There is no such thing as free sex in Thailand or anywhere else in the world. You probably knew that already, but this tale emphasises the point that, here in this crazy, upside-down country, good girls can be more expensive than bad girls.
I met Som in Ayutthaya in January last year. She was in a bar and I wrongly assumed she was a bargirl. Embarrassingly, I tried to bar-fine her only for it to be pointed out that she was a customer. She was angry at first but eventually was able to laugh about it. We became friends.
Som was 32 with a beautiful face and great figure. She had a teenage son living with her estranged Thai boyfriend. She said she eventually hoped to marry but was in no hurry because she was enjoying her independence and building up her clothes shop. I was soon making regular trips to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, where I live and work, to spend long weekends.
We had a curiously old-fashioned courtship, going for long walks and enjoying each other’s company. But IT never happened. Sometimes I felt as though I was the only farang in
Thailand having a celibate relationship. At least I had novelty value.
When I broached the subject of sex, she said other Thais would assume she was a bargirl if she was seen going back to a farang’s hotel and that I would have to wait until she visited me in
Eventually, after 15 months, she came to Bangkok, accompanied by her best friend. I ended up sleeping with both of them in a literal sense – that is, we shared the same bed but without any contact.
The next month, my frustration went off the scale when Som agreed to accompany me on a five-day trip to Hua Hin. I assumed we would do the dirty deed at last. I was wrong. The condoms stayed in the packet. She said she didn’t know me well enough.
My last throw of the dice was to do nothing. When she rang a few weeks later asking me to go to Ayutthaya, I said I would think about it. Instead, I went to Pattaya and didn’t ring her back. My strategy was to give her a taste of rejection and see how she reacted. It worked.
I was at work one day when my mobile rang. It was Som demanding to know why I had not been in touch and asking me to go to see her. “I can stay with you if you like,” she said. Something about her tone told me it could be pay-off time.
Nothing happened on the first night and I decided to not even mention sex. In the morning we sat on the hotel balcony and she talked about her recent week in a temple (she is a devout Buddhist) and her uncertainty about what she would do in her life.
As always, she asked if I ever went with bargirls in Bangkok. Usually I lied, but I decided it was time for the truth. I told her that Bangkok could be a very lonely place and occasionally I felt the need for some company. She asked if I used condoms. I said I had no wish to die of AIDS and always covered up. “I am not scared of you now,” she announced. “I think we can have sex.”
The sex was great. She was not the Miss Frigid I had feared she might be and seemed to enjoy herself. But from that moment, our relationship changed for the worse. Som started to use sex as justification for unreasonable financial demands. I am not mean, but I have to live within my budget, like everyone else. That soon became impossible.
As I packed to return to Bangkok, Som asked if she could come with me. This placed me in an awkward position. Jeab, a bargirl, had been staying regularly and loads of her clothes and cosmetics were lying around my flat. But I could not really say no.
When we arrived at my flat, I managed to hide Jeab’s clothes while Som was in the bathroom. But she quickly noticed the cosmetics and seemed suspicious. Feebly, I said I bought them for myself. Thankfully, she did not ask why a farang would need whitening powder.
Soon Som was demanding up to 3,000 baht each day for shopping trips. I was happy to take her out on the town and buy her occasional presents, but this scale of spending was blowing my budget to pieces.
I tried to give her a lesson in basic economics. After paying my bills each month, I have about 20,000 baht to play with. That works out at about 700 baht a day. If I were to give her 3,000 baht each day, I would have a deficit of 70,000 baht at the end of the month.
My argument hit a brick wall. “Farang have big money in their own country,” she said. “All you have to do is get some more from there.” As she had quickly drained my Thai bank account, that indeed was my only option. I went to my English internet account and shook the farang money tree. Zap! It was in Thailand in seconds.
Som stayed for three weeks and I virtually had to beg her to go home before I became totally insolvent. Fittingly, I even had to strike a financial deal. It was a bit like a divorce settlement. The terms were 2,500 baht for yet another shopping trip, followed by 500 baht for a taxi, bus and refreshments on her journey home. I was happy to pay just so that I could stop paying.
She had arrived in Bangkok with a plastic bag containing a few clothes and left carrying a holdall (mine, of course) packed with half the contents of the Siam Centre, including enough shoes to keep Imelda Marcos happy for a year. Bargirls get a bad rap but at least most of them are working to send money home; Som was just selfishly buying clothes she didn’t really need.
I didn’t always accede to her demands. On one occasion I refused to buy her a new swimsuit as we were about to leave for a weekend in Hua Hin. I told her to buy it herself with the 3,000 baht I had given her the previous day. She refused and said she would not go with me unless I bought it. I called her bluff and went away for the weekend alone, but she was still in my flat when I returned.
If it had been a bargirl making such demands, she would have been out of the door within seconds, but it was harder with Som because she was someone for whom I had built up a lot of affection over a long period of courtship.
The irony is that Jeab, who is ostensibly a hooker, often comes round bearing food and cleaning utensils, stays the night and doesn’t ask for a bean. She says she likes my company, the air-con and not having to sleep with three other girls.
It is hardly a new phenomenon for a Thai girl to regard a farang as an ATM. But this episode left me asking many questions. Som never made any financial demands in the 18 months before our relationship became sexual. Why did sex change everything? Is it part of Thai culture that a boyfriend must virtually bankrupt himself once sex is involved? Why do some Thais believe that farangs have a limitless supply of money?
I don’t know the answers.