Vignettes from Bangkok Volume 2
Allow me to preface this submission by thanking my fellow Stickman readers for the thoughtful emails I received in response to my previous submission. I wasn’t expecting to get any feedback, let alone so many emails. I’m sorry that I could not respond to each of them, but I read each email and am thankful to those who took the time to write even if I didn’t have time to respond. My job is extremely demanding, and unfortunately this leaves me with little to no time to maintain proper correspondence, not only with those whom I share a common interest, but also with friends and family. Again, thank you everyone for writing.
Every time ol’ Stick drops subtle hints in his column about his impending departure from Thailand, I feel a shock to my system, like I need to put my Thailand experiences into words and submit them before the entire site evaporates taking an encyclopedia of overlooked, valuable human experience with it. Stick has reassured us in his columns that his leaving the LOS will have no impact on user submissions, but I can’t be the only one who feels uneasy every time he drops another hint that his time in Thailand has an expiration date. I guess we all like to imagine that good things last forever.
—–When to Expatriate Yourself—–
Every once in a while I'll see an expat in my building who looks young enough to be my son. There are expats in my building whom I know are old enough to be my father or (wheelchair-bound, oxygen mask affixed to face) grandfather. In short, I started expating it here at an unconventional age. I occupy a dangerous middle ground when it comes to one’s age and being an expat in Asia. I am too old to start over, but not old enough to retire or collect a pension. I am also not rich enough to retire as it currently stands; nor will I be in the near future. In addition to this, I did not reside in my home country as a full time wage earner long enough to qualify for basic pension benefits, which means that when I hit retirement age, I won’t be getting much of anything from back home in the way of support.
In short, I’m the exact demographic that other expats always tell to “Wait until you retire and have saved a nest egg before moving to Thailand”. The problem being, I’m already here and have been here for a decade. I’ve got a Thai wife who is the same age as I am. She works a respectable, professional job as a school teacher. For this, she earns peasant wages. I work entirely online. My income fluctuates. It’s very feast-or-famine and yet we’ve made a life for ourselves which we are mostly satisfied with. Sometimes I envy the younger expats who come here in their 20’s, play around, and then step back into the ‘real world’ to begin their ‘real’ lives. I also envy the older expats who worked hard and earned their retirement in Thailand, and a life of little want or need. The guys who can remove their belts, throw their watches off and live in relative ease for the rest of their natural lives.
I realize that there are expats who defy categories. Those for example who didn’t save enough and still came to Thailand to retire, and basically live a hand-to-mouth existence. Those who got rich young (thanks, internet) and who call themselves “retired” in Thailand, but who blow through money at a rate that all but guarantees they will be broke by 35. Those who come broke, remain broke, and die broke. Those who were in and out of prison back in the developed world, and never held down a steady job, whose lucky break came when a parent or wealthy family member died and left them some cash, or land, or both, allowing them to slither over to Thailand and start a new life.
Then there are those who are doing something they shouldn’t be doing and figure that as long as they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing, that they might as well be doing it in paradise. I count a couple of dear friends in this category; not criminals per say, but friends whose chosen occupations are, let’s say, a bit too unconventional by conservative Western standards.
There are also those who come and assimilate to the point where they don’t even associate with other westerners any longer. Those who were social outcasts or misfits in the west, and for whom Thailand represents a reset button of sorts. Learning Thai, and living Thai, and avoiding Western people at all costs, I’ve only ever met these rare farang on a few occasions and they’ve always struck me as the weirdest because you can never fully pin down what it is they are running or hiding from.
One thing is for certain with regards to the above type; the Thais, bless their little hearts, often fail miserably when it comes to identifying mentally disturbed farang who don’t display outwardly obvious symptoms. Sometimes they can’t even identify the ones who DO display obvious symptoms. A good example would be the English teacher at one local school who used to bark loudly like a dog during classes for no apparent reason. He’d also spontaneously burst into tears mid-lesson to the point where he was inconsolable. The Thais thought he was putting on funny acts to get a reaction out of the students. In reality he was a farang who had long gone off the cocktail of anti-psychotic medications prescribed to him back in England, and was actually hallucinating in class. He managed to speak Thai reasonably well, and actually had his contract renewed for three consecutive years before getting the boot for sending a babbling, incoherent, unprovoked death threat to his Thai manager via text message one night.
