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Bangkok Bar Girls and Farang Tourists

Old, fat, dumb farang tourists and scheming, thieving bar girls – who is to be pitied most?

I met Derek at the Bangkok train station and it emerged we’d be catching the same train up north. He was getting off before me, though, in a little out of the way place where he hoped to find his ex-wife still practicing hair cutting on the station platform.

“I left her 2 weeks after getting married,” he admitted, “I’m not sure whether she’ll want to see me or not.”

Derek had met his wife when she was dirt poor. But as she was so beautiful he helped her get a life, paying for her to train as a hair dresser and then eventually marrying her on her request so that her family would receive the dowry money from the groom. Him. But then he’d freaked out with the claustrophobia of the whole thing and had run back to his girlfriend in Belgium.

“She was also Thai. I found her when I was writing letters to my fiancé and needed a translator. Then as she read the letters, she was so moved by my words that she fell in love with me. Now I’ve got a kid with her and we run a restaurant in Belgium.”

Derek was taking a months break from the restaurant business and so was his wife, visiting family in Bangkok but she didn’t know he was there. She might have tried to stop him hooking up with his ex-wife in the country, after all.

“If it doesn’t work out with my ex-wife I’ll go and find my girlfriend in Bangkok,” Derek admitted, “It all depends on how it goes today. I mean, even when I used to go and see her, she always had boyfriends – she was that beautiful – but she’d tell them to get lost while I was in town.”

Derek was about 50, well-educated and good company. Eventually we came down to the crux of the matter:

“To be honest, I don’t really like women. I mean, I like the way they look but not the inside. For me women are snakes. They’re treacherous. There are exceptions, of course but basically they just want to reproduce and then pull every trick in the book to help their child. Which is good for the child but not for us.”

I only ever meet people like Derek in Thailand. They come here because the women are often beautiful, demure and a lot more fun than in the self-conscious West. If you have money then you’re desirable as a man here and sustains a practical element to the relationship that makes life fairly uncomplicated.

It’s easy to slap down moral templates on other cultures and it’s often quite erroneous. Much of the sex for sale scene here is more like compensated dating, though often it’s an out and out scam with the Thai bar girls taking the dumb farangs for all they’re worth. For sure, you find the archetypal fat, old and ugly Germans, English and Americans waddling around with a slight, pretty young Thai woman and you can’t imagine that she’d be doing so except by absolute necessity. The sex tourist are dumb enough to think that the fact she’s smiling means she’s happy with the situation.

I spent quite a few days just watching farang tourists walking around with their Thai girls. The Thai girls tend to grab hold of their prey aggressively, leading him around by the hand and pouting at every opportunity. In Thailand, the women often seem quite masculine and the men rather highly-strung and effeminate, putting an end to offhand generalisations about the nature of the sexes.

The bar girl (for he almost certainly met her at a bar where she called out ‘hey handsome, buy me a beer?’) wears too much make up and has a hungry, bitter look in the eye. The kind of broiling inner resentment that accounts for all the Thai women in prison for castrating their lovers.

The tourists are the ones to watch though. These guys tend to have the worst dress sense imaginable, wandering around in tight waistcoats with long shirt sleeves and baseball caps. They look like they’ve been lacking a woman’s touch for too many years and have found a temporary solution.

Yet at often twice the height, twice the weight of the girls they’re going with, and quite unaware of the Machiavellian, scheming nature of the predator in the short skirt next to them, it’s hard to know who to pity more.