The Final Word
On Stickman’s imminent departure:
I’ve never been known to be a betting man but I’d take good odds on the idea the majority of those departing, disappointed and disillusioned, from the land of Smiles (LOS) aren’t so much departing the country, as they are Bangkok. The expat exodus, if there is actually one, from how I see it is mainly about people being burnt out with the rat race of Thailand’s largest city and looking to relocate to a more sedate environment. On the eve of the Stickman’s imminent departure from the city he’s reported on so fondly and accurately over the last fifteen years I thought it only fitting to pen one final ode to his farewell and reflect on my own past, present and future association with the “Big Mango.”
I think it’s safe to say that my overriding sentiment regarding the Stickman’s departure is it’s predominantly due to his wish for a more relaxed lifestyle in his home country, New Zealand. Having spoken with him a number of times over the past few months, it seems he’s also had enough of the big smoke of Bangkok. It will be sad to see him go but I entirely understand his motivations for leaving. Like many others who decide to move on, he’s had his fill of Thainess and now wants the less stressful ambience of life amongst his own kind. No doubt we will keep in touch and hopefully we’ll do another travel photo shoot in this region again in the not too distant future. Since my first submission back in 2006, Stickman and I developed a friendship based on shared interests in photography, travel, writing, rugby, and, last but not least, all things concerned with Thainess. Over the past few years we’ve done a number photo outings together in Bangkok and, more interestingly, further afield in Vietnam. One in particular being a memorable outing to the suburban pagodas of Saigon. For an in depth trip report, please follow this link: http://www.megaworldasia.com/day-trips/vietnam/the-suburban-pagodas-of-saigon/
On my time in the “Big Mango”:
Love it or hate it, once you’ve put in a few years in Krung Thep, it becomes just the same as any other fast-paced, impersonal metropolis. To be honest I was never overly enamored with the place and as with any large city, there is as much to be liked as disliked. And what there is to be liked is often linked to spending money – and much more so these days – while the disliked are factors which often impact on one's long term health; namely poor air quality and the daily stresses of living in a crowded environment. After previously spending a number years in Phuket and Pattaya, I just ended up here after getting involved with a local demimondaine. My initial attraction for the place was probably the same for most others who’re seduced by this city’s perceived charms. Many, particularly newcomers, get sucked into the excitement of living a highly charged lifestyle in a large, exotic Asian city. But the reality is Bangkok is predominantly about the nightlife. It’s a lifestyle for the night owls of this world, and not for those who prefer the daylight hours. I’ve lived here for six years but the fact is in a city full of so many people, I have few genuine friends. Save for the good gentleman who owns this website and a couple of others, I really don’t know anyone else in this city of ten million. And that sadly is a common indictment of your average big city; often times they can be a rather lonesome place. There have been some great nights out and fun times with the booze and the broads along Sukhumvit Road, but the truth is none of it ever meant very much. The booze only gave me a hangover and the broads, whose names were often forgotten soon after they walked out the door, just left the wallet lighter.
I probably should’ve left Bangkok after I finished with Ning but got caught up in the nightlife and clubbing scene along Soi 11. Somehow convinced the freelancers plying their trade down there were a cut above the prostitutes working in the beer bars and go-go bars of Cowboy and Nana. A couple of near misses with two total nut jobs soon had me doing a reappraisal of that theory. Back in 2010 Q-Bar was one of the happening clubs in Bangkok. Tucked away at the back end of Soi 11 it was predominantly a dance club attracting an eclectic mix of patrons. In the days before the refurbishments it had a cool, low-lit ambience where the trendy (hipsters) dance crowd rubbed shoulders with cashed up expat businessmen, Bangkok hi-so Thais and, of course, the demimondaines. The ladies offering their services for the night were generally older freelancers who enjoyed dancing and partying into the wee small hours. A lot of them were what I called the “whore with attitude,” and the fact you might have had a pocket full of cash to offer them meant nothing if they didn’t like the look of you. Many were ladies who already had a rich sponsor overseas so their M.O. wasn’t entirely about hooking a punter for the night. A lot of them were there for the music and free drinks they could con out of any prospective suitors. Their asking price was generally substantially higher than beer bar hookers – 5.000 THB being the normal minimum – but, if they did opt to go with a punter, it was usually a “long time.” The thing is though their idea of a long time often didn’t match the punter's and with many of them being hard core drinkers, they’d want you pushing on to later closing venues – and obviously spending more on them – after Q-bar emptied out at 2:30 AM.
