Readers' Submissions

Lost in Thailand: Bargirls, A Hard Education

  • Written by Aaron
  • March 5th, 2007
  • 22 min read



Many times I have wanted to write an essay to put on Stickman’s website. I did write them but did not publish them because my relationship with Nut I thought should be kept private. Nut (pronounced noot) is part of her real name. I am not using here whole name to honor her privacy. The purpose is to explain some of the differences between a segment of Thai culture and western. I understand what I am writing here is not all Thai culture, but it is a segment that affects many farangs. I know this because during the 3 and half years I was with Nut I read many of the essays on Stickman’s website about Thai farang relationships. Very few of those stories end happily. I thought I was one of the lucky ones.

It is easy to become delusional with Thai women. I have a master’s degree in engineering and have a great job with an international company. I thought I was smart enough, but I ended up in an unhappy situation. I have been married and still am married for 15 years (thankful I am back to reality). Nut knew this the first day I met her, she even said she would be happy to be my second wife at one point as long as she could see me once a year.

I did have fun for a while. That was what my previous stories were about. I had never had so much adventure and fun in my life before. The first two years were great. I met Nut in Singapore. Of course it was in a bar. I was there on business when I met Nut. I would visit Singapore on business once or twice a year for 2 weeks at a time. Nut would fly from Bangkok to Singapore to meet me every time. On my weekends off we would visit some places near Singapore like: Kuala Lumpur, Bintan, or Phuket. While in Singapore we would go out for drinks and listen to live music, have a nice dinner, see a movie, and go for walks along the river in the evening.

It seemed like a dream come true. All the things I wanted to enjoy with a girlfriend that my wife would not do with me.

Like most men who come to Thailand whose wives (or ex-wives) had forgotten about them, I was in search of relief. A chance to feel alive again or at least feel some happiness. I had wanted to be happy and enjoy life so badly, I began thinking someday Nut will be all the things I had dreamed of. I even wished I could be with her all the time.

Looking back, the situation in Singapore with Nut was very isolated. First, it was a few weeks of the year. Second, money was no option because my company was paying my expenses. I just had to take care of Nut’s fees and presents and she always told me to give her what I wanted to give her. I treated her fairly and well. Life was easy, it was exotic, and it was an adventure. It was not reality.

The last two times I visited Nut were in Bangkok at her own home, a small duplex. She lived alone with her 10 year old son. Nut had been married before, however her husband, a policeman, left for another woman. Most of her neighbors are family members. When I started visiting her in Bangkok was when things started to change or at least I was introduced to a segment of Thai culture. Most of Nut’s cousins and sisters had farang boyfriends. Nut reminded me many times all the things the other boyfriends did and were going to do for her sisters, cousins, and her parents financially and the presents given. I thought good for them. The boyfriend that was spending the most money which Nut, it seemed now, was trying to aspire to was one of her cousin’s boyfriends. He was an architect. He is almost 60 years old (I am 40), his girlfriend is 30, and he is close to retirement. He is divorced and his children are grown up. Finally, he was planning on retiring in Thailand. Her cousin is basically his wife. I could see there was much more interest for him in Thailand than I had. I am married and spending what little money I have saved for a year on trying to enjoy myself. I even told Nut what she really needs is a single man who has a lot of extra money. Thankfully, I always had a way out with my marriage.

There seemed to be a disconnect about money with Nut. She began to act like I had an endless supply. I began feeling like the phrase I had read so many times on Stickman’s website: A human ATM. I even explained to her the first time I visited her in Bangkok the next time I come we need to make a budget. I told her you are poor and I am not rich so we need to spend money wisely. She would never talk about expenses until after things were bought or she wanted the money. It just became a daily stream of bills. I thought if you are poor spending should be planned very carefully. I guess if it is not your money your are spending, why care.

As soon as I arrived to her house on the second visit she handed me a bill for some repairs on her house which I paid. I also had just sent her money a few months before for a new patio, roof and an internet connection for a year. She kept telling me she needed a new kitchen and a front patio floor too. I complained and she told me she should start charging me rent. I said it would be cheaper to stay in a hotel anyway. Then came the yearly visit to the gold jewelry store. I asked her if she would she like me to give her money or gold jewelry. She kept saying the gold jewelry is the same as money; she can get money back from the gold if she needs it. But I said you will lose some of the value if you sell it. She chose the gold anyway. However, when I was leaving Thailand she wanted money too. I said you chose the jewelry and she was angry. I guess in a perfect world you get everything you want. I wish someone just once would give me everything I wanted. What is really funny is she spent the whole budgeted amount I was going to give her on gold. Later she said the necklace was too heavy and wanted to have it changed. I asked her if that would cost more money. She said yes. I said no then.

