imbalances in their bodies.

Legs – The legs of a ladyboy may well be the envy of a lot of women. They are usually very toned and completely cellulite free.


10 Yards (9.14m)

Eyes – The eyes of a ladyboy are usually heavily made up, like the rest of their faces, but more pertinent to this piece is their depth. Men tend to have deeper eye sockets than women and this is difficult to disguise.

Veins – Look out for protruding veins in the arms and neck. Not all kathoey have them, but if they do you’re almost certainly looking at a ladyboy.

Facial/body Hair – Unbelievably, despite the fact that Thai men have little facial hair as it is and there are numerous ways of getting rid of this including electrolysis, some ladyboys neglect this most important detail and choose to shave, leaving a telling shadow.

Feet – There are some that say the angle of the foot is important as men tend to walk more slew footed (toes pointing outward) and women tend to walk more pigeon toed (toes pointed inward). This is nonsense when it comes to ladyboys: they will have perfected an ultra-feminine walk from the word go. If anything, the reverse is more likely to be true. However, feet are important: men’s are larger, of course.

Nose – Noses tend to be larger in men, but any ladyboy worth her salt will have solved this problem with plastic surgery, which is extremely common in Thailand, even for natural women.


2 Yards (1.3m)

Adam’s Apple – Another supposed definitive way to tell a ladyboy that is dubious at best. Women actually have a laryngeal prominence too (I wikipediaed that). The difference is men’s become more pronounced during puberty. As I mentioned earlier, some ladyboys never actually go through male puberty as they take hormonal treatment prior to it. Also, it is a relatively minor procedure to have this shaved off by a plastic surgeon. Still, if she has a noticeable one, you’re pretty certain to be looking at a ladyboy.

Wrists – Wrists tend to be bigger as a man’s skeletal frame is bigger.

Tongue – A ladyboy’s tongue will tend to be larger than a women’s. Bizarrely, you may very well have an opportunity to study this. For some reason, a lot of ladyboys like to stick out their tongue in a flicking snakelike motion. I think it’s supposed to be sexual, but it gives them away completely as I’ve never observed a Thai woman doing it. In truth, it looks slightly demented.

Forwardness – By this stage the ladyboy will probably have spoken to you, propositioned you, stuck out her tongue at you, or if she’s a classy one, will have at least smiled at you – if you’re a man.

Aggression – Perhaps it’s the hormone therapy, but ladyboys are notoriously aggressive, usually with women. Of all the fights I’ve witnessed in Thailand, and there have been a few, all of them have involved a ladyboy. Also, without tarring them all with the same brush, many are very adept

pickpockets – both my brother and I have lost an iphone and and a wallet respectively, at their expense (he paid 1000 baht to have it returned).

Speech – A lot of ladyboys have very scratchy, semi-masculine voices. Top Kathoey will have trained themselves to speak softer or even have voice lessons. But the majority sound raspy. Like a woman who has smoked heavily for fifty years, perhaps.


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Minus 4-9inches (Minus 10.16cm – 22.86cm)

By this stage, you are not only certain, but it’s pretty obvious you just don’t care!


Minus 3 Yards (Minus 2.74m)

Bum – A ladyboy’s bum is firm and perky rather than bootylicious. This is related to the hips, which no matter how much hormone therapy they have, will always lack the classic hourglass shape. Of course not all women have this, so again, not definitive.

So there you have it. If you still can’t tell after applying all this information, does it really matter? Yes? Ok then, ask to see her ID. All Thais carry this, and currently there is no provision in Thailand to change the sex on one’s birth certificate or identification, even after gender reassignment surgery. So if you’re born a boy, you remain so on official documentation for life.

But watch out for that right hook. Remember, she punches like a man!


– Hugh Hamilton
FACEBOOK: risingroads
TWITTER: @therisingroads
GOOGLE+: Risingroads

APRIL 2015


MARCH 2015





The Travel Bore

If there is such thing as a travel community, the Travel Bore permeates every level of it. She (it is often a ‘she’, though travel verbosity is not exclusive to the sex) has been found in every hostel, hotel, beach hut and long­tail boat at one point or another.

If you travel long enough and far enough there is no escaping her clutches. Some travel to find themselves. But unless they do so before leaving behind the familiar streets and thoroughfares of the place they call home, they will surely find the Travel Bore first.

