Ah yes, I was young and not knowing too much in those days. But how is one to learn anything if one doesn’t try? Some 25 years later, I’m still learning and, as it should be, I’ll be learning until my timely demise. Although the following pieces were written over 20 years ago, I can still recall in my mind’s eye just how it was and just how I felt. It was all very new and somewhat nerve wracking, as I had no idea what was really going on or more importantly what I was supposed to do or say. All in all it turned out really well, and I wouldn’t have missed for all the tea in China…which is a lot. These little memoirs were posted on one of the old Yahoo Groups, so that will explain some of the dialogue if you didn’t quite understand parts.
Since there has been so much negativity on boards like this one, newsgroups and even between persons directly about Thai women and their “bad habits” , particularly bargirls, I thought I would offer my experiences to try and even up the score a little. My story is primarily about a Thai/farang marriage (mine) and how with a little effort, real affection, an ounce or two of luck and probably most importantly, trust, a marriage of this kind can indeed work. There are definitely some very large obstacles in such a union, but this is where some of the properties I have just mentioned are so important. These are not the only hurdles in a relationship of this nature, and believe me there are many more, but I hope to be able to give readers a bit of an idea about what it is like to be married to a Thai woman and the difficulties that the farang faces. The Thai also faces problems, but are more easily overcome as I hope to be able to show later. Hopefully there will be some photos with this article to give you an additional insight, particularly for those that haven’t been to Thailand or been involved with an Asian woman.
A brief background to aid your picture of what is to follow. Jam and I struck up a relationship in August of ’97 and have never been apart since. After about 16 months we discussed marriage and originally decided on April of 1999. Just a few months beforehand she told me that April was not a good time to marry since it is the ‘hot season’. Apparently this is considered bad luck. Despite looking forward to the event, I was quite disappointed and frustrated at being told this, and after some more discussions with parents and monks, we chose August 19th, 1999. Of course this seemed like an age to wait, but there was little I could do about it, and since there was no point in getting upset and throwing a tantrum, I waited. Now at this stage I have to say that in the 3 and a bit years from Aug. ’97 till Nov ’00 I have visited 17 times. Some have been for only 5 days, others for 2 months. I am planning to migrate this year, for obvious reasons. (Editor’s note: It took a further 7 years before I ended up moving.)
The marriage ceremony in August was the ‘monk style’ one and at the time of writing have not registered in Thailand. This will come. However in July last year, during one of Jam’s 3 trips to Australia, we got married here under Australian law. The religious ceremony in Thailand was held at her parents house in Chaiyaphum, in central Thailand. I may do another article about this area of the country, as it is actually quite interesting, despite many implying it has nothing to offer. Anyway, finally to the story at hand.
We had to be in Chaiyaphum at least two days before the event, and although the car had air-con and was only about 6 and a half hours from Pattaya, it was quite tiring. Especially since I was driving and trying to read maps and navigate, as Jam is absolutely hopeless at directions. I thought I was bad, but….! And she lives there! We booked into one of the better hotels in the city center and had a relaxing few hours before meeting with her “aunt and uncle” who look after her 5 year old son. Her parents actually live about an hour’s drive to the north-north-west. See photos as to what the village looks like, but again, that is another story. That night we took her son out to dinner and shopping for some toys, which enthralled him no end. He and I get on famously and he calls me Papa. Almost like the son I never had. Funny part is we can’t understand each other language wise, but we are still able to communicate. He is great fun and seems to genuinely enjoy himself. There’s a lesson there somewhere. After we took him back home, we went to the hotel to try and catch a few hours rest as we had to be at the village by 5.00 am. Neither of us could sleep, so we were ready to get the clothing and makeup stuff done well before time. By 01.30 am we got to the salon where we woke up the owners and they promptly got started on Jam’s makeup and clothes. After 2 hours, I got changed also, as well as a little makeup, sort of like what they do on TV. I haven’t showed most of my mates what I looked like. It was traditional Thai gear.
I must say at this point that the whole experience was just *so* different from anything I had experienced ever, and although I am a very liberal person and am able to adapt fairly easily to things that I am not used to or don’t understand, it was almost overpowering. More about this subject matter later. Maybe.
During the 50 minute drive to the parent’s village, I nearly ran off the road several times. Partly due to tiredness, anxiety and the fact it was 4 in the morning and I had no idea where I was going or what I was getting into. She yelled at me, naturally as all women do, but really it was only to keep me on my toes. You have to learn the difference! It’s not easy, but you can do it. We arrived just before 5am, safely I might add, and after a few wrong turns got to where the action was to be. There were people everywhere, even though the entire village consisted of only 10-15 houses. As it turned out, villagers from miles away turned up, presumably for the free food and Lao Khao (rice whiskey). Since I didn’t end up paying for it, I didn’t mind. The worst thing was that almost all of the guests, paying or otherwise (!) didn’t speak Thai. They all spoke Lao, which made it doubly impossible for me! But, we all still got on really well and in most cases ended up being able to communicate in one form or another. I suspect the Lao Khao helped a tad! This experience alone is worth more than you can imagine. Upon arrival, I was assaulted with a cacophony of noises, a myriad of smells and sights and an amazing sense of wonderment…(is that a word?), fatigue, expectancy, fear and goodness knows what else. If you have been in this sort of situation or have any idea what I am talking about, you will understand: if not you are in for a treat. Not for the marriage bit, but just being able to be a part of Thai culture, that which the majority of visitors think they have experienced, but sadly have not. Just because you have been to Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and/or to a lesser extent Chiang Mai, this does not mean you know Thailand and its people and culture. There is so much more!
