My Thailand Experience So Far
I retired 4 years ago at the age of 52 because I could no longer find meaningful work. I calculated that if I lived frugally I could survive until my superannuation kicked in. My main expense is visiting Thailand three times a year for one month to visit my girlfriend of 3 years and to learn Thai.
My girlfriend speaks English, Malay and Chinese and all 4 Thai dialects. When I first met her, her massage shop business had recently failed and she was selling tours to tourists, standing outside in the heat of summer. I admired her long legs, short pants, stylishly made up face as well as her reasonable English and friendliness. So I paid for her to accompany my son and I on an island trip. She says now she only agreed because she charged me full price for three tickets, yet she was able to travel for free as tour operators allow sales people to inspect without charge. So she basically made a day’s wage by spending the day on an island. She didn’t own a bikini so she snorkelled fully clothed as Thai women tend to do. We did however hold hands walking down the pier so I guess I got my money’s worth!
After nine months of dating and long distance phone calls, she started haggling for me to lend her money to rent a shop so she didn’t have to work in the sun. I rejected her requests for a loan multiple times as I didn’t trust her business sense. She had lost all her money by taking out a mortgage on the family farm and invested it in an up-market massage shop in the midst of an economic recession.
After many arguments when it seemed all she cared for was money, I finally agreed to give her $3,000 as a gift after we located an empty office on a good site with cheap rent. I breathed a sigh of relief when she made $3,000 gross profit in her first month. “What would you have done if it had failed?”, she asked me. I had no answer as I knew I couldn’t afford to give her any more money.
Over the last 2 years her business has expanded and she is now looking to buy an apartment. I have agreed to pay the 20% deposit so I get a swimming pool and gym (Thais don’t care too much for exercise). She will make the repayments and be the owner. If we break up, or her business goes bust again, at least she will have some security to fall back on.
My girlfriend is honest and hardworking, but she’s also hot blooded and admits to being a witch at times. When she loses her temper she is completely illogical; she says things so crazy I usually laugh and walk away, or I give her an earful and fight it out. She prefers the latter as she enjoys the drama, the attention and the prospect of hot make-up sex.
She gets hit on by customers every other day as she is a good actress and adept at flirting if it helps make a sale. I have no fear because we talk on the phone every night, and she is not good at lying. One married customer Skypes her and attempts to show her his dick. She tolerates it because he sends his friends to her shop when they visit Thailand.
She is on every social media device that’s been invented, including Thai Cupid. It’s all part of her customer relations strategy; price is a small part of the equation. People don’t mind paying full price for a trip if you offer a personal, fully customised service. Even now, she still charges me full price for a trip. She puts on her best sales pitch, explaining all the wonderful aspects of the tour, the exotic lunch in the jungle, swimming with her in her bikini, the sunset as we cruise home and, on return a hot shower together to get all the sand off. Not bad for 4,000 baht in my opinion.
When I am in Thailand I only get a few hours with her each day but that suits me as I enjoy my own company and exploring. I have befriended a Thai guy who has travelled the world and been jailed in Thailand and overseas. He likes dating overweight white girls that I consider fat and ugly. I like slim, dark Asian girls that he thinks are scrawny and ugly. We are attracted to opposites by nature.
My girlfriend is jealous of my Thai pal. She’s scared I will be led astray visiting bars and massage parlours with him. Her girlfriend explained, “its Ok for Thai girls to go out till 3 AM and come home drunk occasionally, but not you. Too many temptations for male farang.” So I have to be home by midnight. Once I came home at 12.30 AM and called her to let me in as I forgot my key. She didn’t answer. “Contact me later” she texted. I rang again. “Let me in”, I pleaded and she replied “Go to a hotel”. Realising she was making a point, I politely asked again and she relented. Am I hen-pecked or what? Another time she seriously claimed I must be gay for wanting to hang out with my friend so much. She is very insecure deep down, despite her outward bravado.
To retire so young I have to keep my costs way down so in Australia I loaned my car to my son and I eat plainly. I study Thai full time to keep me busy using YouTube to watch Thai movies and documentaries. Google Translate is invaluable as it can turn Thai text to speech very well, although its translations are usually preposterous. I splurged $40 to download the program Thai2English which I use to translate songs and any Thai text that takes my fancy. After 4 years I am at intermediate level. It has been a very hard slog but I can now read slowly, like a first grade kid, except I know about 5,000 words. Did you know that many Thais find it easier to type English because there are only 26 letters? Thai has 44 so they have to hit the shift key all the time.
Thai is hard for oldies like me to learn. I read of one Thai teacher who refused to accept students over 50. Yet, if Thai was not so hard for me, I don’t think I would be mentally stimulated in Thailand. It is so challenging trying to join in a group conversation with Thai people. I can only understand about half of spoken speech because of the speed they talk, background noise, unfamiliarity with the topic etc. If I want to say something I have to rehearse the sentence mentally to make sure it comes out right and by then it’s usually too late. I expect that after 10 years I will be reasonably fluent.
Alas, by the end of a one-month visit to Thailand I feel I have exchanged my boring life in Australia for the loneliness that comes with being a foreigner. Australia is rich and comfortable, full of fat people infatuated with cooking shows on TV, whereas Thailand is poor and grinding, full of skinny people infatuated with making a buck. Thais don’t have much time to spare for someone like me.
As for the future, my girlfriend says she will drop me if we are not married after 10 years. I am not getting any younger, so it might not be a bad option. For the next 7 years she will continue developing her business, paying off her housing loan and doing a bit of travel with me. That way I can spend 3 months in Thailand, plus I can meet her in KL for a couple of weeks, or she can come to Sydney to visit.
Anyway, the situation is what it is. In English we say, “You can only play the cards you’re dealt with”. Or, as a Thai sentence I read says, “the cards you receive are like the various things in life that are assigned to you, but it all depends on the way you play it.”