Readers' Submissions

Artificial Interface

  • Written by Anonymous
  • May 13th, 2006
  • 13 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

By Bluetail

Here comes yet another bit of advice for the less experienced male visitor to the Kingdom of Thailand. Undoubtedly, it has been said before, in one way or another. But it bears repeating because there are always new readers and new eager travellers on their way. In writing this I have kept to the male gender as general reference. The vast majority of those concerned, as in who I expect to read this, are male. No offence intended either way.

Worldwide, there is a tendency (at the least) to find the less empowered members of society employed in the prostitution business. Prostitution offers a way to get income, often an income far higher than what can be had from other available work. For some, other work may not be available at all.

People who work as prostitutes are therefore in it for the money, all the way. It certainly does happen that prostitutes enter into more regular relationships with clients, sometimes marriage. And not the least in Thailand, where the environment around the industry and the general attitude towards it seems very relaxed in many western eyes. But such relationships are difficult.

Thailand, and especially locations such as Pattaya, Phuket and parts of Bangkok, can come as quite a bang in the face of the inexperienced visitor. The fun-oriented atmosphere contrasts wildly to what is on offer at home. Add to that the general festive mood usual amongst holiday makers, and the expectations of a good time many has built up prior to the trip, and you have a solid recipe for, well, something.

Even for those who have read up a bit beforehand and perhaps even has had a few words of advice from more experienced friends the set traps works quite well. I have lost count of how many times I have heard guys claim that their specific playmate of a week or two is "really different from the others". Quickly forgotten are common sense, good advice, and sometimes the existing spouse back home.

The environment total in tourist spots are in Thailand, as elsewhere, set up to generate revenue from visitors. Bars, restaurants, shops, hotels, transportation – it all revolves around the tourist and his money. Some undertakings are more honest than others, but few hotels will tell you that their location is bad. Few restaurants will advertise mediocre food. Very few gem shops will boast fake stones, and rarer still are prostitutes that will try to get it through to you that they really are after your cash and not your true heartfelt affections.

Not surprisingly all matters of businesses will attempt to seem good to you, even if they may be somewhat less than super in the harsh light of reality, or perhaps in daylight, as a number of punters regularly find out.

The point is that a location such as, say, Pattaya, represents an artificial interface between the "real" Thailand and the visiting tourist. It is indeed a "Disneyland for adults", but it should therefore also be treated as such. One can absolutely have a great time, but one can also easily end up with a grim experience.

There are stories about successful alliances with former prostitutes and their clients, yes. But bear in mind that there are far more tales of woe than of joy in the library of gogo bar lore.

Many a time the punter has been had. Mostly, money and pride is the price. Sometimes, about which the local news are somewhat careful in reporting, also life is lost.

It happens that working girls get the bad end of it as well. Life with a new and frequently older husband in a different country is rarely what the unsuspecting Isaan lass expects. Stories of boredom abound. There may be few if any fellow sisters around, the food is a big issue, and the husband is sometimes insensitive or uncaring as to the Thai female's wants and needs.

The difficulties are many, and rarely to be overcome by love alone. Certainly not by a love that in reality goes but one way only.

And yet, the reports keeps flowing in. Guys get into it left, right and center. And it is not just the airheads and the dull, not at all. Plenty of otherwise smart, experienced and level-headed men are found floating into troublesome constellations, smiling almost all the way to the end.

How can this be? With all the information and advice, with all the stories available on the internet, in the news, from friends and others, one would think that an average male with even only modest literate skills and with but a basic instinct for survival should be able to handle things better. Are we facing a Darwinian nightmare here?

Nitwits, say many. Thinking with their members, they do. The old-hands at the back keep an entertained eye or two at the besotted newcomers, easily singled out in any crowd. They can be entertaining indeed, sometimes it is almost as much fun watching them jump into it as it is watching the jumping up on the stage.

