Viking Heaven

"Viking Heaven?" I asked. "Is that another name for Thailand?" The country in known by many monikers – Siam, The Land of Smiles, The Fifth Tiger – just to name a few. We were sitting at a "bar beer" as the Thais call them, escaping the heat and playing games with the bar girls.

"Nah," Chuck says, "that's just what I call it. You see, the Vikings thought that when you died you went to heaven. In their version of heaven, you did bloody battle all day long and could continue to fight no matter how badly you were wounded. In the evening, your wounds would heal and you'd go to a great hall to feast and have sex all night. In the morning, it would all start over again. That was Viking Heaven." He gestures around him at the city. "And so is this."

In many ways, Thailand really is Viking Heaven, especially for a bodybuilder. Steroids are sold over the counter, there are hardcore gyms available, the cost of living is low, and you never have to sleep alone if you don't want to. It's no wonder many bodybuilders and strength athletes come to Thailand to train and do their drug cycles.

The Gear

As noted, the steroid situation in Thailand is very much like Mexico. Steroids and ancillary drugs can be purchased over the counter at a pretty cheap price. But like Mexico, you can walk into a legitimate Bangkok pharmacy and still come away with bogus drugs. Some recommend you stick only to items made in Thailand while others told me they've had very little trouble with fake gear of any kind. Likewise, steroids produced in Thailand can be very cheap with imports being on the expensive side (by Thai standards).

One of the first things you'll notice is the number of pharmacies in Thailand. This is to be expected in Mexico as the pharmacias are there to cater to Americans close to the border, but why so many drug stores in Thailand? The answer is that most Thais can't afford to go to a doctor. Instead they may go to a pharmacy, describe what's wrong to the pharmacist and simply buy the drugs they need, no doctor visit needed. Of course, the pharmacies are there to service the tourists as well.

Like Mexico, prices are usually a bit higher in the touristy areas like Patpong, and the larger chains (Watson's and Siam Drug) will have less to choose from. Your best bet is to find the small, independently run pharmacies away from the hustle and bustle of the farang (foreigner) hangouts.

D-bol runs around $65 for 1000 tablets. A generic version called Melic will run you much less if you can find it. Viagra (100 mg) runs about $10 a tab (about the same as in the US) but an Indian generic called Silagra reportedly runs only 30 cents a tab! We asked for this in two places, but both were out.

Clenbuterol is not locally produced, so it can be expensive (not that many people in the tropics want a thermogenic anyway.) T3 is produced locally by Glaxo-Wellcome and is pretty cheap. Clomid is also dirt cheap while arimidex can be pricey. There's lots of "T" available, mostly Schering 250-mg amps. Sustanon is also easily obtained. Deca is available in 50-mg amps, but the 100's are generally from Karachi, Pakistan. Opinions are mixed as whether these are legit or not. Organon deca is $4.80 an amp if you buy at least three amps.

Anabol was once reported in T-mag as being fake, but locals tell me it's real and quite good, being made by British Dispensary, the same folks who make D-bol. The cheap local version is known as Androlic and comes in a green bottle. A generic stanozolol from India known as Menabol is easily found. I'm told that HGH is not to be found anywhere for any price. Syringes and needles are OTC (over the counter).

Other drugs like marijuana aren't really that big of a deal, but it's still an arrestable offense if you're not quick enough to pay off the local law dogs. (Thai cops are said to be a lot like Mexican ones.) One hundred tabs of speed (called "crazy drug" locally) will get you the death penalty, unless you pay off the cops. Some say that Americas caught with hard drugs "only" get life in prison and avoid the death penalty. We decided not to find out.


As you probably know, Thailand is "hot" in more ways than one. In smuggling terms, "hot" means that customs agents and others keep a very close eye on items coming out of Thailand. Sure, they're probably watching for hard drugs, but they'll nab your gear just as quickly. There's a very big chance that your package will be opened up if it's coming from Thailand. Everything is X-rayed.

