Thai Reality Part Three
This will be my third submission to the Stickman site; The first two were dated 5/29/03 and 24/2/04. Those accounts described my involvement (predicament?) with a Thai gal much younger than myself and the resulting mental ambiguity.
We met in June of 02 and I have travelled back to Thailand four times since then, each for three week periods. The overarching question throughout these visits has been the age factor and it will always be so. The bottom line however, is that these have been wonderful trips for me and I believe she has also enjoyed my company. As I pointed out in my first efforts, the options open to a guy my age in my society are rather gloomy. There is bingo, line dancing, and eating, all with folks who are my age and therefore incredibly boring.
Contrast this with the experiences I can reflect on when I am between visits to the LOS.
On the first day during my first time in Bangkok my nephew and I were ripped off by the infamous jewellery scam, taken to a massage pallor and was escorted around town by two of the lovelies provided by the scam artists. Sounds horrible, right? Really stupid. Well now hold on. One of the gals is the one I have been with on all my subsequent my visits. Those first encounters are outlined in the first two submissions and from them you can see how my relationship with one of the gals (Gail) evolved.
The purpose here is to simply reflect on some of the experiences I have had as a result of our meeting each other.
To begin with, she got my nephew and I started on a trip to Chiang Mai by train and she arranged for a trek into the hills north of there where we stayed with the Karan tribe folks for three days. Mind you, I was 63 at the time and I felt that it was quite the feat to make a 6 hour trek up those hills in the June weather. The other six trekkers were in their 20's. I'll never forget this adventure.
Upon my return to Bangkok in January of 03, Gail and I spent the next two weeks travelling together from Kanchanaburi to Laos by train. This was shear bliss for me. Travelling without a plan or agenda is the only way to go. My heart warms when I remember sitting on the steps of the last car on the train to Nongkhai as it rolled along in the early morning. Having a coffee and a cigarette with this pretty gal as the rice fields flew by is etched in my mind forever.
There was the incident involving the Laotian guide assigned to us as we crossed into Vientiane. Just the three of us sitting in the back of the van when young Laotian became most flirtatious. She spoke excellent English and wanted to know if I had come to Laos just to see her. Gail ad I were holding hands at the time. The Thai sulk began in earnest and lasted for some time but, by the end of the trip we were all in good spirits and Gail insisted I give her a tip. (TIT) or (TIL)? The Lao gal decided not all farang are kee nok as she explained the word to me.
Things did not start so blissfully. On our first outing I asked that she help me learn my way around Bangkok by using the skytrain. She agreed, and took me to by skytrain to a hospital to visit her grandmother who was on the verge of death and in a coma. She died a few days later. How's that for a first date?
The rest of that trip was one memorable experience after another involving the meeting of the rest of the family and having a ball with her children at the amusement park among other things. Many of these precious moments are reported in my first two submissions.
By my fourth trip which was in June of this year (2004). I had become a regular visitor to the family. They seemed relaxed with me, and I with them. However, I am always aware of that eight hundred pound gorilla in the room i.e., the vast age difference between Gail and myself and the fact that we share the same bed when we are together.
As in my last three visits, Gail met me at the hotel and we spent the day making up for lost time. She took a day off from her job and we spent the day together whizzing around on "our" motorbike. We ended up by going to pick up her kids at their school. While Gail went about rounding up transportation for us, she left me to wander around school with her kids who seemed overjoyed to see me there. Although they cannot speak English, the little boys' hugs and the twelve year old girl's attention to me was heart warming.
I should mention at this point that the kids were in this school as result of my beneficence. As I have pointed out in my previous reports, Gail rarely asked for money, and when she did, it was in small amounts, and for a member of her family, not for herself. Between visits, some time in April, Gail asked if I could help her with her daughter.
Her daughter, Pat just turned twelve and would no longer qualify for free schooling. Gail asked me for $125 so that Pat might continue her schooling. How could anyone turn down a request like that? As a result, we pick up the kids at school and head for Pizza Hut. I know these guys eat rice and noodles every damned day of their lives and it is sheer delight to watch them excitedly pour over the pictures on the menu, then dive into the gooey mess of pizza, and then select an ice cream sundae for desert.
