Readers' Submissions

Living on the Fringes

  • Written by Mega
  • February 3rd, 2014
  • 31 min read





Vietnamese lady


It was quite a while ago, and a good deal earlier before arriving on the charmed shores of Thailand, I realized the “normal” way of life in the western world wasn’t for me. It may have had a lot to do with a surfing lifestyle, smoking pot and “going bush” in the early '70s in New Zealand and no doubt that approach to life was certainly a sign of those heady times on this planet. Whatever the contributing factors were, by the time I’d reached my 20th birthday I was firmly convinced a mortgage in the burbs, nine to five, consumerism, taxation, one point seven kids, and Saturday nights in front of the “box” wasn’t going to cut it for me. I dropped out of the mainstream western lifestyle ideology long before boarding that first flight out of my birthplace, and that approach to life has remained unchanged ever since.

I would suggest many who find their way to the LOS, either permanently or as regular visitors, have also dropped out or are in the process of doing so. This is not to say those of us who have dropped out have somehow lost our way in the world. For many it’s simply a matter of opting out of the over-governed ways of the west. Of the few friends I have in Thailand, all are financially sound with adequate business remuneration or retirement income, making their lives high on quality and low on money worries. The fact is I’m a fringe dweller and have been for as long as I can remember, and moving to Thailand just seemed to be a natural extension of that approach to life. I’m also fortunate enough to have well paid employment in an industry which is populated by other like-minded fringe dwellers who, for the most part, reside in Asia as well.

I would argue that most long term foreigners / expats residing in Thailand are fringe dwellers. We understand and accept that full integration into this society is all but impossible. Yes, the locals can be very hospitable but the fact remains there are barriers to full acceptance. The inability to own land and vote being significant impediments to greater participation in the norms of our adopted country. Language and cultural differences also present smaller but equally frustrating hurdles to negotiate in terms of understanding the mindset of this nation's inhabitants. If one has the patience and diligence to learn the language then life here becomes a little easier. Ease of communication plays a major part in avoiding misunderstandings. Even so, the barriers still remain. Most farang males here have very few, if any, Thai male friends. Integration into what is considered the mainstream of this country, for the reasons listed above, rarely happens. No doubt the locals consider us a novelty or, more worryingly, a source of income and not much more. I would make the proposition the reason why so many farang drift towards the pay for pleasure scene of this country is simply because they’re living on the periphery, the fringes. Prostitution in Thailand is illegal but the authorities, for one reason or another, turn a blind eye to it. While it is probably not wholly accepted by mainstream Thai society, it is tolerated. No doubt the financial rewards associated with the sex industry are too large to ignore. But, the fact is, prostitution is solidly on the periphery of Thai society. Everyone knows it’s there but no one really wants to acknowledge or discuss it.

It is hardly surprising then to find those employed and involved in the Thai sex industry are also firmly on fringes with their lives resembling something of a twilight zone existence between the hours of sunset and sunrise. It also comes as no surprise that fringe dwelling farangs, resident and visiting here, are often attracted to this fringe industry. After all, like attracts alike. Take a stroll along one of the high profile red light zones of Bangkok or Pattaya and it soon becomes apparent there’s something quite different going on compared to mainstream Thailand. The carnival atmosphere of places such as Soi Cowboy or Nana Plaza certainly provide for some eye popping entertainment. For those naïve to the reality of what’s actually occurring, the attraction can be quite powerful as lithe, semi-naked, exotic little beauties cavort around chrome poles to the sound of pumping beats. The glitz can certainly be enticing and as you sit there with a beer in your hand, you may want to take a moment to consider what’s really going on before being besotted by the all attention you’re receiving from that smooth-skinned little charmer. Enjoy it by all means but please understand it’s just their work and you are, more than likely, her next job.

This will probably be my last ramble on the traps, and pitfalls, of the farang oriented prostitution scene in Thailand. The subject and all the associated hazards it entails for the unwary has been done to death; not only on this site but many other Thai centric blogs. While it does make for entertaining reading the overall feeling I’m beginning to get, while reading through another installment of “a Thai bargirl / prostitute / hooker / whore done me wrong” is, it’s quite pitiful really. There was a time and not that long ago, when I would write these poor fools off as “mugs” who had it coming. Sure, they show poor judgment in expecting to be able to turn a prostitute / hooker / whore into a wife but as the next report of another farang’s unexplained demise rolls in, it starts to give one a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. It seems as though farangs are taking their own lives or being “offed” too regularly in often unexplained circumstances due to the strains of getting caught up with local ladies playing the game of deception. As mentioned, it is easy just to discard these poor fools with some offhand remark but as another one joins the “Pattaya Flying Club,” or disappears forever up in Nakhon Nowhere, or is chopped up and burnt by the Thai boyfriend, or heads home destitute, the inner darkness of some of these women becomes ever more apparent.

