Stickman Readers' Submissions January 25th, 2011

The Interview

People come and go, some settle down, others pull up roots. I'm talking about Thailand of course.

Many essays have been written about people perceptions of their own lives in Thailand ; for instance S2000 for one had documented his life in great detail in Lampang. We're read love stories, break ups, funny anecdotes, satires and what have you, mostly about their adopted country.

He Clinic Bangkok

We did have a few reports of expats re-patriated back to their homelands for one reason or another and writing about their resettlements but these reports are far and few between (way back there were some essays from blokes like Casanundra and a couple of Yanks who enlightened us a bit ). I wondered about this and came to the conclusion that when people return home they have much less time to write about it being too busy in re-adjusting and picking up the pieces after perhaps a long absence.

Obviously if you've been away for a long time and especially having lived in SE Asia your readjustment will be fraught with tribulations as you may have burned a lot of bridges behind you way back many years ago.

I thought it would serve the readership if there was a way of getting some feedback from these guys as they settle back down to western lifestyles. I know a fair number of people here in Oz who are in this situation including myself so I thought I may do an interview style piece with a mix of real and fictional person answering questions and giving info on a wide ranging topics. Lets call the bloke Homer ( appropriately) and see what he'll give up!

CBD bangkok

Good'ay Homer, thanks for giving up your time to talk to me.

She's apples mate, thanks for asking.

So if you don't mind…I'm curious about your name, Homer…not a typical Aussie name!

Yeah, well actually my father was an American serviceman in the Pacific during World War 2 and his father hailed from Kentucky. Grandad named my Dad Jethro and he named his first born, me, Homer. Dad was on R&R in Brissie when he met my Mum and the rest followed. Mum apparently didn't fancy moving to Kentucky and so our family grew up in Darra, one of the poorer suburbs in Western Brisbane. Being Homer is character building…hahaha…I get a lot of piss taken, Simpsons and all that…

wonderland clinic

Yeah, I can imagine…but it seems you've survived it well.

Well, I had to, I was conscripted during the Vietnam war and had to stand up for myself with all the heckling and what have you in boot camp. Then again being a Homer they used to call me Pigeon, hahaha..not that I was ever a stool pigeon. As you know it's not in the Aussie character to be a dobber.

So Pigeon, if I may call you that…I hear you spent a fair bit of your time away from Oz, in fact it was only recently you returned?

It's true, after Vietnam where I was a truck driver and a bit of a hassler around the base I found it difficult to settle down after experiencing R&R in Bangers so I decided to stay there a while after getting an honourable discharge.

I see, you were a bit of a war hero then?

Na, that'd be stretching it a bit…a truckie there I was hardly ever under fire but being in a combat situation I did get a few medals and it served me well eventually. The foot soldiers had it real hard, with jungle fighting and rice paddies, mossies and infections other than being shot at and at times heavy causalities..they were the real hero.

So let's move on and after the war and serving your country…what transpired then?

It was in the early seventies and I was in my twenties with money in my pocket and a carefree attitude looking to have a good time and forget about the blood and guts of Nam so I did nothing for about 6 months.

Nothing? Surely you did something.

Well, I got pissed a lot and shagged till I dropped with all the local cooties wanting to have a young faring who was in his prime. I was nearly two years in Nam and had a lotta catching up to do.. When are you gonna do it if not in your twenties? Then after six months of this I needed to top up my monetary reserves and so I got to be an English teacher. I ended up teaching Pratom 4 and 5 in a Government school which was near my digs in Udomsook Road. It didn't pay much but my rent was only about 2000 bath a month with electricity and water included. And air con too. It was considered to be a luxury for teachers. It was a one room apartment with a bathroom and a small balcony near Srinakarin Road. A little bit out of the way with hardly any farthings there but good to pick up the lingo. Within 12 months I was pretty fluent in basic Thai. I also took a liking to Thai tucker so I could live on for around 5000 bath for the month. That didn't include grog and the fillies of course but after I got the bars out of my system and met some regular sheilah it was not that expensive.

Sounds like you had an idyllic existence Pigeon. How long did Nirvana last?

It lasted a good two years until I got a bit worn out with teaching and the aimless lifestyle and I began to think about the future. I kept in touch with some mates from back home and knew about their lives with career, family and properties acquired and I started to feel I might be missing the boat over there. By this time I was getting close to thirty and I thought maybe I should also start a family… I didn't think it'd be too good having some littlies while being a teacher on a Thai salary and I wasn't qualified to do much more than driving a semi trailer. I mean I was a teacher only in the loose sense of the word ; I didn't have proper qualifications but you didn't really need them in Thailand in those days.

