Letter from Bang Saphon Noi
It had been almost a year since I last visited Dad in Pattaya. Landing at Suvarnabhumi, I thought of my last trip here during the the long taxi ride to his condo. The nights out on Walking Street, the beers in the open air bars, and of course Dad’s favorite pastime, bantering with the beautiful young girls of Pattaya’s gogo bars. Our last night together in one of the better bars, he told me to go home early as I had to get up at 3 AM to catch my flight home to my family in San Francisco. By now I had no illusions he would stay for “one more beer”. He would probably ask the pretty young girl who had been hanging around him to go to the short time hotel. Sure enough, after I awoke and showered, Dad strolled into the condo with a big smile on his face, asking if he could help me pack. I drove his Honda to the airport while he snored almost all the way there, and then kissed him as I gathered my bags and went in to catch my flight. As the plane lifted off, I wondered how long my Dad would be able to keep up this lifestyle before his health started to fade. He was a vigorous 78 during the day but on the nights he went out, it took him two days to recover to his good health. I got my answer about nine months later, the day after what would have been his 50th wedding anniversary to my mother. His good friend Sam, who lived down the hall, called to say he had entered the condo when Dad was late for their Tuesday night dinner, and found him on the kitchen floor half conscious. He saw my business card attached to a magnet on the refrigerator and called after the medical unit from the hospital had arrived.
I arrived at the hospital Dad was in about four days later. It seemed like a modern hospital with young, white-clad technicians bustling about. At the reception desk, I asked to see Dad and was led to him by a young orderly to my Dad’s room. He was in a private room and Dad was sitting up in a raised bed, apparently sleeping. I approached the bed and held Dad’s hand; his eyes slowly opened and flashed recognition a few seconds later. His mouth started to move as if he was forming words, yet no sound came out. A minute later, a young doctor came in and said my Dad had had a stroke and they were not sure how much damage there was. I came to sit in my Dad’s room everyday for the next two weeks and each day his health improved, such that he could now walk slowly down the hall while holding onto my arm, and speak words at half the speed and half the volume before his stroke. The doctor said with therapy, his condition could improve a little bit more but that was the best to hope for. He said he could not live on his own anymore as he would need constant attention. He suggested a “home”, maybe even one in the States. Knowing Dad’s finances, he could never afford nursing homes back in the States, even with Medicaid and help from me.
The doctor said there were Thai homes but they were all designed for rich Thai patrons. Sitting in Dad’s favorite open air bar drinking beer, I struck up a conversation with a Kiwi and told him about Dad. He said there was a new home in the south of Thailand that was designed for aged farangs, called “heaven above” or something like that. He said he had seen their website and that it would be perfect for “my old man”. He slugged down the last of his beer and said, “He’ll be happy there, no worries” and then wandered off into the night.
I went home that night and started googling on Dad’s computer and found the place, “Before Heaven”. It looked like a wonderful facility on the ocean near a town called Bang Saphon Noi in southern Thailand. I called them the next day and arranged to visit 3 days later, 2 days after Dad got out of the hospital. It would be about a 4-hour drive down the coast.
We started our drive early in morning, as beer was now off my Dad’s list; he was waking up much earlier. We stopped a couple of times for coffee so Dad would be alert when we got there. The directions called for us to drive off the highway onto dirt roads that wound their way through coconut trees and small houses. As we approached the ocean, I saw what looked like a long, white building with a red tile roof. It had an elaborate entrance with beautiful landscaping and flashing colored lights embedded in the trees. I helped Dad in through the double wood doors and immediately felt the cool air conditioning. In front of us was wide wooden desk with a pretty receptionist behind it. On the walls were painted pictures of tropical foliage and beautiful Thai women. She gave us a wonderful smile and said “Welcome to Before Heaven. My name is Noi”.
She stood up and shook our hands; I noticed Dad’s eyes were now bright again. A fit, middle-aged Caucasian man walked into the room from a hallway at the side of the reception area. With a British accent in full force, he said, “Right, welcome to Before Heaven. My name is William and I am the general manager here. You must be Matthew and this must be your father David. Welcome.”