I guess I’ve gotten side-tracked a bit, so let’s consider the original question posted in the title: When is the right time to move to Thailand? I am going to venture an answer that many will disagree with. My answer goes like this: The right time does not have a number or age or dollar amount attached to it. The right time is the moment of sober clarity where you sit down and make a conscious adult decision that where you are is not where you were meant to be. The moment where you decide (again, sober, and being sober is a very important part of this decision making process) that you no longer want to dabble in Thailand and that you are ready to jump in the deep end of the Thai swimming pool.
No one can make this decision for you and any advice you get about the ideal age or time to move should be taken with a grain of salt. I have friends who try to break it down and extrapolate it into complex mathematical formulas factoring in the exchange rate and the price of gold, and fluctuations in the fees charged by Kasikorn Bank divided by your age and the number of bar girl tattoos your girlfriend has etc. Wise, battle-scarred expats will tell you that you should focus on your career back home, because earning money in the West and spending the same money in the East makes sound economic sense. Earn in a strong economy, spend in a developing economy, live like a king. But the addendum to this piece of advice is that not everyone succeeds in the west, and not everyone saves money, and not everyone has time on their side, and not everyone wants to spend their adult lives slaving away, dreaming of someplace else they may or may not actually ever end up.
There are many ways to make it in Thailand, regardless of your age. I have friends who are educationally and morally challenged, who swim like sharks among the Thais, spotting money making opportunities where you and I see nothing but an empty plot of land or smoke rising from a pile of burning trash. Furthermore, shopping for or giving concrete advice about when one should move to Thailand is about as useful as telling an alcoholic expat that it’s time for him to leave Thailand. Ever tried that? It’s a fun exercise and the predictable result of your selfless efforts is a valuable life lesson. If you can convince a burnt-out alcoholic expat that it’s time to leave Thailand, then you can probably convince a Thai water buffalo to pay your sick mother’s hospital bills.
The only advice I used to give potential expats was that they shouldn’t come to Thailand without a plan, but that piece of advice has since been tossed out the window as I’ve met several expats who did exactly that, and still managed to create good lives for themselves here. People told me I’d regret leaving the States in my early 30’s. These people largely had no idea what they were talking about, and were wrong on all accounts. Take other people’s advice about becoming an expat with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many of the people who advised me against becoming an expat were secretly jealous that they were tied down with a fat wife, dead end job, screaming brats, soul crushing mortgage etc. I was about to potentially live their dream, and they didn’t want to see me do it.
When I first encountered this situation I wanted to believe that it was less common than it actually is. It is a situation in which at least three of my expat friends have comfortably placed themselves. These guys are basically reverse bargirls. That is to say, they are western males of humble educational backgrounds, essentially unemployed, married to Thai women who completely support them financially. No, this is not fiction and no, you are not hallucinating. One friend has it especially good. The 16 million baht condo? Paid for by the wife’s parents. The new car? Same. The trips abroad four or five times a year? Same. The gym membership, clothing, etc., all paid for by the Thai wife’s parents who own some type of incredibly corrupt construction firm that gets government contracts without having to bid. What’s more surprising about this situation is not that my unnamed friend has a pot-belly and is pushing 45, but that two other friends have recently revealed that they are living under similar circumstances!
Thai wives or in-laws supporting them in full, or at least to some significant extent. None of these women are older than their husbands; in fact my good friend’s wife is 10 years younger. None of the women are particularly ugly and none of the men are particularly attractive. We aren’t talking about slick hard-bodied gigolo types taking advantage of aged, faded Thai socialite divorcees. One guy is married to a Thai executive, working at a foreign firm. She earns so much more money than he does, that they finally decided he should just stay home and take care of the housework, cooking, and child’s schooling. Not only does her family have money, but she goes to work every day at a western firm, out-earning her western husband in USD terms and bossing around expats who are older than he is. All the while, this guy sits at home all day lifting weights and watching TV, waiting for his kid to finish another day at the expensive private kindergarten she attends.
