A Flawed Retirement In Paradise
My pal Dave was a Londoner who took his first trip to Thailand, where I met him through mutual friends, in 2002. He’d just inherited a moderate amount of money from the passing of his father and having a bit of a gambling problem in London, he thought his inheritance would go farther in Thailand than the UK.
Retirement in Thailand is not known for its intellectual stimulation and Dave didn’t arrive with any advanced degrees in rocketry. At the time of his death in 2007, he’d been living in Koh Samui for five years and couldn’t count to one in Thai. They say that a fool and his money are soon parted, but Dave took this to new heights.
On his maiden voyage, from which he really never left, he ran into some small problems with the boys in brown in record time. In Bangkok only for the weekend awaiting a flight to Koh Samui, Dave scored some ganja from a local in a bar, had a toke or two outside, and was arrested within 10 minutes while shooting pool. Perhaps a bit of a setup.
Since it was Friday night, nothing could be done until Monday morning when “The Captain” came in. After calling his mates in their hotel, they brought him some water, smokes and sandwiches and jokingly told him not to go anywhere until they got back. He was told the fine could be $2 to two thousand dollars with deportation to boot, and he would find out on Monday. The accommodations were lovely, a cement floor to sleep on with an empty plastic water bottle for a pillow and no blanket. His cellmate was a Swiss fellow who had been moved to the jail from the prison system awaiting deportation after serving six years for a drug offence. The Swiss guy claimed to have been routinely beaten unconscious at the whim of the guards in the prison and said that if he had a knife he would have slit his own throat on many occasions.
Well the Police Captain arrived at the jail on Monday morning and must have had a good weekend. He showed that he was above bribes and fined Dave 100 baht and released him. Three nights in jail waiting to pay a 100 baht fine. So on to Samui to spend some of the inheritance money that was burning a hole in his pocket.
Dave fell in love the first week with a woman who looked like something out of National Geographic, maybe from Borneo. While we flew to Phuket for a few days, he went up country to meet the parents. Thankfully that ended in a few more weeks only to be replaced with Somsee, a true professional scam artist who could smell opportunity from across the island.
To Dave’s credit, he did meet up with Luke, a fellow Londoner and owner of Blackjack’s in Chaweng Beach, who hooked him up with some reliable real estate people and architects and builders and had a lovely home built. A great move for someone who couldn’t help but spend whatever cash was available. Of course, the house had to be in a company of which Dave could only own 49%, or maybe it was just the land. Dave was never clear on what he signed and claimed to trust Somsee “implicitly”. Reasoning with him to use caution in both his business and personal financial dealings fell on deaf ears. Of course being the business tycoon he was, he soon invested in a dumpy bar in Chaweng and let Somsee manage it. I watched her on several nights stuff baht directly into her pocket in front of him while he stood pissed and oblivious to anything at closing time. She of course needed a motorbike while they were briefly dating so he bought her a new one. By the end of the year she owned four motorbikes and was renting them from his house. Not bad on 5,000 baht a month salary. Dave couldn’t come to grips with the fact that she might not be honest, which would put the burden of managing a bar and his finances back in his own lap.
She helped him buy a piece of crap car for about 20 times what it would be in New York. While used cars are ridiculously expensive in The Kingdom, this was an inside deal. After a year of managing the bar, Dave was pretty tapped out financially. Somsee, while no longer dating him, was living free at this home with her adult daughter and daughter’s Thai husband. They all paid nothing and wouldn’t even help with yard work unless he paid them.
Dave also invested in a boat that Somsee found for him. Marketing charter rentals to tourists was bound to be a huge hit and for $5,000 he got on the water for nearly twenty minutes before the engine blew. Of course Somsee had already lined up the ship’s “Captain” and he had to be paid for a few months as he had supposedly quit his other employment to work for the charter business. The “charter boat” rested in his small yard for several years. The $1,300 “banana boat” to tow behind it was “lent” permanently to a friend of Somsee’s at Chong Mon beach.
A drunken drive through an intersection cost Dave two motor bikes and damage to a car,. Fortunately no one was injured and he avoided the boys in brown by getting out yelling “I pay, I pay, no police!” Another $8,000 and money was really getting tight. So all in all things weren’t working out that well for poor Dave. He did have a knack for doing his own quality control work at the bar. No sense having a bar girl that was lame in the sack. When I was there, this lovely Chinese looking girl who spoke almost no English showed up to see about employment. Dave grabbed her for three days of shagging before she ever set foot behind the bar. In the meantime Somsee moved out of her room and moved her son and his wife into it. So Dave’s two guest rooms remained occupied with Somsee’s son and daughter and their spouses, water and electric bills kept growing, and no one lifted a finger to assist with the household.
Dave gave up the bar at a loss of about $9000 and spent his days in the sun at his house with a few stray dogs he adopted and a bar girl that he invited to live with him. Drinking Changs at “nine baht a tin from Tesco” and soaking in the sun, Dave most days never put a shirt on. His English became pigeon English, even to us. He spoke to everyone like one of his bar girls, and found it more and more difficult to get off his ass and do anything at all. After a few huge arguments with his boarders he finally got the clan to move out so that he and his new squeeze could enjoy some quiet time. She was as hard a woman as I’ve ever met who couldn’t look anyone in the eye and didn’t even attempt small talk with anyone to be polite. I don’t think I ever saw her smile.
One day Dave’s woman drove to Chaweng and parked his car to get some things. The Thai repo men showed up and seized the vehicle from her after showing her the legal documents for repossession. It seems the car was actually titled in Somsee’s name and she had taken a loan against it that she hadn’t made any payments on. Not having any more spare coin beyond his modest British pension, Dave was now taking motor taxis to and from his house when he could get the ambition to do something as strenuous as going to the beach.
When visiting in early 2007, Dave had an asthma or anxiety attack, which he had experienced a few times before. As he gasped “Call an ambulance!” His friend asked the number for the ambulance and he didn’t know. When he got someone on the phone and asked “What’s the address?” to which Dave muttered “I don’t know!” Eventually a Thai neighbor got involved and got an ambulance to get him.
A few months later, in the Spring of 2007, Dave had another attack while his girl slept off a drunken night in the bedroom. He was dead on the patio when she awoke, with a pack of cigarettes and an inhaler on the table. Five great years of retirement that many people would envy, plenty of relaxation and beer in the sun, smooth skinned Asian women to tuck him in every night, soi dogs at his side, and no stress beyond the obvious cash flow issues.
The resolution of the estate will, I’m sure, be a nightmare. Who knows who really owns “The Company” that owns the house. I think the lawyer and bargirls will make out well while the heirs try vainly to manage a legal process from thousands of miles away. While there is no lesson or moral in all of this, the fact is that from a Thai point of view, there is an endless supply of people who are rich by Thai standards arriving on the shores without the sense to protect their “fortunes”. Dave wouldn’t have traded his Thailand experience for anything, but he could have used an honest financial advisor. A harmless soul who lived in paradise for his final years.
A very sad story indeed. Sadly, there is no shortage of Daves out there.