Brash Bangkok, culture-hound Chiang Mai, pornographic Pattaya, innocent Isaan - which one is your Thailand?

Wherever you go in Thailand, fitting in anonymously isn’t an option. In European countries, if we keep our mouths shut and our gestures to a minimum, remove the Hawaiian shirts and don’t wear socks with shorts, Westerners abroad can just about pass for locals. However in Asia we stand out like big, calloused, and rather ugly, sore thumbs. There’s only so far the farang can go to merge in. Many fail miserably.

This doesn’t bother those of a certain attitude in the least. Arrogant, intolerant and nationalistic, convinced of the superiority of Western civilisation generally, and of their own country specifically, they display their ignorance and disrespect like strutting peacocks, feathers in full display posture. Except their plumes only appear brilliant and exotic to themselves and their ilk. They have about as much subtlety and as many brain cells as the average peacock too. (No criticism of peahens intended) (Beware: lots of blatant stereotyping and unfounded assertions in this blog entry ;-)

Away from the glitz of the tourist areas, there is another Thailand...

Which brings me to PATTAYA - Apologies to some of the very decent and atypical folk who live there, but a lot of male tourists with this mindset - and some expats too - often graduate to the likes of Pattaya; Nana Plaza in town form, with a beach grafted on. Given the excellent alternatives, why go there in the first place? Cobbled together in a haphazard Thai fashion without bothering with town planning, this sprawl of ugliness has few redeeming features. Before you get to the city proper, there are miles upon miles of ‘moo ban’ villa-style villages, often half-empty. Their mostly Western owners fly in and out occasionally, leaving these ‘communities’ to the minority of all-year-round expats, a few rich Thais, security patrols, maids, sweet and pretty young Thai things, and swimming pool attendants.

I’ve stayed in one a few times, and by chance on one occasion most of the neighbours were there at the same time. A cul-de-sac of high walls and automated gates, enclosing well-tended gardens, neat little pools and luxurious villas; an oasis of calm. But you could be anywhere – Provence, the Seychelles, Jamaica, what’s the difference? Much as my host is a genial chap and an all-round good egg, I start to fidget almost immediately.

The usual pattern. Beers, lots of them, as the chaps, curiously all from somewhere near Birmingham in the UK, put the world, and Thailand of course, to rights. The mainly Thai ladies/girls usually happily hang around in the background, variously chatting and cooking. I just don’t fit in – I know it, and they know it, no matter how hard I try to bluff my way though. A couple more days reading a book, a few dips in the pool, and I’ve had enough. There are few other options in Pattaya; hardly anything is within walking distance of the moo bans, just more deserted sois of luxury, silently shouting; “Keep out! This is Little Farangland”. Or take a long taxi drive into the ‘city’ in the evening, and explore a seedy, run-down ramble of streets whose sole purpose is to cater to the baser tourist needs, peopled by a mix of hard-eyed Thais looking for the next opportunity, and insolent, smart aleck, mostly drunk farangs, making fools of themselves.

Sure the latter has its appeal – seeing a melting pot of cultures come together to satisfy the overpowering need for sexual release is fascinating for a while. There’s a never-ending flow of great photo opportunities and exciting stories from Walking Street and surrounds, as some of the Pattaya-based blogs show. Bar and street fights, explicit sex, desperate bar girls with fixed smiles often hiding scorn and disgust. Quietly angry Thai males who have learned to despise the invaders, while depending on them to earn their livings. Flabby, aging Westerners with roving eyes and hands; opinionated, loud-mouthed, intolerant and mocking of the 'inferior' local Thai inhabitants. Sweaty and beer-breathed, sexual prowess boosted by a cocktail of alcohol and Viagra, they prowl the streets looking for the next conquest to brag about.

And these farangs are the ‘ethical’ sex tourists and sexpats. Behind the scenes there is a murky sub-culture easily tapped into by the determined paedophile. Smut comes in various shades, and the Walking Street façade only gives a glimpse of the more garish, barely legal variety.

