A Happy First Chapter
A couple of weeks ago, fortified with the experiences of most of the readers who have told their stories and shared their insight on this website, I set off for my third visit to Bangkok. My two previous visits were short ones, mostly spent shopping and
sampling the delights of Thai food. This one was to be for a week.
The other significant difference in this visit was that for more than a year prior to it, I had been corresponding regularly with a Thai woman I had met on one of the Friendfinder websites. We had begun writing to each other as pen pals, found that we had some common values and interests, and our relationship had grown as much as it could grow in the absence of physical interaction. I felt that we needed to meet, or else run the risk of having the relationship grow cold, as it had almost done once before. She seemed just as eager to meet as I was.
We began planning our meeting several weeks in advance. Lek (not her real name) arranged to take a week off from her job with a Thai NGO. As I had some minor business elsewhere in Asia prior to going to BKK, my flight there was a relatively short one. Once I cleared immigration, claimed my luggage, and made my way through the taxi touts, seemingly fewer in number and less aggressive than on my last visit, I found a place to stand so that I could keep an eye out for Lek.
After about five minutes, I heard someone call my name. It was Lek, every bit as pretty as she was in the many photos she had sent me over time. Under normal circumstances I would have grabbed her and hugged her, but having read about Thais’ disdain for public displays of affection—confirmed in advance by Lek—I shook hands with her. She led me up the escalator to the departures entrance, where we bypassed the taxi queue and avoided the 50-baht surcharge by taking a taxi that had just dropped off a departing passenger. This was the first of countless instances during my visit in which being with a Thai made things so much easier and more pleasant, something I greatly appreciated and for which I expressed my appreciation to Lek many times.
Prior to my arrival, I had told Lek that she was welcome to stay with me in my hotel for the entirety of my visit. Given what I’ve read on Stickman’s website, I realized that it could be risky to do this, but I felt that it was better to trust from the start. Besides, I just had a good feeling about her. She had told me that she would see how things went, and might perhaps stay with me at night during the latter part of the visit. Figuring that she needed a sort of safety valve as well, I was comfortable with this.
Even so, it was with some disappointment that I noted she was carrying only a small purse when she met me at the airport. She sat in the waiting area behind the hotel desk while I checked in. To make sure I would be on proper footing with the hotel, which I choose on every visit because of its proximity to MBK Center, I told the front desk clerk that I would have a frequent Thai visitor who may at times stay overnight, and that I was perfectly willing to pay the rate for a double if it was necessary. The receptionist said it would be; but the charge was never applied and no hotel employee ever approached or questioned Lek or me during our comings and goings.
Once in the room, I showered and changed to cooler clothes. Once we were in private, Lek soon warmed into the sweet woman I had previously known only through emails. Finally I had the chance to see her beautiful smile, touch her soft skin, and experience her affectionate nature. I was very relaxed with her and she seemed to be comfortable with me. We spent some time planning what we wanted to do for the rest of the week.
As evening started to fall, we took a taxi to a restaurant Lek had chosen, a rustic (well, rickety might be a better word) outdoor place on the river. The delicious taste of the food, thankfully chosen by Lek since there wasn’t a word of English on the menu, made me completely forget about the condition of the structure. Knowing that Lek would be coming back to the hotel after dinner made it more enjoyable, although I guessed that she would probably go home later in the evening. Lek insisted on paying for dinner, though I explained to her that I was prepared to pay for everything we did together. We agreed, without getting too specific, that she could share some of the expenses, and this seemed to please her. I was happy that we were both able to talk candidly about this so soon, so that it wouldn’t cause any anxiety later. We never discussed this again, and it was never a problem.
But once we got back to the hotel, it was apparent that she wished she had brought extra clothes. I reassured her that it was okay, that we could go to her house first thing in the morning to get clothes, and I gave her a T-shirt of mine to wear. She stayed the night. Since erotic writing is not my forte, I will bypass the details except to say that Lek was as warm, loving, and eager to please as any woman I’ve read about elsewhere on this site.
Our plan for the next morning was to go to the Taling Chan market, stopping by her place first so that she could pack some clothes to take back to the hotel in the evening. It was during the taxi ride that our only cross-cultural glitches occurred. The taxi driver was talking Lek’s ear off, apparently either ignoring the fact that she was clearly otherwise occupied or else determined to encroach on the farang’s ”turf.”