I think you'll be telling me about going home, hey?

Too right mate! I've had a lot of pressure from me sisters and Mum, Dad having past away while I was in Nam, so I decided it was time to go home and become opposed to a non entity up until then. I didn't want to go back to Brisbane which was a bit of a hick town so I decided it was Sydney or bust. What happened then was that when I got there I saw an ad in the paper for TAFE courses for mature age students and I decided to take advantage of some free education through my returned serviceman entitlements. I enrolled in a computer programming and analyst course which I knew would be the best trade to learn for the future and it proved me right. While attending lectures I met a lass who took a liking to me and before we knew what hit us she got prego. She was a catholic and wouldn't hear of an abortion and so we got married when she was 5 months.

A shot gun marriage in other words….not ideal is it?

Yeah, I guess you're right but like I said I thought I was ready to settle down anyway and it appealed to me to become a father. I just didn't think of having the right wife and mother for our child. Hindsight and all that, you know.

Yes I do. Been there done that myself. Ok, so continue please.

Anyways as it turned out I didn't have to worry 'cause the baby was stillborn. I still feel guilty about being relieved about it especially with the missus being so distressed but I'm being honest here. I already knew we made a mistake but I didn't realise the root cause of it. For a couple of years after we still battled on living the life of the whatever generation they call it, having friends come for dinner parties and having BBQ on weekends, etc… By this time we were both working as IT professionals and lived in a Surry Hills terrace with a sizable mortgage.

Well, that's what you wanted a few years back when living a life of Riley in Udomsook, hey?

Look mate, you don't really know what you want when you're young and it always looks good when other people are doing it. In that trendy terrace I felt hemmed in, both physically and financially and it made me pine for Bangers and my little studio apartment. I was debt free and carefree then and in Sydney I felt a slave to my desires of material things. My marriage was a farce and I failed to achieve fatherhood. I always liked kids, you know. I didn't think I was fulfilled and wondered why?

Yes, well I think now we come to the part of the interview where we need to discuss things other than just facts in your journey. I mean since you talk about feelings, I'd like you to expand on your state of mind at the time and what influenced you about the next step?

Ok, if you insist…. I was about 35 years old at the time and not happy in my marital situation. I really can't blame my wife who tried her hardest to make me happy but she just didn't have what I needed. So this is really what it's about for me, a need to be fulfilled not just financially but spiritually and emotionally too. When I lived in Thailand I got quite involved in Buddhism and meditation and I missed that back in Oz. I did go to some temples in Sydney to try to recreate that feeling but it wasn't to be. The other thing which was a catalyst for what came after was my hang up on Thai women. When I returned to Oz I kept comparing the sizeable farang females to the petite Thai ones with their lovely cascading black hairs and almond eyes, their silky smooth skins and pouting lips and found it hard to get down to doing the deeds we all love so much as blokes. Not that I could not as I wasn't impotent but I couldn't help remembering my Thai affairs which always spoilt my ones with Aussie sheilas. I understand it wasn't their fault but it made no difference.

I can already see which way this is going…

Yeah well, it's not rocket science is it? I've had incurable yellow fever and it had to be cured and..

..only one way to do it, hey Homer?…Go back to Thailand!

You're not wrong there mate! However I had some unfinished business, namely divorce..Fortunately my wife was just as unhappy as I was so it was a done deal agreeing to a cash settlement with me keeping the terrace and the mortgage. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise way down the track. Now I was free of her and worked my way towards my goal of getting back to Thailand. Soon after this there was an opening for an IT manager with a multinational company in Bangkok with occasional trips to other Asian countries and I grabbed the opportunity. But this time I was going back to Thailand as an expat on a western salary with all the extras, like paid accommodation, expense account, pension fund, etc.. I rented out the terrace in Surry Hills with the tenant paying the mortgage and off I went.

Wow Pigeon, looks like you made good with a triumphant return to your old playground! I guess it was plain sailing thereafter.