I'm guessing that not too many people – with the exception of maybe a major dealer – would actually fly to Thailand just to bring back gear. It's not like driving across the border into Tijuana after all. However, it would be tempting for those traveling to "The Land of Smiles" for other reasons to pick up a little cycle while there. For those people, here's what I noticed. First, security at international airports is way up since September 11th . As usual, your checked luggage and carry-ons will be X-rayed and could be hand searched. My carry-on was hand searched on the way in and out of Thailand.

Likewise, you could be searched. This involves multiple metal detector runs, a cursory pat down, and you may be required to take off your shoes and belt. (I was twice.) Of course, this is now common practice at any airport. When travelling from Mexico with gear, experts have usually advised to keep the stuff on you as this is always the last thing to be searched (your vehicle and bags being the first), but with Thailand, it's probably better to store the stuff in your checked luggage. Use the old "three deep" method of putting your stuff inside something else (like a shaving kit) and then putting the actual gear in other containers like vitamin bottles. Even if your luggage gets hand searched, it may not be searched thoroughly enough to find well-hidden gear.

If you do keep the stuff on you, don't put it in your shoes or strapped to your legs or lower back. This is where I was patted down and searched. Underneath the nutsack would be the safer (but not necessarily safe) choice.

You may also be questioned about the nature of your trip and as I wrote in the Smuggler's Blues article, it's best to be as honest as possible. I also noticed that many of these random searches didn't seem so random. My travelling buddy and I were both selected for closer inspection many times. I think this may have had something to do with the fact that we were headed to and from Thailand. Again, it's probably that "hot" country thing.

To test things out, I once again "smuggled" some empty steroid containers back from Thailand. I placed these "two deep" in my suitcase, stored in a toiletry bag's side zipper pocket. Since I'm not rotting in jail right now or paying a fat fine, I guess I got away with it.

On a related note, one Bangkok resident related a story to me about a New Yorker somehow bringing back one hundred bottles of D-bol (that's 100,000 tabs) per trip. The pharmacist gives him a discount since he buys in bulk on a regular basis. Something tells me he ain't sticking them all in his underwear!

I also heard another story of a bar girl getting into the steroid exporting market to work her way out of the bar scene. These girls are crafty, that's for sure.

Bodybuilding is Still Kinda' Gay

I've always found it odd that in countries that allow steroids to be sold without a prescription, you don't see many big juice monkeys walking around. In Thailand at least, I found out why.

"In Thailand, there's very little steroid use among Thais. The only Thais who use steroids are the homosexuals." This according to the owner of California 24 fitness center, a mammoth gym in Bangkok. He also noted that roid use is much higher in Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore. Then again, California 24 (owned by the same people who own the 24 Hour Fitness Centers in the States) isn't exactly hardcore. In fact, this may have been the fluffiest gym I'm ever seen.

A Candid Conversation with Shane Stratton

Universe Gym is located just off the beach in Pattaya, Thailand. The gym is small, the equipment is a little rusty and worn, and there's no air conditioning. Despite dozens of circulating fans, you'll be soaked in sweat before you ever get your gym shoes tied. In others words, it's a great little gym!

I was there to get a workout and talk with owner Shane Stratton, a former NABBA Mr. Universe and Mr. Australia, about the drug scene and bodybuilding in general. It's important to note that T-mag doesn't bother to interview many competitive bodybuilders; in fact, we've declined to interview some of the biggest names in pro-bodybuilding. Why? Because most of them won't cut the bullshit and talk about what really goes on behind the scenes. Instead they want to talk about how they were "robbed" in their last contest, their favorite kind of pizza and other such fluffery. Luckily, Shane Stratton isn't that type of bodybuilder.

I sat down with Shane in his gym to chat after losing eight pounds of sweat in under an hour. Here's how it went down:

Testosterone: Let's give T-mag readers some quick background info, Shane. What are your titles?

Shane Stratton:

T: Are the major bodybuilding organizations killing themselves right now?


T: Does that really go on?


T: We've heard that a lot of the top fitness girls are also very high-end call girls.


T: Makes you think twice about ever wanting to be a competitive bodybuilder.


T: At the Mr. Olympia, Arnold Classic level, are the standards getting out of hand as far as mass goes? These guys are all pretty unaesthetic these days, and that's being polite.