Betty was a Bangkok born and bred freelance hooker. I met her at Q-Bar in mid-2011 and, after a number of liaisons, she created the hell of a woman scorned for months after I blew her off. My initial attraction was her strangely exotic (non Isarn) facial features and the large set of silicone hooters bulging from her low cut dresses. My early initial attraction to her however was soon replaced by a growing suspicion she was seriously psychologically unhinged. This became totally apparent during a short trip with her to Phuket. As we were being screened at Suwarnabhumi a security officer emptied out the contents of her hand bag to reveal a knuckle duster, a flick knife, a can of pepper spray and a tazer. I was totally gob-smacked that any woman would be carrying around that amount of hardware. Betty claimed it was for self-protection after being brutalized by a sexual deviant a couple of years previously in Pattaya. According to Betty, he was a well to do customer – a doctor – she’d picked up at a night club on Walking Street who then took her to a remote residence south of Jomtien. She was fairly guarded in revealing the exact details of what occurred but from the small snippets she let slip under the influence of too much wine it seems she was held captive and sodomised. After getting free of her supposed tormentor she reported what had occurred at the Jomtien Police Station and was told by a largely unsympathetic officer to invest in a few weapons for future protection. Hence the arsenal in her hand bag.
The longer one lives in this place (Thailand) and is involved in the P4P scene, the more apparent it becomes there are some seriously disturbed men arriving on these shores with the intent to carry out their deranged and misguided sexual fantasies on the healthy population of prostitutes available here. What happened to Betty was hardly surprising given the openness of the sex industry and the fact many of the foreign psychopaths roaming freely across the country are also likely to be men of affluence. However, as with most things in the LOS, nothing is ever black and white; there are shades of grey between the truth, half-truths and outright lies. The problem with Betty’s version of what occurred, as with most other prostitutes, is a lot of the words falling from their mouths are pure fabrication to suit their own ends. Reading between the lines the real story was probably more likely to be she was subjected to a night of rough sex, agreed to engage in anal sex, and when she didn’t get the payment she considered due decided to try and make life difficult for the customer by making a false accusation to the police.
Shortly after returning from Phuket I cut all contact with Betty and unfortunately for me, she didn’t take the rejection well. We often read stories on this site of farangs and their acrimonious break-ups with a Thai girlfriend. They may have been a bargirl and they have often been “good girls” with questionable backgrounds. The common thing linking many of them who become bitter though, is the level of viciousness they rise to when given their marching orders. Abusive phone calls and threatening messages and emails are par for the course. Stalking, physical assault and fabricated complaints to the Police are also part of their intimidation tactics. The thing about this though, when you understand the cultural mindset behind it all, it’s not being done because they’re heartbroken and can’t live without you. It’s mostly because they lost the game. And by losing the game, they’ve lost some serious face amongst their friends and peers. Thais hate losing, particularly to a farang. That’s why you hear so many of them saying “they have to win.” You see, it’s all the about the “face” nonsense. Winning equals face gained, while losing equals face lost. It’s such a childish and petulant approach to life but that’s how it is here. And that’s why the trade off to face being lost through being dumped by a farang is a cash payoff. So they can show their friends and peers they at least got something back to restore their face. Any guy caught up in an acrimonious split up with a Thai girlfriend should adhere to the advice I received from Mr. Stickman; that being to immediately break off all contact. The thing these girls love is knowing they’re getting to you, that they’re making your life unpleasant and they are “winning.” This can only happen if you continue a dialogue with them. By completely ignoring them, blocking their calls, changing your phone numbers, deleting your social network sites and changing email addresses you can cancel them out of your life quickly. With some of the extreme types, such as Betty, you may have do as I did and move house as well. It is a hassle but in the end it’s worth it for the peace of mind. The key determinant in this situation though is having the discipline to never contact them again.