During the second visit her parents were at her home when I arrived. Nut had asked me the last two times on the phone if I wanted to go to Koh Chang. I told her we did that last time and this time I wanted to see Koh Samui. When I arrived I realized why she kept asking me. Her parents wanted to go to Koh Chang. Nut told me how they have never been on a vacation and they had never seen Koh Chang. Feeling sad for her parents I said OK. Then I thought, none of the other boyfriends in her family had done something like this. This is a lot more money than buying perfume or purses that Nut thought I should bring for each of her cousins and sisters. The bizarre thing is that I came half way around the world to see my girlfriend that I get to see for two weeks a year and I end up spending most of the time in Koh Chang with her father: watching her son, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. She did not want to do any of these things. Remind me what the point of putting my life on hold for two weeks, getting everything at work finished so I could take the time off, taking a year’s savings out of the bank, and sitting in an airplane for 18 hours was all about? It was not to entertain her father and watch her son.

Upon returning to her home the next thing which I had seen coming from the last time I had visited: endless drinking. I enjoy drinking once in a while. But after three days of drinking Thai whisky and beer it was getting old. I wanted to do something else. I also did not enjoy getting a 2,000 to 3,000 baht tab the next morning everyday. The family would start at 10:00 am and drink 3 or 4 bottles of whiskey and 20 or 30 large Singhas a day.

I decided to stop drinking on the third day to see what would happen. To my surprise her cousin got angry at me. I told her I did not feel well. I had gotten sick on rum before and my stomach was telling me to stop. It was not the real reason. I was just tired of boredom and pissed at the family thinking they could spend my money any way they wanted. I was really trying to be polite and think about what I wanted and was going to do later. I had kept quiet. I did not say anything. But not drinking with them made them angry. I was hoping they were feeling guilty. But then her cousin said to leave if I am not going to drink and be happy. I thought to myself, it is not a requirement that I be happy when I am not. I am paying for everything and they want to get angry at me? No one asked me if I wanted to pay or even if this is what I wanted to do. I was also feeling the effects of jet-lag. I told them I was going to lie down for a while and rest since I was not feeling well.

I came out about four hours later. Everyone was still drinking as if nothing had happened. I ate some dinner. Her neighbor sitting next to me asked me if I would like to drink. So I said yes, once again trying to regain myself. I was trying hard to enjoy what I could. As soon as my drink was poured, Nut started to complain about me not being happy and told me to go back in the house if I was not going to smile. So much for easy going Thai people. I was really trying to make the best of it. Yes, I was unhappy and yes, I still got the bill the next day and yes, I paid for it. I just needed to remember to smile as I am taking it in the you know where, I guess.

Even after all this there was no shame in stating that it was my duty to give her parents 5,000 baht for their trip back home as they were leaving. This apparently is a custom for parents that do not work. Fortunately, I only exchanged small amounts of money at a time to slow the financial depletion process down. I had only 1,000 baht at the time which they took unhappily. Yes, they are poor rice farmers with no land (long story). But there are other jobs in Thailand for those who would like to work. Her father is only in his early 50’s and is still healthy. Kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling in Koh Chang were no problem for him.

I really do not understand how people can take a person’s money, not once say thank you or show appreciation, do this on a continual basis, and expect you to be happy about it. It kind of ruins the enjoyment of giving. I have traveled to almost every country in Asia and I have never seen this behavior. My wife is Korean, so I have a good understanding of the Asian culture. Her parents actually give us money (they are not rich but they do work for a living; they are in their 70’s and still work). I do not care if a person is poor or not. When I was young I can remember times when I only had a few dollars to my name. I did not expect anyone to just give me money or buy me things. I worked hard to put myself through college. If you are poor don’t be blowing money on drinking and things you can’t afford. Save the money and build a future.

The little mini-mart next door to Nut’s house is where they were getting the drinking supplies and was owned by her cousin. I did not realize it until this trip but they were making a profit off me too since they were charging me the same price as the hotel in Koh Chang charged for a beer even though I was buying several cases of beer a day. I should have gotten some discount off retail. Another neighbor was making a profit as my taxi driver to and from the airport. If I take a regular taxi it costs 600 baht. Nut’s neighbor would charge 600 too, only he did not have to pay for the car and gas even though they would use the car I rented for their own use when I was gone and run the gas out. What a deal!

