The Mongering Philanthropist Part 8
In the last episode our hero took a detour from his business plans to give his son an introduction to the delights of Suhkumvit and Sin city. They finally arrive in the Issan.
Part 8 An Issan Entrepreneur
From the moment we board the plane at Bangkok Rich is unusually quiet. I suspect he is still thinking about the delightful Ploy whom he had shared a few days of the Thai girl friend experience with. He had been with a few girls in Bangkok and showed all the signs of becoming an accomplished junior monger but I knew those few days in Pattaya would have totally overwhelmed his senses.
I empathised with what he was feeling as I have had the Thai girl friend experience myself but I knew in this case it was not a straightforward case of being enchanted by the subtle guiles of a consummate actress. Ploy was sweet natured, genuinely farm fresh and a little naive. I feared for her future which could go many ways. The two principle options are she would become extremely successful or she would not take to the life. Either way the experience would alter her quite radically. There was a window of opportunity which was very small, maybe only a month or so before the influences of the bar life irrevocably changed her.
I had no answer and I knew Rich was certainly in no position to support her. Maybe now was not the time to discuss it. Perhaps on a quiet country evening with just lizards and insects to distract us would be more appropriate.
We arrived in Udon Thani, took a taxi to Kul and Kwan’s hamlet and booked into the guest house cum apartment as I usually did. Once settled we take a stroll to the girl’s restaurant to find them both in the kitchen cleaning. I introduced Rich to them to their obvious delight. They sit him down totally ignore me and begin dancing attendance on him fetching him drinks and food and asking him countless questions.
Whilst they are keeping him entertained I exit the restaurant. I was still distracted and felt compelled to attend to the issue of Ploy. I phoned my long legged friend Mo in Pattaya and asked if she would make enquiries about her. She laughed and said “So you want me to be detective lady?” Then good naturedly she informed me it would cost me a huge fish platter at King Seafood restaurant or maybe a new pair of shoes next time we met. I knew I could rely on Mo to find out the situation for me.
Having done this I walk across to Mikes bar. I am pleased to see Big Mike and Alec were waiting for me and greeted me warmly. Mike had prepared some plans and costing for the proposed foundry building for my project at Chan’s and had them laid out on a table. The plans revealed a Steel portal frame building of 60’ x 30’ dimension. The plans were most impressive and suited the application admirably.
On a general plan I sketched my proposed foundry layout to give Alec some idea for the provision of services. We would also need a small pit to house the crucibles for charcoal melting. I hoped this would only be a temporary measure until I could devise a more effective melting arrangement.
I was also keen to install a compressed air ring main for a Jolt squeeze moulding machine which worked on pneumatics. I explained I had an offer of a second hand machine at a good price from a Japanese owned foundry in Ayutthaya as it was surplus to their requirements. I was aware Alec knew about pneumatics and hydraulics so explained the principle of the machine to him.
A pattern plate is mounted on the machine table. A moulding flask is placed on the pattern and filled with bonded sand. A cylinder lifts the table a few inches then drops it against an anvil. This is repeated 2 or 3 times a second for about half a minute. The jolting causes the sand to compact around the pattern. Once compaction is complete four one inch diameter pins lift the mould from the pattern plate at its corners. The moulds are then closed ready for casting. The compaction is considerably more effective than hand moulding and would make a significant effect to mould quality and productivity. Alec understood the principle immediately and offered to help refurbish and install it when I was ready. We went over a few further details of the building specifications but I was confident Mike and Alec had it covered.
We then went over the plans to refurbish the empty upstairs storeroom at Kul and Kwan’s restaurant. I was once again impressed by the quality of Mike’s designs. I reminded them of the contracts meeting I had arranged that week when we would finalise the details and sign contracts.
Rich eventually escaped the motherly attentions of the girls and came to join us in the bar. I introduced him to Mike and Alec and ordered a round of drinks. We tell them of our recent adventures and Mike soon had us laughing at some of his tales.
I took dinner with Rich at the girl’s restaurant. The delightful Nong was on duty working as a waitress that night. It was the first time Rich had met her and I could see he was somewhat enthralled by her. When Nong saw Rich she exclaimed “he look same Prince Harry but more handsome”. I suspected Richs interest was about to be reciprocated. She remained one of the prettiest girls I have seen and in the past few months I had met some lovely girls. Only the beguiling Ploy could compare and then it would be a very close run competition.
After dinner Rich stayed in the restaurant whilst I had a quick beer at Mikes before returning to my bed. I noticed that Rich did not return to the apartment that evening.