By the back end of 2012 the novelty of the clubbing scene along Soi 11 had well and truly worn off. While standing on the veranda of Oskar's Bar on New Year’s Eve and having a beer with a good mate, I remember thinking that whole scene had become completely old and that it was time to move on. With the street crowded with revelers scurrying from one venue to another, the only thing going through my mind was the entire pointlessness of it all. Like rats on a treadmill, there were whores in full hustle mode looking for their next payday and young punters looking to impress the whores, but hoping to pay as little as possible. There’s a rather strange dynamic at work in the clubbing scene in Bangkok which is quite different to other whoring locations on the planet. This is the domain of the “whore with attitude” or the whore that’s become picky and looks down her nose at punters deemed unworthy of her presence. It’s a pretense situation where the whores are creating the illusion they’re something other than a whore; that they’re in property development or market management. The converse of this pretense is a crowd of young punters trying to impress the whores with their physical prowess. This weird dynamic is a perfect fit for the Thai psyche where image, or appearance, overrides every other consideration except money. The jackpot for these whores is a young hansum man with money.
This bizarre situation of the punter thinking he’s got to prove he’s a stud to the hooker he’s paying to fuck is complete nonsense. Where this misguided notion came from I really have no idea but I’m sure it’s probably got something to do with the clubbing scene and the drugs such as meth and ecstasy, which further propagates the illusion of this fantasy world. I’ve found the freelancers working the Bangkok clubbing scene to be more dishonest than the girls working the go-go bars of Cowboy and Nana Plaza. The fact is most of these older freelancers were in their younger years probably shaking their “toods” in a go-go bar or working a Thai karaoke somewhere and, as I found out with Betty, they’re are a higher risk proposition. Apart from the substance abuse and health issues, many are mentally unstable from the uncertainty of their occupational and lifestyle choice. The reality is, sucking and fucking every night is a tough way to earn a living and in the end the only way most can survive is by getting high. Eventually the combination of a hardened attitude, and the booze and drugs they’re taking, makes many emotional basket cases. So much so that one should really take a decent rain check if you’re considering having one for a girlfriend.
On my search for a viable alternative to Bangkok:
By early 2013 I’d finally lost interest with the great game and it was time to move on. It wasn’t so much that I was burnt out on Thailand, just Bangkok. Having done a few trips to remote locations in the country I was fully aware the tourist fleshpots of lower Sukhumvit were nowhere near a fair representation of what Thailand actually was. What was happening down there was some kind of illusory bubble world where hedonists from far and wide got short term gratification in a fantasy land devoid of anything meaningful. The problem for many though is it becomes an addiction that is never satisfied. And unless you keep your wits about you, you’ll find yourself on a dead end road of debt, dishonesty and deceit.
I wanted out of Bangkok; that much I knew and Phuket seemed to be a possible escape plan. However, not wanting to limit my options I decided to look at alternatives beyond Thailand’s borders. I was quite fortunate in the fact I had well paid employment in the region so my move wasn’t really about returning to my home country with my tail between my legs, I just needed to relocate to a better lifestyle. Over the following two years I had a good look around the South-East Asian region combining travel and adventure with a developing hobby of photography. So much so that I eventually created my own travel blog: www.megaworldasia.com where most of my travel adventures to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been documented. After numerous short trips (7 – 10 days at a time) to those above-mentioned locations I began to develop a better appreciation of the region and, more specifically, activities which didn’t involve inserting my penis in to a South-East Asian prostitute. My forays have taken me to some fairly remote locations, particularly in Laos and Vietnam, where the adventure activity of Spelunking was the order of the day. I’ve been quite fortunate to visit some spectacular cave systems where I was the only farang in sight, and by some margin: http://www.megaworldasia.com/laos/khoun-xe-cave/ The thing is though, these adventure trips were always combined with a short stay at a capital city, or nearest major town to the cave site, where I could do some reconnaissance for future permanent relocation. Laos, although being less developed and less commercialised than Thailand, has one major drawback; it’s land-locked. And that, if you’re a person who appreciates a good beach and the ocean, is a significant mark against moving there. For do-it-yourself short adventure trips into the wilds, Laos, as far as I’m concerned, is the best option in the region. However, being a person who also likes the creature comforts of modern infrastructure, air-conditioned shopping malls, coffee and New Zealand lamb, Laos is fine for a week’s bash into the wilds but still has some time to go as a viable place to set up residence.