So for certain visitors the appeal can pall pretty quickly, and soon I’m looking for an excuse to escape to a different Thailand, where there are at least a few of humanity’s higher virtues on display. There’s something ugly about in-your-face Pattaya that leaves me vaguely depressed, with a craving to see something beautiful – a guileless smile, an honest, unpretentious gesture, a simpler Thai lifestyle, relatively unpolluted by our so-called Western ‘values’.

[photo by catherine of]

BANGKOK – an explosion of noise, smells, and shocking visuals, often all the more exaggerated because this is where first-time visitors usually start out. If you have never been to Asia before, it can be mind-blowing, days passing in a haze of half-remembered sights, tastes and impressions, wandering an alien world that bears little or no relation to our westernised idea of civilised city life. Bangkok has everything a farang could possibly want and a lot more besides that some might prefer to do without. After the initial ‘hit’, I need to get out quick to retain my sanity. Bangkok carries you away on pounding waves of sensation, and I’m rudderless and dismasted within hours of arrival, even after numerous visits. Could I live there? Maybe twenty or thirty years ago, fresh from living in Madrid, London, Paris, Milan… one big city is pretty much like another, cosmopolitan behemoths that breed unexpected friendships and chilling indifference, and which need savvy, determination and enthusiasm to survive and prosper. Now I just want to get away from it all… or so I try to convince myself.

ISAAN – if there’s anywhere to get away from it all, parts of Isaan certainly fit the bill. It’s a huge province, and I won’t even attempt to try to describe how it is to live there on a full time basis – I’ll leave that up to the bloggers on the spot. The few weeks I have spent in villages in the north-east have been disconcertingly challenging on a personal level. Despite thinking otherwise, I soon realised how addicted to sensation, a constant need to be diverted, I have become in the West. The pace of life in Isaan, the simplicity, may appeal emotionally and intellectually, the back to basics dream… but the reality? That’s something else. Daily life is a mundane ritual of simple survival activities for many local and often unimaginably poor Thais, and there just isn’t that much going on outside the fundamental necessities of community living, where ordinary folk just do very ordinary things most of the time. Controversy is supplied when a villager cheats at cards. Headline news is when a buffalo gets run over by a local farang. Could I live there on a permanent basis? I’m not sure. Plenty of small and medium-sized towns, but they lack the vibrancy and complexity of the more important urban communities such as Chiang Mai, plus I like the choice Chiang Mai offers – there you can both live the quiet, rural life, and take a quick trip into town and soak up the atmosphere for a day, before you become too much of a hermit.

CHIANG MAI has something for everyone. Admittedly your average Pattaya addict would become quickly bored, but Chiang Mai does have its seedier side, if limited to a couple of very small and relatively unostentatious parts of the city. Sex is less overtly advertised, the girls are less demanding and softer of face and attitude. Violence, crime? It occurs – it is even, sadly, on the rise, with a mix of problems generated by increasingly hard times economically, and growing numbers of illegal workers arriving mainly from nearby Myanmar. But it still feels safe to be on the streets, at any time of day or night. While taking sensible precautions, of course.

Chiang Mai has its Thai pride. Farangs are tolerated, even liked when they show respect for the city, its culture and people. But we remain dispensable, a minor part of the whole picture, one which the majority of local inhabitants have little need of, dependency on, or interaction with. I like that. I like that a lot.

For those with a broad range of interests, who find Bangkok too heady and overpowering, Pattaya too much of a reminder of what’s wrong with humanity, country life impoverished Thai-style too much of a challenge to personal insecurities - and who came to Thailand to meet Thais and discover something both about other ways of life as well as about themselves - Chiang Mai is the perfect compromise. It’ll do for me.

