Some people just shouldn’t come to Thailand

Some People Just Shouldn’t Come To Thailand…

They’re  the ones you just know are going to get ripped off. You can tell within an instant of meeting them that they’re going to get burned and their story isn’t going to be pretty. You speculate that these are the sad cases whose Thai story will end up tragically. That they will wind up very broke (if they’re lucky) or dead – tragically knocked off in one of Thailand’s many infamous ‘suicides’ (murders that the police can’t be bothered to investigate). These are the guys that the bar girls sniff out, like sharks circling a flailing fish, and will do whatever it takes to concoct intricate stories in order to extract as much cash as they can. And just who are these poor victims? Well, these are the blokes you just know are going to get royally screwed over.

This post is a real story about one such guy. The local women call him ‘Mr. Carl’, most of us call him ‘seriously naieve’. My heart bleeds for these people, every time I meet one.

Living The Dream In Thailand

He’s an older man, maybe in his late sixties or seventies, coming to Thailand for the first time. He is single and open to the possibilities of finding a partner, and he is easily flattered by the attention of pretty young things (be it either guy or girl, depending on his taste). He usually has an ex-wife or two, and a grown up family back home, and a house or an investment property. He lives on his pension, but also might have a fairly decent savings account, which at his time of  life, and in the company of said pretty young thing, he is fairly happy to spend…

Within weeks of being in Thailand he begins to think of  ‘investing’ in Thailand. He looks around for a small business idea, that could keep him occupied in his twilight years. Keep his brain active, he says, and brings in a bit of pocket money. Sounds like the dream doesn’t it? To move to a country where the weather is warm and the cost of living is cheap. No more dreary damp UK weather for the Brits. No more exorbitant cost of living, and not too far from ‘home’, for the Aussies. And a chance to rediscover a country that they last saw during their break from active service (when Thailand was a place to let your hair down and to enjoy some R and R) for the Americans. Lacking the pressure of loneliness so characteristic of western culture, here in Thailand these older men go from ‘zero’ to ‘hero’ as soon as they step off the plane. They’re no longer seen as old, unattractive, and past it – they become ‘handsome’, reliable, and something of a good catch. It does the ego wonders for these guys.

Mr. Carl was one such example. Mr. Carl in Thailand is a disaster waiting to happen. Destined to be chewed up and spat out, with his retirement ruined and his savings gone before he can even say, Sa-wat-dee kraup

Finding Love In Thailand

He’s the kind of guy you could once have seen strolling through a small picturesque English village that had been his home for most of his life. He always wore a hat, and sometimes when he went for a stroll, carried a cane. Except he struggles with the strolling now and can barely carry himself for 100 yards these days. Age has caught up with him, and he can barely remember the names of  half  of his old friends. He still functions, and conducts his affairs in a loud gruff voice, in part because he is slightly deaf, and in part because he is opinionated, is always right, and because he enjoys having people run around looking after him. He’s probably a little bit senile, but he’s the only one who doesn’t realize it. He’s actually Australian, now, having taken citizenship years ago, leaving behind the drizzle and grey skies of a quaint little english village, for the warmer shores of NSW.

He retired from dentistry some years ago and with his sizable savings he bought a nice car, played golf, and painted scenes, as he remembered them, from the English countryside.  He holidayed locally for the most part, though a 2 week holiday in the Dordogne, or in a small Spanish fishing village would once have been an exotic and cultural getaway. Until someone introduced him to the idea of going to Thailand anyway. He first arrived on Thailand’s shores at the ripe old age of 71.

As soon as he gets off the plane, he is in character. The white man abroad… The stereotypical breadwinner/provider. He takes the first, dark,  older lady from Issan who shows him the slightest bit of interest, and moves her in with him. Let’s call her Noi.

So, Mr. Carl has moved in with Noi, into a tiny rented bungalow. It’s really just one room which he pays way over the odds for. He pays triple for electricity to his landlord. Hires a car at an exorbitant rate. Eats Thai food in decent (expensive, by Thai standards) restaurants. And buys Noi everything she needs. His monthly expenditure would keep Noi, along with her Thai husband, and family for a year. Not that Mr. Carl knows about Noi’s husband, because he can’t communicate with her. Their conversations are in gruff, broken English,

‘Noi! Come!’ says Mr. Carl.

Or in stilted, hashed Thai,

Tee nai you? Noi? Where you go?’

Or, in a combination of both.

Nie, this, where, tee nai, put, sugar?

It makes Mr. Bean look positively intellectual. In fact, Mr. Carl would probably have more of an intellectually stimulating conversation with his six year old niece, but that doesn’t seem to bother him… Yet… After all this is Thailand. The land of milk and dripping honey. He feels young again. He is the lord of his manor. He’s in love with Noi, because she treats him far better than either of his ex-wives did (to his face) and of course she definitely loves him back. I mean, why wouldn’t she? She was working in a massage parlour when he met her, so she’s a ‘good girl’. And he is her rescuer. A match made in Issan heaven.

