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Picking a hotel in Thailand is a lot like selecting a bar boy for the evening. At least if you rely upon the advice of others. Years ago, I read a glowing review of Classic Boys, a gogo bar tucked in at the far end of Soi Twilight. Though I’d been to the soi countless times, I’d never made it down that far. There’s a long stretch of non gay venues between it and where the main grouping of bars are; I’d always found a bar – and a boy – to amuse me without the need to take the short hike down to Classic. This review, however, said Classic had the hottest guys on the soi. So on my next trip I dodged all the barkers, passed by all my usual haunts, and made a beeline for Classic Boys.

The bar was filled with scrawny twinks who looked like they spent their days begging on the streets of Bangkok. Not my cup of tea. Few other visitors made the hike, so the bar was almost deserted. And the large tank of water, the bar’s claim to fame, didn’t arouse as much as it repelled; a large indoor body of water and Bangkok’s oppressive humidity are not a good mix. I didn’t even stay long enough to order a drink. But that was a great reminder that everyone has different tastes, and recommendations are always subjective.

The ‘hottest guys in town’ label gets applied to a wide range of bars. And boys. It’s useless advice without an additional bit of info: what is your definition of hot? Shamlessmack, bless him wherever he is, used to specify the look of the guys he wrote about on his blog. He had an entire schematic to use that covered body type, build, amount of body hair . . . if you bothered to remember what all the labels stood for, you’d know exactly what he was talking about when he reported on what kind of guys you’d most likely find at any given venue. Plus, he would often add a brief description on top of that. Made for great clarity. And an occasional laugh.

On one post shortly before his blog went off line, he described a visit to a massage parlor where he ended up with an older guy who was quite skilled. Mac took off on a tangent recommending that perhaps, for various reasons, older guys might be a better choice for your massage parlor trysts. It wasn’t until after the jump that he mentioned an actual age: twenty-eight. I laughed. I’d assumed he meant guys closer to forty. But then to many gay guys visiting Thailand, the lure is guys who look like they are in their teens. Again, not my cup of tea. Though if you read the gay message boards it would appear I’m in the minority. I think that has more to do with the kind of member the message boards attracts than the kind of bar boys that attract the majority of visitors to Thailand.

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So I ignore most reviews and recommendations about bars and bar boys. But peruse those covering hotels when I’m searching for a new place to rest my head while on holiday. The result is often the same. What qualifies a hotel as ‘good’ is subjective. It depends on a guest’s taste. To some, it is all about price. Not value. Price. So cheap wins out every time. Even when for $5 more you could have a larger room, a cleaner hotel, one located in a better area, and one that includes breakfast in the nightly fee.

Often hotel reviews are negative and the reviewer harps about a specific that pissed him off. Like that ten minutes before the free buffet breakfast was over, the boiled ham slices were luke-warm. That was important to the reviewer so his entire grading of the establishment is negative. “I’d never stay there again!” is a typical closing remark in this type of review. Okay. But I wouldn’t eat one of those floating pieces of meat of dubious origin in the first place, so that little bit of info has no bearing on whether or not I would like the hotel.

As with defining what hot means to you with a bar boy, “best bed I ever slept in” also requires a few more details to be of any worth. You may prefer a bed harder than the floor. I like a soft bed that you sink a few feet into. Your ‘best bed’ may mean a sleepless night followed by a day of an aching back for me.

It’s not just the slant of a hotel review, but the importance of judging criteria, too. To some, location may be more important than amenities, for example. A lot of gay guys like to stay at a hotel close to Patpong because then they are close to all the gogo bars. So they judge a hotel on its location above all else. As cheap and convenient as transportation options in Bangkok are, this never made any sense to me. But then again, that’s subjective.

