Stickman's Weekly Column July 8th, 2007

Is The Dollar Killing You?


The US dollar has taken a hammering over the past couple of years. Two years ago, changing US banknotes on the streets of Bangkok would have got you 42 baht for every dollar exchanged. Today, you will get a little over 33 baht. That's a fall in the value of the US dollar of more than 20%.

The US dollar’s decline – and that is what it is, a decline in the dollar as opposed to a strengthening in the baht – has been big news in the mainstream press every day for some time now. The Thai baht is actually down against some currencies, particularly the "commodity currencies", the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars. So while you might hear that the Thai baht is at unrealistically high levels, that relative strength is predominantly when compared with the US dollar and not necessarily relevant to the cross rates with other currencies.

Of course there are both advantages and disadvantages to currency fluctuations. On the positive side, the baht’s strengthening against the US dollar has meant that the price of petrol has remained relatively steady and it is still around 30 baht to the litre. In theory the cost of imported US-manufactured goods may drop but frankly, does the US actually make anything these days? That economy seems to be all about consumer spending and intellectual property – so while the cost of American manufactured goods sold in Thailand may decrease, I personally cannot think of one single thing, American-made, that I personally buy.

For American tourists, Thailand just got a lot more expensive. I guess it's lucky that it was reasonably cheap to begin with.

This is a very narrow look at the effects of currency fluctuation and there are more far-reaching consequences of currency fluctuations including the competitiveness of businesses in one country compared to another and the ability of companies or even governments, to repay loans which may be US dollar denominated.

But I digress. Such is not the focus of this column, nor this particular article. We’re more concerned about Westerners in Thailand and the effects of the dollar's decline on them.

So how is the dollar's dive affecting life on the streets of Bangkok for Americans here? I spoke to a number of Americans this week (Americans make up approximately 40% of the readers of this site) in an effort to establish if the dollar’s sharp fall has resulted in any change in their lives.

The Moneyed Expat

An American living in Thailand for a number of years now, he is one of the lucky ones who has been on a true expat package for much longer than is the norm.

In general, the strengthening of the Thai baht relative to the US dollar has affected him somewhat, but not a lot.

Since he maintains a house in the US and has an American family, most of his on-going expenses are denominated in US dollars. The primary costs are house maintenance and paying for his child’s college fund. He estimates that he has about $3,000 per month in US expenses.

Since he's on an expat package, his employer pays for housing (including utilities), car (including gas, maintenance, tolls, etc), driver and maid. His child's schooling is covered too.

All he is responsible for is food (for which he receives a cost of living adjustment allowance), clothes, shopping, and entertainment.

He believes that the main effect is being more price conscious when shopping and entertaining. When he sees a bill, be it for clothes, a restaurant bill, movie tickets, etc, he usually converts it to USD now, something he didn't do before, and finds himself thinking "wow, that's expensive!" Like many of us, he used to think that most things (other than electronics) in Thailand were a lot cheaper than the US, but that's not the case now at all.

In summary, he has slightly reduced his discretionary spending, but not by much.

The Teacher

A long term English teacher in the Land Of Smiles, he works at one of the big name international schools. His salary is much higher than your typical language teacher.

OK, so he is on a better deal than most, but he is still an English teacher. The dollar's decline has put him in a most unusual situation in that he now earns more in Thailand than he would in the US!

He has often thought about ending his time away from the States and returning to his roots, but with his earnings now greater than what he expects he would earn at home, he is in no hurry.

In fact his plan now – quite different to how it was when he first came to Thailand – is to save his pennies so that when he returns to the US he may have a reasonable sum to take home with him!

In terms of day to day living, he is now trying to spend a little less and is conscious about saving money and sending it home while the rate is good. But then he has to wonder, should he send it home now, or wait a bit longer. Another 10% movement and it'll be getting close to 30 baht to the dollar! When he first came here it was 43 baht to the dollar!

The Modest Retiree

One of my favourite people in all of Thailand, he retired to Thailand a few years back, settling into a pleasant, but relatively quiet life in Fun City.

Since relocating to Pattaya from the US six years ago, he has remained constantly aware of the dollar-baht exchange rate. Actually, the first thing he did – and still does – each morning was check online or on TV to see what he could expect should he elect to withdraw baht from his US bank account that day. For most of his first couple of years here, that ritual was more a matter of curiosity. Fluctuations seemed inconsequential and movement seemed to be up and down for both currencies. The exchange rate had little bearing on his lifestyle or spending habits.

