You Can Never Visit Thailand Again
"Dana – You Can Never Visit Thailand Again!" I don't want to ever hear those words. If I ever do hear those words I'll be disappointed. I'll be sad. But I won't be surprised. Someday it wouldn't surprise me to hear a Thai immigration official at the airport inform me that I didn't meet Thailand's high standards for social behaviour and that I was banished from the Kingdom forever. Various stamps will be put in my passport and I'll be escorted to the plane. I'll be the only one with enough class to smile. As the plane takes off I know I'll never see Lek, or Na, or Wan, or Noi, or Dao again. I'll never again walk down the Beach Road in Pattaya on the way to Swensen's. I'll never visit the mountain-top Buddhist shrines in Chiang Mai again. I'll never have shirts and suits made at my favorite Indian tailors again. I'll never buy braised chicken breasts on Soi 4 in from of the Nana Plaza again. I'll never feel the pizza oven heat (I love it) of April again. And there'll be no more bars; worshipping at the altar of feminine beauty again.
How could this happen? How could something so traumatic and so life changing actually happen? How could I get thrown out of an entire country? Well, it's really quite simple. It could happen to any one of us. It's called a breakdown, a temporary paradigm shift in your brain, an aneurysm of consciousness, bad timing and your pride T-boning each other at the intersection of your life. Let me give you an hypothetical example:
I am checking out of the Parkway Hotel. I have been there for three days. The bill is for four days. I show them the date and the time of check-in on the invoice and I help them review the calendar and count the days. I am smiling. They refuse to change the bill. Now, what I should do is pay the bill as presented and chalk up the extra days billing to the Thai experience. Part of the daily 'grease' or extortion fee you have to pay to be in the country. That would be the smart thing to do. That would be the adult thing to do. That would be the best strategy. But it's like a website tracking the number of 'hits'. I'm the website and this hotel bill padding has now 'hit' number 1000. I have been cheated, weasled, lied to, thieved from, and screwed 1000 times in Thailand! I stop smiling. It's over. I can't do this anymore. I have a breakdown. My consciousness and my brain shift forward into the next part of my life. I feel the elation of complete loss of control. I refuse to pay the bill. THE POLICE ARE CALLED! Everything happens in Thai. I'm a spectator to my own demise. It's like tumbling down a well. I can't touch the sides and I can't see the bottom coming up. I can feel my heart rate rising and I am being taken to jail. My medication is left behind in my bags. I have malignant hypertension. I will pray for death – a stroke is worse. At the jail there is a complete suspension of civil dignity. Behind their walls these sons of rice farmers feel safe. There is yelling, abuse, loss of dignity. It is childish. It is predictable. It is a train with no brakes.
Two days later I am taken from my cell and informed that this whole matter could be cleared up if I paid a 30,000 Baht fine to the police. I don't even have to think about it. I tell them to go fuck themselves. Suddenly, they understand English perfectly. I now seem to have their complete attention and they are being good listeners. I push all the chips to the middle of the table. More childish behaviour. More yelling. More threats. I'm not holding up well. My heart rate and my blood pressure are rising. I can feel the pressure in the backs of my eyes. Since my heart attack I've lost a lot of the courage that was issued to me at birth. But they got me on the wrong day and at the wrong time and I'm not paying the fucking bribe. If they had caught me at 'hit' number 11 on my first trip to Thailand, I'd have gone to the ATM machine and withdrawn the money. If they had caught me at outrage number 315 or scam number 662; I'd have gone to the ATM machine and paid the bribe. But it's too late now. The wheel has turned. I've entered the next stage of my brief sojourn on Earth. I'm not bending over anymore.
The next morning I am 'showered' with a firehose, dressed, make-up is applied to my face and arms, a hat is put over my blood-encrusted hair and I am driven to the airport. No one seems to know where my luggage or medication is. Then I am ejected from the country. Permanently!
If you think this is melodrama then you are not paying enough attention while you are in Thailand. If I see a policeman I go the other way. If I am patting an elephant I always make sure he can see me with his eye. They can kill you in an instant. If it looks like a bar girl is underage, I run. If I buy fresh fruit I wash it first. It's all laced with pesticides. I tip often and I smile. I watch for snakes near river banks. If a bar girl relationship starts to go south, I end the relationship immediately. If I'm being cheated I almost always pay. If I get involved in a social situation that has too much tension, I switch hotels; or move across the city. I try to be invisible. I avoid groups of young Thai males. But eventually, I know the whole experience could just implode. When that happens I'll be disappointed. I'll be sad. But I won't be surprised. I have already started to deal with this issue mentally. I'm 53 years old. Realistically, I only have another possible 20 years of 'dating' left under the best of circumstances. For me I'm on the final glide path and the runway is in sight. I've already started the research. If Thailand blows up; there's Cambodia, there's Jakarta, there's Vietnam, there's Brazil, and there is the Philippines. I'm a big boy. I'll adapt. I'll move on. Being in this place mentally and knowing this gives me strength.
If you see me sitting in an open air bar opposite the Nana Plaza with a drink in hand, you might think that I'm having some interior sexual monologue about some Thai princess in my field of vision. And you might be right. But I also might be sitting there thinking, "Let's see, what travel arrangements would I have to make to get to Angeles City, or Rio, or Cambodia?". I'm one step ahead of you
I wrote the opening piece in a weekly column some 18 or som months ago about such things. Just ho would one cope if one was given the red card? There are alternative venues, but they are not Thailand. We all have to conduct ourselves in such a way that is becoming of guests, notwithstanding that we do get cheated from time to time. Yeah, being thrown out of Thailand permanently wouldn't be very nice, but it really doesn't happen that often at all.