Buying your Thai Wife.
Itís not as common in Bangkok as it used to be but these
days Bangkok has 12,000,000 inhabitants and Thailand, 60,000,000 people, so this
is still the way of life for about 90% of the Thai population. Before you run
off at a tangent itís not just for Ďfarangsí (foreigners)
either. In fact we have nothing to do with it at all. Itís strictly a Thai thing
going back a long time. However if a farang meets a girl and wants to marry then
the price may get somewhat inflated especially if he is a newcomer to Thailand.
In fact I swear that when a man gets off the plane at Don Muang Airport in
Bangkok for the first time he has sucker written in 2Ē high letters across his
forehead in bright, indelible ink. Now you and I canít see it but for sure the
men selling the extremely over priced taxi services can and so can just about
every girl and store owner. This usually takes a few trips to finally wear off.
The wearing off is rather a shame, providing you are a person that has no
trouble saying ĎNoí, because then you feel ignored after all the attention that
you used to receive.
When you hand over the cash what you are
You are paying for the ladyís upbringing, her education
and the amount you pay is related to her status in her
local community back in the village. Now if she is the daughter of the village
head man and she has had more than 6 years at school, is young with no babies,
having never been married before, she is going to cost a pretty penny. Now to
elope - as if - would not only be an insult to the girl but to her family, her
parents, the whole village and everyone in the surrounding countryside. So if
she is not worth paying for then she is considered worthless. You can imagine
the conversation between a few of the mothers. ( One saying, I hear Khun Suporn
& Mem got 60,000 Baht for their daughter Pla. Hmmmm, only 60,000 but she has
been at school for seven years and not worked in the fields for at least 3
years, why so such small money? There must be something wrong with the family).
Anyway to elope, it just ainít going to happen, itís simply an upbringing thing.
Having paid the cash, you have just bought into the family. Now this can be a
good thing if you are a farm workerís son and Dad has been saving up for your
wife for years, but as a farang just about for certain itís only the beginning
of your expenses, whether you know it or not.
Also donít think just moving her away to the States is
going to cure that either. They more often than not will let you get the
honeymoon over before you hear about Granny who needs a replacement hip, or the
buffalo that is sick and canít plough the rice-field any more. Thatís not to
speak of the brother who while he was ( kee- mau ) fell off this motor
bike while he was so drunk he could no longer see (kee- mau ) ( well
mau means drunk I will let you have a good guess at what kee means.
If you canít guess what it means and you really want to know, just email me).
The list goes on and on so I wonít bore you with it. Backpackers are often
referred to as (kee nok farang) Nok is a bird. The lack of cash is
definitely frowned upon in Thailand. In fact Thailand is a very class conscious
society, probably as much as India, with its caste system.
More than one wife.
Yes itís Thai tradition for at least the better off
Thaiís. There is always the number one wife who rules the roust but then as the
years go by and the man gets more prosperous he may decide to introduce a mea
noi or two or even three. (Mea noi) meaning small wife. I have heard of mea
noiís being belated in separate addresses but more often than not they all live
happily under the same roof. There was a threesome who lived next door to me in
Bangkok. I also know a Thai police Major who has two mea noiís one of which has
a two year old baby now. I meet him at Food Lands one day and he was a bit down.
