Readers' Submissions

Changing The Picture

  • Written by Mega
  • May 29th, 2012
  • 20 min read


Big Mango

Morecombe Bay, a few years ago, was the scene of wretched human tragedy. 19 illegal Chinese immigrants were drowned, in a fast rising North Sea tide, while digging for shell fish. Their plight made even more tragic when the pittance of the remuneration for their exertions was revealed after the event. As sad as it was – and the tearful pictures of the relatives back in China certainly reinforced the extent of the tragedy – it appears from follow up information coming to light that the weight of the shell fish bags, they were so desperate to hang onto, had a lot to do with hampering their evacuation to higher ground. It seems that the very thing which they were so convinced would give them the financial means to a better life would also be their demise. Ultimately it was the weight of their baggage which led to their deaths.

What goes through people’s minds in life or death situations is something I have no experience of. Having not been in that predicament myself I’m left only with conjecture. But it would seem the above scenario might have been avoided simply by ditching the weighty bags; by putting self preservation and not financial gain first. By changing the concepts and thought processes; by changing the picture inside their heads.

Having lived in this largely unforgiving land (Thailand) for a good 18 years one picks up on certain characteristics of the locals; concepts which, no matter how much you would like to believe it is otherwise are unshakable. One such concept of the female population of this country at least is that family, and survival of the family, is paramount and surpasses all other considerations; even more so when considering females in the lower socio-economic echelons of Thai society. Foreigners entering into a long term relationship or marriage with a Thai lady need to take this into account for things to work out. You will need to change the picture inside your head and accept that her family probably ranks higher on her scale of life’s priorities than you do. Failure to be able to accept this will quickly lead to “cultural” (?) problems. If you are unwilling to accept this concept and many others which are a part of life for the inhabitants of this country then it would be better not to enter into a long term relationship with a Thai lady.

There are many and varied reasons given by foreign males for relocating to Thailand. Honesty would dictate that for those planning to make a permanent move here, it is primarily about finding a lady for marriage or a long term relationship. Many who’ve been through the mill of the divorce courts in the west are quite often looking for some kind of emotional deliverance or salvation. And many, just like the shell fish gatherers of Morecombe Bay, are carrying the hindering weight of baggage. The baggage of a failed relationship. The baggage of long term disappointment and the baggage of unfulfilled life expectations.

Many enter into relationships far too quickly with concepts and expectations that are, unfortunately, honed by that baggage; as if the new love of their lives is going to in one fell swoop cut away the weight of their past and deliver them up to an emotional safe haven. For most it never happens; the weight of their erroneous concepts crash headlong into a raft of expectations being promoted by their little teeraks. Expectations which to their consternation are mainly based on improving the lives of the extended families they’ve suddenly inherited. Some, the ones that are able to make a successful liaison with their teeraks, are able to accept and adapt to the need to change their concepts and expectations; they’re able to change the picture inside their heads. Others that can’t either stay single or struggle beneath the rising tide of increasing disappointment and futility created by the cultural confusion of the Morecombe Bay they’ve got themselves into.

Weighed down by the baggage of their preconceived concepts they battle on not realizing that the things – the need for love and companionship – which they so desperately hoped would lift that tide of emotional disappointment are in fact the pushing them further down into the murky depths of despair. All too late, and with their final breaths they figure it out; they’ve been lied to, cheated, deceived, and it really was all about the money. Those that are left destitute, who join the Pattaya flying club or who end up being “offed” by wives who don’t have the patience to wait for their husbands to expire from natural causes are still clinging to those weighty bags of emotional shell fish.

