The first Thai phrase I learned that stuck was mia noi. Literally, it translates as minor wife, or what in English we’d call a mistress. The mia noi phenomenon is common in Thailand and sometimes I wonder how the country has enough females for so many Thai men to have a mia noi.
First things first, while the terms mia noi and gig are sometimes used interchangeably, they are very different. A gig is a very casual arrangement – a fxxk buddy to put it bluntly – where there is no expectation of commitment or exclusivity. A gig may develop in to something more formal but it’s not so common. A mia noi, however, is exactly those two things – she is both committed to her man, and exclusive to him.
A mia noi is expected to be on, as the Thais so cutely put it, “standby”. He might meet her once or twice a week. Some men may spend almost as much time with his mia noi as he does with his legal wife.
In return for her commitment to him and being exclusive to him, a mia noi gets money and gifts. An integral part of a mia noi arrangement is that money and valuables flow from him to her.
So to keep a mia noi, you need money – you already have a wife, after all, and probably kids too – and now you’re keeping another woman on the side. That costs!
Generally speaking, the poor and the lower middle class won’t have a mia noi because they don’t have the finances to maintain one.
Keeping a mia noi seems most common amongst the wealthy and super wealthy, and also seems rather popular with older public servants in senior positions, if casual observations are anything to go by.
Senior public servants may flirt with younger members of their team / department / organisation. It will be no secret that he has a wife and family already. His unsubtle signaling that he is interested in her comes with the understanding that if she puts out, he will pay up. It might be a one-off or it might be that he is looking for something more permanent.
As an aside, this is one reason some young, pretty Thai graduates are reluctant to take a job in the public service. Once highly desirable jobs (due to the fact that government officials get a generous pension when they retire), younger Thai women may shirk such positions these days as they avoid dealing with old lecherous bosses hitting on them.
I used to be of the impression that a mia noi was like a job and that mia nois come from a poor and / or troubled background, like most prostitutes in Thailand do. But with mia nois that’s generally not the case at all. Mia nois come from all strata of society.
Some women who end up as a mia noi work in decent and sometimes very high paying jobs.
So how does someone with a high-paying job end up as a mia noi?
She may meet the married man through work, perhaps not at the company she works for but at one her company does business with. The business relationship becomes a personal relationship but as he is already married, it cannot be a typical relationship. It turns in to a mia noi arrangement. He wishes for her to be available to him sexually – and exclusively – but he cannot give her what she is looking for in return so the money, gifts and maintenance of her lifestyle he provides compensates her for that.
In addition to businesswomen, there are popular actresses, well-known singers, TV newsreaders, business owners and beauty pageant winners amongst those who are, or at some point have been, someone’s mia noi. Women doing very well for themselves and who certainly don’t need the money may become someone’s mia noi.
A mia noi arrangement is not just an affair. These women are being compensated, and not just with the odd romantic dinner, chocolates or flowers. There is money involved – and in some cases it’s big money.
And unlike some Western men in Thailand who have this habit Thai men find perplexing of turning a former sex worker in to a mia noi (more than a few long-term farang expats are keeping a Miss Bacarra or a Miss Billboard on the side away from their wife), this is not at all common with Thai men. A mia noi is more likely to be, say, a bank teller, than a former massage parlour employee.
I found it hard to get my head around the idea that many mia nois actually have money. They may have a career and be doing ok for themselves financially and some may even have a public profile or even celebrity status, yet they still become a mia noi.
I used to think that being a mia noi is a job. While there is money in it – and usually more than enough to live on – now I think a mia noi arrangement is more a lifestyle choice than a job per se.
Mia nois can be kept very well. That single, ever so attractive Thai lady who lives alone in a high-end condo may be someone’s bit on the side, with all expenses paid for. The condo might have been bought for her in her name. If he is wealthy, she will almost certainly get a car – and don’t be surprised if it’s European. Shopping trips – and not just to Paragon or Emquartier, but – to Hong Kong and Singapore are quite common (and being away from Thailand offers a certain freedom away from prying eyes). Wealthy Thai men often take their mia nois on weekends away around the region.