The next morning I went across to the restaurant to find Rich having breakfast with the girls so I joined them. After eating a bowl of Joke (which is thick rice with an egg cracked in the middle) I sat the girls down for a serious chat. I had previously mooted my idea for a school for sculptors and artists and my plan to develop their property as a small hotel to accommodate our guests. I informed them I was now in a position to do so and wished to become their partner. I showed them the plans that Mike had prepared to convert the storeroom on the floor above. The plans would be 4 bed rooms with en suite bathrooms. They would be accesses by the central stairway but the outside staircase would access the rooms. They were very excited seeing the drawings and the artist impression Mike had prepared.
When I explained they would have to close the minimart to make room for a reception and communal area Kwan smiled “ We make no money from Minimart, too much work argue with keeneow customer “ Kul joined in “ Good riddance happy to say goodbye”. She continued “We like your plan we have many ideas and will take good care of your customer for the school”. I told them if they were happy we could sign contracts in the next day or so.
I could see Rich was understandably reluctant to leave the delightful Nong but was equally inquisitive to meet my lady Phai and to see the sculpture business that seemed to excite me so.
Alec kindly gave us a lift in his pickup to Phai’s house. When we arrived Phai made a huge fuss on seeing Rich. With her daughter Mali settled in her apartment in the city Phai prepared the now spare bedroom for Rich. That afternoon Phai’s youngest Ratana arrived I saw her eyes light up when she saw Rich.
That evening Phai had booked a table at the local restaurant, Chan Pan and Pravat were waiting for us so with Phai, Mali, Ratana, Rich and me we made quite a party. I was thrilled that Rich and Pravat seemed to immediately develop a friendship. By the end of the evening Pravat was calling him Prince Harry. The ladies were fussing around him all evening I was pleased he was made to feel so welcome. I was also a little relieved when we went to bed that Phai told me she had missed me and then demonstrated how much in her own unique way.
That first week I saw very little of Rich as Ratana and her sister Mali were determined to keep him entertained. They borrowed their mothers Toyota to take him to meet their friends. I thought it may be time to consider investing in another vehicle for the household
The next day I collected Wanaporn my Bangkok solicitor from the airport in a taxi I had hired for the day. I took him first to see Chan’s Studio. He was impressed with his work and immediately saw the potential and the value of my ideas for improvement. We chatted with Chan for a while and said we would see him later that afternoon.
We then made our way to the girl’s restaurant to find Mike and Alec waiting there. I had set up a couple of meetings with all the concerned parties and had hired the restaurant for the day. Kul and Kwan had put four of their tables together to make a conference bench. They had set up a small buffet on the other two tables. We knew discussions and signing of contracts could take time. We also knew that Thai people would not be able to survive for more than 20 minutes without eating.
The first meeting was with Kul and Kwan. Wanaporn explained my shareholding would be through a holding company he had set up called Phet Enterprises. He went through the contract with them patiently including all details of the refurbishment of the girl’s property. He even came up with a new name for the enterprise “Chez K”. This pleased the girls and they happily signed the agreement.
The second meeting involved the foundry and workshop. Chan and Pan had bought their own solicitor with them. Wanaporn was genial but extremely impressive in the way he conducted proceedings with great efficiency. There was an issue of paying rent to Pan as the operation sat on her land but Wanaporn had dealt with this agreeing to pay a nominal annual fee to her which satisfied her.
Phet enterprise would own 51% of Changerong Art castings. Part of the agreement Chan would be contracted to work a certain number of days per month demonstrating and instructing for the Artists workshops and seminars when they began. With Chan and Pan happy with the arrangements they signed the contracts their solicitor was then able to enjoy the food he had been covetously eying throughout the proceedings.
With Chan’s agreement I appointed Alec as main contractor and instructed Mike to act as my agent and project manager. I had deposited 3 million baht in an account with Wanaporn. In my absence Mike had authority to raise stage payments for the contractors in liaison with Wanaporn.
With all the business completed Wanaporn came back in the taxi to stay the evening at Phai’s house. Phai had cooked a veritable feast that evening and with 6 of us around the table dinner was a lively and somewhat boisterous affair. Wanaporn was a genial fellow and regaled us with tales of his undergraduate days in England. He made Mali and Ratana laugh at his account of the initial difficulties he had when he returned to Thailand. He was called a banana because although he was yellow on the outside he was white inside. The girls were fascinated with him. Ratana had given up her room for Wanaporn and was returning into town to stay with Mali to stay the night in her apartment.
The next day we woke early and went in the taxi to the airport. On the way I remarked that I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Wanaporn reassured me it would be ok. I had found a community of decent genuine people and anyway I had him looking after me. At the airport I once again thanked him. He smiled and said “My bill is in the post” He shook my hand and made his way to departures.
