Lost In Time
There are times when it seems as if you feel quite well balanced and nothing in particular throws you from that feeling of stability. You look back at it all and take things a decade at a time, examining the whys and wherefores with analytical incision, trying to draw lessons from where you made mistakes – taking them on board, accepting them and storing away the lessons for future reference. You tell yourself "I will never make that same mistake again" – and you do really mean it.
I own a great bank of memories of time in Thailand that far outweigh anything that I can recall from any period before I went to The Kingdom – even though that prior period involved two marriages, raising a family with two kids and a string of successful, well-paid jobs. I played music with bands for a large part of that time, wrote music and ran two of my own businesses in that latter part of that pre-Thailand life – but it was never enough. There was always something missing. I knew what it was – I was always attracted to Asian women.
My second marriage (to a Brit.) was not fettered by children and it was a period of very good financial growth – yet, the money aspect was never that important to me. My attitude is (and always has been) that money is only a commodity that provides a means to have what you want at any particular time. In other words, it is merely a tool. After 15 years in the second marriage, we called it quits and went our separate ways – she needing the country life and I needed the city. I love big cities – and, of course, that is why I love Bangkok. If I could have afforded to live permanently in London, I very likely would never have made it to Bangkok – but looking at what London has become since I was there in the 80s, I doubt I would have been happy there now. In comparison, I have never had any such doubtful feelings about Bangkok – I love it, warts and all and, although I do not live there permanently, I still regard it as "home".
Many of the subs coming into Stick's column describe the changes happening in "Bangers" – particularly those changes attached to the bar scene and sex industry – and I have read so many accounts of those unfortunate souls who managed to get themselves into situations that they sorely regretted at the hands of some lovely little "Angel". Well , they don't call it "The City Of Angels" for nothing. The only solution is being prepared and having done your "homework". I remember a really great song called "Enjoy The Ride", sung by Judy Tzuke as singer with the band Morcheeba, where the lyrics to the first two verses say it all.
You shut the gates at sunset
After that you can't get out
You can see the bigger picture
Find out what it’s all about
You're open to the skyline
You won't wanna go back home
In a garden full of angels
You will never be alone
That really is how it is for most of us who fall in love with Bangkok – "You won't Wanna go back home". That's how it always is for me – I hate leaving there.
So what is it that makes the attraction so strong?
For some, I guess it comes down to the ready availability of sex at reasonable prices compared to the prices at "home" (wherever that may be for some) – but the more recent subs are complaining about skyrocketing prices and plummeting service, affecting mostly, the long-term expats on fixed retirement budgets (I would imagine) compared to the cashed-up younger guys on short stay with well-paid jobs out of Thailand.
The song finishes with this verse:
And the night that you got locked in
Was the time to decide
Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
I guess it's easy for me to accept that advice in the last verse, because Thailand was never so much that "boy in a candy store" situation with the girls in the bars. I had known Thai girls in my home country long before I went to Thailand and did the P4P thing back then. I even had a Japanese girlfriend back in my home city before she went back to The Homeland.
For me, the main attraction is Bangkok City itself – I love the frantic pace, the noise, the smells, the crowds, the street vendors, the familiar places that I remember from way back when – and I never cease to be amazed at how it has grown and keeps doing that, endlessly. I have had a permanent lady now in Bangkok for the last 7 years (she has her own two businesses and is a real treasure), so I no longer frequent bars – therefore any changes in bar prices and quality of service are of no concern to me. The fact of life is that, always, prices rise – they never go down – and couple this with the fact that Thai women are becoming more independent and assertive in their needs. I think that is good.
But back to balance and stability, where I started this sub:
Today, I cranked up the stereo and threw on some Thai discs – firstly, Bird Thongchai and then a few compilations of up-and-coming Thai groups from the period of 2004 – as well as stuff like I – Nam (four farm boys from Buriram who sing of life just as it is), Ae Sasikarn, Peacemaker, Da Endorphine – and it was not long before I was right back there again. This time, it was Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai – lost in time again with almost total recall. Every so often this happens for me and it works on two levels – one level encapsulating all that I remember from the old bar days of Bangkok and the songs that always seemed to be playing no matter which bar you went to. Kenny Rogers and "The Gambler", "Sutter's Mill", any number of Eagles songs when Bernie Leadon was with the group – too many to mention – they were everywhere and it seemed as if every bar owner had the same playlists.
On 26 July 2013, Stick published a sub by Anonymous titled "The Old Hand" – a sub that really impressed me because it got into the nitty-gritty of what it is like to have to deal with balancing the past with the present. The writer talks about sitting at the bar and doing "The Thousand-Yard Stare", like so many of the clones around him. I don't need to be in a bar to do that "Thousand-Yard Stare" – I can do it easily sitting in my recliner and listening to any number of Thai discs that make Chiang Mai seem like it is only one thousand yards away. I am there.
That other level is on the more personal experiences associated with a particular song at a particular time that tied together a relationship with a Thai lady. As a city, I have no preference for Chiang Mai, as I find it a bit too slow for my tastes – but Lanna is where my mind always travels to when I hear so many of these tracks. Rather than being a problem for me, I find it quite a comfort to have these feelings – a bit like having Chiang Mai tattooed on my heart – it is always going to be there.
For me, Thailand has always been about the interaction with Thais – more particularly the women – but on a level where I honestly want to hear their stories – where they come from, what life has been like for them, what are their hopes and dreams. Getting to know them on a personal level has always been more important to me than a quick screw. Maybe that's my problem – although I must say that I do not have any memories of one single incident in Thailand that has been what I would call negative. They are all good memories – some of which I wish were just not memories.
One thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Thailand, either as a visitor or to stay permanently – never be afraid to become involved with a Thai woman. As long as you know the accepted rules of engagement, what is there to fear? All you can lose is perhaps a bit of money if you are unwise – and money is replaceable. Some relationships are not.
But like the song says – "Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride".