Thai Dolca Vita – If Not, We Report, You Decide
Thai Dolca Vita – Or Not, We Report, You Decide
By Materials Man
I am finally writing my promised reader’s submission, in response to the request for submissions from expats, so firstly a great thank you to Stickman for providing such a wonderful forum for such tales as this, all of my scribblings are true, there is no need to fabricate the goings on here in the Land of Smiles!
LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT – TALK TALK
I have been living here for twelve and a half years (sorry Dana, I know you dislike the fact that we wear that statement like a badge of merit, but if nothing else it at least shows a keen survival instinct) and over the course of this submission I will try to explain the reasons for ending up here, reasons for staying etc. but also letting you, gentle readers, decide whether or not this really is a good life or not.
TRAMP THE DIRT DOWN – ELVIS COSTELLO
The usual depressing and familiar tale of Thatcher’s Britain in the 80’s is where the story starts. A long term steady job with British Telecom, live in girlfriend, large mortgage and all the strains and stresses that go with that, when one day out of the blue she tells me she is leaving me to run off to Australia with her new boyfriend, and she wants half of everything we had. As I said a familiar tale for many of us. So I try to handle it calmly, re-mortgage the house, pay her off, then bang! Interest rates suddenly shoot up and I find myself with a mortgage larger than my salary. Feeling depressed about life in general, and being a young thirty year old, I cast my mind back to seeing Alan Whicker and his ‘‘Whickers World’ TV programme following the QE2 around the world and their stop off in Pattaya, where I remember vividly seeing the most beautiful dusky maiden on Pattaya beach, long luxurious curly air, quite the most stunning creature I had seen in my short life, and painted on her chest was the mantra ‘USA FUCK ME’, waiting for the arrival of the American Navy. I never actually found her, but I did find many others, as the saying goes ‘ you have to kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find a prince(ss)’. When people here ask me why I came to Thailand, this was the defining moment, the point when I decided that Thailand and in particular Pattaya was a place for me to visit, another submission earlier also alluded to this programme. Alan Whicker, you have no idea what you did to some of us! However, I didn’t get there straight away, family and friends persuaded me that Thailand was a dirty, seedy place, and in those days before the Internet and Stickman, no way of really checking out the score, so instead I booked a fortnight in Tenerife in February. Well, major disappointment, and on the day of my return to Blighty, I marched in to the local travel agents and booked a ten day holiday in sunny Pattaya with Intasun for May 1990. Little did I know what to expect or how it would impact my life.
TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT – ROD STEWART
Phew! Newbie impressions of Pattaya back then, of course the heat, the girls, smiling, friendly people, and the fact that I was practically the youngest guy there immediately spring to mind. When we arrived at our hotel, the old low level Royal Garden Resort, it was approaching midnight, but the tour rep. said ‘You’re only here for ten nights, so make the most of your first one’, so, heart in mouth I venture on to the streets. I went out of the then back entrance to the hotel and ended up on Second Road and headed south towards what? Well, in those days Second Road had hardly any bars, so I’m thinking ‘where is everything I’ve heard about?’ Well, eventually I turned in to what I now know as Soi Diamond and voila, there it all is. Got myself a seat at the Suzie Wong Bar to grab a beer and take in the sights, and my first greenhorn thought ‘ Jeez, there a lot of barmaids’ a welcome change for a boy used to queuing up for thirty minutes for my ‘two pints of lager and a packet of crisps’ in a crowded weekend bar in Bournemouth. So, I’m sat there enjoying life, cold beer (45 baht a bottle, back then the exchange rate was 44 to the GBP) good sights, but I am enticed like a moth to the flame by the pretty door girls into Blue Hawaii A Go-Go opposite, where frankly on entering this den of iniquity I may just as well have had a sign over my head saying ‘NEWBIE SUCKER’, instant scrum of beautiful girls surrounding me, which eventually I whittle down to one, several blue fishbowl lady drinks later, a reasonable 100 baht a time I remember thinking, and of course being an inexperienced newbie I was grateful when the girl herself suggested she would be willing to accompany me to my hotel for some horizontal mamboing, just as well as I was wondering how to approach the subject, and frankly if she hadn’t had suggested it I may have chickened out.
We agreed on a thousand baht for the night, back to the hotel, first experience of paying a ‘fee’ at reception, but what the hell, here I was first night in Pattaya, beautiful go-go girl on my arm who was prepared to sleep with me, and all in all it had cost me a little more than two thousand baht, around fifty pounds English, at the time I thought ‘what a great deal’ compared to the painful and costly process of dating in England. I won’t go into lurid details, I have to say that to all readers that have not actually made it over here, the first time you touch a naked Thai girl and feel the warmth and texture of her skin, it’s just a truly wondrous experience compared to western women, it was a great night, and that night as Stickman says ‘another sex tourist was born’, and since that night I have never even looked at a western women lustfully.
I would like to say at this juncture that some people I’ve met have a mental block when it comes to paying for sex, but not me. I took to it like a fish to water, it all seemed such a natural thing to do, and the reality is we all pay for sex one way or another, wherever in the world we are, and of course the most expensive form of sex is called marriage! When I worked out the cost per bonk of paying off my girlfriend, even though I had never been unfaithful to her in our five year relationship despite many offers, I could have slept with a supermodel every time! Of course I made mistakes on this first trip, giving the girl money for a second night that never actually happened for one, but what a roller coaster ride of a ten days that was, different girl almost every night, did all the touristy bits, Grand Palace, Rose Garden, Bridge over the River Kwai, just in case I never made it back to Thailand (ha!). I spent far more than I had budgeted for, I took a thousand pounds with me, but had to pull out another four hundred pounds on the credit card, but I don’t regret a penny, wonderful time, in particular a birthday treat to myself, a body massage (also known as ‘white water rafting’) in Sabai Land. Even then there was a difference in class between the cheaply dressed but comely bargirls and the lavishly made up and elegantly dressed massage girls. Note to all first timers, it doesn’t take long to learn the ropes, just talk to your fellow travelers around the hotel pool and compare experiences.
TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT – JOHNNY PAY CHECK
On arrival back in England like so many others before me, and so many more in then future, I was hooked. In Thailand I felt there was a place where I truly felt I could belong, all I could think about was how to get back. I lost interest in the local women. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t some ‘saddo’ that couldn’t get a girl, I had an active social life and many friends on the bar and nightclub ‘scene’, and honestly Bournemouth on the south coast is as good a place as any in England to live, vibrant nightlife all year round, and as for the summer phew, good looking women of all types and nationalities flock there on student exchange schemes, and it’s a major tourist resort. A little like Pattaya without the paid for sex.
I think actually one of the reasons I was able to settle in Pattaya rather than Bangkok is the similarity, I have always felt relaxed in close proximity to the sea and I feel people who live next to the sea appear to have a less stressed attitude towards life, or maybe it’s just me!. Sorry, I digress, back to the story, I did everything possible to get back to Thailand, traded goods for Air Miles, sold my decent car for an old banger, and managed another trip in November ’90 and again in May ’91, each time for longer periods, each time having a ball, and each time feeling a stronger and stronger pull to actually try to live in the place. Newbie mistakes were still being made aplenty, falling in love, trading ‘I luv you too mut’ air mails, tales of sick buffaloes etc. Even made the classic mistake of falling in with a few ‘wrong un’s’ in the seedy underbelly of farang life in Pattaya, and made, and of course consequently lost, an investment of 15,000 GBP in a Beer Bar, with what turned out to be either an Aussie conman or an extremely bad businessman. <Name edited – Stick>, if you are still alive and kicking in the Philippines, you know who you are! A word to the new guys, and I believe it has been mentioned before, some of the worst rip offs and injustices done to farangs in Thailand are done by your fellow friendly farangs, so be warned! Having said that, again I bear no ill feelings towards him, if I saw him today I would buy him a beer, for indeed it was this very fact of losing all my money with him that inspired me to come back over here and really try to make something of myself, whether or not I actually did, you can decide for yourselves later.
Another interesting ‘first, actually second time’ experience happened in Pattaya during this period. I was with my new best friend Peter in the Baby A Go-Go and he introduced me to the owner and influential ahem, ‘businessman’, a German that had many varied interests in Pattaya. He was sat in his bar, flanked by two gun toting bodyguards. Again, I have to digress and remember fondly those days, the waitresses in Baby A Go-go were all such cuties, and they would walk around with just two strings of tiny flowers to hide their modesty, great stuff. Also the German had a hairdressing salon next to Baby 3, and he told me it was impossible to get girls to stay working as hairdressers because they would be working on the gold drenched dancers touching up hair and make up sometimes three times a night, and it would only be a matter of weeks before they themselves would be up there on stage earning much more money than they could make cutting hair.
