This is the first time I write to you and sure I could have some few stories to share. I’ve seen Bangkok without skytrains and metro, when Sukhumvit was all under the sun and traffic was much worse than now, when NEP had no bars on the ground floor and Thais acted differently from today, Koh Phi Phi well before the tsunami (and the tsunami of visitors). Hua Hin in '89 was pretty different from the one I’ve seen 2 minutes ago, Khao San Rd being such a much a smaller and quieter place than now etc…
I’d have my share of stories too about LOS, most of them similar to those already posted. I agree on most of your points about relationships, how the country has changed and primarily the attitude of its people, and never thought of relocating there on a permanent basis due to the usual issues.
And I find the usual question, “was Thailand better then or now?” a wrongly posed question: Thailand has changed, I have changed, the world has changed, it’s simply all different, this is the point. I wouldn’t trade the Bus 59 from Dong Meuang to Banglampoo with the airport link, wouldn’t swap email with the trek to poste restante, though it had its fascination… things are different, some better some worse – it's as simple as that.
But I risk digressing from the point, which is friendships falling out in Thailand more than in other places.
I’m an aid worker and as such I’ve been going around the world since 1993 – different countries, different crises, different miseries, different people I met, some great, some miserable, some scum…
One of them, of the good ones, let’s call him M, I met over 20 years ago in an East Africa capital. We clicked immediately, were on the same line for most things, shared a house for a while as we were both working in the same place and same sector.
The friendship, or at least I considered it as such, continued for those 20 years, meeting now and then, here and there, travelling to some places together, went hiking in the Alps together – we’re both from same country, talked about plenty of things from politics to books to travels, work, the world situation – due to our job – and so on. And during those years I often told him about LOS and its wonders.
For various reasons he could retire at around 45, a smart bloke he knows how to manage his finances and gets along pretty well, and ever since stopping work he has been travelling the world, staying for long durations in a place or the other. I always wondered how he spent his time but he never really said so, never answered the question.
He’s always been a very reserved kind of person but I felt that during those years off work with less and less confrontation to the “real world” he became more and more closed, critical of everything and everyone, and it was more and more difficult to access his inner thoughts, like he had something to hide all the time. Nevertheless the friendship continued. We were on mail and Skype on a nearly daily basis talking of lots of things as usual, and I admit it, I enjoyed it and appreciated many of his points of view, though not agreeing with some, even some fundamental ones, but I guess a part of a friendship is also accepting differences.
Eventually, a couple of years ago, he decided to check Thailand and South-East Asia out and off he went there, and like many others he decided to stay, of course in LOS rather than elsewhere.
His first months there were not that easy. He kinda hated Bangkok and ended up in Chiang Mai. It took him quite a while to adapt but in the end he did and started praising the place, got a retirement visa and began to enjoy life there. I was happy for him, as it seemed he had found a place to settle, even if only temporarily.
Needless to say, he’s pretty much in to the naughty life and its availability had a big fascination for him (he’s one of the most misogynistic people I ever met and treats women mostly as simple wares to use. He reminds me of the bar manager of Private Dancer, “receptacle for jiiz”, sad!) but, due to distance and “long time no see” I didn’t know how he was actually employing his time, 24 hours a day is a lot of time, day after day…
So, curious, I asked him again, and his reaction was, to say the least, shocking!
I got a furious mail in which he insulted, offended and attacked me, I admit, hurting me pretty badly, telling me I had no respect and no intelligence, asking such a question.
I let it sink in and eventually answered after a couple of weeks, in the calmest possible way, explaining to him what my feelings were and telling him that, as requested –commanded?- I would not get in touch with him anymore but at the same time he was always welcome to contact me again if he thought – his words – I was “at his level” again.
I never heard from him again and it’s been about a year now.
It did happen already with him, some years ago, M was working in Kabul and I made a joke, over mail, responding to one of his jokes: he didn’t talk to me for over a year and only after such a long time, and my repeated requests for explanations he conceded to tell me what was the problem, we explained each other and we started again.
I also know he had a similar issue with another of his friends, let us call him A, a former colleague of mine (a person I do not appreciate much but they get along well): in this case, again, some years ago M stopped to talking to A, again due to an observation A dared to make. And again after a few years, M decided to start talking to A and it seems they are best friends anew now, at least from M’s last mail where he was praising A and his intelligence compared to mine. Not that I want to refute this point, sure M is right and A much smarter than me, not an issue for me…
Anyway, I still wonder what made him react as such last year, and when I read of your post about friendships falling out in Thailand more than elsewhere I felt I was into this lot as well…
So going back to your point…yes, I heard similar stories about friendships breaking in / due to Thailand, but I don’t think is the stress that farangs, or at least M, is under (working a treadmill job in a factory with little enough money in a competitive, expensive farang country IS stress, not life in LOS as a retired person) that makes it happen but rather the fact of living in what most people think is a dream place and the shock of reality that the dream is just such and not the real thing. And the fact that lots of people in Thailand consider having made a new farang friend while this is not the case, back home it would not have happened, that person would not even been considered most probably as interesting enough. But in Bangkok we live in sort of a bubble, a pink bubble until the dream breaks down and reality appears
In my case, I cannot consider M just an acquaintance, not a drinking buddy, he was a real friend to me but maybe ours was, from the start and all along, a fractured kind of relation, dunno…
What I know for sure is that it did ended abruptly and it did while M was (is?) in Thailand, maybe it would have finished anyway, so I’m not even sure whether this all ranting of mine –sorry for the long writing- can be considered into this lot, friendships and LOS… but my impression is that Thailand did him more harm than good, mentally, and this also goes along with the general tone of many posts of your site.
I just hope for him to find his balance and keep enjoying life, wherever he is and whatever he does although I had the impression the problem was not breaking a friendship but rather having somehow lost direction.
For sure, the point that friendships go bad in Thailand is often because we are friendly with people who we would probably never be friendly with in our homelands is a very good point. In the early days I was certainly friendly with a few people I would not dream of spending time with in New Zealand, and eventually I had to withdraw from those friendships.