Jason, Was I A Moron?
I too think Jason's comments were a bit harsh, so this is a bit of an explanation of how someone who has run successful businesses in the West can come unstuck here. Hopefully it gives Jason some thing interesting to read and hopefully he realises it doesn't happen overnight but can take many years to go wrong.
I first came to Thailand in 1978 and have traveled all over the country doing hill tribe treks, rafting, visiting more temples than I care to count, visited a few beaches & national parks, with lots of fantastic food and a few too many cold beers along the way. I usually had a wife or girlfriend at home or was travelling with some girls so had no reason to enjoy the pleasures of LOS. I have also done multiple trips to almost all of the countries in Asia as a tour leader, independently and some small group adventure tours.
After nine years travelling the world, I decided to settle down in Perth, partly because I liked the city when I had previously visited there, partly because I was going to marry a girl from there and also because real estate was cheap and I had worked out that owning rental properties was a way to make money. Although I had no idea that after a few years Treasurer Keating was going to raise interest rates to 18%. I thought I was smart not putting my 3 rental properties in Perth in joint names but when she wanted a divorce, she took half of everything and had a lawyer send me a letter demanding more than half even though there were no children.
An interesting aside is that she later sold the family house and bought a unit in another city. She had a long-time boyfriend and when they split up he took half the unit.
By 2008 I was looking at semi retirement for a few years before selling my business and fully retiring. I had a friend who had retired to Koh Samui and I was planning on doing the same, so a mate and I did an exploratory trip to Koh Samui and Phuket and I ended up falling for a lady in Samui. NN had 2 school-age daughters in a temple school a few hours' drive outside Bangkok. First of all I brought her to Sydney where I was living and working part time. It was winter and she couldn't handle the cold weather (compared to Thailand) so I decided against moving her and her 2 daughters to Australia and definitely not to New Zealand where my family is from. So I rented a cottage in Chaweng Beach and her daughters moved in and went to a local school and I would spend a month or so in Samui and return to Sydney for work. I looked at buying a house there but nothing ticked all the boxes at the price I was willing to spend. But the main reason for not staying in Samui was the poor standard of the local high school as her daughter wanted to do chemistry at University and they didn't have a proper science teacher.
I did find out a bit about Thai real estate and bought a book on building a house in Thailand. Other advice in it was don't go all in i.e. don't move all your money to Thailand – keep enough protected in your home country so that when things go bad as they often do, you will have enough to survive. Don't expect that money that you transfer to Thailand will ever leave Thailand.
So in early 2010 we moved to northern Bangkok and rented a condo while we had a house built on some land next to her brother's house. The daughters went to the same very good high school as their cousin, although their English teacher was Spanish. I thought I was lowering my risk by putting the house chanote in my step daughter's and brother-in-law's names. I had planned on making a 30-year lease on it, but NN always raised issues when I mentioned it, e.g. we are a good Thai family and would never cheat you like those bad Thai people you hear about, or wait as later we will change the name on the chanote to both stepdaughters and remove the brother in law.
NN said she wanted to work part time and had been asked by a friend to help run her mini casino which the lady operated in her living room and NN was to share some of the house profits. (Now I am sure NN was asked to join in the gambling as she thought she was smarter than the others and there was some cheating going on by the owner.) We even went to the casino owner's daughter's wedding and I saw where the casino was operating.
Soon NN moved to another casino saying she could make more money there, but I never saw any of it. Then she was off to a multistory casino in Pinklao and then to one off Petchaburi Road. I have been just outside them in taxis to drop her off or pick her up. Once when I returned from Sydney and found money was missing from our account, NN said she had bought a share in a table (just another lie to add to the many she had already told). Around this time I said to her to be careful as they were raiding some casinos, but she said don't worry as this one was owned by people with connections.
When I started refusing to give her money for the casino, she started selling stuff from our house, and when I returned from an overseas trip she and the daughters had gone, and had taken our van which eventually she sold.
I remained in the house and got on well with her brother, but 6 months ago I found out that he is equally addicted to gambling and between him & NN they had mortgaged the house to pay off the Mafia money lenders. I know they won't make any interest payments to the bank, and sooner or later the bank will repossess the house. Plus they will keep losing at the casinos and keep borrowing from the Mafia who know the address and I don't want to be there when they come looking for their money.
So, yes, I have been stupid and a bit of a moron, but it happened bit by bit, getting steadily worse. Yes, there were lots of warning signs, but I chose to ignore them as I wanted it to work and enjoy my retirement. In hindsight I should have run away from NN at many different points in time. Gambling can become an addiction and just like drugs you will do anything to get money for another fix. Only recently have the Thai neighbours told me that they are disgusted by what NN and her brother have done. One story was that NN was pimping her daughter. The older daughter didn't go to University as she left when NN left and so I wasn't there to pay for Uni and the younger one recently had a baby at 15. So NN has ruined the chances of her 2 daughters and they will eventually lose a fabulous house that would have been theirs for the rest of their lives. I also found out that many times that I went to Sydney to work NN had an old Norwegian boyfriend come and stay and she never told him that we had gotten married.
I believe in what goes around comes around and that NN and her brother will get their just deserts
I am now happily retired by the seaside well outside Bangkok and have reconnected with a lot of old friends and made many new ones. I have a condo in my own name and a secure income from Australia and can enjoy the rest of my life. I can sleep easily at night as I tried to do good, but you just cannot help some people.
What a shame that NN made a series of bad decisions that mean she will ultimately be much worse off.
For readers who may not be aware, gambling in Thailand is illegal and while there has been much in the press in recent years about small gambling operations like mini casinos which operate in some neighbourhoods, the authorities are cracking down and taking this issue more seriously than ever.
Many Thais have what I call an addictive personality type and can become addicted to gambling. If you have an other half who has a gambling issue, my advice is simple: run. I don't recall ever hearing a story of a Thai with a gambling issue who was able to overcome it. And I have seen a friend ruined financially over the last several years by a wife who has gambled away everything he has earned, including the funds from the sale of his house in his homeland as well as all of his earnings for the last few years, leaving him not that many years away from retirement and living month to month.