Anyway, we were there talking, and he says, “Rod, any friend of <name edited>’s is a friend of mine. Take any of my girls here, for free”. What more encouragement does a young man need? Of course I pick one, back to the hotel for a night of bliss, then in the morning she says “you give me money”. Of course I am feeling aggrieved having assumed it was a freebie at the behest of her boss, and a dispute arises, culminating in her producing a wicked looking knife from her handbag. Oh, shit! Here I am naked as a jaybird and there’s this psycho bitch in my hotel room waving a knife at me! I fear for my wedding tackle, but instead of slicing me, she takes the knife and hacks at her own arm, aaargh! Blood is spurting all over the carpet, so of course I have to bandage her up using the hotel sheets, and pay her a reasonably large amount of baht to hustle her out of my room to get treatment without causing stress to either myself or the hotel. Of course, older and much wiser I understand that there is no such thing as a freebie, her boss of course merely meant that the bar fine was free. Ouch, another painful lesson in newbie Pattaya life.
Ever since then I have been very wary of any girl, no matter how beautiful, that has self inflicted scars on her arms, thankfully it seems not such a trendy thing to do amongst the girls now. During this period of Thailand obsession, I was trying to keep up appearances at home, taking in lodgers to try and cope with the mortgage and other bills like the dreaded Poll Tax, but I was spiralling down into the abyss of heavy debt. Again I’m sure a very familiar story to many of us during the late ‘80s / early ‘90s when fate came to play a hand.
As my company was also being affected by the Thatcher’s Government policies, and they were looking to lay off workers by way of voluntary redundancies, now less aggressively known as simply ‘downsizing’ and although I was not in the age range they were looking for, and the fact that I was stepping into management and was thought of as a good prospective life time employee, with the help of the union, and powerful arguments about sacrificing me, a single man rather than a married man with children, eventually I got an agreement that I could indeed take the redundancy package, totalling 18,000 GBP. The bank were fairly good about it. I had to pay off a couple of credit cards, but I had achieved my goal, and after another trip here in December ’91 to reassure myself of my decision, in February 1992 I gave three of my friends keys to my house and told them to take any thing of value they required, gave the keys to my brother to send back to the Building Society. Sorry and all that, but the pond scum never even tried to help me out during this time, acquired a one way ticket to my Dreamworld, called a taxi, and when the taxi arrived, closed the door of my lovely three bedroom detached house, and never glanced back.
LIVIN’ ON THE EDGE – AEROSMITH
So here I am back in Pattaya, I’ve burnt all my bridges in the U.K. but I’m young, reasonably handsome, and have a million baht in my bank account. Also, in a very fair move by my ex-employers, and perhaps in gratitude for the seventeen years I had put in with them, they agreed to actually continue to pay me for another three months. I have to tell you there is no feeling as sweet as misbehavin’ and having it paid for by your ex-company!
What follows is an eighteen month blur of drunken debauchery. I had an absolute ball, threesomes, foursomes, twins, sisters, even I admit, one post-op katoey, just to see what it was like (actually, pretty much the same, only you have to go at it harder and faster to get the required friction). I could tell so many stories of my life during this crazy period, at least the ones I can remember, drug crazed bar girls, sharp instruments either thrown at me or held to my throat, spending time with pimps, murderers, bank robbers, a lot of tales from the seedy side of Pattaya, but I will save them for another time. <Don’t forget to send them in! – Stick>
As this is my first ever submission, and if Stickman publishes this and you encourage me, maybe I will write them, of course if Stickman doesn’t publish this, then it’s all been an exercise in total futility! During this extended ‘lost weekend’ period, money was being spent like it was going out of fashion, and obviously this could not go on for ever, so one day I got hold of myself, shook myself down, looked in the mirror, and wasn’t too happy with what I saw. Then I had to make the decision that serious changes would have to be made or I was going to become just another casualty. This place can eat you up so easily if you let the sun go to your head. We’ve all seen the guys wandering about here, surviving on a pittance and hand outs. ‘Balloon chasers’ walking the streets at night looking for bars with free food, and I was determined that wasn’t going to happen to me. At this point my vast fortune had all but been spent, and I was down to around fifty thousand baht and no ticket home, but luckily, along with the villains I had also made some good friends and contacts, and once again good timing and lady luck was about to shine on me, and step in to save my from myself and certain oblivion.
BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG – PRETENDERS
I had managed through mutual friends by September 1992 to get a start on a project in Sri Racha. At that time there were opportunities here in the burgeoning Petrochemical Industry for ex-pats. Sadly these days opportunities are harder to come by. Anyway, I was offered the job on merit due to my background in warehousing, hence my Nom de Plume, but the drawback was because I was being employed as a local ex-pat I would be receiving the princely sum of twenty three thousand baht a month, actually less than I used to earn in England. What a choice! I really had to think long and hard about the offer, but again on talking to friends, the general consensus seemed to be that if I didn’t take the offer there would be others that would kill for it, and it was suggested that maybe it would lead to other offers.
Well, I took the job for low money, and for the purposes of keeping this section of the submission short, it did lead to other things. I have now been working here on various
projects in my chosen field ever since, always as a local ex-pat, so never being able to afford the luxurious lifestyle afforded by the ‘real’ ex-pat, always paid in Thai baht with salaries ranging from the first of 23,000 baht, although we had to move to Bangkok to finish the project, and they increased my salary up to 60,000 baht, right up to on one project 300,000 baht, but the average is around 150,000 baht.
I have worked on many different types of projects, all in Thailand with one exception during the economic crash, when I had to find work in Singapore, always paying tax, currently I pay 30%, but I am happy to pay as I am usually 100% legal, work permit, correct visas etc. which is a great comfort and I don’t have to do visa runs to the border, right now I have a visa until December 2006. Of course that means nothing if the job closes, then I will have fifteen days to leave the Kingdom as the visa and work permit are automatically cancelled. As a contractor of course there are also periods of time when you are not working at all, and therefore earning zero baht, no social services and benefits here! I think I have been reasonably fortunate, the fallow periods have at longest lasted four and a half months, during which my wife (more about that in the next section) never asks me for money. People say to me, “you are so lucky to work in Thailand” and yes, I agree, I love the place but let’s look at the other side too. In England I worked 37 hours a week, five days and not exactly stressful work either, here I work 60 hours a week, six days, sometimes seven with almost constant stress. I am up at 5.30 every morning and in bed by 11 p.m. so no time to go out to the bars too much. Again many people fall by the working wayside because they succumb to the temptations of the nightlife, and believe me, you can not function here and hold down a job if you are on the sauce every night until the wee hours. Still want to work here? During this working time however, I have met some wonderful people, fantastic characters from all over the world, sadly most of them move on to other parts of the world with their companies, but there are some in the same situation as me that have become close friends, and I am thankful for that and to them as good and trusted friends are hard to come by here. Onwards!
IN EVERY DREAM HOME, A HEARTACHE – ROXY MUSIC
During my tenure at my first project, I used to go to lunch with one of the Thai workers to the local department store, which was full of beautiful, normal, hard working women. Bearing in mind that at this time in the location I was working there were not that many foreigners around, and I had built up a good rapport with a bunch of girls there, mainly due to the Thai guys excellent translation skills. After building up their confidence in talking to a farang, the subject got around one day to romance and they all joked that I would have to make up my mind which one of them I liked the most. Truth be told I had made my mind up a long time before, but never thought I would get the chance. I remember talking to some of my fellow Thai workers and stating that if I could get this particular girl, I would never bother with the bar girls again. The bad news is I couldn’t keep up this side of the deal, but the good news is I did get the opportunity to woo the girl, all done above board using chaperones and good friends of hers for safety in numbers over a period of months, and now this girl is my wife and we have been married for ten years and we have a handsome ‘luk kreung’ son of seven years.