Deception is something they’ve turned into an art form but given their employment circumstances, what else should one expect? Their lives are constantly about deception. Deceiving the punters, deceiving their sponsors, deceiving their Thai boyfriends and, worst of all, deceiving themselves into believing what they’re doing is justified as long as the money is rolling in. As mentioned, new arrivals are lambs to the slaughter in the deception game but what about those who’ve learnt to recognise the red flags from time earned experience? The old hands, the hardened players and those such as myself who’ve been through the mill and learnt from bitter experience; are we affected by the deception or does it become a comfortable companion? It’s easy enough just to be flippant and write off a liaison with a demoiselle from Cowboy, Nana Plaza or Walking Street as a necessary fix for our primeval instincts. But every time I step through the red velvet curtains and take a seat in the bleachers, I’m fully aware I’m entering the dark side. And here’s the rub, how much of that is within me? To be able to be comfortable with something which one knows embodies many negative aspects, there must be a certain amount of acceptance there. And if there’s acceptance, how much of the darker psychological deficiencies we so often see in these ladies reside in us?

I have come to know there is a price to pay for the acceptance of this dark side, for the acceptance of the negative aspects and turning a blind eye to the deception. But like so many who’ve been here for a decade or two, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. At 57 I have no desire for another round of family creation. I no longer possess the temperament, patience, or emotional mindset for junior versions of myself at this late stage in life. I have also recognised, sadly, that many of the hardened traits displayed by those vixens whose services I use now dwell within me. Love will never come easily again and compassion is not one of my strong points. I am emotionally cool, self-centered and I understand only too well a loving relationship with a normal, decent type will be a difficult road to hoe. I am, as those who know me have pointed out, probably just a wee bit too cynical for my own good. I’ve developed a hide as thick as a Rhinoceros but as a means of protection it serves me well in this deceptive land.

There are many benefits to the acceptance of the idea that one is a fringe dweller in this country. It gives one an impartial perspective on things. That you can partake in the many pleasures on offer but not really be part of it. The impartiality, or minimal emotional involvement, provides clarity and helps one avoid becoming another walking ATM. Besides the obvious charms of the local ladies there are many other things to enjoy about this place. The weather, the beaches, the food, the lower cost of living and compared with the suffocating PCness of our western birth places, the relative freedom we are afforded by the locals. Our tenure here, of course, is totally dependent on a continuing inflow of funds from our offshore sources. Some may complain about the inequity of the arrangement but if you can’t afford 800K THB in a term deposit or 60k a month income, you have no business being here. The locals aren’t going to give you a piece of this place for nothing.

Despite a lot of the negative press that circulates about the place, I still find the locals to be a fairly accommodating lot. Keep a low profile, be the grey man, and there’s never any problems. Make an ass of yourself, particularly in the tourist sleaze-pits, and you’ll find yourself waking up in hospital; or not waking up at all. Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy, Walking Street, and Soi Bangla are no different to the scummy tourist areas one may find in Rio, Miami or Kings Cross. Cross paths or lock horns with the low lives that frequent these places and you will suffer. It’s that simple. Places such as the abovementioned invariably attract the trailer trash of each respective country’s population. And Thailand is no different. The hot, easy money attracts the parasites and bottom crawlers looking for the perceived quick path to riches. But the booze, the drugs and the crime will always find them out. The safe approach if frequenting these places is the disciplined approach. Limit your alcohol intake, find what you’re looking for and exit stage left before the wee small hours. And remember, she’s just doing her job.

The girls from the North-East have a different reality to you and me. A lady at a favoured bar of mine on Soi 11 once told me “You don’t know what it’s like to fight for your life, you don’t know what it’s like to be so hungry.” And therein lays their baseline. It’s a baseline which is much harsher and more desperate than we ever really contemplate. But the question we need to ask ourselves is this; “How far would a person with such a baseline be prepared to go to get what he / she / they want?” There is a level of guile beyond our reckoning.