Out and about in Bangkok you might see an older man with a much younger, nicely made up woman where clearly they’re not blood relatives. It might be that she is his mia noi. But the higher his profile, the less likely you will see them together in public – or if you do, often there will be other members of his staff / team present too so she sort of blends in with the group and could be mistaken for a personal assistant.
A mia noi may genuinely like the guy, love him even. And that is when things can become complicated.
Perhaps the biggest misconception I hear about mia noi arrangements in expat circles is that Thai women don’t mind if her husband has a bit on the side so long as it is not public knowledge and she does not lose face. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Very few Thai women would accept their husband keeping another woman. A small number may be pragmatic and not kick up a stink. She mightn’t want to upset other members of the family or let the situation be known lest she lose face. For most Thai women, if they learned that their husband had a mia noi there would be hell to pay!
Just watch the Thai news to see what happens when a wife discovers her husband had been keeping another lady. Video clips of vicious cat fights can be entertaining at first, until you think of the emotions involved and then it’s not so funny. A raging Thai woman is as dangerous as a wild animal.
A mia noi arrangement is not merely an affair and not just sexual, it is the keeping another woman with the transfer of (usually a lot of) money to the mia noi. She may get a house / condo, a vehicle and monthly stipend, although only a small percentage of Thai men can afford to keep someone in such extravagance. It is this transfer of money (from the family) to another women which causes the sort of outrage which goes far beyond her husband simply having sex with another woman.
So why do some women become mia nois? Is it all about money?
For some women, it just happens. For others, being a mia noi helps them keep their options open. They don’t see it as a permanent thing (although it can be hard to extricate herself from it). She doesn’t have to give in to the social pressure of settling down. And in her own mind, how can she when the man she is involved with already has a wife and family? More young Thai women, especially in Bangkok, are choosing – even if subconsciously – not to settle down.
Some mia noi arrangements mightn’t last long. Others can last a lifetime. Some men even have children with their mia noi and essentially keep two families.
Is it a mia noi arrangement or is it a mia noi relationship? Whichever term you prefer, these men have feelings for the lady and it’s not just about sex. And over time, the mia noi can develop strong feelings for the man and genuinely love him.
The whole mia noi thing is complicated. It took me a long time to get my head around the nuances and complexities and I’m still learning. A mia noi is much more than just a mistress.
Last week’s photo was taken outside the iconic entranceway to CheckInn99 which was still there when I was last in town. It should be noted that between me taking that photo and last week’s column being published, a metal fence went up across the front of the shophouses on that part of Sukhumvit so the entranceway can no longer be seen (but is believed to still be partially intact, at least at this point in time).
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
When the bloom came off the tulip.
You reminded me of my vacation travels to the Netherlands. Beginning in the late 1990’s, I would visit Amsterdam about 4 times per year. Flights were reasonable, and the USD vs. the Guilder exchange rate was consistently good because the Dutch kept their currency weak to facilitate trade. The Dutch people were congenial and welcoming. Times were good! Enter the common currency, the Euro. Overnight the exchange rate worsened, and then prices on the ground began to rise considerably; to equalize with other developed European countries. It had the effect of a double negative and my average trip price about doubled in one year. The red-light districts and soft drug culture were suddenly under renewed scrutiny. But almost worst of all, the Dutch became grumblers due to their new paradigm, and who could blame them really. I tried less and shorter trips, less expensive accommodations, and more frugal spending in country. But the bloom was coming off the Amsterdam tulip. I did some research and Thailand (long flights aside) was a much cheaper alternative, so I made the destination switch. I am seeing many of the same forces affecting Thailand now, albeit at a slower but undeniably steady pace. But IMO the biggest hit would be the erosion of the legendary Land of Smiles hospitality aka Thainess.
Increasing airfares and hotels a big part of it.