The Travel Bore is likely to have found herself already in some faraway, exotic place that is, of course, much more far away and much more exotic than the current locale in which she attempts to regale you. To death.

If, for you, travel is a profound personal journey of inner and outer discovery, so too for the Travel Bore. So long as her journey is more profound, more personal, and have more discoverable innards and outtards than yours.

If you have been where she has been, you’re sure to have missed what she has seen. And on that rather poetic note, here’s my little ditty in honour of that most irritating traveller:

The Travel Bore

Upon my travels I do meet
The type of being to make you weep
They regale those far and near
Any soul with an ear
Of where they’ve been
And what they’ve done
Till you wished you had a gun
(But whom to shoot, to blow away
Would it matter, you or they?)

“I’ve done all of France and East Timor
I’ve done the pyramids and more
I’ve done the Kremlin, the Taj Mahal
Done tea with the Queen in old Pall Mall
I’ve climbed the world’s highest peak
(Cos it’s thrills I always seek)
Done it one morning in a vest
What was its name
Oh, Everest!
I’ve done…what?… do you yawn?
Have you done the Grand Canyon?”

At last a chance to finally talk
But what to say I should not mock
And so I smile and gently say
With as much respect as I can pay
“No, not as yet, I can’t compete
I have but one pair of feet”

Now ‘tis a sin to be rude
But this my thought as I brood:
“I go for pleasure and for fun
To visit places, not have them done
You’ve done them all, you travel bore
But please, for me, do one more”




– Hugh Hamilton
FACEBOOK: risingroads
TWITTER: @therisingroads
GOOGLE+: Risingroads

Bugs and Things

Of all the foods to be found in South-east Asia, I imagine bugs and insects are probably the least palatable to western tastes. I’ve tried a few in my time for the novelty of the experience.

In Thailand, canny entrepreneurs often set up shop in touristy areas, hoping to lure young, possibly drunk holiday-makers into trying out these local delicacies, or charging the less reckless cash for taking pictures of their ghastly produce.


Some of these bugs taste better than others, or perhaps I should say, some are a little less disgusting. But they all share a common property: they are almost impossible to swallow, sticking in the throat and requiring copious amounts of liquid to wash them down.

Fried Scorpion is an actual dish from Shandong, China. If you visit Koh San Road, Bangkok, you are sure to be offered one of these delightful specimens for between 60 and 100 baht, depending on its size and ‘quality’. I suggest you purchase a small one, simply because it is less likely to end up on the pavement along with your dinner and whatever drinks you have recently consumed.

In terms of scorpion venom, fried scorpion is safe to eat. This is both because venom is not poison – venom is harmless unless it enters the bloodstream directly – and because the venom is neutralised in the cooking process. In terms of food hygiene, I’m not so sure. Not surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be very much demand for this particular commodity, and I suspect scorpions are often past their sell-by date before consumption.

Perhaps that was what happened with mine. At first it wasn’t so bad, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. And then the taste of that internal goo registered just as I was about to swallow. I almost choked, but managed to get it down with the help of a few glugs of beer. I had to stay rigidly still for the next five minutes, desperately swallowing saliva (you know the runny stuff that is usually a precursor to vomit). In the end, I got away with it.


Scorpion is not the vilest thing I’ve ever tasted, though it definitely runs a close second. If you’re squeamish, you might want to consider reading another post, rather than continuing with this one. You’ve been warned.

Some years ago, I was in Koh Phangan partying with a group which contained, among others, a young French guy, a ladyboy and several Thai girls. It was getting pretty late when the French guy suggested we all go to his bar and hang out there for a while. We all thought this a great idea.

Several whiskeys later, a Thai girl suggested a game whereby we had to eat things blindfolded. I volunteered to go first, imagining she would give me a hot chilli which would cause some discomfort for me and much hilarity for everyone else.

The girls blindfolded me with a towel and gave me clear instructions to bite down hard and chew whatever they put in my mouth. This tied in perfectly with my ‘chilli theory’ – chewing would cause maximum effect. I acquiesced and the object was placed between my teeth. Crunch! Immediately upon this action, I heard shrieks of laughter. A foul liquid hit the back of my throat.