It was too for a long while; this was around the mid eighties by then and Thailand was a roaring Tiger in SE Asia. You should have seen the investments rolling in for new infrastructure developments and tourism. I was close to 40 and at the top on my game in all respects. An upwardly mobile mid executive in a big corporation with great prospects. I lived in a spacious apartment in Soi 8, Sukhumvit and ate in top restaurants, entertained in classy nightclubs with clients. Some of them were visiting Japanese executives who liked clubs in Soi Thaniya, off Silom. I've had bottles in several places but my favourite was Sagano. I bet you can guess why!

You bet I can! You fancied one of the hostesses there. Right?

Yep, you got it! And a number of them fancied me. But the one which was my favourite didn't let them too close to me. They're proprietorial you know.

Yes I do know. They know when they're on a good thing and stick to it!

Well to tell you the truth I didn't actually mind since I was quite smitten with her too. One thing followed another and she started making noises about moving in. I thought about it long and hard and decided that I was sick of playing the field too and I wouldn't mind a live in. I had a visiting maid who came in twice a week and cleaned and washed and ironed for me but I preferred to not have a stranger left alone in the apartment. I thought Noi, as was her name, could do all that plus everything else and more. I wasn't going to have her work and I was prepared to give her a generous allowance to make her exclusive. So after a bit of argie bargie we came to a financial agreement to entice her away from the club and become my de facto.

So this is what we know as a “mia noi” in the local parlance. Very Thai if I may say so.

Hahaha..I think the farangs adopted to this way quite readily! I did anyway and a few of my mates did too. When in Rome, etc… But in Bangers I knew a lot of farangs who had them as well as others on the side.

Fair enough but how did you know you could trust her?

Good question! Actually I knew her for quite sometime before she moved in. I used to take her on holidays to Hua Hin, weekends and what have you, even took her to Singapore on one of my business trips and she stayed overnight many times in my condo so it was just a natural progression from there on to move in. She never showed any sings of criminality and was always referring to me when spending money. The truth is that I learned to love her over time and physically I was totally hooked on her. I'd say I was addicted to her sexually, she was the perfect lover and created a milieu which was what I could imagine a to be of a geisha of the highest standard. Must have been due to her work in a Japanese club where they have to cater to Japanese tastes.

I see…well not really as I've never been to one of those places or in Japan and only saw movies about it. Must have been quite something for you to live it.

It was! I loved it, I'd come home to the sexiest creature I've ever seen who received me with so much love and care it was overwhelming. To this day I don't know how much of it was an act or whether she really felt it. I think she was also enjoying the creation of this environment for her own pleasure. The fact is we were like 2 musical instrument perfectly tuned and made beautiful music together.

You're making me jealous! So was it love and conjugal bliss for ever?

Well at the time I certainly thought so. I was happy as pig in shit and I wouldn't have wanted anything changed but she had other ideas. I think she felt insecure and wanted to formalise our set-up. You could not really blame her, there are so many distractions in Bangkok, too many sexy girls and she wasn't getting any younger. She was 28 which was good for me but she thought she wasn't young any more. Go figure! In Thailand when a girl is 28 and not married she is almost on the shelf. So she kept going on about getting married to show my commitment to her and to her family who were farmers in Samut Songhram. I met them a couple of times and even helped them with a bit of money when their house got damaged in a storm.

Like I said I was addicted to her and really had no choice, I felt I had to marry her to keep her with me. But we were talking about a traditional marriage in her village not a registered one which is the way to legalise marriages but many can't be bothered with. So I went along with her wishes and a wedding was planned with all the paraphernalia, like Sin Sod, gold ornaments, wedding dress, party in the village with 200 guests, music, etc. All in all it set me back over 200, 000 bath which was no problem for me but a big thing for her and her family. Of course they kept all the dowry which wasn't surprising seeing that they were farmers and I didn't care. I felt happy for Noi and she showed her pleasure in the usual ways and more. We went to Koh Samui for our honeymoon and it was unforgettable.

You certainly had it all Homer. A good job, a sexy wife and a lifestyle to kill for! Was this the happy ending then?

I wish! However for a couple of years everything seemed just perfect. My prospects at the company improved year by year with salary increases and performance bonuses, then promotion to Regional Manager and even a car with a driver. I felt that I was on top of the world and going places. I even contemplated buying a condo off the plan in many of the new projects going up around Sukhumvit but then I thought better of it. You see I was getting 70% of my salary paid into my Aussie bank account and that left me 30% to spend in Bangers. Remember that the company paid all my expenses and entertainment allowance plus my travelling costs so I didn't need a lot of money other then what I gave Noi and what she gave her folks. Most of my money back in OZ I invested in real estate buying a couple of investment units, one in Clovelly and another in Maroubra. Both were close to the beach and I reckon I couldn't go wrong. Noi wasn't aware of this, in fact I kept my finances pretty close to my chest so as not to make her family hungrier that they were already.

