Stickman Readers' Submissions July 23rd, 2009

Was This The GFE Or Something Deeper?

I went to Bangkok on a long-weekend trip in May and never expected the trip would so dramatically alter my mind and heart and who knows if it will change my life.

What is interesting is that I always feared, based on the first-hand stories that I knew, that a trip could complicate my life and long ago I had resolved that if I ever visited Thailand I would do it with a significant other. Now I know my fears were no misplaced. However, back in April, when I needed to get out of Dubai for a change and a trip to India didn’t work out, I decided on the fly to go Thailand.. My wife and baby are in America so I was going alone. However, I was then confident at 36, I could handle Thailand despite the physical and emotional distance that exists between my wife and I.

So, I arrived to Bangkok on an early morning in mid May. Right away, I fell in love with the place as it had all the charm and culture that the Persian Gulf nations so badly lack.

From the beginning I had planned not to become a sex tourist in Thailand and never thought I would leave my heart in Thailand. My wife and I live in different continents and on her recommendation we have been in an open relationship. So, for the past year being with other women had not been a problem, it always either just ended after a one-night stand or I became friends with two of them with no more sexual or romantic involvement.

So in Thailand, I was seeking to meet either a Thai or an expat woman for company during my short stay and if more came from it, all the better.

The problem was that I did not make any plans for my trip. I basically booked a room in Suk 11 on Soi 11. I started the first evening with a visit to Soi 4 and checked out some of the bars there. I had a good time chatting with few Thai girls at one of the bars that was literally right on the mouth of Nana Plaza. I only left the bar after I and another Thailand newbie that I met at the bar realized that we were dealing with PR girls.

Later that evening, I met a group of Thai girls that didn’t seem to be working. I tagged along with them but soon I realised that this group has welcomed me into their mix because they expect me to buy them drinks. So, I ditched them.

After this, I paid a visit to Soi Cowboy and spent 45 minutes there, amused but not interested in staying there. I found pretty much the scene there beyond my taste.

At 1:00 am, I decided to walk back to Soi 4 and just hang around there. But by the time I got there the bars on that street were emptying out. It was only after this that I walked into Nana Plaza, which I was so clueless about that it was only then I realized that Nana is another red light district. In Soi Cowboy, Nana and along Sukhumvit I turned down dozens of solicitations from ladies or men who tried to take to massage or “comfort” parlors.

I was planning to leave Nana when an ad caught my attention and I decided to check out one of the bars on the third floor. By now it was 1:45 and I figured one beer and I’m done with this part of town for the rest of my stay. I never thought that 15 minutes would suddenly change the course of my life, at least in the short-term.

It was again not a place I wanted to spend too much time and the bar was closing soon anyway. As I drank my beer, I renamed Thailand “freakland” and looked forward to going back to my guesthouse and starting fresh with Thailand the next day by going to the Emerald Buddha and clean bars away from Sukhumvit.

At around 1:50 this woman that I shall call Pan smiled at me and I smiled back. All night I had shun the advances of bar ladies but there was something about her. She had this adorable smile and I am a sucker for a good smile. She looked innocent and also she was wearing big earring hoops. Basically, there was something about this girl that set her apart for me, and I finally agreed to buy her a drink.

The bar was closing soon after so I figured I’d only spend few minutes with her. Pretty soon, I was talked into paying 600 baht for her. I had no idea – I was completely clueless – that I was paying her barfine so she could leave with me. I thought the 600 baht was for the time she spent talking to me. (Yes, clueless in Nana completely applied to me.)

As soon I paid the 600 baht, which mamasan collected, Pan said “I go change, I’ll be right back.” I was thinking of course, she is going to change because the bar is closing anyway. I stayed around to finish my beer. When she showed up, I found her more attractive in her outfit.

We left together and now I wanted to know what she wants. I explained to her I don’t have that much cash and buying this kind of service was not my plan. She made no fuss about money said “you can pay me whatever you want.” When I suggested 1,000 baht, which I thought she’d turn down. she did not say anything. Now I had to explain to her my second problem, I was staying at a guesthouse that did not allow unregistered guests.

