Vignettes from Bangkok Volume 1
Like many new, large buildings in Bangkok, my building has a 7-11 convenience store basically attached to it at the ground floor. From my unit on the 17th floor, I can go down an elevator, out into the parking area and through the back door of the 7-11 without actually stepping out into the daylight. This works out well in the monsoon season. The 7-11 is small, perhaps one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. It was staffed entirely up until fairly recently by a dopey Thai kid, about 19, with bright orange hair. More often than not, I’d walk in, get my beers, proceed to the checkout counter, and find him sitting behind the counter, eyes glued to the screen of his smartphone, playing some kind of stupid social media puzzle game. In predictable situations such as this one, it helps to know exactly how much your total will come to prior to even leaving your house. That way, you can simply deposit the money on the counter and walk out.
To be quite honest, the general level of incompetence that I endure, and the stress that I get from dealing with various types of service workers in Thailand has caused me to develop a kind of system whereby using either the internet, or my wife as an interface, I am able to conduct most of my business without dealing with the Thais directly. I don’t feel that the Thais are any more inept than anyone in any of the other countries I’ve lived in, however I do observe among them a certain disregard for the present, an overwhelming predisposition towards leisure, what one might term an ‘overly carefree’ attitude when it comes to service related matters.
When I walk into a place of business, I automatically scan the room, looking for foreign employees. A foreign owner. A foreign manager. A foreign anybody. Failing that, I then look for middle aged Thai female employees. Failing that, I look for any female staff member who is smiling. If none of the above are to be found, I usually turn around and walk back out. Restaurants and banks are perfect examples. The immigration office is another example, however turning around and walking back out of there isn’t always an option. When it comes to convenience stores in Thailand, I could really care less. The staff serve as distractions more than anything.
Today I walk into my building’s 7-11 and notice that the orange haired lay-about has been replaced by two young, light skinned girls. One is re-stocking the drinks while the other is standing at the register. Suddenly, I’m wide awake. I am paying attention now. They are having some kind of special on 500ml no-name German beers, so I grab two and place them on the counter. The girl at the counter is probably 20 years old and looks slightly Chinese. She has shoulder length hair which she has lightened. She is wearing makeup, several earrings and has her nails painted bright orange and bright green. She is fairly thin, but her uniform is baggy and I cannot tell if she is hiding rolls of baby fat under the baggy 7-11 uniform. I’ve been fooled before.
She looks at me and smiles while ringing up my beers. She looks carefully at the screen and then reads the price to me in English “70 Baht please”. I can tell that she is slightly nervous and that uttering just these few words in English represents some kind of small-scale social risk on her behalf. Thais hate to have other people see them make mistakes. It is almost as though she has studied a bit of English, but is hesitant to actually use it. However, in this case, in this place, at this time, with no one else around, she takes the chance and tries out a few words.
I smile and hand over the money. She is actually somewhat attractive, in a cute way. I notice that she is wearing short black shorts under her giant standard issue 7-11 shirt. She smiles and says “Thank you” while looking me straight in the eyes. My local 7-11 just got a lot more interesting. I get back up to my apartment and walk in the door. I look in the tall mirrors attached to the shoe closet, appraising myself. My hair line is receding, but only slightly. I am wearing a pair of blue Calvin Klein jeans and a dark grey v-necked undershirt that I got at Zara. I should probably get a haircut sometime soon, but I’m ok with the idea of letting it grow a bit more. I haven’t shaved in two days and my facial hair grows in patches of black or grey, which depending on how you look at it can either make one look distinguished or unkept.
I am tall, I have a good tan, and I am in good shape. This is partially genetic, and partially due to the fact that I cycle frequently and go to the gym three or four times a week. I think that I am still reasonably attractive and this idea is re-enforced by those around me, though living in the land of smoke and mirrors, who knows if what people are telling me is actually true or not? We all look attractive to the people who want something from us. Either way, I make a resolution to visit the 7-11 downstairs more frequently.
–At the Gym
My gym is on South Sathorn Road, not far from Chong Nonsi BTS station. I take an elevator up to the 6th floor, and show my membership card. The clerk hands over a blue bracelet with a locker key attached to it, and three clean towels. I deposit my belongings into a locker in the men’s locker room, and head to the large area with free weights and benches where people usually stretch before working out. I am meeting Australian friend “P”, who is a regular at this gym, and is far more heavily into the fitness “lifestyle” than I am. “P” is in remarkable shape, and is exactly 5 years older than I am. He has a strict diet regimen that consists of lots of lean chicken breast, lots of tuna, lots of unsalted nuts, lots of raw soi beans, lots of vitamins and lots of protein shakes.