Good idea. Too many stories of farangs being bankrupted by their Thai family.

Yeah, I knew that and I wasn't going to be taken to the cleaners. Anyway things were uneventful for a while but when Noi was in her early 30's she got clucky. Once again I wasn't surprised and like I said before I liked kids so I wasn't unwilling myself. So she went off the pill and we had fun trying.

And trying…Ok so it takes a while and I was happy to persevere. Finally after about a year she tells me she missed a period…6 weeks into it she goes for a check up and the doctor confirms she is pregnant..Happiness all round…the doctor orders some blood tests as normal.. we go back for the results which we expect to be routine and we're told she has a severe case of Thalassimia. This is a blood decease fairly common in Thailand and usually inherited by the baby. It needs medication to keep it at bay.

The doctor shows some concerns about her carrying the baby full term and advises her to have plenty of rest. But fate intervenes…again..she has a miscarriage at 10 weeks…. Excuse me mate, I'm a bit emotional about this.

It's ok, take your time, we can continue at another time if you like.

Nah, It's ok. I'm just reliving it for the moment and it was bloody hard at the time. You know I felt that I failed at fatherhood again for the second time and I may never produce any of my own children. For her it was devastating. She was in mid thirties and knew about her blood type for the first time. She went into a deep depression. Started to drink heavily. I'm only a social drinker and I couldn't handle her drunken stupors. She mixed sedatives with the grog so it had a multiplying affect. I had to hire a live in maid to keep an eye on her while I went to the office or travelled.

I got her a psychiatrist at the Phyathai 1 hospital to treat her. It took a year for her to recover but it was partial, she was never the same person again. Our sex life was going to the dogs and she was crying a lot. I was at wit's ends about it. Then she came up with the idea of going to Uni to study something..anything really, just to forget her misery.

I was happy to agree. I thought it'd keep her busy, get her out of the house and it'd be good for her and our relationship.

Yes, it needed a catalyst I guess. So did things improve from there on?

Not exactly. She started to attend lectures and came home at various times so the regimen of our household changed. We communicated by mobile phones a lot. They were in the early stages of their development, a lot of people used pagers. This was in the mid nineties. I started going out with my mates more frequently too as she started to have a social life of her own with other students.

I was around 50 and didn't feel comfortable mixing with Uni students.

We started growing apart. When I was in need of relief I'd go with a short timer to one of the “Curtain hotels” or to a soapy massage. What she was doing was anybodies guess, I know she used to go to discos and come home drunk and sleep in the guest room.

Not a satisfactory state of affairs, hey?

You can say that again! Anyway things were kinda just petering our between us and I buried myself in my job. She passed a couple of exams but I wasn't interested in what she wanted to major in. It looked like she was only going to Uni for the social life. We stopped socialising as a couple and it was becoming a farce living under the same roof. However considering our history and tribulations I didn't have the heart to bring it to an end.

Something else did that for me. It was 1997 and the currency crises hit with it's economic consequences particularly in Thailand which was hardest hit.

My company was severely affected, we lost a lot of customers and the Parent company offshore decided to make savings. Our Bangkok office was a big casualty with me one of the managers offered a redundancy package. I really had no choice but to take it. It would tide me over for about 6 months salary wise but of course all the fringe benefits disappeared.No apartment, expense account, driver, pension fund, etc..

I sat down with Noi for a heart to heart. I explained to her the realities of the situation, that I have to give up the flat and the expense account and I have to make changes to my life which may require going back to Oz. She started crying and asking about her life with me and our future and her studies and family support, etc…

It took me a couple of days before I was able to make her understand the situation and get her to accept that we don't have a future together. I told her I was leaving Thailand and want to make a financial settlement with her so that she doesn't stay penniless. I outlined to her some choices and possibilities for her studies and then it was just a matter of another argie bargie to come to the amount of lump sum. It ended up me giving her 750, 000 baht and letting her keep her jewellery ; I mean it was hers anyway but could easily be turned into cash if the need arose.

That's a lot of money in Thailand for a single girl! I think you were quite generous.

