Monkey See Monkey Do
I have always been, remain and hope to continue to be, an optimist. Some things in life though, test even my resolve. Let me tell you a story.
I have been visiting Thailand for some six or seven years now. I have seen, and done, some stuff here. I hope one day to understand it but for now, it is in the realms of catching a fart in a jar, you think that you have it but it remains elusive, though on occasion it smells a bit.
In late 2001 I decided that I had seen enough and knew enough to take the plunge. I knew that I was so besotted with Thai women that I wanted to take one home.
I am a 39 year old, nearly normal, confidently heterosexual bloke. I live on my own, I have a son Thomas, who I adore, who stays with me at weekends. I have an ex, Thomas's mum, or The Wicked Witch of Fleetwood as I have come to think of her, who I do not adore.
Looks wise, I fall broadly between 'Brad Pitt' and 'Circus Ugly'. My apparent resemblance to Mr Bean brings the girls in Thailand out in fits of giggles: oddly, it does not have the same effect on me. I am financially viable and mentally stable, mostly.
I approached taking a girl home from Thailand in a fairly clinical but very open minded way. The clinical part is very necessary as there are a shitload of hoops to jump through. Open minded as in expecting very little from my new wife Ratchada. I genuinely wanted her to be happy and would do anything I could to make it so.
Tourist visas do exist: Thais can travel, though the vast majority of them will never meet the stringent entry requirements for the U.K. and, presumably, most of the other western countries. Your only option for getting them home is a spouse’s visa, you need to get married. In Bangkok this can be arranged in minutes and done tomorrow. I found an agency run by a woman who spoke good English and put me on a very steep learning curve.
Her role was very much that of a driving instructor; she had to get us through the 'test' of getting a visa. She coached Ratchada endlessly, mostly in Thai so I could not follow it entirely but it went pretty much like this:
Sit up straight, smile, be polite and demure, do not dress like a tart, know your destination; 'England' is not good enough. Under no circumstances must you say that you met in a bar, that is instant death to your application. We did not, as it happens, meet in a bar, but that is neither here nor there.
For my part I had to put my paperwork together properly. As it happens I am very thorough when it comes to that sort of thing so I was right on the ball.
You need to paint a picture of your life so mortgage statements, bank statements, work references, bank and personal references: phone bills and correspondence between yourselves so personal letters, photographs birthday cards. Pictures of me with her Mum, a lot of work went into making this happen.
Her paperwork was simple but crucial: we had to travel to Nakhon Sawan, where her family live, to get her 'birth certificate' which looks like a family tree and covers the whole family. Again, your application is dead in the water without this.
I also discovered that there are two ways of registering your marriage: it can be just in Thailand so would not be legally binding at home or registered with the home office in the U.K. as well which made a difference. Like the difference between dipping a toe and diving in as I understood it.
The interview itself is key. The wait, at that time, was six weeks or so. My presence was not strictly necessary as it is her they are interested in: the fact that you are there is noted though and if there are questions you had better be around to answer them.
This is not scientific but talking around the waiting room was revealing. Your odds on success for a first application seem to be around evens, 5050. If you stick around for a second try they seem to rise to something in the order of 7030 in your favour.
A third application would appear to reduce your chances of success to around a gazillion to one against, give or take. All in all, they are pretty shitty odds. I once met an English guy in Phuket who had been there two years trying to get an entry visa for his wife: your foot stamping 'I know my rights' speech will consign your application, and any future application, to the bin.
The process itself is a demeaning, humiliating, expensive, time consuming pain in the arse. I do not take this kind of thing well as, being English; I do know my fucking rights.
Ultimately, despite my occasional dummy spitting, we secured a one year, multiple entry, spouses visa for Ratchada to travel to the U.K. Game over, or so I thought.
On arriving at Heathrow after a thirty hour mission via Hong Kong, (It would clearly be an abuse of my position here to say that Cathay Pacific are a bunch of cunts for making us sit on the tarmac for three hours without turning a wheel, so I won't), it is still possible, and apparently not that unusual, for the immigration officer to say 'no' without explanation.