But then the dollar dipped below 40 baht for the first time in years. That caught his attention! In fact, that’s when he began to withdraw baht from his local savings account instead of using the ATM to withdraw from his US dollar account. He thought he’d wait it out until the dollar edged above 40 again. It wasn’t to happen.

Over the past three years, he's just about tapped out his reserves of Thai baht (and, unfortunately, will be forced to replenish that account before he tries to renew his one-year visa. He doesn’t even want to think what the exchange rate will be then).

He has been forced over the last year or so to withdraw from his dollar account at exchange rates ranging from 38 to 36; then down to 35 and 34 over the last few months. And now, the real shocker, just this past week the dollar reached a 10-year low dipping to 33.9 baht.

He's not moving out of his sea view apartment or selling any assets. But he's changed his mind about buying a car or even a less expensive pick-up truck. As recently as last Spring he and his lady were talking about buying a vehicle to allow them to make frequent visits to see her family. Such a major expenditure is now out of the question. So are the frequent visits. In fact, he's also dismissed any plans for flying back to the States anytime soon. And he won't renew his health club membership. When he last paid his one-year membership, it cost a discounted rate of 19,000 baht (then about $500 US). This year, not only has the club raised its annual fee from 24,000 baht to 38,000 baht, but with the devalued dollar, membership renewal would now cost the equivalent of $1,121 (compared to $500 last year!)

While one wouldn't say they are economising beyond abandoning luxuries and major expenditures, he has become a bit more frugal in his thinking – if not in his spending. He continues to eat well and shop for whatever day to day purchases he wants or needs, but might not order that more expensive Australian steak in a restaurant, or might not buy that striking shirt that he really doesn’t need. At home he seems to use overhead fans more and the air conditioning less.

Because he has the benefit of some local income – which helps pay bills and allows him to reduce the amount he withdraws from his US bank, he has not been hit as much as it has some of his friends who retired young, thinking that $200,000 – then the equivalent of 8.4 million baht – would last a lifetime in Pattaya. But now that $200,000 nest egg is worth only 6.7 million baht. Still a hefty sum, but with no additional income, his pals are forced now to map out long-term budgets for the future.

It should be noted that for those guys wishing to retire in Thailand, you need to show, amongst other things, a local savings account with 800,000 baht or an income at a certain level, 65,000+ baht per month, if I am not mistaken. You would now need more capital, or to have simply saved more money, to be producing that kind of income. If you were borderline on the financial requirements to retire in Thailand, you might now find yourself short. For once it is not the Thai government making things difficult but the international money markets!

The Local Businessman

An American businessman with a successful medium-sized business, his customers are predominantly Westerners – and a percentage of them are Americans.

Fortunately he is a successful businessman and while his business is suffering like others, it being the middle of the (s)low season, the dollar's decline has not directly affected him, not even a little, although with that said he just hopes it doesn't decline much more.

What I did find interesting is that he really doesn't think the decline in the value of the US dollar has had a negative effect on his customers. About 30% of his business is American and he has had no complaints about the decline in value of the baht versus the dollar.

The only thing positive he sees is that it makes US made goods cheaper, which really doesn't affect him or anyone he knows.

He is very much an optimist, always looking at the glass as half full – or perhaps he is being naive? But given that he still has Social Security that he will get in a year and a half, that is over and above his current earnings, he is lucky in that he is not dependant on those dollars alone.

The other issue he has heard is that some Americans have commented that he must be doing well since the baht is so strong. They don't understand that yes, he gets paid in baht, but he also pays for all his goods and services in baht, so there is no advantage to him directly, or the business.

Summary

A friend of a friend in the US says he has cancelled plans to visit Thailand next month due to a combination of higher air fares and the lower dollar. Another friend of a friend was to have vacationed here for two months but has rescheduled. He will spend one week in Thailand and the rest of the two months in Cambodia and the Philippines.

The dollar is also weaker against the Philippine peso, but only by 10% (it was about 50 pesos to the dollar a year ago and now it is just above 45), and prices have apparently largely remained unchanged there – but not so here it must be said.

The US dollar's dramatic, but not unexpected, fall has changed the way many Americans in Thailand think about their spending. The most dramatic change has been for retirees. With the US dollar now worth 20% less against the baht, their income and their savings have essentially dropped by 20% too. For those guys who had a significant buffer it will not have caused a headache, but for anyone who retired early, or perhaps had not thought things through carefully, this could prove to be rather stressful.