Increasingly, Vietnam looked more and more an attractive proposition. Perhaps it was simply because it seemed refreshingly different to Thailand. In a two year period I made nine trips there, once again combining adventure activities with short stays in major cities and tourist centers. Places visited included Saigon, Hanoi, Vung Tau, Nha Trang, Dong Hoi, Phong Nha National Park http://www.megaworldasia.com/vietnam/phong-nha-caving-and-trekking/ and Cao bang Province in the far North. The reality is, as a short term tourist one doesn’t truly get a handle on the cultural proclivities and mindset of a country’s inhabitants. But having lived and worked in the region for more than twenty years I could see certain parallels between the Thai and Viet. As with Thailand, family and family connections are very important in Vietnam; perhaps even more so. Face and the maintenance of face is also equally important.
The difference being the Viets are generally cooler of heart than the Thai and less prone to erratic acts of violence triggered by perceived slights and insults. Although appearing friendly enough, after nine visitations there I can now see they’re a rather hard-nosed lot and even more focused on the dollar than the Thai. I’ve enjoyed my visits there and had some great experiences but the truth is, as an overall package, Thailand still comes out on top. The biggest drawback with Vietnam is the lack of infrastructure; in this regard the place is a good 20 years behind Thailand. There are some nice hotels in the main tourist areas but things we take for granted in the LOS – palatial shopping malls with supermarkets stocked with the type of food foreigners like – are not in existence in Vietnam. Although they’re making great strides toward modernization, the reality is, in the larger cities at least, it’s crowded, congested and chaotic. And yeah, watch out for those motorbikes.
Cambodia seems to be a logical option for those wanting a similar lifestyle on a lower budget than one can afford in Thailand. All well and good for those needing to live more frugally but a less affordable lifestyle often doesn’t necessarily translate into a better quality lifestyle. Having only made one ten-day sojourn to “Cambo”, my observations about the place are limited. From what I saw in in the few days I had in Phnom Phen, poverty is a real issue. Granted there is poverty in Thailand but not to the degree one sees in Cambodia where beggars are in abundance and, annoyingly, constantly in your face. One soon learns not to eat or drink at cafés or restaurants with outdoor seating. Even for the average citizen, life is a struggle with minimum wages being far less than in Thailand. On a number of occasions whilst sat in restaurants, I was approached by local ladies and within minutes of striking up a conversation they were offering themselves as a girlfriend. Whether or not they were hookers I have no idea but the connotation was their offer came with strings attached. My point is there seems to be far more desperation in the attitude of the locals and that, if you're residing there long term, may become rather tiresome. Yes, there’s a façade of modernity along Phnom Phen’s riverfront but once you step back from the hotels and air-conditioned cafés and restaurants, absolute third world grubbiness is completely obvious. And there’s definitely still a bit of a Wild West feel about the place. It’s life on the edge with lots of grey areas where someone looking to circumvent local regulations and remain under the radar can avoid scrutiny or even prosper. My only conclusion regarding expat males who relocate to Cambodia is they’re doing so simply because the rent, beer and hookers are cheaper than in the LOS. Aside from that, I saw no other benefits to relocating there.
At the time of putting the finishing touches to this submission, it’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll relocate to Saigon within the next few months. There are a number of reasons for doing so but the major one is I’ve met a decent Vietnamese lady and want to completely withdraw from the whoremongering lifestyle. Not that this is anything new for me. I’ve been in the process of letting go of that unrewarding way for quite some time with my forays into the P4P scene becoming less and less frequent. The truth is, if we are completely honest with ourselves, aside from the momentary pleasure of ejaculation there is nothing substantial or truly satisfying gained from a long term association with prostitutes. Most of us, deep down, want the intimacy and, dare I say it, love from a proper relationship with a well-adjusted woman. That is entirely possible in this part of the world but, as many find out too late, rarely with a prostitute.