The world of fairness and being as good as your word which we grew up in doesn’t exist in their world. Fairness equates to softness and offers an opportunity of exploitation. Another lady, a regular at the abovementioned establishment, for some reason decided I offered an opportunity. Perhaps because I bought her a drink and offered some kind words after being informed she’d recently parted from her latest beau. “Broken-heart” seems to work on many a naïve punter. I mentioned it was my birthday and an arrangement was made to meet up. Phone numbers were exchanged and a tentative plan put in place for a dinner engagement on my day of celebration. By late afternoon of the planned dinner date, the numbers attending had swollen. Instead of just the two of us, it was now me, her and her three friends. The chosen restaurant, somewhere along the Chao-Praya, also had a high-end feel to it. There was a time, perhaps as little as five years ago, I probably might have gone along with this nonsense. While the economics of the liaison were certainly an issue, the sore point was the duplicity. I have little affection these days for those who offer me blatant disrespect and I refuse to be a khwai for their amusement.

No doubt there are some fools who’d happily go along with this deceptive charade (and for sure she’s had success with the same ploy previously) through the misguided notion of the noble gesture; that they’re providing a treat for the disadvantaged natives. More the fool they are as there would be very little change out of 30k THB for the evening, when finally getting the little darling naked and horizontal. Being an experienced player I knew dinner was only the start of the evening and for sure their plans would also include bottles at a night club later on. At 7 PM plan B was activated. A short SMS to the demonidane's number carried a sincere apology and the explanation of a sudden call to work. I’ve mentioned the necessity previously of having two phones when one is involved in the great game here in the “City of Angels.” At two minutes past seven the phone for casual female acquaintances was firmly in the “off” position.

The way in which the planned liaison quickly disintegrated into a non-event was hardly surprising given the young lady’s attitude towards older farang. We are, after all, viewed simply as a cash cow to be milked. One would like to think eventually the penny might drop; that a softer, more grateful approach would prove more successful in keeping a potential suitor interested. I won’t be holding my breath for it to happen any time soon. Sadly, for many of them it’s an all too familiar scenario. Isaan village poverty has a tendency, if given the opportunity, towards visceral greed and as many have noted here, enough is never enough for their corrupted, child-like minds. No doubt she’ll continue offering herself up along the clubs of Soi 11 until she hooks a “sugar daddy” or continues “on the game” into her late 30s, or early 40s.

As a fringe dweller I’ve realized I don’t need to be in any sort of hurry in Thailand. Things have an unexpected way of falling into place with a minimum of fuss. A disciplined approach, a calm mind, and the ability to stay detached from the nonsense usually keeps things in perspective. Hookers are always in a hurry and as they move from one uncertain liaison to the next, their lives are an hour by hour proposition. As a paying customer in Bangkok you’ve always got time on your side. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in one location, move on to another. I suppose it’s why many find Soi 11 so appealing; there’s a cluster of meat markets within close proximity to one another. Those frequenting Q Bar, Levels, Oscars and, up until a couple of months ago, the Bed Supper Club, have a peculiar idea they’re stepping into Bangkok’s upmarket flesh zone. Initially, I was under the same misguided perception as well. 90% of the ladies seen in these places are hookers. The illusion being because they’re slightly older, speak reasonable English, and present a more sophisticated package than their sisters over on Soi Cowboy. They’re high end, or pseudo hi-so, or some other such nonsense. They are not. Most, if not all, are still from the North-East and they possess the same baseline of visceral greed and guile. Those who know the game are often given a wide berth. Not because of our inability to pay the going rate but because a long term benefit is not in the offing. We have the smell of the long-term expat, the old Asia hand who knows their game; the game of deception.

Live here long enough and you’ll eventually find the red light areas become monotonous or, dare I say it, a tad boring. Most of the venues along Soi 11 provide a circuit for the same bunch of ladies doing the rounds. Night after night, week after week, month after month, and year after year you’ll see many of the same faces; just a bit more worn and tired looking. It’s often said familiarity breeds contempt. To avoid being too recognizable at any of the venues along Lower Sukhumvit it’s good to break things up by going to other, less well-known watering holes. The 494 Bar, in the basement of the Erawan Hyatt Hotel, is a good alternative for a few quiet drinks without being surrounded by alcoholic hookers. Most of the freelancers you see at the clubs, and discos along lower Sukhumvit are alcoholics. They just haven’t recognised the fact yet. Two hours after sending off my “so sorry” SMS I was happily sitting in the 494 enjoying a fine bottle of red at happy hour prices (happy hour at the 494 runs till 2300 hrs). Yes, I was alone, but the night was still young. And besides, the entrance to Spasso’s was only 30 meters away.

