Readers' Submissions

Changing Camps

  • Written by Anonymous
  • August 30th, 2005
  • 9 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

I am a mid-30’s successful international business executive who is already financially secure. I have lived in half a dozen countries in my life and learned a number of languages. I travel extensively, and have seen the far reaches of the globe many times over – even lived in Asia for several years, and thus I do know Asia quite well. Ironically, I did not spend much time in Thailand when I lived in Asia, but since leaving Asia I have had the opportunity to get to know Thailand better, as a result of increasing business presence from my company and other requirements in this region. About a year ago, I was in Bangkok for a few-day business meeting, including part of a weekend. With me were several “first-time” Westerners and they of course wanted to see what they had heard and read about. At the time, I was at best minimally knowledgeable about Bangkok and had only been to Patpong once or twice myself – and never to any other night spots in Bangkok. I took them to Patpong, as it has a little bit of something for everyone (We were not into the pick-up game, but they clearly wanted to do some shopping – DVDs and see the sights).

After they had gotten over the astonishing low prices of new videos and all the cheap designer ware, we ended up at an outdoor café that had a band playing some great music. The atmosphere was really nice, and didn’t feel as sleazy as the dark go-go bars down there. In retrospect, we must have looked like easy ‘bait’, four reasonably fit Westerners clearly not hurting for money, alone in Patpong; It wasn’t long before a couple of Thai ladies (of course Freelancers) were hovering and chatting with us outside this bar. Thinking back, I don’t remember thinking that they were necessarily all that attractive, but they were nice enough and had pleasant attitudes. At some point we left and invited these 2 ladies to an upscale nightclub where we finished the evening. My friends, not into the pick-up thing, asked me if they should give the girls some money at the end of the night for having hijacked them for the evening and not taking them home. I think we gave them 500 or 1000 baht and went our separate ways. I, however, gave my local phone number to one of the two Thai ladies (maybe a mistake, but that’s life…)…let’s call her “Nok”

She called me later that night (early in the morning), and wanted to come ‘see me’. We spent a few hours together (no sex), and I had to get up early for a pre-arranged golf game the next morning. I remember how ‘exotic’ it felt to be next to a Thai lady, even if there was no sex involved. Sure seemed to bring a rejuvenated youth to my outlook, she was ~10 years younger than me. I called her a few days later, when at the airport readying to leave Thailand and had a short conversation with her – not more than a minute. Not knowing when I would be back in Thailand, I really did not think anything more about her and we had no more contact.

My schedule is very hectic and about 4 months later I was back in Bangkok, but literally for just a day of business meetings in the city, not even overnight and only scheduled a few days in advance. I remembered the night 4 months before and I sent Nok an SMS. When I didn’t get a reply, I tried to call her on the mobile number I had in my cell phone right before leaving the country – I think the message indicated that either the number was not in use any more or not available. Either way, I didn’t think anything about it, and left again not thinking of Nok and not knowing when I might be back in Bangkok again.

A few months later (now probably 6 months after I first met Nok), I had to extend a business trip in Asia to take care of some business in Bangkok on a Monday morning. I had been in other parts of Asia the previous week, so ended up going to Bangkok during the middle of the weekend prior to the Monday business meetings. I was still jetlagged from this short trip to Asia, and decided to go out for a few beers and listen to some music (couldn’t sleep), even though it was rather late when I arrived (after 11 p.m.). Since I had never been to any of the other nightlife spots, other than Patpong, this seemed safe and easy to me, and I ended up walking around there and somehow found the same bar that I had met Nok at 6 months before. At least it looked like the same bar, I remember thinking that many of the places looked much the same and 6 months before I could have been at any of them for that matter – this time there seemed to be several open-air bars playing good live music. I had a beer or two, listened to some great music, and was getting ready to call it a night, when this Thai lady approached me. At first I didn’t recognize her, still being in a bit of a daze from the jet lag. Then, as if out of a dream, I realized it was her! Wow, she seemed more beautiful this time around – a really strange “déjà vu” type of experience. In a city of 10 million, I just thought the odds of this to be almost nil.

We ended up dancing, talking and having a few more beers and arranged to meet a few days later after my business work was done. We had a great evening together and again I had to leave Bangkok soon thereafter. This time, we did keep in touch, many SMSs etc. and I found myself in Thailand on numerous occasions over the proceeding 4 months, doing business and seeing her. We did some travelling around the country (she from Isaan) and in general spent time enjoying great Thai food, some shopping, meeting her friends, learning about Thai culture, etc. All this time, I let her know that while I wanted to get to know her better, I could not support or otherwise “fund” her in my absence (it was a principal thing, as I could easily afford it). While I was with her, I took care of all expenses and left her with a little spending money – but not what she could have earned in her normal activities (and nowhere near what I have read on your site). Essentially, she never asked me for money – she did indicate once or twice that ‘business was bad in Bangkok, not as good as it used to be’, but seemed resigned to the fact that if one day the two of us clicked and ended up together long-term, that I was more than capable of taking care of her/her family with little problem.

She was very open with me about her past boyfriends, sponsors, etc. and made no attempt to deceive me on this front (so it seems). Clearly she had some girlfriends who were not truthful with Western boyfriends, as I met a few of them and saw some of this first hand. I am not sure that everything I have been told is the truth, yet I have not had the horror experiences that it seems others have had. I can recall some strange discussions, but then again she has always been very forthcoming about her past and has spoken openly to me about it. However, after 4 months of this, I am beginning to believe that Thais in general probably just don’t believe deep down that it is all that bad to lie – I would just chalk it up to cultural differences and leave it at that – no sense in trying to change what is ostensibly unchangeable. In a short period of time, I have gotten a “heavy dose” of Thai culture through this experience. The stark reality is that (whether we want to believe it or not) there is a MASSIVE cultural divide between Thai women (certainly those from the poor provinces) and Western men (believe me, this is not easy for me to say as I believe I am highly culturally adaptable). I know having learned multiple languages already, that I could pick up Thai once in-country, for example. But, this is about much more than the language. It is about the value system, the daily way of life, and the way of thinking. Sure, language is an important part of all cultures, but there is much more to culture than just the language. And so it is true in Thailand. There is no way this divide can be overlooked, and I now believe that these cultural differences are the single biggest impediment in these types of relationships ever working.

In my case, I am beginning to come to the realization that I am not in love with this woman, and I don’t think that I will ever be “in love” with her. I think that it is more of a fascination with the “possibility” of what one could dream about in a situation like this (falling love with an exotic Thai lady, moving to Thailand or somewhere, etc.). You have to agree that it is a pretty exotic thought. However, in reality, we just have a great time together and while it is fun to dream about what could be, for me at least, she is not the one.

While initially I had my doubts, I am now moving firmly into the camp that says one should just pay these Thai ladies, enjoy their company, companionship, etc. but not expect anything more out of these relationships, and not try to cross the cultural divide with a lady of modest education from another world, another time. Even if I loved this woman, I think it would be too much to expect…and imagine that the odds are slim for a long-term, successful outcome. Now I have to figure out a way to extricate myself from this situation.

Thailand is still a unique place in this world with a ton going for it.

Stickman's thoughts:

I strongly agree with the point you make.