What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" is a hit single recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released on Motown Records' Soul label in the summer of 1966. It is a ballad, with lead singer Jimmy Ruffin recalling the pain that befalls the brokenhearted, who had love that's now departed. The song essentially deals with the struggle to overcome sadness while seeking a new relationship after the passing of a loved one. As far as Stick goes, it is also a double / triple entendre being an excellent New Zealand film about a unique kiwi family. It is also about them going back to their roots after their life changes dramatically. It also begs the question what happens to those that "Once were Warriors?"
This week Stick got me again and I feel the need to comment. I wanted to use Jimmy Ruffin's song because I believe it is how many may feel about possibly having to leave Thailand forever, overcoming sadness while seeking a new place to live after the old one has died. Before I start, I guess this will be my last sub, the last hoorah, a farewell if you will. We all know the clock is ticking for Stick and though he has said he will keep submitting readers subs I doubt I would have any interest in submitting any after the Stick bails. I have given up my vain wish to ever receive a green star although it is still stuck in my craw that "My Bangkok Anabolic Steroids Story" got one. I guess Stick saw a lot more in it than I did. I go back to sea not long after Christmas so won't be back till March. Realistically the Stick may have pulled up stumps by then. With that in mind, I would like to say farewell, truly thank you for everything and good luck in the future.
Now on with the show. Personally I think the expat exodus has been a trickle not a flood and has been going on for quite a number of years but like any body of water in motion is starting to gain momentum. If you dislike hearing about "the glory days" of Thailand skip down a couple of paragraphs because I need to start there.
My first trip was the late '90's so I don't know how magic it was before then, but people I know and trust and who have been around forever (sorry boys) said the obvious start was during and after the Vietnam War. Everybody that was around during the glory days has a different start date relative to their first visit but most would agree that the early naughties was the beginning of the end as far as mongering in Thailand goes. Opinions differ but I guess "the glory days" truly ended sometime between 2003 and 2006. Again it is mostly subjective. I know people that came later would argue Thailand is still great and the old-timers shouldn't whinge. There is still plenty of value and enjoyment to be had here. The problem there of course is if you weren't there you can't comment and if you were there…well, you don't need me to tell you. It is what it is and unfortunately now it's not what it was and this was where people started looking for solutions. You need to have a parachute, even if the plane is perfectly good.
I heard a lot of conversations over the years about what would be the next "Pattaya" or what would be the next "Thailand" – and my answer has always been nowhere. There won't be. That time has gone and nothing can or will ever replace it. Many of my original gang have gotten married, gotten over it, gotten out or gotten themselves into other countries. This is why I find it amusing when people talk about Vietnam or Cambodia or the Philippines or Laos like they have finally found the answer. My short answer to that is get back to me after the gloss wears off and you have lived in your "new" paradise as long as you lived in Thailand. Especially if it is in South-East Asia. Basically the things people whinge about after living a long time in Thailand are endemic throughout most Asian (or all) cultures. Graft and corruption levels are the same and penetrate all levels of society. Land ownership rules are near identical. Property ownership regulations are similar. In fact most of the things that people would like to nitpick Thailand about are common to Asia in general. Yes, the Thai smile may be BS sometimes but believe me it is no more real in any of the other countries I have mentioned above. I have lived in the Phillo's and Vietnam and travelled extensively throughout all of Asia. Some may find things easier to deal with in other places or have there own view about why one is superior to another but if you get down to brass tacks, unless you were born there throughout most of Asia you will be seen as a foreigner and will struggle to ever be fully assimilated. For many you will be seen with a multitude of dollar signs floating around your head. If you are still mongering then you can multiply that exponentially. If you think that because you are in Angeles City, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Saigon, Hanoi, and the young girls you are fxxxing think more of you than any of the other hookers you have banged throughout Asia, I think you need to have a good long talk with that man who sees you when your shaving in the morning. The most important thing is as long as you believe it to be true, and you are happy, that is all that matters. I would state that Thais just don't need to be as good on the con any more now that every Tom, Dick and Harry has come here and has started throwing ridiculous amounts of baht at them for a number of years. The same thing will happen in other parts of Asia as well. The only constant is everything changes. Another point is, and I have spoken about this before, mongering towns, even though many of us have done it, aren't conducive to living, residing or spending an inordinate amount of time in. They are purpose-built to process fresh meat. Newbies are sought after. There are no customer loyalty plans! When you are known, you're known. Doesn't matter if you are a high flyer or a cheap Charlie, you are branded as someone that "knows too much". "Oh look, Nok, here comes Joe Bloggs again who only drinks 5 Leos a day, whinges that they are never cold enough, has never bought a lady drink in 12 years and is in bed by 10 every night. Hi Joe great to see ya! Welcome, come inside!" I really don't know what some people expect. You are a paying customer and that's it. Maybe you think the smiles aren't the same because you aren't experiencing Thailand as you were when you first arrived. That's what happens when you live somewhere. It gets old, it gets stale and you start noticing flaws that weren't there before. It's not always the place that has changed and more than likely it's you. Familiarity breeds contempt! Pattaya is small, Phnom Penh is smaller, Angeles is tiny. Walk around Angeles for 5 days and everyone will know who you are and that's just the way it is. And if you live there everyone knows everything they need to know about you. From the money you spend, what you drink, your choice in women and where you live. For hookers and bar owners there is no novelty or any reason to respect or pretend to like someone that knows all the ins and outs. It's not the business they are looking for. You live there! You will be coming back anyway. What will you do? Get all huffy and take your business elsewhere? Whine about how the beers aren't cold enough, everything is getting too expensive, the people aren't the same and things aren't as good as they used to be…..Yawn.
