Stickman Readers' Submissions April 17th, 2009

The Koh Bang Rollercoaster

This is a true story based on what happened to my wife and I. The names and locations have been changed to avoid any problems.

This story shows what can happen when you make business deals with your heart. I am a Piscean and can be quite impressionable.

He Clinic Bangkok

My wife and I have been together for 8 years. Our first business together was a small internet shop in Bangkok which we enjoyed running for 2 years. Then we decided to move to one of the holiday islands and buy a business there. On Koh Bang we bought a very nice property that comprised of a 9 room guesthouse, a shop that was rented to an optician and a decent sized bar. It was a dream come true for both of us. I wanted a guesthouse and my wife wanted a bar. The rent money we got from the optician meant we were financially secure in the low season.

It's hard work running a resort. After 4 years I started to get very tired of it and wanted a change desperately. It had put a big strain on our marriage too. By chance we were shown a very nice quiet home and business that belonged to some wealthy Thai friends of ours – Somchai and his girlfriend Lek. We had known them for more than 3 years ever since we bought our car from them. They were the owners of the local radio station on the island and many times we enjoyed singing karaoke, eating and drinking with them. They are both well educated especially Lek who came from Chiang Mai, could speak English fluently and being one of the DJs she had a very sweet mouth. I secretly fancied her from the first time we met. You know what it's like as farangs coming to Thailand for the first time. We mostly get to meet Isaan ladies who work on the front line. As lovely as they are, when I met Lek, who was the first educated Thai lady I became friends with, I was left thinking "Look what I could have won”!

Anyway their property was a 2 hour drive from the island and was set on 10 rai of land. It comprised of a large fishing lake which had 3 islands with walkways to them, a big bar and restaurant area, a VIP karaoke room, a luxury 3 bedroom house with a large terrace on the upper floor, a car park area, a smaller lake that was used to breed fish and there was enough spare land around the edge of the large lake to develop it and build some bungalows. It was very quiet too, set in a small village in the country yet a short drive to one of the main towns that had all the necessary stores. I fell in love with it instantly. We had been living in one of the guest rooms of our resort for 4 years and there was very little privacy. Here was an opportunity for us to live in a nice, quiet house yet still have a business for my wife and her family to run.

CBD bangkok

The fishing park had been closed for more than 1 year since Somchai and Lek had moved to Koh Bang to setup and run the radio station. Somchai's mother had stayed on at the fishing park to take care and feed the fish. When we met we hit it off instantly. She is a lovely old Thai lady and although we could not communicate that well, my Thai is not so good, we enjoyed each other's company. She showed my wife and I the land papers to the property, they were chanote and since we were friends with these people we did not bother to check at the local Amphur.

Back on the island Lek came to visit us. Since she could speak English well and Somchai could hardly speak a word, Lek would be the one taking care of business. She knew I was tired of life running a resort and said if I wanted to buy their property on the mainland I would first need to pay them a deposit of 200,000 baht. My wife and I explained to her that our profits from the last high season were not so good and we only had 150,000 baht in the bank plus I needed to make a trip back to Europe to visit my family and renew my visa. We told her it may be possible to borrow some money from our friends. We have the yearly income from our optician which we could use to pay back our debt. It would leave us in a difficult financial situation but Lek assured us we are good friends and we would help each other. Lek had asked me if she could have a copy of my music collection for her radio station which I was more than happy to do. So the next day I paid her a visit, she copied more than 60 gigabytes of music and enjoyed playing some of the love songs whilst singing and smiling at me. It made me feel great!