On South-East Asian Prostitutes:
To be honest, I have a degree of pity for the prostitute. Not so much that I’m going to be heading down to Soi Cowboy any time soon and ringing the bells in all the go-go bars but more the fact the majority of them are truly beyond help. There’s really nothing you can do for them. The problem with prostitutes as I see it has nothing to do with any moral standpoint. It’s simply that they are faking it for money. And the real problem with faking something is that you’re losing it. The more you fake it, the farther you go from its authentic substance. If it’s sex you’re faking – in the generally accepted term for prostitution – you’re going to completely ruin your authentic joy in having sex with somebody you love. You may become a fantastic technician – out of a prolonged physical exercise – but you won’t reach to the true nature of sex. You will probably have some pleasure, but not joy or ecstasy. In the long run, you’ll be completely disconnected. Faking will break you down. And faking for money will have long term effects on you: if at some point you want to do something exceptional, something that will change the lives of the ones you love, something that will enhance your life, but that will initially affect your income, you’re not going to be able to do it. You won’t know how it’s done anymore. Instead, you’ll stick with the money. And you’ll eventually forget how it is to create genuine value in the first place. All you’ll remember is how to get paid. That’s why when you hear guy’s saying “it’s all about the money,” it really is just about the money. But money can’t buy courage. Nor discipline, nor inspiration. What it can buy is a short term delay. A pause. An illusion of security, until the real problem hits again. And then, when facing the same challenge, instead of looking inside, they are looking outside, reaching for a new client, faking another session and getting another payment. The circle repeats endlessly and down goes all their self-esteem, their authenticity and joy.
Within a short space of time of a girl entering the “industry” there’s a big transformation in the way they think. And the transformation which takes place is mainly about the way in which they view the male species, and in particular, the foreign male (farang). We go from being a human being with our own individual qualities, to a mass of things with a monetary value; first and foremost. All interaction is assessed on our capacity to pay, or our potential long term worth. When you read or hear of Thai prostitutes referring to farang as a thing, or a buffalo, it’s simply because we are only looked at for our monetary worth and not our human worth. I realised quite some time ago there is something rather off-putting – or even disturbing – about having too much contact with people with such thought processes. It is abnormal and what makes it even more of a tragedy is the way in which they see their bodies and their genitals as something simply to be traded for a cash reimbursement. It is a completely impersonal approach which engenders a hardened heart and mindset. Otherwise, how else would it be possible for them to continue doing what they do?
Up until a few months ago I was still prepared to give a working girl (prostitute) the benefit of the doubt if she could show some self-enterprise and genuine effort to withdraw from the “industry.” Yes, I should’ve known better but sometimes old habits die hard. Vee was an attractive Vietnamese freelance hooker I met in Singapore. I wouldn’t say she was different, they never really are, but she did have some redeeming features and I saw a small glimmer of potential in that. She was in her mid-thirties, had no kids from previous relationships, and she neither drank, smoked nor used drugs. During 2014 I made a number of trips to Vietnam between work contracts, and teamed up with Vee for some nice trips to different parts of the country: http://www.megaworldasia.com/vietnam/cao-bang-province-vietnam/ When it became obvious we were becoming more emotionally involved I put it to her that if she could withdraw completely from the “industry,” and get a normal job in her home town (Hanoi), I’d see my way to providing a small monthly stipend to make life easier for her. Her reply disappointed me but, given the duration of her time working as a prostitute, was hardly surprising. She told me she didn’t want to work in a normal job because it paid so little and, give her credit for being honest, she said she was “too lazy to do a normal job.” As we sat there looking at each other she batted her eyelids and said “it would be good if I gave her 2000 dollars a months and she would wait at home for me.” Being an old hand with these situations, I smiled and said I’d consider it. A couple of days later I returned to Bangkok and, after a few more days of silence, sent Vee an email telling her it would be better if she looked for someone else and that I wished her all the best for the future. I haven’t heard from her since.