All of this is in addition to his “other” regimen, which includes having his wife inject him in the ass with testosterone and Deca, an anabolic-androgenic steroid. He’ll go on 12 week cycles of steroids, and during this time, he will not touch alcohol or any food that is not pre-programmed into his dietary routine. Of course, in Thailand one need look no further than their local pharmacy for nearly anything a bodybuilder might want, and for the harder to get ‘supplements’, “P” once explained to me, “If we can’t find it in a pharmacy, or get it ordered, sometimes we’ll have to visit a cattle farmer to get hooked up through him…”
Regardless, I don’t pass any judgment, and “P” is one heck of a nice guy, who has now trained me for years out of the pure kindness of his heart, and much to the chagrin of the Thai personal trainers who mope about the gym looking for clients. Stretching and exercises aside, I’ve grown to like the gym. I am probably addicted to the environment of the gym just as much as I am to exercising and staying fit. The gym has its own social dynamic.
I glance around this evening and I see the usual suspects. The Thai trainers are monstrously large and are all taking ‘pharmaceuticals’ to aid in their growth. I know this because “P” sometimes gets his ‘pharmaceuticals’ from them when his pharmacy doesn’t have enough stock. One of the Thai trainers looks like a bad guy straight out of a Thai action flick. He is about 190cm tall with a massive barrel chest and biceps the size of an average person’s waist. He has a shaved head and wears a constant scowl. Like most of the PTs, he has over-trained his upper body at the expense of his lower body. Most of the other giant trainers are closet queens who spend more time looking at themselves in the mirrors and primping than they do actually lifting up heavy things and putting them back down.
I joined this particular gym partly because it is not too close to my house, and caters to hot, professional Thai women who come in to do hanging yoga, spinning classes, and aerobics. Most expats in Thailand will rarely ever interact with these women, and indeed I myself am nothing but a mere spectator in most cases. The spinning class is my favorite because it attracts all of the pasty-skinned plastic surgery junkie upper class university girls. They walk across the weight area in a kind of parade on their way to spinning class, and witnessing this most evenings is one of my personal reasons for waking up each morning. Good god, I love this place.
In the hanging bar area, there is a Thai man of about 45 to 50 years of age. He gets a weight belt from the floor and ties kettle bells to it, and once he is sufficiently loaded with weights, he proceeds to do pull-ups until failure. And this is one of the things I first learned from “P” at the gym. If you are going to do something, stick to it, and do it until failure. No sense in bouncing from area to area, machine to machine because all you are really doing with those quick bursts is waking your muscles up. Pick an exercise, set your weights, count your reps, and do it until failure. Then next time try to do more. Posture and proper form were also pounded into my skull during my initial training sessions with “P”. And once you learn proper form, you start to realize how many people around you are doing it all wrong.
There is a Thai woman whom I estimate to be in her mid-40’s. She is short, and extremely fit. She does a lot of leg work and has a deep tan. She is not attractive in the classical sense, but you have to admire the kind of tone and definition she has achieved, especially at her age. She is probably in better shape than I am, if only slightly. She has well-defined abdominal muscles and an amazing ass straight out of a hip-hop music video. I see her every time I come to the gym and I think that she probably comes every day, which is more than I could handle. Today we will be doing deadlifts and squats. Ever since I started doing deadlifts and have slowly built my way up to greater weights, I’ve noticed that my lower back pain (from years of dull office work) has all but disappeared.
As I prepare my weights, “P” is doing rack pulls. He has loaded the bar with so much weight that it is bowing over on both sides. He straps a special belt around his waist and has wrist straps that he wraps around his wrists and the bar. He has one of the Thai bodybuilders spotting him while the others watch in awe. His whole body turns red and he roars as he reaches the top of each lift. The Thais are suitably impressed that he manages several lifts of what seems like an impossible weight (I can’t count the weights from where I am in the gym). “P” continues to failure, and the Thai bodybuilder helps him push the bar forward onto the rack.