Spasso’s, in the basement of the Erawan Hyatt, is a cozy little spot where freelance hookers rub shoulders with Bangkok’s hi-so fraternity. The hookers are easy enough to spot; they’re normally clustered around the main bar and the dance floor. The hi-so patrons are always in the sunken restaurant area to the right, and around the bar at the far end. I’ve been there that many times I could possibly be counted as a regular. A regular in terms of being recognised, but not so much in terms of being any of the ladies’ paying clientele. My upper price limit is the lower price limit for many of them. To be honest, I’m not sure where or why many of them get the over-inflated idea of their worth. Most are, to be blunt, well past it. The proverbial mutton done up as lamb. There are certainly many punters willing to pay the ten to fifteen thousand baht price tag being asked for a liaison for the night. Those doing so are, perhaps, cashed up visitors staying at the hotel who don’t really know their way around town.

Rita is a member of the fifteen thousand baht brigade. She can usually be found occupying one of the stools around the main bar. With her mix of Chinese blood, white skin and a confident ability in English she walks out of the bar most nights with someone willing to pay he rate. Even though she didn’t bat an eye lid quoting me her ridiculously over-inflated price, she is, give her the due, a rather engaging woman. A business debt, and mortgage on her mother’s house, was the motivation for going on “the game.”

But in the depths of the low season, prices may need to be revised. Mid-August is not quite the same as mid-January. A few minutes after 1 AM I was walking out the door with Rita on my arm at a seventy percent discount. Prior to heading back to the condo, the decision was made to drop into Mixx for a night cap. Mixx is another late night meat market – in the basement of the Intercontinental Hotel – masquerading as a discothèque. If you come up short along Soi 11, Mixx is always worth a shot in the wee small hours. It has been noted previously, and more than once on this website, Bangkok’s farang centric P4P scene is fairly small. It’s not unlikely ladies you see at other venues earlier in the evening can be seen again at late night venues such as Mixx. A few minutes after getting comfortable with our first round of drinks I spotted my erstwhile cancelled dinner date. I know she saw me and her complete lack of acknowledgement only proved how fleeting and insubstantial the assignations really are; on both sides, no doubt.

In the ensuing weeks after my birthday liaison with Rita she tried going straight by selling real estate. A greedy employer and the disappointment of not receiving promised commissions has recently seen her return to the main bar at Spasso’s. For many of them the difficulties involved in working in a normal job can seem too much to overcome. Going on the game is the easier and more lucrative option. I bumped into her a couple of weeks ago and she’s looking ever more worn and tired.

There is an almost never ending trail of submissions to this site about the negative aspects of getting into a relationship with a bargirl (aka prostitute in the wider world). There are also a lesser number trying to convince us such a relationship is not such a bad thing; that there are pros and cons to all relationships and being with a bargirl isn’t much different to being with a normal girl. To be honest I do not seek to criticize, castigate or judge anyone entering such a relationship. I have been down that road as well and having been a sucker myself, I’d be a hypocrite if found to be making judgments on my erstwhile brothers stumbling down a similar path of difficulties. All I can do is make comment and offer some insight into what’s actually occurring in the minds of the parties tangled up in what I term “the nonsense.”

After living and working in South-East Asia for a good 20 years or so, I’ve come to the overwhelming conclusion there’s only two reasons why foreign males come to these shores and get into a relationships with – or continue to use the services of – prostitutes. One, and this applies mainly to newcomers, it’s easy and two, mainly for long term expats, there’s no commitment. Nothing startling one would think but many, including those who’ve lived here for a while and should know better, continue to fall foul of the “nonsense.”

As I sit here writing this my Vietnamese GFE, during my past few days in Saigon, has just packed her bags and left. She is a “working girl” I met in Singapore. Her M.O., her hustle and her “game” is no different to the prostitutes on Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, or Walking Street. Culturally she is different to her Thai sisters but her prostitute DNA is the same; duplicity. Within two days of being with her she was applying all the trademark manipulative tricks and control games we so often see employed by Thai bargirls. The problem for her was I’m an old hand; I’ve seen it all before. After reading her the riot act last night there was a massive mood swing. The penny dropped; there wasn’t going to be any long game here. You see in the end it is always about the money with them. The affection and play acting was replaced by coldness. By 10 AM I hadn’t broken emotionally. Realising I wasn’t going to be crawling back any time soon the old “sickness in the family” problem suddenly presented itself. I paid her off and she was gone; probably to her next liaison.