The houses are like erections on stilts….no, NOT erections!…with the under part usually being used as a storage area or workshop. The upstairs part is the living quarters. This is generally a basic arrangement, although electricity is widely and cheaply available. Refrigerators, TV’s, stereos, telephones, etc are surprisingly common place. The main room, only room actually, although very large, was quite barren, except for the ‘fridge, several small tables with fruit, water and a few other “country” bits and pieces of dubious edible quality, which were placed against the walls. The walls were also interesting due to the numerous windows. These were the small wooden shutter types. (see photos). There was a plastic garden chair just off center, with an electric fan aimed at it. This where I was instructed to sit. Jeez it felt weird. I was being treated like a god of some sort. OK, maybe I was , money wise, but that is another thing you have to adjust to and accept. Food was being thrust upon me, as well as drinks. Since I was the guest of honor, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I did however manage a couple of photos while they weren’t looking or nobody was around. Trust me, not easy! Whilst I was upstairs waiting and smelling and hearing things, I decided to take a look around , and say “Bugger off!” to anyone who tried to tell me to sit down and shaddup! Nicely of course! I wandered around the room and checked out each window and opened them only to discover to my dismay, that a squillion mosquito’s were waiting for an idiot such as myself to open them. I don’t think I ever got sick from them, but probably not a bad idea to get some shots or at least take some medicine with you, especially if it’s your first time in the tropics. Before I closed them again, I noticed that underneath me were huge woks or cooking containers, with massive amounts of food being cooked. Enormous numbers of what looked like chicken thingy’s, curries, som tam and other indescribable delicacies, were bubbling away in various containers, while some stood by and watched, others scurried about organising,,,,something! or cooking!
Start time was about 6.00 am, but by 5.30 the 9 monks had stared to arrive. People were running around like chooks without heads on ….oooops, bad comparison! Oh well, you know what I mean. The ‘room’ had become quite busy and I had trouble staying out of the way. Two of Jam’s sisters, she has 4, ushered me out of harm’s way, while I watched the activity and them sneaking glances and snickers. Soon the monks started to arrive up the stairs and almost immediately this house began to not only fill up with people, but with religious items, more food and drink, more people, more kids, still more food and drink, more monks, and …..! I have since found out that there were a great many relations and probably indeed locals out to see what all the hoo-haa was about, that apart from chewing betel nut, have NEVER seen a white person. Now THAT was quite something unexpected! If you go out to the “back blocks”, be prepared for the unexpected. And I mean it. Now, the whole ceremony took something like 5 hours and alot of it was sitting on the floor in that position that Thai people seem so easy to do. I can say that as a fairly inflexible farang, it wasn’t easy at all and I had all sorts of cramps and aches and pains. At one point I just had to get up and stretch my legs. Well that just about brought the house down. ‘Hey look, stupid falang can’t sit like us!’ Not really, but it helped ease my discomfort anyway. There was alot of monk chanting, throwing of whiskey, photos, string around the wrists, laughing and wai-ing etc. It is really hard to describe unless you have been at a function like that. After all the official ceremony stuff had concluded, the monks had eaten and left, it was time for the food and drink to come out. Also, despite all the jocularity during the previous several hours, the sanuk factor seemed to increase. One of the stranger things that struck me about the ceremony, was that there didn’t seem to be alot of reverence while the monks or the village “father” did their stuff. People were chatting, laughing, drinking and moving about as if it were a normal day. At 10.30 in the morning after being up all the previous night, I didn’t really feel like eating too much, but took a few token bites of ‘this and that’. It wasn’t so easy to refuse the drink which was of course Lao Khao and Sang Thip (straight) as well as Beer Chang, without ice! While Jam had gone off to catch up with the rellies, I was left upstairs with about 15-20 local guys, who were obviously very happy that their neighbours’ daughter had married a farang. They set out to get me very drunk, which wasn’t too difficult. I also changed out of my traditional garb back into my normal Western gear, while they all watched with great intent and very large smiles on their faces. (picture Monty Python or something similar). Maybe they wanted to see if a white guy’s dick was ‘different’ from theirs! The funniest part was all the pointing and smiling, as none of us could understand each other vocally. We finally left to go back to Chaiyaphum after I had had quite enough alcohol and all I wanted to do was sleep. I suspect Jam felt pretty much the same also. In true gentlemanly style, I made her drive back to the hotel, while I relaxed and had a quick “power nap”. That night one of the worst storms to pass through Thailand crossed right past us. It was part of the monsoon season, being late August, and although it was very warm and humid, it produced one of the best electrical storms I had ever had the pleasure to bear witness to. At the time I thought it might have been an omen – you know, stormy marriage night, stormy marriage! Well, so far, it has been nothing less than perfect and I don’t expect it to change. The next morning we headed back to Pattaya, still rather tired but well happy with ourselves. Three days later we had a ‘reception’ at #16, which was very enjoyable. The whole process was very different in a lot of ways to normal Western style stuff, but then, this was another country, another culture. Oh, and by the way, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to EXPECT your new bride/girlfriend to move to YOUR country without question. In my opinion anyway, as I have found that most women/girls do not really want to move away from their homeland – just as you don’t want to move from the security and apparent safety of your own. Maybe for different reasons. It’s just they won’t normally tell you. It takes two……baby!
p.s. mmmm, good name for a song!
In my case, both of us don’t want her to move to Australia and both of us want me to move to Thailand, which I plan to do this year. Maybe this is a part of the reason why our relationship will work, and so many others fail. Just my opinion. At the time of writing I work in Australia while Jam runs #16. It is not an easy arrangement, but as I said in the beginning, relationships of this nature require something a little special. I believe I have that. Those that know me, on the ‘net or not, believe this also. At least that’s what they tell me!!!
If you go to Pattaya and visit #16, please say hello to Jam (and me if I’m there). She speaks good English and is good fun and loves to just sit, drink and talk. And support this site and list. It’s actually for your benefit, believe it or not. ( p.s. Bar 16 doesn’t exist any more)
Not sure if I ever mentioned this on this list, so excuse me if you’ve read it already. It refers to the first time visit of my wife Jam, to Australia and some of the things that befell us. What prompted me to write this was a recollection of this time, now more than two years ago, and some of the things that happened then. One of the funniest things was when we went to SouthBank in the city of Melbourne, Australia. Those who know this area of the Central Business District know that it is a very pleasing area, split by the grace of the Yarra Rver, which runs through the city. Check out the web for more info. Anyway it was a rather warm day and we headed into a (semi) up market type cafe/restaurant for something to eat. Now I’m sure you can imagine that a (semi) classy place had the usual (semi) up market food. Not your regular Som tam or Larb gai you understand! Anyway, she ordered some sort of Bratwurst with either beans or spaghetti or something. Now the problem was, and this is what made me laugh so much that she almost walked out!, was that she had never, I mean never, used a knife and fork, as we Whitey’s use them, before. The struggle and facial expressions at the attempts of trying to cut the sausage into bite sized pieces was trully comical. She got pretty pissed off that I was laughing at her, but she got over it and eventually saw the humour. There are many things about Thai people that I shall remember for the rest of my life. This is but a small one. I shall give more if anyone is interested (or not) as well as my experiences of Thailand, which I am sure have made her laugh as much as I.
