Can you could help me with accommodation at Songkran? I want to keep enough money so that I can go trekking and I ride an elephant. I only want to spend about five quid a day for a place, is this possible? I know it’s probably a funny question, but I’m serious.
Dear Trekker Thomas,
Don’t worry, my little impecunious Petal, I have had sillier questions than yours. Not often, but I have had some. When I first read your letter, I thought you were asking to come and stay with me, and I was about to suggest that if you brought enough bottles of bubbly, I might just be able to help you. Then I read the “five quid” line. By “five quid” I presume you are from the UK and this is about 250 baht in Thai money, so you would not have much left over for champers, I fear. By the way, Hillary is not a travel agency, or an elephant mahout. Yes, you can get accommodation for that amount. Very basic, clean, but no air-conditioning, which you will probably need, coming from the UK, not known for its blistering temperatures in April.
My problem is different as I am complaining about what farangs are doing in this town, making very abusive remarks about me and my son when we are out shopping together.
We are a very normal family, with my Thai wife and I still very happy after 15 years. Our son is 14 and a normal teenager. But when we go shopping together, that is my son and myself, we hear all types of remarks which a 14 year old boy should not have to hear. I know there are farangs with young boys, but the people should not believe that everyone is like that. This is my son!
What should I do? Go up and fight with them, or ignore them, which is very difficult as I am a normal Dad and want to protect my growing son. I get angry just writing about this abuse.
Dear Normal Dad,
I agree that it must be very annoying, but fighting with people never fixes anything. I suggest you get a couple of T shirts made with “He’s my Dad” on one and “He’s my son” on the other. It should be enough to stop the background innuendo. (And that’s uncomplimentary remarks, not an Italian suppository!)
My girlfriend speaks quite good English, but I can find it difficult to understand what she is trying to say some days and we end up having an argument. The other day she seemed worried and when I asked her what was wrong, she wouldn’t tell me but said, “I want stay by myself” so I thought she wanted to leave. I asked her why, as everything seemed to be OK the day before, but she just started to get mad at me for continuing to ask her what was wrong. The next day, when she hadn’t left I worked out that what she wanted to say was she was trying to work out a personal problem, so she wanted to be “alone” for a while to work it out. If I had known that was what she wanted I wouldn’t have pressed the point. I try to understand, but it is a problem. Have you any advice for this communication problem?
Dear Bewildered Bill,
Be bewildered no further, my Petal. I have the answer for you. In any relationship, clear and open communication is most important. When the two people come from different cultures and have different native languages, then it becomes even more likely that confusion will occur. Your girlfriend is trying her best to communicate with you in a foreign language, but I note you do not communicate with her in Thai, her language. If there are times of confusion, you should just say “Kaw toad, mai kow jai” (sorry, I don’t understand) and ask her to put it another way. And try not to find the literal meaning of every word - try and get the overall meaning or emotion. And get some Thai lessons yourself as well!
How much salary should you give a girlfriend? My girlfriend did work in a bar before she met me. My mate says about 30,000 baht should be enough, but I am getting grumbles that I don’t pay her enough. My argument is that she doesn’t have to buy household items with that 30,000, it is clear profit for her. I pay for the housekeeping and the maid. I bought her a motorcycle and pay for the petrol. What is your suggestion on the right amount of money to pay a girlfriend?
Would I surprise you if I suggested that the answer to the “right amount of money to pay a girlfriend” is “Nothing!” You use words like “pay” and “salary”, but why? Is this a regular job? Advertised in the Classified section of this newspaper, “Wanted, live in girlfriend. Good living conditions. Free motorcycle. Salary 30,000 baht to the correct applicant.” The base salary in Thailand is 9,000 baht, not 30,000, Petal!
