This submission is being written shortly after a holiday in Thailand and Cambodia. While there, yes I did visit a brothel / Go-Go Bar, and yes I did get infatuated with a bargirl. Now, I bet that groups me with around 80% of Stickman’s readers. Oh, and before any reader takes the moral high ground and excludes himself from this group, I would like to ask you if your wife / girlfriend is/was travelling with you at the time? The purpose of mentioning this? Simple, I did not want you to write me off as a bleedin’ heart moralist. I’m not. At least I didn’t think I was. By the way, when I refer to ‘you’, I also mean ‘me’. Please read on …
This submission is to do with the conflict between my strong belief in what is right and wrong, and the ‘appropriate’ justification for my actions while in the LOS (‘land of smiles’, goodness I despise TLA’s (three letter abbreviations) – so American 🙂
In the last few weeks after returning to the UK, realising that I MUST return soon. So much so, that it is my intention to close my business, sell my house (just in time I think – UK readers), and live off the interest for a few months / years in Thailand / Cambodia / Laos / Vietnam. I decided this on the plane home.
I found myself searching with ‘Google’ for around 2 to 3 hours a night, reading about Thailand and learning the language (http://www.learningthai.com). Many sites about the culture, history, the obligatory http://www.stickmanbangkok.com (wish I had discovered it before leaving, and yes, a search on prostitution … Why? I was in love with the whole concept of Thai’ness, good and bad. Sometimes life in your own country gets, well, plain boring!
The problem is now the guilt. My conduct in Cambodia – not just the giving in to the persuasion by my guest house owner who wanted me to experience the seedier side of Siem Reip’s attraction, but the moaning to him about her in the morning for her wanting to sleep instead of you know what. What I forgot is how much drink we had consumed that evening together at the night club and her diminutive size. I was having trouble and I’m twice her weight – I must add that I was taken to a traditional Cambodian brothel, which was far from tourists and only frequented by locals. She was Cambodian but the place was mostly full of Vietnamese girls (they had different colour numbers while sitting in the fish bowl).
After surfing the net back home and stumbling on sites such as Ref: Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation http://www.uri.eduartsci/wms/hughes/cambodia.htm I now realise why these Viet girls are there. I probably knew before. I’m sure I did. But this was knowledge gained while irrelevant to my day-to-day life at home. Now it is my experience on holiday. What sort of person was I doing business with? Were the Cambodian girls treated any better and what was the consequence of me complaining after– Was she punished? How badly? The girl that was dancing with me in the club the night before, big grin, eyes looking up to mine, her English ‘boyfriend’ in front of her jealous mates. Why couldn’t I be satisfied with that? At home I would be in heaven!
‘Meas, a 16-year-old orphan from Vietnam, was sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh by her neighbor for $400. She was starved and beaten until she complied to having sex with eight men a day. When she was found by police, they took her life savings 30,000 riel, roughly US$8.50.’ (Chris Seper, "Police Sweeps Help Clean Up Child Prostitution," Christian Science Monitor, 8 January 1998)
Later in the holiday and sick of Bangkok TukTuk drivers getting under your feet as you try to cross the road (Don’t you just hate that?), I arrive in Chiang Mai. It is the start of Songkran.
Still feeling guilty about my night in Cambodia and reminding myself that a girlfriend is really what I’m after, I find myself sitting in a bar, and approached by a beautiful girl of 19. Very similar looks to the girl in Siem Reip I must add. She is a bargirl. No problem, this will be different. Over the next few days I take her out. Shopping for clothes for her and baby. Also saved me money on my shopping as there is no way I could barter as good as her. Took her and a friend one night to a nightclub. Another night with a friend to a restaurant. This is more like it! The consequence is I am now vulnerable to the obligatory tales of woe. I get berated by a friend because I mentioned to him her recent bike crash / smashed phone and that they are born liars and spending any more than xxx Baht on a bar girl is “ruining it for the rest of us” While in bed I see a weeping wound on her side. The bike accident. I get out my First Aid kit (St. John’s Ambulance First Aider – I use gloves). Now I believe her, not my friend. Vulnerable again. ‘Stuff my friend’s sex tourist budget advice’, I said! On my last night in Chiang Mai I meet one of the older members of staff from the bar having a drink with a friend at her bar. Get talking to her. She says I did a bad thing. She says my girl was new to the game, needs money for baby, wants to study and make a better life for herself. Now I was apparently her first farang. Now because I was nice to her she will carry on. I have got her hooked. Oh great! My fault! When home I call her, she is unhappy, few farang now in Chiang Mai. Make little money. She tells me she hates the indignity of it all. One ‘long time’ punter a day and she can soften the guilt with treats for herself and baby. Now only one or two a week, she gets to sit at the bar and think about what she is doing to herself and baby, and face her fears of HIV!