I think part of the reason we’re now seeing increases in prices that seem unsustainable to Westerners is because of the high costs just to get to Bangkok and stay before you spend a penny. I live in Singapore and go to Bangkok for long weekends whenever I can. My flight and hotel costs as close to nothing ($100 low-cost carrier airfares are common and hotels are equally cheap) so when I hit the ground I have spent little and almost all my costs are pure spending money. I’d probably be far more price-sensitive if I’d already spent thousands for my flight and accommodation! Maybe this is why Chinese / Japanese think less of overpaying?
Be grateful for the memories.
I am afraid the Thailand that we fell in love with has lost its charm and the magic is gone. It has for me anyways. I know that if Thailand was the same as it was in 2003 when I first went I would still be living there. My Thai wife and I enjoy living in Canada and have a great life here living in a small town on Vancouver Island. As you say, the prices are way up in Thailand so we think twice about going back for a visit. Too bad but that is life, things change. I guess we just need to be grateful that we could enjoy those special times when we did. There is no going back to what it was but we do have the memories and the experiences.
Thai fever cured.
I have to agree about the spiraling costs of a visit to Bangkok. My feelings mirror yours and my desire to visit the country is almost non-existent these days. NZ$6,700 would give you a month in South America visiting countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Bangkok has seen a massive change in the last decade and for me it’s become quite boring. The vendors, the street food and Chinatown are all disappearing. I think my Thai fever has passed.
Still fun but.
I completely agree about the cost of visiting Bangkok. I find I spend as much there as I do in Hong Kong, where I live. Beers are not cheap and if, like me, you tend to eat Western food one night and Thai the next you end up spending big. Bangkok is becoming an expensive place to party. Still fun but not what it once was. The same happened in Prague. Used to be very cheap. Then they realised that people on holiday are happy enough to spend what they pay back in the U.K. so prices are now the same as U.K. That said, cheap prices do attract a certain type of tourist that may not be the most desirable.
Cheap Indian food.
A reader suggested that if more Indian nationals come to Thailand the price of Indian food would go down. Coincidently, just last week I found 2 Indian restaurants that serve all you can eat thali for 100 baht. The restaurants, Anmole and Royal Dosa, are in Pratunam and next door to each other. They both seem to be similar, although one has shinier furniture. During the past 10 days I’ve eaten there 4 times and I recommend it! Maybe you want to pass it on to your readers.
You don’t hear a lot about the aptly named Thigh Bar on Patpong soi 1 but it’s worth a mention. Thigh Bar tends to do well from Thursday through the weekend and is one of a very small number of bars in the 3 major bar areas that gets (or perhaps more succinctly) allows entry to Thai male customers.
In Patpong soi 2, Black Pagoda continues to rock on. I think Black Pagoda’s success is partially due to its confusing identity. Its inability to make up its mind whether it is a nightclub, a gogo bar or a gentlemen’s club has sort of stuck it with a unique hotchpotch identity which has become part of its appeal. Black Pagoda is popular amongst Westerners and Japanese alike.
They tell me that Dollhouse on Soi Cowboy is doing consistently well with good crowds most nights. There’s an argument that Dollhouse currently has the best gogo bar manager in Bangkok right now.
Shadow Bar in Soi Cowboy has been gutted and the Stumble Inn Group is cracking along on the construction of what will be a ladyboy gogo bar, set to open in March.
And it’s a race to see which new bar will be finished on Cowboy first – Crazy House 2 or “Ladyboys In The Shadows” as I’ll refer to it for now.
Speaking of Crazy House, customers are complaining about the Tequila and Coke double lady drink i.e. 2 drinks that some ladies bring when you acquiesce to her request for a (which most assume means one) lady drink. For those on a tight budget, beware.
And still in Soi Cowboy, Lighthouse has a special running through February with double happy hours every night. It’s 90 baht drinks from opening until 9:00 PM and then midnight until closing every night, all month long. Great deal!
Mandarin Table Dance – that’s the downstairs Mandarin bar in Nana Plaza – is currently closed for a refurb. The upstairs Mandarin bar is open and stocked with all the dancers from both Mandarin bars. Happy hour at Mandarin runs from 7:00 – 9:00 PM with all drinks 90 baht.