A few days later we drove back to the fishing park to meet with Lek, Somchai and his Mum. This time there were other family members there too. Somchai's young brother who is blind and his 2 sisters one of which, Som, is also a DJ and good friends with Lek. We enjoyed playing card games with them on the terrace of the luxury house that night. Later on we spoke about buying their property. Including the 200,000 guarantee, they wanted 6 million for it and if we did not pay within 1 year then the price would rise to 7 million. Mum explained that she is moving back to Bangkok with her blind son and needed money to build him an extra room in her house there. My resort was valued at 10 million so I thought we could make a good deal and I could use the extra 3 or 4 million to make some nice bungalows around the fishing lake. Lek and Somchai assured me that they had many rich friends and they would help us to sell our resort. It was agreed that for the 200,000 we could live in their place for 1 year and pay the utility bills. I asked Somchai if there was any problem with the water levels in the rainy season, I was quite concerned because we were only 2 km from the coastline. He assured me there were no problems at all to put my mind at rest. I decided that if there were problems I could always pull out of the deal. Lek warned me not to get too friendly with Som because she liked to drink a lot. She knew I was tired of seeing my wife get drunk and I thought at the time she was just trying to help. Later on I drove to the ATM to take out some money for the guarantee. I had already let Somchai borrow 30,000 the previous month so I took out 70,000 to give to them. The money I had left I would use for my trip to Europe and Somchai suggested we could use our car as collateral to borrow the further 100,000 from a finance company. I returned from the ATM and gave them the 70,000; I told them since we were friends we did not need to make a contract. <Dumb, dumb, dumbStick> I had enjoyed making "heart contracts" before and had never been let down – when they work it's really wonderful. They were very happy to receive my money. Lek, Somchai and Mum got in their car and drove off – they said to deposit the money somewhere. I was left alone on the terrace of the luxury house and as I looked up at the sky I saw a cloud shaped like a boat going past the moon that I managed to catch with my camera. I decided it meant my boat had come in and I felt really good.

The next day Somchai drove my wife to the finance company to see if we could borrow 100,000. Unfortunately because we had only just finished paying off the loan for our car and recently changed ownership from Somchai to my wife's name the finance company told us we had to wait one year before we could borrow money. Small problem I thought as I knew some good friends of ours on the island had just leased out their resort for more than 1 million and I could ask to borrow from them.

wonderland clinic

It was decided that Lek would drive me back to the island and my wife would stay with Somchai at the fishing park. This was a trend that was repeated quite often. So I drove with Lek in her nice new 4 door pickup back to Koh Bang, Som's young daughter came along too as it was the start of the school holidays. We enjoyed each other's company and I returned to my resort to find my wife's brother was taking good care of our place. The next couple of days I spent quite a bit of time with Lek. I remember her smiling sweetly at me one time and saying "You must know how to do business in Thailand". There were opportunities for us to have sex but since the island was so small and everyone knew each other I thought better of it. Besides I had already shit on my own door step once and it hurt my wife a lot. Some weird things started to happen though. When I was taking a shower one day my dick started to twitch. Now I have been a dickhead at times in my life but I am forty years old now and I know myself well. This seemed like someone or something else was controlling me. Then I started to have strange dreams, Lek would appear in them and we would do things together. At that time I put it down to my infatuation with her.

I managed to borrow 100,000 from my friends and we headed back to the fishing park. This time we transferred the money to his Mum through the ATM. We agreed that we would move to the fishing park and that Lek would take care of our resort until she helped us to sell it. Since we were good friends I agreed to rent it to her for only 5,000 baht per month and they would pay all of the bills, really I wanted to get 15,000 per month but Lek seemed to have some grip over me and I surrendered to it. I had a small income coming from a property in Bangkok and we had enough to live at the fishing park. Somchai helped us to rent one of his friend’s trucks to move our belongings from the island. My brother in-law and his daughter then came to live with us as well. It was to be his daughter's last year at school and in that province there was a very good government school with smart teachers.

The day we were to move our belongings from our island Somchai and Lek were to help us move. But the night before there was a big storm on the island and a landslide caused a lot of damage to their radio station. They made a home video of the after effects and showed it to us. Lek told me the damages rose to 80,000. During my last night on the island I sat in my garden feeling quite sad. The disco next door was playing songs that exactly suited my mood and the stories of my life. I knew that Lek was friendly with the owner and assumed she had given him a play list to play for me. It was a nice touch.

So we started life at the fishing park. At first Somchai and Lek were very friendly towards us. They wined and dined us at their expense and introduced us to the local area. When Lek had to return to the island she continued to phone me everyday. I enjoyed meditating and feeding the fish everyday. My wife and brother tended to the garden and planted some fruit and vegetables. We also enjoyed cleaning the place, since it had not been open for more than a year it was quite dirty. I got some good exercise walking around the fishing lake with Somchai's 2 dogs – it was about 400 metres to walk around. Somchai was busy renovating old cars with his 2 staff. This was one of his businesses – buying old cars, renovating them and selling them on for a profit.

