A Survivor’s Guide To Thailand
In the year of our Buddha 1995 I took the momentous decision of trying to move, live and settle out here in an alien Asian environment.
Not easy and believe me, since I moved here few have achieved it. One of the keys for me was that I had nothing to give up, culture, arts, sports, friends (as everyone had checked out of London).
One of the greatest advantages of coming here was nobody knew who I was or what I represented, so the girls could only take me for what I was standing up in and for my personality.
For the first four winters circa 1989 to 1993 that I came out to Phuket I never got involved with the girls, simply because I felt if I started I would never stop, and secondly that for sure I would never take a western woman again once I started to go with Asians.
When I arrived after the death of my Mother however I was like a fox in a hen house, partially and solely to try and forget all the unreal shenanigans that were still going on regarding the settling of her Estate and problems over the Will.
What a dog's dinner she left behind.
But the novelty soon wore off with the girls, and it wasn't long before I was desperate to meet someone who could at least speak English to and that I might have something in common with.
Thailand can be one of the loneliness places on earth, as everybody wants you but solely and only for your money, as the expression goes here, talk to you for what if they can't make a buck out of you.
Hello translates as I want your money and welcome means when are you leaving.
So you can imagine I was up against it, coupled with the fact that nobody normal settles here, as everyone has run away from something or somebody, I tell people that I ran away from my Mother. This is further compounded by the fact that the Farang's (foreigners ) who do live here in Phuket are some of the most independent, self sufficient, intolerant, introverted, inhospitable, self-centred individuals that you are ever likely to run up against in your life, rarely having anything to do with other Farangs. I personally gave up years ago trying to associate with them. Western women of course can't possibly hack it here, as their husbands are offered sex at every turn, even my bank manager on opening up my account asked me if I had a lady, to which I replied was this an interest bearing account or was he offering a quick fling behind the cabinets with his secretary.
So you get the picture, when the going gets tough the tough get going.
So if there was ever a planet solely occupied by women this is it, as I have not basically had one conversation with Thai men, as needless to say I have absolutely nothing in common with them.
So have I learnt to speak Thai in eleven years of living here? Not one word, in fact I go out of my way not to speak Thai, as the less I know the more settled I feel, and already I know way too much.
In fact on one occasion when I was beating this retailer down on the price of a Sony television, he exclaimed to my girlfriend at the time Deng, that if I was so good at negotiating such a good price why I didn't speak Thai, to which she replied "Count your blessings he doesn't, as if he did he would end up paying nothing at all!"
Deng was my first girlfriend here to which I owe my survival to. She taught me when I arrived that I came with a lot of excess baggage metaphorically speaking, which I dumped, another analogy is that game Pick Up Sticks, you know where you have to start all over again.
The second thing she taught me was to wait for the coconuts to come down, and lastly believe it or not fidelity.
On a visa renewal departure to Penang she inquired why I needed a suitcase of condoms. She said to me that at that moment I was a vase, but in the event I slept with someone else she'd no longer look at the vase but only the crack.
Kind of sobered me up, which was just as well as to what was to follow.
The first year was okay, bar for the fact I knew already that she could not be a lifetime partner as she had a terrible temper. The second year she requested funds to start a bar, which I thought would be an easy exit for me in the event she met someone else.
During this period of four years I went over to the bars in Patong religiously every night looking for a needle in a hay stack.
Deng refused to compromise with her bar, never returning home when I returned each evening with the motorbike from Patong.
Two things happened, first she repaid me the whole of this loan through the success of her business – an unheard of event here, but secondly she did met someone else and his name was Jack Daniels – she became an alcoholic.
Everybody liked Deng, she had many friends, ran a terrific business, made a fortune, but the inevitable happened and it came between us.
Unfortunately in those days good, cheap rented accommodation was very hard to come by, and my landlady made me pay up front for a four year rental contract, which at the time was a very good deal as the baht had just fallen out of bed, and the rental rate remained the same during this period, but two years later our relationship was truly on the rocks. In the midst of this unreal domestic issue I met Noi. Initially I thought here we go again with another million dollar Hollywood classical smile, which in fact could launch an armada.
But what was behind this smile, as so often it had turned out to be a load of Greeks, was she going for an Oscar like all the other actresses in downtown Soi Bangla?
But I was in luck, the equivalent of an eclipse, I had just spotted her as she had just arrived, and although she couldn't speak one word of Thai, not even one thousand, two thousand baht extra this was a genuine upcountry girl straight off the trees.
Thankfully in the intervening time of living here I had learnt how to communicate with the Thais without speaking their language, not easy but I can assure you it can be done. After this initial meeting I only saw Noi in the afternoons, as this for me was the acid test, due to fact that I was only seeing her as a friend and not a paying guest.
In four years of going to at least four bars every evening, this was the first girl who seemed to be genuinely interested in me, as opposed to the package or what I was prepared to offer up front.
The odds as is proven are incredibly long but they do exist.
After a month of promenade walking along Patong Beach, she requested that she wanted to leave the bar and that I set her up with some accommodation somewhere, as she knew that I was currently living with my mia luang (first wife).
I said give our relationship three months before I start the nightmarish task of trying to extract or should I say evict my live-in alcoholic.
Walking on eggshells would be a good analogy of how one should play such a predicament, as needless to say the Thais are holding all the cards. Violent temper surges coupled with locked doors and knife attacks are soon the order of the day.
Effectually what you are doing is basically severing their life blood of oxygen by removing any form of financial support, like a skyscraper made of playing cards when you remove the bottom one that reads money stand back.
Of course all that followed was all in the script, but having consulted numerous lawyers and visiting the Police Station together, just like the West one has to pay to get out of a relationship.
The baton handing ceremony all went smoothly, with Deng re-assuring Noi that without exception I was the worst deal in town.
That was seven years ago, and never having married, no kids, late middle age I have finally found the foot that fits the silver slipper that I never thought existed.
Another tale of woe, and just another example of why moving in local lasses can prove to be problematic.