Join me in the Land of Fossildom
This I will say from the outset actually did happen, about 1 1/2 years ago I think. My wife and I went up to Chaiyaphum in Central Thailand partly to visit family and friends as well as to get some paperwork done that she needed to sort out. It was August, if I remember correctly, and the area was having some monster electrical storms, as well as the expected monsoonal downpours. Some of the smaller streets were impassable, while some of the bigger and wider roads were very wet indeed and some caution had to be exercised. Mostly due to unseen potholes; well holes of some sort anyway. One of the first stops was at one of Jam’s old school friends who had a restaurant/cafe. They also had a laundry 2 doors down which the husband ran. We sat and ate some really good, but substantially hot and spicy fare, which I suspect had its origins in Laos. This is very common and widespread in Issan, Thailand’s North-Eastern region. The restaurant’s kitchen was more than 3 times the size of the public eating area, street included. After dousing the flames that were flaring within the confines of my mouth with a goodly amount of something that tasted ok, but was unpronounceable, it was onward to the police station where Jam had to sign some papers and get some typed up. Something to do with changing her province of residence. Anyway, it looked like it was going to take some time as the Sergeant, who was as old as the typewriter, could only do the two-finger shuffle. Added to that, he was the only one there that would answer the telephone and two-way radio. So we sat ourselves down to wait. Which we did, while he tapped away frustratingly slowly. Now about this time, seems it was afternoon tea time, a veritable hoard of “coppers” waltzed into the rather small room. They took off their brown shirts, to reveal equally tight white t-shirts. They all gave us, me in particular, the proverbial eye. Some came over and spoke to Jam asking her where I was from, did I have a passport, work permit, residence visa, what was my relation to her etc. All in all something akin to the Spanish Inquisition, albeit with a Thai flavour. Others just stood back keeping their trained ‘eagle eyes’ firmly ensconced on me, with one hand placed alarmingly close to the trigger of their service revolvers. It was really quite off-putting. Well, the poor old sergeant had finally finished his typing, thankfully, and Jam got up to collect her papers while I made my way nervously toward the exit door. With the sleight-of-hand of a professional illusionist, Jam slipped the sergeant a 100Baht note in exchange for the good work he had done. Obviously it wasn’t a bribe or somesuch as the work had already been done. At this point I was already out the door and Jam came rushing past me to the car, urging me to hurry. Slightly bewildered I did, and with engine running, the now more sprightly sergeant, had blocked our way. Terrified I said nothing. Jam wound the window down and was promptly directed to take the 100Baht note back. It was explained to me that the reason he didn’t accept it was that there too many other officers in the room that had they noticed, it would have been a free for all. I would have come out decidedly poorer. He was very nice about it and thanked her anyway. I can tell you with all the stories about police corruption that one hears, it was in the first instance extraordinarily surprising but in the end, almost comforting! Well, as they say, This Is Thailand! We headed back on the road to Pattaya, knowing that within 6 or so hours, we would be safely within the confines of Bar 16, enjoying a beer, leaving the scary events of earlier that day only a memory.
This will be about two things. Some stuff about Australia, primarily for U.S. citizens, and some stuff about Thailand, for everybody. The reason why I want to speak about Oz is because so many people (primarily U.S. citizens), have such a misconstrued image of the country. Probably the two most oft made mistakes are that Sydney or Melbourne or any other city has kangaroos hopping down the main street! You may laugh at this notion, but you would be surprised how many (Americans) think that this is the case. I am not picking on you folk nastily, but sometimes it’s hard not to make these things known. The other two things about Australia that Americans (particularly) don’t realise is that it is just a tad larger in size as North America, and sadly, where it is. As I said, I am not particularly picking on anyone. Save your flames for something more important!
The stuff about Thailand. There are many people who go the Land of Som Tam and Durian for many reasons. Plenty go for the nightlife and all that entails, and that’s ok. However there is more to a country than its nightlife and major tourist cities. This applies to *any* country. There are so many that visit Thailand and never see anything more than Bangkok or Phuket or Pattaya or Chiang Mai, and go back to their homes and loudly proclaim that they have seen S.E.A.! There are plenty who have been-there-done-that and if that makes them happy, so be it. But they are missing out on so much. For those that have travelled and spent time exploring the rural areas, you know what I mean. Even exploring the cities can be quite fascinating. Don’t just stick to the touristy areas and roads. You would be surprised at the poverty of Pattaya alone. In the city itself, not a few miles down Sukhumvit. As far as the rural areas go, not just Issan, you might say, “Hey, it’s just the country and I like the city”, and that’s ok provided you don’t go around saying you’ve seen Thailand. You haven’t. It’s like people from (most) other countries who visit Australia and see only Sydney or the Gold Coast or Cairns. They go home and say “I’ve been and seen and Australia”, which they obviously haven’t.
One last thing. When an Englishman either dies or gets killed in Thailand, some 5000 are put off to such an extent that they refuse to travel to the country. This seems rather strange to me. In Melbourne, in a city street notorious for its nightclubs, table top dancing etc., there was a time when some person would get shot and/or killed on a weekly basis. If I told someone who had never been to Melbourne, that info, I’m sure they would never go for fear of death! It’s relative, although I must admit I do feel quite at ease in Thailand (anywhere) as opposed to many Western cities.
Ok, one more thing! Asian culture and their people are different from Western culture and their people. This is probably the single most reason why there is so much friction between the two. Such day-to-day things as buying groceries, relationships, picking your nose, confrontations to name a few. Try and learn a little about them and you’ll go miles. And most of all have patience and forget about your own culture completely when dealing with Asians in general. (In the context of this mail, Thais particularly) This last paragraph cannot be stressed strongly enough. Believe me I’ve seen it all first hand. I am not promoting myself as a know-it-all (I don’t), I am merely passing on to others my thoughts and personal experiences. Take it or leave it. Up to you.
