The Good Ole Days
I have been reading through all the readers' submissions from the beginning. Many times I have gotten the urge to write something. Many of the submissions are so well written that I hesitate to submit this. As I get older my memory fades but I want to let some of the later visitors know what it was like back in 2510 <1967 in Christian calendar – Stick>, before so many farang came to Thailand. These are memories and thoughts of long ago. Realize there were no cell phones. Upcountry there were no phones. If you were near the train station there was a telegraph. Only exception was the US bases in Takli, Ubon and Udon. There were some small outposts upcountry, but very scattered. The thoughts I have may not be in chronological order.
I had no training or preparation before going to Thailand. I volunteered and had an agreement to go directly from here (U.S.A.) over there (Thailand). There was no plan, no orientation, or instructions. Only that we were to demonstrate growing corn and to buy corn. There were 6 of us. Two got amoebic dysentery, one got hepatitis and I gained weight. I have a degree in agriculture and worked in the field as a state employee. As I look back I think some one sold the program as a way to siphon off some money. with the approval of The U.S. Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) and The U.S. Overseas Mission (U.S.O.M). The company received a guarantee for funds spent. All the upper management went by way of Switzerland when going to Thailand.
Myself and one other farang boarded a plane and set out for Thailand. Upon arriving in at Don Muang the first thing I remember was the heat and new smells. You have to like garlic. It was exciting. New sights and new sounds. We were met by a World Travel Service car and taken to our hotel. It was the Erawan. I noticed the three elephants with many flowers. The Erawan had a large lobby and teak wood was used extensively. Rooms were spacious. I remember getting some of the local currency. We received 20 baht per dollar. Out by the pool we had appetizers with beer by the pool and with live music. We tried the local beer Singha. Noticed it was a large bottle. Later I noticed the price of Singha. One bottle 12 baht. Jet lag hit us at about 8:00PM and we retired early. My bill as I recall was 8,000 baht for two weeks.
Felt a little fuzzy the next day, but headed for the office on Phahonyothin Road. Remember going by the World War Two monument. When the big trucks went by the whole building shook.
Our first task was to evaluate some tractors furnished by some tractor dealers in the Bangkok. There was a riding school in Bangkok. Seems as if there was a lady that ran a riding school in Bangkok and the soil was hard and packed. It was hard on the horses hooves. We decided we would test the tractors there. She was German. Seems as if her daughter had married a Thai Border Patrol Officer. The soil was black and like concrete. We had fun ploughing the whole place.
After first impressions I decided I could not be Thai, but I could try to understand and learn as much as I could. The three most important areas to work on was Their religion, the language and their customs. I am sure I shocked them in as many ways as I was shocked by their ways. My main thought was to always remember I was a guest in their country. Thailand would not going to adjust to me – I had to adjust to Thailand. Example: keep your feet on the floor. Do not cross your legs. Don't make fun of it, just do it. I think Thais appreciate you following their customs even though they will not say anything. I found that body language was very important. They may not be able to understand you, but Thais are very sensitive to your tone of voice, and your movements. If the don't understand what you say you will always get a yes. One of the first Thai sayings that I learned was, "Don't hold your head too high, you may lose it". In other words don't overact. I learned never to lose my temper. It is one of the worst actions. You lose face and Thais seem to balk at a show of anger and thereafter you won't get anything done. Never over supervise. Make known your goals and objectives and let them accomplish them in their way. I experienced no cultural shock. Everyday was a great experience and I love Thailand and really like Thai people. You must learn to bargain. Thais expect it and feel they have gotten as much as they can when they do. I could go anywhere in Bangkok for 10 baht. Once I bargained for a flashlight battery. As soon as we agreed on a price, I asked, "Suppose I buy a dozen?" It started all over bargaining for a dozen. In the end I said, "Okay give me 1/2 dozen." No problem. I think rich farangs have caused prices to go out of sight. They tend to pay what everyone asks rather than haggling. You've got to enjoy haggling. It's expected. Prices I read about are out of sight. Thailand has gotten expensive.
All of us soon learned to stay away from Petchaburi Road. The Vietnam war was in full swing and Petchaburi Road was where all the GIs partied. I think the Thais accepted their situation and stayed clear of this area. This was the first I heard of the bargirls. There was a little bar on Gaysorn Circle at that time. It was called The Siamese Doll. We had drinks there often. An expat took myself and my buddy to a bar on Sukhumvit. I think it was about soi 23. My friend and I had rented an apartment by then (Soi 71 Sukhumvit) and we took a couple of the girls home. There was no "bar fine". For all night I gave the girl 100 baht and a bottle of aftershave that she liked. I was disappointed and never went back to the bar again. I did however like the message parlor and the massages. I was particularly attracted to a girl at the Turkish Massage parlor. I learned much from her, very poor in bed, but fascinating because she offered me an insight into the life of the girls. She taught me the saying, "Nok song hua" – a bird with two heads which relates to our words that a person is "two faced". "Nam ning lai luuk" – still water runs deep. She got angry one time and said, "Thai people cheat all". I laughed and said, "You haven't been to the U.S."
One day my farang friend said, "Hey you want a drivers license?"
"Sure", I said.
He said, "Give me 20 baht and he will get you one".
That's how I got my driver's license. I was in Thailand for two years. I drove in Bangkok and upcountry. I was never stopped by the police. I never paid any policeman any money. I had no problem with the police. Thai people were friendly and helpful. I cannot understand some of the problems people have in Thailand unless they show aggression, are drunk or are abusive. I found Thai people intelligent, helpful and trustworthy. I am sure there are good people and bad people in every country.
I felt much safer in Bangkok than in many of the large cities of the U.S.A. I see very little difference in a bar girl and woman that marries for money or a meal ticket. I have more respect for the bar girl.
We were eating in an open air restaurant one night. There were tables around the edge with an open space in the middle of the dining area. As we ate a female cat got about half way across the open area.
A big tom cat nailed her right there. Without missing a bite one of our Thai friends looked up and said, "See we have a floor show too". We all had a good laugh.
I have some upcountry stories and my experiences in Thai Court (San Utorn) that I can relate if this is acceptable. I would appreciate any criticism. I will enclose copies of a Bangkok Post article for your eyes only. By the way I won the case and got all my money.
Would love to hear more! I have not uploaded the Bangkok Post article although am sure readers would love to see it – though that is up to you!