After I was proved right that my venue would not allow a guest, I apologised to her and told her I’ll get her a taxi. As we walked to the edge of the road, I suggested to her what if I go to her place. I wanted to get closer to her and know her and find out about her. She passively resisted the idea because she said he had never done that, “no customer has ever asked me to come over,” she said. I assured her I would leave as soon as she is uncomfortable and she eventually acquiesced. We had a long trip to her place, about an hour but during the trip when she felt comfortable with me, she told me she wants to stop at the night market to get some fruit. When we got to her house, we made love once and then slept the night away.

I applauded her grace, definitely the most graceful person I have ever known. She has been a bar girl for only five months. When I told her I would leave soon, she asked “you not want to eat with me?” Of course I did but wanted to get out before her cousin who lived with her and cousin also works the bar returns home. She told me to stay and go eat with them. I spent the rest of the day with her and then went to eat when her cousin arrived home. I also suggested that she let me take her to a store to buy them some items for their modest apartment. As I had promised, I gave her 1,000 baht and felt the things I bought her was doing my part for staying there.

That afternoon, she made her first and only request for money when she explained the concept of barfine to me and said she can spend the evening with me if I delivered another 600 baht to her boss through the cousin who was going to work.

That evening, she wore a beautiful dress and we went to a bar where I could meet a lot of people in my profession who work in Thailand. It was during the evening that she suggested I check out of my hotel and move in with her. I did. That night when we got home, she received a call, which she did not pick up and messaged back. She told me a regular wanted to see her and she said she’d stay with me. In the morning, when I woke up, I noticed she had left me alone in her apartment and gone out shopping.

The next day, my last in Thailand, she introduced me to her brother who lived and ran a business nearby, accompanied me to Emerald Buddha.. afterwards she took me to some back alleys for lunch. Her touch was very warn; any time sweat was spotted on my face, she wiped it with her scarf. I have dated many Asian women, though Pan was my first Thai, and my wife is Asian-American, she reminded me the sweetness of Asian women but she also went beyond any other I had ever been with.

Before I left late evening, I gave her another 1,000 baht for a total of 2,000 baht and also gave her cousin 600 baht so Pan could stay home another night to relax. I also told her that I have a wife and baby but that my wife refuses to come live with me overseas and has stayed back in America.

After I returned, she started messaging me and we regularly stayed in touch. Because there were promotional flights to Bangkok within four weeks I was back in Bangkok and even before I bought my tickets Pan told me to stay at her place again.

The text messages and the phone calls escalated the relationship and she was ingrained in my head and heart. Although, she twice shyly asked me, are you finished with wife. Which I told her we have become distant and live apart but not sure about anything right now.

A few days before I was heading to Bangkok, she said she is supposed to go to Isaan to visit her mother and son with her brother during my visit, which I learned later that was true, and she kept wanting me to go along. I told her my short stay of two nights would not allow it and took a while to convince her to postpone such a trip for now.

Visit number 2

After we had spoken for a month, I arrived at her place. She gave me the warmest welcome when I arrived. That day, we went to the market around her neighbourhood to buy stuff she could send back home to Isaan for her mother and 6-year old son. She was especially proud of the 4,000 baht bike for her son. Anybody who knows Thailand knows that this is a hefty sum and likely her son will be one of the lucky ones back in their Isaan village. I admired her dedication to provide for her son.. Unfortunately, I spoiled her moment of joy of proudly showing me the bike with my Americanism by inquisitively asking why she had not bought a helmet to go along and that she should not send the bike to Isaan without it. (When I was in the States, I bought a helmet to send to her but my friend who has been to Isaan told me that would only make the boy look foolish and silly there and invite ridicule. So I just returned it.)

I also saw her brother again and eventually went to her sister’s house who lived nearby.

I was briefly irritated for a few minutes the first day because she told me her roommate/cousin had asked me to pay rent for staying there but I told her then let’s go stay in a hotel. I was staying there for free but by this time I felt that my stay there was welcome and that I had brought lots of gifts for Pan. Pan told me she is happy with me there, it’s just her roommate but said she’d rather we stay in her own home than go to the hotel.

I had an amazing time with her. I preferred the simplicity of her apartment to a hotel. We played games, I helped her with her errands such as bringing the stuff she was sending to Isaan over to her brother’s. We went shopping where she picked shirts for me.

She also told me some secrets, her true age, turns out she is 32 and not 26 so that made her just about 4 years younger than me. I also learned that she has a 10 year old daughter that she is trying to get back from the father.