So, what do the experts say, the expats on the spot? – I’ve left out some blogs that I appreciate for other reasons, but here are a few that give me a bit of an insight into living and surviving as a farang in the places mentioned…


Dan's blog epitomises frantic Bangkok, with a mind that skitters from politics to sex to food and back again, apparently at complete random. A helter skelter ride through all that is Bangkok. Absolutely. Once a very welcoming chap, if you decide to call in on him unawares these days, you'll need rubber gloves for the electrified fencing, a thick blanket to cover the razor wire and jagged broken glass on top of his wall, a hacksaw for the iron bars in all the windows, and some sleeping tablets for the Doberman. No half measures where Dan is concerned, once he's been robbed. Ok, well it was five times in three weeks...

Bangkok Blogger is one I found recently. BB recounts stories of the wonderful (mainly go-go establishments) and the weird (this one about a superstition involving a bridge, ghosts, and sanitary towels)... Amazing Thailand.

GregToDiffer is a quirky Canadian who just loves the big city. Why? "Why not?" he replies. "Well, it’s just never boring here. Between the chaotic traffic, the ‘quiet nights’ that spiral wildly out of control, the ridiculous politics, the cheap and awesome food, and the interesting people, even a ho-hum evening is likely to reward you with an interesting story or two. So, while I try to write about Thailand in general as often as I can, much of this blog ends up being about my experiences living in Bangkok." Read his then and now post, Bangkok in the 70s to the modern day.


I recently came across the Pattaya Photo Blog, maintained by a young lady of unknown origin and occupation, but who bombards and twitters the web with a non-stop colourful slide show of Pattaya images, seemingly day and night. She doesn't write much, I've no idea what makes her tick, but her pics say it all, and more.

Just to prove my blog is one big stereotype, Spike at Pattaya Days shows that there is an entirely different side to Pattaya - if you look hard enough. Great photos, stories, a keen mix of fun and self-parody.


Martyn does a good line in irony too. His Beyond the Mango Juice mixers take you into a Jack Daniels world of Isaan contemplations, some of which require joining him in a large one to get a handle on his unique interpretations of life with and without his Wonderful Wi(fe). Obscure, provocative at times, often moving. Great stuff from Udon Thani. Going back to an older blog of Martyn's, I love this photo of his. Why aren't British kids like that?

Brunty has a very Isaan Style blog, and it's one of the most comprehensive and informative accounts around on life in the province. Teaching in a local school in Ubon Ratchathani, he is the oracle on all things educational.

Surin is home to a sexagenarian Englishman and his Thai Girl. His books and blog rove from the wistful to the sardonic, and both provide a profound insight into life in 'real' Thailand, far from the madding crowds of farangs in the likes of Pattaya.

The North, Chiang Mai

The Village Farang lives his Thai Village Life somewhere near to Chiang Rai, as far as I can make out. If you need any proof that a contemplative and contented lifestyle can be lived far away from the hubbub of city life, VF provides it throughout his thoughtful and thought-provoking writings. Prepare to read between the lines - and between the lines that lie between the lines...

Si vous parlez francais, this young lady is teaching in Chiang Mai, and gives a refreshing view of the capital of North Thailand, through her energetic and enthusiastic blog, Un Ptit Tour en Asie. Nice stories and some great photos, well worth a quick skim through for the pics even if you don't speak French...

Other places

The dry humour and keenly regimented mind of Mike speaks to us though My Thai Friend, and shows just how it is possible to live the quiet life in his little corner of the Land Of Smiles, somewhere near Prachuap Khiri Khan in the bottom bit of Thailand. Yes I completely ignored the southern part of the Kingdom in my blog. having never been anywhere near it. Perhaps Mike might tell us how it compares to those places I did stereotype...

Kanchanaburi is the home of Malcolm and his Thai wife Ciejay, and he is Retired in Thailand and Loving It immensely. Where is it? Somewhere near the Bridge over the River Kwae (Kwai), left a bit, up a bit, from Bangkok. Malcolm is determined to live every moment to the full, and this shines through his blogs in that especially American way. Who's knocking it - he's happy, and there's no arguing with that...

Suphanburi is in the same area, up a bit, left a bit from Bangkok. Thai Pirate Ben navigates through life from here, variously landscape gardening, blogging and eating, as far as I can make out. Consistently excellent blog from the man with green fingers and a wooden peg.