Having said all that, let me say this…..
Flame if you wish, wipe your teary eyes with a Kleenex or simply delete.
I thought it was about time there was something written about why we are all here. It isn’t much, but maybe it’ll help jog some others memories. I figure there are quite a few members who have never been to the land of fish sauce and tuk tuks, so I guess any information is better than none at all. This piece relates from my very first trip to Pattaya some years ago. It was August, a hot August night, and although low season, seemed to be fairly well stocked with tourists. Prolly more than subsequent years, although it appears that tourism numbers wax and wane like the tides. This very first night was a dry one, but later evenings proved to be quite another matter. Well, after all it is in the middle of the wet season. The rain generally only lasts an hour or so at the most, with shortish heavy downpours. If you feel the heat more so than others, the rain does help cool things off slightly, albeit briefly.
But I digress, back to that first night. We were staying at the Montien in North Pattaya. Nice hotel, but expensive if you wanted to bring back a non-resident. After a quick bite to eat and several beers from the pool bar to wash it down, we set off on foot to see what we could see. Now for those that have done it, it is somewhat akin to running the gauntlet as you pass by the beer bars on Beach Road. Some of the lasses were extremely vigorous and persistent in trying entice any customer they could get their hands on to join them at their place of employment. At one point I had three such wenches firmly attached, and it was obvious they weren’t going to let go in a hurry. However I was more persistent as there was so much to investigate and explore further south.
To stop my un-necessary waffle, the next port of call was to check out Pattayaland (1,2 &3) as we had heard all sorts of stuff about these famous streets. Remember this was still in daylight although it was heading towards sunset. Sois one and two looked very interesting as we were to find out later, but it was soi 3 that held my biggest surprise. Go-go bar entrances are usually set up with two doors or at least black curtains then a door. This one go-go we passed was no different except it had two heavy glass and chrome doors. At the point I walked past, for some inexplicable reason both doors we wide open and I could have a good gape at what it was like inside. I was curious naturally as I hadn’t been in a go-go yet. The sight that was laid before my eyes left me in semi shock for just a moment. My mate asked me what was wrong as he noticed that my jaw had lost all its strength and was sitting on the ground. He looked and further words were not required. Pattayaland soi 3 for those that don’t know (I certainly didn’t) is one of the gay sections in town, and this establishment was a male go-go bar. What I saw was 5 or 6 chrome poles with attached dancers who were (naturally) male and dressed only in white floppy y-fronts. These guys looked only 18 or 20, although it’s hard to remember, but seeing that for the first time was a bit of an eye opener. Nowadays, there isn’t too much that can shock, but I found it all a bit strange at the time. Of course I didn’t know what the city was all about then.
Well that’s it for now. Hope it didn’t bore too many of you.
Back to the football I guess.
Fossil, with ceyboard kramp.
The last trip I made to Thailand also involved travelling up to visit my parents-in-law in their village about an hour’s drive north of Chaiyaphum. Chaiyaphum is almost dead centre of Thailand although it is still classed as Issan. Like a lot of Thailand it is a rice growing community although there is a lot of other vegetables and fruit grown. The area was very dry and hot as little rain had fallen for some time. Hopefully for the farmers the monsoonal rains have started in areas where it is most required.
Enough background as this piece involves people not land. Upon arriving with the corn that was purchased on the roadside on the way into Chaiyaphum, (see previous story), we ate heartily with egg and sticky rice. I passed on the water! We then went to another of the houses within the village to see one of my wife’s aunts. She calls this woman her older sister, but I think in reality it is an aunt. Anyway, this aunt is slowly dying due to, among other things, bone cancer. There are no doctors around for miles and I guess the Thai way is just do the best they can as far as making her comfortable goes. Money didn’t seem to be an issue, although I would gladly have forked out enough to get her to a hospital for some palliative care. I don’t think that a cure or remission was likely, as she had rather nasty enphacema as well. However none was asked for, for that purpose, although a small sum was handed over via Jam. It was quite sad to see this woman sitting uncomfortably underneath one of the wooden stilted houses, with one person fanning her and another massaging her legs and feet. It was a little difficult for me also as I don’t speak Lao, and they mostly don’t speak Thai.
The strange thing that struck me was the fact that they just seemed to accept the inevitable, and not think that there was an easier path for this poor woman to take. At least to get some drugs or something to help ease the pain.
I guess it is just the Thai way.
Fossil, feeling fighting fit.
Copied without permission (and apologies to the writer) from the BahtBus message board. (www.bahtbus.com). Even after reading, unless you experience first hand some of what is written below, you still won’t get it. No offence, but that’s just the way it is. I’ve had many months in Thailand over a short period of time, and still am learning stuff, even though I thought I knew plenty. I don’t. This is a bit of a wake up call.
“Thai Social values, for those that are interested in life before the bar and why she does those strange things.
Perhaps the best way to comprehend Thai social values is to focus on its basic unit, the Family, and in particular the rural family in its typical village setting. Generations living under one roof, or at least under several roofs within the same compound; and it is here that the Thai child learns codes of behavior that will guide him throughout much of his later life, whether it is spent in the village or beyond. In a village, home is usually a simple wooden house, raised on posts, domestic animals like buffaloes, pigs and chickens are kept below and the family lives above, often in a single room. There is little privacy, though this is not as highly regarded as in Western countries and the communal life style instills a strong sense of social harmony in which tact, compromise and tolerance are essential. The father is regarded as the leader, but the mother also plays a significant role, particularly in the family finances.
When small, children are treated permissively by various members of the family, which as likely as not will include grandparents and sometimes more distant relatives as well. Respect for elders is taught very early, however, and by the time a child walks he is aware of his position in the family hierarchy, a distinction that applies not only to the relationship between parents and children but also to that between siblings of different ages. This same delineation of roles also applies to the wider world outside the family and will remain deeply ingrained throughout life, thus explaining the reluctance of younger Thais to oppose or otherwise confront a senior during their subsequent careers.
