Leaving Thailand Forever
On returning home after ten short years of living in Thailand I wanted to mull over my thoughts on what it meant to give up that beautiful country, the country of my heart, and return to the UK, the country of my birth.
It has been amazingly difficult to write because I have been looking for what is the essential truth of living in Thailand. What, at the core does it mean not only to return to one’s starting point but to give up, to release everything that one had created over the years?
But I can’t think of any core wisdom or insight. There doesn’t seem to be a clear dividing line between staying and going. Something that says, if you are in Thailand then you are this, but if you are in the West, then you are that. There are anecdotes worth mentioning, however, and they may shed light on the truth.
Back in the UK, one of the first things I did was to tell a lie to a family member. It was not a big lie, it was a Thai kind of lie that meant you don’t have to dig too deep into this because it doesn’t matter, it’s not important. But she did dig deep. She asked some people in Thailand about what I had said and they came back with a different response to mine. All hell broke loose. I was accused of lying to save my skin. Untrustworthy. Reprehensible. And this was from someone who was giving me a place to stay while I sorted myself out. I could only bite my tongue. She was half right. I was lying to save everybody’s face. It’s what Thai people do and I had slipped into that culture. Had I been living I Asia, no one would cross-check on what I said, and if they did the response would have been ‘mai pen rai’. It was a lesson in western culture. Actions have consequences.
I had returned with two suitcases of ill-fitting clothes and my non-immigrant visa money: 400k baht. That is all I have to show for sixty years on earth. Of course, there was the house in Thailand that I had paid for and the nice car. But the wife will get all of that. There were some savings but they are in the name of the mia noi. She will undoubtedly lay claim to those. Me? Well, I got the memories.
Giving up Thailand has been surprisingly easy. I don’t miss the country at all, beautiful as it can be at times. Thailand to me is a country full of non-descript towns that all look the same and full of the same kind of people. To live in these places as I have done on occasion, is to wait for death to appear as that is the most exciting thing to happen. Mainstream Thailand is deathly boring, and events such as weddings, and monk’s initiation ceremonies and temple building parties seem like so much forced enjoyment, as though anything to break up the monotony of small town and village life is better than shuffling along the dusty road side on the way to some dull, ramshackle market. I don’t buy into the happy, simple native concept. They get drunk to forget. They want the good things in life but know they are unobtainable. They are poor and are ruled by an elite.
Of course there are fun areas aplenty in Thailand – if you have the money. But these places soon become corrupt, noisy, overcrowded and unpleasant. Fine if you’re on a two week vacation and think this kind of shit is exotic, but living in it, the awesomeness soon wears thin.
You can’t leave Thailand completely. For one thing there are the people you’ve left behind. In my case that means 1,800 Facebook friends; all female between the ages of 20 to 35. Why people resort to paid dating sites, I never could fathom. Anyway, here’s an interesting factoid. As soon as I had posted pictures up from the UK, the response from the mainly dormant young ladies with little chatting skills was fascinating. Immediately I started getting a deluge of messages from all these ‘friends’ who all had an overwhelming desire to marry me and come to the West. Not so unsurprising, but then having replied to them, the return responses usually developed along the lines that I would have to pay serious money for the privilege of bringing a lady back to the UK. Figures of up to 500K baht were mentioned. Within a couple of replies they were demanding lavish wedding ceremonies. And some, forgetting the plot, even suggested that I ought to return to Thailand and take them out of their factory jobs to live in their upcountry villages. All for a price.
The biggest surprise of all came from my mia noi, who had dumped me for an itinerant jailbird once my money had run out. She now proclaimed through the pages of Facebook that she had rediscovered her love for me and she would like to come to England. I could marry her once I had found a suitably paid job in the UK. Until then the itinerant would remain in her home and in her bed.
And of course my dear wife, who kicked me out of the home I paid for and blocked me on her phone, has now unblocked me and is Line-chatting every day as I move closer to re-employment. Subtle it is not.
I guess some parts of Thailand never leave us. You can check out any time you want but you can never leave.
So what of the UK? It’s pretty much the same as when I left 25 years ago to seek my fortune in Asia. Most people are doing the same things as quarter of a century ago. I may have well just popped out to the corner shop for 5 minutes as far as most people’s lives are concerned. Most have the same job, living in the same house, still talking about the cost of everything and tut-tutting about my lifestyle choices. And what they say about obesity is true. There is hardly a slim woman over the age of 30 to be seen. So many fit-looking guys walking around with very fat birds. I want to ask my brother what it is all about, but he is one of them, too. He works out and keeps himself in shape while his wife is a total porker who comes home and dines on candy and cake and treats him like a dog. I don’t get it. He’s been to Thailand and seen the beautiful women but he says they are just after your money, and they’ll leave you for broke.
True, I respond, but did you ever have a twosome, let alone a threesome, with women whose firm tight bodies would grace any Hollywood red carpet? I would like to know what it must be like pumping a porker but then I’m a guest in his house and getting thrown out on the streets at this time in my career would not be a wise move. I keep my mouth shut. Thailand, land of sex and golf courses.
I think I know what it is. The essential truth about living in Thailand. The West is reality. You put your head down and work. You make money. You trudge through wind and rain to go to places you’d rather not be at. You spend time with lots of people that you’d rather not be with. But you don’t have the choice. It’s the nature of reality. You have to hang on grimly just like every other unhappy soul. In England they drink. Boy, do they drink. It makes getting through the day that less painless.
Thailand is not reality. We create a fantasy world where we can be and do anything we want and nobody is going to stop us. We live in a fantasy disconnected from the real Thailand that Thai people live in. You can never become Thai – in truth we wouldn’t want to because that would be living in reality. And that is what we left behind. We can live in a fantasy world, in a parallel universe, because we have money.
Honestly, I love that fantasy world. I love it that nearly 2,000 Facebook ‘friends’ would consider having sex with me because I have money that they want. I love not having to face reality. I love being irresponsible. When I lost my job I managed to continue the fantasy for 3 years until the money was gone. And that’s what happens in the end. Once the money is gone then the rollercoaster ride comes to an end. We are faced with stark reality once more. Some can’t face it and take the skydiving route out of town. Others like me leave with their tail between their legs. The smart ones get out before it all goes pop.
The good news is that returning back to reality is not the end of the road. I thought it might be. When still in Thailand I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving. I wanted the fantasy to continue forever. But coming back was the right thing to do. I can rebuild my life. Start to make money, get my skills up to date and become a marketable commodity once again.
Today an old buddy called me up. A friend of his is putting a team together and would I be interested in coming to work with them. Sure I would. I can use the job to restore my financial situation, I can use the health services to get my health checked out, I can meet up with old friends and re-establish old relationships. I can eat my own country’s food, I can enjoy the changes of the seasons and take long walks in pleasant countryside without the insufferable heat of Asia. Sure I said, I would be very interested to work on your project. Cool, he said. The job is in Thailand. Are you OK with that?