Thailand is world renowned for its flamboyant ladyboy shows and cabaret, and Phuket has some of the best that can be seen outside of Bangkok. These shows are mainly clustered around the Patong Beach area where most tourists are concentrated. Perhaps seeing exhibitionist men dressed as women prancing around onstage in feathered costumes does not appeal to everyone, but it can be extremely entertaining and such shows are usually high on the must-see list of many visitors to Phuket. Seeing a ladyboy cabaret at least once in Thailand is really an essential experience that should not be missed.
Besides the unforgettable and unique ladyboy cabarets, there are several other prominent shows around Phuket. These are mainly professional and lavish productions, touted as entertainment extravaganzas that have history, music, dance, comedy or culture at the heart of the performances. They tend to be consistently popular with tourists who are shipped in nightly by the busload.
Ladyboy shows are without doubt amongst the most popular attractions in Phuket. Many are highly rated and receive quite favourable reviews and positive comments. The very best tend to be professionally choreographed with some amazing dance routines and impressive costumes, as well as performances of classic international and Thai songs. Those ladyboys can sure belt out a good tune or two! The shows are often spiced up with some racy comedy and tongue-in-cheek humour, which is all part of the fun.
The most famous and organised shows are suitable for all ages and do not contain any nudity or exhibit much flesh, but the smaller ones can be much more risqué; you may see the occasional bare breast flaunted provocatively and even be invited for a more hands on experience. One thing for certain, is that going to see a ladyboy cabaret show in Phuket is an experience you will probably never forget, and you are almost guaranteed to have a good time and a few laughs. There aren’t many places in the world can you watch Thai ladyboys perform in all their glory and marvel at just how impressively feminine they are.
Simon Cabaret is without doubt the most well known ladyboy cabaret in Phuket. The costumes are outrageously extravagant, and the ladyboys’ tiaras dazzling. The show has proven extremely popular with tourists who flock here in droves. With frequent costume and set changes and a variety of musical performances, the show certainly impresses and you’d swear that many of the performers are beautiful women!
There are usually two camps of people, those that love it and those that hate it, but it’s a spectacle worth seeing at least once. There are two shows nightly, at 7.45pm and 9.30pm. Tickets are 800 baht for VIP adult seats (600 for kids), and regular seats are 100 baht cheaper. The real highlight for some is the chance to have a photo taken after the show, while posing with the appreciative ladyboys (tips are expected), which would surely make a good postcard to send home.
Cocktails and Dreams Cabaret
Cocktails and Dreams stage a free cabaret show every night at around 11pm and features a selection of long-legged, tanned and friendly ladyboys with playful names such as Kitty and Donut. The costumes are skimpy and you’re likely to see more than you bargained for at some point during the proceedings.
Moulin Rose Cabaret
Moulin Rose is a restaurant and erotic cabaret, conveniently located at the end of Soi Crocodile (Soi Katoey) just off Bangla Road’s main drag. Three hour-long ladyboy shows with male backup dancers are performed every day at 9.30pm, 11pm and 12.30am.
Open: daily, 9.30pm to late
Where: 11 Soi Crocodile
Tel: +66 (0)76 345 945
Paradise Complex Cabaret
The Paradise complex, located just off Rat-U-Thit Road and near the Royal Paradise Hotel, contains dozens of bars which cater mainly to the gay market. There are several bars, clubs and discos here that put on regular ladyboy shows. The most popular include the Boat Bar Disco and Cabaret, Kiss Disco, Mama San, My Way Cabaret and Tangmo Club. Your best bet is just to wonder around the complex until you find one that you like.
Ladyboys in Phuket
Perhaps people’s intense curiosity towards Thai ladyboys (often referred to as the third gender in Thailand) is down to the fact that many are extraordinarily feminine, and often resemble beautiful females more than real women do. In Phuket just as anywhere else there is a selection of transsexual ladyboys and transvestites; the most convincing have usually enhanced their natural assets with silicone boob-jobs, hormone injections and gender reassignment surgery, while others still possess the male ‘equipment’ and simply dress in female clothes and makeup. Some people will certainly have a hard time distinguishing between ladyboys and very attractive women.
Ladyboys are plentiful in Phuket, mainly around Patong Beach and the various bars and clubs in the immediate vicinity of Bangla Road. Soi Crocodile, close to the main strip, is known by locals as Soi Katoey or ladyboy street and as expected there are a large number of ladyboys in various guises hanging around the bars there, as well as in the main street on Bangla Road. Be warned, that if you meet a woman who seems too attractive to be true in a street nicknamed Soi Katoey, you really should know what to expect! Many tourists are caught out and may be in for a few surprises…
A selection of the other most prominent shows in Phuket are mentioned below.
Phuket FantaSea is a 140-acre theme park, restaurant and Las Vegas style stage show (billed as a “cultural illusion show”) located just outside Patong near Kamala, and is consistently voted as one of Phuket’s top tourist attractions. The appropriately named Fantasy of a Kingdom show features over the top visuals, impressive choreographed stunts and acrobatics, dozens of dancing elephants, huge imitation temples, magic tricks and pyrotechnics. The whole affair is set against the colourful theme of Thailand’s culture and heritage, and will definitely make an impression one way or another.
Most people love it but others seem to come away mildly disappointed, but on the whole the experience seems to impress visitors. Other reasons to visit FantaSea include a staggeringly large Thailand-themed restaurant and buffet, and the Carnival Village shopping street which features souvenirs, games, elephant rides and so on. There is normally only one show daily at 9pm, which lasts about 75 minutes. An adult or child show-only ticket is 1500 baht, with extra charges for the full buffet dinner and transport home if needed. It gets busy so it’s a wise to get there an hour more before the show starts.
Joe Conrad Illusionist
Touted with much bravado as a Las Vegas style magic spectacular, Joe Conrad is probably the most recent and high profile illusionist in Patong. The show opened in June 2011 to much fanfare and anticipation, and is held nightly in the 700 seat capacity theatre in the JungCeylon shopping centre on Rat-U-Thit Road. The promotional materials and marketing bumph promise an evening of fun-filled entertainment, illusions and surprises.
Early reports have been rather mixed, and you can’t help feeling that these type of shows might be a little too optimistic. Success is not guaranteed, but let’s hope that they can draw the crowds to what could become one of the more established family oriented shows. Tickets are 900 baht for adults and 600 baht for children.
Open: 2 shows daily, 6.30pm and 9.30pm
Where: Third floor, JungCeylon, 177 Rat-U-Thit Road
Tel: +66 (0)76 366 790
Palazzo Dinner Theatre
The Palazzo is a distinctive concept in Phuket that combines fine dining with European style theatrical entertainment. The show is set in an exquisite and intimate theatre, modelled on the opulent Belgian and Danish tents that were common over a hundred years ago. The show combines performances by skilled acrobats, musicians, comedians, dancers, and magicians into what is a very unique night of entertainment. Tickets are between 2200 and 3200 baht including a four course dinner. The show-only price with no dinner is 1000 baht.