‘In 1990 there were fewer than 200 reported AIDS carriers, and only a handful of AIDS patients. By 1997, the number of reported carriers is believed to have far exceeded one million, with more than 30,000 deaths recorded in official papers. The AIDS epidemic has threatened to overwhelm at least six upper Northern provinces – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phayao and Mae Hong Son. Hospitals in these provinces are usually packed with AIDS cases, who outnumber other patients. At a certain hospital ward in Chiang Rai, AIDS patients occupy 15 out of the ward's 22 beds.’ ("Opening our eyes to the Aids problem," The Nation, 20 May 1997)
I have read so much ‘crap’ about how Thai women are trained to lie from birth. Every relationship I have had in England has ended after the discovery of duplicity. Theirs, not mine. I am sick of Western women. Most I meet are obnoxious, aggressive, and act more masculine than the males. That is why I am single at 41 and one big reason why I now want to sell up and go to Thailand. Better to find a slim, pretty, graceful woman who is not as materialistic, and did not grow up being rude to her parents. The lies are a small price to pay. Don’t blame the Thai girl and her culture for your inability to read the woman’s mind. That is a universal failing of male-kind. Try learning her language. Actually knowing what she said rather than what you think she meant may help you separate the truth, the half truth, and everything but the truth.
On a side note:
What is all this talk about face being more important than honesty? How many readers would be prepared to talk to anyone back home, and not just a hand selected audience, about their exploits in Thailand. Go on I dare you to go into the local church hall and make a speech to the vicar and the Womens Institute about all the ‘ins and outs’ of your holiday. ‘Questions anyone?’ Go on tell them the truth. The Head Mistress of the School where you sister studies is there. Go on, lose face!
How many farang would visit Nana Plaza tonight if they new that a film crew from the BBC or NBC were doing a documentary on the sex trade, or that Stickman was about to set up a Web Cam somewhere at Soi Cowboy. Mum and Dad might be watching!
Back home I now speak to my friends, or people in shop, or recall past arguments with family or girlfriends, and what do I now see after visiting Thailand. The saving of face – dishonesty.
Let me get back to the original statement in my piece namely the ‘appropriate’ justification for my actions while in the LOS. Why worry as my actions won’t make a damn bit of difference. Just look at the statistics – Thailand – Population, Poverty And Prostitution. Ask yourself this –Are you sure the owner of the bar that you frequent has absolutely nothing to do with any aspect of the trade you find abhorrent? How much did you spend on girls on holiday? How many Vietnamese children could that buy? Just one? Oh that’s OK then! Oh of course you didn’t go to a brothel or bar, she is a freelancer. Sorry didn’t mean you. No offence meant! Oh yes I meant you too.
How many girls grow up, wanting to go to university, to become a nurse or teacher? Sounds just like home doesn’t it. How many don’t because they fall pregnant with no family/government support. How many don’t because their Dad is an alcoholic gambler and has lost the farm. I have read that a lot of these stories are a ‘crock of s**t’ and are perpetuated for the benefit of ‘milking time’ of the white boy. Of course I forgot – you are the victim, not them!
How many girls grow up to be a teacher only to see their pupils put their English skills to use in Phuket and earning more than she does. What message does that send to the other good hard working girls? While you are fucking the girl, you are fucking around with the moral values of her ex class mates and possibly their teacher. Can you live with this?
How would you feel if a convicted Paedophile was housed in your neighbourhood? He has served his time. The State says he is safe to let out. How do you feel? How would you feel if a paedo’ attempted to ‘groom’ your daughter or niece while on the internet? What has this to do with picking up an adult bar girl? This is what – You as a farang are supporting an industry started by U.S. service men during the Vietnam War. A war of socio / political bullshit that helped damage the whole region, not just Vietnam. (Why is it that AIDS always seams to spring up near US military bases?) With US air bases in the North of Thailand and naval bases in the south, a whole NEW industry started. A defence I often hear is that the farang sex industry is only 10% of the whole. Sorry but that is not the bar girl/ go-go bar scene. ‘Their’ girls are not parading down the street in the gaze of the general public. An industry once behind closed doors was reborn on the high street. There is no minimum age for onlookers remember. And that is my point. You are paying your woman a wage sometimes 10 times more than a good young woman can ever hope to earn and all yours had to learn was a few chosen words from the now best selling ‘Milking the Farang’ phrase book (available in all good bars – the farang price is out of your range so don’t bother trying to buy one). One girl gets a house, the other gets to work in a garment factory and live in a filthy apartment with 5 others in one room. I’m sorry but you have just been ‘grooming’ a child. That onlooker. How do you feel? A little bit guilty?
Why are some Thais hostile to tourists yet at the same time some make us welcome. Ask them what they do for a living? And if you think you are welcome, read Thailand Less Attractive.
Why does Thailand let us carry on this nonsense? Why are we not picked up at the airport at home by our own police along with the Paedo’. After all, soliciting a prostitute is illegal in most countries. Does it matter where the girl lives? There is always the charge of aiding and abetting. Read on …
and for something a little closer to home:
Quote: ‘In Thailand, trafficking is a Bt500 billion annual business, which is 50%- 60% of the government's annual budget and more lucrative than the drug trade.’ (Authorities and activists, Kulachada Chaipipat, "New law targets human trafficking," The Nation, 30 November 1997).
Feeling guilty? I’m sorry if I have pissed on your bonfire, but that is how I feel. It is not how I wanted to feel after visiting Thailand. But it might be how I should feel. After all, I do know the difference between right and wrong. I bet you do too.
Feeling how I do, I wonder why I now feel justified to write this piece. To make me feel better? Being of good Christian upbringing maybe, wanting to confess all and purify my soul. Or did I write this and want it published, so when I do return, I can show it to my good Thai girlfriend and say ‘I wrote that – I made mistake – I have good heart.’
Up to you.
That was quite a rant.