I was born 65 years ago to a family that was dirt poor, but we had a very rich aunt. A couple of times a year we visited ole Aunt Nettie and she would always take us to restaurant and let us get a hamburger and fries or whatever we wanted. It was like going to heaven. I remember this, and can relive those moments whenever I take these kids out for an event they would not otherwise get to enjoy.
In order to get Gail and myself out of the city for a few days we had agreed to go to Pattaya by ourselves; but I soon discovered a problem. Pat and Stop, the little boy, had been staying with Grandma in Minburi. but there was no school in that area for Pat to attend. She was late to register and there was no room for her. As a result, she and Stop moved to Thonburi where they would share an "apartment" with Gail, her sister Thigh, and her boyfriend. I pictured an apartment like they had on my pervious visits, which might have been tiny, but livable.
After our pizza we went back to their "apartment". We climbed two flights of narrow rickety steps and took our seat on the floor of a room that was about nine meters square. After we settled in, Gail began to point out where each of them slept. It seemed to me that it would be impossible for them to all be stretched on the floor at once, but she assured they have been doing so since school started in May. This did not compute. How could we be leaving for a trip to a nice resort area while the kids were going to face this situation for the rest of their school term.
After we went back to the hotel I told Gail of my concerns. She didn't see it as reason to postpone the trip to the beach as she wanted me to enjoy my stay in Thailand. I could not; and the planned trip was aborted. I decided that I could do without the trip to Pattaya and the money that would have been spent there could be put to a much better use.
Gail's sister Duan had recently been married and was living with her new husband in Sattahip which was a bit south of Pattaya. Despite her recent marriage, she was very much pregnant so her mother, TUT, wanted to be with her for a few days. One of the uncles had access to a van so we left from Minburi to visit the newlyweds. Mom, her boyfriend, the kids, Gail and myself and the uncle headed for Sattahip.
Duan's husband is in the navy and had access to the beach on the navy base. It was great, and after we loaded up with food the whole bunch of us spent a day at the beach. The problem was, the weather was not good, and the wind was blowing ferociously kicking up large waves which crashed into the beach causing a wild scene. It was quite a sight watching the little boy who had not been to the beach before, deal with this confrontation with nature in such a menacing form. His reaction was to raise his hands in the air and wave them wildly as he screamed at the top of his lungs. It wasn't out of fear, but shear awe.
When leaving the beach we bought some crabs and fish from some guys who had just caught them. Back at Duan's little place we had them for dinner along with some other good home cooked food.
While sitting barefoot and waiting for it to be time to eat, the mosquitoes where having their own meal on my feet. I do not know why they always hone in on feet, but they do. After scratching for a while my ankles began to turn red. When Pat notice this she immediately came and sat next to me and began fanning my feet with a makeshift fan. I assured her I was OK and she could relax. How many twelve year olds in the USA would do that?
The rest of the family would sleep in Duan's place but only after they took Gail and I to nice rest house a little off the beaten path.
The next day, I left Gail to sleep while I went desperately looking for some coffee. As I walked down the deserted road I saw a women and her little boy coming toward me. When close enough to me, she leaned down and whispered to him. They both stopped and the little boy gave a smile and a wai.
I had an identical experience involving a little boy while sitting by myself in Lumpini park on my last visit.
Now in my neighbourhood, in a similar situation, the mother would have gone to great lengths to avoid me as I would be viewed as some how suspicious. We are taught to avoid strangers at all cost.
I have experienced so many of these warm feelings during my visits they are too numerous to mention and many readers would find them boring when contrasted with the action packed reports of the bar scene. However I would like to mention a few of them.
While sitting in one of the amusement parks and relaxing while the kids were of enjoying themselves, I was surrounded by a half dozen high school girls who wanted me to help them with their English. We spent over a hour together laughing through an impromptu effort to learn some new words What joy!
