About 10 years ago, while sitting in a beer bar in Koh Samui, I overheard a conversation that set me on the path to becoming the greatest farang fortune teller in South East Asia.
A bargirl was telling a customer about her great excitement and fear about flying to Germany to see her boyfriend – her first flight and indeed her first trip outside Thailand. Take-off was only a week away and she was understandably nervous.
At no stage was she aware that I was eavesdropping on her conversation, so she was impressed the next evening when I studied her outstretched palm with a furrowed brow and predicted that she would soon be making a momentous journey to Deutschland to see her teerak.
“How you know?” she asked.
“I am the number one farang mor doo in Thailand,” I boasted. “I can see the future.”
Intrigued, she held out her hand again and demanded to hear more details about her trip and her life. Bloated by this recognition of my talents, I crossed the line and said something that I regret to this day.
“I see a problem. The big bird cannot see through the fog near the Alps. It crashes into the mountains. Everyone on the aircraft is killed. Very sad.”
She screamed and ran out of the bar. Although I went back to the bar several times over the next week to try to explain that sometimes my predictions were wrong, she was nowhere to be seen. I suspect she never took that flight to Germany. Perhaps my tasteless joke killed a fine romance – or saved Hans of Hamburg a lot of money.
Since that day, I have read thousands of girls’ palms across Asia. While I have never reached the depths of cruelty of that first reading, it is fair to say that my predictions have been on the pessimistic side. Subjects can expect to have the odd motorbike accident or to be trapped in a loveless marriage with a penniless Cambodian rat-trapper before seeing out their lives in poverty while working 15-hour days in a fish market.
It is not difficult to establish credibility as a fortune teller. If you tell your subject that she once had a Thai boyfriend, she will look at you as though you have made a revelation of which Nostradamus would have been proud. In the superstitious Philippines, I once had scores of eager subjects queuing down the street outside a bar after I told the mamasan that she had four children – not so startling a guess in a Catholic country. “Where did you get this power?” the mamasan asked as she bought me a drink. “I studied under a master at a temple in Bangkok,” I replied with a straight face.
If things go wrong, as when I told a Filipina cherry girl that she already had two children, hold your nerve. “Ah, sorry. I meant to say that you will have two children with a Korean,” I informed her. She grimaced. In Angeles City, Koreans are about as popular as a flatulence sufferer in an elevator.
My research has provided me with some interesting insights into the psyche of the Thai bargirl.
First and least surprising is that they are obsessed with money. An assurance that they will always have enough folding stuff matters more to most than a happy marriage or a long life.
Second, most don’t want to marry anyone from Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan or any African nation. An even greater number don’t want to marry Thai men, who seem to have less appeal as a potential mate than a one-legged unemployed goat herder from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Happily, I can report that ageing, balding, beer-bellied, unwashed, uneducated farang fashion disasters represent the ultimate trophy husband for the lovelorn bargirl, who must feel as though she is shooting fish in a barrel as she walks around Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui.
As a Brit who fulfils most of the above criteria, I am constantly reassured to be told that the British and Americans are the most desirable partners. While Europeans are generally popular, there is some bias against the French, Italians and Germans for their alleged parsimony. “Keeneeow” is a word often associated with the latter three nationalities.
“England man very good heart,” I am repeatedly told as I tell Noi, Nud and Ning that this will be the year that they hook up with a psychopathic bricklayer from Camden Town. With scant regard for world economics and the plunging pound, which should soon reach parity with the Zimbabwe dollar, they generally add that “England man very big money”.
If I predict a marriage to a less desirable nationality, I always soften the blow by adding that the husband will die within two or three years, leaving the girl to inherit enough money to live well for the rest of her life. They always beam with delight at news of their beloved’s premature death.
Oddly, Thai women generally do not want to live long lives. Perhaps it is a Buddhist thing or not wanting to be a burden, but many express a desire to kick the bucket nearer 50 than 90. This has led me revise down my predictions of life expectancy, though generally I give them a few more years than the Germany-bound air traveller.
My special gift has helped me to get laid on occasions. If I am reading the palm of someone who rocks my boat, I often describe myself and predict that the subject will be sleeping at that person’s place that evening in return for two of the king’s brown notes in the morning.
No Thai girl can say no to a mor doo.