My good deed for the day...

Thai girls seem to be born with the innate ability to preen the egos and any other parts of the male anatomy that are in need of attention, without so much as a moment's hesitation, deviation or boring repetition. It just comes naturally. They may have been raised in a wooden dwelling in a remote part of Isaan in the NE of Thailand and hardly ever seen a Caucasian before. They may have stopped what little schooling they had by the time they were 12 in order to go weave baskets for as many hours of daylight as there are in the week, for a couple of hundred baht - say two or three dollars' worth. They may have come to the big city by the time they were 20 without a word of English, some barely able to read or write. But within months, sometimes just weeks, they will have pinpointed all those invisible buttons that self-imagined streetwise, educated, globe-trotting seen-it-all farangs - capable of holding their own in high profile meetings with the canniest of business competitors - were completely unaware existed for the pressing.

48 year old recent divorcee Alain had been in Thailand for a fortnight during the summer. By the time he was on his way back to France, exotic dancer Took had sworn her undying loyalty to him, and he to her. Some 600 euros were henceforth transferred monthly to Took, whose buffalo and relatives remained in surprisingly fine health until his return in October. Then just last week Took had reluctantly and tearfully revealed to him that she was actually still married, and that her long-awaited divorce had not yet come through. Soon to be ex-husband Aussie Jeff was attempting to recover half of the property he had bought - out of his own pocket, she admitted - and which he had placed entirely in Took's name (land and property) some months prior to getting around to marrying her three years before. He originally did this because foreigners (with the exception of US citizens due to some obscure Vietnam war era agreement) are not allowed to buy property in their own name in Thailand. (You can think it, but not say it ;-)

Ok... I'll say it. WHAT a wally.

Wally Jeff was now struggling to get by with the declining Aussie dollar, and had decided to take Took to court in an attempt to recover some of the 2.8 million baht he had "invested". Whether he's got a cat in hell's chance is another matter (no prenuptial, property put in her name BEFORE the marriage anyway), but he had engaged a lawyer and a court date had been set. Poor Took was frantically worried. She just wanted to be left alone, and for Jeff to sign the divorce papers so she could marry Alain, the love of her life, as soon as possible. But for some reason obstinate Jeff was refusing to sign.

Alain's help was desperately needed. He was her last hope. She had found a lawyer to fight her case, but she had to pay him 50,000 baht (roughly 1,100 euros) up front. Tomorrow. Buttons were being pressed by fingers strengthened by years of basket weaving, and Alain was within a whisker of caving in. Fortified by a few Long Island Teas, Mastercard at the ready, he was steeling himself for the trip to the ATM.

Which is where I came in. I bumped into an unsteady Alain at the No. 1 Bar, cocktail in hand. Had never seen him before, but hearing his French accent we got chatting.

Chiang Mai is a small town in many ways. There is not that much going on within the farang community without news of it spreading far and wide. Alain had struck lucky - I happened to have heard Jeff's story straight from the horse's mouth.

Thai girls don't actually tell untruths, as it happens. It's just that they may only tell you the part of the truth that they have decided you need to know. Sometimes that is not very much at all. In this case Took had omitted a few minor details. The key reason Jeff hadn't signed the divorce papers was that Took didn't want a divorce in the first place - at least, not until she'd got what she wanted. Why did she need so much money, just for a lawyer to argue over a house split? Because SHE was taking Jeff to court - not the other way around - in an attempt to relieve him of half of the value of his two condos (she believed it to be her right as a dutiful and loving spouse to half of his possessions now he'd left her... Jeff claimed that they'd split up because despite no longer dancing for a living, she usually came home from a night out with 'friends' in the small hours, 4, 5, 6 am even). Plus he was not paying maintenance for her, nor for her daughter from her earlier teenage relationship with a Thai boyfriend (what daughter, Alain managed to choke out?). To cap it all, she was suing him for arrears.

Alain nearly fell from his stool. Having done my good deed for the day, we bid our farewells, and I headed for a quick coffee just up the road in Loi Kroh.

Shortly after, on the way home in my tuk-tuk, there was this guy facing away from me at the Bangkok Bank ATM. Spitting image of Alain. Surely not .....

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Anonymous said...

I believe you could visit every major city in Thailand and write this same story many times a day. Alain will learn the hard way in simple pounds, shillings and pence. You did your best but the lower region rush of blood won the day. You can take a frog to water but you can't make him drink.....or was it a horse

Anonymous said...

Cool story, nicely written !