I changed the picture inside my head a while ago. It wasn’t anything sudden, just the creeping realization that at 55 years of age I wasn’t likely to be pairing up with one of the well to do, white-skinned elite any time soon. Of the 30-something, single good girls that are available, either on-line or through a chance meeting on the street, most of them have children from a relationship with a previous Thai husband. Not that I’ve got anything against children, it’s just that I’m not interested in providing financial support for the progeny of another man. Another thing that’s become apparent to me over the past few months is that I wouldn’t have travelled as much as I have if I was in a relationship. It’s also the realization that there’s no point being with someone begrudgingly or because you think you need to be or as so many do, because you feel sorry for one of the poor little dears. If and when I do go into a relationship it will be on my terms, not theirs; a lady that’s financially self supporting being a good starting point. Until then I’ll continue playing the field. And I must admit playing the field these days has become rather enjoyable. Besides the obvious, being single affords me the opportunity to do what I want when I want; I have complete freedom of movement. If I want to hop on a plane and fly to Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam at a moment’s notice, I can; unencumbered. I understand that there are many out there that need the comfort and stability of a woman at home. For those that say they’ve found the right one, I say good for you; I wish you all the best. I have no qualms with being alone because as I’ve said before, I never feel lonely. And as I’ve also said before, being alone and being lonely is not the same thing. One is a state of mind and the other is a state of being.

I’m also at that fortunate stage in life where I’m not walking up and down Sukhumvit Road with my tongue hanging out of my mouth wanting to shag everything that moves; I’ll leave that state of existence to the Dirk Diglers of this world. When I do have the urge I think I’ve got it pretty much nailed down. A quick trip down to one of the Rainbow bars (number 4) usually fills the need to have an hour or so with a lithe young Thai female back at my apartment. The formula is quite simple; go there on a weekday (except a Friday), get there at 9 PM (a lot of the better lookers don’t start their shifts until 9:30 PM), stay sober, remain there for one hour and take your time picking out one of the hotter looking girls. I’m quite selective and my parameters, unfortunately, sometimes see me leaving alone. But most of the time at Rainbow 4 I’ll get what I’m looking for; 165 cm, fair skin, slim and no kids.

I was down there a few weeks ago and was paid the ultimate compliment by one of the girls I’d spent an evening with a few days before. After walking in and taking a seat I spotted number 24 shaking her little tood on the dance platform. A smile received a smile and shortly after she finished her routine she was sitting down next to me. I bought her a drink and we engaged in some light hearted banter for a while until she realized that I wasn’t going to “pay bar” for her that night. With that realization there was an abrupt change in demeanour.

“You are butterfly man,” she said as if I was some kind of ogre.

“Thank you,” I replied with a shit-eating grin and happy to know that I’d made the grade.

She got up and left in a huff. The tactic of trying to make me feel guilty about shagging others employed at that establishment hadn’t worked. More to the point, she was probably pissed off that she wasn’t going to get 2,000 baht out of me that evening. As she moved in on another potential client I sat there contented in the knowledge that I’d made the grade; that I was seen as a butterfly. Getting a wrap as a butterfly by the demoiselles of the night also means that you know the game. More importantly they know that you know and you aren’t going to fall for any of their nonsense. It also means they know you’re not there to waste their time like so many others who sit there for hours ogling but not partaking. These days it’s a rare thing for me to go to a gogo bar and just sit there and look. When I do go it’s because I’m going to bar fine something. Otherwise, I don’t see the point of “hanging out.” The fact that I don’t drink makes this idea even more of a waste of my time and as much as they won’t admit it, a waste of theirs as well. The girls, after all, are only there for one thing; to make money.

I think it’s safe to say that for many long term farang expats – myself included – the girlfriend experience is an idea which has gone the way of the dodo. Newcomers of course will think otherwise but take it as a given, the GFE is nothing more than a long term hooker / customer situation; the length of the term completely determined by the continuing flow of cash.

Very occasionally I’ve caught myself considering the possibility of keeping one on a longer term basis. By late morning as I watch them lethargically rise from my bed, reality sets in and I send them on their way vowing that I won’t allow that to happen again. Besides the obvious fact that a bargirl / hooker / whore – or whatever polite inference one might have of their job description – is largely an indolent, myopic being, there are other legitimate reasons (particularly if you live here permanently) for not wanting to be involved with one. And, it’s got everything to do with how you are perceived by decent, respectable Thais. Now I know there will be a bunch of you reading this who may think this doesn’t matter and “why should I give rat’s what Thais think of me?” Fair enough; I used to think that way when I was a new chum as well. When you live permanently in one location for a reasonable length of time you come to understand that it does matter very much. Thais by and large are a nosy lot and they like to gossip. They also spend a good deal of time scrutinizing people and in particular any farangs that may be living in their locality. If you are seen in the company of birds that look like hookers too often, then their opinions of you won’t amount to much; respect counts for a lot in this land of social complexity.

