Readers' Submissions

A Reply To The Reply To The Cynic

  • Written by Anonymous
  • September 4th, 2004
  • 20 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

A Reply To A Reply To The Cynic

By The Cynic


Well, that was a very selective reading of my piece! I just had to go back and re-read it to make sure Stick had left nothing out; he hadn’t!

I really feel that this is not a direct response to what I wrote. And, if this is supposed to assist a newcomer, I think, Mr Honky Mike, that you paint a very idyllic picture of Thai people. Obviously, your experiences have been much more positive in LOS than mine. That’s fair enough. But the experiences I wrote of were mine and I feel I can also assist the newcomer, and enlighten them in other ways.

Perhaps the bone of contention here is that, in the main, I was writing about Thais in the sex trade – both directly and indirectly. Perhaps you are writing of ordinary, decent Thai people.

Later I will write about my experiences with ordinary, decent Thai people – in the tourist industry. Please, bear with me…

Firstly, I think I explained quite clearly that I got a handle on economics of scale in Thailand. Hence my cup of coffee story! I don’t think I need a lecture on what’s affordable for a Thai. My friend Fon briefed me well enough on this, citing different salaries.

The point you seem to have missed so completely, Mr. Honky Mike is this; EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE.

Remember, I wrote;

I know my mate gives 1000 baht + to the guy he’s bedding each night. I know he gives the “guide” over 20,000 baht for the couple of weeks he’s in LOS. And he puts a similar amount into a bank account for him during the year.

Ok. Have you read that? [ let’s give a time frame of 3 weeks] I reckon 21,000 baht + is a fairly ok salary for three weeks in Thailand! The + here, by the way, could mean an additional 12,000 golden handshake at the end of the holiday. So we’re talking about 33,000 baht for 3 weeks work, plus all expenses paid.

And that’s just the boyfriend. The guide would get about 25,000. Plus all expenses. And for this, believe me, he does f**k all. He’s company for the other guy.

Now, please correct me if I’m wrong here, but these guys seem, to me, quite affluent by Thai standards! Also, I failed to mention this before, these two have other patrons who are also generous! There are relatively large sums of cash put into their accounts, regularly!

So, Honky Mike writes; “OK, the discounted airlines will start to shake things up a bit, but even so, when your monthly income is 5,000 baht, even a 1,000 baht (each way) saving is significant”

Here, I quote you. Because never once in my submission, did I ever infer that these guys were on a salary of only 5,000 baht per month. Conservatively, I guess they average about 25,000 baht per month.

I repeat, EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE!!

In my own country, I sometimes take a train between cities. Flying would be a bit too extravagant on my income. I’m realistic about this. I can live with it. So, hypothetically speaking, if a “rich” foreigner came over to my country, I don’t think I’d feel the need to mooch the price of a flight from him!

I have learned to live within my means. So has my Thai friend, Fon. You will remember I wrote that she laughed when I asked her if she had been on a ‘plane?

Another example. As a rule Thais' don't drink in the same way in which we do. Hmmm. I can only give you my experience on that one. The first night my mate and his guide arrived in my hotel, I offered a drink from the mini bar. The guide lashed into the Heineken. As I recall, there was Singha, Chang and Thai whisky in there too. This surprised me, as I thought Thais would indeed prefer their own brands, what they’re used to etc.. No, it was the same for the whole trip. Heineken or Jack Daniels; once the farang was paying of course.

Also, I did mention that I was actually brought out by some bar staff. And we went to a Thai place to eat and drink. And we all paid our way. Hence my balanced submission, don’t you think?

One, he doesn't want a second beer and two, he can't afford (a minimum of) 200 baht. He doesn't even want to be in the bar! He's only there to accompany you.

Now I can give a small, real life situation to challenge this one! When we were up in Chiang Mai, the guide, Ya, took us to a restaurant/ bar. The Riverside it was called. The choice of venue was completely up to him, as they say. He had his own agenda. As it transpired, he had met a nice waitress there a year ago, and wanted to check out if she was still around. She wasn’t, but believe me, this guy certainly acted like he didn’t mind a second drink…or a third, fourth etc! You have your own experiences, Mr. Honky Mike; and you base your views on them. I have mine, and will do the same, quid pro quo.

In my own country I drink Heineken. It’s ok. Now if that same hypothetical rich visitor came here, I don’t think I’d change my tipple to Dom Perignon! What’s the point? Again, please believe me. I’ve been in situations here when the bar was free – I still went for my regular drink.