Well she wasn't a girl any more, she was a woman close to 40 and as such her prospects were limited. But the money was enough to start a small business if she so desired. I canvassed all her choices with her.

I see. So then what did you do, go home to Sydney?

Not on your life, not yet anyway. Don't forget I was already 50+ and my chances of getting a job back in the West were extremely limited. The first thing I did was reduce my living costs. I didn't want to stay around the farang ghetto of Sukhumvit with its high rents and high cost of living. Don't forget, I could speak enough Thai not to rely on an exclusive farang enclave for my existence. I looked around my former hangout around Udomsook and I found a lot of changes there too. I mean Bangkok was spreading out and people were moving out to the suburbs with moobahn and condo developments. Even farangs were found in places previously only inhabited by Thais.

Near Udomsook and Srinakarin they built a huge shopping Centre next to the already existing Seri Centre; it was called Seacon Square. I visited there and couldn't believe my eyes what I saw. You got tired walking it. 54 football fields would fit into it. Then a few kilometres away was the Bangkapi Mall which was in the middle of a junction of major thoroughfares with a fun park and indoor beach on the top floor. I saw huge crowds in these places and what I saw which interested me was a number of English language schools, like ECC and British American just to mention a couple.

I knew I could get teaching time in any of these to cover my expenses if I lived nearby.

There was a very impressive high rise condo development in Pattanakarn near Srinakarin Road, very strategically placed to these shopping mega centres which could be reached by buses and I took a one bedroom place there on a yearly lease. All mod cons yet far away from my former abode so I wouldn't be able to run into Noi, which I wanted to avoid at all costs. I didn't need any dramas in my life just then. Separating from her was traumatic enough and at times I moped around feeling sorry for myself.

I understand that. A long relationship going on the rocks takes toll on you even though at the end it wasn't much at all.

Exactly! I kept thinking about the good years and wondered why it couldn't continue. I mean she was an absolute gem when I found her and gave me years of happiness while at the end it was pain and suffering.

Excuse me for asking but why didn't you just go back to Sydney instead of going back to teaching which must have been such a retrograde step in your career.

Well, lets see what would have awaited me there? As I said I was already past 50 and on the scrapheap as a potential salaried employee. No doubt I would have been able to make a living as an IT consultant on short term contracts but where would I have been socially? I mean I was an unattached male with some means but women of appropriate age for me in OZ would have been divorcees with a couple of teenagers and well into middle age, maybe in menopause. I didn't fancy putting up with an Aussie sheila with baggage like that. I wasn't gonna bring up another guy's kids no matter how much I like them. There was no way I could have scored a youngish Asian girl in OZ. They're too westernised and don't want an old bloke.

So if I was going to be single I might as well stay put in Bangers where I could always indulge myself if I needed. In any case teaching this time around was fun. I refused children classes as a lot of them were just glamorised baby sitting and managed to score young adult classes which were mostly run in the evening after their work was over. Most of my students were young women from 19 to around 35 and keen to learn.

Actually I was propositioned many a times by some who wanted a dalliance with a farang ajarn but I mostly refused except going for coffee with groups of them every now and then. I didn't want to cause problems for my employers, if you know what I mean!

The money I earned wasn't the motivating factor. I was already financially independent from rents I got from my properties in Sydney plus I played the Stock Market a bit too and did occasional IT consulting and web design during the day.

The teaching was a kinda social activities and a bit of fun and having a few drinks with other farang teachers after work.

I was actually the most senior of all of them and had plenty of local experience plus my Thai language skills put me in a revered position with my colleagues.

So all in all I wasn't too badly off, I just missed Noi every now and then and her special ways of taking care of me.

Ok Homer, we're coming into the last furlong now waiting to greet the Judge and I know things improved for you eventually as I see you're right as rain but how did you get to where you are now?

The year was 1999 and I was just cruising along when one day I got a call from ECC at Seacon Square asking me if I could take on a new class just formed with 11 students at beginner level. They said they're mostly female office workers who'll be coming twice a week from 7 pm to 9 pm. The first semester they signed up was for 13 weeks and it was going to be around 15, 000 baht for me for the duration plus a completion bonus. I checked my schedule and it worked for me so I accepted.

So next Monday I 'm at work and the students arrive and I turn up in the classroom as normal with the roll. I call their names as written but at this stage I hardly look up at them. Just listen to their responses as I tick their names.