I thoroughly enjoyed living there close to the nature. It was so peaceful and we talked about plans to open the place in a month’s time. Somchai said his sister, Som, still had a CD with an advertisement for it and he would ask her to start playing it on the local radio station again. Somchai helped us to buy some baby fish to start breeding in the small lake and he ordered a macro to come and clear some of the overgrown land at the rear of the fishing lake – we paid for that also. He was not keen for us to meet with the local people in the village and he got very angry when Som invited us to a village meeting one night without his consent. There are no more than twenty houses in the village and we met a retired school teacher, a doctor and a few of the other neighbours. We all had a good laugh together.

Somchai started to change after that. He no longer took us out and made a point of showing us the electric bill every month, demanding that we pay it. He had been using high powered tools to repair his cars and the bill ran into the thousands. He got very angry when we offered to pay only part of it. After all, an average electric bill for a household is less than 1,000 baht. <Mmm, even in the cool season, ours often runs more and can be double tat in the high season. Some friends have bills of 4,000 – 5,000 baht a monthStick> He then told us we would have to wait at least 3 months before we could open the fishing park because the fish were in their breeding season.

Also Lek was not phoning me anymore and had not paid the rent for our resort. My wife and I started to feel uneasy. After one month I drove back to the island. My resort looked closed and dirty. I peered through the glass doors of my bar and could see a very large pair of speakers that did not belong to me – it looked like someone had held a party there. All the curtains in the guesthouse were closed but it did not look like anyone was living there. I tried to call Lek but got no answer and she was not at the radio station.

Shortly after that trip I flew back to Europe. For one month. I called my wife pretty much everyday. She was not happy with the way Somchai was treating her and Lek was still not paying any rent. One day she told me she felt like drowning herself in the lake. Then she pleaded with Somchai for some money since his girlfriend was not paying the rent he reluctantly gave her some. I tried to call Lek during my trip and sent SMS messages but I got no reply. Lucky for me my family gave me some money so I was able to give some of this to my wife. She told me the rainy seasons had started and one day the fishing park flooded badly including the ground floor of the house.

On the day I returned there had been another big storm the night before. I arrived at the fishing park to find not only the street outside was 1 metre deep with dirty water but also the smaller fishing lake had overflowed and we had lost most of the 3,000 baby fish we had bought. We were not happy. We had put our faith in Somchai and Lek and we felt they had let us down badly. Lek phoned me later that day asking me for more money. She was under the impression that I would bring a lot of money with me from Europe but I told her my family had only given me a little and that we would have to wait for the sale of my resort before I could give her anymore.

A few days later my wife and I drove to the island to speak with Lek. We met her at the radio station where she had prepared some food and drinks. She twice apologised for not paying the rent saying because the Thai government had problems she was in financial difficulty and promptly gave me back the keys to my resort. It was quite late at night and we slept in our resort. In the morning we were both shocked to see many things had gone missing from our resort. A hot water shower, pool cues, an electric fan, 2 computers, coffee machine, tables and chairs, the gas tank, and massage beds to name a few. I calculated that we lost around 80,000 baht worth of equipment. We called Somchai and Lek and they said someone else must have stolen it from us. Lek assured us that she had been sleeping at our guesthouse everyday. Something was very wrong, not only had she not paid the rent, the electric bill had not been paid, neither had the internet and the modem was missing too.

Things had turned bad really fast. We later found out from our neighbours that Lek and Somchai had filled their pickups 3 times with items from our resort. They assumed because we were friends that it was OK. But one very smart lady from the nearby 7 Eleven store had taken our massage beds and hidden them in her room. She later gave them back to us.

We felt awful and since Somchai and Lek were good friends with all the high ranking officials on the island there was very little we could do. We had experience at the main police station before and they were not very helpful at all. Then one afternoon Lek paid us a visit. She invited us to dinner but I could hardly look her in the eye. I felt terrible and refused to go. We asked her what happened to all our belongings and she said they were taking care of them for us. After a few days they brought back our coffee machine and one table.

So there we were in the middle of the low season with very little money, in debt for 100,000 and no customers plus we had been badly let down by our so called friends. It felt like we had been raped. So for the next month we ate only rice and vegetables and sometimes I "treated" myself to pack of wonder red cigarettes – they made me really sick. It was a disaster. We did get some charity at one of the neighbouring restaurants where we are good friends with the owners and ate there for free. I felt awkward though, going there with no money so we only went a few times – they serve excellent food.

