Graeme (from Pattaya)
I dislike the bar nicknames that Thai chicks have; Nana, Nung, Nong, Nuk, Nut, Nok, Pat, Pong, Porn, Thip etc. Their actual Thai names are so much prettier and can be downright beautiful. I met Samran – bar name Giap – in Chiang Mai. Would you rather have Giap (pronounced Yap) or Samran?
Like most Thai chicks, she captivated me. Tall for a Thai girl; about 5 foot 5 inches, with thick long black hair. Her skin was very soft and very dark - something that most Thais hate.
We love them black, they love themselves white - and her teeth sparkled. The colour of her skin suggested from somewhere around Buriram or Surin. Khmer; close to the Cambodian border... Not a bad guess; she’s from Buriram. She wasn’t young; I guessed around 30, and it turned out to be 35 – quite old for a bar girl in Thailand. She spoke fairly good English, which is often a good indicator that she’d been in bars for a few years, talking to ‘customers’. She knew her way around.
I met her on the street; she sat down with me at the bar I was in. We had a drink, we talked...
We got on well. We laughed a lot. Talked a lot and drank quite a bit and eat... could she eat! She’d go back to her room everyday to “clean room and do laundry” a room she shared with two sisters and two other girls from her bar. Five women in a single room with no air con, just a fan, sleeping on the floor or on a foam mattress strip. This is the norm for most Thai chicks who work in the bars; it’s a very social existence.
she’d finished cleaning and doing the laundry she’d meet me again.
After five or six days with me, she was back to her bar to look for her
next customer. ‘Long-time’, ‘short-time’, it never matters as long as
there is money at the end of the time. Whatever time that is it’s just
sex, just a transaction.
We kept in touch; I’d often phone her around mid-day. “You hungry?” our calls always started. “Yes, I am hungry” and so we’d meet at a Thai cafe around the corner from her room and eat. Then she’d go. Towards the end of her time in Chiang Mai, when she had decided to get her own room, we would sometimes go back there, sit on her bed, and just talk. It was a nice easy relationship. No sex, just friendship. We got on well and seemed to have mutual respect for each other. Or so I thought.
Very early on in our relationship, in my naivety, I asked her a lot about her background and, inevitably, that age old question – “Why do you work in bar and go with men?” I remember that conversation as if it were yesterday. She looked at me and said “I am thirty five. I leave school at twelve and work rice. I have no education. I have two sons. Son fifteen he monk in temple. I cannot pay for him to go to school. Son thirteen he live with my mum. I have to send my mum money every month and I look after her also. My dad live in Bangkok. He not have job. I am from Isaan. Isaan is very poor and I cannot find work. I have to look after family.” Then she asked me the most profound question that I have ever been asked in Thailand; one that still seers in my mind and in my visualization of her. It hurts every time she comes to mind. She looked at me with deep sadness, on both her face and in her voice, and asked “What else can I do?”
I could not answer her, neither then nor now.
I do remember, at that instant, when she told me about her son, the monk, thinking “Hello Mr. Monk; and what does your mum do?” and him saying, “Oh, she works in a bar selling her body to farang men.” Knowing what I know now, about the plight of Isaan women, I am really quite ashamed of that thought but I really didn’t know much back then.
At another time in our ‘talks’ I asked her what she would most like to do with her life if she had the money. “Easy” she said. “I open my own kitchen in Buriram. If I have money I leave here tomorrow for sure.”
Not a lot by western standards... certainly not a lot to change a life.
A few months later I was in a position to help. I called her; “you
hungry?” “Yes, I am hungry.” We met and I was so excited that I was
going to be able to help my ‘friend’. I was grinning from ear to ear.
“You ting tong” (crazy) she said. “Why you smile so much? You win
I reminded her of our conversation; about her opening her own kitchen, about her leaving the bars and going home to her family. About how she had said “If I have money I leave here tomorrow.”
“I remember” she said.
“Well, you go home tomorrow” and I told her I was going to put 50,000 baht into her bank. I’m sure I was more excited than her. The next day she was gone and I was so proud of myself, so proud that I was going to be able to make a difference, so proud that I could re-unite a family. Her son would return from the temple, her mum from working in Chiang Mai. So proud... oh poor, pompous, delusional fool.
I didn’t hear from Samran for a few days so I rang her. “Looking for kitchen”, she said. “I think I find good one for 70,000 baht, you can give me?” Oh well, in for a penny, in for a baht. Think of the good that you’re doing for the family. “Okay; I’ll put 30,000 into your bank.” A few days later: “Have to buy refrigerator for beer and drinks for kitchen. I find big refrigerator for display. I find second hand, Only 20,000 baht. You can help me?” What could I do, so another 20,000 goes into the Buriram branch of the Bank of Bangkok. “But no more Samran, I now not have anymore.” Yeah yeah, Thai chicks, yeah yeah.
Then I didn’t hear from her for a couple of weeks; typical of Thai chicks. Then she calls from Bangkok:
“I have to go hospital Bangkok.”
“Why not hospital Buriram?”
“Not have good hospital Buriram. Doctor say I have to go the hospital Bangkok.” Yeah, yeah.
A few weeks later: “Now I am in Phuket. I meet Swedish man in Buriram. He give me job in Phuket, I am a waitress in his restaurant.”
“What about your restaurant and kitchen?”
“I give money to brother, he need money.”
And that was it, Samran went off the radar, Thai chicks often do...
A few months later I was in Phuket when she rang. “Where are you?” she asked, so casual. So typical of Thai chicks, as if nothing had happened. As if I hadn’t given her 100,000 baht, as if she hadn’t conned me.
“I’m in Patong, where are you?”
“What you do there?”
“Work in boyfriend’s restaurant.”
“I am just around the corner, I come and see you.”
And so we met up for ten minutes or so. Her kitchen wasn’t mentioned, nor was her brother, nor my 100,000 baht. She had to get back to work so she left - and I’ve never seen Samran since. That’s Thai chicks for you.
Would I do it again? Absolutely, but differently... same, same, but different. Because it might have made a difference! I’d put controls on it; I would have gone down to Buriram to see what was happening, I would have drip fed the money but I still would have done it.
About eighteen months ago she rang me again – from Sweden. (Skype is a wonderful thing.) She was living with her boyfriend but somehow things weren’t working out so she was coming home. She called me from Buriram sounding just the same. Her voice bought back good memories and then she was back at Phuket. Then nothing for months...
Then last month another Skype. Back in Sweden - but with a new boyfriend. Oh, Thai chicks...
We’ve known each other now for more than four years, Samran, my Buriram beauty, never forgotten. I hope life deals you a wonderful hand.
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