So Mr. Cynic. Are the Thais so mean? I don't think so, try to imagine the situation if roles were reversed.

So you want my version of your own role reversal? No problem. I’ll try to get the comparative pay scales accurate. I’ll be the “guide” in my story.

My friend gives his guide about 20,000 baht for the three weeks he visits Thailand. Is that double an average Thai’s monthly income? We’ll say it is. In my country. €1600 (net) is an average monthly wage for, say a factory worker, here. I think if we bear in mind the differences in cost of living in Thailand versus an average EU country, this will balance out.

So this imaginary rich guy comes over here, and basically offers me over €3,200 (double my monthly income) just to hang out with him for a few weeks. He’ll pay all the bills; he’s going to take me on a 3-week holiday. I just have to organise a tour or two, get him around in taxis, show him where to eat etc. And, later in the year, I know he’s going to put another, €3,200 into my bank…for doing nothing at all!!

Please, please believe me; I’d have no problem buying this guy a cold one, and even treating him to an occasional meal! I don’t think I’d even want to contemplate taking advantage of this guy! Why even risk killing the goose that lays the golden egg! I’d take care of this guy, best I could, not try to fleece him!

This was the point I was trying to make in my story. At no point was I referring to a hard working honest Thai, earning only 5000 baht per month! I was talking about a leech, a hanger-on, an out and out taker who cadges over 20,000 baht per month!

That’s my role reversal for you, Mr. Honky Mike!

You say the gay hookers prospects are zero? Ok, but remember, in their working lifetime, they can earn over 3 times the amount that their peers who work in “normal” jobs. And their outlay is also minimised, with the expenses they receive, the clothes that are bought for them etc. They risk HIV, but that’s their choice. So, if they’re any way prudent, they can build up a nice little nest egg, for a farm, house whatever. Up to them. Their choice! Though, I have heard Thais are not well known for taking the long-term view; am I wrong about this too?

Alright, I concede that the shelf life of a male hooker can be short. But not that short; Thais age much better than us Westerners! And yes, the guy is straight, I’m sure he doesn’t enjoy what he does for a living. But, hey! That’s his choice Honky Mike! How many of us love waking up in the morning to go to the drudgery of our jobs? Remember, this guy is getting top dollar for what he does. He could work in some bar or hotel for 5 or 6,000 baht a month. No, he wants 25,000 + per month, and as many expenses as possible paid!

His choice.

So, you say they should milk the farang for every baht? Fair enough, that’s your opinion! Mine is that, on an ordinary level of human decency, it would be nice to give a little back. Remember, my friend treats these guys well. He pays the guy for sex, pro rata. But he takes them to the cinema, takes them to restaurants, buys them trendy clothes. They could do a lot worse by a different person. In my mind, they should respect that and treat it accordingly.

So Mr. Cynic. Are the Thais so mean?

The theme of my piece was not that Thais are mean. I tried to give a balanced view. I wrote about my friend Fon, and her generosity relative to her income. I wrote at length about this. I also wrote about my bar staff friends taking care of me. So why, Honky Mike, did you feel a need to lecture me on the exact same thing? I’m baffled! And I don’t think I’m generalising as much as you are! I’m giving specific, real life experiences Of Thais – both good and bad ones.

I’d like to think that my submission pointed out the fact that many Thais are greedy and can be very short-term thinkers! And one can be taken advantage of, very easily. Ok, you may say, that can happen anywhere in the world! I agree; but it really seems to be much, much more prevalent in Thailand. There’s no smoke without some fire; just read many other submissions in this site, and others.

I gave just a few examples of my first impressions of Thailand. In my opinion, in the context of these examples, my opinions were balanced. I’m sorry you failed to see that.

Now, how about a few things I didn’t mention? Sorry, but you have encouraged me to dig a little deeper into my Thai experiences!

How about the dual pricing system? You think that’s mean? I’ll give you my opinion on this, for what it’s worth. I think it’s utterly RACIST. Not simply mean. Over the years, many immigrants and refugees have come to my country. And many other Western countries too. There would be an absolute outcry if these people were not treated fairly, and were charged extra for goods or services! Yet the Thais seem totally comfortable with this practice. I really feel for guys living in LOS. It’s annoying on a vacation; I couldn’t imagine putting up with that all the time.

