Left My Heart And Sanity In Bangkok Part 1
I have to say Stickman that this is one of the most interesting sites on the Thailand experience I have found. After reading so many of the articles on the site offering insights, warnings and very useful information, I wanted to describe my story to date (it is still continuing). I hope to get some responses or opinions from the more seasoned travellers to the LOS or expats. If you have had the same or similar experiences, it would be great to know what the outcomes were.
In the beginning, in a galaxy far, far away….there was an Asian guy named John, born in Burma to Chinese parents, who emigrated to the Land Down Under. Arriving at a young age and having spent most of my life in Oz, little Johnny made that fateful decision to travel back to rediscover his family roots. OK, enough of the third person narrative. Back in 1995, travelling back to the old country was rather difficult and I took the option to visit Thailand instead and to visit some family scattered around in BKK and Chiang Rai. If an opportunity was to present itself, I would travel across the bridge at Mae Sai, or so goes the plan. To cut this phase of the story short, I basically did the whole tourist / backpack thing and saw the LOS from South to North, without that chance to cross the border to touch the soil of the place of my birth. Another time perhaps.
Throughout this trek across Thailand, I had inhaled and infused Siam into my being. By the end, the LOS love bug had truly bitten me. No other destination I've travelled to before had had this effect on me. Like many before and since, I found that famous Thai smile, even when I was lost and needed directions. I should add here that before this trip, I was already a seasoned traveller and had been Stateside and other places in Asia, like Japan, China, and Singapore. I didn’t expect anything too different to my other Asian odysseys. I have also variously sampled the entertainment and nightlife in these places and hence was, if anything, aware of possible pitfalls to be had from such activities. Of course I had heard about the other attractions of LOS.
When in BKK, I did seek out and sample the nightlife and enjoyed it immensely. Forward a few years to 1998. During the intervening time, I continued to make regular (read "annual") trips to LOS; the latest escapade was to Phuket for a bit of R'n'R. Landed and stayed in BKK for the first week. Made a couple of forays to absorb and observe the delights of the Pong.
Don't know whether it was fate or a curse, but this night I went to a bar called Superstar. I was not really intending to stay long in this bar, as the music was rather a mix of heavy, retro rock. Not my style. I just wanted to chill and knock back a few and watch the sights, so to speak.
Alas, the tug in the loins said something else, as I spotted the most beautiful creature (aren't they always) on Earth. The rest is history and the week was spent going back to the same bar every night. This is where my sanity left me and the hormones took over. For this story, let’s call her Jay.
Going past the usual introductory conversations, I felt more and more that here was someone with a bit more substance. Yeah right, uh-huh you say..
In hindsight, the warning signs were there, but I willingly ignored them. The same old Isaan farm girl to bargirl story, but I felt there was something more there. Right, uh-huh you say…Did I want to read something more into this, probably. Anyway things were going great guns and the usual short-time thing happens. It was good but nothing special and I called it a night.
The next day I left for Phuket. But Phuket now seems like a drag, as I didn't really want to go. But I went anyway. After a couple of days of doing the tourist thing down there, all the while my mind was inexplicably on Jay. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and rang her to say I was coming back to BKK. Oh, did I mention that it got as far as her giving me her mobile number after that initial encounter. Maybe it was the smooth talker in me, or just maybe she was reeling me in.
Note I had already had the Phuket hotel booked for the week and the return flight set. So now, I had to book another flight to return and forgo the cost of the room I had already paid for.
Now I'm back in BKK and checked into the Baiyoke Suite Hotel. I paid the bar fine for the remainder of the days I had left, so I got Jay to stay with me. Got to know her some more, and it seemed her English was surprisingly above average.
Permit me to digress a bit here and tell you a bit of background on the Jay story. All true, I found out as time went on. Jay had an older sister Deem. It was through Deem that Jay was introduced to the business. Deem had only worked a short time herself in the bar, before hitching up with a farang; let's call him Tom, who at the time managed a couple of these bars. Won’t say which ones, in case I overstep his right to privacy. He was a long time expat in LOS, some 15 or so years and spoke fluent Thai and got Deem to stop working, once they got serious. Deem's little sister Jay, came to stay with her some time after this. Not having many work choices in BKK, naturally it progressed to bar work. So here we are, Jay has been working in the bar for about a year. It doesn't seem that long you say. But how long does it take before a woman becomes a hardened and cynical opportunist? My feeling is this is just long enough to change a person. And I don't even want to think about how many guys she's been with during this time. But it does play in one's mind, if you date a bar girl I suppose. These last couple of statements were not on my mind at the time. And love / lust is blind….