Herrity’s in Sukhumvit soi 33/1 changed hands a couple of months back and is set for a refurb and rebranding.
The number of booze booths is on the up with street-side carts back, from Sukhumvit soi 1 all the way down to soi 23 where there are a few open late in to the night. They are setting up right on the main drag in front of shops with no attempt to hide in the shadows deep down dark sub-sois.
Apparently Hooters worldwide has – or is it had(?) – a policy where those with visible tattoos would not be hired as service staff. I guess this is no longer the case – at least it isn’t in Bangkok – where a reader sent photos of service staff with a large back tattoo. Has Hooters changed their staff policy, or is this simply a reflection of how things are “different” in Bangkok? Hooters has found its niche and is popular with a younger expat crowd. When Hooters first opened, some felt it was too expensive and said it wouldn’t last. It’s much-predicted demise has not eventuated.
As I’ve mentioned in previous weeks, the pharmacy near the Nana intersection that has long been the expat favourite is about to close. What I didn’t know is that it will do so after serving the city so well for a whopping 49 years in business.
2 weeks ago I mentioned a former Pattaya bar owner who paid ladies upfront – and very much against the norm not only paid in advance, he also paid over the odds – which he said greatly improved the odds of a great performance following. It should be noted that paying upfront is not that unusual. It is the norm in Thai-style massage parlours and a few readers mentioned that in Angeles City in the Philippines, the barfine is paid in advance before a lady can leave the bar and is an all-inclusive fee that both allows the lady to leave and compensate her for her efforts. That said, apparently a tip is expected on top.
There are lady drinks, and in a small number of bars there are “man drinks” – just don’t go expecting to see that on the menu! A man drink is a drink bought for the foreign manager for which he gets a commission in exactly the same way as ladies do when a drink is bought for them. And in at least one bar in Bangkok, the foreign manager used to do as the girls did and actually ask customers for a drink. There was one such bar in Bangkok but I imagine there are more. And there are more than a few in Pattaya too. I’m not sure what to make of it.
If you find yourself over the border in Cambodia in a hostess bar and see on the menu an item called a special drink which is several times the cost of other drinks, it’s not really a drink per se. The term special drink is how some foreign-owned bars get around the barfine situation with the constabulary. The local Khmer bar owners call it what it is, a barfine.
Perhaps 5 or so years ago a ginger cat hanging around the top of the escalator at the Asoke skytrain station became something of a novelty online, bordering on celebrity status. This ginger cat was all over Facebook – and even some Bangkok sexpat forums had people talking about the placid cat people saw every day at the Asoke BTS. The cat was adopted by a Thai known for working with stray cats and he became known as Maew Asoke, meaning the Asoke cat. Videos would show Maew Asoke living a happy life. Maew Asoke became ill recently and thousands expressed sadness online this week when it was announced he had passed away.
Reader Don sent the photo below of the Mad Professor, capturing him on Sukhumvit soi 11, preparing for his next masterpiece. Is he drawing mock-up diagrams on cardboard, almost like a blueprint, before putting marker pen to pavement?