A sense of responsibility is also inculcated in early childhood. Each child is assigned certain duties according to age and ability-feeding livestock, leading the family buffalo to graze in nearby pastures, taking care of younger brothers and sisters while parents are at work in the fields. As they grow older, responsibilities increase and they are allowed to participate in family discussions, with their opinions taken into account when important decisions are made.
One of the prime responsibilities placed on children is that of taking care of parents in their old age, a prominent feature of the Thai concept of family. There is no feeling of being inconvenienced by this duty of caring for aged parents, on the contrary, their acquired wisdom gives them an honored place in the household and their counsel is actively sought in teaching their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be responsible adults with the same traditional values.
Buddhist teachings are at the root of the typical Thai villager’s sincere consideration for others, embodied in the virtue known as namjai, “water of the heart,” a concept encompassing spontaneous warmth and compassion that allows families to make anonymous sacrifices for friends and to extend hospitality to
strangers. For example, a stranger visiting a village will rarely be seen as an intruder and a subject for suspicion and distrust. Much more likely, the villagers will have the namjai to take him in, feed him, offer him a bed in one of their homes, and generally treat him as a friend.
Buddhism also lies behind such common expressions as mai pen arai (or “never mind, it doesn’t matter”) when something unfortunate happens, reflecting the feeling that one must gracefully submit to external forces beyond one’s control, such as the effects of past karma.
Although highly individualistic and resisting regimentation, Thais nevertheless realize that inner freedom is best preserved in an emotionally and physically stable environment. Therefore, they believe that social harmony is best maintained by avoiding any unnecessary friction in their contacts with others. From this has grown the strong Thai feeling of krengchai, which means an extreme reluctance to impose on anyone or disturb his personal equilibrium by direct criticism, challenge, or confrontation. In general, people will do their utmost to avoid personal conflict.
Outward expressions of anger are also regarded as dangerous to social harmony and as being obvious signs of ignorance, crudity and immaturity Within such a behavioral framework, Thais share very definite views on what constitutes friendship and enjoyment. Sincere friendship among Thais is extremely intense, the language is rich in expressions that reflect the degree of involvement and willing self-sacrifice. Such relationships are found particularly among men. A “phuan tai” literally “death friend” is a companion for whom it would be an honor to die. Should a friend become involved in difficulties, his friend feels an obligation to help him, regardless of the danger to himself, because “tong chuai phuan” – “One must help one’s friends”. This requirement is a sensitive point of honor and explains many circumstance that often baffle outsiders.
Displays of dismay, despair, displeasure, disapproval, or enthusiasm are frowned upon. Accordingly, the person who is, or appears to be, serenely indifferent “choei choei” is respected for having what is considered an important virtue.
On the level of acquaintanceship, politeness predominates. When greeting people, Thais will usually show their concern for others’ health by remarking how “thin” or “fat” he or she has become. The remark is intended as a gesture of friendship.
A Thai baby officially becomes “someone” after its name is chosen-frequently by the village abbot and entered in the village head’s records. Soon after birth the child will be given a nickname, nearly always of one syllable. Intimates will continue to call him or her by this nickname for the rest of his life and may indeed have to think for a while to remember the proper name.
Around eight years of age, girls give increasing help with household chores and boys assume greater responsibilities such as feeding domestic animals and guarding the family buffalo as it grazes or wallows.
Children attend the government village school to be taught from a standard nationwide curriculum. They acquire varying degrees of literacy and study Buddhist ethics and Thai history. All receive a comprehensive education and by coming into contact with neighboring villages children and visiting the provincial capital on school trips they enjoy a broadening of social experience.
Having assumed ever-increasing workloads and responsibilities, youths of 15 and 16 are already regarded as fully mature adult labourers. Between graduation from school and marriage at around 20, most village males go into the monastery, usually for the duration of one rainy season, in order to make merit for themselves and their parents; in some areas a man who has never been a monk is avoided by marriageable girls, who regard him as a khon dip, literally an “unripe person.”
The village girl’s entrance into adolescence is a gentle one. Courtship is confined initially to communal work groups during planting and harvesting and at monastery-centered festivals and activities. There may be extensive banter between boys and girl s but, individually, young people tend to be shy and “whirlwind courtships” are exceedingly rare. Emotional relationships mature slowly and customarily involve chaperoned meetings at the girl’s house. Most young people select their own marriage partners. Rarely is parental disapproval voiced since marriages often take place between families within the same village, further strengthening and widening communal ties. A marriage is sometimes presented as a fait accompli by children who work in towns or cities and are thus beyond parental control.
In many parts of the country it is the custom for the groom to move in with the bride’s family, thus providing extra labor for the family fields and also avoiding friction between mother and daughter-in-law. Early in the morning, in accordance with traditional Thai belief that married life should begin with merit making, the bride and groom feed village monks and present them with small gifts. In return, the monks bless the couple and the house or room where they will live.
The village marriage ceremony bestows no official validity on their union but is merely a public proclamation that the two people will live together as man and wife.
The young couple’s wrists are ceremoniously bound together in the presence of village elders and they are led to the marriage chamber as guests feast, drink, sing, and dance. Later, their marriage is officially registered at the district office and becomes a fact of law. Daily tasks are generally divided equally between husband and wife. Women normally do the household chores, but they work in the fields during planting and harvesting. Men perform heavy tasks and fieldwork, fetch water, and occasionally clean their own clothes. Thai village men are often very good cooks and sometimes help prepare the food for festivals.
After marriage, every couple eagerly awaits the birth of its first child, which usually comes during the first year. Children have a high position in rural and cultural values, since there is strength in numbers, a vital sense of continuity is ensured, and many hands make farming activities easier. Often there exists an unspoken preference for boys since they alone may be ordained as priests to gain merit for themselves and their parents. “
Fossil, no smart comments this time.
First up I have cc’d this to (dare I say) our “sister group.” The reason is because I know several members from there also.
Anyway, what the with upcoming visit by your truly, I thought maybe something a little different and spicier would be the order of the day. Meeting fellow members at any bar in the evenings is all very nice, but how about a meeting during the daylight hours? What and where you ask? Well, read on.