While we are on the topic of mongering, I always draw the analogy between that and fox hunting. Fox hunting used to be cool as fxxx. It was great sport. It was a bit exclusive, there was some status involved and you used to put your best gear on with your mates and go riding after foxes. There was always those that felt a bit sorry for the foxes but mostly you were left to do as you please. There were a couple of downfalls though. There were always at least 20 or 30 of you chasing the same fox (as well as a few dogs sniffing around). The end result often wasn't great for the fox. After you had bagged your fox the thrill quickly faded and you had to discard that fox and all start chasing another. There was great pride though and no shame as those riding around would loudly exclaim their Ho Tally…. "Tally Ho what?", "Well one would prefer 2, yet 1 should suffice. Eh sport? Pip pip". Mongering, like fox hunting, now has a very negative stigma attached to it. It is an anachronism, it is seen as quite crude and vulgar by many people and it is certainly no longer a cool sport. You may not care what other people think and you may still be out there bagging foxes to your hearts content but it is a very brave man with very thick skin that would happily proclaim to all and sundry that he was a proud "fox hunter" capiche?
Again, this is where the Asians have it all over us. They are discrete, the ball stays in the court. They certainly DO NOT trawl around with hookers in tow nor do they have any great affection or feel the need to love or take care of them. Prostitution is going nowhere. This style of open, out there in your face towns and streets full of hookers, I think, may be coming to an end. Like Stick, the clock is ticking on Pattaya, Phuket, Cowboy and all the others I have mentioned as governments need to be seen to cleaning up their act. This isn't 1961 any more and setting up brothel towns to cater for military personnel just won't happen again I doubt.
So what about the rest of us? Those that live and work and have families or are retired in Thailand? Could be difficult there is no doubt. Though as Stick said we all knew it was different here. I never really expected to fully assimilate anyway. If you get out of the bar areas and it isn't too quiet for you, the North of Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Isaan) has a lot to offer (unless you're a monger). The weather is cooler. The Thais are just are warm and friendly as you remember them. Everything is still cheap and you can carve out a good life for yourself.
A famous recording artist who sang "When Doves Cry" just had a very public, very messy, scandalous divorce. Which has also shone a very large light on his recording label and asks a lot of chicken and the egg type questions. So interesting times ahead. Those that work here will continue to do so I imagine, or transfer out. Those that retired here are set in 2 camps. Those that retired smart and those that are counting the few baht they have left. Those that retired smart will still have the means to do as they see fit. I would hate to be poor in Thailand and I imagine you would need nearly as much to retire here as you would anywhere in the West. Mongers? Well, mongers do what mongers do and will keep up the search for the next best thing. I wish them well. Me? Well I am glad I'm out. I had an awesome run to be honest. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever contemplate retiring to a mongering town anyway. I have been blessed. I first got to Pattaya in my mid-20s. I had no failed relationships, no messy divorces, no kids, no dislike for the girls at home, in fact none of the baggage that so many seem to have come here with. That continues to this day (except for the kids). So at least for now I will continue my Isaan adventure. I have no intention of going back to Oz (and those that follow the news know that terrorism has finally hit our shores, much to my regret) so if the shit hits the fan here, I will be living somewhere in Asia. It's embedded too deep in my skin now. The plan was to do 5 years up here in Isaan. That will probably pull me up, but who really knows? I don't judge the Thais. I don't look down on them. I am not angry with them. I don't expect them to treat me like a local. I will always be what I was when I first got here, "farang." I have forever been a nomad and will continue to be. Just might be a little harder with missus and kids in tow. I will adapt – we all do if we are smart and to be real, if Thailand's over it's over. I would be leaving with some regret and plenty of great memories but even now, nearly 20 years later, I am still yet to have a bad day in Thailand. It's been a great ride. Thanks for tuning in.
Play Safe wherever you are,