The week went by so very quick and I returned to Oz, with a promise to return very soon. Fast forward another few months, nose to the ground and working for the man, etc.. The time went by quickly as they were a blur anyway. I could not stop thinking about Jay. Back in BKK once more, this time, plans were made for me to stay with her and Deem in Tom's house in Bang Na. I must say that it was a nice gesture from Tom. I later found out that he was not really in favour of Jay working in the bar, but financial imperative by her to support her family over rode any concerns expressed, I guess.
Anyway, I think dear readers, you can guess where this ended up. At the end of another intoxicating sojourn, I endeavoured to have Jay stop working at the bar, in return I would provide financial support.
Early 2000 – Things Get More Serious.
By now things were sailing along in BKK and looking positive. Let's take the next step I says. Now a big warning bell should have gone off in my head about what was to occur next. Ain’t hindsight a wonderful thing? Let me digress once again to describe my situation at the time in Oz. A close knit family, parents, a brother and sister. All grown up and independent. Mom and Dad are fairly open-minded and flexible about most things. Up till now, their eldest son, me, hasn't had a serious long term relationship. Meaning, I have yet to bring home a girlfriend worthy enough to meet the folks. I was in my mid-twenties, with a pretty comfortable job.
The Introduction – (The Big Stuff Up)
What does Johnny do – bring this woman over to Oz, with little warning and no indication of where, how, what's her background. And a fairly lame explanation or pretence of us having met in a club. Duhhh…Jay was naïve for agreeing and I was stupid for suggesting it.
Anyway, got the 3-month visa for her, flew back and shocked the hell out of the folks. To make matters worse, I was still living with the folks at the time and so the situation was very icy to say the least. Needless to say, the situation was lucky to last 1 month, before all hell broke loose and Jay demanded to go back as she could no longer cope. I won't describe too much of the detail during this time, except to say that Jay cried most nights and stayed in her room.
Not a great beginning, if a future was to be forged with the relationship. It got so bad that I suggested we seek advice from a familiar face. We went to see a Thai Buddhist monk, to discuss the issues Jay had with the current situation. She was OK with this and I found out why. Jay wanted to explain to me in no uncertain terms, what was happening to her in the house whilst I was at work. As her English did not extend to in-depth conversations, the monk helped to translate on her behalf. It was a case of her being a virtual prisoner in the room, in my absence and she didn't want to tell me in case it got ugly. Well it did get ugly once I found out and it was now plainly a battle between me and the family, on her behalf. However, the situation did not get better and it was time to raise the white flag. A disastrous first meeting to be sure.
Jay flew back and I became depressed. Not to mention the change in the family dynamics. The recriminations and tension was unbearable. Still, Jay and I continued our relationship, all be it a long distance one and now it's the "us and them" scenario.
What did I learn from this saga? The fact that Jay was committed enough to our relationship to be willing to meet the family, made me feel that it was a genuine thing. I mean why would you bother, if all you're after was this farang's money and nothing more. She could have easily stayed in BKK and made excuses about not coming, right? I was still sending her the money. Never mind that the whole thing was an orchestration in disaster, on my part for its execution.
Now it's 2001. Jay and I are planning for her next trip to Oz. This time, I was now in my own pad and we're together again. Everything seemed sweet between Jay and me, but she now seems like a once-bitten twice shy kinda gal. Jay's OK to be with me, but when I suggest socialisation with friends or family, a big NO is the reply each time, “I don’t want to go out John, I want to stay at home…” This was obviously an issue for me, as no man is an island and excepting the situation with the family, my closest friends were dying to meet her. But to Jay, she was not going to give anyone again, the chance to belittle her or her motives and question her integrity. Typical Thai behaviour I think to avoid a potential situation altogether. Although I did manage to acquaint her with my best mate and his Indonesian wife. They would at least understand as their cross-cultural marriage created an even bigger rift within his traditional Greek family. They literally disowned him and did not turn up for the wedding or speak to them.
But even here, I couldn't take a trick. In the course of conversation, the mate and his missus, with the best of intentions warned me to be careful about Jay's motives. All the time Jay was within earshot and she heard it all. Unbeknownst to them, she understood the conversation. Oh great…a Homer Simpson moment I thought, Dohhh. And once again another bridge burnt and no amount of apologies from the mate and missus was going to repair this one. Honestly, Jay must have thought she had been led into a lion's den. A big loss of face.
Dear readers, you must be thinking is there a good bit here? Will things get better? I'm glad to report that after a week of profuse apologies, we were back on good terms and the social experiments continues…MORE TO COME IN PART 2.
So, send in part 2!