In the short time that he has known her he has been to visit her family, and is well aware of how poor they are. Noi shows him her neighbors shed, and says that’s where she grew up. Mr.Carl, has no idea that the land the shack is sitting on is worth a lot of Baht. To him it’s just dirt. As a result, he has changed his will to make sure Noi will be provided for should ‘anything unforeseen happen to him’. He has given Noi the name of his lawyer, and a phone number to call, ‘just in case’. At this point you just have to wonder are Mr. Carl’s children and grandchildren aware that they can kiss their inheritance goodbye along with their Grandad when Noi knocks him off? Hmm, probably not.  Because of course, Mr. Carl hasn’t realized that has just signed his own death warrant, with that good hearted but totally unadvised piece of charity…

Investing In Thailand

Mr. Carl is slightly bored now. He’s been in Thailand for 6 months. He’s seen his first rainy season, and has battled with the heat and mosquitoes. The excitement of being in a new and exotic culture has worn off, and he begins yearning for something to do. A project, or a business idea… An investment, he thinks! Something to keep his mind active. He’s not really the bar owning type, and is a few decades past English teaching, so he has to think a little more out of the box for ways of how to spend his money. Luckily, Noi is fairly adept at it, and has several ‘good ideas’. In fact, she’s been in his ear since they  first met, about her poor brother living in Korat (who just bought a brand new Toyota Hilux). He works on a rubber plantation and gets paid peanuts, she says. He dreams of having his own plantation one day. Wouldn’t it be good, she asks Mr. Carl, to invest in a rubber plantation. Her brother has the skills and the expertise to run it, Mr. Carl could learn how to help out, and they could all be rich, right…?

‘… you, me, buy rubber. Big one, me brother make rubber.. Make make… Many many. Earn money. Good, yeah?’

Roughly translated as ‘you buy a big rubber plantation for my brother to run, and he’ll make you lots of money’. Uhhh, yeahhhh, right!

The whole situation is so flawed in so many ways.

Old hands in Thailand would already be shaking their head in disbelief, and running a mile… But not our opinionated, always right, Mr. Carl. So no amount of telling him changes his mind…

Shoot the messenger

You pass him a copy of ‘Private Dancer’, which he thinks is a good read, but not really at all reflective of his situation. I mean, his girl is different right? She’s a ‘good girl‘. You tell him to read ‘Stickman’s weekly column’ on the Internet, but he calls ‘Stickman’ a ‘one trick pony’.

“Can’t he write about anything else?” he bellows over a Gin and Tonic. “I mean, tell us something we don’t know!”

In the next breath he’s talking about building a house, because,

‘Korat is SO cheap!’

He’s been looking at prices, and for just fifty thousand dollars he could build a castle.

‘Money really does go so much further here than back at home,’ he enthuses loudly. ‘It’s SO CHEAP here!’

He talks again about the rubber plantation. Carl, you ask,

‘Do you know anything about the rubber business?’

He admits that he doesn’t, but it would be easy to learn, and it looks like a good investment – after all there’s always going to be a need for rubber, he says. ‘I could have it up and running, for less than 25,000 dollars’, he says. ‘That’s SO CHEAP!’

Cheap, cheap, cheap…

The cost of living in Thailand

Is this what seduces so many of these old men in these scams? Because they perceive life in Thailand as being SO CHEAP and investment so easy? So much so, that they’ll bargain over the price of a small Singha beer, and in the next breath talk about laying down 25 grand on a venture that is doomed right from the very beginning? No wonder Noi calls him an ‘old buffalo’ behind his back. It does seem like suitably fitting comparison.

Maybe if every flight into this country carried an information card in the seat back pocket, containing the top 10 rules of visiting Thailand (which would be something like this):

  • Number  1: Make sure ‘she’ isn’t a ‘he’.
  • Number  2:  Don’t call a prostitute a bar girl, then try to marry her.
  • Number  3: Are you REALLY sure she doesn’t already have a Thai husband?
  • Number  4: DO NOT give her any money.
  • Number  5: DO NOT buy a house or land in her name.
  • Number  6: For the love of god DO NOT tell her/him that you have written them into your will!
  • Number  7: Can you really be sure that her buffalo is sick, or that her mother has cancer, hmm?
  • Number  8: Don’t buy bloody rubber plantations!
  • Number  9:  Watch your back anyway!
  • Number 10: Only invest in Thailand what you are willing to lose.

In fact, how about this for a rule of thumb:

  • Don’t invest anything in Thailand beyond your next meal… Unless you are damn well sure that you can afford to loose it.

Would more advice, or more reporting prevent people like Carl from getting ripped off in Thailand…? Perhaps. But I still think that most tend to think (even when confronted with the harsh truth) that their story is different and that it won’t happen to them. Some believe that people like Carl deserve everything they get and worse. They come over here, completely naive, and so full of themselves, and ignorant and ethnocentric that they ask for it.

Whatever your view is, you can be sure that there are literally thousands of these stories occurring every day throughout the length and breadth of Thailand. Therefore, I’m thinking that most of you will be expecting my story to end with the sad demise of Mr. Carl… You are surely expecting him to have lost all his money, in a failed investment, and maybe to even have been knocked off already. But his story doesn’t end yet. In fact quite the opposite… there is still so much more to come.

A Happy Ending In Thailand

For Mr. Carl’s story actually has a happy ending! Because somewhat inexplicably, Mr. Carl changed his mind one day and decided that he had had enough of  the heat and the mosquitoes, and he was leaving Thailand. He had talked to an Australian migration agent in Thailand about getting a visa for Noi and he wanted to take her back with him, to live in NSW.

On the successful grant of the visa, they were last seen getting into a taxi and driving off to the airport, waving and smiling.  The last I heard was that Mr. Carl was looking for a small premises in a small, sleepy, picturesque coastal that he could buy, in order to set Noi up in business.

A massage parlor for Noi… and an investment for Mr. Carl… Now there’s a happy ending!


On March 20, 2011, posted in: Living in Thailand by
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