Stickman Readers' Submissions August 18th, 2004

Reflections On Time (And Money Not So) Well Spent

I was first introduced to Thailand a few years ago when my 'Uncle' suggested I spend a year supporting a rather large operation taking place a few hundred kilometers east of what would be my location in Northeast Thailand. Some of my co-workers
worked 'round the clock making daily trips to a number of places in support of that operation.

My 'Uncle' eventually sent me home. Then, two months after he released me from his employ, I returned on my own to retrieve two souvenirs I had not been able to bring with me when I first left.

He Clinic Bangkok

I have no regrets.

I relate to many of the tales told by you and your readers. What I don't relate to is the, "I've got the money, I'm the MAN" attitude of many. Forty or more years ago, the book, The Ugly American, illustrated the
damage done to US interests by that attitude and
others. From your readers, I've seen the same attitude, but this time from some Ugly Brits, Ugly Wallabies, Ugly Springboks – you name the country, there's been an 'Ugly'
commentator, including more Ugly Americans. In large part, I believe they may be people who can be, "The MAN" in Thailand, but are themselves at the lower end of things back home. The rest I dismiss as the unfortunate result of the worst
of the 'Me generation'.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Thai see falang as a source of income and that they will do many things to separate us from our money. Some will do anything to separate us from our money. But I feel safer – and in more control over
how it happens – than if I were visiting some neighborhoods of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Amsterdam, London, etc. In other words, it does not matter where you are, if you do something stupid, you will
likely pay for the privilege.

CBD Bangkok

I believe your site serves a valuable function in warning of the many cons the Thais use to separate us from our money. Believe it or not, on one trip, my wife, who should really know better, almost fell for one of them. She was convinced
to get in the tuk-tuk, but not convinced she was getting any great deals.

I have also taken some of your advice to heart, i.e., don't take them back to your room! We'll see about the Airport.;-)

Taking a step back…. Currently, I am in Thailand on business, without my wife. I have done some things I never believed I would do. But I have been up front with everyone (except my wife, who has asked about some unusual cash withdrawals)
involved. Everyone knows I am married. Everyone knows I leave at the end of the month, perhaps never to return (at least not without my wife).

There is a particular go-go bar in Patpong where I am quite notorious – at least I was last week.;-) That, and what I have learned as a result is the real story.

One night an unmarried acquaintance (a Brit) working at the same company as I invited me to accompany him to dinner. Afterwards, we stopped by a bar he had visited before. He barfined a girl. I was trying to stay honest, but finally began
buying those ridiculously small colas for one of the 'ladies' (Coke must make a fortune on just the amount of cola sold but not drunk each night). Somehow, one 'lady' became two 'ladies'. Then as my friend decided
to leave, the two 'ladies' became three that I barfined. I was not drunk. I knew exactly what I was doing, but foolishly hoped I could avoid the final consequence. (Don't believe me, it's true!)

wonderland clinic

We first went to a nearby 'raanaahaan' (my idea, they took some convincing – thought the 'rohng raem' was a better idea). That was where I explained that I was married to a still beautiful Thai lady, and that each of them
was younger than my youngest child (that makes me 'thao hua nguu', right?). I was still hoping to avoid the consequences. Of course, after we ate, one thing led to a hotel, or, you might say, one lady led to two (total three) more. Fortunately,
I survived without the little blue helper. In retrospect, I should have given them each their tip after eating, and gone home.

One thing I respect about the Thais is their personal cleanliness. We all showered before and after. This is the way it is done in Thailand. I had seen each of them nude, but they still wore towels out of the shower. Shy? Perhaps, but those
hotel rooms are cool and small people get cold quicker than large people – it's physics, a small mass loses heat faster than a large mass. Also, when I am alone in my hotel, I wrap a towel around me after my shower – I am not cold, there
is no one to see me, but my habit is to wrap the towel!