On my last trip in April, I went to a seafood (mainly) ristorante..that’s Italian speak…although it’s a 100% Thai noshery. It was recommended to me by my manager, believe it or not, who was there in February this year with his friend who is GM for BHP Thailand. Ok, enough of the name-dropping, I finally managed to attend this place with Jam one lazy weekday afternoon.
A little background about the place. Bang Saray is about 30 minutes on Sukhumvit past Jomtien. It’s actually a little hard to find the place as it’s a bit off the beaten track so to speak. Not the town, the eatery, although on the highway there are red and yellow signs in Thai on every available light pole, so it would be pretty hard to miss. If we have enough people to fill a mini bus I am sure the driver would know where to go. If not I can direct him.
The restaurant itself, is somewhat similar to places like Nang Nual, Lobster Pot, King’s whatever in South Pattaya. You know, a structure on stilts over the water. Anyway the difference is that to get to the seats one must trudge what seems like miles along a timber boardwalk or promenade. It is bounded by cages of birds of various sorts, huge fish tanks with fish that are on the menu, and assorted kitchens and storage areas. When I went, we got half way down this walk, before a well dressed and polite (good looking also) type Thai service girl came to greet us and escort us to a table. The establishment is nice although not 5 star by any means. You are there for the food anyway, and that was excellent. You can sit under a roof or out in the open overlooking the bay in the sunshine. Throwing down some great food and sucking on plenty of cold beer is something that can’t really be explained satisfactorily; you have to experience it.
So what say you, you bunch of fellow retards?!!! Those that are or will be there, speak up if you are thinking you might be interested. The best thing about it is that since it is sort a little out of the way, there are very rare instances of foreigners being there. This means that Thais eat there. This means that the food is very good and very cheap. I can say this from personal experience. (not that that means much!)
With only a month before I get there, get your orders in quick!
Reading on this and many other lists, the subject of guys taking girls back to their home country to live often gets a good work over. I realise this creeps into my ‘soapbox spiel’, but I promise not to digress. A lot of guys want to and do take their new wife or future wife back to their home country to live. This becomes a brand new life for her, and a minor aberration only to the guy. Now this is all very well and good, but to me anyway, it seems that the girl if she stays will imminently become reasonably ‘westernised’. This is natural, and generally expected by the guy. Trying very hard to stay off said soapbox, if that is what the girl wants then so be it. I suspect a lot of times this physical and cultural move is somewhat more severe than she realised. However, the majority survive and adapt quite well. I personally know of a number of Thai girls that live in Australia and are very happy to be doing so.
For me, there are two problems. Firstly the girls (naturally) become more westernised over time. This I feel spoils the very embodiment of why we like them in the first place. Secondly, financial reasons notwithstanding, (steady feet!) the guys seem to expect that the girl will like and want to make the almost supreme sacrifice and move more or less half way around the world. Away from their family and friends etc. And we know how important their family is, don’t we.
And so to the subject of this mail. The reasons why I will ultimately move to Thailand are basically for the above two reasons. Firstly, I love my wife for the way she is not how I want her to become. Secondly, it’s far easier for me to relocate as I don’t have many strong ties here. Besides I like it there, as do most of us reading this.
I know there are many variables and other factors involved in all of this, but I’ve kept it as simple as possible. Not because you people are simple, but to avoid me writing 27 pages and to try and keep any flames down! Besides that soapbox is looking mighty inviting, and you don’t want THAT!
Fossil, trying to light a spark somewhere.
This last trip just gone saw many firsts for me. This is about one that surprised me from the start.
Landing in Bangkok at 6.20am after a tiring flight due to kids being obnoxious and people coughing all night, I was not really in any mood to be driving for the next 6 hours. When I finally got out of immigration and customs I realised just how much I had missed my wife. In a few short minutes we were exchanging hugs and all my tiredness and bad mood just melted away. Within 10 minutes we were out of the airport car park and I was happily speeding along the elevated tollway in the opposite direction to what I was accustomed to.
After about an hour and a half we stopped for fuel and I grabbed a couple of Lipo’s just in case I started to feel too drowsy. The reason why I was driving and not Jam? I am a very bad passenger! We arrived at the city of Chaiyaphum just on lunch time, and Jam suggested we go and have something to eat with one of her best friends. I can’t recall her name but she has her own printing business and seems to do quite well for herself. They sat and talked for a while and I just had a relaxing time by myself and a glass or two of nice cold water. It was quite warm and very humid, so the chance to “chill out” was very welcome. Eventually we all took off for her friends house to eat.
The first night we stayed at a hotel in town, as we both needed to get some decent sleep as well as make our acquaintance after nearly 3 months apart. The hotel was adequate, but definitely of the bottom end scale of the market. It didn’t really matter and after a while we didn’t really care.
The next morning we packed up and went to see Jam’s friend again for a quick bite to eat. Then the 50 minute drive to Jam’s parents’ village to the north. The difference with her village is that the road that gets you there is a dead-end road. It doesn’t go anywhere. As a consequence, you can imagine that the few tourists that venture outside the major cities, like Chaiyaphum, don’t end up driving on a road to nowhere. Even though I had been to the village many times before, it was to become plainly clear how out of the way it really was. The last time I was there was in April this year, and being the hottest time of the year I remembered how dry and brown the country side was. Rather barren almost. This time there had been at least some rain, not like the floods of further north, and the rice fields were in full growth, the sugar cane was green as were many other of the cash crops of the area. It was hot but not blisteringly hot like it was during summer, maybe because of the cloud cover.
The first day at the village took a little time for me to get into the “scheme of things”. Meeting the family members again even after only 3 months, was a little awkward for me. And maybe them as well as they speak mostly Lao, and my Thai isn’t really good enough to hold any sort of conversation other than hello, how are you, etc. But it doesn’t seem to bother anyone as they all go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to me. Eating and drinking comes before anything else, naturally. They take our bags and promptly order us to sit and wait for food and drink to arrive. I do, but Jam can’t seem to sit still and wanders off to chat with the elder members of the family. One of Jam’s sisters has made the bus trip from Khon Kaen especially for the occasion. At least I presume they are. I guess realistically the closest houses are like family anyway. They have had an extra room built – just for us. I think Jam paid for most of it, but hey, what are daughters for? Jam had brought an air mattress for us as she has been spoilt for the last year orso by sleeping on a waterbed. The thought of a wooden floor didn’t enthral me either.