A few weeks went by and we had some people visit who were interested in buying our resort. A wealthy Thai Chinese family was looking to buy some businesses for their children. I thought our luck was changing for the better. The only thing was we didn't have the land papers with us so I drove to the fishing park to pick them up. I arrived to find the room my wife and I were using in was open. I felt quite annoyed as the deal I made with Lek and Somchai was the house was ours for one year after they had given us the keys. Our belongings had been rifled through and many things moved around. Luckily the land papers were still there. Very late that night at the fishing park a pickup pulled into the car park just below the room I was sleeping in. I had parked my car around the back so it was not visible from the street. As I watched out of the window the car pulled in with no lights on and when it got to a point where it could see my car it reversed out and left. I picked up the papers and left the next morning. As the end of the soi came into partial view I could make out a police road block. I knew Somchai had friends in the local police and I didn't want to take any chances so I turned my car around and drove through a dirt track to rejoin the main road and head back to the island.

Back on the island I hid my car in a friend’s home for a few days. Both Lek and Somchai would drive past from time to time. Since the parking space at my resort is on the roadside and was empty, it looked like I was not at home.

I used one of my neighbour’s computers to contact my family in Europe and they were kind enough to send over 30,000 baht. We also managed to sell our pool table for around the same price. At least we could clear some of the bills, eat some good food and had some money to travel.

My brother in-law was still living at the fishing park with his daughter who was very much enjoying attending school there. She is very intelligent and often stayed late after school to learn more. The next time we went to visit them Somchai was not at home but he had left a surprise for us. Brother in-law looked quite pale as he beckoned us to the bedroom upstairs. On the bed, laid out in full view, was a collection of bullets – live ammunition. This was very disturbing.

Back on the island I went to the radio station to visit Lek. I knew her radio show ran from 9am until midday so I arrived around 1145am and sat outside waiting. One of Somchai's sons greeted me and a few minutes later another Thai man arrived. Lek came to sit with us and asked me if I still wanted to buy the fishing park. I told her no way since they had killed the spirit of things. Her look changed to one of complete anger and her face started twitching. For some strange reason, despite all the bad things she had done, I still felt strongly attracted to her. Indeed I had been sending her a lot of SMS messages saying how wonderful I thought she was.

About a week later, whilst I was away from the island, I received a phone call from a good friend of mine on the island. He told me that Lek had been to visit my wife and had shown her all the SMS messages I had sent her. I felt horrified but knew I had to face the music. So I returned to try and pacify my very upset wife. This is quite a difficult task since her star sign is cancer and they are not very forgiving people at all. She left for her hometown to stay with her family. I felt distraught and tried contacting Lek to ask why she had done it. She phoned me one time to say if I bothered her again "there would be a big problem". Since she knew a lot of people and islanders can be quite brutal, I took this warning very seriously.

As I was alone I took the opportunity to try to sell or lease my resort. The Thai Chinese family never returned but I felt positive I could do something because its in a great location in the centre of the village next to a 7 Eleven store. I decided it might be possible to turn it into a plaza. I could convert the guest rooms into shops and charge yearly rates. That way it would be less hassle to run and I could simply sit back and collect the rent. There was no interest in that though. Then one of my neighbours, an Indian man who runs a restaurant, told me he and a friend of his would be interested in leasing the guest rooms. I met with them both and we struck a good deal whereby they pay me a monthly rent. Then the next day I received a phone call from another neighbour, one of his friends had just arrived from Europe and wanted to lease the guesthouse and bar and pay me one year's rent in advance. I was tempted but had already shaken hands with the Indians so we decided that he would rent just my bar and pay me yearly. All I needed to do was get my wife to come and sign the contracts. This was easier said than done. In the end I met her in Bangkok and we kissed and made up. She came with me back to the island; we signed the contracts and made some good money. We cleared half of our debt with our friends and celebrated with a nice steak dinner before we left the island.