While standing alone in front of a bank one morning, a woman came up to me with the mistaken notion I was waiting for the bank to open. Without a word she took me by the wrist and pointed to the time on my watch the bank would open, and then left with
When I arrived at the ROYAL RIVER hotel last time one of the bell boy yelled "Hey Leoo"
I had not been there in six months! When I went to breakfast one of the ladies who worked there came to me to say "I remember you".
That afternoon I stopped at little street side noodle place and before I could sit down the waitress asked me if I wanted a Pepsi or coffee with my French fries. She remembered that I had French fries there six months ago!
Later that day, Gail and I went bowling in one of the large allies in one of the malls.
The gal serving drinks said "Good to see again". And she meant it.
There have been many such personal encounters while I move about Thailand and when people back home ask me why I keep going back there, I simply say "the people".
On the last night of my last trip we were to meet at the mall to go for dinner at a Chinese place they wanted to go to. Gail and I arranged to meet her sister and the kids at the mall but in the confusion we did not find them. Gail and I went in different directions and were several meters apart looking for her sister, when out of the crowd little Stop came running over to me and grabbed me by the legs. Seeing this little boy hanging on to the only farang in site I am sure they were wondering what hell was going on. Precious!!
After the meal, Gail and I were heading back to the hotel. The family and friends we ate with were standing together and giving me the group wei when Stop, who did not speak a word of English up to that point, said in very understandable English," See you next time." Obviously he had been coached, but it was a nice touch.
When I return to the US I resume my place as the invisible, inconsequential old man who can pass through a day with little or no acknowledgement of your existence. It's so much more enjoyable to be in Thailand.
After this rather mundane account of my experiences, one might expect some juicy accounts of my personal relations with Gail. Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I'll just say they are anything but mundane, and we really enjoy each other's company.
Our situation falls between those who come to Thailand, find a wife and long term relationship, and those who just come to bang the bar girls. I have made itclear to Gail from the beginning that we have no long term future as I cannot stay in Thailand as I have a son and grandkids I love very much as well as a loving relationship with my stepdaughter and her family. I also explained I am not going to get married for a third time and she would not be coming to America. When we meet on the first day of my visits and when I leave on my last day I give her my standard refrain; You are a pretty young woman and you should find a boyfriend or husband you can build a life around. I don’t want to interfere with this or make it uncomfortable for you with respect to your family or friends. Her response has always been candid and I believe realistic. She says. "Look Leo, this is Thailand. I am 32 years old, a divorcee with two children, no real education and have dark skin." Also "You think too much." Are we using each other? I guess so. Mai ben Rai.
Before leaving I gave her $50 so they can get an apartment for her and the kids. When I returned home I opened an account with my bank in order to provide her with an ATM card which I sent to her. This is the safest and cheapest way to get money there. But the rules are strict. I deposit $50 per month for the apartment and that's it, She has been religious about not abusing this. There is one exception, and I should have known better. An apartment in Thailand without a TV is not a home, it's a grave. A week after I got home there was a frantic call about getting a used TV. I put the money in her account. I hear it on whenever I call her.
On my last four visits to Thailand I travelled alone. I will be returning in January, but with a twist. My old buddy's son who lives far from me in the US called to ask if he could go to Thailand with me in January. He is a good looking young man, 31 years old. I told him he could join me only after I got a permission slip from his father. I also referred him to the Stickman site which he has been reading avidly. I intended this in order help him gain a little insight to Thailand's ways. I then realized, it may not be the best site for a newbie who actually wanted to appreciate Thailand's simpler charms I have. (One could get caught up in the bar girl scene) When he expressed excitement regarding the trip, I reminded him he is going with a 65 year old man.
Let's see what happens.
PS : I want to thank Stick for providing such a wonderful forum for expressing our thoughts and experiences. It has proven both educational, entertaining and therapeutic.
Leo, or as they say in Thailand, Leooo
Yes, every farang in Thailand can be someone. No-one has to just disappear into the background, as many do in the West.