If nothing else, the fall of the dollar shows how vulnerable retirees in foreign countries are. It does also create opportunity and I have little doubt that some will profit from it.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was of the steps leading up to a bar in Patpong Soi 2. There are four prizes each week and the first four people to identify where the picture above was taken and email me with the answer win a prize. You can choose from a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod OR a 500 baht credit at Lennie's OR a 500 baht credit at Catz Gogo OR a 500 baht credit at Octopussy Bar in Hua Hin. Each of the prize providers is in a different area so please specify which prize you would prefer. Oh My Cod – Khao San Road area. Lennie's – Pattaya. Catz – Pattaya. Octopussy – Hua Hin. This week's picture is back in Bangkok.

FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II)

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The 2 inch bible.

Your reporting on the forward ticket is a little off. When I first came to Thailand I worked for an airline and there is a 2 inch thick handbook of rules that the airlines must abide by. The rules are made from treaties and conventions of all the countries in the world that have airports and all airline companies have to abide by them. The forward ticket part is required BUT it's up to the airlines to enforce the rule. It's not a Thai rule, it's everywhere. Myself and 4 or 5 other guys were hired to be at the check in counters and the ticket agents would signal us if they found a dodgy passport, visa or no forward onwards ticket. The rule book is the bible for all airlines because not only do they have to transport the offender back, the airlines themselves are fined huge fines, something in the order of $20,000 – $25,000 US per person with problems, not the passenger themselves. The rules are simply staggering in their complexity and the rule book has many amendments, subsections, and revisions it takes a few WEEKS going through it just to be able to get a basic understanding of it, even for a former police officer like myself who is used to working with laws and subsections everyday. The rulebook is updated a couple of times a week and the start of every shift you have to brief the incoming guys on "changes to the book". It's the result of years of fights and spats between countries and like anything done by committee it's fxxxxd up. So the bottom line is that prior to this someone was lack in enforcing the rules but now if even the travel agents are getting into the act it's probably the airlines that are behind the local push, not the Thais.

A no brain extended holiday?

I believe if foreigners went to discreet massage places like the Thais do, our image would be up 100%. Most of the bad image of foreigners in Thailand 'we' make ourselves. Take away Khao San Road, Nana, Cowboy and Patpong and you would have a completely different world out there. Of course I know the Thais want us to go there and they are not serious about eliminating sex tourism since they know very well that it keeps the country alive. Thailand boomed on natural resources (including its women) and cheap labour. They do not WANT to educate their people (which means they would have to distribute their wealth more equally) and that is what it would take for the next step. This is the best Thailand can go for the next 2 generations. What they have now is a hell of a lot University students with degrees, but no competitive knowledge. These people do not want to do real work. Everybody wants to be PR or marketing. There is absolutely no base for further growth (in terms of becoming first world – not growth in terms of turnover) in the country. In Malaysia I see how limited the Thais are. Even a Malay supermarket cashier can speak better English and knows more about the world than a Thai university student. Living in Thailand is only nice if you want to have a no brain extended holiday.

Thumbs up for the massage parlours, thumbs down for Nana.

Couldn't agree more with this week’s piece. I lived in Bangkok from 1994 – 1997 and a great deal of fun could be had at the naughty nightlife areas but now it really has become pretty crap. I was sitting at Big Dogs about two weeks ago watching the talent go into work and I just thought to myself, who would want to sleep with women like this and pay for it (I know I did once). Most of them are hard-faced, unfriendly looking creatures with bad attitude hanging out of them. I find it disturbing watching extremely well- heeled Japanese businessmen getting out of their hotel minibuses in search of these creatures. Since I've been married I find myself at Rachada quite often and I have to say I enjoy myself ten times more than I ever did at Cowboy or Nana and the women are ten times better to look at also. Have to say I still enjoy Pattaya and I reckon most guys that go there can still get the girlfriend experience.

Keeping the best for themselves!

You were so right about massage parlours that cater to Thais. A friend took me to a venue – which shall remain nameless – having only Thai men as customers. Never knew the place existed, never could have found it. At 5:30 PM the clientele consisted of Thais in business clothes, some working on their laptops. We were the ONLY farang in the joint. In the "fish bowl" were about 30 gorgeous girls, great bodies, all with pale complexions that Thais seem to prefer. The talent was a far cry from the massage parlours along Sukhumvit, and especially the gogos, where I personally think the talent is the worst in years. Do the Thais keep the best looking babes for themselves? Oh yeah!

Mister, passport not real!