And these guys did not let down their wall of secrecy until we’d known each other for a reasonably long period of time, which begs the question: how any more expats are being supported wholly or partially by their Thai wives or in-laws? I can count three within my relatively small number of close friends. THREE. Who else got a free half-million-dollar condo as part of their dowry? I sure didn’t. Where is my free condo? Where’s my Lamborghini? I guess I’m doing it all wrong. Life ain’t fair. While I’m worried about whether or not the piece of chicken I ate on the street outside my condo is going to give me food poisoning for the third time this month, my reverse bargirl friend has bigger worries: “All of my neighbors have boats, but my wife won’t buy me one yet. I feel like a second class citizen.” Indeed; life ain’t fair.
My previous meeting with “DW” had me sitting in a dingy unmarked building in Huaykwang near Siam Niramit, paying genuine Thai university girls still in their school uniforms 600 baht per hour to hug, kiss and fondle. The rooms were small and the wallpaper was tacky. One wall in each room was mirrored and the only piece of furniture was a plastic covered sofa with a box of tissue placed strategically beside it on the floor. When the 60 minutes were up, a polite Thai kid would knock on the door asking if you’d like more time (in Thai). The girls wore mostly nervous smiles, and English was extremely limited. No tattoos or stretch marks and the clientele seemed to be mostly middle class Thai men in professional clothing. If you got tired of one girl, you could ask for another at any time. If you wanted sex, you simply negotiated for it directly with the girl. No gogo music and no thongs. Not a place I would have found by myself in a million years, nor would I have sought such a place out.
My experiences in these types of places are the byproduct of my friendship with "DW", who is without a doubt the most prolific whoremonger I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve lived in Bangkok for a decade, and I’ve known many a whoremonger. DW operates on a completely different plane of P4P existence. He finds these places by befriending local Thai men, and gambling with criminally inclined tuktuk drivers. And sometimes he finds these places by just stumbling into them. “I have a radar for these types of places, trust me”, he says.
DW is on a first name basis with most girls in Cowboy and Nana. These areas represent to him what you and I might call a “day job”. These are his routine places, where he gets warmed up before going out into the night in search of new and exotic whoring experiences. He hasn’t barfined a girl from Cowboy or Nana in ages because it’s not exciting for him anymore. The experience is too clinical and predictable. He has evolved beyond the stage where these places are entertaining, and he merely goes to these places to drink and practice conversational Thai. His easygoing, playful nature makes women feel comfortable around him and guarantees him a large number of expat friends in nearly every circle, most of whom have no idea what he gets up to in his free time.
I’ve known DW for five years now and it is only in the past 2 years that I’ve seen the extent of his proliferant whoremongering first hand. The horror story once-in-a-lifetime bad choice expat Thai hooker stories you read online are basically routine happenings for DW. Picked up a ladyboy without realizing it was a ladyboy? Check. Stopped mid-coitus after realizing it was a ladyboy, only to continue pounding away? Check. Picked up an African hooker from Liberia on Sukhumvit? Check. Picked up another from Cameroon on the same day? Check. Routinely failing to carry/use condoms? Check. Contracted gonorrhea? Check. Passed gonorrhea on to another partner? Check. First name basis with local STD clinic doctor? Check. Bought counterfeit Viagra that turned out to be poison? Check. Had stomach pumped at hospital? Check. Picked up a mentally disturbed freelancer on a bus? Check. Picked up violent, homeless freelancers on the street? Check. Check. Check.
Functionally illiterate in Thai, except when it comes to mongering terminology? Check. Been humiliated in public by a whore? Check. Been divorced as a direct result of mongering? Check. Dismissed from university job after sex with students? Check. Communicates verbally with other mongers using monger acronyms? (BBBJ, CIM, COC, DATY, FS etc) Check. Sex with female co-worker in restroom? Check. Maintaining two cell phones expressly for mongering? Check. Been physically assaulted while mongering? Check. Zapped by a whore with a stun gun in a Pattaya hotel room, and then robbed? Check. Drank something laced with crushed sleeping pills, and then robbed? Check. Sex with a whore in a fast food restaurant bathroom? Check.
