Readers' Submissions

US Military In Thailand

  • Written by Anonymous
  • August 1st, 2005
  • 5 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

By Lone Ranger


When the US began going to Vietnam for fun in the sun in the early 1960s and up until 1975 when that "war" ended, Thailand was the favorite destination for weary military folks to go for rest and relaxation before they were sent home in a box. I'm not sure, but I believe US military visits there started the worldwide allure and reputation of Thailand being a sex destination. I could be wrong. Maybe. It's argumentive I guess. But, if you look hard enough, you can find Vietnam veterans still in Thailand to this day. Not just US types. Vietnam was a UN party. There were other countries sending their boys over there. Those that stayed after they finished their obligations are running bars mostly. Some have prospered beyond the bar scene. Keep in mind that many of the leftovers are well into their 50's and 60's now. They were from the lower income families in the States. They were most of the folks who were drafted for that war. They really didn't have much to go home for. I don't like talking about that. They have memories of Bangkok when it was a small city compared to what it is now.

If they ventured down to Phuket island in the mid-60's and 70's like I did, all they would have found in those days was Phuket Town and a dirt road over the hump to Patong Beach. Great adventure for a young man. The Paradise Bar was the only joint on that beach in the early 70's. Think about that. Patong Beach with only one place on the beach. It was so pristine that you didn't want to leave. As I recall the old stories, the place was built by a couple of Canadians. I could be wrong. I was there again in 1994 and saw a collage on the wall of that place. I remembered. Patong was the place to be in those days from the many photos on that collage. I remember an old Thai man offering me a bong in the morning each day I was there. Bong, mister? Sure. There's no better way to start the day than with a high. I do know that it didn't take long for Patong to be discovered and the result of that is now evident. Now it's a mess of hotels, bars, etc. Just walk down Bangla Road to get the flavor of the disaster that happened there. Last I heard, the Paradise Bar doesn't even exist anymore. What a shame. Even when the writing was on the wall that times have changed, I always enjoyed sitting there in the morning drinking coffee and later sipping a brew talking to fellow journeyers. I guess the next place to be exploited and ruined is Kata Beach and then down to Rai Rai Beach. It's happening already. When I saw that movie "The Beach" a while back I related to that. They were folks trying to salvage a pristine environment in Thailand that is quickly disappearing and wanted to keep it to themselves. I understand. Ah, to be able to turn the clock back. I would like that.

I beat the draft by joining the navy. That was in 1968. I figured floating on the ocean with a warm bed to sleep in and three hot squares was better than being shot at in a wet, muddy rice paddy. I was 18 at the time and from a lower middle class family in the mid-west. I was prime fodder for the war. The ship I was assigned to made a few visits to Pattaya, two occasions we tied up in Phuket Town. A few buddies and me found a driver to take us over the hump to Patong Beach. We were so drunk. But, we found paradise these. It was different in those days. The worst you could get from a stop in Thailand was a dose of the clap if you weren't careful by not using a rubber. If you got the clap the ship's doc would fix you up, off the record. AIDS hadn't jumped the homo barrier yet in those days. We never even heard of it. It was fun.

I left the navy in 1976 as a first class petty officer and went on to college on the GI bill. I got a bachelor's degree in counseling/guidance. I stayed on and got an MA in the same discipline. I teach social studies at a mid-western high school and counsel students. During the summer breaks I go to Thailand. Not every year. Some summers I go down to Brazil. South America is the undiscovered land. But, Thailand is my favorite destination. I've never been to Chang Mai but by readying Stickman, it sounds like a nice stop. I think Phuket will be nice as well if I stay away from the tourists and retirees. Maybe all the islands off the coast will work. I don't know for sure. All I really want is a quiet place to spend the remainder of my life in relative comfort. I'm not into the sex scene. More for a companion. You can't go too far without a nice lady to hang around with.

I tried to keep this short. For you youngsters, try to think about Thailand back in the 60's and 70's. It was a different place then. I think it still has promise. I intend to head that way in time. Maybe in a few years. Keep the faith. And also, all Thai girls are not the same. Some and maybe many have hearts of gold. Just be careful.

Stickman's thoughts:

The whole world is a very different place today.