Since then, there have been occasions where only one 'lady' was working, where two 'ladies' were working, and finally, when none of them were working and a fourth was added to the group. She was the age of one of my children,
so, of course, became the 'phii sao'. I am 'taa yao' (grandfather yao), they are my four 'luuk sao'. One night we temporarily added two 'laan' to the mix, friends of two of my 'luuk sao'. In all
cases we have what can only be described as rather conventional, serial, sex. No lady / lady sex, always with (I hate them) condoms. No missionary position, but everything else is pretty normal. I may be 'thao hua nguu', but without
the 'kink'.

Only one of my 'luuk sao' speaks and understands English very well. My Thai is not bad, but my wife and I do not use it at home, so it is not great. We are all still able to communicate. I have had the opportunity to talk with each
of them alone. And I understand enough Thai to ask questions when things are being discussed in my presence.

How do I keep all four happy? Avoid the jealousy? By trying not to show any preference. By giving them constant reassurance that each is special to me. That is how they became my 'luuk sao'. I explained that just as a mother or
father with more than one child considers each one special, I too, considered each of them special, they were like my 'luuk sao'. If they all are working, they all have the opportunity to go with me if they wish. I offer to 'pay
bar' or 'tip' them the equivalent. One has said twice, "give me tip", but has changed her mind before we left.

I make certain that they know I understand how they earn money (e.g., Patpong hotels may 'kick back' baht 100 to a lady that brings in a customer – but no kick back if more than one lady), AND that I do not have a problem with it. What do you
think happens with the ladies in <fill in country name here>? Why should I think it should be different in Thailand? If you want to blame someone for all this, blame the Brits, Italians, etc., who were the first falang in Thailand before
WWII, or the US for its R 'n R trips during Vietnam, don't blame the Thai for learning from them.

I also do not judge my 'luuk sao' for what they do. I believe they are mostly the victim of circumstances. They were born into a world of poverty, their job seems to pay more than what they can earn doing anything else. And like
many of us, some don't like the job, but cannot really quit. I do not think the term, "Golden Handcuffs" originated in Asia;-). Their handcuffs just hold them to a less respectable job.

One told me she had worked at other, 'respectable' jobs in Bangkok and none paid as well as entertaining falang.

How much do they earn? Last night was payday for last month. One of my 'luuk sao' was paid baht 200 by the bar. One had taken unauthorized leave, and was paid nothing. They said their monthly pay was baht 5,500 per month, but with
deductions for being late (1 baht per minute), make-up charges (baht 500 – ever wonder why they are so careful about their make-up in the shower?) and other things, they can receive little (baht 200) or nothing! Then they must depend on caging
drinks (baht 30 for cola, baht 0 for beer!) or going 'boom-boom' with a customer. If they are barfined more than four times in a month, they start to collect a share, otherwise, they get nothing.

Just recently, one asked about going to the airport with me when I go home. My flight _really_ does leave at 6:00 am, and I suggested they may not want to come along. I got the expected reply (we are finished working at 2:00am, we can wait
to go with you at 3:00am;-). I am not certain why they want to come with me. I do not think I have given them reason to doubt my departure plans. They know my wife is Thai and that she still has family here. They also know we may come on a family
visit in January, so they should not expect I will give them the baht I may still have. Ahhh, but perhaps, "Hope springs eternal…." Or perhaps seeing someone leave partially satisfies their own dreams of going to a better life someday.
I already know I will try to arrange it to our mutual convenience.

I believe it was Maslow that coined the term 'self-actualization'. Most important, however, was his identification of what needs must be satisfied to reach self-actualization. He identified several layers. At the bottom was the
need for food and shelter. Those who must struggle to assure their needs for food and shelter – essentially their basic need for survival – will do whatever is necessary to satisfy it.

I've knowingly and willingly spent far more money than I should. One basis of my notoriety is my 'jai dii dii'. Knowing I cannot make a difference in their lives, knowing they may be conning me. As the man says, "I don't
give a hoot!"

I have only one regret. Too much went to the bar for drinks. I would rather have given it to my 'luuk sao'.

Taa Yao

Thanks to Lonely Planet's Thai Phrasebook for English spellings of Thai words. Replies may be sent to this email address.

Stickman's thoughts:

Don't take the Mrs to Patpong next time you're in town!

nana plaza