Yes, I did happily pay a dowry, a source of much consternation on this website. It was 110,000 baht in cash, all in crisp new 1000 baht notes, an important factor as they play a part in the ceremony, plus 10 baht weight of 99.99% gold. The family wanted me to also buy a diamond wedding ring, which I couldn’t afford, so unbeknown to them, my girlfriend went out and bought one herself and told them I had paid for it. The cash was used to pay for the wedding party, 800 people came, food, drink and dancing girls and a good time was had by all, or so I was told when I regained consciousness the next day! Final word on the dowry. This year her younger sister got married to a local policeman, she is an accountancy graduate, and her dowry was set at 120,000 baht plus ten baht weight of gold, so I reckon mine was a fair deal. I also have to say about my wife’s family, they do have a sizeable amount of land and rubber tree plantations, so they have a reasonable income, and have never in the ten years since the marriage asked me for one baht! Incidentally, the money from the dowry that remained after the party was used to raise up a plot of land on the parents’ property so we could build a small house, and my wife still has the gold locked away in our safe and it appears on special occasions.
A couple of years ago we were able to save enough money to purchase a detached house in Central Pattaya as an investment for our son’s future, so I now spend my time evenly between the two houses, as our son goes to school around 90 kilometres away from Pattaya, nearer to our family home, and once a month they come up to spend a weekend in Pattaya. That may not appear to be a perfect situation, but it suits me fine. So why the title regarding heartache? Well, after the birth of our son, and because of complications during the birth, my wife is screwed up inside and has decided physical involvement is too painful and therefore our relationship is non sexual, which I think if men were truthful anywhere in the world, is not an uncommon occurrence in a long term marriage. However, I trust my wife, and we have a lot of affection in our relationship if nothing physical. Also I would add that in nearly twelve years together we have had only three real arguments, two of those when she was in a highly emotional, heavily pregnant state. Of course due to this situation my wife understands and almost expects me to have the occasional dalliance, providing of course I am discreet. I know that Mrs. Stick doesn’t agree with that situation, but hey, I’ll ask you again after you have been married for ten years. Unfortunately, being the type of guy I am I screwed up big time a couple of years ago and got involved in a costly, both emotionally and financially ‘mia noi’ situation, which I have thankfully recently managed to extricate myself from without any damage to my standing with the family.
I’M STILL STANDING – ELTON JOHN
The future? Well, I have no intention of leaving, I love my family and I feel in my mind I am settled, buying the house in Pattaya two years ago made me feel I had finally, after ten years, achieved the same standard of living that I walked away from in England. Can you imagine my ever going back to England? I would be a 46 year old man with no house or job, or car, and the only type of woman I would be able to socialize with would be in a similar position with probable severe emotional baggage, not my idea of the good life, that’s for sure.
Work is good, here, if stressful, but even if it came to an end I feel I have enough experience and contacts to work ‘overseas’ again, and Thailand would always be my home base. I rarely visit the bars of Pattaya, choosing either to drink in the house or local shops, not because I am cheap, but sometimes you just don’t need the hassle of being pestered for lady drinks or the constant interruptions by the hawkers that do the rounds of the bars. I do have the odd ‘beserker’ night where I will take two or three different girls in a night, that’s not boastful, just factual.
Anyone who has stayed here knows that the only limitations to your sexual adventures are your imagination and your wallet! I try and treat the locals with the same kindness that I would expect in return. Amongst my current workers are the same guy that chaperoned me in the early days with my wife, and the guy that performed best man duties at my wedding. I would agree that it is almost impossible to gain real respect from the locals, but I try hard to understand the cultural differences and I think I do okay Also, I have recently taken steps to improve my Thai language skills and started an investment scheme to hopefully give me a better chance of a reasonable retirement here. I have been involved in many a bar discussion regards the merits of staying in Thailand compared to other S.E. Asian countries and the bottom line seems to be despite the occasional hassle, the quality of life (if not the air) is better here, and I for one would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the airport for that final plane journey out of here.
TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT – SPANDAU BALLET
So, is my life so good? Have I achieved what I set out to do and reached Nirvana? I’m living in the so called ‘sleaziest resort in the world’ yet I rarely have the chance to get out and see it. I am working twice the hours and around four times as hard as I was in the U.K. I am married to a beautiful good Thai lady yet we sleep in separate rooms. Let me know what you think?
* Soundtrack to my life available on PurpleRod Records
Interesting life you've lived and good on you for pulling up your socks when you had to. Also, I like it that you acknowledge that life here has all of the same drawbacks as the West – taxes and bills must be paid, work can be stressful, you can't party hard every night etc.