The first night was not so surprising had I thought about it first. After dinner there was a little bit of banter and then it was everyone off to bed. I thought, but it’s only 8 o’clock. I figured they thought we were tired and needed a good long sleep. Ended up being a good idea anyway!
Now one of the most frustrating things about living in rural Thailand is the roosters. Roosters are supposed to start crowing at dawn so as to get all the farmers out of bed and off to their farming duties. Well, let me tell you these buggers don’t stop! Day and night! By daybreak everyone was up and about making breakfast, having showers etc. Ahh! showers. Here was my first worry and surprise all rolled into one. There is no running water in most of these villages, even though electricity is common. They even had a public phone box installed just recently. So a shower is standing next to a large container of cold water with a plastic bowl with which to throw water over yourself. The water was not really that cold, rather tepid, but standing butt naked in the middle of a very see-through ramshackle “outhouse”, wasn’t my idea of comfort. In the end, you get over it and it becomes nothing more than a normal daily action. It’s all in our head. The funniest thing was they were so concerned that the water was too cold. I made out I was freezing my privates off as a joke, and we all laughed heartily. That evening they had a huge steel pot of water on the stove bubbling away, ready to pour into the large container, just so I could have a “hot” shower. Strangely it was quite humbling, almost to the point of embarrassment.
The next day we went for a trip to some National Park to see an annual flower bloom that attracts visitors from all over Thailand. Unfortunately we came at the end of the period when the flowers are at their peak, but it was nonetheless very interesting.
On the last night, a feast of sorts was organised, with everyone helping out with the preparation and cooking of all sorts of delicacies. Even the kids, who were very young and would normally be out playing on the road, were involved. Sometimes I think they were more hindrance than a help, but it was all part of making me feel welcome and wanted. I was naturally not allowed to do anything. When it came time to eat, I offered to buy some beer to enjoy with the meal. This was accepted very graciously, and one of the women dashed off on a motor bike after relieving me of a purple note. I didn’t realise that large bottles of Chang were so cheap away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. She came back with 16 bottles…and change! A number of people from other houses seemed to just ‘drop in’, and so joined in the eating and drinking. I suspect it was more to check out the white guy. Even genuine passers by were dragged in and forced to join in. Oh, oh! more beer needed. So another 16 bottles! On top of that a bottle of Schnapps went down a treat. The next morning there was sickness all over the place. Jam and I had very mild hangovers, being a little more used to the vagaries of alcohol.
One of the surprising things was that there were people from all over who had heard about this new arrival (me), and so would walk slowly past the house to check me out. Once past a few metres they would turn back and wander past again…..and again….and again. There was much tittering and giggling with hands over mouths at each pass. It was a little disconcerting at first. Then I thought this isn’t so bad after all! It was like being a movie or pop star. Me! At my age!
Finally after nearly a week, it was time to go. I was actually quite sad to leave, after feeling so apprehensive at the start. Jam’s grandmother tied the good luck strings on our wrists. This prompted everyone else to do the same. The peace, serenity and feeling of isolation from living this rural existence is quite amazing. I know it’s not for everyone, and probably most, but for sheer experience you can’t beat it. If you can do it – do! It is so rewarding. For those that have families in Thailand and can relate to what I have written, you need say nothing. You know.
Just before we left, I thought it would be nice to offer a little extra cash for the family. They are only farmers. I pulled out a wad of notes expecting to say goodbye to it all. Jam’s mum peeled off a very small amount and gave the rest back to me. This was not the first time this has happened. It was very refreshing as we have all heard the many horror stories of gold-digging parents etc. My in-laws are not like that, and I’m very glad. They are fantastic people, even the ones I never met before. In fact, there was one woman on the last night, who gave me a hand woven silk scarf. Another guy, I’d never met before, took off his belt and gave it to me. It had a hand made pistol as a buckle and was obviously his pride and joy.
There is so much more to tell and maybe I will one day. I’m also sorry this is so long, but I think it is better told in one go for continuity. Hopefully this will encourage people to post more on topic and for others to ask more on topic questions, things about what this list is supposed to be about.
Fossil, trying to uplift something.
re:From: “Clark Kent — up up and away”
Subject: [pattayalandfour] Thai party – long post, and it was!
but so is mine!
After some deliberation, I’ve decided to give a brief account of three party situations I have been involved in, although come to think of it I have already given exhausting accounts of them. (full unedited mails can be searched for and found in the archives or by asking me)
Oh well, here goes. The last was when I stayed at Jam’s (my wife) parents place north of Chaiyaphum in Central Thailand for the first time. There seemed to be two reasons for any party, the first being me. Strange as that may sound, there were many who had never seen me before despite several visits. So this was a chance not to be missed. The second was a Thai thing. Who knows better how to have fun better than the Thais, apart from Aussies of course!!! I forked out a small amount of Baht to one of Jam’s sisters who promptly scurried off with a basket and treadlie (bicycle) to the local. She returned not only with plenty of cold beer, but a heap of food as well. People started turning up early afternoon to help out preparing the evenings feast. Strangely there was a bucket load of seafood including sqiud, fish and baby octopus. Strange as these items are a long way from their native habitat. Despite that, it was all very fresh and succulent. Cooked to perfection. I ended up opening a bottle of Schnapps, which all thought was so special and enjoyed it immensely. Actually some enjoyed it a little too much as they were a very sorry sight the next morning. Not me I might add!
The second time was in Bangkok at the Narai Hotel on Silom Rd, which incidently I had stayed at on my first ever trip to the land of tuk-tuks and som tam. The function room which could seat up to 1000 persons, was the venue for a Thai wedding between the daughter of a woman I know in Pattaya (hence my involvement) and a high(ish) ranking officer in the Royal Thai Police. They made a beautiful couple, and the whole event was trully a gala performance. There were a great many Police in uniform (avec guns) all looking resplendant, but ominous in their demeanour. The food was fabulous and of course there was plenty of it. One of the curiosities was the alcohol, or general lack of it. There was cheap imported whiskey/soda and some red wine…not FARW, naturally….but you had to ask for it. Other than that everyone had a great time, although I admit to feeling a little out of place. Why? I was the only farang in a room of 700. And I apparently stuck out like a sore thumb. Did I care? Not in the least. It was an experience I would not trade.