Saraburi is one of those places the 'Express Coach' from Chiang Mai has meandered through, somewhere not long before arriving in Bangkok. Young Jonny Foreigner lives there, blogging on all things Thai, from politics to morals to family life and his handsome and obviously brainy 7 month old son...

Last but not least, although she's Bangkok-based, her blogs are less on everyday life in the Big Mango than how to communicate with the indigenous people actually living there. As such her blogs are always worth a read, full of ideas and suggestions, because if you actually intend coming to live in the Land of Smiles, being able to converse with Thai people, even at a basic level, will add so much more to the experience. Women Learning Thai... and some men too ;-), by Catherine...

This Is Thailand

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Martyn said...

Brilliant....absolutely brilliant. said...

nice work dude..

i like your blog.. keep up your good work!!!!

Thailand Girl said...

Acknowledging your stereotyping is not an excuse. Fat, loud obnocious American and UK ex pats are disgusting at times yes, ok most of the time haha

But think about this...

The real sex trade is not about the Farang, the seedy disgusting side is hidden from Farang because Asians know that most farang would morally object to non consentual prostitution - what really goes on
is hidden behind closed door for non farang eyes only.

I used to have a bleeding heart like you until I realised the great majority of the girls in places like Pattaya are there by choice.

To many its an easy life, I have tried to find staff amongst the freelance girls for legit work from time to time until they learn what a "salary" is - they can live on a salary but they have to actually work and cant party every night - they turn their noses up at real work having sex is easy work.

Feel sorry for the girls that are hidden from the Farang behind closed doors for fear that it would upset our morals and we would call the police.

Mike said...

Pete what an good take on these places. The only one I haven't visited is Pattaya.

I too really like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. I would have probably settled there if circumstances had been different.

Kanchanaburi appeals too, but too many tourists for my liking.

Here in farang free Prachuap I get the best of all worlds rural and urban without the smutty side of Thailand anywhere to be seen.

My only real want is a couple of big shops or a mall, just to save the 100km to Hua Hin when I need something beyond the scope of the local traders.

Catherine said...

I read down your opinions on Thailand and find myself nodding to some, taking note of others (I didn't realise that Pattaya even had a suburbia).

And as always, as I went though your post I took time to savour and admire both your writing and photography skills.

When I got to the Thailand bloggers, I realised just how much everyone has impacted my life this past year.

I don't know everyone on your list, but Dan, Greg, Martyn, Brunty, Andrew, Mike, Malcolm, Ben, Jonny (did I miss any?), and you of course, have broadened my Thai expat outlook.

It is very easy to slide into a cliché life in Thailand. And I guess it is the same elsewhere too, but Thailand seems to have hard lines drawn.

And (to state the obvious) the priorities of a gal living in Thailand are totally different than a guys.

But by reading about the different lifestyle choices posted daily, I've been able to evolve to a much more flamboyant way of thinking.

And I believe it all comes down to this: The experiences and opinions shared are from kind and genuine people, so I feel comfortable opening up to the different mindsets.

I’m certainly looking forward to more of the same :-)

Btw - I am proud to see my photo amongst the others, and doubly proud of your mention of WLT.

The FrogBlogger said...

Martyn, Thanks, just girding my loins for some more Thailand Girl-style criticisms now ;-), alias the mysterious young lady from Pattaya with insomnia who speaks German and English, thank YOU for some great photos of Pattaya, not just the seamier side, but also just about everything you ever eat. If we were to meet in a Pattaya restaurant you wouldn't need to say a word, I could order for you...

Mike I didn't realise your area was completely farang-free. As you're in the skinny bit of Thailand on the way down, I kind of assumed you wouldn't be that far from the sea, and where there are sand and sea, there are farangs...

Thanks Catherine. I had a closer look at your photography site yesterday, and some of the photos, especially the portraits, are absolutely beautiful. Just one thing - if anyone actually wants to link to a photo of yours, as I did - it's hard to find the snapshot url, and there's only a choice between quite small (as the one I used), and very large. Of course you may not want people to link to your photos, but if you do, then the size restrictions are a bit of a hindrance.