The next few days were busy. I was trying to find a supplier for pattern and tooling equipment searching the internet and finally come across an small pattern shop in Chonburi. I thought it would give me a good excuse for a trip to Pattaya occasionally.
Phai’s daughters had adopted Rich and he had become pals with Pravat. Rich told me they had a large group of friends in Udon Thani and some of the places they took him were quite lively. Twice that week Pravat and Nok turned up in a battered pick up to collect Rich and Ratana and they would all make their way to meet Mali and their friends in town. I was pleased Rich was enjoying himself and did not seem to miss the bright lights of Suhkumvit and Sin City.
I knew there was a sizeable farang community in Udon Thani as on a previous visit Phai took me into the city and we explored some western bars around the Centura hotel and railway station. One night I asked Phai if we could go and see where Rich and the girls went. I believed it was somewhere near the Prajak Lake. She laughed that I was “nosey the most” but agreed to take me.
We found the bar it was large and lively with a three piece band playing a mixture of western and Asian music. Although the crowd were predominately Thai there were a handful of westerners’ mostly young backpackers. Hearing the band I told Phai that next time we came I would have to get up and have a sing. Phai shook her head in affectionate exasperation.
Rich was sitting in between Mali and Ratana opposite Pravat and Nok in a group clearly enjoying themselves. We joined them for one drink. Rich told me that Nong had come in last night. I laughed and said I bet that was interesting. But he surprised me and remarked actually it was ok as it appeared Nong was already friends with Mali and Ratana. He explained that all these girls were amazingly relaxed about friendships and open about relationships. He thought it all wonderfully healthy.
The next morning I received a phone call from Mo she had met up with Ploy and had a long chat with her. It was clear she hated dancing in the bar. She had decided to leave the bar and return to her village the next day. Mo was however concerned that Ploys mother was relying on her to send money home to keep her and Ploys child. Mo was also worried that Ploy had mentioned her mother had a new man who had no interest in accommodating Ploy or her child unless she sent regular money.
Mo continued to relate that when she phoned Ploy on her arrival back at her mothers and she seemed in great distress. It appeared that her mother’s new boyfriend was a most unpleasant individual. Mo’s further worry was that Ploy had not answered any of her phone calls since and she suspected her mobile had been taken from her. There was no doubt Mo feared for the safety of Ploy and her child and gave me the address Ploy had given her. I thanked Mo for her efforts and promised to see her soon.
I was resolved to do something but was unsure who to confide in. I phoned Kul and asked her for advice; she suggested I come over to her immediately. I decided against telling Rich anything about the situation. I told Phai I had to see Mike and Alec urgently and took a taxi to the girls Hamlet.
It was late afternoon when I arrived. I asked the driver to wait whilst I went into the restaurant. I told the girls the full story and they suggested we should take a look as her address Mo had given me as it was only about 30 minutes away. Kul and Kwan jumped in the taxi with me and gave directions to the driver. We drove to the address and found a small settlement down a dirt track just off the main road.
Our destination was at the edge of the settlement. It consisted of two dilapidated wooden shacks with rusting corrugated iron roofs. A middle aged woman who I assumed was Ploys mother was sat in the larger of the structures watching TV. Sat next to her was a mean looking young Thai man with a collection of beer bottles strewn around his feet. He was younger than his female companion and I put him in his late 30s.
We found Ploy and her child in the smaller of the two structures. It was little more than an outhouse with the corrugated iron walls so deteriorated it was effectively open on three sides. I was shocked to see the conditions she was living in. In fact I hardly recognised Ploy she was dishevelled and sporting a huge bruise on her left cheek. Her child was less than a year old and appeared emaciated and in distress.
Kul immediately said we must take her away from here, the baby is sick and her mothers boyfriend is a bad men. Kwan picked up the baby and led Ploy out of the outhouse. At this the young man came out of the larger shack wielding a baseball bat and screaming at us. Although he was a big fellow a few years ago I would have handled him with ease but I am aware I am getting older and any way I was in a foreign jungle miles from any civilisation and rule of law. I accepted I was completely out of my depth and admit to being terrified of him.
To my total astonishment as he got within 10 feet of us Kul pulled out a small revolver from her handbag and pointed it at our assailant. Seeing the gun he stopped and shouted something which I interpreted as “you do not have the nerve to fire that gun little girl”. I heard the click as she cocked the hammer and loosed off a round into the ground about 6” from his feet. I could not translate Kul’s words but imagine she was telling him the next shot would be to blow away his manhood. He stood transfixed and I saw a patch of damp appear around the crotch of his trousers as he lost control of his bladder.
Kwan bundled Ploy and her baby into the Taxi. Kul clicked the hammer again and told me to get in the front seat of the taxi. She got into the rear taxi with Kwan Ploy and the child and instructed the bewildered driver to quickly drive away.