I leaned over to say something in Lek’s ear and in so doing I unconsciously patted her on the knee, realizing almost as soon as I did it that it was not appropriate to do that, and expressing regret just as quickly.
“You cannot touch me in public,” she reprimanded. The taxi driver raised his voice a bit as he looked into the rear view mirror and addressed Lek, and I guessed (correctly, as she later confirmed) that he was offering to defend her. She assured him that there was no problem. Although such an offer was laughable in view of the driver’s diminutive stature, I didn’t like being made to feel like an outsider. I became silent, while Lek continued to converse with the driver.
A few minutes later, when there was finally a break in their conversation, I quietly voiced my concern to her. I explained to her, without showing anger or sarcasm, that I felt that she overreacted a bit; and that if she preferred the company of the taxi driver, I wouldn’t mind finding another taxi to take me back to my hotel. I could see by the look in her eyes that she knew I meant it. No matter how beautiful a woman may be, I have no problem walking away from her in such a situation.
“I understand,” she said. She took my hand in both of hers and placed it on her knee, explaining that it is okay as long as she puts it there. For the duration of the ride, she ignored the taxi driver except to give instructions, in spite of the fact that he tried to butt in on our conversation two or three more times.
For the remainder of my visit, she always held my hand in both of hers while we were in a taxi. But for some reason, all of the younger drivers would attempt to talk to her, invariably trying to butt in on what I was saying, even after she gave them short responses. Jealousy over a farang being with a Thai woman, maybe? Or just bad manners? Anyway, my chance to reciprocate came later in the week while we were shopping. More than once a woman tried to start a conversation with me—while I was standing hand in hand with Lek. In each instance I just smiled at the woman and kept moving, squeezing Lek’s hand. And in spite of reading of such things on this website, I have to admit being shocked when it happened to me, a middle-aged man who’s not exactly a matinee idol type.
After Lek returned to the taxi with a small roll bag of clothes, we continued to the Taling Chan floating market. For lunch we had, among other things, the best satay I’ve ever tasted, followed by a boat tour that lasted a couple of hours. Although I felt that Lek had been comfortable from the moment we met at the airport, I realized that she’d had her guard up a bit and was now slowly letting it down. The fact that I don’t drink alcohol seemed to make a strong positive impression on her, and after twenty-four hours of being together every minute, including the few slightly tense moments in the taxi, she was probably starting to trust that I would continue to be the same level-headed person.
It was at the floating market that I first experienced the good nature of Thai people. Although I suppose that much of what I experienced was because I was obviously the companion of a Thai woman, that didn’t make the smiles any less pleasing. I live in an area where most neighbors and even some strangers customarily smile and speak to each other, and it was a good feeling to be in such an environment in another country.
After the boat tour, Lek and I took a taxi back to the hotel, showered off the river water we got splashed with, and caught our breath. Later that evening, we had dinner at KanomChine Bangkok in MBK Center. I could sense that Lek enjoyed the restaurant’s atmosphere, so I figured we would go there again later in the week. We spent the evening talking and enjoying each other’s company. Our shared excitement kept us awake well into the night, and caused us to wake up early in the morning to pick up where we’d left off.
In late morning we took a taxi and then a boat to Ko Kret, which turned out to be a most enjoyable excursion. Most every place we walked we were greeted warmly, getting the feeling that the island’s inhabitant’s are genuinely good-natured people. Back at the dock, we hired one of those long, low boats, the name of which I don’t know, to take us on a ride around the river, giving me the opportunity to shoot some interesting video. Again, Lek’s presence enabled me to do something I probably wouldn’t have been able to experience without her. More importantly, having her to share it with made it unforgettable.
During the evening we did some shopping, ate at KanomChine Bangkok again, and enjoyed each other’s company for the rest of the night. During the daytime, as I saw Lek’s reaction to other people and to the world in general, I came to know that she is genuine—that she’s not posturing just to create an impression for my benefit. I had believed in her sincerity before meeting her; but having read so many unhappy stories on this website, I observed more carefully than I otherwise might have. The more I enjoyed her sensitive, affectionate nature, the more conscious I became of wanting her to have the same feeling. We talked a little about things relevant to the future.