Your revelation about a 70-year old being told there was a passport irregularity reminded me of when I was leaving the country last year and I was sent to a desk and told the same thing. I asked what was wrong with it and they said it was a fake. Actually, it had just been issued at the embassy in Bangkok. They were obviously looking for a donation, but once I got my camera out of my bag everything was okay again. Strange, that. The thing is, they don't care. It doesn't affect them directly and, as we know, thinking of tomorrow is alien to the Thais. I got the idea about the camera from something you wrote, if I remember correctly, about people being shaken down near National Stadium BTS.

No hand wash, no problem!

Funny you should mention sanitary conditions among the food vendors. Late one night last week, as I passed by the escalator to Asoke skytrain station, the big fat male cook at a street food stall on the corner of Soi 19 was taking a leak back behind the escalator. He finished up as I walked past. I don't think there were any facilities for washing his hands.

Popular Pattaya-based bar manager Ricky has acquired Honey A Gogo on Walking Street, right beside Soi Diamond. It will be renovated and completely changed and it is hoped that it will open in early September. Ricky will be giving up his services in FLB Bar at the end of the month – so anyone wanting to buy him a drink had better swing by and see him soon.

I go in there so infrequently these days that this might not be something new, but I'm sure that drinks prices in the Thermae have crept up. Just crept up. They are still miles away from the astronomical prices charged by bars in Nana – with the exception of Cathouse and The Big Mango where a good deal can be had.

And another bar worth checking out if you are sensitive to the price of a beer, is Twins Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 23. This relatively new bar, not to be confused with the similarly named Siamese Twins, also has beer at much more reasonable prices than the over priced beer houses around the corner on Cowboy.

Quiet, quieter…and bankrupt? The bars of Cowboy were very quiet this past week, so quiet in fact that if it continues at this rate some bars may be in financial bother. OK, so some of the big bars were doing well but the majority weren't doing much trade at all. The lull of the low season continues.

In the Nana area no news is bad news right now and it has to be said that just about everywhere is quiet. Even the usually busy Morning Night and Hillary 2 Bar are suffering – and the star of them all, Big Dogs, seemingly always has plenty of free seats. I would suggest the lousy weather has a lot to do with it with the wettest, most unsettled June and July this decade.

In a wrap up of the Cowboy bars, it must be re-iterated that Raw Hide is worth a look, as is Shark, which has some very pleasant eye candy. Our Place seems bouncing with energy but I really do not like the new layout. What was Pam's Bar, sigh, is now covered up and work is moving ahead on what will be an extension to Baccarra. I wonder what happened to Pam?

Rumours in Soi 33 say that Tenderloins has been sold. I tried to seek confirmation but was unable to. Tenderloins has great steaks and burgers – so if the rumour of a sale is true, I hope nothing changes.

Bob from the Office Bar is building a 60 room hotel in the old car park next to that bar in the soi and from all accounts, construction is going ahead at a good pace.

And one of the soi 33 highlights of the month will be held next Saturday when Livingstone's host the monthly maids' party which sees all of their 40 odd girls dressed in maids uniforms. There will also be sexy coyote dancing and a free snack buffet.

Another bar is opening opposite the Swan Inn Pool Hall. It's called something like No. 5 and is said to be a coyote bar.

We're getting rain, consistently, everyday at this time. And it's not just Bangkok. Down in Pattaya it rained so heavily mid week that parts of the city were flooded and under water. So much for all the work the city has been doing on new pipes for the drainage system. I guess they'll just have to dig up the roads again and put in even larger pipes!

Next Saturday is the 9 Ball tournament at the Ball In Hand 2 at Times Square. It is free to enter for anyone (register before 2 PM) who played in the league, either 8 or 9 ball, last season. There are lots of prizes to be won, from bottles of liquor to T-shirts and free meals in some of the participating bars. It's a great day out with the best pool players in Bangkok all assembled under one roof. The draw is weighted in such a way that the less able players have a chance to progress through to the later rounds.

The other branch of the Ball in Hand in Soi 4 has free wi-fi (which actually comes from Sin Bar). They also have a happy hour promotion available Monday to Friday from 2:00 – 5:30 PM – buy two local beers and get a third free. Plus every hour of pool gets an extra 30 minutes free. Pool is 240 baht per hour, calculated on a minute by minute basis e.g. half an hour costs 120 baht.

And if you want to improve your game, Ball in Hand has two certified coaches who can help anyone, from beginner to expert. A 90 minute lesson costs 1,000 baht and that includes a free drink and another hour to practice what you've just learnt. Goodness only knows how many hours I would need to improve…enough to bankrupt me I should think.

