My Thai And I
An Expat Idyll in Isaan
An Expat Idyll in Isaan
1. You Lucky Guy!
Even though my long-cherished laptop computer was stolen from under my feet only half an hour ago, I’ve just been reminded what a lucky guy I am.
‘You gonna get one of these?’ he asks with infectious enthusiasm, as if he’s known me all his life.
‘No, actually… I’m just looking,’ I reply, with my usual stiff-upper Britishness.
‘They’re American, man, so buy one… built right here in Rayong.’
We chat for a few moments and, with his engaging warmth and openness, he quickly prises open my entire life story. I tell him how I was once a lawyer in London half a lifetime ago, about how I escaped to lecture law at a university in Nigeria, later lecturing at universities in Hong Kong and Singapore, before a final ten years on the academic treadmill at the Adversity of Exeter in the south west of England.
‘Wow,’ he says as we part. ‘But now you’re early retired, living in yer’ new house in Surin with a sexy Thai lady… and just published a bestselling novel. And today you’re even thinking of buying an American truck! Well, I guess that’s gotta be every man’s dream!’
After losing my laptop to a sneak thief in the crowded food hall upstairs, his words come forcefully back to me. Every man’s dream? ‘Gosh’, as we greying Brits still say, is that right? Well yes, even if I have just been robbed, I really am a lucky guy.
It’s still a novel experience living in Thailand with Cat and I ask myself why there are so many of these peculiar cross-cultural unions here. Is it right, this pulling power we western wrinklies seem to have in a much poorer country? What is it our young Thai girlfriends and wives expect of us? What’s the deal exactly?
Meeting the American in Pantip Plaza reminds me of the lyrics of Bob Dylan, the iconic sixties singer-songwriter, whose nasal wailings often reveal universal truths.
“I’ll buy you a Chevrolet! I’ll buy you a Chevrolet! I’ll buy you a Chev-ro-let…
Just give me some of your love babe! Just give me some of your love!”
So maybe that’s all it is; these unequal relationships are little more than an economic exchange. These women are in it for the money, the cynics will say, which worries me somewhat because, in the words of another pop icon, ‘money can’t buy you love’.
I’m not too worried though, as the romantic in me insists that our accommodating Thai ladies do actually like us oldies for ourselves as well as for our cash. As they lure us into matrimony, they tell us persuasively that we have good hearts, and that we’re handsome too.
So I like to delude myself that we are indeed something quite special. We’re rare and mellow like a vintage port, increasing in value as we mature in texture and pinkness with each passing year.