The way in which things turned out with her, although being a disappointment just reinforced for me the main two issues with trying to turn a prostitute into a normal girlfriend (and why I steadfastly state it’s pretty much impossible to do so): LAZINESS AND GREED. Intellectual substance and the motivation to improve oneself by personal effort is never on the agenda for the prostitute. I mentioned to Vee it might be worth her while doing a Vietnamese cooking course and her reply made me realise there was no hope for her. “I’ll do it if you want me to” is something I’m sure many guys have heard their prostitute girlfriends say. Prostitutes are only concerned with two things; their bodies, which is their primary asset, and being entertained at your expense. They have little interest in anything beyond that. As many guys eventually realise, the shopping trips, holidays and dining out at expensive restaurants are par for the course in trying to keep your prostitute entertained. Fail to meet that obligation and she’ll soon be casting about for another to make life more exciting for her. The only starting point for having a girlfriend or wife in this part of the world is she’s got a normal job, is self-supporting and isn’t responsible for the economic welfare of an extended family in a provincial village. Something else which has become more apparent after my time spent with Vee is the very real fact long term prostitutes are almost incapable of being in a normal, well-adjusted relationship and developing real love for a partner. They become hardwired to the idea of putting themselves and their survival first before any other consideration. Even love making is more about “fucking” or having sex to satisfy themselves than any shared intimate experience – because of the faking it for money routine they’ve been conditioned to for so long.
As with anything though there are always two sides to a coin. If prostitutes are faking it then anyone, and I include myself in this assessment, using the services of prostitutes is also faking it as well. And the longer we go on using the services of prostitutes the longer we are deluding ourselves that we are experiencing something worthwhile, or there may be something worthwhile about the experience. There is not. It could be said my desire to completely withdraw from the whoremongering lifestyle parallels my decision to leave Bangkok. It could also be said that living in Bangkok, or even Thailand for that matter, has a degree of fakeness about it for many foreigners choosing to call this place their home. If we are truly honest with ourselves, by choosing to live and remain here we are relegating ourselves as second class citizens in this country. Yes, the locals are accommodating enough but the fact remains we are the foreigner, and it will always be so. Land ownership regulations, visa requirements and dual pricing are a constant reminder we are the outsider. We know it well enough, and so do they.
After 20 years of residing here I’ve come to the conclusion the only way to avoid any problems, and maintain a relatively stress free existence, is to live as some sort of permanent tourist. As soon as one begins to integrate oneself more deeply into Thai society, trouble often ensues. Marriage, property ownership and business undertakings always seem to end up with a never ending set of problems to be resolved. Many have jokingly referred to Thailand as a casino where the unwitting foreigner is charmed in to betting it all on a romantic notion and as with all casinos, leaving the table with empty pockets. Thailand isn’t a place for romantic notions or idealism, or gambling for that matter. This nation's laws, if scrutinized properly, are stacked heavily against the foreigner and, just like the house, Thailand almost always wins. Compounding this one-sided legal minefield is the idea of Thainess. Thainess dictates that even if you, the foreigner, have a legitimate grievance against a local, you will be proven wrong and probably have to fork out some form of compensation. The law in Thailand is subjective, open to interpretation, and often dispensed on the whim or mood of whoever is tasked with presiding over the issue at hand. Just because the law is written in black and white doesn’t mean it will apply. Whether the law will be applied or not is entirely determined by one’s influence or ability to pay for it not to apply. Foreigners without financial clout have little influence. Even the ragged street vendor has more.
While at first glance it appears to be charming with its feigned politeness and ingratiating smiles, Thainess is actually a negative concept and, to put it bluntly, a horse's ass in our commonly accepted ideas of western logic. The most recent example of Thainess I have witnessed was at a restaurant just down the road from where I’m currently residing. The owner, a friendly enough fellow, is beginning to have problems with his cashier. The cashier is one of those pretty types. In an earlier time she was most likely flitting about in a Heineken dress. Her reasonable ability in English has seen her being employed in a position she may not be entirely suited for in terms of financial intelligence. Mistakes have been made which, according to the owner, can be traced back to the cashier’s lack of competence. Mistakes which have cost the owner money. In keeping with the dictates of Thainess, the cashier refuses to admit to any such mistakes. In doing so she will obviously lose face amongst the other Thai staff. The owner is in a bind because the cashier just happens to be a friend of his wife and therefore the recourse of terminating her employment isn’t an option. This is the negative impact of Thainess on a foreign owned and operated enterprise. And the fact is the foreign owner can do nothing about it except smile and swallow his pride to keep the peace. But it’s a fake situation, and everyone knows it. The cashier gets to keep her face and the owner doesn’t create a problem with his wife. Harmony is maintained. All well and good except for the fact the owner has lost money and, more disturbingly, his authority is now diminished.