The reason for this was one of the one mea noiís had left, the one with out the
young baby, to my surprise he said that the number one wife was sad as well as
they where all good friends. Now to my mind more that one wife brings more that
one mother in law, but I suppose if you are a Thai police major then this
doesnít become a problem. I also knew an American in Bangkok who had two wifeís
under the same roof. This all stems back to the beginning of Isaan when the Thai
King at the time defeated the Lao King and Isaan became part of Thailand. This
happened somewhere between three and five hundred years ago. At that time Thai
officials Lords etc, where sent up there to rule over the territory. They would
take there number one wife with them but the areaís where so large they needed
managers they could trust to over see the Lao slaves. This is where the Mea Noi
was bourn as a manager no doubt supported by a small garrison of troupes. From
that time it just became an excepted part of Thai tradition. Even a number one
Thai wife will not be so concerned about the Mea Noiís or what her husband gets
up to while he is out for the night so long as she has had her allowance. This
sounded very strange to me when I was first here but a few years ago now when I
went home for Christmas my eldest son Garyís mother Jan said to me she wanted to
go and get him some shoes. She said that she had heard of a new shopping centre
across the water that she would like to visit. So I had hired a car and off we
went. She had moved in with her new boy friend Tony a few months before so on
the journey I asked how they where getting along. To which she said fine but he
goes to the pub too often but as long as he gives here her allowance before hand
that ok. On hearing this I had to take a step back and work out whether I was in
Liverpool or Bangkok. This being the case that I was defiantly in Liverpool it
slowly dawned on me that there was not so much difference at all.
Where farangs come into the class
Well I am still trying to work this out, but not that
high. Higher up Thaiís think they are just about the center of the universe and
that everything revolves around them. This is certainly the case in Thailand,
especially if they are a Police General or someone of similar
status. Then again I have had Thai friends from Bangkok who were
university graduates and I seemed to fit in well with them, more likely than not
because they are educated and realize the different societies around the world.
However to a Thai police general a farang business man
is either someone who he can get money from but only slightly above the standing
of a bar girl. Face is everything if you are a high up Thai, the Mercedes is
essential. Talk about keeping up with the Jonesís well itís like that, times
ten. The finance companies do really well here in the good times. In fact if you
drive past a car or motor bike showroom you only see the deposit advertised on
the windscreen. This is simply because no Thai is going to pay cash outright.
A more lowly Thai policeman, say even a Major, has a big
problem with farangs. Especially if the farang is reasonably well dressed and is
not putting up with Thai nonsense saying things like ĎJust write the ticket and,
no, you can only look at my international driving license but you cannot keep
it. Itís not Thai, therefore you cannot keep it till I pay the fine. I will
simply hand the ticket to my friend the general when he comes to my house for
dinner tonight. This sort of statement gets them really on edge. Is a police
General really going to dinner at this dammed farangís house tonight and if my
signature is on the ticket what sort of mess am I getting into here. The bright
ones get up from behind their desks and escort you personally to the door of the
police station apologizing for the inconvenience caused by the monkey on the
motorbike that brought you in to the station in the first place. This has
happened to me in Bangkok. Now if I had a name card of the General and produced
it to the patrol man he would probably have given me a police escort to wherever
I was going. This is what I mean by Thai Generals thinking that the universe
does revolve around them.
When you go up into the depths of Isaan - this being
north east Thailand - to places where very few farangs get to especially if you
are out in the villages and not in one of the larger towns, here you really are
an attraction. I was in such a place with my first girl friend Lat. She was
concerned that if I wandered around alone I may just have a problem, like
someone cutting my throat for what was in my pockets. Looking back now I donít
believe I would have had that problem but who knows? She still knows a lot more
about that place and the people than I do, or will ever do. On getting to the
village store with her just about the whole village came to say hello to the
farang or at least see what one looks like. When I say store I mean a shack with
a roof or just about anyway. I had gone there with the intention of buying some
flour in order to make some pan-cakes. Before going to the store I had asked if
she had any flour in the houses, this caused a great deal of hilarity because I
had looked it up in my small Thai English dictionary and pointed out the word in
Thai. Lat looked at me very strangely saying you canít eat that, so I looked
back just as strangely thinking that maybe they have never heard of eating
things made with flour. She then went to get the item she knew as flour very
well with the same Thai scribble on the side of the can as it was printed coming
out of the factory.
It was a can of Johnsonís baby powder which is very
common in Thailand. No wonder they were amused and they must have thought that
farangs - or this one anyway - was very strange wanting to eat something that
they put on themselves after a shower. Needless to say the store didnít have
wheat flour but did have rice flour. I confess at this time I gave up with the
pancake idea as I had no idea how they would turn out made with rice flour.
