I returned to Phuket in November for 4 weeks. My girlfriend picked me up from the airport in her brand new car at 6.30 PM. She hasn’t got her license yet but it’s OK she says, she just hasn’t paid for it. The important thing is that she passed the practical and theory test.
So we drive out of the airport and on to the main road and she is driving 30 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. I say something is wrong with the car, pull over. I explain to her that M does not mean automatic. M means manual, and she had driven 25 km to the airport in first gear. It was peak hour so she was lucky she did not blow the engine. I show her how to put it in D for drive, and how to turn on the interior lights and radio.
She missed the turnoff to Patong so we have to do a u-turn on Phuket’s busiest road. She asks me to drive so we swap. I make a sharp right turn into a small lane and do a 3-point turn. There’s a crashing sound behind me. People ran out because I tipped someone’s bike over, possibly a domino effect. I get out and bow, apologizing politely. We offer money but no damage has been done, except for a 1 cm scratch on our car. I hadn’t driven 50 metres and I had crashed my girlfriend’s brand new car!
Thais are good people, very fair. The owner of the bike was sorry our car was damaged and even my red-blooded Thai girlfriend didn’t complain. But when I missed the turn off to Patong I started to wonder if life in Thailand was really as stress-free as I thought while sitting on the plane a few hours earlier.
We settled in to our studio apartment and while she went to work every day at 4 PM, I visited my Thai friends at the Reggae Bar on Beach Road. I took two of them to my favourite massage shop and was shocked to be told afterwards that 3 of the 4 girls were ladyboys. I really hoped the pretty one I like was the odd one out. I always tell her how attractive she is. She could be a model if she used make-up.
The next day an English ex-pat was showing me through a 5 million baht house he was trying to sell me just off Nan-Nai Road. As we stood outside chatting I told him about my massage experience. He reliably informed me that the English ex-pat community in Phuket has reached the consensus view that getting sucked off by a ladyboy doesn’t mean you’re gay. I was a little shocked. What made him think I got a blowjob? I have a girlfriend so I don’t need to pay strangers. I could see his logic. But the question I want answered, and maybe the Stickman community can assist, is whether this view is supported generally, or is it just limited to the English? And it begs the question, what if you knew she was a ladyboy before she did the deed?
As I walked home pondering this deep moral question I saw a bucket shop. I’ve never bought a bucket in a bucket shop before, and would you believe it, I needed a bucket. I like to wash my girlfriend’s white clothes separately so she looks smart at work. So I invested $2.40 in a sturdy green plastic bucket.
I hadn’t walked 50 metres when someone asked, “Why you carry bucket?” I shrug and say in Thai, “to wash clothes”. Why else do you buy a bucket?
100 metres later at the next motorbike rank they ask, “Hey, why you carry bucket.” I say in Thai, “If I get drunk I can vomit in the bucket” They’re confused but it sounds plausible so they give me the benefit of the doubt.
200 metres later, “Hey man, why you carry bucket?” I reply, “If I meet a girl and I don’t like her face I can put it on her head.” Finally, I get a laugh!
500 metres later some friends (2 ladies and a guy about 55 years old) invite me in to eat fish & peanuts, and drink beer & whisky. Half an hour later I get up to leave. “Why you carry bucket?”, they ask.
I hesitate over which option to give them. I can’t decide, so I just say, “I’m not sure whether it is to vomit into if I get drunk, or if I meet a girl and I don’t like her face I can put it on her head.” What I said was really impolite and there is a stunned silence. Then they burst out laughing and I quietly take my leave.
Wow! I can finally communicate with Thais in their own language. A milestone achieved. I have spoken a conditional sentence, weighed up two options and included five verbs.
I arrive at our lane and the lady fish seller asks, “Why you carry bucket?” I reply once again at length, “I am not sure….to vomit in….or to put on a lady’s head.”
She goes in to shock, her mouth agape like a dead fish, but the guy sitting on the steps of the 7 Eleven laughs uncontrollably, slapping his knee for good effect.
I go in to the 7 Eleven and the cashier asks immediately, “Why you…?” He was a guy so I felt safe giving him the long version. I reply in my most practiced and dramatic Thai ever, “I am not sure…” When I finish waving the bucket in the air to demonstrate he is left staring speechlessly.
I turn around to buy milk & bread and there standing before me is a line of four teenage girls who work in 7 Eleven. They are in shock, either because I speak Thai, or more probably, because of what I said. I can hear them thinking, “Maybe that is what Farang really think of Thai girls?” Are they really be so despicable to carry a vomit bucket, let alone even consider putting it on a girls head, The head is very sacred for Thais. For example the physical name for the heart organ is composed of two of the most common nouns in Thai, namely, Head (Hua) and Spirit (Jai).
I say I am only joking as I leave, but it is too late. I went one step too far.
Feeling guilty, I have decided to compensate for my many social sins in Thailand by buying 1 Bitcoin cent for each of my Thai friends. A Bitcoin cent is 1% of a Bitcoin, about $100 US. Giving money is a sign of love and respect in Thailand, and it’s the one thing I have that they want. I hope one day a Bitcoin will reach $1 million so that 1 Bitcoin cent will grow to $10,000.
Or I may buy them OmiseGo, Thailand’s applied version of Bitcoin. It’s backed by a group of Chinese, Japanese, US and Singapore players in conjunction with K-Bank Thailand and McDonalds in Thailand and goes live in 2018. They hope to capture the Thai, Malaysia and Indonesian market with a seamless payment system that can be used by the mobile phone savvy consumer who doesn’t have a Thai bank account and credit card. Ordinary people just like me, and a 100 million others in South-East Asia.
On Friday my girlfriend and I have to drive back to the airport to collect $800 off a Chinese wedding group on arrival. They have booked island trips but haven’t paid yet and we don’t want them to cancel and lose the sale. Hopefully one day they can pay with Bitcoin, or another crypto currency. No more excuses, “Sorry, no have credit card. No have PayPal.”
So that’s it from me. You can read a summary of my first three years in Thailand here.