Stickman Readers' Submissions November 14th, 2005

A Response To Sin Sot Reflections

I'm sitting here, having just read 'Casanudra's' second sub on marriage costs, and frankly I'm bewildered. What planet do these Bangkokonian farang come from. Like many western men in Pattaya I'm over fifty, well actually
I'm sixty-five and got here and so remain by the skin of my teeth. My pension is a state pension as is that of all of my acquaintances on the angry old men circuit in Pattaya. We love, live and dream as any man. We laugh and chase the girls
and many of us have our own Lady Thai. When our stay in Thailand exceeds six months our government effectively cuts our pension by freezing in respect to all cost of living increases into the future. We even have an expat committee lobbying European
governments to honour our human rights and restore our pensions to the level that we subscribed to for forty-five years. We scrape along each month and are usually bumping along on cash empty as the month draws to a close. Our Thai Ladies know
the pickings are thin but also know that they can achieve an income that far exceeds that which they could garner by any other means, when they flirt with us.

We slip our favorite bar girl a twenty, sometimes even a fifty baht note from time to time which is always welcome. They continue to rush over to us when we enter their bar(s). Some of the guys take a girl home once in a while, get taken
care of 'maak maak' and give the little darling three hundred, or if star struck, maybe five hundred baht in the morning. Some of the girls will happily come along and sleep in the bed with you for no more than the pleasure of a comfortable
bed and a clean bathroom. One particular girl of twenty-five is as pretty as a picture and will come home with a half reasonable sober farang just for that. She's actually a cook in the kitchen of one of the bars we frequent and does not
want boom-boom. However for the comfort of your room she will be very caring in every other way. This particular lady was married to a westerner previously though he has long since departed the Pattaya scene.

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The Thai government wants us here, that is evidenced by the extent to which they are prepared to help us draft a credible application for our 'OA' (So called retirement visas). We are a good bet for them and the bar girls. We don't
wish to be employed, we spend all of our money, little as it maybe, right here in Thailand. Immigration police are wise; they know that we are a minimal strain on the services of the police and administrators. They know that our steady spend over
time does not decline in the wet season, and they know that, unlike the young buffs, we don't steal Thai jobs or send any money back to our home country. In short we are economic good sense for the City of Pattaya. Now back to my point:

'Five to Ten Baht of Gold'

So much gold represents forty-five to ninety thousand baht. This is a ridiculous sum in such circumstances. Let me put it into context. My in-laws are of the I-san and poor. There are five in their household, they own their own home, worth circa two-hundred
thousand baht, which is about the worth of most of the houses in the village. They have three motorbikes between them, (I'm still saving up for one!) and manage to eat reasonably well. Now, I said they are poor and that is true by western
standards, but not by I-sanian standards. Mum-in-law does have a six baht tong which is worth close to sixty-thousand baht. It was bought with some of the proceeds of her cash crop, if the balance of those proceeds expire before
the next harvest she'll pawn it, wait until harvest, and then redeem it. Yes, throughout South East Asia gold is prized as a very portable and safe investment, but that has absolutely nothing to do with sin sot.

'A life time investment in her daughter'

Huh! Anyone who has a smattering of understanding how the I-sanian social system works knows full well that the mothers of the I-san do not invest in their daughters. Until education for the first twelve years became free they didn’t even send
them to school. The reality is that they pass them around to anyone, no matter how distantly related, until they reach their teens, whereat the mother starts to figure out how she can get an income from her daughter. My own 'mother in law'
has three children in her house, all have different fathers and she is the paternal mother to only one of them. It is always the case that someone has to cough up some cash each month to feed the dislocated child. On average the sum so acquired
seems to be two thousand baht per month per child, sometimes only one thousand baht. The 'career' has no particular interest in where the two (or one) thousand baht comes from, be it the paternal mother, a farang or an absent father.

One Hundred Thousand Baht Weddings.

Boy was this man stuffed. In I-san a fixer will lay on the whole wedding event for fifteen thousand baht. You the groom will not have to lift a finger. The groom just has to answer his questions and sign each form that the fixer lays in front of him.
For this sum the fixer takes care of the ceremony, the paper work, the invitations, the transportation, the caterers, and will even talk some sense into the farang in respect to sin sot. He’ll also certainly edit your guest list to sensible
proportions. Why, he is on a lump sum contract, the bigger he lets your wedding get, the less profit for him.

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Page Boy’s and Brides Maids.

I-sanian women, mothers in particular are usually very practicable people. They do like processions, but they also like manageable numbers of people. If an I-sanian woman hates anything it is a gathering that is too large for her to control. Therefore
numerous matrons of honor, page boys and a plethora of bridesmaids is not a requirement.

‘Parents paid seventy-five thousand baht for the wedding’

This is so unlikely that it seems unreal to me. Does ‘Casandura’ have any idea how hard a I-san family have to work to make seventy-five thousand baht. Even if the I-sanian women is wealthy beyond the dreams of most of her neighbors she
is unlikely to part with such a substantial sum for any function or a party for her daughter, wedding or otherwise. She may part with such a sum for a son’s first motor car, and she may spend such a sum on a tong. But on a daughter, I don’t
think so.

Wedding rings fifty-seven thousand baht.

Even in America few could afford to pay going on for fifteen hundred dollars for a wedding ring. If his bride went for the Thai tradition of gold rings the happy couple must have fingers like bananas. Even if they do I can’t imagine getting through
my day with three baht of gold dragging my wedding finger toward the ground. In any event it is a totally un-necessary level of expenditure.

Wedding Gates 20’s, 50’s 100’s and a couple of 500 baht notes.

Now you’re talking! Just think of the thrill just about anyone on the I-san would feel holding an envelope that might have a five hundred baht note in it. Even if, when opened, an envelope only yielded fifty baht it would still induce a squeal
of delight.

Total Cost 260,400 Baht.

In Thai terms that is a stupid waste of money. He could have bought the brides family a house on the I-san, with ten rai of land with such a princely sum.

Summary (Sympathetic)

I think that you were stitched up mate. It was the half million mentioned at the outset that got you scheming. You forgot the standard negotiating stance in such situations; you didn’t divide by ten at the outset!

Summary 2. (Skeptical)

Using balance of convenience as a logic base I think that both of these submissions are a ‘send up’. Perhaps the writer is a mother trying to up the anti in anticipation of her daughter’s wedding, or maybe it’s just a farang
taking the piss! In any event neither submission rings true.

Stickman's thoughts:

The sin sot issue is a tough one to get our head around. I have to admit that I am still undecided on it.

I do think though that the figures that you are aware of are probably at the lower end of the spectrum (which is neither here or there). The average sin sot at weddings in Isaan that I have personally attended is over 100,000 baht and always the gold is between 5 and 10, usually much closer to 10!

I have personally been to a wedding where the sin sot is 3,000,000 baht, and there was plenty of gold and a mother of a ring. Some hi-so types go for WAY more. there's a broad social spectrum in Thailand.

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