T: What do you think of Synthol? It seems like those pro-bodybuilders who were condemning it a couple of years ago are using it today.


Injecting gear, propionate or something like that, is fair enough, but they lose the realistic look with these oils. They pump so much shit in there they look fake, plastic. Magazines shouldn't be publishing photos of these Synthol users.

T: How exactly did an Australian bodybuilder and his wife end up in Thailand as gym owners?


T: And it doesn't do shit.


T: I understand that protein powders are illegal here in Thailand, but your gym serves them. How'd you manage that?


T: You mean you have to order from other countries?


T: Are you talking about smuggling protein powder?!


T: That's amazing. Protein powders are hard to come by, but steroids are over the counter.


You can't get ephedrine anymore, but you can get cold medicines with pseudoephedrine in it. They've also got three or four copies of Nubain here, for all them sick folks. I've seen guys come in and spend 15,000 US dollars in one pharmacy.

T: And they got all that out of the country?


T: If you don't mind me asking, how can a married guy stay married living in Pattaya with all the temptations here?


[At this point in the interview, pro-bodybuilder Dennis James walks in to update everyone on the latest World Cup scores. It looks like the US is about to pull off a win. I'm more impressed by the size of the man's head. Dude has to have the biggest noggin in Southeast Asia.]


[Note: Shane's wife, Diane Jardim Stratton, is a Ms. Australia and Ms. World Figure champion.]

T: Now that's frightening.


T: That's it, I'm never leaving the hotel again. Thanks a lot! Back to steroids. You guys have an AusVet banner on your website. Given the OTC nature of steroids, could you sell them here at the gym?


T: So there are a lot of fakes in Thailand pharmacies?


[Again, Dennis "Super Cranium" James walks up and starts complaining about someone stealing from the lockers and stealing toilet paper. For some reason, toilet paper is prized in Thailand and locals are known to steal it from public bathrooms. In many places you have to pay to use the bathroom and pay again for a few sheets of toilet paper.]

T: Do guys come to Thailand just to use steroids cheaply and legally and then go back home to compete?


T: I can imagine. They get loaded up on Test and walk down there... [pointing down Beach Road to the red light district]


T: Try to keep them out of trouble and away from the lady boys. Thanks for talking to us today, Shane.



It would be easy to focus on one part of Thailand and deem the country beautiful or ugly, a heaven or a hell. But like any country, Thailand is all of those things. It's a paradise, a hedonist's wet dream, a den of corruption, and a place that can destroy you if you let it. And really, what country isn't a conglomeration of all those things?

A visit to Thailand can change your life. Whether those changes are positive or negative depends on what baggage you bring with you and what you're looking for when you arrive. It's a bit corny to talk of self-exploration and "finding oneself" through travel, but in many ways, those things exist for those introspective enough to see what the world has to show them. Stripped of his usual surroundings and removed from all things comfortable and familiar, a traveler is uniquely receptive. He can learn lessons from the cities and the mountains and all those people he meets in between.

But for me to write about this is really unfair. You have to be there to truly understand. You have to stand in the streets of Bangkok and on the beaches of Pattaya. You have to stand before the Emerald Buddha and bask in the neon lights of Patpong at 2am. If you want the answer to the question, "What really happens there?" you have to go there and experience it for yourself. This type of experience is nontransferable.

The best writer can only provide a fuzzy, black-and-white snapshot of any place he describes. He can't tell you what you'll experience or whether you'll come back enlightened or haunted, whole or broken. Go there and find out.

Thailand is waiting.

Special thanks to the following people who helped out tremendously with this series of articles.

For the tour, the books, the maps, the info and especially for taking us to the Exec. God, we miss that place already. Hope the girls all enjoy the T-mag shirts.

For keeping me alive during my first trip to Thailand and for convincing me to go to begin with.

For the no BS interview. In you're ever in Thailand, stop by his gym and say howdy.

For paying me to hang out with pretty half-naked girls.

For the most helpful website about Thailand on the net. (

For the honest info, free beers, good conversation and good times, we thank the bar girls, the expats, the soccer hooligans, the vets, the hippies, the backpackers, the freaks, the outcasts, and the generally misunderstood and misplaced. We'll be back.