Stickman Readers' Submissions August 30th, 2014

Venture Sponsorship – 6

It’s probably time I wound up this series illustrating the foibles of naive farang who only want to do well – but often seem not to know how.

My feeling is we have to accept that our wives are often lacking in both knowledge and experience – not just ourselves – and their usual confidence is often misguided. I repeat again… if you are happy for your wife to ‘play’, and not to have to make vast profits, then go right ahead. It might not be helping her and there is a danger it will only reinforce her beliefs that you are loaded, but at least you might know what you’re doing.

He Clinic Bangkok

My slant is in answer to those people who complain about how their wives have squandered their capital or even, in effect, stolen it. I believe, as in all things, we are equally (if not more) responsible for these problems. If you get mugged in the street, and didn’t have bundles of notes sticking out of your pockets, you can claim to be an innocent victim. If you enter into a commercial venture, with someone you hardly know, with your eyes wide shut, you are as much responsible for your actions as a butterfly when it climbs from the chrysalis.

Accept your ‘responsibilities’ before whining about your ‘rights’…

Remember my farming experiences with my wife [in Part-II]. She had no more knowledge of rural pursuits than I did but, as we were there, and something had to be done with the land, we decided to see what we could achieve. With the locals helping us we made a good start. Left to her own devices she had a disastrous follow up. Left all alone, and abondoné, I managed to pull the operation back on course, before renting the land to a local Headman, and setting off for a quiet life in Hua Hin…

CBD bangkok

. . . where I soon met and befriended a lass from Isaan, and gave her a partial lift home, to her family. She stayed overnight with me, and then for a week, and heard some of my sagas. Her primary question was what I had done wrong to my wife to make her leave… because she couldn’t believe any woman in her right mind would have given up 40 rai of very verdant land, plus a beautiful house, plus a rich, kind, generous, ‘han-sum’ man (LOL). I left her to chat with some of my neighbours, who seemed to confirm my story – though not that I was handsome…

This lady was obviously from a farming background and would have made an infinitely better partner… For about half an hour I even contemplated making her an offer. I was able to discuss the relative merits of various types of seed-corn with her – which I had recently learned, but which my wife didn’t.

It was not difficult to realise that, if you want a wife who will be at home on the farm you propose to buy for yourselves, choose a farm lass. My wife was a townie, but it was only her insistence that she knew what to do (because she thought she would at least know more than me) that encouraged me to try it. I had originally intended to be a tenant farmer. Also, if your wife knows about arable farming, be cautious about starting a dairy farm with her, or a pig-pen – it is not the same, though she will probably tell you there’s no difference. If you find she is capable of learning new things, give it a try – if she claims to know it all, beware – she will be unable to learn anything.

In a previous episode I mentioned other pursuits that appeal to Thai ladies. The travel agency, for example. In my view this is such a no-no… How can anyone who has never travelled, never been in a plane, and never left their own country hope to understand such a business. How much does a lady from Surin even know about hotels in Kanchanaburi, let alone Katmandu… or a lady from Phuket know about wat in Chiang Rai?

wonderland clinic

Then there is the motorcycle rental. Walk the streets of Hua Hin around the ‘zona-rosa’ at any time, day or night, high- or low-season, during the past five years, and you will have seen row after row of motorbikes parked tightly alongside each other, all chained together and covered with long tarpaulins, forlornly waiting to be rented. I have no idea who paid (or is paying) for them but all they do is take up parking space from tourists and locals – so I presume the police are involved somewhere along the line. This venture is another No-No…!

What else is left…? Well, you could always open a bar… after all, you have perhaps spent much of your life in (not behind, hopefully) bars, so you know all about it… and maybe you met your wife in the bars, so she will know all about the ‘Thai’ side of things… Frankly I would be doubtful, on both counts, but I do know one guy who was living cheaply in a small shop/house unit, whose wife was bored, so he opened the ground floor as a bar. It didn’t make much money but he claimed it ‘kept his wife in check’… and pretty much allowed him to stay in Thailand for free…

As I’ve said before, if it works for you, go right ahead.