Then I experienced the most repulsive taste that I have ever encountered, before or since. I tore off the towel, spat out the offending morsel, and charged out of the bar. I only had a brief glimpse of the object, but there was no mistaking it. It was a cockroach.

I vomited till I could vomit no more, and then I just wept and dry heaved. I could still hear high-pitched laughter inside – the bitches.

I still have trust issues.



– Hugh Hamilton

FACEBOOK: risingroads

TWITTER: @therisingroads

GOOGLE+: Risingroads

Not Knowing the Lingo, Bad for the Gringo

The flight from Auckland to Mexico City was fraught with problems. I had trouble processing my Esta (US security check). It was sorted in the nick of time, but when I landed in LA, security carted me off for an interview about my being in the US before. Apparently I had overstayed my welcome. Added to this, I was suffering from a mild case of Delirium Tremens due to a few days excessive drinking prior to our departure. Andreas, a Norwegian who I’d met in a Wellington backpackers a month earlier, was too by the look of him. When we finally arrived in Mexico City Airport, almost missing another connection in Dallas, we were both in ill temper.


To our mutual amazement, we discovered that apart from border control, no one spoke English with a fitting degree of adequacy for our pickled brains. After much gesturing and pidgin English, I purchased two bus tickets for what I hoped was Mexico City center. I wasn’t convinced: the young Mexican lady looked bewildered. After zealous security checks we got on a nice air conditioned coach. I had just relaxed into my seat when a security guard began going around taking everyone’s picture with a digital camera. A little disconcerting, but no matter. Off we went.


Not long into the journey we both fell asleep. I awoke first. There was barren scrubland on either side, not a building to be seen. Not Mexico City then. Still, we were playing it by ear anyway so it hardly mattered. As good a way as any to explore the country, I thought. I let Andreas sleep on, but when I heard him stir I kept an eye on him to watch his reaction. He looked around sleepily, eyes widened. “What the…?” Then something incomprehensible…. Norwegian, I suspected. I laughed for some time. He joined me eventually. Good humour restored, we agreed it was probably a good thing.


Puebla, the town where we ended up some hours later, is a town of some character. I was struck by several things, the traffic being one. Not literally, though I came close. The noise and density of said traffic was something else. Particularly impressive was the sheer volume, in both senses of the word, of horn blowing, which was so loud and incessant that it sounded like a pneumatic siren.


The architecture was beautiful, and like nothing I had seen before, many buildings having mosaic or patterned tiles adorning their facades. The cathedrals too, of which there were many, were very lovely. But, more interesting, was the inexplicable abundance of shoe shops. Shoe shops were everywhere. We were tripping over them. Puebla is not a tourist town, at least not for international travellers; our pale complexions garnered no little interest, particularly Andreas, who looks as Nordic as the fabled Thor. We assumed, therefore, that the shoe shops were serving the local populace. Try as we might, we couldn’t find a logical explanation.


“Maybe they just love shoes?”, I suggested, giving up.

“My ex must be Mexican”, Andreas countered.

“Haha… She liked shoes, did she?”


“Nah. Couldn’t understand her… Hahahaha..”


Idiots abroad.


– Hugh Hamilton:

FACEBOOK: risingroads
TWITTER: @therisingroads
GOOGLE+: Risingroads

Bikram Yoga


What is the point of travelling, if not to experience new things? That is a philosophy I imagine I share with the vast majority of nomads and vagabonds around the world. And yet when an opportunity presented itself to do just that recently, I was reluctant. The reason for my reticence was that the prospective experience, generously offered to me by my good friend Stevie, was a free class of Bikram yoga.

If you’re not familiar with the various branches of yoga, a little background may be needed here. Bikram yoga, eponymously named after its founder Bikram Choudhury, is by far the most popular form of hot yoga around today. Bikram introduced the course in India in the seventies, and it is now enjoying unprecedented levels of popularity in the west. It consists of twenty-six postures and two breathing exercises to be completed in a room heated to between 38 and 40 degrees Celsius, with a humidity level of forty per cent.

Now, although some people may be skeptical of the health benefits of hot yoga, and for all I know they may have a case, that would certainly not provide an excuse for my not trying it. Others decry the monetization of an ancient discipline, which seems contrary to the spiritual nature of the practice; I have no strong opinion on the matter, and even if I did, could scarcely use the argument to protest a free class.