Recently a short Thai girl with massive breasts has been following “P” around the gym under the guise of trying to practice her English. She is in fairly good shape, but I get the feeling that she wasn’t always in good shape, and that people only very recently starting to pay attention to her, because she is socially awkward. One of the Thai female personal trainers is a lot hotter and whole lot less socially awkward. We usually stay late, and she has asked “P” for a ride home after the gym has closed on several occasions. She has also sent photos of her silicone enhanced body clad in a micro-bikini to P’s cell phone.
Under these circumstances, and with the amount of testosterone that “P” is taking, I don’t think that he will be able to refuse her advances for much longer. And this is the other reason that I come to this gym (or rather, was persuaded to join); to keep an eye on “P” and make sure he doesn’t –in a testosterone fueled frenzy- sleep with every woman at the gym who gives him even the slightest show of interest. “P” has a mostly happy marriage, with a Thai wife and young child, but “P” is also human, and a man. He thinks that he will not be unfaithful in my presence, as if my presence at the gym is some type of insurance policy on his otherwise happy, long-term marriage to a lovely Thai lady. “P” thinks that I am a faithful and upstanding citizen, which brings me to another point entirely…
–Wives and Girlfriends
I’ve been married to a Thai lady for nearly 8 years now. My wife is a normal, good Thai woman of similar age to myself. She has a good family, who have been nothing but kind and generous towards me, without ever asking me for anything in return. She has, and they have been unconditionally good to me. People tell me that my wife is beautiful, and I have to agree. I am a little picky with regard to such things. She is not just beautiful to foreigners, but draws long stares of admiration from Thais as well. My wife is aging well, and is regularly mistaken for someone at least 10 years younger, by other Thais, who should know better. My wife speaks English well, but not absolutely fluently. She can easily converse with my family over the telephone for long periods of time, and we can communicate on most subjects with relative ease. She cooks every meal for me, and acts as a kind of interface between myself and the incompetent Thai service people I’d otherwise have to deal with on a daily basis (landlord, cable company, internet company, banks, shopkeepers, car dealers, insurance agents, etc)
I am a strong believer that a wife should be taken care of, supported in her endeavors, looked after, supplied with whatever she feels she needs in order to create the kind of home that she wants to live in. I also believe that when it comes time to cuckold, that it should be done in a manner that allows a wife to maintain her dignity, or “face” as the Thais might refer to it. Like many a man in these parts, I have from time to time found myself inside naughty establishments doing naughty things, but it’s always been strictly business and it’s always been far, far away from my residence. Well, at least that’s how it was up until fairly recently.
You see, recently I’ve been seeing a girl. I say “girl”, but she is actually 28 years old. She is from a good family, and speaks English fluently because she studied in New York on mom and dad’s dime. She is shockingly beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. Tall and thin with milky white skin and high cheek bones. She’s had a bit of cosmetic surgery but it’s not obvious. I met her while cycling one day. We’d both stopped at the same rest point, and I was blown away by her. She was riding a $3,000 bicycle, and judging by her thighs and calf muscles, had been riding it for quite some time. I assumed she’d never talk to me, but I said “Hi” anyway because I am stupid, and I am attracted to risk and danger. From that point forward, it just kind of snowballed. She went to a very good school and works in finance. She earns good money but lives at home with mom and dad, like a good girl. She even has a curfew of 12 AM, despite being 28 years old. Hang around enough “good girls” and you will find this to be a common theme.
We started cycling together, which quickly led to us spending time together in other ways. It started off with coffee, which later turned into drinks at hotel bars, which lead to movies, galleries, long drives and lots of physical attention. We have a lot in common, and since her English is fluent, we can communicate about a wide variety of issues in depth, something that I unfortunately cannot do with my wife. This is not entirely due to any language problems between myself and my wife, but rather to the fact that my wife is not interested in anything except for cooking, TV dramas, cleaning, and shopping. Social issues? Doesn’t care. Economic issues? Doesn’t care. World travel? Doesn’t care. What’s happening in our own neighborhood directly outside of our building? Doesn’t care. And while I love my wife, my girlfriend is like a breath of fresh air; like wind in my sails.
I submit to you that it is exceedingly rare to meet such a person back in Farangland, but even more so in Thailand. Someone you connect with on every level and even after months and months, do not grow tired of. It’s actually getting quite dangerous, but more on that later.