I tend to use Agoda to book my hotel stays in Thailand. They usually have the best deal. If it is a hotel I have not stayed at before, I read the reviews. On Agoda, you have to have booked a room through them at that hotel before you can submit a review. So at least, even if they are not informative to the degree I would prefer,  they are not fake reviews posted by the hotel’s management like on Trip Advisor. I also like Agoda because they don’t keep sending helpful emails and text messages like some of the other booking sites. Those messages are always more about advertising than your stay; though I don’t know who decided annoying your customers is a good form of advertising.

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Still, the best you can hope for from hotel reviews is a basic idea of what to expect. I’ve learned ‘short walk to the BTS’ can mean anything from a two minute stroll to a half hour hike. And ‘everything you could possibly want’ in reference to the free breakfast can mean an incredible selection buffet to your choice of porridge or toast and eggs. Reviews that say what a wonderful hotel it is because the staff is so friendly should be banned. Smiling employees mean little if the room is small, dank, windowless and the hotel regularly books Amway conventions. So when it comes to hotels, a good question is what is important to you? What criteria do you use to rate a hotel?

Overall cleanliness is important to me. I shouldn’t need to explain that. But then, unless you are selecting from the bottom of the barrel, acceptable cleanliness is a given. While location matters – I like being close to a BTS station – water pressure in the shower, to me, matters more. I need a nice drenching shower in the morning to stir my consciousness to a state of alertness. At least until I get some caffeine into my system. It also needs to be hot. And consistent. Nothing is worse than a hot shower unexpectedly turning into a cold shower. Except one that cycles back and forth on a whim. I’m not really happy with the shower in the tub arrangement, and think it is time shower curtains went the way of eight track tapes. The shower can make or break a hotel for me.

That bathrooms matter to people is not surprising I guess. Women like lots of lights to get their faces ready for the day; guys like a bit of room because regardless of size we are all like bulls in a china shop. I think everyone pretty much agrees on the need for a spotlessly clean bathroom. Stray hairs on the toilet seat are a turn-off anywhere in the world. Well, anywhere where they actually have toilets.

For me, after the shower experience, the next important factor is the after the shower experience: I like a large fluffy towel that sucks the water off your body. A towel’s absorbent quality is important. It’s its purpose in life. I’m a big fan of function over form. Others, women in particular, not so much so. Women like fluffy towels that are soft. And confuse slimy, from a fabric softener, with soft. But then women are confused anyway when it comes to bathrooms. It’s a question of form over function yet again.

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When I lived in Hawaii, having a large house, I often threw large parties, . There was one bathroom downstairs that most guests used. At least until the line got too long. Then they spilled over to anyone of the three bathrooms upstairs. The downstairs one was roomy, but only had a sink and a toilet. One of my roommates, Scott, kept it spotlessly clean. Women hated it. I’d notice they would all head upstairs instead. So I asked my friend Ann why. She said it was because it was so sterile. It was all porcelain and chrome. Huh. And I’d thought that was its selling point.

Ann too had a large house and we’d trade off holding parties at our places for our ever expanding circle of friends. The main bathroom at Ann’s was a terror. Everything was fuzzy. The floor was carpeted. That’s never a good idea with guys in the house. The tank top and seat of the toilet had some weird towel-like cover on them (evidently the height of fashion back home in Texas).

It didn’t help that the whole room was done up in a dark, dusky rose color scheme. It was like entering a womb. Evidently women, even dykes, like a fuzzy bathroom. Dykes, of course, are big on the womb thing anyway. Guys just want a place to pee. Preferably clean. But then we don’t plan on spending hours in there anyway, so if we have to hold our breath and stand back, no problemo. Besides, zeroing in from three feet away turns the event into a sport. Cool.

Guys joke about their little head taking over in the thinking department from their big head. For travel, especially in Thailand, maybe it’s best to let your little head make all the decisions. Dick maybe the best criterion to use in judging anything and everything.

Though the whole question of dick is a subjective one – depending on your taste of where you rent it, use it, how you dry it off, or where it likes to sleep – you can never go wrong following your dick’s lead. Now if only we could get more dicks to give bar advice and post hotel reviews, the world would be a happier place.