My take on this was that if there were questions to answer then, once again, I had better be around. As a U.K. passport holder there was no need for me to be here but once again I stood in a queue and waited for a complete stranger to pick my life apart in public. This turned out to be a good call as the girl at the immigration desk was an absolute sweetheart. She told me that I was the first husband that day, out of several hundred, that had stayed with his wife this far. She waved us through with a smile and genuine good wishes. I will always be grateful to that lady; she could have made me squirm one last time and did not.
Sadly, the wheels came off our relationship fairly quickly for a variety of reasons. I found it very difficult to cope with the looks and comments we got whenever we went out. She could see, no doubt, that I was angry all the time we were out together and never understood why. She had coped with it in Thailand so what was my problem?
I guess in Thailand I half expected the snide 'sex tourist' comments, but at home, with my wife? Also, I understood what was said in England, much as she would have done in Thailand. If you want an insight into how this feels, take your Thai girlfriend to Phuket Town and visit one of the local markets that get few tourists. It is hostile, intimidating and there is very little you can do about it. That is pretty much how we were received in the U.K.
Ultimately, we stopped going out together and she found her own circle of friends. Pretty soon she had moved out and was, quite admirably, standing on her own two feet. We have managed to part, after some initial hostility, and remain civil. I hope to be able to think of her as a friend at some stage and believe we are getting there. I wish her no ill whatsoever.
Why did it fail? Well, obviously there are complex personal issues but I believe now that it is very difficult to take people out of their own context and fit them into yours. I have a lot of sympathy with people in this position now as well.
People do not travel and integrate, they travel and then gravitate towards their own, hence the term 'ex-pat community' What this meant for me was that the 'sisterhood', which is alive and well and living in England, turned up on my doorstep, played cards all night and slept all day.
I also think that, for lots of reasons, I am quite a defensive character and find it hard to let people in. She must have been a lonely little girl at times and I admire her for toughing it out but that was not such a surprise. There are some strong girls in Thailand, they have to be.
The future? Would I do it again? How do I feel about Thai women? Do I regret the whole thing?
As I sit and write this, I am drinking coffee on Bangla Road. I am back in Phuket for the first time in four years, my drop dead gorgeous new girlfriend has just left and I will see her again later. Yes, she works in a bar, no I am not in love. I genuinely believe myself no longer capable of loving women but that is more a reflection of me than my experiences in Thailand.
She, my new girlfriend, is a 27 year old absolute bombshell. She has perfect teeth, flawless skin and a figure to cheat the grave for. Given that I know myself very well now (see paragraph five) why is she waking up each morning in my bed?
I like to think that it is partly because I am a nice guy and treat her well, smile a lot, am fairly generous and am reasonably good company. I am realistic enough to know that, given a level playing field she would very likely not piss on me if I was on fire, though I understand that some Germans will pay big bucks for that sort of thing.
My take on it now is this: I am here for a couple of weeks, if I can bring a little sunshine and warmth into her life for a while then that has to be a good thing. While she is with me there is no need for her to be with some fat sweaty arsewipe who behaves like a pig.
She tells me that she has been here a week, I am well aware that some Thai phrases do not translate directly: 'A week' could mean exactly that but it could also mean 'I have no idea just how gullible you are so I will play the sweet and innocent hand as hard as I can and see how far I get'
'Sister' is another phrase, incidentally, which does not necessarily mean the same in Thai and English as are the following: 'very sexy man', 'big cock', 'ten minutes', 'no thank you', 'honestly', 'multiple orgasm', 'love'.
The women in Thailand flick my switch like no other race on earth. I find sweet, strong, admirable women in most of the bars I visit. They are working hard and getting by, who am I to judge?
Yes there are lots of hard bitten chancers here and many of them stay through choice. I have been to a couple of rural communities and I can see why girls would rather be in Phuket. I think that, to an extent, they like the lifestyle though are not too keen on what they do for a living but, hey, who is?
Would I do it again? You know, I believe I would, though I think it would be my turn to travel and try to integrate. The smile on my face is fairly constant in Thailand and I think I could settle in a place that made me happy. Regrets? None.
I find it interesting that more than a few people who have had a failed relationship or marriage with a Thai woman say that they will never love or enter a long term relationship again. I'm not sure quite why that is. I could hypothesize, but I'll reserve my opinion for now.