One Of The Lucky Ones
I am a regular reader of Stickman and enjoy most of the readers' submissions. A lot of them describe, and rightly so, the trials and tribulations of foreigners coming to Thailand and engaging with the bar girls or massage girls.
My submission is of a success story just to show there are cases where these relationships turn out to be the best for not only the foreigner but also the Thai lady.
I retired from an American communications company in 1994 and started contracting to different international companies. I was not married at the time and was forty nine years old. My first contract was in Bangkok for six months. Talk about culture shock! I had never been outside the US. Sad to say, like most Americans who have never traveled abroad I thought other cultures were inferior to the American culture. Man was I ever wrong. After experiencing the kindness, forgiving spirit and instant acceptance of Thai people I made a commitment to myself that in my sunset years I would live and die in this country. I realized that although the US is a great country it was not God’s gift to the world.
After Bangkok I worked in Indonesia, Philippines, China, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Hungry and Afghanistan but my heart was still in LOS. Working in these countries further confirmed my understanding about other cultures not being inferior to the US.
In 2000 I retired again and returned to Thailand. I was walking down Sukhumvit when one of the infamous tuktuk drivers accosted me showing a pamphlet of a local massage parlor. I took the bait and within ten minutes I was viewing the numerous choices of ladies for my body massage.
After the encounter was finished I noticed the lady which hereafter I will refer to as “Ann” (not her real name of course) had tears streaming down her face. I asked her why she was crying. I thought maybe I had said or did something wrong. She could speak only very limited English and I could speak less Thai. She said “I no like work massage”. I was moved by her honesty and felt like a dirty old man. Keep in mind this was by no means my first trip to a massage parlor. But there was something real and sincere about this lady. It was not just a show to reap the rewards of my sympathy. We went back downstairs and I asked the proprietor who spoke English what were the requirements to end her employment. He told me. I agreed to the conditions and complied. Ann and I returned to my hotel and I called Chaleo, the man who was my driver six years earlier during my first Bangkok contract and asked him to come to the hotel. He speaks quite good English and is straight as an arrow. I wanted to know more about this lady.
She related that she had traveled to Bangkok two months prior and started to work in the massage parlor. I ask her what day she started to work. She said she was from Isan and her father was a farmer and she had two younger sisters in school. She was working to support the family and pay for her siblings’ schooling. At the time I accepted this. The next day I called Chaleo and requested him to go to the massage parlor to confirm her date of employment. He did. She was telling the truth.
Based upon her honesty I decided to take a chance and travel to her village to see if everything she told me was true. The next week we went to her village. We arrived at 7:00pm and all the family was there including her two younger sisters plus some of the extended family. I took Chaleo with me to be my interpreter.
I was the first foreigner her mother had ever seen and she asked me if it was ok for her to touch the skin on my arm. White skin new vistas. Ann was very embarrassed by this but I said it is ok.
As previously stated I wanted to settle down in Thailand. Maybe I had met the one to spend the rest of my life with but I had to make sure. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I rented two hotel rooms, one for Chaleo and one for me about 60 kilometers away from the village (nearest hotel with decent rooms). Chaleo and I stayed for one month at 400 baht per day per room. I told Ann she had to stay at home so as not to flame the local rumor mills that are like a raging forest fire driven by gale force winds in the Isan villages. She agreed. To save face she had told her parents she worked at a hotel as a cleaning lady and that is how she met me.
I would go to her house every day. It was November and the rice harvesting season. Over these four weeks I participated in harvesting rice (about ten minutes at a time) and became acquainted with Ann’s family and the local village people. During this time I had Chaleo to investigate Ann’s family. They were well respected in the community and like everyone else just wanted what we all want. Food, shelter and enough income to provide a decent family life by Isan standards.
After three weeks I was convinced Ann and her family were good people but I still had some testing to do. After all I had heard all these stories about Thai ladies. So I suggested I buy her some gold. She said she did not want any gold but only wanted me to love her. I suggested I could buy her a car or truck. Same response. This prompted me to have a serious conversation with Chaleo. I had fallen in love with Ann but wanted to make sure I was not about to make a mistake. At that time I was fifty four years old and wanted a soul mate for the rest of my life.
Chaleo and I spoke at length and he assured me Ann and her family were good people and would not try to take advantage of me. As stated above I had known Chaleo for six years, been in his home numerous times and come to know he was an honest man. I asked him how I would go about asking Ann to be my wife in line with Thai culture. He told me and the plan was made.