We decided to look for a new home. Since we had some good money in the bank we could afford a down payment on a new place and borrow from the bank. We had our eyes on a nice house with a mushroom farm that was not so expensive to buy. Then a couple of days later I received a phone call from the tenant at my condominium in Bangkok. He was leaving and did not even have enough time to hand in his one month's notice. I told him no problem since we were homeless and we headed up to Bangkok to collect the keys.

So we moved into our condo in Bangkok. It's a nice place in a good location and we never had he chance to live there because I bought it just a couple of weeks before I bought the resort.

A couple of weeks went by and my wife received a phone call from a Thai man on the island claiming to be an ex-business partner of Somchai. She was on the phone for quite a long time and there was a lot of animation. She later told me that this guy was the real owner of the luxury house and 3 rai of the land at the fishing park. Somchai had sold it to him more than a year ago. He also told her that since my brother in-law had taken his daughter to the island for the weekend, Somchai had changed the locks to the house and locked the main gate. He invited us to meet him at the fishing park the next day which we did. We arrived to find his pickup outside the main gate with a broken padlock on it. We joined him at a table near the lake and he showed us the real, up to date land papers which were in his wife's name and had even been signed by Somchai's Mum. A few of the neighbours came over to see what was going on and they were shocked to learn that this guy was the real owner. Later that day we went for a drink and chat with some of the neighbours in the village. They were interested to hear our story and my wife enjoyed telling them in great detail. One of the neighbours was not surprised at all. He said Somchai once tried to steal some of his land. Every night Somchai would get up late to move the land post a few inches to increase the size of his land. When we asked how much land he lost he said "it was big enough to bury him in” and we all fell about laughing. Later on Somchai's sister, Som, joined us. She told my wife that her brother always chooses bad ladies for girlfriends and she turned to me and said "you dream about Lek?" with a knowing look on her face. I was stunned as Som explained to my wife that Lek has an ability to enter other people's dreams and she uses it to control them. Apparently she has slept with all of Somchai’s high ranking friends including the police general.

The next day Somchai arrived at the fishing park. This was the first time we had seen him since he took so many belongings from our resort and rummaged through our belongings at our room in his house – he had been in hiding. We challenged him about all of this and all we got in reply was complete bullshit. For example when we asked about the electric fan that went missing, he said he was taking care of it because he did not want it to get damaged in the rainy season. I asked him how would he like it if I bought the house from his ex-business partner and built a wall blocking access to his fishing lake, which by the way was in his sister's name. He was furious and told us to pack all our belongings and leave. Since this guy was born on the hottest day of the year, was well connected and had guns we decided it was best not to argue so we all started to pack our belongings. We did ask that since he was breaking our agreement 6 months early that he pays for our removal costs and he asked one of his neighbours to help us with their pickup which they did. It took us a couple of days to pack everything up and on the first night Somchai had a meeting with some of his friends including a policeman. We were not invited but my wife was listening in. Apparently Somchai said he wanted to give us back the 200,000 baht deposit but his friends said he should keep it. My brother in-law had drunk quite a bit that night and at one point lost control and was going to hit Somchai, luckily my wife held him back. I had drunk quite a bit too and felt tired after all the packing so I went to sleep. In the morning my wife told me that after Somchai's friends had left she went to talk with him. After a few drinks my wife can really run her mouth off. She told me he had threatened to kill her and he walked past the room I was sleeping in shouting loudly and then into the garden where he continued to yell his head off.

That day we carried on packing our belongings. I suggested that since we were being kicked out 6 months early and brother in-law’s daughter dearly wanted to finish her final year at school here, that Somchai pay for them to rent a small apartment for the next six months – there was one down the road for 500 baht per month. This only served to make him more angry and we watched him as we packed, yelling at his staff – it was quite a performance – so much so that his staff handed in their notice and left that day. I will never forget the big smiles we exchanged as they left, a golden moment.

So we left the fishing park, I paid 6 months' rent for brother in-law and daughter to rent a small apartment and we left most of our belongings with one of the nice neighbours – the one who Somchai tried to steal land from – and we headed back to Bangkok.

We had been recommended a good lawyer in Bangkok from a Thai friend on the island. They had gone to school together. We met him at the Lawyers Council of Thailand and he told us that we stand to get all our money back and more if we take them to court. All we needed were copies of our bank statements and copies of their ID cards.

