Jaturaporn Tepkom – or simply Tony to those lacking a tongue for Thai – is Out Adventures’ local Thailand guide. His bubbly personality is infections and he’s become a key aspect of our guests’ experience while travelling the South-East Asian country. In fact, most of our guests have come to consider him a friend rather than a guide.
With so many upcoming Thailand tours, we wanted to give Tony a chance to introduce himself and tell you in his own words why The Land of Smiles is a must-see destination.
Tell me about yourself: what part of Thailand are you from, where do you live now…
I’m from the North of Thailand. My hometown is called Nan. It’s a mountainous area. I came to Bangkok to study 10 years ago and I’ve worked as a guide for 8 years.
What did you study in Bangkok?
Hotel and Tourism Management. I studied it for a year in Thailand and then I got a scholarship to study in the U.S.A. I lived in Philadelphia.
2016 was my first year with Out Adventures. There was another guy who worked with you but he retired so he connected Robert and I. I really appreciated it because Out Adventures’ trips are really fun. Also, I’m gay so its exciting to take Out Adventures’ groups out to gay bars and have different experiences than I would with my other tour groups.
What is it about Thai customs and culture you enjoy showing off most?
I want visitors to learn and understand Thai culture. And I want them to have fun doing it. Its great when you become friends and you can compare cultures and talk about it.
I don’t want anyone to feel like, “Oh you’re our guide and we’re the passengers.” I want people to feel like we’re friends travelling together and having fun. That way we can share and exchange ideas.
Are there any specific sites or activities you personally love on Out Adventures’ tour?
I love the elephants in Chiang Mai!
Elephants are one of the national animals of Thailand. They are really cute and I love to see them play. I always take a ton of photos of them in the mud bath.
The other activity I really like is the Thai cooking class. We have a lot of fun and I’ve made it into a game on my tours. It’s like Master Chef. Whoever’s food looks the best wins a beer.
Oh yeah, what kind of beer? Tiger?
No! Tiger is from Singapore. In Thailand we have three beers but I drink Leo.
Can I assume you cook a lot at home?
Yes. I love to cook when I have free time.
When I was young my parents sent me to stay with my grandma. She only had her left hand as she lost her right in an accident. So every morning I had to go with her to the market to buy our produce. When we got back to the kitchen she would teach me how to cook.
What’s the food like in the North versus the South?
Northerners are famous for a dish called khao soi. It means egg noodle soup with curry and chicken.
Another dish we make is called Burmese pot curry.
Are the Thai curries more Northern, then?
Mostly. The Northern part of Thailand was occupied by Myanmar for three hundred years so there’s a lot of Burmese influence. And Burma is next to India so the cultures have borrowed a lot from each other.
Can you talk about the gay scene in Thailand?
In the past two or three years homosexuality has become very open. You can show off that you’re gay now. For example, I have a boyfriend and I can talk to my mom and my friends about him and they’re understanding.
What’s your favourite gay bar in Bangkok?
DJ Station! Everyone knows it.
Everyone does seem to know it. Rob actually recommended it recently!
That’s probably because I took him there last year as part of Out Adventures’ tour. I took everyone to Telephone Pub first. It’s the oldest gay bar in Bangkok’s Silom district. After a few drinks we walked to DJ Station for the drag show at 11pm. Everyone loved DJ Station and we went back every night.
Speaking of drag shows, how did drag become such a prominent part of Thai culture?
Thai Lady Boys are so pretty and elegant when they’re dressed up as women. Its a way for them to get money. And in Thailand, some gay men and Lady Boys have difficulty getting work. But this is a way for them to earn money and take care of themselves. They can show off their skills: singing, lip syncing, dancing etc.
There’s a movie called Beautiful Boxer. It’s about a lady boy who became a boxer. I recommend watching it sometime.
Oh wow. That sounds interesting.
Yes. You should look it up. It’s a true story.
I will! Well thank you so much for setting aside time to chat.
Your welcome. It was fun talking!
Interview edited for clarity.
All photos courtesy of Jaturaporn Tepkom. Video by Bulldog Productions.