That evening, at her house, I kept asking about her life and pieced it all together. It was a tale of a heartbreaking break up and the hard jobs she’s had such as working in construction and restaurants, which eventually led her to work in the bar. She used to have her own food stand in the market but lost it as she had to take her son and escape an abusive relationship. After struggling for five years with little money, her nephew who is a ladyboy convinced her to enter the business. She first started a year ago but within two months an Eastern European “boyfriend” convinced her to leave. She agreed to return to her gruelling 15-hour a day kitchen job as long as he would help her with money shortfalls. He said he would but didn’t. So, five months ago she and her recently-divorced cousin started working the bar. She is investing the money she is making. I was really touched by her story and felt even closer to her. But that night, I was still thinking about it and had trouble falling asleep.

The next day, Pan arranged for us to visit Rachaburi province and we went with her sister in a taxi. We rented a boat, visited the floating market and a floating restaurant. Pan at one time tried to pay for a restaurant bill because her sister was at the table, which I stopped her from. She bought her own necessities such as more credit for her phone and when I asked her if I can pay for it, she responded “no, it’s ok.”

The whole trip also saved money because Pan got one of her neighbours to drive us for 10 hours and he charged 2,000 baht for 10 hours. <For a trip to Rachababuri and back that is *not* mate's rates! – Stick> Twice, when we rented boats to see the mangroves and the canals around the Floating Market, Pan asked me if this was ok.

That night we showered together, we didn’t make love after the first day because she was menstrual and that was fine with me. I was really enjoying my time with her, seeing how Thais live and seeing the country with a Thai family rather than my guide book.

On the last day of my stay, a Saturday, I was out of baht and I could not find a money exchanger in her neighbourhood since it is almost practically bereft of any tourists. When I offered to give her another 1,000 baht “to help her,” for a total of 3,000, she asked if I had enough for the rest of the day. I said I have enough to go to the airport. She bought me food that day, insisted we visit Wat Arun, paid the taxi fare, 30 baht, my entrance fee, 50 baht, and 60 baht for me to do a Buddhist ritual with her.

We also discussed her business plan and she said I could invest 5,000 baht in her family’s rice business and that even though she’ll make a 75 % profit from it, she’d only give me 6,000 baht back. Despite my negotiating for a better deal – I wanted to tease her – she said take it or leave it. She was honest about it which I admired.

There was another thing about her that touched me. I had brought her several boxes of chocolate knowing she likes chocolate. Pan told me she’d like to give one box to her brother. She gave another one to her sister. The third box, she shared with her neighbours. She only kept the smallest box for herself.

That evening she packed my bag. She had washed my clothes earlier. When her favourite CD got stock in my laptop because the battery had run out she said to consider the CD a gift to me. However, at the goodbye, it almost felt like a goodbye. She told me “You not finished with wife yet, this is not good for me,” gave me a hug, and gave me a very unemotional farewell that stood in complete contrast to the greetings two days earlier.

When I left I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again.

The communication

In the first week I was back home, I sent her messages with no replies and when I called her, she was rather cold. Finally, four days later, I sent her a text message telling her if she wants I will stop calling her. I was so devastated thinking that I would never hear from her again but I was ready to respect her wishes.

To my great surprise, she called me that night on her way back home from the bar. She told me she was getting attached to me and she was worried about it given that I still hadn’t finalised my situation with my wife but then she would be sad if we stopped.

So, we returned to our discussions except for the one week I went to America.

Last week, however, the discussions suddenly took a turn. She had become very frustrated because she had not had a customer for a week. She also told me that she needs the investment money for the family farm sooner rather than later. I asked her if she can wait till August when I will be there and it would be better than wiring it. (I wanted to send her this money to help the family since to me it’s a small amount anyway and I also see it as a test of trust). She got upset about my questioning it and hung up the phone saying “never mind, take care.”

She hung up the phone, refused the call when I rang her back and then shut down her phone that night. Nothing atypical about that, I’ve been with half a dozen girls/women who have done this.

I finally reached her late next day when she was in her village. She was annoyed as I was. She said “you don’t understand.” She said she needs it now. I told her if I send it now there would be a bank fee and terrible rates with these transfers. She said she can’t wait till August and added “I’ll pay you back in August.”

I decided to send it since she still handled it with grace rather than to beg for it and also as an investment in trust. I called her the next day, annoyed that I had to go to the bank during work. After the usual greetings, “I sent you the money. You should have it in two days. Ok, now need to go to work, Take care, I talk to you later.”