The first time was when Jam and I got married. We had the party at her parent’s place, and upon arrival at about 4:30 am….which means we’d had less than 1.5 hours sleep, the whole village seemed to crawl out of the wood work and start the cooking and preparing for fun extravaganza. As in Clark’s post everyone seemed to have a job or a set duty to perform. It didn’t matter if they were 9 or 90. They knew what to do and they did it with precision. It was a marvel to behold. I won’t into the details, but I became a focus of attention. One of the main reasons was because many of the ‘locals’ had never….I do mean, never….ever seen a whitey (farang) before, so they came for a gawk. It made it a tad embarrassing at first, but within a very short time, I was eating, laughing and most importantly drinking with them all. At that time no-one could understand me and I couldn’t understand a word they said, but we all got on like a house on fire (bad pun I know). Again it was another time I would never forget in the land of heat and humidity.
The moral of all of this waffle….Thailand is a wonderful country with fabulous people, food, climate…etc, etc. There is obviously a great deal more to it than that, and people go for different reasons. If you don’t have blinkers or rose-coloured glasses, you’ll do ok. More on that another day….maybe! I have to find my soapbox first!
Fossil, feeling the 40’s+……..heat, not age!
After my solitary post of two weeks ago, my first ever from Pattaya I might add, herewith the first of several pieces of stuff during my stay this month in our fair city. Firstly I met quite a number of people from several lists, many whom I had never met before. Of course I also bumped into several others who either live there or I had already had the pleasure of. (bad grammar I know, but I’m tired and it’s hard to come up with perfect speech all the time.) All persons encountered were top class and it makes me wonder sometimes why so many shun meeting others of obviously similar interests. Up to them, I say. Anyway those that did all seemed to enjoy the experience.
Thanks to LLL for dragging me to a cafe, even if the post from me was a nothing one. Actually he spent many a night at 16 with me and his high maintainence girl-friend. I’m sure he’ll say something about that later when he gets the chance. I’m just going to write something when I think of it as it’s too taxing for a brain that’s nearly fossilised to remember everything all at once!
One of several highlights this time was another trip up country to Jam’s parents place outside of Chaiyaphum in central Thailand. Before we got there however we had to go via Khon Kaen to pick up one of Jam’s other sisters and a whole lot of food, presents and assorted paraphenalia to take to her parents home. This weighed the poor little car down, but I still managed to keep a decent speed up. For those that know, Thailand’s roads can be somewhat in need of repair (to put it nicely) most of the time. Usually on 4 lane highways, the left lane which is supposed to be the main track for the multitude of trucks and buses, is a normal drivers’ nightmare. Full of potholes and loose debris scattered all over the lane, so most people (myself included) travel in the “nice” lane as it is often relatively unscarred and pleasant to travel on. About 20 Kms or so out of Khon Kaen, I was flagged down by a bunch of the local Highway Brownies. I had heard so often about this but in 6 years of driving in Thailand, I’d never had the pleasure! So now it was my turn. They were friendly enough and with grins from ear to ear. My apparent misdemeanour was driving for too long on the right hand lane! The obligitory 200THB was grudgingly handed over after some stern words from Jam. It didn’t help! Just about to pull out and continue on our way, when one of the other members leaned into the car and asked for my driving license. Luckily having an International license (which you should have) I pulled this out and gave it to him. He was loking puzzled so I told him what it was. His eyes lit up and Baht signs rang up in his eyes. Firstly, he’d obviously never seen one before and secondly thought this was his lucky day, as many items such as licences, are often confiscated and sold on the Brown…errr, I mean black market. I wasn’t having a bar of this, and at one point there were three hands all having a tug of war with my precious piece of paper, which expired a week later anyway! I finally got it back in one piece and left hurriedly. Nothing further happened but I thought they might have radioed ahead to another bunch of Brownies to try again. So now I have joined the ranks of most others who have had the pleasure of making a voluntary donation to the (Khon Kaen in this case) Police Retirement Fund.
More adventures to follow…
Fossil, funding the feds!
This trip it was agreed that Jam would come out to Oz for a brief respite from the nightly grind of looking after the bar. So on the way to her parents place, we decided to stop off at the Embassy in Bangkok to get her visa. Before leaving Pattaya, I asked did she have all the necessary cards, passport, paperwork etc. She assured me that she did so off we went. About 45 minutes into the trip, Jam groans and says that she left and inportant piece of paper at home. I let out a very distinct groan, as I was already tired from no sleep. After some discussion (I wasn’t going back to Pattaya and then back to Bangkok) I told her we’d skip the Embassy and come back the following week. She insisted it would still be ok and we should go anyway. I knew it wouldn’t be, but I thought if we went and she got knocked back, it’d hopefully teach her a lesson of one sort or another. To cut a long story short, the application was rejected. I told her…I told you so!!
So we go off to Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum, see previous post, and return to Pattaya a few days later. We then trundled off back to Bangkok the following week with all the correct items. This time the entire process was completed within 40 minutes at the Embassy. As it should have been the first time!
As an aside, for those Aussies wishing to apply for a visa for the love of their life, be warned, you now need to have a bank cheque to pay for visa at the time you apply for it. You can not use cash or credit cards. It seems that it is a bit of a scam as the bank cheque costs THB30 at the bank. Also should your application for a visa be refused, you lose the fee as well.
The other point is that since the terrorist threats of bombing the Australian Embassy last month, security has been tightened even further. At the front of the Embassy, there is a bit of construction going on and an ATCO (temp building site building) to leave all items not relevant to paperwork. You know bags, umbrellas and the like. Inside this little building there are several Army looking guys dressed in dark blue Army looking uniforms, all toting M-16’s and with fingers on triggers and eyes on you, it is a little comforting to know they are hopefully there to protect you. I guess most, if not all of the other Embassies are in pretty much the same position.
Sorry if these posts are boring to anyone.
Fossil, telling it like it was.