The first rule of adultery is that you don’t tell anyone about it, ever. Not your best friend, not your drinking buddies, not your colleagues, not your boss. You don’t tell anyone, for any reason, ever. If one person knows about it, it’s a secret. If two people know about it, it’s not a secret anymore. You maintain the façade of being a completely committed and faithful person to everyone around you, at all times. You also don’t want to alter your behavior in any way, nor do you want to go to any of the places you would normally be seen while you are in the company of your girlfriend. If you live on one side of town, you need to be meeting on the other side of town, as far away as possible from any place you’d otherwise normally be seen. But I’m probably preaching to the choir here. I personally have a long-established routine which gets me out of the house several times a week, and I stick to this routine. Trips to the gym, cycling, trips to the cigar bar, drinks with close friends who are also married and have been introduced to my wife. I’ve done these things for a long time, and so my wife is used to the fact that I’ll go out in the evenings with my gym bag, or my bike strapped to the top of my car, or a box of cigars to share with friends. It is an established, long-term routine.
With all of this in mind, you can never, ever, ever underestimate the genetic predisposition that Thai women in particular have towards not trusting men. They’ve seen their fathers cheat, and their uncles, and their grandfathers, and their ex-boyfriends, and their brothers, and every man on every TV drama and in every movie, and every man around them. By default, they do not trust you. They might look you in the eye and tell you that they trust you; but they don’t, and won’t ever actually truly trust you. And they probably shouldn’t trust you, because you are a man, and you are human, and you are interested in women, and beautiful women, and sex, and this will at times, override your better judgment and your best interests.
I have three cars. One, my wife had before we married. The second we bought as a family car, large enough to strap bicycles on the top and take comfortable trips out of town for days at a time. The third is a sports car. A selfish purchase that I made for myself. I’m a life-long car fanatic. I used to repair and paint cars in my garage on the weekends, as a hobby, back in Farangland. Nothing related to my major at university, nothing related to my career; just something personal and selfish that gives me joy and a feeling of accomplishment.
I have a long established routine of meeting up with other Bangkok car enthusiasts on Sundays, and taking drives out of the city and into surrounding areas. Usually these drives will be out to the Buddy Oriental Riverside Hotel in Nonthaburi, where everyone will stop for coffee or food, or it will be a blast down the Udon Ratthaya Expressway and out to one of Thailand’s many race tracks. The wife finds these trips a bore, and for the most part doesn’t care for the Thais who come along, as they are mostly wealthy only because their parents are wealthy. People who have amassed a great deal of unearned wealth are a bit hard to stomach most of the time, and Bangkok sure does seem to have a ton of unearned wealth floating around.
In my case, I still take the sports car out every Sunday, but I haven’t been to an automotive meet-up in quite some time, if you catch my drift. Instead, it’s fancy restaurants, hotel bars, movie theaters, galleries, and long drives with my 28 year old girlfriend, whom if she’s really feeling like driving me wild, will be wearing her pencil striped skirt and white button-up blouse from the office, a pair of smartly framed reading glasses and a pair of subtle but expensive heels that only serve to accentuate her picture-perfect long legs and tight thighs. Good god, I love Sundays. But I’m not average fool and I realize that no woman is perfect. They are all flawed; just to different degrees. Even the most attractive and cultured and well educated women (Thai or not) are like diamonds with little cracks all over them. It takes you longer to notice the cracks, but they are there.
–The Expats are Not Ok
I suppose I’ve always been someone who wanted more. I have this kind of personality type. I think that my success in business is probably somehow related to this. I am in my 40’s and I’ve never given up on this kind of hope, or dream that I can always do more, have more. They used to call it the American Dream, but essentially it’s the dream that everyone around the world has 새 varying degrees. It is easy to pretend that you are content, especially if you are semi-retired and are living in a place you’ve always wanted to live, doing the things you always dreamed you’d be doing. I think that Thailand might perhaps be a kind of toxic environment for people like myself, thought I have managed to survive this long without self-destructing.
Take my friend “P” for example. His sole purpose for moving to Thailand was initially to gain easy access to steroids, full time. He was and still is obsessed with the idea of human physical perfection. The perfect body, the perfect tone, the perfect figure. Bigger and stronger than everyone else. And while he found what he was looking for, he also chanced upon a good Thai wife, and now has a young child, and his own business. You’d think that someone who seemingly had everything would stop pumping himself full of drugs; that he might tone it down a bit, scale back for the sake of living a longer and happier life. For the sake of seeing his kid graduate from university. For the sake of being able to continue running his business, which is now successful beyond what anyone expected. But the thing is, he’ll probably never stop, and this place, this environment, feeds into that behavior.