No, my reservations were wholly pragmatic: I suspected, correctly as it turned out, that I wouldn’t be any good at it.

Two things this yoga malarkey requires, and requires in spades, are balance, and flexibility bordering on elasticity. Balance was not my main concern. I considered myself moderately gifted in this area (note the use of past-tense here), and have even been known, upon occasion, to put my socks on standing up. But I am as supple as a board. I can touch my toes, but I require a ninety degree bend at the knees to do so.

Added to this difficulty was the failure to see the fun in attempting to contort my body into pretzel shapes in a humid room heated to forty degrees.

Nevertheless, after some hesitation, deliberation, and not a little trepidation, I decided that if you have a mantra, you may as well stick to it. And so, Saturday morning found me pacing outside the local yoga studio on Ponsonby, Auckland, waiting for my mate with a banana and two liters of water gurgling, and threatening to regurgitate, in my belly (taken on prior advice).

The class started innocuously enough. We all lay on our backs for several minutes on our still dry towels, relaxing. Then a breathing exercise – ‘so far, so good, this ain’t so bad’, thought I.

What followed thereafter is something of a blur: a tsunami of extreme heat, sweat, breathless exhaustion, and severe discomfort verging on pain, ensued. I have never secreted so much water in my entire puff. Within half an hour my towel and shorts were soaked, every inch of my body was dripping, and my hair was a soggy, matted mess, plastered to my head. I say half an hour, but it could well have been ten minutes. Time, as Einstein postulated, is relative. And therein lay another problem: I had no idea when this torture would end. I had no choice but to struggle on, fruitlessly guzzling on my bottle of tepid water whenever I got a chance in a futile endeavor to cool down.

Amazingly, as I hopped around my scrunched-up, sodden yoga towel, trying to regain balance to assume the position of the crocus, or bear, or whatever it was, the woman beside me remained the picture of composure, serenely gliding into ridiculous shapes with a face devoid of expression.

Staring back at me from the mirrored wall was a wild eyed, beetroot colored, hideous creature, my face contorted into a permanent grimace…

And so it went on… and on.

Suddenly, without warning, the class was over. We all lay on our backs again, me gasping for air that seemed oddly absent. I wanted to escape the room to cool down, but didn’t trust myself not to keel over. So I lay there for some time, gazing at the rotating ceiling and wondering why anyone, including myself, would put themselves through such an ordeal voluntarily.

Later, as I sprawled on a wooden bench in the cool hall, I got a glimpse of the answer. An enormous feeling of well-being flooded my person. Perhaps it was relief. Maybe it was the endorphins released through exercise, or just cooling down after overheating to, i suspect, dangerous levels. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something to this hot yoga. Not that I did many of the postures anywhere near correctly, which would suggest any benefits would be negligible. But there it is. I felt great, and continued to do so for some time after.

The feeling continued through my shower, persisted as I floated down the road to the nearest coffee shop, and peaked half an hour later after sinking a double-shot latte.

That’s when I came as close as I suspect I ever will to Nirvana.


– Hugh Hamilton

FACEBOOK: risingroads

TWITTER: @therisingroads

GOOGLE+: Risingroads

Sex in Thailand

As far as I can ascertain, the Thai sex industry is divided into four main categories: the ubiquitous street worker, the Go-go or Girly bar girls / ladyboys, ‘massage’ parlor girls, and what I shall refer to as the ‘freelancer’ – by far the most dangerous if all you’re after as a young man on a night out is a girl who is mutually attracted to you, with no strings attached. Unfortunately, when it comes to sex in Thailand, there’s not so much strings attached as thick, gnarly ropes, which can bind you like a turkey and leave you hanging, high and dry.

A Thai go-go dancer walks home in Bangkok

My curiosity with this subject has led me to discuss it with many people over the years, from fellow travelers to Thai nationals, both the sex workers themselves, and mere civilians. My most recent source is Poi.

Meet Poi. She is a beautiful, petite, young woman, glamorously attired in a simple black dress and heels, and made up in evening make-up despite it being three o’clock on a hot, humid afternoon. She is sitting indolently on a discolored plastic chair at the front of a shabby shop; I can’t remember its name, but it has the word ‘massage’ in the title, and although the front has dusty glass panels, there’s heavy curtains, which belie the fact that massages are the only service available in this delightful establishment.

