The Phuket Lover
Slender, gracious bodies, delicate, soft facial features with high cheekbones, smiling, open and gentle disposition. These are just some of the characteristics that attract western men to Thai girls. How about western woman? Are they attracted to Thai men? The short answer is no. No interesting personalities, no common ground for conversation. Only interested in money. This partly sums up the generally unfortunate opinion western ladies will give you when asked. While containing some truths, not an entirely accurate assessment in my view. I personally know a few European woman / Thai man relationships. True, few last, most do not. The attraction in the beginning and in many cases may have been mostly of a physical or downright sexual nature. But not all.
Years ago I became acquainted with one couple, an exception maybe but they fit together really well. He a retired, elderly Thai military career officer; his wife an independent business owner of two flourishing restaurants and a tea-room in Lausanne, Switzerland. The lady was middle-aged. Thai people are not shy asking people their age. But nobody ever got a straight answer from her when asked. Instead that particular lady always answered in that classy French way “je suis une dame distinguée d’un certain age”.
If some people enter “marriages of convenience”, in this case I believe it was more a kind of show-off marriage on both parts as they were prominent individuals in their own circles. Him; I’m married to a rich Swiss woman and her; I married a Thai general. The perfect introduction. They were nice people though and I liked them both. We dined together on a few occasions at the Narai Hotel. I was friendly with the then GM of the hotel and Narai at that time was regarded as a hotel of renommé. GM Hans-Peter had recently launched successfully the first or one of the first large size pizzerias in Bangkok on the hotel’s ground floor and the outside terrace next to the reception. It was an immediate success.
But soon the hotel building boom started and pizza was to become one of the Thai kids’ favorite snacks and available all around town and later upcountry. Sadly I’ve lost touch with the general and his wife (he wasn’t really a general but she always introduced him as such) but if they are alive today I’m sure they are still happily together. Most of the other mixed couples Thai man / western woman I know did not last for long, as far as I know.
I will call them Monsieur and Madame Dupont (assumed name). Being former clients of my tour company, I’ve always used the polite French form to address them (M. & Mme.) she was tall and a bit overweight. Her husband slightly shorter, quite skinny and gaunt looking. When I first went to meet the couple at the reception of the small hotel in Patong I remember her coming down some very steep staircases. Backwards! To better balance her weight she explained later without being asked. She ordered her husband into an armchair, then sat down herself in the much larger settee. In my mind it sort of evoked the image of those cartoon drawings were the husband is ordered around by his wife, a menacing rolling pin in hand.
Following my regular, sort of customized company welcome speech, I handed them over to the accompanying guide Rueang, a ;ady whose job was to display, offer and sell various local tours around the island. I saw the Duponts once more before they returned to Switzerland at the end of their holidays. They had obviously enjoyed their time in Phuket as they booked a similar package the following year. Staying at a better class hotel this time, I did not see them that year but talked to them on the phone. The intercontinental flight from ZRH – HKT was pleasant, on time and otherwise uneventful. They were perfectly happy with Rueang taking care should any problems arise during the stay or booking local sightseeing tours.
Things changed when they booked for the third year. The vacation was again upgraded this time to a 3-week sojourn. At first all seemed perfectly normal. But after only a few days M. Dupont called to inform of his immediate return home. We assumed that some family urgency had arisen. Starting to rebook flights M. D called again to say it was only him returning. His wife would stay on as planned. That sounded strange but no other explanation was given. Later on, the hour long airport transfer in the company van the client gave no further explanation and in fact declined to speak at all to the guide seeing him off.
Two years passed by. Then one day driving home from the town office to my house in the Rawai region, near the crossroad to Saphan Hin, a tall, lonely lady was walking along the road. That’s Mme. Dupont said Rueang who was driving the car. Don’t be stupid, she’s twice as large I quipped. Rueang insisted it was her, besides she had seen her before in town twice already. That amazed me. Enough to turn back the car and find out. Rueang was right, it was her. That’s another Thai girl quality, by the way. They don’t forget people and faces. Even after many years. To me when I saw her again she was almost unrecognizable. No longer overweight and dressed in stylish jeans and a t-shirt. Where was she going? Ao-Chalong, she said. That’s a long way, I offered. Please get in the car Mme. D, we can give you a lift. She hesitated just for a moment and then got in. I complemented her on the new look and quite naturally asked the obvious questions. How are you? How is life? Are you on holidays? Where is M. Dupont? Again a short pause before she said, Don’t you know what happened to me?