The above situations have happened to one person, not a collection of people. What is written above is only scratching the surface of DW’s personal whoremongering history. Again, it reads like a collection of one-off expat horror stories, except it isn’t. It’s a small collection of DW’s whoring experiences from just the 5 years I’ve known him. DW is 9 years older than I am, and has been mongering globally for decades. His Thai experiences represent a tiny sliver of his overall mongering history.
I personally witnessed DW engage the services of two prostitutes in a high end fishbowl type place in Prasarnmit, only to come out an hour later and calmly negotiate a full refund for himself from the Thai manager using broken Thai and sign language. Apparently unhappy for whatever reason, DW negotiated a full refund after having sex with two whores, and he then proceeded to negotiate another refund with the parking lot attendant, though this took him considerably more effort. “They wouldn’t do anal.” he said. “I expressly asked for girls who would do anal.”
Another afternoon had DW babysitting his Thai girlfriend’s little brother (son?), whom I think at the time was 11 years old. Being tasked with supervising a youth did not dissuade DW from engaging in his normal activities. DW left the kid locked in a car in the Nana Hotel parking lot with the windows cracked while he picked up a freelance whore and took her to the short time motel on the upper right side of the Plaza. “Are you sure it’s ok to leave the kid in the car?” I asked him. “Sure, I cracked the windows, plus I left him a Gameboy and a bottle of water, he’ll be fine!” I ended up retrieving the kid from the car, and sitting in the Nana Hotel café while we waited for DW to finish so that we could all go eat lunch as if nothing had happened. This type of stop was just a short diversion for him, like scratching an itch would be for you and I.
Another memorable experience had us drudging around an extremely poor and dilapidated area near Makkasan, where I guess that Thai truckers and heroin addicts go to purchase sex on the side of the road, or in the bushes, or simply out in the open right in front of anyone who wants to watch. DW was on a mission to prove to me (and thus win a bet) that he could find a 60 baht whore who did not have any needle track marks all over her body. Instead of track marks, DW locates a whore who has bruises all over her body, from head to toe. They aren’t circular marks from oriental medicine treatment, but actual legitimate bruises from being beaten. At this point I decide to leave and walk back to the main road. Everyone has some type of limit and for me, this place was my limit. People openly shooting up with meth and heroin, whores with their rail-thin heroin bodies, clothing draping off of them haphazardly. Thai truck drivers giving us dirty looks and junkies sizing us up for who-knows-what. I quickly make my way back to the road. No eye contact. Eyes forward. Continuous motion. No stopping for anything. 15 minutes later DW is back by my side as we try to catch another taxi at the main road under a freeway overpass. “Couldn’t go all the way man. The bruises were turning me off. Did get a BJ though. Just 30 baht, and she had no teeth!” He says this to me in a way that indicates he is proud of his 'achievement'.
Beyond our friendship, I am curious about DW in an anthropological sort of way. I once asked him “How does it all end? When will you stop mongering?” He said, “It’ll never end, it’ll go on until I can’t get it up anymore and then I’ll die of disappointment and boredom.” DW doesn’t seem to have a clue that rarely do stories like his end under such anti-climactic circumstances. I know, and most of our friends know that the DW’s of Bangkok usually meet their ends under less-than-flattering circumstances, and often times make the pages of local newspapers, with gory photos featuring Thai rescue workers pointing at the corpse. Maybe it will be an overdose on some bad drugs in a cheap motel somewhere. Maybe poison from a whore who crushed one sleeping pill too many into his drink. Maybe a jealous Thai boyfriend with a sharp object. Maybe AIDS. DW isn’t thinking about any of that right now. He’s only thinking about how to transition into his next scary, risky, unpredictable whoring experience, and who he can share it all with.