A friend of mine from England related this story to me, three weeks ago. Last year he bought a bar in Phuket. The first job he needed done was to install a roller shutter. He got it done for 35,000 baht. Later, a Thai friend told him that he had got the exact same job done on HIS bar for 8,000 baht. Not nice. This English guy was investing 50,000 pounds Sterling in Thailand. He was providing, fair, decent, well paid employment to Thai people. I spent some time in his bar, and, trust me, I know he treated his staff very well. Thai tradesmen stole 27,000 baht from him. Simply because he’s a farang. And he has to deal with this type of racism on a daily basis! Again, this is a true story, one I’m sure many expats can relate to. Readers?

I remember well, talking about the dual pricing structure, a bargirl said to me; same same your country for Thai? She really believed all countries had the same policy of ripping off the non-nationals. This is a true story. How little they know; maybe therein lies the answer…

Another experience. On a trip to Ayuthya a year ago, a few of us on the bus got talking. It transpired that I had paid almost double (2,500 baht) what everyone else had paid! I questioned our tour guide about this. Her English deteriorated rapidly at this point…A more experienced guy on the trip figured it out. Of all of us on the coach, I was staying in the better hotel; the rest were from cheaper places in Khao San Road! The logic? Of course I should pay more! What do you call this Honky Mike? A nice, welcoming way to treat the guests of one’s nation? <I have to jump in here and say that this is the case of an agent charging a higher price than other agents, something common the world over and not just a Thai thing at allStick>

I stayed in Patong last year for a week. A nice hotel, I spent quite a bit of money there over the week. On my last day, I want a taxi to Karon, so I get the girl at reception to book it for me. 600 baht. At the time, I knew no better; after a TWELVE-MINUTE journey I realised I’d been screwed! I’ve since found out the trip should cost no more than 200 baht. Now, please bear this in mind here; I was a good paying guest of that hotel for a week. Yet on my last day, they willingly assist a taxi driver in fleecing me for an extra 400 baht. An endearing way of repaying my custom. And you question my cynicism?

Another time, in Bangkok, I rambled a little off the beaten track. Taxis were few in this area, but I finally managed to flag one down. I pointed to the meter, as I was used to doing at this stage. He refused point blank and asked for 200 baht! I estimated the journey should cost no more than 60 baht. I made a show of writing down his ID number; he just smiled, a very cold, chilling smile. I moved off and hailed down another driver, one that was willing to do fair business. I won’t forget that old guy’s smile, though. Another ambassador for Thai tourism.

A few weeks ago, I had a nasty accident in Bangkok. I fell and cut my shin to the bone. It was nasty. The following day I travelled to Patong, Phuket. I decided to hire a small motorbike to get around, as my leg was quite sore. I hired one from a woman on the beach road, it cost me 1200 baht for the week. After a half hour, I realised that my leg wasn’t really up to this. I filled the tank with gas and returned the bike to the dealer. I showed her my bandaged leg and politely asked would there be any chance of a refund. Well, you should have seen her face change expression.. Her response was; boss have money, boss in Bangkok, cannot do. Not a trace of sympathy for my predicament. She then proceeded to ignore me as if I wasn’t there. Being stubborn, I returned the following day. She gave me the same bulls**t story. I walked off in complete disgust. May her business prosper, in proportion to her customer service skills.

Please note that none of the above incidents involved anyone in the sex trade.

And now I’ll digress! I’ve started, so I’ll finish!

These are some of the reasons I’m cynical about Thailand. After three visits to the country, I feel like I have to put on a protective suit of armour as I leave Don Muang, to deflect the rip-off merchants and scammers!

And judging from the many, many reports I’ve read on websites, I’m not entirely alone in this sentiment. Thailand continues to fascinate people. One of the reasons it fascinates me, is the stupidity of so many Thais, in particular, those involved in the tourist sector.

Can they not see the long-term negative impact that all the little cheats and rip-offs will have on their country? Their jobs? Can they be so short-sighted? It amazes me.

From my reading of this site, and others, it seems that the Thai government is trying to clean up, and play down, the country’s reputation for sex tourism. I don’t believe this for a minute, the income from this sector is too great! They want the focus to shift towards Thailand, as a normal, tourist and family venue? Well, Minister, you really have your work cut out for you!