The other half enjoys browsing the secret Facebook groups where Thai women post about their experiences with the foreign man they are involved with / have met / are chatting with online. It’s a small world and it’s not uncommon for a lady to post about a guy she is chatting with and planning to meet, only for said fellow’s wife to respond that he is in fact married and she is his wife. Things then get really entertaining! What these secret Facebook groups have reinforced to me is that today there is a real downside to online dating in Thailand that was never an issue in the past – your business will become known and your privacy will be breached. Thais love to gossip and the concept of privacy that we have in the West simply doesn’t exist in Thailand. Anything that happens between you and a lady, be it an innocuous comment made to a lady you only chatted with briefly to your sexual proclivities may be revealed to all and sundry. All you need do is chat with a Thai lady only just once, and she may write a seemingly innocuous post to the group which includes your profile and photos, perhaps a link to your Facebook page while she tells the thousands in the group all about you – and asks if anyone knows you. It might be all very positive such as “I have met this guy / can anyone tell me about him?” Or it might be more along the lines of “This guy is a bad man and you should avoid him.” Thai women use these secret Facebook groups because there are SO MANY reports of Western guys lying to the ladies. All too often a lady finds out the guy she is chatting to / sleeping with is married, or already involved with someone else. These women are sick of that, and don’t want it to happen to them so they work together to gather intel. If you have met or merely just chatted with ladies online, sooner or later someone might write a post about you – and chunks of info about you will become public knowledge. And if things between you don’t work out the way she had hoped, some of these women are vindictive and things can get really nasty. The point I want to make is that you ought to be aware that anything you say with a lady online – be it via a dating site / app / instant messaging system like LINE etc – may later be quoted or used against you. These ladies’ posts often include multiple pages of screenshots of conversations between herself and the guy from the LINE app, as she provides proof of what he said to her. Online dating in Thailand used to be a lot of fun and was carefree – it really was like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates and you didn’t know what you would get next (but it was never anything bad). I don’t doubt that there are many lovely ladies out there and online dating is probably still the easiest way to meet Thai women, but at the same time it strikes me as a bit of a snake pit these days.
So if online dating in Thailand has become a bit of a minefield, what is the best way to meet a good Thai woman for something serious? The best place to start may be at work – which assumes you’re living in and employed in Thailand. (And you really need to be living in Thailand if you wish to develop a relationship with a woman in Thailand.) Don’t necessarily go for a colleague (and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t), but through colleagues your social circles should expand meaning opportunities to meet new people.
With new laws in place prohibiting smoking in certain public spaces, the smoking rooms and the outside smoking areas at Suvarnabhumi Airport have gone. I imagine it’s the same at Don Meuang. So if you’re a smoker and you need a fix before you fly, get that fix before you arrive at the airport.
Speaking of Bangkok’s two airports, I used to like Don Meuang but I wonder if I will ever use it again? Everyone tells me that these days the check-in area is a melee. Air Asia uses Don Meuang and I flew Air Asia to neighbouring countries in the past, but from a few friends Air Asia is not so great on the ground these days. Checking in for an Air Asia flight these days is said to be confusing and convoluted. I’m no fan of flying, don’t particularly like airports and neither do I like crowds so I’ll avoid Don Meuang.
Speaking of taxis and the airport, I am hearing more reports about taxi drivers at the official taxi queue at Suwarnabhumi insisting the fare in to town is a flat-rate 500 baht. It isn’t! If you get a taxi at the official taxi queue, the driver is supposed turn on the meter. If the driver refuses to turn the meter on, get out. That actually is a big problem for him as he cannot just pick up another customer from the taxi queue. He will have to do a big loop around the airport, and rejoin the taxi queue – wasted time and a bit of a wait. Make sure the meter is turned on before the taxi drives off. Many drivers are great, but refusing to use the meter from the airport is simply a case of them trying it on with foreigners who are too weak to challenge them.
Quote of the week comes from the late Anthony Bourdain, “Visiting South-East Asia was like viewing the world in color for the first time, an attack on all your senses.”
A new mall with lots of dining options is coming to Sukhumvit soi 11.
A self-entitled, recently divorced American woman goes to Thailand on a journey of self-discovery but ends up spending 6 months in prison after being caught shoplifting.
A new breed of Chinese traveller is descending on Pattaya.
Russian begpackers swinging a baby around are getting a lot of negative press down in Malaysia.
From next week you will have to provide various personal details when topping up the credit on your prepaid skytrain card.
The newspaper feature of a new bakery / sandwich outlet in Bangkok reinforced to me that Bangkok really is pricier than Kiwiland.
Last week’s column about the increasing cost of a trip to Bangkok generated a lot of email feedback and reminded me that anything to do with money, the cost of living in Thailand or prices in general sees a higher number of emails than usual come in. It really does seem to me that anything money-related or concerning financial matters generates more feedback and presumably more interest than anything else. And without a doubt, the harshest emails I have ever received have been from those who perceive that I am in favour of ladies of the night upping their rates. So many things in life come back to money, don’t they?
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org