All That Jazz: Calypso Ladyboy Show

Thailand’s ladyboys, also called kathoeys, are some of the most convincing transsexuals in the world. These women are not just cross-dressers nor do they always fit into the ambiguous category of transgenders. They have gone under the knife to obtain perky breasts, and in many cases, they are on the road to complete gender reassignment surgery, which is cheap and sought after in Thailand.

Ladyboys embody the female persona and are accepted in Thai society, at least on the surface. They hold positions that females would traditionally hold (nurses, flight attendants, hairdressers, waitresses, etc.), and many are highly paid prostitutes. Not to mention, they can put on a heck of a glitz and glam show, like the Calypso Cabaret at Asiatique.

The production opened with the ladyboys showcasing fabulous gowns with feathers, fluff, fringe- the whole extravagant enchilada. From this point forward, the show moved at a fast pace, and the alternating MC’s between acts were charming and witty.

The different acts catered to several cultures normally represented in the audience; a Korean folk song, a comical Japanese geisha impersonation, traditional Thai dancing, and American broadway hits were streamlined into an action-packed hour and fifteen minute show.

The segway between cultures was abrupt and odd at times- I was at a loss for reaction when a sweet, traditional Thai dance was brutally interuped by a heavy, violent interpretation of Welcome of the Jungle. That was interesting.

The rest went without a hitch. The show in general was sexy, energetic, and entertaining; it was a beautiful blend of laugh out loud comedy and cleavage, which included the occasional nipple pop-out. oops!

I enjoyed the full-on flirtatious renditions of Chicago’s All that Jazz and Cher’s Welcome to Burlesque. There were more swinging hips and sassy pouts with an Elvis impression and a pole routine to a Christina Aguilera hit.

After the show, all the ladyboys line up outside the theatre and beckon the audience members to take pictures with them for a small donation.

I loved it. As obnoxious and cheesy as it was, I get a rush watching people do what they were born to do. Whether that’s becoming a woman, entertaining a live audience, or just being downright sexy, I enjoyed the passion, and I applaud the individuals who aren’t afraid to embrace an emerging identity. You go gals!

In Thailand, it can be difficult for one to pick out a ladyboy on first appearance. Thai men have tiny frames to begin with, and their androgynous Asian features don’t give much away.  One evening, I kept looking at a beautiful pack of women all dressed in red, and I only realized they were ladyboys upon hearing deep voices as I walked closely past. 

You will certainly see ladyboys in Thailand, but to see them in action, hit up a ladyboy show!

  • Dinner and a show at Calypso Cabaret is 1500 Baht (about $42). The show itself is $900 (about $25).

What are your experiences with ladyboy shows?


  1. Jorge | 11th Sep 13

    Casey, aside from great and interesting post, you have incredible images. you are a great photographer! I am so excited for you in this awesome experience you are having. I am looking up to you because I want to go teach abroad as well.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 11th Sep 13

      Thank you so much Jorge- that means a lot coming from someone who is as artistic and talented as yourself! You should definitely teach abroad, it’s an amazing experience!! I’d love to hear about your plans, and let me know if you’re interested in teaching in Thailand 😀

  2. Deanna O'Connell | 12th Sep 13

    Really awesome and professional new blog format! Totally enjoyed the Ladyboy story – intriguing and well written.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 12th Sep 13

      Thank you very much!! I’m excited about the new look 🙂

  3. Ladyboy Show! | kateinbkk | 12th Sep 13

    […] My friend and colleague, Casey, also has a blog, and she wrote a fabulous post about the ladyboy show we saw last Saturday night. Ladyboys are an interesting part of Thai culture, which Casey discusses alongside some really great photos. Enjoy Words of a Wanderer! […]

  4. Here’s to 2014! | Words of a Wanderer | 11th Jan 14

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