However I was still very hungry as it was about mid-afternoon by that time, as I
had not eaten since the evening of the preceding day. Lat had brought some bread
and marmalade at the store earlier in the day. She had seen me toast it in
Bangkok and she had imagined that she could make this with a microwave. Yes even
in the depths of the - well I wonít say jungle - but thatís only because there
were not so many trees they do have the likes of a microwave, or they do if they
have a doubter like Lat working in Bangkok sending back loads of cash.
They may not have any electricity to run it as often as
they would like. The idea of having it set in a nice little cabinet just to the
side of the cooker is something just not even thought of. The house was not on
stilts as most of them are but it was just as basic. There was a front door but
no internal doors. Only alcoves curtained with rags, the kitchen was in the back
which combined with the rice store. There was also a back door which lead out to
the rear yard with an outhouse off to the right.
Having arrived at the local town Kanchanalek at about
5-00 a.m. that morning, off the overnight bus we had been picked up by Latís
brother-in-law in the family truck that Lat had bought in order that he could
earn cash for the family. Arriving at the family home at about 6-00 a.m. I gave
her father a bottle of Gin that I had as a sample. To my astonishment he opened
it there and then and offered me a drink to which I refused as you would at that
time of day. Thaiís however will drink at any time of day. In fact out there,
time has little bearing on anything, the changing seasons make a difference to
when the crops have to be attended to but after that you get up with the light
and sleep with the dark.
Just as well with that house as it seems there was only
one 40w. light bulb to light the whole house. At around 10-00 a.m. that morning
I was invited to take a shower by Lat and shown out to the out-house. As the
heat of the day was rising this was welcome, the outhouse was much of a mystery
to me, for a start it was not easy to get into for a farang, well a farang with
a reasonably well developed beer gut anyway, as the door was partially blocked
by some old timbers that unofficially formed part of the roof. Once inside you
saw the trough of water and a small plastic pan thing, the idea being that you
get wet by poring water over oneís self from the trough with this device then
soap yourself up then wash off again with the same highly technical device.
However that was not to be the case. Even more
technology was afoot in the form of a plastic hose-pipe and an electric pump
that Lat pushed through the vent brick at the top of the wall. The tap device
was a matter of folding the pipe to restrict the flow of water and the water was
only one temperature, that being well temperature. In the mid-morning in the
month of May this however was delightful. However it does get cold up there in
the winter though. Having finished my shower I was invited to sit on the bench
that contained all the eating parafinalia which had been left after the morning
meal to dry off in the sun, having been washed first of course just in case you
where wondering. Lat had already been to dig out my shaving kit. There she was
with her back to the sun standing there in just a dripping wet sarong thing, a
tube of cloth, ready to shave me, with the wall of the house to my left and the
outhouse to my right. Lat, razor in hand, waiting to do battle with at least two
days of growth, the palm trees waving in the slight breeze - I thought I had
died and gone to heaven.
OK technology is, to say the least, very basic even if
they do own a microwave, but peace, the sun - shine and beauty override it all.
Just about the only thing you could have added to this scene was the beach with
nobody but Lat and myself on it. Getting back to reality I ended up having this
sweetbread that the Thais make fried and spread with Marmalade. Sounds bad - one
day get really hungry and try it especially if the choice is that or Isaan food.
Now I pride myself on being able to eat a good hot curry but Isaan food is
rocket fuel by comparison. Lat then asked if I wanted my pants washing. Yes OK I
said so she started washing down the yard floor, a good concrete base. It had to
be washed down because of the chicken droppings!! This having been done she set
about scrubbing my jeans and when I offered to help by rinsing them off I was
told that I could not do that because I was a man. This just about convinced me
to spend the rest of my life in Thailand especially as I had a plane to catch
back to the UK in two days time. I very nearly stayed then.