The oh my God award for the cheapest Charlie in town comes from an increasingly popular bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4. A guy entered the bar for the free pool promotion and ordered a bottle of water for which they charge a perfectly reasonable 30 baht. The customer poured some of the water into a glass of ice and sipped it for, get this, 2 ½ hours! At 6 PM, that is the point at which pool is no longer free, he asked the staff to drain the remaining water back into the bottle and took it home with him! If that wasn't bad enough, he returned the next day carrying the same half bottle and asked for a glass of ice! When the manager refused his request he retorted, "I'll take my business elsewhere!" Wouldn't you love to be a bar manager!

I was appalled at a conversation I overheard in Shark Bar on Friday night. I could not help but laugh to myself and the good Dr. J, my regular Friday night drinking buddy. There I was, watching the eye candy, and enjoying some good conversation with the good doctor when I could not help but overhear the conversation next to me. An older British gentleman had a lovely on his lap and was telling her, in passable Thai (which suggests he has been here a while and should know better), how he was a teacher, but he was not one of the bottom of the barrel teachers, but a teacher at a particular establishment, no less. He must have said the name of the place 20 times. I could not help but laugh. Pal, get over it. She doesn't care what the hell you do, so long as you give her plenty of folding stuff in the morning.

I'm going to show my complete ignorance here and say that what I always thought was a disease for cattle, foot and mouth disease, is now doing the rounds in Bangkok. I kid you not! A number of cases have been reported in the farang community. You learn something new every day…

Now this is the heart of tropical Asia I know, so I guess I should not really be too surprised, but living a fair few storeys up in the sky I have to wonder just how all of the creepy crawlies get up here. In my apartment, and it is kept very clean I can assure you, I have found all manner of insects, most of which I have no idea what they are. I even heard the other day that a snake was found in the building. Just how do these pests get up so far I wonder?

This week a friend did his latest visa run to Ban Laem with Jack’s Golf and was very surprised that the police will now sell you a bus ticket for the meager sum of 200 baht "to help you meet your requirement for tourist visas." On the bus they passed around a clipboard that you indicated if you were paying 2,000 or 2,200 baht – the extra 200 for the bus ticket. Jack would collect the money and conduct the transaction. He suspects the bus was very much like the one in the Harry Potter movie. There were only a few names in the 2,000 baht column.

Chris over at Adventure Travel Blog has decided to sell his Bangkok based Internet marketing website. This post on his blog has more info.


Thai dating at ThaiFriendly.com

I enjoy wandering around the old part of town, down by the river, where all of the temples are, and then making my way up to Khao San Road for some decent food. YES, there are plenty of places to get good food in the area. But what I saw on Khao San Road this week shocked me. There was a farang female who had inadvertently (?) bought one of the yellow bandanas from nearby Sanam Luang where protestors were out in full force. The bandana clearly had a message in Thai telling the current prime minister to "fxxx off". What on earth was she thinking?! I get incredibly annoyed by the Khao San Road lot criticising the Sukhumvit lot who are altogether a different type of traveller. The biggest difference between the two, in my opinion, is that the Sukhumvit crowd have a much better idea of what is going on in Thailand and would not put their foot in it like this. Approaching this woman and asking her if she knew what the bandana meant and what do you know, she had no idea! When I told her she called me a liar. You stupid, stupid woman!

We hear many stories about Thai women, not just bargirls, but the so called normal or regular girls, having a propensity for going crazy when things don’t go their way in a relationship with a Western guy. Well it is not just the Thai women who have the propensity to go nuts but Thai men too. Chatting with a gay guy – something I do not do too often – he confirmed that Thai men in relationships with gay farangs are just the same! I heard a dreadful story about an estranged Thai homosexual attacking his former beau with a large knife. Hey, at least for us straight guys we only have a woman to deal with – a bloke with a knife might present more difficulty! But in all seriousness, there is something in all of this, something in the psyche. Articulating it, however, isn’t easy.

I don't like to promise new things on this site because in the past new parts were promised and never eventuated. But this new one might just get off the ground. Miss Udon has suggested that she would like to do more than answer questions and actually write her own section. I am giving her every bit of encouragement I can so here's hoping it will actually happen!

There was a good article on the BBC website recapping the Asian economic crash, this week marking its 10th anniversary.

This article appeared in today's Nation about internet and increasing sexuality in Thai society although I think it's a narrow analysis that misses a lot of major factors.

And here is a great link for an ad for the Yellow Pages in the land of kangaroos which has a Thai slant on it – well worth checking out!