At the condo building where I presently reside there are a number of Thai staff there that I enjoy a certain level of respect from. Small things such as having someone open your taxi door when you arrive with a load of shopping; getting the door for you; getting the lift for you; quickly sorting out any maintenance requirements in the apartment. And the fact is that apart from the 500 baht I slipped them at Songkran I never tip them. The bottom line is that I’ve got their respect and I want to keep it. One way to ensure it continues is to avoid being seen parading through the reception area in daylight hours with a midriff-bearing, tattoo-embossed and stiletto-shod “working girl.”

To avoid shattering the veneer of respectability I’ve built up I make sure my entertainment packages slip out under the cover of darkness. You see, I’ve actually adapted to the Thai way of doing things and changed the picture inside my head. Thai blokes keep their liaisons with working girls as private and discreet as possible. That’s why all of those soapy massage places up and down Rachadapisek are windowless. Hookers are for fun but you don’t go parading around with them hand in hand as a lot of naïve farang are apt to do. Walking along Sukhumvit Road hand in hand with a bargirl you’ve met barely 2 hours earlier smacks of being clingy, needy and in many cases, desperate. Take it as a given, these girls are experts at reading your emotional state and your body language. And the desperate are seen as opportunities ripe for the picking.

These days I never hold hands with my barfines. A nice lass that attempted it a few weeks ago got a bit of a shock as we stood at the pedestrian crossing on the corner of Sukhumvit and Soi 4. She tried latching on and I brushed her hand away.

“Here,” I said as I moved her hand up to the inside of my elbow joint.

She smiled, knowing that I knew the Thai way of doing things; that I knew that bargirls have little respect for the emotionally desperate. The reasons why bargirls are often heard calling a farang a “big baby” is because that’s exactly how they appear; childlike. Thai women like to know that men are in control of the situation and that’s what they get with Thai men. Farangs that babble on ceaselessly about their hopes and dreams, who approval seek, or who are constantly saying sorry are considered soft or weak. You don’t need to be an asshole; you just need to look composed. Say what really matters (as opposed to a constant stream of babbling nonsense) and otherwise keep one's mouth shut. After all, you’re paying the money and they’re providing the service; you don’t need to prove anything.

And providing service, as we’re apt to find, is something they prove to be rather good at. The idea of “taking care” of men folk is something, bless them, instilled at an early age. The deal is relatively simple; they provide sex and babies and men folk provide financial support. In fact if you ever hear the magic words “take care” mentioned by a Thai lady don’t be fooled into thinking it implies some magical romantic connotation; it doesn’t. It’s only about one thing; providing financial support. Bargirls in particular are always on the lookout for someone to provide “take care.” The problem is that their version of “take care” isn’t limited to one provider per bargirl; it can apply to more than one and at the same time.

The internet dating sites are places where one often encounters the “take care” thing. The majority of ladies with children from a previous relationship with a Thai man are all looking for a “kind, sincere, farang to take care” of them. I’ll say it again, “take care,” to a Thai women is only about one thing; the provision of financial support. Recent experience on one of Thailand’s’ newer dating websites proved to be quite interesting. 50% of the ladies on the site have children and no doubt are looking for assistance. I would bet with absolute confidence that nearly 100% of those single mothers don’t receive financial support from the Thai father of the children. If you are into the “take care” thing then good luck to you. For the other 50% on the site, proclaiming they don’t have children it’s a bit of a lottery. Some, give them their due, don’t beat around the bush; they tell you almost immediately they’re in need of money or financial assistance.

S, 21, Bangkok: “Hello, can you help me please. I need to buy a house.”