But hold on for a bit, right there. Think back. How many of us who have been about for a few rounds around the local block have not indeed done the tango ourselves? Way back, could be a year, could be twenty. Or in some cases, a week, that was before we got the total handle on things, off course.

It could be that some of us held back on sharing the story of Nit with the big you knows, who turned out to be Pornchai with equally proportioned hands and feet. Or Nit who was actually Nit, but who turned out to have a aggressive and expensive husband lurking in the soi. Or the Nit with the restaurant on hand that we bought into for anything between next to nothing and our life savings total.

I, for one, have some sympathy for the guys getting rolled. I also have plenty of sympathy the other way, to the girls that give their better years in servitude to men who are sometimes but far from always agreeable, in their quest to finance demanding families back home. Which I believe the majority of them are actually doing.

But still, there are plenty of decent guys out there that do not deserve to be screwed (for the savings, at least). Some of these guys are material for marriage, perhaps looking for such, perhaps not.

It is sad when a well meaning man really tries to do the right thing, often at considerable monetary as well as emotional expense, only to be shaken off like something dirty at the end of the story.

It could have been one of us "old-hands", it more likely has been a few of us, the ones who now after years of life in the Kingdom entertains by dishing out advice in forums such as Stickman's submission pages.

Obviously, good advice all around is far from enough. We see that. Perhaps just a few solid points would be better, if they could be hammered in properly. I believe the point about meeting an artificial interface when coming here is relevant and important. If that one thing could be understood and remembered, a few catastrophes could be avoided. With a basic gut understanding of the fact that your ten days in paradise is exactly that, and also more like the opposite of a reality check than a "real" experience, much else will follow.

By all means, please come. And spend. The cash you use on "street level" is valuable. They circulate around before upwards, benefiting not only directly a holiday girlfriend and the little shops and restaurants you patronise. Better, if not prettier, houses are built up-country. Many a kid left with families back home gets to go to school a few years more. Producers and retailers of bikes and pick-ups owe you a big hurrah and welcome back. And the number of buffaloes living out their retirement years in plush, all air-con retirement homes must be enormous. From the sheer weight of gold purchased and amassed the world is about to tilt its spin, the equatorial line is expected to run straight through Pattaya shortly.

You also help keeping the venues going for the rest of us. We simply are too few in number and combined purchasing power to justify the great numbers of entertainment places in existence, but we do want them there. Granted, there are the odd complaints about free-spending tourists pushing the prices up. But still, without your cash it would be worse. Just drop by at low season some time, if you can wriggle a week or two from the company. You will see then how desperate it can be. Actually, a good idea. At average you will get better service, more service, a lot more attention.

If you at the same time as you have fun keep parts of your wits about you, good. First and foremost it is better for you. Go forth and frolic, but do not get lost in love. No need to hurry about that, and there are a great many reasons not to. You can always come back.

One of my closest friends here in Thailand likes to say "slow, slow, but sure" whenever anything comes up. Being a Thai he knows the score. This is universally good advice, I find. So take it cool, even in the heat. Travel about a bit, get friends outside the bar circle if you can. Bring home the good memories, leave the infatuation right here until your next time around.

All this giving advice-business can in truth be a shaky thing. I have gone out on a limb on this before, and I know I have offended more than one individual in face to face encounters. Almost always sharing my obviously exceedingly excellent and unparalleled pearls of wisdom regarding Thailand, apart from writing the odd word to online publications, has been asked for. Like, "how is it living here? Is it expensive?" Enough to set me off.

I have also been labelled obvious bordering on boring. The latter, at the least, is true. I find myself increasingly careful about opening my mouth, finding the pen (or rather the keyboard) all around safer, or perhaps less directly confrontational. And less disappointing. I have a feeling that time spent jabbing off could have been spent better watching the girls, the traffic, the paint drying, or the local TV shows.

I have come across a few folks in situations over the years. Here follows a few words on incidents that I can tell from having been there, or too close, personally.