For many the inability to separate an emotional connection from the services provided by a P4P liaison is the number one reason why problems occur. It’s not an easy thing to do of course, to be mindful of what’s occurring at all times and not let one’s emotions begin to dictate the terms. In the end though what we do always comes down to a choice and how you choose is solely determined by how you think. A good choice – such as reading my Vietnamese GFE the riot act – had a positive outcome; I was left in peace to get on with this submission. I was also spared the “nonsense.” A bad choice? Well, we continue to read about those through all the submissions turning up here.

A good friend, and an old Thailand hand, told me a few years ago prostitutes use sex as a weapon. He’s right. But it’s a weapon which only works if those being targeted are emotionally soft or mentally weak. Because in the end it’s just a game for them (the prostitutes). The game of seeing how far they can push the limits of manipulation and control on their mark. And the end game is always the same, milking the mark for maximum profit. The marks of course are targeted for weakness and compliance. Anyone who looks like “they know too much” is avoided. A few days ago I met an attractive looking lass at a café in Terminal 21. She sat at a nearby table banging out messages on her Iphone while I surfed the net on my laptop. Unexpectedly a request was made for me to “mind” her LV bag and spot while she went to the ladies room. In hindsight I should’ve flatly said “no, mind your own stuff” because she had that arrogant look many of these attractive hookers have when they’ve had a run of success manipulating soft farang. Upon her return she proceeded to engage me in conversation and eventually asked for my number. She was waiting for some guy, an internet liaison, and spent a good bit of time proclaiming her “good girl” status and trying to impress me with a show of her certificate for a “cabin crew” course. Her English language capabilities told me otherwise. The internet liaison was running late so I figured I was being lined up as option B. No problem as I knew the game and was only interested in a hit and run situation. As I made a move to leave she suggested I contact her later. The following morning I sent her an SMS. The resulting dialogue was priceless:

“Hi, I met you at terminal 21 coffee world yesterday. Do you want to go out for dinner or a drink?” (me)

“Hi, thank you but I’m not interested in making a relationship with you.” (her)

“Obviously. How about money for sex?” (me)

“How much you pay? I am expensive.” (her)

I turned off the phone. This short exchange of messages only served to reinforce the wisdom of “Jayson’s” submissions to this site. Jayson, a Thai/American, is a guy I’m sure who raises the hackles of many farang readers. Mainly because everything he says is completely spot on and the longer one stays in the country, the clearer what he says becomes. Walk around on the streets of Bangkok and it’s very obvious that decent, educated, regular Thai woman aren’t in the slightest bit interested in the majority of farang in this country. We are largely a non-entity, an oddity and probably a point of curiousness and not much more. What also becomes as clear as the sun rises each day is the majority of Thai woman (90%) holding hands with their farangs are women of a dubious background. They are certainly, as Jayson maintains, the ones which most decent Thai men aren’t interested in. No doubt there’ll be a number of fellows out there who’ve married Isaan princesses who’ll feel affronted by this truth. But the fact remains your liaison with your little dark-skinned farm girl thirty years your junior is wholly dependent on your continuous income stream. If you hadn’t built that mansion up in Nakhon Nowhere, would you still be together? The answer, of course, is no. Why would a village girl marry an older, overweight foreigner if there was no advantage to be accrued? There would be no rise in status or face gained, so she might just as well stay with the local deadbeat that sired her children. As Jayson so rightly points out, educated middle-class Thai men are out of her league. You are the best available option to raise her and her family's status back in the village.