Me: “You’re too young to buy a house. Better that you rent one.”

S: “I’m renting one now. I want buy one.”

Me: “Well, you’d better get to work then.”

Chat session terminated.


F, 30, Buriram: “Hi”

Me: “Hi.”

F: “How r u?”

Me: “Fine thanks, and you?”

F: “Good. Where do you come from?”

Me: “Originally New Zealand but now living in Bangkok.”

F: “Ok. Do you have a girlfriend?”

Me: “No. How about you, do you have a boyfriend?”

F: “No. I’m looking for a nice man to support me.”

Me: “I see. Can’t you support yourself?”

F: “No, I’m studying and I need money for support. Can you help me?”

Me: “I hardly know you.”

F: “If you can’t support me then you aren’t the one for me.”

Me: “Obviously.”

Chat session terminated.


C, 26: Bangkok: “Hi.”

Me: “Hello, how are you?”

C: “I not feel good today.”

Me: “Why?”

C: “I spend seven day with an old guy, 63 years old. I take care of him and do everything for him but he broke my feeling.”

Me: “What happened?”

C: “He not give me much money.”

Me: “How much is it for one night?”

Chat session terminated.


There’s some complete and utter nonsense happening on these dating sites with many ladies pretending to be something which they are not. However, one benefit is that they provide great entertainment as one refines the technique of stripping away the BS and getting down to brass tacks. 10% of the ladies are reasonably genuine and what you would call good girls; they have a decent job and they’re actually looking for someone to form a relationship with. I would also say realistically that ladies of serious affluence almost never go on internet dating sites; for obvious reasons they don’t need to.

A few observations:

Those that are stripped down to their underwear are almost certainly hookers, gold diggers or are willing to provide a short term liaison for cash. When you start chatting with them though they will invariably try to convince you that they’re nice, wholesome girls and feign offence at a request regarding their price for an evening of horizontal folk dancing; they are, to put it bluntly, quite full of it. Ladies who are on-line in the middle of the day are, most of the time, unemployed and are on sucker fishing expeditions. Ladies in the provinces are usually one step above poverty and therefore are looking for “a nice man to take care of them (and their family).”

Something that many farang continue to underestimate is the importance of “face” or image in Thai society. By all accounts, looking good means a lot and impressing people with outward displays of material wealth is more important than intellectual substance. Money and the acquisition of money quickly is a viable means of improving one’s image in Thailand. As a farang all you need to understand and remember is that money is tied inextricably to increasing one’s face. That is why so many of the ladies here seem so preoccupied with money and the acquisition of a windfall as quickly as possible; it’s a fast track to greater face.

Regardless of whether it’s on the internet, in bars or on the street you, as a farang, are being assessed and scrutinized for the potential to provide this fast track. Older, wealthier farangs provide the cash for a lifestyle improvement while younger, fitter farangs are for showing off to their peers. In both instances it has to do with gaining greater face. It is very much a game and the thing that one needs to consider as a foreigner living here is to what extent you really want to be part of the game. Are you an unwitting participant whose emotional baggage from the past has you floundering out of your depth? Do you still believe that the concept of love and sex as experienced in the western world can be applied here? Or have you finally cut yourself free of the concepts of your past life in the western world and begun to play your own game; a game that’s based on putting yourself first and foremost?

When you finally achieve that you will come to understand that there is another Thailand out there, a Thailand that’s a great place to explore and have a look at. A Thailand that doesn’t leave you cynical, jaded and emotionally bewildered. A Thailand which is as much a state of your mind as it is a physical location. A Thailand where your life and future isn’t dependent on latching on to the first local lass who tells you that she loves you. A Thailand where your personal freedom and the ability to always be in control of your own situation at all times ranks above any other considerations. A Thailand where you are the director of your own destiny. And really, it’s that difficult if you just change the picture inside your head.



Stickman's thoughts:

Brilliant, and I agree with everything you say apart from taking the girls back to your apartment, even if it is only briefly. But that is but a small point of disagreement in an otherwise brilliant submission which any foreign guy who fools around in Thailand should take the time to read.