Then I look up and it hits me! Eleven pair of eyes are looking at me but I'm mesmerised by one pair only. It's like a thunderbolt from the sky. I felt stunned and to hide my emotions I look at the roll again to find her name. It's TIP. She is 20. I look at her again having composed myself. She looks older than 20, dressed very conservatively and with only a bit of lipstick for make up. Lovely long black hair cascading down her shoulders, high cheekbones with a full nose and great big dark brown eyes. But it's the lips which really grab me. Kind of like Angelina Jollie without the Botox.

She is looking at me with a touch of smile and an inquiring gaze. I got to get on with the lesson, I can't afford to show my wonder. I'm the Ajarn after all. So we go through the usual basic introductions of a beginner class. Like what's your name, etc and they're doing it by pairs. Except because they're 11 and there's the odd number I take the place of one paired with Tip.

A few days later and getting to know them I keep Tip back after class on a pretence and casually mention this coffee shop in the complex on the ground floor. It's in full view of thousands of people and I think it's safe enough for her to join me for a cuppa.

It turns out that she lives with her elder sister who's a nurse in a local hospital and Tip is a hairdresser having just finished the course. Her English is non existent but my Thai is passable so we can communicate. She tells me she wanted to be a hairdresser ever since she was a child and wants to be hairdresser to the stars in Thai soapies. I can't fault her ambitions in the context of her background which is rural Thailand.

There’s' something about her which is beyond the physical. It’s her personality and sense of humour which impresses me most. We seemed to have made a connection, a kind of chemistry which is hard to put a finger on.

Sounds promising Homer. Is this going to be the happy ending? The third one that finally makes you into a man of substance? The one which defines your life at last?

You're not wrong mate! Actually she isn't here right now as it's close to 3 o'clock and she had to pick up the kids from school. Otherwise I'd introduce you to the love of my life and mother of my 2 kids. Yes Siree, I'm a father to a couple of Bronzed Aussies and I've finally achieved contentment. It took me a while and 52 years of searching but it's better late than never. Gave me a new lease of life, it did!

Look, I'll cut to the chase since the cat's out of the bag anyway. Tip finished the semester but for us it was just the beginning. We courted the Thai way with her sister chaperoning most times till she was satisfied that I'm fair dinkum about her. We would have eloped anyway if her folks objected but it wasn't necessary. Came the year 2000 and we were married in a small ceremony in her upcountry village. What clinched it for me was that when I asked Tip what was it that she dreamed about, she said a family of her own. Well I didn't waste much time either but had her go for a medical before we had a trial run to make sure she was good as gold, which was the case. I didn't tell her why but she didn't need to know. For me it was reassuring that she was good mating material. Hahaha…

I reckon I got her prego on our wedding night. It was magic like I was reborn. And our son was born 9 months later. Crikey, it brings tears to me eyes, it does. I was at the birth but at the last minute it turned into a caesarean as the boy weighed almost 4 kilos. A monster size in that Thai hospital.

I reckon its big in any hospital in any country. You've been saving up for it, hey Homer?

You bet but I still had some left in the tank as Tip made it 2 in 18 months down the track. This time it was a girl and we had the perfect family. We got a bigger place in the same complex, around a 150 sq. m and with its park-like grounds and pools we had a nice set up. Soon our son was kindergarten ready and we found one nearby which was satisfactory so we enrolled him. By this time Tip was pretty good in English so we mostly spoke it at home to enable the kids to be bilingual.

Looks like you were finally where you wanted to be for a long time but yet here we are in Sydney and it's 2010 now. Why did you leave what seemed like a good existence in Bangkok?

Good question. One day I set down with Tip and talked to her about Australia and told her it was the land of opportunities. I told her about the clean beaches and pollution free air, the multicultural society, the rule of law and order, the educational facilities, wages and cost of living and I didn't skirt the issues there and she listened intently. Then she asked me why then was I living for so long in Thailand. To tell you the truth that stomped me for a while. I didn't want to discuss my past with her, after all a lot of that was way before her time, the Vietnam war was before she was born.

So I said to her, seeing is believing. A friend of mine's daughter was getting married in Sydney and we got an invite. I decided to take her and the kids for a holiday and a preview of Oz.

That must have cost you a few pennies to attend a wedding!