Does the Thai government really believe that the beauty of the land is enough to pull the crowds? What good is beautiful scenery if the area is swarming with hawkers pestering you to buy overpriced souvenirs? I had this experience on “James Bond Island” last year. From the minute I got off the long tail, I was fighting them off! I love photography, but the beautiful little cove was so full of stalls it actually defaced the place. I couldn’t get a decent picture! Beautiful areas are being spoiled by ill-controlled development.

Patong is worse! A beautiful beach, but you can’t stroll along the sand without being constantly annoyed to buy wallets, water or whatever else is on offer! And as for the beach road? I really would love to saunter along here, just once, without being annoyed by the incessant “where you go, tuktuk, tuktuk, tuktuk!” Can they not understand this: if I want a tuktuk I will hire one! If I want to walk, I’ll walk! In Bangkok, the drivers actually STALK you; even though you’ve already said no! The hard sell may be part of Eastern culture, but how many seasons must pass until they learn that it’s actually very irritating to many farangs! Trust me, I’m not the first to have said this. I’m tolerant of other cultures, but what once seemed quaint can cross a fine line into being very annoying!

The same thing happens in the markets, and even in some department stores. Why can’t they allow me to browse, just to peruse the goods and make a choice? Most people I know have found this to be very off-putting. Some folk find it’s quite intimidating, and move on.

I understand our cultures are different. But if Thailand wants to attract the tourist dollars, why can’t the people in the industry actually try to understand what the tourist really wants. Know your customer, it makes sense.

How come many beautiful tours are tainted by that old reliable…the visit to the gem factory! I encountered this one on my first ever Thai tour, a visit to the floating market. Now how many people actually buy anything in these places? At the end of a long day in a minibus, sticky and sweating, we have to be subjected to this? All of my tour group simply wanted to get back to their hotels at this stage of the evening. They didn’t want to look at jewel-encrusted butterflies, that they had no intentions of buying! It’s obvious the tour operators (and tuktuk drivers) get a backhander from these establishments, but they are certainly not looking after their customers – the tourists! Most tourists, especially the more seasoned types, were pretty fed up with this carry on after a couple of visits! Tolerances can wear thin after an early start and a long day!

A year ago in Chiang Mai, I tried to book into a hotel for a week. The receptionist told me that I could book for one night, but I’d have to check if the room was still available the following morning. Next day, same story. Next day, same story. I got annoyed with their system and let the girl know that I couldn’t go on like this; I couldn’t plan ahead at all. She immediately confirmed the remaining nights. Crazy! I found out later, from a local, that the hotel tried this with most single travellers. They wanted double occupancy of as many rooms as possible! Recently, I read that tourist numbers are down in Chiang Mai. I think that hotel might appreciate my custom now. On second thoughts…

Our world is changing. Global communication has reached dizzying heights with the Internet. Now, so much information can often be acquired with the click of a mouse. Good reviews, and bad reviews, are so easily posted on web forums. If one gets ripped off or overcharged, it’s so easy to warn many people not to visit that establishment. I know, I’ve read bad reviews; the places didn’t get my custom! And of course, the opposite is true, too; a fair, well-run business deserves repeat custom. In the long view, countries that cheat tourists will lose trade. It’s inevitable. Wake up and smell the coffee!

So don’t blame SARS, bird ‘flu or terrorism.

Could someone please explain this to Thai people? Farangs are not stupid; farangs are not as rich as they perceive us to be; farangs do not like to feel they have to be constantly vigilant to deception when on holiday.

Farangs may eventually seek other places for their annual vacations if all this nonsense continues!

I’ve rambled! Sorry for the rant, everyone! I welcome any replies to this piece!

Stickman's thoughts:

Yes, some of what happens in Thailand is not entirely fair and can create the sort of cynicism you feel. Some vendors are not just dishonest, they are downright cheats, and their whole business may be built on some sort of scam. One simply has to do all that they can to educate themselves so as to avoid this sort of thing. A good guidebook and reading sites such as this should help.

There are some things though that are hard to complain about. Paying too much for a taxi fare or for a tour are not really the seller’s fault at all. You didn’t ask around for a better price and when offered a high price, you accepted it. The quoted prices have been ridiculously high, but you still accepted them, presumably without any sort of pressure applied to you. It is therefore somewhat difficult to complain too much about this.

Thailand is not a wealthy country and many of the people employed in the tourism industry are poor. They may try all they can to part you from your money. Not good, but that is the way it is.

But you’re right when you say that tourism in Thailand could be affected by some of these unscrupulous vendors and people employed in the industry. It does pose a threat to the tourism sector alright.