Another area which Nut needed money was to start a business. I had given Nut a large sum of money last year to buy a business. She did not do it because she felt it was not safe due to the situation with the Thai government. At the time I thought that was wise. But it seems like Thailand has always been in disarray anyway. However, this year she wanted to upgrade her plans and wanted twice the money more for a better business. I told her I do not have the money. Then she said I could take a loan and she would pay me back. I told her I have never seen a Thai woman return money in my life. I do not care how honest you may think a Thai woman, is do not loan her money. It is not part of the culture for a person less wealthy to give money to a wealthier person. Therefore, they will not feel it their responsibility to return the money. I thought she should start small like most people have to and build up. But she would not let go of this idea and it made the rest of my “one time of year” enjoyment stressful.

I should have just left after the first week. I thought maybe if she gets away from her family she would return to the woman I had known in Singapore. After all the delays and wasted time drinking I ended up with two days in Koh Samui which was my original interest. I went swimming and walking on the beach by myself. I did not have the money to do anything else that I had dreamed for a year about doing. My plan was to go exploring the other smaller islands, sailing, jet-skiing, dancing at a club, and riding a motorcycle and touring the island. Nut had already taken care of my budget by then and I was now using my credit cards. Except for food and hotel I did not spend any money on myself during my visit to Thailand. I watched other couples on the beach enjoying their time together. I wondered why Nut wouldn't at least sit on the beach and be with me while I swim, even if she did not want to swim. She spent most of the time in the hotel room reading a book or watching TV. When we were together it was driving around the island in search of another shopping mall to buy more things.

I thought to myself why would I fly half way around the world again to take someone on a shopping spree, hand out money, and supply a whole family with alcohol? I would have more fun and spend one quarter of the money by myself. <I have wondered this about many guysStick> Many of her cousins have liver damage. One cousin was recently taken to hospital for liver failure. The wonderful life of the bargirl; earning a lifestyle while drinking to make farangs happy.

There is a lot more of the same thing I could talk about. I just covered some. The one other thing that blew me away was Nut’s cousin upon arriving at Nut’s house asking me “Where is my red purse and bottle of wine?” She expected me to bring her presents too. I did bring a few bottles of wine to share as gifts and 5 pounds of chocolate for the children in the neighborhood. Her cousin demanded her own bottle of wine as a gift which I and Nut made a special trip to the shopping center to buy. Nut had told me earlier upon presenting the wine and chocolate as gifts to her that it was not enough. I was thinking a “thank you” would have been nice. Not only that I should have bought it at the duty free store in the airport. I did buy wine at the duty free store in the airport last year. It is more expensive for the same thing. Also the rule is only one bottle duty free anyway. For poor people they sure do have a strange sense of value. If you are poor, why care about superficial wine bought in a damn airport. I brought good quality California and Oregon wines that I drink at home. For God's sake they drink cheap Thai whiskey and don’t seem to mind. Nut should just say “Thank you” and shut up!!!

This trip was like the lights in the bar had got turned on. You know how the women in a dark bar always look better than when the lights are turned on; it is like that. Once the glamour of Singapore, a modern city, and the lack of quality sex, what seemed beautiful became a wasteland. We used to have lovemaking like I had always dreamed for hours (I am not exaggerating). I remember a number of times after an afternoon of love making, I started getting dressed to go out for dinner and Nut still not dressed with a sad look on her face. Then I realized she wanted another round. Of course I was happy to be at her service. But this last trip it became routine and boring. We had to be quiet because her family was in the next room. She became lazy. I thought for the amount of money she was asking for now she should have made my visit a dream and should have spent more time with me as a sweet girlfriend. Instead she became irritable and complained constantly. I must have seemed easy on the last visit and there was no more need to hide reality anymore.

It seems the culture of a poor Thai bargirl is as follows. The girl deserves the lifestyle that they aspire to because you love them. They become your responsibility. Not only that, their family becomes your responsibility. I do not mind helping people, but I do believe people need to try to do something and be appreciative. I do not believe in welfare. The bargirls seems to think that farangs are their welfare system that they deserve. Probably the non-bargirl women in Thailand are better. However, from my reading of the culture you probably don’t get too far from the same things, unless the girl comes from well off families and has some kind of career herself. There is usually the payment to the parents for marriage for one example. And if the family needs money and you have some you will eventually be equalized in the end.