But she asked me to stay on the phone with her longer and wanted to talk and chatted about her family and home back in the village. It was her way of showing her gratitude, I think. She also said again “I pay you back in August if you want.”

Two days later, she called me on the train ride back to Bangkok to share her happiness about seeing her son and her depression about leaving him.

A couple of hours later, she called me again, this time not so sentimental. I know she was still in a bad mood because after a brief visit with her son, she had to leave him behind and return to Bangkok.

She said that when I come in August her cousin/roommate wants me to pay rent. I told her this is ludicrous, I am your friend and your guest, this totally destroys our close relationship. Moreover, I said, I always bring you gifts as a token of my appreciation that adds up to more than the rent — I bought her an IPod.

She then began to complain about how little I paid her compared to other customers “and you stayed in our house and you paid much less than the guys who are in hotels.”

She said all her customers pay 2,000 to 2,500 per night but I paid her just 3,000 after staying in her house for two nights and three days.

I protested that I don’t see that as a fee to her, because I’m not a customer, and that I only come to Thailand because I care for her. Plus, I told her how much I helped her around her house, I helped her laundry, with taking things to her brothers and cleaning her house. “This all because I care for you, if not as your boyfriend at least as your close friend.”

She replied “I have no feelings,” adding “I have been heartbroken, now I just want to take care of me and my son.”

By the end of the conversation she said “I miss you sometimes.”

Anyway, all this made it begin to question what was all that happened in my two visits with her. Did she care and enjoy the time we spent together or was this all her providing the “girlfriend experience,” or a little of both?

I never was with a bargirl before, not even for a business transaction. I have read many stories but I sincerely that she does not fit the profile of a devious, plotting bar girl and she has done nothing to defraud me or even try. She was forced by her situation into working the bar, she is generous with her money and I’ve never heard any wild stories from her such as “I need money for my dying son” or requests to help her with some of the business projects she is involved with. She only casually suggested the rice investment but was very transparent about it that she would take the bulk of the profit.

I think she may care and have feelings but the recent pressure of the slow market and the pain of leaving her son behind after a three day visit may have pushed her to talk like this.

Since that conversation, we still have been in touch every day. Still, no matter what has been or what will be, I think she is a decent, good person with a good heart who is coping with difficult circumstances. Either way, I want her to be happy above all.

I will see her in three weeks again, I’ll stay at her house. I am thinking if she was just playing the role of a GF, then I will give her a “cash settlement” and call it off and wouldn’t be upset about it even though hiring a GF was not part of my plan. I will see the payout in this instance, I will see it as helping someone that I have liked.

So, what do you guys think? Was she playing the GFE role or the stress led her to start comparing me to other customers and say there is no difference.

* * * *

I asked Stick to add this to the story after I finished it because right after I submitted my story, Pan called me at 5 am Thailand time. I had replied to her text that I’m sick, so she said she called to ask about me and then wanted to talk to me, so we talked for 45 minutes. She wanted to talk about future with us and asked if I would finish with wife. I told her the truth that I am considering the welfare of my son to make a decision. She said “with customer I don’t care wife but with somebody for future I no want to be second woman.”

In plain, she wants to know how she should treat me, a married butterfly customer or a man she can think of for potential future.

We also again talked about her dreams of future and plans. “I want a future different from past, different from now,” summed it up.

I must add that she does not give me the compliments that are often associated in a bar girl/client relationship and in fact jokingly does the exact opposite, which of course I like i.e. the first night we met in her bar, she told me, as is common, “I see you handsome that’s why I came to you.” But two days later, when we had become closer, she told me the truth, which was no surprise to me. “I see you alone that’s why I come to you.”

And a running joke of hers is that whenever her friends or people on the street, in typical charming Thai fashion, walk up to us and say “he is handsome,” she follows it with her smile and the line “I no think you that handsome.” Even last night, she joked that way saying bank tellers asked about me. “They said you handsome, why I no think you handsome?” she said laughing..

I attribute the change in her mood to business. She is in a better mood now than a week ago because business has improved, which makes me think the situation last week was result of stress.

Stickman's thoughts:

mens clinic bangkok

She sees you as a customer, a customer who pays her less than others do and who monopolises her time. You really need to get that into your head, as harsh as it may seem…

nana plaza