It did but I was already contemplating our future with 2 kids and were weighing up the pros and cons. In fact I registered both kids at birth with the Aussie Embassy for citizenship just in case. Here was an opportunity for Tip to see for herself before anything further done. So we went and she saw and liked. She said in not so many words;”It's a no brainer, this is where the kids should grow up!”

Getting her a migrant visa was easy, after all she was the mother of 2 Aussie kids.

We left in time for our son to start primary school in Sydney. Our daughter went to kindy and Tip started a TAFE course to improve her English. The Government provides 510 hours of free tuition for migrants. We moved into my Surry Hills 3 story terrace which was already unencumbered. Tip thought it was a palace compared to where she grew up.

Hmmm…sounds like a fairy tale….but still Homer, couldn't you still be just as happy in Thailand? This is what I'd really like you to comment on, not just for me but for the readers too. Give us your take on the two countries and your preferences.

Don't get me going mate! While it's obvious where our preferences are since we're here in Sydney it maybe interesting to look at it from Tip's reactions as she is a relative newcomer to OZ.

Only the other day she was reading a book and came across a word she didn't understand and asked me for clarification. It was the adjective “civilised”. I told her it was the opposite of “primitive”.

It was another word she didn't know. So I said: “here's the Cambridge Essential English Dictionary. Lets look up “civilisation” and “civilised”.

For “civilisation” it said: “the way that people live together, with laws controlling their behaviour, education and a government”.

She asked me: “When will Thailand become civilised?”

Think about it as compared to say Australia.

Both countries have a Government but Thailand's is through corrupt elections and furthermore there are frequent military coups when the powers pulling the strings still don't like the one “elected”.

Both countries have laws on their statute books. Australians by and large follow those laws and in Thailand those laws are ignored or manipulated in favour of the elite.

Prostitution in Thailand is illegal by law yet practiced widely. That’s an obvious example.

Law enforcement in Thailand by the police is a myth. The less said the better for obvious reasons if you're going to publish this.

Education in Thailand at the public level is the bare minimal to stop illiteracy. As a way to empower the general population to achieve their potential is non existent. If you're born into poverty you'll probably stay there.

Look at the environment in Thailand. Find me some clean public beaches. Look out your window in Bangers and suck in the pollution. Look at food prepared on the streets where the Bangkok masses eat and tell me about hygiene. Look at the traffic jams, look at people going home in buses and see them sleep..why…they're likely be stuck on them on the way and back from work for long times.

Like I said, don't get me going. Is it any wonder that I didn't want our children to grow up there?

Here are a few snippets from Tip's experiences again in OZ:

Soon after we arrived we went for a walk and came to a fairly busy street which we needed to cross, so I pointed to a pedestrian crossing. There were cars in both direction as normal at different intervals. Tip was scared of setting off across the zebra crossing as we approached. I said watch this and no sooner I did cars were slowing down and stopped, waiting for us to proceed across. Tip couldn't believe it. She said in Bangkok we might have been run over.

The first time we went to a supermarket she wanted to buy a case of bottled water for drinking. I said “don't bother”. When we got home I turned on the tap for her; “you see, it's free!” She was reluctant at first so I was her guinea pig..hag ha ha.

I explained to her that here we are provided services and we pay for them by taxes. Provided you do the right thing and observe the laws you'll have a good life.

In Thailand there's no way you could have a good life observing the laws because that's not the norm. You pay the police for a traffic infringement and he'll pocket the money. This encourages both parties to continue this practice. This kind of corruption is endemic in Thailand. However the poor folks don't have the money to compete in these practices with the rich people. So they're left behind in getting the services we're accustomed to here.

Thailand doesn't have a level playing field as does Australia. Australians believe in the fair go and equal opportunities. This applies to all new migrants, there are multiple services for new settlers to catch up. The only people who are still struggling to catch up are the Aboriginals who have had a rough ride until recently but it's being addressed now. There's certain similarity between our Aboriginals and Thailand's Issaan people. Except that there are 23 millions of them in Thailand.

Look I don't really want to lecture you and your readers. I was simply pointing out some obvious differences and our reasons for coming back. We're fortunate because I'm Australian and now we all are as Tip has been awarded citizenship. She was never an Alien like I was in Thailand. Even with Permanent Residency she had all the opportunities and advantages like employment, Medicare, Centrelink payments for families, etc, etc. Now as a citizen she has duties and obligations too. And she takes it seriously, bless her heart. She does volunteer work at the school, she is a soccer mum, she takes our daughter to ballet..busy, busy, busy…

Notwithstanding all I said here it's not a template for everyone. Some farangs I came across in Bangkok from various countries didn't have the choices I had. Sometimes because of their own faults by burning their bridges and other times because they hailed from countries I would not want to live in either.