I have more than a few friends who are able to keep up appearances, but are essentially falling victim to their vices, be it alcohol, sex with strangers, drugs, financial irresponsiblity etc. I’m not one to talk, because I am neck deep in an extramarital affair and for all intents and purposes am gambling with my very existence (and quite possibly the chance of getting my dick sliced off and fed to the ducks), but I do think from time to time that not every “messed up” expat living in Thailand was “messed up” before they arrived here. In fact, I think that some of them were quite well balanced before arriving, and that their downfall is likely a combination long established personal weaknesses being fed by the ready availability of every vice known to mankind.
The guy who occasionally took drugs back home is now taking them full time in Thailand, and is probably a multi-drug user by this point. The guy who may have been inclined to cheat on his spouse back home is now doing it regularly, and with vigor in Thailand. Back home, people drink at the end of the week or after a rough day in the office. Here, people drink all day, every day. And yeah, I realize that if you are retired, spending all day in bars becomes an easy trap. Heck, I myself drink most days of the week, though not to excess; the difference is that back home, someone around me would be telling me that I shouldn’t be doing that. That it’s bad for my health. Here, among my expat friends, the general consensus is that I’m not drinking enough. I should be drinking every day, starting at breakfast time.
For anyone that has any kind of pre-established weakness or vulnerability towards self-destructive behavior, I feel that Thailand is probably not a healthy place to be living. Most evidence points towards my having been relatively normal before arriving here. Almost a decade later and things may be starting to crack. The only question is, do most people recognize when this shift occurs, or is it something subtle that happens over such a long period of time that it merely slips past them unnoticed? Anyhow, I’m going to continue living my life taking measured risks, because that’s what I’ve always done. Besides, I’ve got the best dick-reattachment surgeon in Bangkok on speed dial; what could possibly go wrong? Which brings me to another question and topic entirely…
–Severed Dick Brotherhood
Ever wondered what happens to all the guys who have their dicks sliced off by angry Thai wives / girlfriends / boyfriends? Surely this practice has been a constant throughout Thai history and hasn’t recently just surfaced in the past few decades. Surely, in the Kingdom, there exists a reasonably large sized group of Thai men who have had their penises involuntarily amputated and disposed of in a way that has made efforts at re-attachment impossible. Surely, Thai women have been chopping and slicing since long before Thailand developed what we now consider to be modern (private) healthcare facilities.
My main question is: what do these men DO? Do they have support group meetings? Are there large support groups where these men sit around and discuss topics related to loss and emasculation? Could it be something like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where only first names are used, and over paper cups of coffee and stale bread each man has a chance to stand up and share his own story of personal loss? With the frequency that these dick-chopping stories make the news, there are certainly thousands of Thai men who have involuntarily parted with their reproductive organs, and I think that this entire sub-culture could be the subject of some kind of riveting, ground breaking men’s rights documentary.
Furthermore, seeing as how the Kingdom has been a favorite retirement destination for western men for quite some time now, and seeing as how Western male expats are inclined towards enjoying the company of Thai women of all socio-economic classes (well, almost all), there must exist, without a doubt, a fairly sizeable population of expat males who have seen their severed dicks fed to the wildlife, or tied to helium balloons, or tossed into a muddy khlong, or fed into the drain of a kitchen sink. Surely, these men exist, and surely in numbers. So is there an English language support group for them? All of my cumulative experience in Thailand leads me to believe that the Japanese don’t do anything that could anger or upset a Thai girl; they only treat them well and throw money at them. My observations indicate that the Russians don’t consort with Thai girls at all and thus their risk on the dick amputation index is quite low. All evidence points towards western, English-speaking expats as being the main culprits when it comes to misdeeds committed towards Thai females.
And so then, it would only be logical that the group second most vulnerable to involuntary dick amputation would be the white, western, English-speaking male living in Thailand and consorting with Thai women. So where are the support groups? Inquiring minds want to know. Does the reconstructive surgeon at Bumrungrad International Hospital slip you a card under the table with a phone number or email address on it? Or, even worse, does no such support group actually exist at this time? This is one of the Thai mysteries I’d like to solve before checking out..
Very nice set of onservations and anecdotes and I hopethere are more to come!