Massage Parlour - Thailand

Upon noticing my brother and I, she leapt off her seat, gave a high pitched scream of faux excitement, grinned, and waved with such enthusiasm that I had a quick glance around to make sure we were the intended recipients of such an extraordinary greeting. We were. We smiled and waved back, but walked hurriedly on, not wishing to express an interest that might lead to a prolonged verbal exchange across the street. But I began to feel a little tenseness in my shoulders and back shortly thereafter. Perhaps it was the journey from Koh Phangan a few days previously, but whatever it was, I felt a massage later that evening would do me the power of good…

And so, after enjoying a bowl of spicy noodle soup from a nearby street vendor, I happened upon the massage parlor once more. There she was, grinning again: “Good massage, good price! You come in.” She took me by the arm. I smiled, and obliged. I asked her name. “Poi.” “Can I have the oil massage please, Poi? Three hundred baht, no?” The prices were displayed on yellowed paper on the wall. “Yes, yes, oil better!”

She locked the door, half pulled the curtains, and led me back to a tiny, windowless room, brightly lit with a florescent tube light. She talked incessantly. She was annoyed about the infestation of ants and explained in detail her tactics for thwarting them: hanging food on door knobs in plastic bags and spraying the place with ant repellent, but only at night – “not good to breathe”. She finally told me to take off my clothes, all, and left.

Unsure if this meant my boxers, I decided to keep them on to be on the safe side; I had only signed up for a massage, after all. When Poi returned a few minutes later, she looked me up and down, frowned, and said, “All”, impatiently pulling at the elastic of my underwear. I smiled, and obliged.

If Poi could move her hands as well as she could move her lips, she would certainly be working on one of the expensive massage parlors on Chaweng’s main strip: these, unlike the shop I found myself in, are professional outfits with highly trained staff. Her English was only fair, and so heavily accented I missed half of what she was saying. But she had such a lot to say.


Not long into the massage she was offering me extras. “Blow job, Boom-Boom (a euphemism for sex which always seems to suggest a rather premature ending to the proceedings) one thousand, but better for me two.” I was prepared for this, and told her I had a girlfriend. She seemed incredulous and asked if she was here. “No”. She turned her mouth down to demonstrate her displeasure, “So why problem? No good for me no extra. I need money!”

Poi’s story is almost identical to the ones I’ve heard a multitude of times from talking to girls all over the islands. She’s from somewhere in the north; she has children; she had them young; the father left; her parents look after the children; they are getting old and can no longer work like they used to; she has worked in a factory to support her family, but the hours are long and the money is too little. And this is how she finds herself in her current predicament. Yet there’s never any attempt to gain sympathy. They just state the facts of their lives when asked, and then attempt to turn the conversation to more practical matters.

Poi gently berates us Farang (foreigners) for not looking after our parents. “Farang want freedom. That’s all. Just freedom. Don’t see parents for long time. Don’t care. Thai not like that. You understand? Thai different.” I ask her about Farang and Thai women’s relationships. “Farang want to meet good Thai lady, he go slowly. He go slowly every day. Not in bar. Thai lady in bar for money.”


These are the ‘freelancers’ I referred to earlier. It is a sad fact, I know, and hard for the ego to take, but fellas, if you meet a pretty Thai girl in a bar or nightclub, and they won’t be in Go-Go bars where the dynamic between patron and attendant is obvious, they are not interested in you for anything other than the contents of your wallet. Sorry, but I know this from cold, hard experience.

Poi seems disappointed I have refused her extra services. She tells me the money she makes from extras is hers, but the lady who owns the establishment takes all the money from the massages themselves. I’m almost tempted… And therein lays the paradox: one could take the extras and help the girl out whilst enjoying carnal pleasures (however brief they may be advertised). But surely doing this only helps to ensure the perpetuity of a system that is clearly not conducive to the happiness and well-being of those trapped in it? It’s a tough one, and whatever side you come down on, it’s worth thinking about.

I tipped Poi handsomely, hugged her, and left. But conversely for a massage, I felt worse after it than I had before. I was depressed. Thailand may be the land of smiles, but who knows what melancholy lies beneath them?


– Hugh Hamilton

FACEBOOK: risingroads

TWITTER: @therisingroads

GOOGLE+: Risingroads