Somewhat perplexed, I had no answer to that but a truthful no, I have not seen you in several years, Mme. D. Do you want to tell me? The formerly so self-assured woman had a bit of a meltdown then. I invited her to come to my house and talk about whatever problem there was. No, that was not possible but she would agree to stop on the way to Chalong and talk over a drink. Rueang being present that meant of course have a bit of food and drink mostly water, beer for me. We stopped at Kan-Eang Seafood restaurant near Chalong by the sea. It soon became obvious that Mme. D was uncomfortable talking about herself and some possible mistakes she had made. I encouraged her to relax and open up. Eventually she did. For the next half hour I listened to Mme. D’s story. This is basically the concentrated version but using some artistic license or my own assumptions when concerning things she clearly did not want to talk about.
Ironically, she said, it was M. Dupont who first proposed to vacation in Asia. They had gone to the French Riviera the previous year and the Adriatic coast in Italy prior to that. Besides some marital problems had come in the foreground more recently. M. D felt it was time to test their mutual compatibility. To decide once and for all if they would stay together for the rest of their lives. What better than a long voyage to a distant and foreign country to do just that? Mme. Dupont was not enthusiastic at first. Thailand was the sex tourist’s country and for men only. The idea of a far off and exotic holiday in Thailand sounded too wicked at first. But then it was also tempting and had some adventurous flavoring. In the end she agreed.
The first year was good. Plenty of sun, days on the beach, good food, friendly, courteous and helpful people. And what beaches and scenery! A day or two before departing they’d booked a day adventure tour on a make-believe pirate ship named Jolly Roger. Games, drinks, fun all around got them into an exuberant mood. One of the Thai deckhands or maybe animator developed a friendly and intense liking to Mme. D. She enthusiastically reciprocated in the exuberant humor of the day. It was an exciting fun day and the story could have ended here.
After returning home, everyday life soon replaced the holiday mood. It was the advent of the internet, e-mail, mobile or cell phone revolution. Suddenly it became easy to keep in touch with people half a world away. Text messages were exchanged between Chai & Mme. D at first monthly then weekly and later almost daily. Unwittingly, out of the simple crush or fondness resulted an attachment on her part and soon Mme. D started to look forward to their next Asian holiday. When it came the relationship soon developed from the innocent infatuation to the next level. Mme. D was able to sneak away a few times for an afternoon and that was all that was needed to succumb to Chai’s charm. They became lovers. She was in an unhappy marriage, and Chai was in an unfulfilled relationship. Plans were made. They would live together and start anew.
Another year’s separation followed only intensified the feelings. During that time M. D was fed some half-truth and only when they debarked on Phuket the third year did he fully realize what was going on. After an angry scene at the hotel M. D rebooked his flight and returned home.
What followed was a sort of honeymoon for the two lovers. It lasted several months. Then it reality hit. And it hit hard. It seemed all the troubles came at once. M. D had initiated divorce proceedings back home and it soon became apparent that all civil liability would rest on Mme. D’s shoulder having abandoned her husband. Meaning the monetary settlement if any would be meager. Her own savings had almost run dry. Chai didn’t have a regular job and any earnings were soon spent on drink, in karaoke bars and to Mme. D’s unbelievable horror, on young Thai girls. He seemed to take it for granted that it was his right to enjoy some extra fun. On top of all else she was now due to leave the country within a few days to reapply for a new visa.
Thus was Mme. D’s frame of mind when we picked her up on the way to their Chalong home. She would return to the rented house she shared with her lover. Days later she met again with Rueang , confiding in her that she was ill-at-ease talking about her dilemma in my presence. That was perfectly understandable to me. They would meet several more times to sort things out and eventually arranged her return home to Europe. I did not press for details, it was a woman’s dilemma and needed to be handled the girlie way. If nothing else it proves that western woman and Thai woman can become friends. And good friends. That I know as the two continued to exchange e-mails years later. More recently it has become inconsequential banter on Facebook. Or an occasional picture of a beach in Phuket or allusions to some long ago, youthful mistakes!
The author can be contacted at : [email protected]