We also planned for our trip to Ko Si Chang the next day. Prior to my arrival, Lek had mentioned that she would like to go there, but I had expressed uncertainty because of a few horror stories I’d read about bus travel in Thailand—and one that I’d actually seen in Phuket a few years earlier. Lek assured me that the bus we’d be taking was safe, and my concern was assuaged.
Imagine the surprise of this Westerner at learning that a one-way reserved seat on an air-con bus from Bangkok to Si Racha is all of 74 baht!! That wouldn’t even get me on the city bus in Honolulu, where I live. As was the case in many instances during my time in Thailand, I was the only farang in sight,; but no one did anything to make me feel aware of that fact. The two-hour, reasonably pleasant bus ride was followed by a five-minute trip to the dock in a tuk tuk. The ferry left to the minute on time and took about 45 minutes to get to Ko Si Chang.
Once we arrived, Lek negotiated with one of the many tuk tuk drivers at the dock to be at our disposal for the remainder of the day for 250 baht. This fellow turned out to be a total gem for this day and the next, taking us to several lodging places before
we decided on one, showing up on time for our return at every place we went, and being generally helpful without being obtrusive. I came to realize that, for whatever reason, most people we encountered seemed eager to please Lek.
Since I live just steps away from Waikiki Beach and no more than a few miles from some beautiful, relatively quiet beaches, I was not exactly overwhelmed by Ko Si Chang’s main beach. And one watches the sun slip below the smog ring around the gulf, rather than below the horizon, at sunset. But just try getting a delicious lunch for two delivered to your beach chairs in Waikiki by friendly people, and for less than 200 baht. Impossible!
Ko Si Chang is one of those rare places where the people who do business with tourists also seem to have a positive disposition toward them. It was also the one place during my visit where people who knew very little English used what little they knew to include me in their conversations with Lek. And it is the people of this island, more so than the topography or temples, who make it a wonderful place to spend time.
During the afternoon we went to a temple inside a cave at the top of a series of stairways, which seemed to be Lek’s main objective for this excursion. She meekly asked if I wanted to join her in prayers. As a philosophical pantheist, I was humbled by the invitation and told her that if she would show me what to do, I would gladly join her. Although I was at first more intrigued by the liturgy itself, I derived some spiritual solace from the experience. I’m not sure whether it was the prayers or the fact that I participated with Lek, but she seemed to be even happier and more relaxed after this.
Our half-bungalow was just up the hill from Khao Khaad Point. There are several gazebos on the grounds that yield very scenic views, and we chose the one closest to the water as our vantage point for watching the sunset. Lek gazed at the sunset and I gazed at her. I had seen more beautiful sunsets, but had never watched one with a more beautiful woman.
The next morning we pried ourselves out of bed at 5:30 a.m. By six we had chosen another gazebo, this one at the top of a hill, from which to watch the sun rise. Though the sky was a bit more clear, the sun still had to make its way above some clouds before it became visible. Since there was a cool breeze and no one watching us at that hour, Lek nestled herself against me very snugly. We had breakfast at the beach, the one somewhat Western meal I had during this stay in Thailand. We visited the temple again, once again climbing the stairway. But this time the temple soon became overrun with school children, and we cut our stay short.
We left about 1:30 to return to Bangkok. After tuk tuk (and saying goodbye to our great driver), ferry boat, another tuk tuk, bus, and a 1.5-hour taxi ride during which we stopped at Lek’s house for more clothes, we arrived at the hotel at 6:30. Both of us were a little tired, so we had dinner—at KonomChine Bangkok again—walked around MBK for a short while, and retired to the room for the evening.
There were times when I wondered if Lek would base her preference for what to do next on what she thought I wanted to do. When I asked her about this, the only answer she could give was that most of the time her preference was the same as mine. The only matter on which I know we differed was in choice of food. She showed no willingness to try Western food, and I was relatively comfortable with Thai food almost every meal, so it wasn’t an issue.
I discussed with Lek some of the farang-Thai relationship problems I had read about on this website. We talked about the what-if scenario of me coming to live in Bangkok for a year so that we could see how our relationship would fare under the pressures of normal day-to-day living. Although she said she thought it would be a good thing to try, she didn’t seem to exhibit a lot of enthusiasm for it. I also wondered aloud how she would cope if I brought her to live with me, away from her family and all the things familiar to her. My impression is that she thought this to be the better option. We decided to table discussion of all of this until after my visit was over. Both of us felt that it would be more fun to enjoy the present without making spur-of-the-moment promises for the future.