The FrogBlogger said...

Thailand Girl, some interesting thoughts in there. Don't assume that because I didn't touch on that particular subject I don't know what you are talking about. One aspect in particular - the Thai-only brothels - I nearly wrote about last year, but decided against it (for the time being). It's rather risky. You are right, it is deeply disturbing. Mostly girls from Myanmar, others from Lao, Cambodia, even China. And from the hill tribes in Thailand itself of course. These are the involuntary sex workers, tricked or coerced into the business, held as virtual slaves. It may be illegal in Thailand, but corruption and the presence of multitudes of illegals throughout the Kingdom ensures it carries on. Even a Thai government report - it's in their interests to play down the problem - estimates as many as 40,000 children... yes, children... in the business in Thailand.

I have a friend in Chiang Mai, nice guy, but one of those you could describe as a sex addict'. Chiang Mai after 3/4am is pretty much dead - officially the bars close at 1am, and other than one club that hangs on a bit later, it is almost impossible to find to find a 'partner' that far into the night. We were playing pool (you can at least do that behind closed doors, if you are paying for drinks, into the small hours) when my friend 'T' decided he desperately needed someone to spend what was rest of the night with. So it was into a tuk-tuk, and the driver drove us to one such establishment. Such was 'T's reputation in town, that after some negotiation he was allowed in. I was allowed in too, despite pointing out I only wanted a beer. I have never seen such a bunch of miserable-looking girls despite the transparently false smiles, including some very under-age kids, as those that were paraded in front of us. Even Tony - and this is really saying something - turned them all down. It was a sobering experience.

I agreer with you - sure, the girls working the bars and go-go clubs do so of their own free will. But now you are guilty of a stereotype of your own. To claim that these girls are happy-go-lucky, having a whale of a time, and would prefer to do this job than earn a salaried living is untrue in plenty of cases and an oversimplification in others. It is a complex situation where many factors play a role, not least the need to support children in many cases after being abandoned by a husband, as well as mothers and fathers, and where they simply don't have the education to earn a salary that even approaches the sort of figure they need. Go on, then, Thailand Girl - tell how much a month the 'real jobs' you mention actually pay?

I have talked to a lot of people involved in the business, and although many keep up a pretence of happiness, there's a deep-seated shame and self-disgust, if you can dig deeply enough. 'Real' Thailand - ie where they came from, not Pattaya - has some very Victorian moral attitudes in this respect, and the girls find this hard to shake off.

Catherine said...

'Of course you may not want people to link to your photos, but if you do, then the size restrictions are a bit of a hindrance.'

While I am chuffed to bits that you chose to use one of my photos, I don't have them set up to hotlink. Mainly because if too many do it (yeah, I'm dreaming), then it'll drag my server down (I'm hosting, not blogger or WP).

Ben Shingleton said...

Great post Pete, thanks so much for the funny mention - I will always describe Suphan as up and left a bit of Bkk from now. Pattaya eh. What a mess. As a newbie, I too was taken in by the melting pot of heat, activity and colour, I only ever stayed, or do stay, for a day or two at most (with the misses I will add), but as you say, truth be told, in many ways it is a rather tragic place.

The FrogBlogger said...

Catherine, I didn't think hotlinking low res photos did that much damage in terms of bandwidth, but then what would I know. Next to nothing, in fact. Nor can I help you with your power twittering problems, in case you ask ;-)

Thanks Ben, yes "tragic" is the word. But Thailand Girl has a point, and now I'm seriously thinking about trying to get some more info on the trafficking and coercion that goes on in the business, in the 'not-for-farang-eyes' side to Thailand. Bit dangerous, though.

Talen said...

I think the seedier side can be found just about anywhere in Thailand if you look hard enough for it.

Although Issan isn't as impacted by falang or the seedier side I know I've seen several bars between Mukdahan and Kakhon Phanom that fit the bill and have been told of other that, as Thai girl put it, are meant for Thai eyes only.