One fine, young, handsome and rather well-off specimen of a first-timer did enjoy going out to the gogos. In one place there as a extra fine looking lass that he got into sorts of conversations with. Thing is, he really had it set that he was never going to pay money for activities, you know. Just his thing. It went on for a while, back and forth, ending with the lass wanting to go with him for no barfine (which she would have to deal with, as things are) and no fee. At the end of the night he actually reclined the whole offer. Quite a bit of negotiations down the drain there. The loss of face though, for the girl, became too much. Hell did break loose, fast. A tough one to untangle.

Another chap was good and ready to get into a fight with a mamasan over the issue of barfines – he had taken a girl out for a week or so. From this he gathered she was now his girlfriend, and no barfines should be paid after the first night's expense. The girl herself was also pissed off, which he could not fathom. But who do you think would end up paying the barfines if the bloke did not deliver? Never mind the wisdom in getting physically aggressive with a mamasan around here…

One, a brief drinking buddy, managed so well he did not have the means to get to the airport at his end. And he was unaware of the departure tax. Brilliant. A small thing, still, a postcard or something would have been nice.

I knew of one bloke, nice in his ways, but not really on the shortlist for anything from Nobel. He had gotten into a relationship with a girl who was already somewhat settled with another man, another westerner. The lad was unaware. Not surprisingly had the girl neglected to inform him of her existing obligations. When he found out he got pissed off. Ok so far. But he was actually angry at the other man, not the girl, but the one who was in there first, the one being cheated upon. He wanted to find him, in order to beat him up. Amazing.

Then there was the fellow who went out and took with him a dame from a local gogo, and then – extremely unwisely – declined to cash out for her services afterwards. It actually ended with the man's regular girlfriend paying up on his behalf. Or ended, the noises from their apartment was noted by neighbours all that night. I was one of the neighbours.

There was this man, a taxi driver where I lived – in Europe – some years ago. A nice softly-spoken man, unlike many taxi drivers I have encountered in different parts. He came back one time from a holiday in Pattaya, not his first, with a battle axe of a female he had fallen for. Seeing her I was willing to put serious money on her being a hard-core, end-of-the-journey professional. Trying to tell him this, preferably in careful words, I failed. About one year later he was totally broke. The woman was apparently back with her, get this, girlfriend, in Chonburi. Now living happily in a house he had paid for.

The list goes on. There are also happier endings.

One lass that I, for one, quite liked was a bit of an attraction in the bar. Slightly mad I suspected but with an artist's sense of dressing up. She had been about for a few years, but she was one of those few who had not reached full-blown mercenary levels. This was not a gogo bar. Anyway, she is now into her fourth year of marriage with a very nice, young and by any standard handsome Swiss doctor. They are working on their second child, and are sending postcards from Switzerland regularly to old friends.

A girl I had seen about for a long time now takes care of her European husband and their new son in substantial surroundings. They also have a holiday home equal to a luxury house in these parts. The man is a lot older, but up to his part of the deal. They are doing very well, the relationship being one that really goes both ways. Actually, even with the age difference and all.

One younger man from my own country happened upon Thailand by coincidence, a friend wanted to go and he hopped on. Of modest monetary means he still got himself a girlfriend from the pay-for-play circuit. They are, some five years later, still together, in Europe. They live modestly in an expensive part of the world, but they live, and are together.

Mostly there is less color to the nice ending ones. Less drama, less tabloid interest. I thought it fair to mention just a few I know of anyway.

To round this off, and I need to, I am getting into the beer here in a way that will shortly hinder me from hitting the keyboard with anything smaller than a shovel, please. Do take care, a bit. Do not get too serious. Have a good time. Spend your hard-earned, but not like a desperate (if polite) brother with a stop-watch regulating your hours.

Read the do's- and don'ts. Try to remember some of them.

And, really, welcome and / or welcome back.

Stickman's thoughts:

Some very good advice. A nice submission.