I know you can not save all these girls from their fate but if you can save one you have made a difference. Once my heart had stopped racing I asked Ploy if she was ok. She replied in between sobs” My mother boyfriend not good man him drink, steal and box me. I scare for me and baby” She then gave a wan smile and said “Thank you to save me” As Kwan comforted her I turned to Kul and asked her about the gun she carried. She smiled and said “It was given to me by a policeman friend ….it is a long story I will tell you all thing one day because I know you are always nosey the most”.
When we got back to the Hamlet, Kwan took Ploy and her child up the stairs to the empty apartment. I offered to pay rent for Ploy and if they could keep her gainfully employed I would make a contribution to her wages. Kul said there would be plenty to do when their hotel opened but she would accept my offer for a month. Kwan came down and told us Ploy was ok and her baby was sleeping. The child would be ok with some tender care and good food. Kwan had established that when Ploys mother saw her return and her potential source of income disappear she was angry. The boyfriend was a well known local degenerate and petty criminal. Kwan remarked she could not imagine what fate they had planned for her but it would not be good. I thanked them profusely for their help that evening. I left and the taxi driver took me home, he had certainly earned a big tip that evening.
It was late when I returned to Phai’s house and to her credit she did not ask where I had been. She didn’t mention it again but knew I would tell her the full story at an appropriate time.
It came time to make our return to blighty. The whole four weeks holiday had passed quickly but the two weeks in the Issan had passed in the blink of an eye. I could tell Rich was sad to leave and was discussing how he could quickly return. I was happy his fascination was with a little Issan village rather than the dark obsession with the Go-Go bars that Christopher Moore refers to as “The Sickness”.
One suggestion made was he could teach English at Phai and Pans school. The pay would not be good but it offered a work permit that would facilitate residency. I suggested when we returned home he spend time studying for the best TEFL certificate we could find which I would obviously fund. He readily agreed.
On the flight home he told me he didn’t know how he could even begin to tell his pals about his time in Thailand as they would never believe him. He laughed that a couple of his pals would wank themselves into a coma when he related some of his experiences with those amazing women.
We review the time in Bangkok, his daytime girls from Zen and the Golden bars, the porcelain doll from Baccara and the two entertaining girls from the Office who introduced him to his first Siamese waltz. He did state that although the mongering was interesting the best part was our time up in Udon Thani. After suffering the pretentions of the girls at an English University he found the uncomplicated attitudes and joy of life of Nong Ratana and Mali most refreshing.
I had been itching to ask him if he had shagged Mali or Ratana but he smiled and after a pause said “it is not easy to explain but they seem to have an unbelievably healthy attitude to sex and relationships”. He took a breath and continued “They seem to consider sex as a natural act like eating or sleeping and don’t impose the emotional baggage we do in the west”.
He was unusually effusive that day and continued his oratory “Although I thoroughly enjoyed Bangkok and Pattaya I realise it was just a playground and a fantasy. The Thailand that will have a lasting impression on me is those wonderful friends of yours in the Issan”.
I was impressed with his perception, it had taken me a lot longer to realise the truth about the illusion and in fact it had taken me almost ten years. I was pleased he had developed a fondness for the Kingdom and quite proud his affection was for a community up in the Issan. He intended to return as soon as he got his teaching certificate but it would be to the gentle district in Udon Thani and not the mongering fields of Suhkumvit and Sin City.
I had avoided mentioning Pattaya but I knew he hadn’t forgotten about Ploy and the few sweet days he had spent in her company. In the last hour of the flight he finally talked about it. Although I could see he was having difficulty articulating his thoughts. “It wasn’t just the sex (although that was breathtaking) the intense attention and constant affection was unparalleled”. He was incredulous as he described the daily manicures and pedicures he received “She even washed my clothes in the sink and put the toothpaste on my brush every morning “he declared and continued “I could not get my head around this after only knowing the mean spirited and selfish attitudes of English girls”.
I know Rich is my son but I could not fail to be impressed with his insight. He continued his theme “I don’t think it is about subservience I think it is about they feel it expresses their femininity and is actually more empowering than all the feminist diatribes we hear in the west”. I made my contribution to the discussion by stating that the Thai girl friend experience was one of the most powerful and intense experiences a man can have alongside witnessing the birth of a child. Sometimes it is an act (but a very good one nevertheless) but with Ploy I believed it was the real thing. He was genuinely worried what would happen to her. He told me he had tried to phone her but had no reply.
I decided not to tell him about our recent adventure yet. If Ploy settled with Kul and Kwan it would be a nice surprise when or if he returned.
To be continued