When it comes to interaction with the foreigner, respect, or lack thereof, from a Thai is mainly about the financial comparison between the two. Any foreigner appearing to be wealthy to less fortunate Thais will have them falling over themselves to please the foreigner – with the expectation of a windfall in return. If the foreigner is lying in a gutter along Sukhumvit Road, he may as well not exist. Such is the level of disinterest or disdain of the locals. Now just in case anyone out there thinks I’ve got it all wrong and I’m out of touch with how things really are here, you may want to consider the idea that this is exactly how it is amongst the Thai themselves. It is not a level playing field here. Society is hierarchal and, as I was informed by a hi-so type some time ago, everyone knows their place; it’s just not politically correct to talk about it. The maintenance of face, kreng jai, the concern with status, ingratiating oneself to those higher up the social ladder, and never admitting a mistake are all traced back to the very real fact this is feudalistic society; in mind and practice. Little wonder those Thai who relocate overseas eventually show limited interest in returning to their native shores. The fact is they begin to experience life in a much less constraining society. The shackles of being constantly concerned with one’s status are dropped as they begin to take advantage of better opportunities afforded to them in terms of work, education and business prospects. The color of their skin, family connections, family name and birth locality are no longer an issue.
Foreigners residing here long term fall into two categories. There are those, such as myself, who are basically just long term tourists with little or no investment in the country. We took off the rose-tinted glasses a long time ago and use sound judgment in all our interactions here. We understand the system and the laws here afford us nothing of real advantage. It’s just a nice place to live with its pleasant climate, relatively low cost of living and tasty food. The women are polite, pleasant, and smell nice but to be honest, nothing out of the ordinary compared to any other nationalities.
The other category are the guys who’ve decided to make a go of it and try and fit in. Except they never really do. And they are yet to come to terms with this reality. So, on they boldly go investing in property they’ll never own and marrying a woman who’s primary concern is still her own family. Many will even pay large sums of money for the privilege of marrying such woman. Call it sin sot, call it a dowry, call it what you will but the fact is in more intellectually astute societies this is nothing more than buying a bride. Ah yes, it’s all about the “face” of course. So it comes back to the farcical idea of one’s appearance, and the wad of cash, being more important than the person themselves. But those fitting in don’t worry about such trivialities; they are, after all, respecting this country's culture. Pity then the same level of respect doesn’t work the other way?
For those who’ve decided to fit in and, dare I say it, go local, a number, after reading this, will be champing at the bit to set me straight. Or, as one fellow in the past indignantly told me “I can’t see the forest for the trees,” and that I just don’t understand Thainess. My retort though is “what is there worth understanding?” An intellectually insubstantial system which places status and appearance above accountability and integrity? As one previous submitter noted, intellectual curiosity doesn’t rate that highly here. If it did we’d see an education system based on questioning minds and not rote learning. And just because one marries a “good girl” there is no guarantee things will end up any different to a guy marrying a bar girl. “An ordinary Life” certainly spelled that out when, after 20 years, the reason giving by the “good girl” for divorcing the farang husband was because he was “mai sanuk” – based on his refusal to go dancing. How utterly insubstantial and shallow? The point being that after 20 years the farang was still clueless about the true nature of his Thai woman.
For those who are fitting in and buying into the “farm”, at some point you will begin to ask yourself how much do you compromise your dignity, self-respect and core values to fit in and keep the peace? When does telling those little white lies to maintain the face of your spouse and her relatives become okay? And if it’s not okay, when do you eventually face up to the fact you’ve been faking it for quite some time just to fit in and keep the peace? Those who eventually decide they’ve had their fill of faking it to keep the peace and fit in will move on rather quickly. Two work colleagues who moved to Indonesia both had similar stories to tell. They both got to the point where they just couldn’t cope with the farcical nonsense of Thainess anymore and left within days of seeing it for what it is. Both left behind a number of properties and Thai wives, and both say they are far happier for the move. The Thai wives, apparently, weren’t too perturbed. They had their houses, paid for by the farangs, so they had “big face" in their communities.
For those who do leave for the correct reasons, there seems to be no lingering doubt or misgivings. When it’s time to go, it really is time to go.
Over and out.
Fantastic! I found myself in agreement on pretty much everything. I recognised it was time to go, and I sense you may be feeling much the same.