I requested a meeting with her and her family to discuss my proposal. Chaleo said it was the norm for the man to give the lady’s family a dowry which was money and / or gold. I already knew this. The meeting was scheduled for 10:00 AM. I arrived at 9:00 AM. Chaleo and I took Ann for a ride to question her about the dowry. Didn’t want any surprises. When I ask her how much I would have to pay she became extremely upset and started crying. I kept asking her what was wrong. She would not speak for about ten minutes. Finally she asked me this. “Do you think I am a cow or a buffalo that you can buy from my family? I have told you before I don’t want your money. I only want you to love me. Don’t ever speak to me like this again”. Talk about open mouth and insert both feet. I had Chaleo explain to her the reason I ask was because I had read this is the norm in Thailand. She then said she was not like other ladies that only wanted money. I apologized for hurting her feelings and she accepted my apology. This further convinced me I was doing the right thing.
We went back to her father’s house which by the way was a three room wooden elevated structure with no paint anywhere. No running water or inside toilet. Very basic to say the least. He built the house 40 years prior. When we arrived all the family was there plus all the extended family. About twenty five people. Most of them were busy outside chopping up chickens, ducks and a lot of things I didn’t recognize. This day was a big deal and they were going to see to it. The meeting commenced with Ann, her mother, father, two sisters, her mother’s three sisters and one brother, the head of the village, the chief monk at the local wat, Chaleo and me. The other people were preparing food. I was asked if I was currently married, whether I had children, if I had a job (I didn’t because I was retired again), how I would support Ann, whether I planned to take Ann back to the US and many other things I will not bore you with.
I passed the test and Ann and I were blessed by the monk and had many threads tied around our wrists for good luck. By now it was noon and time to eat.
Chaleo had suggested earlier that if all went well at the meeting I should have an engagement party for Ann and me to show my commitment. He said it’s the Thai way. So after the lunch consisting of chicken, duck, veggies, fish and some of the most putrid smelling concoction I have ever encountered, oh yes, don’t forget Leo, Chang beer and Lao Khao whiskey, Chaleo and I took Ann aside and told her I wanted to have an engagement party. She was thrilled and asked her uncle to come and discuss. The plan was formed.
On Saturday night of the same week we had the party. It was no small deal and I didn’t want it to be. I purchased two medium sized cows, three pigs, ten ducks, many fish, twenty cases of beer, ten cases of Lao Khao, an obscene amount of veggies, and a bottle of my old friend Jack Daniels (for me). Other purchases such as ice, mixers, etc. were made but too numerous to mention. Chaleo advised me to engage the local police just in case someone got their nose out of joint. Done deal.
Ann spent the entire afternoon at the local beauty parlor getting her beautiful long hair twisted up on the top of her head (the Isan way) and a makeup job that would make the cover of Vanity Fair. She had the local seamstress create a traditional Thai dress from Thai silk that was absolutely stunning. Much to my chagrin I wore my suit at the request of Ann. The party got under way about 7:30 PM with about 300 people in attendance. By 9:00 PM everyone was finished eating and ready for the music. The local street was closed and the band had set up in the middle of the street, which was not wide enough and extended 50 feet on either side of the street. One side of the stage was five feet away from Ann’s house. They had 20 speakers and I’m not talking about the home stereo speakers. These things were Michael Jackson concert size and when they cranked up the music I wished I had kept my earplugs from my last flight. It had to be 150 db. I could feel my chest hair vibrating. I eased into the house and stuffed my ears full of toilet paper. After all no one could hear anyone else anyhow. It was a great night and the band finished their last song at 3:00 AM.
Chaleo and I were too trashed to drive back to the hotel so we opted to sleep at Ann’s house. We made our way up the stairs and I don’t remember hitting the bed. Well unbeknown to me the band had been contracted for the next day also. At 7:00 AM I was in deep, deep sleep. Before I went to sleep I had removed the toilet paper from my ears. Remember one side of the stage containing ten speakers was five feet away from the bed I was sleeping in. All of a sudden there was an enormous and continuous shock wave that permeated the room and went through my entire body. As I awoke I was convinced I had died and gone to hell! I soon discovered the band had resurrected and were rendering the absolute worse rendition of Hotel California the world has ever known at 150db.
I managed to find my glasses which had been blown off the night stand by the shockwave, only joking and went downstairs. It didn’t take long for the local people to arrive and we had another great day.
To make a long story longer, Ann and I were married six months later. She enrolled in English classes and I in Thai classes. I have since built a house on the outskirts of the village. I engaged a company in Bangkok to come and build the house complete with a pool. We have been married for nine years and have no issues. She has never asked me for gold or a monthly stiffen but due to my love for her I have given her both. We take a sabbatical twice a year for a couple of months and travel to wherever we choose.
One added note. We went to Singapore and were married there as well as Thailand. I wanted to make sure there would be no issues with visas as the Singapore marriage certificate is all in English.
So you see it is possible to live out your life in Thailand and be happy but you must first cover all the bases…
Happy in Esan
It's great to read these positive stories and I hope this inspires others to send in similar happy pieces.