People who have recently visited the foodcourt in Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar might have noticed a change in the entertainment program.
Since August 2012 a relatively new artist called Bua Ban, which translates as Blossoming Lotus, is stealing the show.
Bua Ban (Real name: Witchapon Wongtong), aged 22, has a mixed program of stand-up comedy and songs, while being assisted by guitarists/singers Es and Beach.
Chiang Rai’s foodcourt can accommodate about 800 to 1000 people, depending on table arrangement. When Bua Ban is performing, it is often full house.
The only part which is more or less fixed in Bua Ban’s show are the songs, the standup comedy part is different every day.
Part of the fun for the audience, is that Bua Ban plays a caricaturesque kathoey often referred to as ladyboy.
This in not unique in Thailand, many contemporary TV sitcoms have a peculiar kathoey as sidekick.
However, unlike the actors in the sitcoms, Bua Ban plays the leading role while more or less improvising with her two musicians acting as sidekicks.
With her sharp humour and an excellent timing she manages to keep large parts of the local audience on the edge of their seats.
The puzzling thing is that besides the songs, most of the time it looks like she is making her witty remarks up on the spot, which reveals a pretty unique talent.
If the occasion arises, Bua Ban will talk with certain people from the audience and improvise upon the conversation as it goes, which adds to the laughter of the onlookers. In Thailand it is not polite to confront people directly, especially in the company of others, so again this requires special skill.
Depending on her agenda, she is currently performing 5 evenings a week in the Night Bazaar.
Prior to her local breakthrough, Bua Ban was a singer in the Montana Club, a small bar/restaurant on the way to the airport, were she is still performing on a regular basis.
Currently, Bua Ban’s Facebook page counts 5000 fans.
In contrast to what many fans believe, Bua Ban does not identify with being a ‘full-time’ kathoey, or at least not during the day-time when she’s has off. One obvious advantage is that most people do not recognise her in a casual male outfit, so she can enjoy her privacy.
She told me: “I’m not sure [about my identity], for example when I talk to my father, I’m am talking in the male form.”
I was informed that the Night bazaar gig is not really paid that well as other work, since there’s no entrance fee, however it is an excellent diving board to be asked for other shows.
Recently Bua Ban starred in Chiang Rai’s International Foods Festival 2013.
A large part of the visitors to the foodcourt are locals and her show is mostly in Nothern-Thai dialect which not is not fully understood by all Thai, so for the Non-Lana speakers it is a bit pity that such a great talent has sofar gone unnoticed nationwide.
A running gag from Bua Ban is to tell groups of Thai tourists from other provinces sitting in the front after asking where the’re from:
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand me, just mimic the other people laugh”.