William stuck out his hand and limply shook ours. I noticed Dad’s eyes were locked on Noi’s, who was returning his stares with big smiles and sexily squirming in her chair. I asked William to tell me about this facility. He said it was a 24 / 7 nursing facility for foreign men in Thailand. It had a doctor and nurse on-site at all times and lots of “helpers”. He said the facility could hold around 100 men. He was near capacity now, but there was room for Dad if we acted fast. I asked if we could have a tour. He agreed and we proceeded down the hall William had first emerged from.
The hallway was narrow and low-ceilinged, but after a few meters we emerged into what seemed like a small, well-lit ballroom. It was actually a large nurse’s station with bustling women clad in white amid desks and computer screens. Behind the station were tall windows that looked out onto the ocean not more than 50 meters away. Taking a second look at the station, I noticed that all the “nurses” were wearing uniforms that must have been 2 sizes too small, even for their tiny frames; frames I might add, that were perfectly proportioned. Their necklines plunged to cleavage, their white stockings came to mid-thigh, and their hemlines were even higher. Dad was certainly enjoying the view as his mouth was open yet he was not trying to speak. Some of the girls looked up, saw my Dad, waied him, and said “sawasdee, kaaaaaa” in a most sweet Thai chorus of female voices. Dad returned the wai.
William said his equipment was “state of the art” and all of his staff were trained to western standards. On both sides of the station were hallways right and left, and William led us through to the one on the right. As we slowly walked down the hallway past rooms with half-opened doors, William prattled on about all the wonderful features of his facility. As we walked, I saw one man lying naked on a bed while a “nurse” administered a Thai massage. In another room, I noticed a nurse holding up an aged man who was groping her behind; she made no attempt to stop him. And in another, I glimpsed a man being sponge bathed by two shirtless beauties, paying particular attention to his little man. At the end of the hall, there was a small station where it looked like a helper and a man in bathrobe where playing connect four on the high counter. With William still talking, I looked through the window behind the station where I saw a small pool where a man and 3 girls were splashing about. They emerged naked and then wrapped towels around themselves before the girls helped the man inside. In our five minute walk down the hallway, I had not heard a word William had been saying; as my mind was clouded by the surreal images I had just seen.
As we walked back down the hallway, William noticed my concern and pulled me into a small closet while my Dad held on the pretty receptionist Noi. He said, “Look, let’s be honest. Guys like your father wanted to escape to a place like Pattaya so they could spend their last years among young and beautiful women, who would smile them, flatter them, and you know”.
His voice trailed off as he winked a couple of times and smiled like a cat with bird in its mouth. He continued, “And here at Before Heaven we can not only take good medical care of your father but do it in a facility that caters to his chosen lifestyle. Isn’t that what he would have wanted?”
I looked over at Dad, still clinging to Noi, and saw him looking at the Connect 4 helper as she bent over to pick up a colored disk on the floor, raising her skirt above her panty line. Again, Dad was again wide-eyed and speechless. I turned to William and bluntly asked how much. He said 60,000 baht a month covered everything, including doctors, medicines, food, and the occasional “fun”. William again gave me that bird-in-mouth smile. I did a quick calculation of Dad’s pension and the gains from the sale of his condo and said “OK, when can he move in?”
William, now smiling ear-to-ear, said “He can move in now!” Dad looked at me again, saying “yes” with his eyes, so I shook William’s limp hand once more. I asked to see what room he would be assigned to. It was double room, one TV on the stand, one shared bathroom, and a nice view of one of the two pools on the site. His closet was clean as was the bathroom. William said there was a computer room where Dad could send email. He also said they emailed pictures to the families in special occasions. I could imagine what those were like. I gave William my email address and cell phone number. I asked about Immigration issues and he said he had a “deal” with a local official who kept the passports and made sure they were stamped properly. Then I asked him what would happen if my Dad died unexpectedly. He said they had a deal with a local temple for cremation and a guaranteed attendance of 30 monks, all for 20,000 baht. Ashes provided a week later. I paid him for 3 months and a funeral, 200,000 baht in all, and then shook hands one more time
We got Dad settled in and he lay down on his new bed. As I left, one girl was standing next to my Dad and I noticed her hand on his thigh. I smiled; Dad smiled, and I had happy thoughts about him until I saw him about a year and half later, on Father’s Day. He was still wearing that same smile.
You had me to the half way point and then I realised you're pulling our chain!
I imagine there would be genuine demand for such a facility.