Readers' Submissions

Why Thai? A Third Reason


It was the usual party scene, a mixture of people I knew and didn’t know, finger foods and lots of drink. It was a pre-Christmas party at a friend’s house but unlike everyone else in the room, I was sporting a tan face and a lean body from years in the tropics. Someone approached and said, “Aren’t you Dave, Gregg’s friend living in Singapore?”

“Yes” I responded.

“How do you like living there?” she asked.

Thus started an entire night in which I slowly became the center of attention based solely on the fact that I was visiting America from my home in Singapore. I was asked all manner of silly questions, like what country is Singapore in, and so forth. Unlike other times I have been in similar circumstances, I suffered all fools and answered their questions with patience and understanding. At the end of the evening, everyone had to personally say good-bye to me as they went out into the cold and on to their homes.

The next few days during the Christmas break, there were similar occasions to be the light of a party until I left a few days later. As much as I enjoyed being in America again, secretly, I longed to get on the jet that would take me home to Singapore. My celebrity appearance had run its course and now it was time to return to my life in Asia and to accumulate new stories to tell when I returned again a year later. My life there, which included extended visits to Thailand, was neither better nor worse than my life in America. But it fulfilled a great wanderlust I had for Asia since watching James Bond and David Lean movies when I was a small lad, never realized until I had actually traveled there.

Yes, those were the days when travelling the globe was second nature to me and I did it with a smile on my face. Since I stopped living in Asia and returned to America, I have been the victim of similar stories of ex-pat adventure. The hero, with the same glowing face and knowing manner as I probably had, is willing to tell these stories again and again, ad nauseam. But the underlying message in these stories is always the same no matter which person is telling them: I have a different life from you and aren’t I special? One night, not able to stand another insufferable ex-pat and his stories from Japan, I left the party early and went home. Brooding alone in front of the TV, watching “The Bridge on the River Kwai” for the 20th time, I knew what the object of my despair was: I wanted to once again be that special person that lived and worked in a land considered exotic by those who had never been there.

In these discussions about why people live in Thailand, mostly for lifestyle reasons it seems, I suspect there are more than a few folks who, when they listed all the pros and cons, forgot to mention their deeper feelings of wanderlust and being able to say, “I live in Thailand, and you don’t” (sorry Chevy Chase). How many of us have suffered through a long day of work in Bangkok; the crowds, the smells, the traffic, only to return home and walk out on the balcony just as the sun sets on a city landscape so different from our home country. Singha beer in hand and maybe a wry smile on our face, we think how lucky we are to be here instead of that boring place called Farangland. In that instant of self-indulgence, we forget that our current lifestyle is much more frenetic than back home. When the light is completely gone from the sky, we wander bank into the living room to fall asleep in front of some boring BBC programming. In the morning, we will start it all again, content that life is better here, no matter what.

Surely, there are pleasures here that are unattainable back home, like the ability to rent an insanely beautiful girl for the evening even though you are 30 pounds overweight and can’t see then end of your dick. Some of the beaches are gorgeous and parts of the rain forest are truly awe inspiring. But what about work and career; have you ever met someone who is in Thailand because they think their work is stimulating and challenging? Bar owners, possibly? But aren’t there parts of Farangland that are just as beautiful as any in Asia? Sadly, and this is coming from a person who would move back to Asia in a New York minute, westerners live in Thailand for reasons that do not always make logical sense the way numbers in a spreadsheet do. Even those who say “I just prefer living here”, at some point have to fess up that the underlying reason has more to do with being someplace “different”; a place not only exotic but hard to fathom by friends and family back home. Returning home would be a defeat, an acknowledgment that you are just like every other drone toiling away in Farangland. For those afflicted with the disease of wanderlust, there can be no greater curse.

I don’t mean to paint all Thai ex-pats into this sad picture. But for those of us who readily admit to our particular strain of wanderlust and refuse to submit to the cold logic of “pro” and “con” lists, we are free to enjoy ourselves in the dream world that is Thailand. Rude service, corrupt cops, and thieving ladyboys; they are all part of the fabric of our lives here in the land of the awakened Buddha. Even on the worse days of endless traffic, angry girlfriend phone calls, and putrid food from the normally reliable food stall; there will still be that moment on the balcony at the end of the day when the sun shines its last and we know it is all worth it.

Stickman's thoughts:

For me, one of the main reasons was quite simply that where I come from in the West is horribly boring. Peaceful, and beautiful, but boring.