Excellent post...

The FrogBlogger said...

Talen, yep, seeds everywhere, but not all grow into weeds. For Thai Eyes Only has got to be the title of a blog post, for whoever's brave enough to post on the subject...

(By the way Talen, one glaring omission from my list of must-read blogs - yours. This is because for some obscure reason, possibly because it's affected by some ghostly Thai spirit of the blogosphere, your excellent blog has dropped off my blogrole four times already. This is a complete mystery to me, I haven't modified the list, your url just keeps vanishing into the ether. As a result when I ran down the list to sort out the mentions, once again yours wasn't there, hence the slip-up. Sorry about that, it's very odd, maybe something to do with the feed, I don't know)...

hobby said...

My favorite places in Thailand were the southern islands & beaches: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Phuket & Krabi, but that was back in the 1980's.
Those special places have long gone for me, a victim of their own beauty & popularity.
They are still considered special places by many, but thats by different travellers, looking for a different type of tourist experience.

Like you, I've only ever been able to handle Bangkok for a few days at a time.

Next time I go to Thailand I will finally get to Chiang Mai - I avoided it in the 1980's because all the people down south who recommended it to me were (to put it politely) 'not my type of people'.
Who knows, maybe those people now feel the same way about Chiang Mai as I do about the southern islands, lamenting how it has changed?

Western Observer said...

I thought about Chiang Mai but settled for Bangkok in the end. Chiang Mai seemed quite nice but my opinion of the place was coloured by a crazy woman with an umbrella who followed me everywhere. To acquire a dedicated stalker within 30 minutes of arrival must be some kind of record.

The FrogBlogger said...

Hobby, too late for me to visit the south then - shame. No unspoilt areas anywhere? I had planned on a trip to Samui later this year, but I'm in two minds...

Even Chiang Mai has changed a lot. A friend who spent a lot of time there in the 80s visited recently, and was taken aback by the changes, huge hotels, the pollution. Still, at least it still feels wholly 'Thai', unlike some places.

Western Observer, thanks for the comment. Right now in Chiang Mai I wouldn't mind being stalked by a woman with an umbrella, the amount of rain that's been coming down!

hobby said...

FB: I'd still go have a look at those 4 places if I had never been there - its just I remember them went they were less spoilt.
I'm sure you could still have a good experience there, just stay away from the more touristy & bar areas (if thats not your 'scene')

Each of those places has 'busy' areas and 'quiet' areas, so you can still choose your experience.

Catherine said...

'for whoever's brave enough to post on the subject...'

I'm going to ask something that is either stupid, or even worse(?) naive?

Why is it dangerous to post, on a Western blog no less, anonymously even, about what is going on in the real world in Thailand?

Don't Western bloggers do that all the time?

Or is it the research involved?

The FrogBlogger said...

Catherine, some bloggers are more anonymous than others. I'm pretty easily traced. But an article about an illegal operation involving the trafficking of women and children for sex into Thailand (probably the major centre in SE Asia), and from Thailand into the likes of Japan, would mean getting on the wrong side of some seriously powerful and unscrupulous people and organisations. Here the 'Thai only' bordellos are protected by people on both sides of the law. And those involved certainly don't want farangs to know about them - as suggested by Thailand Girl, it would offend our Western sensibilities, harm Thailand's reputation, and damage the tourism industry even more than it has been already. And far more importantly for those involved, threaten their substantial income.

My curiosity got the better of me last time, when I accompanied my friend to a Chiang Mai 'Thai only' bordello. That single visit was an eye-opener, it was a seriously disgusting place - the sight of kids amongst sad-looking women imprisoned in conditions like that really shook me.

The authorities pay lip service to stopping the trade - I've seen leaflets warning foreigners against the risks involved should they get caught with under-age girls and boys - but the fact is that the system is largely corrupt, and there remain tens of thousands of children in the business in Thailand.