Miss Udon is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Feel free to send questions in for her to answer and get the perspective of a Thai female. You and I may well disagree with what she says. The purpose of this section is to provide a Thai woman's perspective!

Question 1: I am retired and living in suburban Bangkok. Due to unforeseen circumstances my monthly budget has dropped to below 50,000 baht. I would very much like to find a nice Thai woman to spend time with although I have had bad luck and the women I meet (not women from the red light bars) don't seem to respect my financial limitations. I am a rather youthful looking 58 years old and am not looking for a supermodel 20 year old. I would be quite happy with a good hearted 40 year old woman but I am struggling to meet many women's expectations. It all comes down to money. In fact I often wonder how the average English teacher gets on. I earn more than the average teacher but the demands for gifts and the desire to always order the most expensive item on the menu mean that I struggle to maintain a relationship. My question is this: Is 48,000 baht a month enough for me to find a nice woman to share a life with?

Miss Udon says: Finding a nice lady it's not depends on how much money you earn each month. We Thai girls can fall in love with a guy who is earning less than you do, if that guy is our type. True that we like young handsome, nice, gentle and rich guy but the fact is this kind of guy does not exist. So we open mind, if you are a good guy and looking for woman 40 years old I think it is not so hard. I have suggestion, if you want a good heart lady who you want to spend the rest of your life without lies and you don't mind to live like local guy. I think you better go up country. There are many ladies who you looking for. I did not say that you can not find them in town I just think it is easier that's all.

Question 2: My lady friend, a mature woman of 40, accused me of lying – a feature of Thai culture that really is like a red rag to a bull, in my eyes – so I said, 'Up to you! My question to Miss Udon is: Is this automatic belief in our deceitful ways the result of Thai women's lifelong experience of disreputable MEN, or is it aimed just at farangs… or both of the above. If it is innate, what hope do ANY of us have…!?

Miss Udon says: I think lying is a personal choice and not something which happens with everyone. Some people lie all their life but some never even say one word wrong. So I can not say that whether it is innate or not. I know most Thai girls are liars. But it is not what we want to do. We just don't know our guys will believe what we said or not and maybe an embarrassing story makes us afraid to tell the truth so we choose to lie. We feel bad about lying but when we tell the truth things just turn bad and often when we tell a lie things turn good. That results in us continuing to lie. You do have a hope if you find out your girl is lying. I would like you to be patient and teach her. Make her learn that what she has been doing is not the right thing. Don't give up with us. Honestly we are not that bad.

Question 3: My fiancé is a very sincere and sweet and good woman but her childlike demeanour (even at age 32 years) sometimes manifests itself in acting like a brat. She often overreacts about what I think are simply stupid things e.g. today she stormed from my home because I hugged my dog before hugging her. I get these stupid tantrums every week. I knew she was like this when we first met, two years ago but I also thought she would mature as she entered into her first relationship. I have always tried to do the right thing. I help her family financially. I don't pursue other women, even when we were separated for months. I purchased a home in the USA and another in Thailand. She states that she loves me and wishes to be with me, but she seems to expect me to live as a poor Thai. To be perfectly honest, I am tired of this aspect of her behaviour and am thinking we may not make a lasting couple. After all, life offers plenty of complexity without making it ourselves. And I can find plenty of women in the USA and Thailand who have more education, money, and independence. My goal is to eventually relocate to Thailand and now I frequently wonder if we should simply cut ties and separate. I can find someone with a more open mind when I live in Thailand, and perhaps she would be better suited to a life in Isaan (even one that I know will be more difficult).

Miss Udon says: I understand your situation, as I mentioned in my answer last two weeks we are sensitive girls. I think she just need you to teach her, to calm her down and maybe let her know that you don't like some of the things she does. We are smart but sometimes we can be so stupid. We have a good heart but sometimes we just can not control our temperature. Honestly, we don't want to make any problems, we just want attention and we like being liked. That's why she got upset when you hugged your dog before hugging her. I bet she is learning how to be with you, as you said you can find any girl who is better than her. Please note that she may think the same thing. It doesn't mean that you are not good enough but she just wants to stop her sadness and being upset that you don't think she is as special as your dog or somebody else.

For people planning to retire in Thailand, particularly people planning to retire early, the dollar's fall is a reminder of how we need to very carefully plan our retirement, and consider all contingencies. The world economy might be going well at this point in time, but it goes in cycles and we all know it won't be too long before something gives somewhere. Interesting times we live in, interesting times.



Yours,

Stick Mark II