Readers' Submissions

Mr Skater Replies

  • Written by Dreamer
  • November 8th, 2004
  • 6 min read

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cloud nine thailand

Dear David,

I’m sorry to hear about the troubles that you wrote about.

I’ve been coming to Thailand now for about 20 years, and I have always thought that Thai people, especially outside the tourist areas, were the friendliest and most genuine people on this planet.

However I too have seen the changes since then, and I have to agree with you that they are probably not in your best interests.

I’m just not completely sure that I agree with you that all the problems are the farangs' fault.

You mention prostitution, and seem to imply that it is just due to the money that the farangs bring to Thailand, though I am reliably informed by my Thai friends that prostitution was common in Thailand, even before the first farangs arrived in your fair
country.

Indeed, I have been to many traditional Thai music venues, both in Bangkok and in the countryside, and I enjoy the music and comedy very much, but it just seems as though every time I go to the toilet in one of those places, I have to pass a room with
a glass window, which is full of very attractive girls, each of whom has a badge with a number on it. They certainly seem to be very friendly girls, as they all wave and shout ‘farang’ as I walk past, but as I’m probably the
only farang they’ve seen in the last month or two, I find it hard to believe that they are all sitting there waiting for me. Is there some remote possibility that the local Thais partake in that side of the entertainment?

There have been many reports of underage girls from Burma / Laos / Cambodia being sold to work in Thailand. Whilst I’m sure that a farang could find one, given a certain amount of research, in fact about 95% of those girls end up in ‘houses’
where they are effectively held captive until they have repaid some supposed debt, and since a farang would never even get close to one of those places, the clientele is exclusively local. Can you hold us responsible for that?

I also agree with your comments about tipping. When I first went to Thailand, I was told that a 5 baht tip would be more than adequate, and possibly earn me great respect, but the reality was that if I did that in a tourist area, all the smiles would
turn to scowls, and it took at least 50 baht to earn back the respect I had lost. I don’t recall anyone ever saying that they would accept the 5 baht tip on the grounds that it would screw up the future of the country if they insisted on
the higher price.

Though in defence of the real Thai people, many years ago I was in Lopburi, and after a meal for 2 costing 130 baht, I left the 10 baht change on the table. The waitress came running after me thinking I had forgotten my change, she didn’t even
know what a tip was!

Let’s take another case: If you are a farang taking a baht bus in Pattaya, then the accepted fare is 10 baht if you hop on and hop off. That is despite a sign that says very clearly in Thai that the correct fare is 5 baht. However if I offer 5
baht, the taxi driver gets angry and insists on 10 (on a good day, on a bad day he has a knife), even to the extent of getting out of the taxi to argue the point. So, do you think I should pay the 10 baht and incur your wrath for over-tipping,
or should I gently point out to the friendly taxi driver that I am paying 5 baht because it is in the best interests of the Thai population to do so? I’m sure that the assembled audience of taxi drivers and the mafia that control them would
be very impressed by your arguments, maybe you could come along and help me explain?

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Farang ruu maak’? (Foreigner know too much). Do you think that is because of a concern that our poor brains will overheat with all that excess knowledge, or maybe it’s because they are disappointed
that they can’t run their scams once we wise up a bit

Now when I first went to Thailand, the first McDonalds had just opened in Bangkok, and was very popular. Very expensive as food goes in Bangkok, but then at that time my diet was seriously lacking in tasteless cardboard. However what do I find inside?
100% farangs desperate for a taste of home cooking, or 99% locals, desperate to taste the American dream that they’ve all seen on MTV?

Equally, in the early days, Bangkok was full of markets, the sights and sounds (and smells) of which were without compare in the world. Now what do we have? Endless shopping malls, which by some strange co-incidence are of identical design to the ones
in America, and full of locals dreaming the dream. Now, were those malls paid for by farangs eager to inflict their wicked way on your country, or by some rich local businessmen who were keen to take advantage of the demand for all things foreign,
and extract money from their fellow Thais (Oh yes, that will be the Thai love Thai party ).

As a last example, I once went to a video shop, to by a specific Pumpuang video – the one of her funeral. The salesman said that he had it, and sent the boy out the back to get it. Upon his return, the boy said to the salesman that it was 250 baht,
and the salesman said to me with a completely straight face that it was 500 baht. When I reminded him what the boy had said, he kept smiling and took the 250 baht. Do you think that if I’d given him the 500 baht he’d have realised
his ‘mistake’ and given me the change, in order to ensure that his countrymen were not corrupted by the excess money?

So, what is my point?

Yes, there is no doubt that the influx of money from farang tourists hasn’t helped. However, several things would seem to me to be very clear:

Fundamentally I think that the Thai people are wonderful, it’s a shame that some of them have been corrupted by a very short-term view of getting as much as they can as quick as they can – in many cases the farang can stand the loss, but
the reality is that the girls just screw up their own lives for a short-term gain, and that to me is the real sadness.

I once knew a girl who lost the opportunity to earn 1000 baht for an ‘evening job’, by trying to scam me for a 10 baht ice-cream!

The Thais have to take their share of the blame for this. Rarely are they forced to accept more money than they really want, and many times they push for as much as they can get, regardless of the consequences for their future. The McDonalds / 7-11 mentality
is found in the smallest village, and if there wasn’t substantial local demand for it they wouldn’t last a month.

The fundamental Thai values are a great way to live ones life, but there has never been any shortage of people who take advantage of those ideals – from the bargirl scamming an extra lady drink, to the hill-tribe family who sell their daughter
to a Thai brothel for a new fridge or a couple of days opium supply – and in the event of complaint remind their daughter of her responsibility to provide for the family.

So, let’s all take our share of the blame, and maybe if we’re all open about it there will be a better future.

Can’t see it happening though…

Stickman's thoughts:

For better or for worse, Thailand is changing, and changing very, very fast.