Nanook’s Thailand Revised
I have been wanting to write and comment on many of the readers' submissions over the last 2 months or so but every time I set out to, it seems that someone submits a piece and writes much of what I was going to write. I am a relative newcomer to the Thailand scene. My first visit was in 2012 for about 4 months and then again for a year in 2013 – 2014. I left just before the coup, not because of the coup but to return to work as I wasn’t quite ready to retire. I do find some of the writings about the good old days rather trying at times. We can’t go backwards.
I have read and heard countless stories of “Thai girl done me wrong” and have also been lightly burned by a Thai girl or two. However, when I returned to the States plastered all over the media was the story of the 80ish wealthy Jewish NBA team owner who was fleeced by his mixed race young girlfriend. Lose your house to a Thai girl? This guy was played for a few billion USD NBA franchise. Race baited by his young girlfriend this guy was made out to be worse than an axe murderer by the press for a few words said in jealously taken out of context. The press made him sound like the Grand Wizard of the KKK. The power of the PC mafia destroyed this guy. So are the Thai women all that bad? Is it any better in the West? Is it different? Try looking at a woman with ‘elevator’ eyes here at work and get dragged into HR and sent to a reeducation camp.
I wanted to comment on the general subject of Thailand is changing that has appeared quite often. Is it Thailand that has changed or is it that many of us have changed as we have grown older? Our needs and interests changing? Is Thailand changing all that much or it that at 50 something, as many of us are, desire something different from what we have had the past 20 years or so? Has Thailand changed all that much or is it us who have changed? I am early ‘50’s and want to move to SE Asia…if I had been there for the last 20 years I’d probably want to move somewhere else.
Thailand, in the year 2000 was a country just emerging from the Thai baht crash and the economic hardships that were a consequence. Sure, the dollar went farther and westerners got more for their money as the economic choices were fewer for Thais then. But now the economy rolls and they have more choices for making money, so why would a 20 something young girl want to spend much time with a 50+ year old guy? Sure, the girls are always on their cell phones but so is every other young person I encounter anywhere in the world, including here in the States.
Having been an expat since 2004 while working in the mid-east, I came back to an America I hardly know. The dark cloud of PC has made us a nation of wimps. We live in an Orwellian state with what in reality is a one party government. Police who defend themselves from lethal thugs are seen as brutal and the thugs who destroy are the heroes. The leftist trinity of race, gender, class have taken the place of the American Trinity that the nation was founded on and which made the USA great: Liberty, In God We Trust, E Pluribus Unum. Just beneath the thin veneer of civility in the USA, we are more divided, more polarized as a nation than at any time since the civil war. I have seen members of families with differing political positions erupt in fights at the dinner table that are never resolved.
It’s quite possible that the whole world is changing so rapidly, each country in its own way. Countries that never had to contend with terrorism find out they are no longer immune. The Mid East in bigger turmoil then it ever was and now with the crash in oil prices, Russia near bankruptcy. Is this a big shift of power to China and the East and is that the reason for the issues in Thailand? It does seem like freedom is on the run in much of the world.
I haven’t been coming to Thailand long enough to tell if it has changed all that much. Sure, outwardly it has but inwardly, I think not so much. Thais are still Thais first and foremost. I do believe as the Professor says, they are “Rice” people and we “Wheat” people. The value on the communal and family in Thailand and the value on the individual in America and the West. I do think that ultimately, in highly evolved nations individual rights and the individual are of highest value and what is morally right.
I learned my place painfully within the Thai family system. I had a minor stroke while in Thailand and in the hospital I met a woman, medical professional, with a Masters Degree and I asked her out when I left the hospital. She accepted and we had dinner and she even paid her way, much to my surprise. My previous experiences had me as an ATM and this was refreshing and hopeful. The next day, she emails me and offers to pick up medication for me near her home at a discount as she is Thai and can get a good price. Wow, I am really impressed and think I have a good prospect! The next day she emails me and tells me that her mom is coming to visit and therefore she would not be able to pick up my medication for me. Personally, I would never do this to someone, let alone someone who just got out of the hospital in my country. It told me all I needed to know about her. Later that week she emails me with tales about her coming trip to Canada for study and I tell her she should watch the Winter Olympics and learn winter sports. She emails me back telling me not to brainwash her about sports as sports aren’t her thing. Well, this really angers me as I was trying to be helpful with cultural issues she would experience. I email her back and tell her she need not contact me again if she was going to accuse me of such things. She returns the email with apologies for what she said but I never contact her again.
In my months in Thailand, I took to riding the red bus in Bangkok, the one that is either free or very cheap. When I am in another country, I like to experience the everyday people and how they live be it food stalls or busses. On one of my last days there, I ride the bus late at night from Kho San Road to the Sukhumvit area. The bus is packed and I manage to get a single seat. I hold my money in my palm and let the attendant take it. I ask her for directions for a connection and she is tired and weary and can’t be bothered. A few stops down the road, we pick up more passengers and the seats are full. A woman, around 50 or so struggles aboard with many bundles and stands in the center isle holding the rail. I get up from my single seat and offer it to her and she gratefully accepts with a heartfelt thank you.
A few stops later, I move to exit the bus and several women including the surly attendant stick their heads out the window as I exit the bus and tell me directions on how to connect to where I need to go. I had no idea so many overheard the short conversation I had earlier with the attendant. It was one of the most touching experiences I had in Thailand and one I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t risk riding a bus in the US for fear for my life. Let alone have several women offering me directions and a “Chok Dee” as I exit.
I hate to say it but yeah, Thailand has changed A LOT. Of course, we all change over time too but I feel some of the changes in Thailand have not necessarily been for the better (for locals as well as foreigners). One cannot deny however that the country is certainly much more liveable these days and Bangkok is a more cosmopolitan and truly international city than before but….