These girls, as I’ve pointed out previously, hate this unpalatable truth being thrust in their faces; that their real socio-economic equals are the motor-bike taxi guys hanging around the ends of the sois. Engage one in conversation and make comments as such and the true nature of the beast is soon revealed. In an instant the sweet, façade of nicety will be replaced by a nastiness which emanates from deep in the jungles somewhere; a primal being not long down from the trees. But there is guile, and a level of cunning about them and they are experts at turning a conversation – if you let them – around so you are the one at fault. Even when you aren’t. A common line they use is “Why you talk badly about Thai people.” If you ever have this thrown at you just say, as I do, “I don’t see all people of Thailand standing before me, I see only you. And you are not all Thai people?” What these girls can’t do is directness and logic, it’s beyond them. Knowing this, one has to ask why any intelligent foreigner would ever get into a relationship with one? The answer, unfortunately for most, is their small heads control their big heads. There’s an inability to separate sex from emotional attachment. Personally I’ve never been able to figure this one out because sex with drunk Thai hookers is never that great. And it’s not like they’re the world’s hottest looking babes. Have a look at FHM’s hottest one hundred women and you’ll notice there are no Thai ladies making the list. Not even the so called hottest hi-so models from Thong Lor. The fact is that compared to a curvy western babe, Thai women have crap figures. The reasons many guys end up in relationships with Thai women who are obviously their social inferiors is desperation, loneliness and insecurity. Sorry to be so blunt but that’s what it is. Before you rush in and waste your life savings on that Soi Cowboy hooker, take a step back and ask yourself is it love, or is it really just lust? Because once you’ve spent the major part of your net worth on that house back in the village it might just be too late. I know a number of guys who, once the house was completed, were given their marching orders. The counter argument might be things are no better in western countries. A messy break up with a wife could see you losing a lot of your net worth. While this may be true the fact is the bases aren’t as loaded against you as they are here. In Thailand a foreigner has no rights and the rule of law, for what it’s worth, will usually only apply for those prepared to pay for it to apply, or not apply, as the case may be. And while you may lose property and a substantial amount of your wealth in a western country, the risk in Thailand is you’ll not only lose that but, possibly, your life as well.

After 20 years in Thailand I’ve come to the overwhelming conclusion I have virtually nothing in common with the locals. Some may call it a cultural divergence but I think it runs much deeper than that. There seems to be a disconnect between the average westerner and Thai when it comes to basic honesty. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the importance of “face” in Thai society but my overall feeling is I continually need to be wary and not let my guard down for as long as I’m residing here. Sometimes it becomes tiresome; the need to be constantly aware of not making a mistake which can be taken advantage of. I believe it’s this constant state of mistrust which creates the cynicism; of always expecting the worst. In the past when a local told me “you don’t understand Thai culture,” I’d take offence and go into a detailed explanation why their concerns were misplaced. Lately, I’ve changed my tune. I’ve realized I actually don’t understand “Thai culture” but, from what I’ve experienced of it, I’m quite happy I don’t. The outward expressions of Thai culture – the glittering temples, the religion, the food, the dancing – are just a façade or something for show, or profit, for the sightseers. The real determinants of Thai culture are what’s going on inside the minds of the people. Or as the Buddha, they hold so dear to their hearts, also said “what a man thinks, he is.” On a larger scale this could be extrapolated to “what a populace thinks, so the nation is.” Guile, secrecy (deceit), maintaining face (status) and looking good seem to be the key determinants of much of the populace here. A good friend, and regular contributor to this site, made a telling comment about such, “How can you take seriously a nation who’s most important concern seems to be their appearance?” I think he’s got a point. Image here counts for everything and it really is quite an insubstantial approach to life. Image (status) and money are completely connected because nothing raises your status quicker than a decent injection of cash. I’ll tell you what it is all about, it’s about money. Even in a democracy protest the chance to clean up financially isn’t missed. The majority of people hanging around the protest sites during the day time are those running hawkers’ stalls. T-shirts, hats, whistles and other trinkets are all for sale as they get on with the “business” of democracy. The long term ramifications are, once all the blockades are cleared away, nothing will change.

And therein lays the beauty and attraction of the place. Confusion, chaos and unbridled self-interest (true capitalism) provide a certain amount of freedom, and anonymity, for the fringe dweller. Unless we can be scammed, or relieved of our cash, the locals barely notice or want anything to do with us. The trick is of course keeping your wits about you. Or, as my esteemed friend and fellow fringe dweller in Pattaya (and now the Philippines) said so eloquently “always keep an eye on your money.” Because if you don’t, they certainly will and you’ll be relieved of your life savings before you know it.

I’m going now but before I go let me just say this; to my fellow fringe dwellers out there I salute you for keeping your wits about you as you go about enjoying the fruits on offer here and staying emotionally detached. Maintain the discipline. Being alone is not so bad. As Robin Williams recently said “I thought the worst thing in life would be to be alone. I now realize being with people who make you feel alone is far worse.”

I’m off to another caving adventure in Northern Vietnam.

Cheers,

MEGA