Every Thai woman I meet seems to be just the same - after a couple of weeks it is pleas for money for rent for the room she shares with others, or money for the upkeep of two kids being looked after by her mother while the husband has fled the scene. Best was one who was still seeing the boyfriend (the father of the two children) and who was also seeing number 1 and number 2 Mia Noi. You say to stay away from the bar girls, whose job it is to empty your (my) wallet, but your so-called “good” girls are just the same. Hand out for school fees, university fees, dental work, rent, and all the rest. The request comes a few seconds before the due date and leaves you with no time to find alternatives. I have asked the same question to other foreigners married to Thai women (or even not married, just living together) and they all say that Thai women are always on the lookout for a sucker. I have a ‘steady’ at present, but want to make sure I don’t end up taken to the cleaners. Your advice please, Hillary.
Lordy Lordy it’s Gordy,
My Petal, you are in a turmoil aren’t you. Do you want me to give you foolproof plans that will show you whether this girl will fleece you or otherwise? Gordy, those foolproof plans do not exist. You can leave money on the bedside table for years, but one day she might just need some and it will be gone. If the amount is large enough, she will be gone too. My advice is always the same. Fix on a monthly sum of money that you are happy to do without and tell her that is her allowance. How she spends it is up to her - you don’t want (or need) to know. If she wants more, or needs more, then she can save up as everyone does. Make that a fixed rule and you will never be taken to your cleaners, but be aware that she may look for someone offering a bigger monthly allowance! Up to you, Petal.
I have two children with my ex-wife. The kids (aged 12 and 10) spend their time half with me and half with their mother, but she is always trying to get them to stay over with her, when it is my turn. The kids are happy with the shared time (4 days with me and 3 days with her) but she is always trying to break the arrangement. Any advice for me?
The only advice I can give you in this sad situation, is to listen to what the children want. At their ages, they do understand what is going on, and their needs come before your ex-wife’s and your own. However, do be wary of offering “goodies” if they stay with you, instead of her, my Petal. You should also stay in touch with your “ex” as a ‘friend’. After all, you have the same interest in seeing the children grow up
Everybody must know by now if they read your column that there is a difference between the girls who work in the bar and the girls who work in regular jobs. What you say is for us to look for female company from the regular job girls. What you don’t say is that the regular jobby ones can’t speak English, are difficult to meet or get to know, while the ones who work from the bars can speak English and are easy to meet and are easy to get to know. For my money, give me the bar girl every time.
How astute of you, my Petal! Yes, there are great differences, and even more than the ones you mention, even such things as educational level. If all you are looking for is some female company, then the bar is the right place, but the problem comes when the customer (guys like you) then falls in love with their English speaking, easy to meet and know girl, and forget the fact that they are customers, not boyfriends. Thai girls do not choose to work out of a bar unless they are looking for quick money, without having any necessary qualifications to put them in high salary jobs. They are using their looks, their (presumed) sexuality and their ability to get money from their customers. You are paying for a commodity by meeting the fees demanded. When you fall in love with someone who is used to being fully paid for, the relationship is not really on the emotional plane, but in the financial one. And like all business deals, you can get burned. And many like you do. As you wrote “For my money, give me the bar girl every time.” And that’s what it is, Petal, your money and you are entitled to spend it any way you please, but don’t complain if you find it has all gone, and the girl’s “affections” with it. There is a phrase in business called ‘due diligence’. Apply it, Petal.
Last week I met a service lady in a restaurant/bar and we just clicked. The place was well above the average beer bar sort of place. I bought her a drink and she sat with me for a while, but then said she had to go back to serving at the tables. I said I would be back the next week, as I was going to do a visa run, and she was very happy that I would be coming back to see her. I know you tell all us expats to stay away from the bar ladies, and find a “good” Thai woman, but this is different (I think). When I walked in the week later, she remembered my name and sat with me again but said she wouldn’t be there after the weekend as she was going to have to work somewhere in Bangkok because she wasn’t making enough money down here in Pattaya. The salary she was getting down here was not much, even with tips, so I asked what she would get in Bangkok and it was only 5,000 baht more than she is getting here. I said I could give her 5,000 if she stayed here, so she said she would. I wasn’t sure if I was being a mug or not, but before the end of the month came, she asked me if she could get her 5,000 in advance, as she wanted to send some money to her mother, which I believe is the usual with Thai families. I did give it to her, but two weeks later she was asking for the next one in advance too. What do you think, Hillary? Am I being ripped off, but I hope I am not as I really like this lady.