And yes the investigation part would be highly risky. There are some heavy duty Thai mafia types involved who wouldn't think twice about doing you some serious harm if they suspected you were intending to publish a story about their business. There is big money involved.

It's the kind of investigation that a professional hack doing a quick 'in-out' trip might do, so long as he lived on the other side of the world. And even then...

If you get the chance to see it, this 2003 documentary narrated by Angelina Jolie tells the story of prostitution in SE Asia that is largely hidden to Western eyes: Trading Women.

Martyn said...

Pete I must say once again what a brilliant post and thanks for the inclusion of one of Wilai's photos, the Vivitar would of blown a gasket trying to capture that print. On the subject of the real Thailand and the real sex trade I remember being taken to a backstreet Thai brothel in Tak many condoms ago and the mamasang lining up the girls for me to choose from. A Thai policeman that I had met at the big hotel nightclub took me there and he glanced at me proudly as if to say "take your pick, these are the pride of Tak." The ten women had about 46 teeth between them and well all I can say is that I had one quiet drink and then took the two kilometre walk back to my hotel alone. I'll never forget that walk because about 200 metres from the Viang Tak II hotel a pack of about 10 rabid looking dogs came out of a side soi and hung on my tail, believe me the brothel started to look attractive. The true Thailand and it's sex trade is a lot different to Pattaya. Pattaya is lamb dressed up as mutton. On a side note, I'm missing Wilai like crazy, must be all those teeth she's got. On the 22nd you couldn't hand me the keys to that wine cellar you frequented for the first three months of this year. Great post.

hobby said...

FB: I now feel a bit bad about once thinking (maybe posting?) about you having rose colored glasses regarding Thailand:)

Catherine said...

Pete, thanks for the link. It is quite shocking to read about the children. Well, anyone in that situation really.

If I do get the chance, I'll watch the movie (will they even show it in Thailand?)

Living here, I have come to terms with the sex trade (pre this new development) but only by making it easy on myself. I stay away from areas with the highest concentration, and mai bpen rai the rest.

And I don't waste any energy on judging as I cannot possibly know what I'd do if the same were available to me. What I mean is, that if I were a man, or if a sex trade for women was the norm. No one could possibly know, only guess.

But the children issue does read the hardest, expecially when you say that Thailand is the centre of the people trafficing.

So no Thai has tried to make a political issue of it? Not even when Jolie helped to create that movie?

The laws from the US sound interesting, but who knows how they'll work out, and if Thailand can wiggle right out from under them.

The FrogBlogger said...

Hobby, I dropped and smashed my last pair of rose-tinted glasses when I spent some time in Morocco about 30 years ago. They're various shades of grey these days. My feelings about Thailand are ambivalent - there is much that Asia can teach the West in terms of priorities, family values, respect. But as for cronyism, corruption, patronage, exploitation of ethnic minorities and an uneducated mega-poor underclass, political shenanigans... Thailand takes some beating. So long as ordinary Thais still think giving sin nam jai ('gifts' to officials) is a normal way of doing business while stealing a pen from the office is sinful, so long as the jao pho (regional 'godfathers') are accepted as part of the way of things, then Thailand and Thais have got a lot to sort out.

Martyn, disappearing into my cellar for 3 months was not an answer, something I only concluded on emerging because by then it was pretty much empty. So, probably not quite what you had in mind...

The Tak experience sounds grim. Farangs rarely get to see this side to Thailand. I feel a post about general corruption and the underbelly of Thai society coming on...

Catherine, yes trafficking of both women and children, coerced or tricked into slave labour, organised begging, or the sex trade, is sickening. I've read a lot about it, but mainly reports by international agencies. I'm hopefully off to spend some time with a Dutch/American group involved with the hill tribes near Chiang Rai in September, and so maybe there's a trend of less mai pen rai posts in the pipeline from me :-)

Jon said...

Great post and some equally insightful comments here.

Living away from Bangkok, Pattaya et al with few farangs I'm somewhat shaded from the sex tourism industry. However there are a number of establishments in town well known for catering for 'the needs' of Thai men.