I remember on my first trip to Thailand Nut’s family and I were in Pattaya. Yes, I took the whole family to Pattaya for a few days all expenses paid. We were in Nut’s cousin’s beer bar. Yes, running up a tab (6,000 baht) for the benefit of Nut’s cousin’s business (I was still delusional then). Another 4,000 baht at another friend’s bar the next day. Anyway back to the point. At Nut’s cousin’s bar I remember a man from Sweden that was warning me about Thai women even as Nut sat next to me. He had been married to a Thai woman before, and now is divorced with two children. He now comes to Thailand every year to see his children. I did not believe him and thought Nut was better than what he was talking about. I am now one more statistic. I should have listened to the man from Sweden.

Just remember if you are down and out and looking to a country like Thailand for hope to be careful. There may be someone who will seek their benefit from you. It is just the way life is. Bargirls believe they love you with all their heart, but they are just as much in love with their dream as we are. There are a lot of women in Thailand looking for a shortcut to a better future. Whether the love is real or not, as with human nature anywhere, women use sex to get love (or a good life) and think it is real love, and men pay to be loved and think it is real love. Whether we marry them or not we pay in the end.

All I have to say is many of Nut’s neighbors have honest jobs which I respect. They have husbands. Yes, their jobs don’t pay well and they have to be careful about how much they spend. It was interesting to see that these women in Nut’s neighborhood just had one drink and went home. They were not the ones running up my tab like the ones without honest jobs and demanding presents. Thailand is becoming better economically. I think it is time for Thai bargirls to start helping to build a good future for their country and stop living off of foreigners. It is not a healthy way of life. I have matured a lot too through all of this. I had a midlife crisis and have gotten it out of my system without too much damage. I just hope others don’t mess up their life. Thailand seems like a paradise with all the beautiful beaches and women. But it is our need to get lost that gets us in trouble.

I realized one very important thing. I had worked hard all my life and ended up in a marriage that was going nowhere. I came to Thailand to have fun and be happy for once in my life. But Nut and I were on two very different paths. She basically wanted someone to take care of her and her family. All the things I wanted to enjoy she was not interested in doing. I did not need another relationship that was going nowhere, I already had that. I wanted someone who wanted to enjoy having fun in life. For two people to do this they both need to be in the same mind set. That is probably hard for someone who is trying to survive or interested in Gucci purses and gold jewelry.

Like in any good relationship, there needs to be many factors present: common interests, shared goals, caring, honesty, respect… Demanding a person spend money on them when a person does not want to is selfish. Not showing appreciation when someone does do something nice is rude. Only doing what one person wants to do all the time is selfish. Both should try to enjoy what the other likes to do at least some of the time.

I realized Nut loved my money more than me when I was at the airport leaving. I asked her if she loved me for which she did not respond. I then went to the ATM to get money to pay the airport tax since my wallet was completely empty. I had told Nut when I had arrived that any money I had left in my wallet I would give her, trying to get her to save some money. While at the ATM, I selected the maximum it would give me, fortunately it was only 5,000 baht. I still owed for the last night's beer tab (2,500 baht) at her house for which of course I did not request. I gave Nut 4,000 baht which she complained excitedly telling me to go to another ATM; she expected 10,000 baht for herself. I reminded her she had chosen gold jewelry over money and my budget was completely gone. I also said I had enough; I am done as I walked past security. I turned around to wave a polite good by and Nut was nowhere to be seen. I thought, I guess that sums up things pretty completely. The truth about love is realized quickly when the source is uncovered.

I am not going to promote co-dependency anymore. Nut, you can find another farang to fund your lifestyle, or you can learn to live reasonably like the other women with honest jobs in your neighborhood. Your money from my pocket has just run out. I am not her first farang boyfriend and I will probably not be her last. I am going to go have fun on my own. Nut, “you have your life and I have my life” as she told me once, and she said many times “I know what I am” (a bar girl)! Chok dee Kup!!!

Stickman's thoughts:

Oh dear. Sometimes we need to be a bit tougher. Of course, you were not at fault, but I think being too soft and allowing people to walk all over us can make things worse. Anyway, it's all in the past now. Hopefully you can enjoy your next two week stint in Thailand, that is if this hasn't burned you out on the idea of holidaying in Thailand.