As I mentioned before, my wife is very unforgiving. I told her it would be best to forgive and forget but she was having none of it. So I decided if you can't beat them join them and we both set out on some revenge. We discovered that there was a nice new website for the Koh Bang radio station. This made us even more annoyed as it looked to have cost at least 30,000 baht. Anyway on the play list, which showed up live on the homepage, I requested "Black Magic Woman" and “Like a Rolling Stone". On another page my wife found an advertisement to sell the fishing park. She put up a reply in Thai language telling how they are a pair of thieves and how they are well suited for each other. The website was shut down that day and later on my wife received an angry phone call from Somchai. He warned us if we didn't stop he would release the videos of us. When my wife enquired as to what videos he said he put a hidden camera in the bedroom and toilet at the fishing park. I recalled lying in that bed sometimes having the feeling I was being watched, in fact one night I gave the finger to the electric light above the bed because I thought there might be a camera in it. My intuition proved to be right and how disgusting it felt. My wife explained to me that this used to be common practice in Thailand years ago but when it happened to a famous movie star, then a new law was passed banning this activity.

One night, after I had drank quite a few whiskeys I got on the phone to Somchai. I ran through my brief repertoire of Thai swear words and then switched to English calling him a lady boy, pervert and a thief. He very calmly said to me "Do you want to die?” This was quite an unnerving thought and for a while I was looking over my shoulder wherever I went. After all, the price of a life in Thailand is cheap. Later we learned that Somchai said things like this all the time but never carried out his threat.

The website opened again a few days later this time with a new interface that could track IP addresses. It was also possible to listen live to the radio. I still felt quite hurt about what Lek had done to us and one morning, as I was listening to her interview some important official on the island, I typed "You selfish, greedy pig". I could hear her voice change after I typed this and she quickly finished the interview. I had a good chuckle to myself. The next time, after I had been brooding for a while, I put up a headline "Hot News, DJ Lek has slept with all of Somchai’s friends including the high ranking policeman and Somchai doesn't care, he's busy screwing ladies from karaoke bars ". This was a big mistake.

Later that day I checked the website and saw that my comments had been deleted and in reply, typed in bold letters, was the words: “THIS IS LIBEL, THE POLICE AND MY LAWYER ARE COMING TO SEE YOU". I didn't know about the libel laws in Thailand. I wrongly assumed that so long as it was the truth it was not libel. But I have now learned that even if its true, if it's concerning someone's private life, it must be kept secret. My wife mentioned she saw a show on TV about a similar case and the guilty party had to pay 200,000 baht in compensation or 6 months in jail. This scared the life out of me. I still felt it was unfair though after all the things they had done to us. Luckily the police and lawyers never showed up.

We went to visit an old friend of ours in Bangkok who is a police colonel. We hadn't seen him for a few years but he still remembered us. We told him our story and he looked up their names on the police database. He printed out details for Somchai and his Mum but strangely there was no record for Lek, even her car was registered to the wife of the ex-business partner. Very strange and we remembered how Lek told us she had ran away from Bangkok a few years ago but never explained why.

Our colonel friend recommended we pay a visit to the anti-corruption police headquarters and he called one of his friends there. When we me the was concerned that we had not made a contract with Lek and Somchai and said there was very little he could do to help.

These days my wife has calmed down a lot and does not talk about revenge any more. We also heard that they have been banned from the fishing park, Lek lost her pickup truck and the plaza that Somchai owns on the island is on navy land and he will lose that soon too. They have no money and no property so it would be futile to take them to court. We recently made a report at the Koh Bang police station, now they have a good police chief, and we just wanted him to know that our lives had been threatened by these people so if we die, they know who did it. He asked me if I wanted to have a relationship with Lek and I told him no but I wouldn't mind having sex with her because I had paid 200,000 baht and got very little in return. We had a good laugh about this and I told him forgive and forget – it's the best way.

Well that's the story of my rollercoaster ride. I hope you enjoyed it. I learned a lot from my experience. The people who rent my resort now are all on contracts. I realised that heart contracts are great when they work but we leave ourselves more vulnerable because we have to rely on the integrity of the others. If we have a contract at least we are more secure.

Stickman's thoughts:

Going into business in any country without contracts really is not the way to go and you leave yourself open to whatever may happen… It's a sad story, but it should have been avoided in the first place.

nana plaza