Stickman has often given figures of the money sometimes made by bar owners – in Bangkok – and in Pattaya. I have no reason to doubt these claims but, in Hua Hin, I don’t see anybody making huge sums of money. I have heard claims from a few farang bar owners but have sat in these, or in neighbouring bars and observed how few customers are patronising those bars. And how rarely one hears the dulcet chimes of the bar-bells (which might just have something to do with ‘dumb’-bells…). It is difficult to believe ‘loadsamoney’ crosses these bars in a month. And I know it doesn’t in the others. There a couple of larger bars in Hua Hin that manage to pack in the ‘sing-a-long’ tourists for just a few weeks from mid-December until the end of January – for the other ten months they tend to be as empty as the rest.

A few bars in the late-night, ‘karaoke’, section of Hua Hin do sometimes stash it away but I don’t see any of these people living in large houses, or driving big cars. I do see many of these bars changing hands frequently, and having very expensive re-builds. I mentioned in Part-I, Hua Hin seems to be very different to the other bar areas of Thailand.

Two other popular ventures are cafes, and corner-shops. Many Thai women will claim to be good cooks. If you met your wife in a bar she is more likely to be a good Isaan cook – it’s not quite the same thing. If she’s a good cook she might learn other Thai styles, and even farang styles. Then you might be able to start a cafe – but you still need to know how to run a business.

I have seen four different people start an Isaan cafe in Hua Hin, claiming there are so many Isaan folk here, and they all want to eat but… apparently not… because all these places folded when the one-year lease was up. Isaan folk (mostly bar-girls), in Hua Hin, don’t usually eat in cafes. They buy street food, or dishes from any other nearby cafe, and eat at home, or in the bar – and very few tourists, Thai or farang, seem to be interested in an Isaan cafe.

The same can be said for Japanese and Indian restaurants – I have seen half a dozen of the former open and close (often within months) and a new Indian restaurant seems to open, and close, every year. Neither farang nor Thai tourists want them – not in Hua Hin, anyway. I do like Japanese food but none of those that I tried seemed to have any idea how Japanese cuisine works and one, in their opening week, at eight-thirty one evening, and with only two other diners, claimed to be out of rice – the boiler was on the blink. How can you run an Asian restaurant without a backup boiler…? This place was closed within a month. Run by a Brit and his Thai partner why did they think they could ever run a Japanese restaurant. I learnt to cook Japanese food, and make sushi, while living in Japan long ago, but I would never have the gall to believe I could run a Japanese restaurant.

And so, finally, to the corner-shop – cheap to set up, no expensive shop fittings, very little capital for stock and, in the right place, a steady flow of passing, and local, trade. There are two drawbacks (for your wife) which might have advantages (for you) – long hours, probably requiring you to live on site… and no glamour – nothing to write home about: “Hey, Mom… We got ourselves a corner-shop… Whoo-ee…!” Doesn’t have quite the right ring to it, does it…? And ‘face’ is everything.

In ten years or so, of chatting with over two hundred ladies, about their lives and their dreams, of their needs (familial) and their heartaches (personal) I have seen so many take on husbands (for 2-4 years), and businesses (for 2-4 months), or jobs (for 2-4 weeks), and almost all of them came a cropper, with the lady often returning to the bars a couple of years down the line.

I have tried offering alternative suggestions, even occasionally advice but, of all these people (all of them, in some small way, and usually for a short time, classed as ‘friends’ of mine) only one lady has made a success of it – there might be others with whom I’ve lost touch, although normally they might have been expected to be proud to keep me up to date…

After hanging about the bars this one sensible soul got a little sponsorship to hawk ‘sexy’ clothes from a cart in the ‘zona-rosa’… followed by a rented shop in one of the market areas, which made less money, followed by a corner-shop, way out of town, where there is less competition. She works long hours, makes a decent living and, with her not very rich farang sponsor, is now buying her own home…

Just one success story, in ten years… which makes me wonder (which is where I started this saga) why there are so many failures. Even allowing for the successes I don’t know about, the odds against any farang assisting his wife to be self-sufficient seem limited, if not doomed.

I hope some of you will write of your success stories and, if you do, will try to explain why you think you have succeeded. Such information might be very useful, for those able to take advice.

nana plaza