It's interesting to note that, within Thai society, a level of adultery is tolerated by wives and families.

I know a terrible story of a father of 3 who continually leaves his wife for a 21 year old girl. It's been going on for almost 5 years and he will routinely switch from one to the other for 6 months or so. The attitudes of those involved are incredible to me, they tolerate his behaviour - it's even been the source of jokes. I just keep my mind open and trap closed.

Undoubtedly this attitude has helped the sex industry become what it is today.

Greg said...

Great post, sums up my feelings pretty succinctly. I loathe Pattaya with every atom in my body; Chiang Mai is nice, but still has all of Bangkok's problems - pollution, traffic jams, empty garbage-strewn lots (but it closer to nature). Bangkok for me is everything one big stew - the fun part is finding the good parts and ignoring the rest, which I think is the whole point of living here.
Thanks for the mention about my blog. I have an extra pair of rose-tinted glasses if you'd like - guy did them in Chinatown for me for 100 baht. :P

Lloyd said...

The Isaan lifestyle does take some getting used to but when combined with a little exersize it can be very satisfying.

Give me the sea air and beautiful south west coast any day!

The FrogBlogger said...

Jon - it's largely a patriarchal society, men can still do pretty much as they please in LOS. Wonder how quickly things will change; even for expats in LOS, hearing stories like that can still shock our egalitarian sensibilities. Maybe I'm more 'New Man' than I thought...

Greg order me a pair of those rose-tinted glasses, I'll need them for the next time I have to spend a few months in Europe :-)

Lloyd, I couldn't churn out any bland generalisations about that part of Thailand, never been anywhere near. As for Chiang Mai, you might have trouble sailing your yacht down the Ping River, and navigating through the smog...

Harry said...

The UK, like the USA, is starting to tighten up their immigration and visa policies for those entering the UK. For most students who want to study in the UK read this blog carefully:
Visa for UK the Advantage factor for UK candidates is that it is easy to get Student Visas. Almost all the candidates who receive a confirmed offer from a UK university and show evidence of financial support for tuition fees and living costs are sanctioned Visas. We have dedicated Visa consultants who can help you with Visa procedures. Once you have an offer from a university, you can start applying for a UK student visa. Along with the visa form you need to submit personal information, academic qualifications, financial strengths etc. Generally you can obtain a visa for the entire duration of the course in the UK. All student visas are Multi Entry Visas.
Now thought had to give some information to readers on what Visa For UK.
Visa for UK is a UK based immigration company headquartered at Manchester and managed by UK immigration solicitors. They provide all kind of assistance to clients and cover almost all visa categories to the UK, namely business visits, holiday visit, HSMP Visa. However they mainly focus on student admission and visa documentation.
The question that comes up these days is: when will the UK immigration system take effect and will I be affected by the changes. The system is of course being ‘rolled out’ slowly and until there is a definitive change, the old rules will apply.
There has been huge increase in the number of students opting UK as a destination of study. It is gaining wide popularity, because of the global recognition of degrees awarded by UK universities. We assist our students in choosing the right course and the right institute.
The student visitor visa is for those that plan a stay of less than 6 months. Under the Student Visitor Visa, a student cannot have paid employment or an internship greater than 2 credit hours, and cannot extend their stay once they have arrived. For everyone else if you plan to stay more than 6 months, if you may extend beyond 6 months, or if you want to working in UK or have an internship greater than 2 credit hours -- then you need to apply for a Student Visa/Prior Entry Clearance.
All those who aspire to study in UK can always approach us.
Please visit our
we always and surely would help the aspirants.

The FrogBlogger said...

Jolly good Harry, but absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter of the blog of course :-)

Anonymous said...

hey man I like it. I'm about to write more articles and put your ideas to the test. After all, we always have something new to learn and being humble, I came here to learn. Bookmarked.

- John

Anonymous said...

last week our group held a similar talk about this subject and you point out something we haven't covered yet, thanks.

- Laura

Guantes DE Nitrilo said...

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