I'd like to make this point; had I got stuck in Bangkok after the Vietnam war, drifting aimlessly, teaching for a pittance I wouldn't be where I'm now with our lifestyle and prospects. I probably would have ended up as a welfare case had I wanted to come back to OZ. I'd totally discourage men in the prime of their productive lives being stuck in Thailand especially because it's fun. Sure have your fun for a while then go home and concentrate on a career and make occasional visits for R&R.

In my case my second and longer stay in Thailand was as an expat with an International company on an international salary structure which enabled me to save and build on it. Quite different to doing it with a local wage or trying to wing it. Sure it's cheaper to live there but you spend most of it on your fun.

Casanundra is a case in point here. Here was a guy spending a couple of years in a teaching profession at Chula who found the love of his life in Bangkok, married her and took the the best of Thailand with him back to Blighty. From what I hear he lives there happily with her and their kids with a great career going.

The other segment of expats in Thailand is single or married retired men. With no kids. I could have been one of those had I not met Tip.

Some of these guys are on pensions from their countries which enable them to live a somewhat better lifestyle than back home. Ok, so they give up legal redress in most cases and are tolerated by Thai society as Aliens. Their tenures are iffy at the whim of the Government. They can't buy houses but can buy condos. All in all not too bad to live the twilight of your lives there if you don't mind compromising. The only cloud on the horizon for them is the political situation in Thailand which tends to be more volatile by the year.

Some of the things in your life depend on luck but I believe a lot of it is self induced. Some guys have foresight and other like to wing it. I've said a fair bit here about myself so I'll let you judge about me.

Yes you did Homer and I'm grateful for your feedback. You've been candid and didn't pull any punches. But…but.. there's still one thing which I'm sure still needs to be talked about and it's something the readership is sure to be interested in. So here it is: What is it about Thailand which fascinates people so much and making them flock there in droves over decades?

Yes I know what you mean. It would be illogical to assume that Thailand has some magical qualities per se as a country which no other country possesses. The key here is that it's men only who flock there so the attraction is not the country but what it has to offer with the opposite sex.

The obvious thing which comes to mind is the widespread prostitution available on a grand scale but I think it goes beyond that. I mean there are prostitutes in every country and even if they cost more by the time you add in the airfares and accommodation and other costs related to travel it's still a lot of money to spend on relief.

I think the secret lies not in prostitution but in Thai Femininity. As a general observation on my part and I've had some experiences with relationships which I didn't touch on in this interview, I feel that Thai women bring something to the table which is hard to find in the West. Not easy to put your finger on it but suffice to say that after I got introduced to Thai ladies all others went by the wayside. Sure I've still engaged with others and even married one but Thai women spoilt it for me for ever and that contributed to my first marriage failing.

It's not so much their physical attributes which hook you in but the way they make you feel. This is very important in all relationships and many western women fail at this because they're into a “me” mindset which is promoted by the media.

My story about Noi which I only touched on would be a perfect example when a Thai woman meets all your expectations and more and makes you feel like a million bucks. I didn't want to discuss Tip as she is my wife, mother of my children and whatever happens in our bedroom is sacrosanct. Suffice to say that I'm totally dedicated to her and I believe she is to me. I wouldn't cheat on her even with Miss Thailand. There's nothing for me outside the marriage which could satisfy me better.

People talk about the Girlfriend Experience (GE) with Thai working girls and I know exactly what they mean. I've been there done that. But most of these and the best ones were in the seventies and eighties. Nowadays its rather a rare thing. Too commercial, too many customers, too much pressure.

Can you find your dream girl in Thailand these days? You can but it's not easy. Certainly not in the bars and gogos. Even on the internet there are too many sharks waiting to bite you. Any tips? Ok, find a guy who's happily married to a Thai wife and get her to make a few introductions.

That's what I would do if I was looking.

Not a bad idea mate. I might ask Tip if you don't mind..hehehe…

Homer, it was great! I know it took a lot out of you but I'm so grateful. I'm sure a lot of readers will find it as interesting as I did. All the best in the future for you and your family. Cheers Mate!


Interesting perspective there…

nana plaza