Did she tell you about the two children that are being looked after by her mother? And the Thai husband who has run away without giving her anything? Or did she use the sick buffalo and brother with a broken leg from the motorcycle accident? My Petal, you are definitely being ripped off by a smart Thai lady, who knows how to manipulate newbies such as you. Sure, she will be delightful company and will soon have you wrapped around her little finger (if she hasn’t done that already), while you make frequent trips to the nearest ATM (and she will be able to tell you where it is). Forget your 5,000 baht and call it a fee towards your education. And forget her, quickly! And never go to that place again.
Is it safe to make an arrangement to meet someone through a social network? I have been chatting for a couple of weeks to a woman who lives fairly close to me, and she has been suggesting that we should meet for dinner. I am no spring chicken (64), and neither is she (42 years old and divorced she said) so we aren’t silly teenagers. I just worry a bit about what I can be letting myself in for?
It is safe enough, as long as you remember that details given out over social networks are not necessarily the truth. Hiding behind a computer screen it is easy to say you are 42 when actually the truth is 52. What if she isn’t divorced but is just looking for a bit on the side (a “gik” in Thai culture)? And the husband is a black belt in karate? Go on your blind date, my Petal, but don’t hold out great hopes. If nothing else you get a nice meal out of it. Miss Terry Diner’s column each week will give you plenty of ideas as to where to go.
I read in the papers that there has been a crackdown recently about copy goods - shirts, CDs and watches and the like. Pictures of them being burnt in the street and all. Why is this? Everyone knows that you go to Asia to buy real bargains. I always bring back a sack of watches and all the latest movies on DVD and some footy shirts for the blokes. What’s wrong with this? If I can’t get the stuff in Thailand any more, do you know where I can get them? I like Thailand, but I have to look at what I can take back to sell, to pay for the trip.
Dear Copy Cat,
This is what they call a vexed question, Petal. How would you feel if you made some type of special goods and your living came from selling them throughout the world and then found that cheap copies were being marketed at half the price you sell them for, and you don’t get anything from that sale? Mind you, I think that many of these overseas goods are highly over-priced too. The whole question of copyright is well beyond me, I’m afraid. I’m just worried about getting landed with ‘copy’ champagne. As to where you can go to get the things you want - the markets here still have them I believe, but don’t tell the powers that be. Unless the powers that be are running the market!
I’m a bit new to Thailand, so I’m probably not the first to ask this, but why do Thai women sit sideways on motorcycles? When did it start? Have they always done this? You would never see anything like this in England, so it really blows me away every time.
Dear Sideways Sam,
You seem to have your eyes open here, but you must have had them closed in the UK. Go to any horsey event and you will see the women riding side-saddle. Even the Queen of England rides side-saddle for the trooping of the colour. However, getting back to your question regarding riding side-saddle here, it is for the sake of decency, young man. How can a woman in a long skirt, or even more in a short skirt, look polite and decorous with the hem hitched up above the hips, and legs hanging down each side of motorcycle (or horse or elephant)? Thai women have had wrap skirts for years and rode buffaloes side-saddle, long before the motorcycle arrived in the villages.
Would you prefer it if we gazetted laws like those in Connecticut, with Section 14-289c saying, “Any person who rides sidesaddle on a motorcycle and any operator of a motorcycle who permits such riding or who carries a passenger on any motorcycle not designed for passengers shall have committed an infraction.” It could be worse, in Montana’s State laws, “No passenger shall be carried in a position that will interfere with the operation of the motorcycle or quadricycle or the view of the operator. And again, “No person operating a motorcycle or quadricycle shall carry any packages, bundles, or articles which would interfere with the operation of said vehicle in a safe and prudent manner.” Those two laws would bring the local motorcycle community here to a grinding halt. No small child in front of the rider, and a side-saddle passenger or two on behind and no shopping bags hanging from the rear vision mirrors. The streets would be empty, Petal!