The next day, the next-to-last full day of my visit, was when we both started to realize that our time together wouldn’t last forever. I noticed that when our conversation drifted toward sentimental things, Lek’s eyes would become watery. She tried to hide it at first, but later admitted that she was having moments of sadness. I would have done the same, except that our time together had made me too happy to dwell on anything sad.
We went to Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Pho, and Vimanmek that day, the most crowded tourist sites we’d visited so far. By late afternoon we were again shopping at MBK. During the week, the first few times Lek expressed interest in a garment or accessory, I bought it for her. Although she was appreciative and my purchases were not expensive, I sensed that she purposely refrained from showing any interest in anything else after that so that I would not be tempted to buy anything else for her.
About 6 p.m. we took a taxi to Patpong. I’d never been in any of the bar/nightclub areas so widely discussed on this site and just wanted to walk the street and see what it was like. About twenty minutes after we arrived, we were in a taxi heading back to MBK. We rambled around MBK until almost the 9 p.m. closing time. Our private time that night was more tender and loving than ever, both of us realizing the shortness of time remaining in my visit.
The next day we slept late and spent time together in the morning. By late morning we were back in MBK, gravitating over to Siam Square and Discovery Center in the afternoon. Long before my travel plans were complete, we had talked about going to Loy Krathong together. And this was the night for it. But as the evening came closer, we decided that it would probably be too crowded. Besides, we both concluded, we’d tie our krathongs together anyway before we dropped them in the water—nothing left to chance! Instead, we had dinner again at the MBK restaurant that had quickly become “our” place.
Although I had occasional pangs of sadness about our impending parting, I was determined to keep our last night lighthearted so that Lek wouldn’t get tears in her eyes again. It mostly worked, although there were a couple of times she became quiet and turned her face away from me for a moment. Although we were a bit tired from our busy week and the short sleep we’d had, we made another late night of it.
Knowing that we couldn’t show affection once we were out of the hotel room, we made the most of our early morning the next day. Then it was time to go to the airport. I checked my luggage and came back to sit with Lek for a short while. Twice she tried to turn away to hide her tears. This time, in public, I couldn’t hold her to comfort her. I could only crack a slightly dirty joke, which seemed to help. We held each other’s hands one last time and I went through the gate as she went out the front door, each of us looking back to wave one more time.
Since I left, we’ve corresponded a few times, both of us expressing our desire to move our relationship forward, but neither of us certain yet about what options we should choose. Although I believe she’s been honest about her feelings, I’m well aware that any number of factors could cause our situation to change. In the worst possible scenario, her abandoning the relationship, I would at least have memories of a week that most guys in my shoes will only dream of. And in the best possible eventuality, she and I will move forward in a mutually fulfilling relationship.
I consider myself fortunate to have had the indirect advice of the many people who have submitted their experiences to this site. As a result of reading about them, I was well prepared for whatever might have happened between Lek and me. And I’m doubly fortunate that almost none of the caveats were applicable to my circumstances, and that many of the good things I’ve read about Thai women were substantiated by my experience with Lek. She put forth a lot of effort and made some sacrifices to make sure that our time together was as enjoyable as possible.
But I’m also concerned that our next step might not be as successful as our first one. After being with Lek for every single minute of almost a solid week, I am convinced that one factor in her beauty is her obvious comfort with her environment. If I take her out of Thailand, will she find the same kind of comfort here in the USA? And while I enjoy spending vacation time in Thailand, a year of living and working in Singapore taught me that oppressively hot weather and being part of a tiny minority in a foreign workplace aren’t in my concept of an ideal lifestyle. Concerns aside, my time with Lek and my interactions with Thai people in general were positive experiences that I will always remember.
The stories on the Stickman website span an entire spectrum of human experience, each one unique. But the two threads that seem to run through many of them in one place or another are that (1) we all fall for a Thai girl somewhere along the way; and (2) we all believe at some point that our girl is “different” from the heartbreakers / nut cases / leeches described in the sadder stories. Yes, I am crazy about Lek. And, yes, she really is different . . . I hope!
Wow. Despite knowing that you don't function well in the tropics and that she might not find the US to her liking (although Honolulu has to be about the best chance you have), the desire for one of you to make the move must be awfully strong…