There is a small province in northeastern Thailand called Udon Thani. It’s the kind of place where John Rambo would retire. There, about 11,000 foreign men have descended, taken a Thai lady for a wife, and made that area their new home. I learned about this from a NY Times article via Angry Asian Man and, to be honest, I clicked on it with a slight motivation of disgust (or perhaps a desire to move there myself. I can’t remember). I really wanted to hate the contents of the article, thinking that it would just be a continued evolution of the 1960′s – foreign, western men getting their juicy fix of exotic Asian lady-love. I read and reread the article and watched the accompanying video several times too. As much as I was hoping to cry foul, I did not. In fact, to my surprise, I found myself becoming rather introspective about how creative people are willing to get to find their version of hope, love, and happiness (and I did this all while eating 2 hotdogs and a bag of Cheetos).
I understand this topic is a polarizing issue and has pissed off as many people as it has given pleasure to for decades. I, for one, am not a fan of rich people tempting the impoverished or the needy with their hard currency in exchange for sex or love or some sort of perverted version of love. Yes, there are “Man Tours” of Thailand and Latin America. Just go online and google it and you’ll find tours specializing in taking the Western man on an adventure of sightseeing, cultural exchange, and all you can eat foreign pussy. They’re great. Just kidding. I don’t leave for another two weeks. I’m not here to debate the morality of it or whether it is right or wrong. What makes this whole east/west/south sex, love, and money exchange so complex to understand is that there are so many different versions of it. But is it all bad (or good)? A slippery slope indeed but it’s something I find fascinating, especially this whole Udon Thani phenomenon…
11,000 foreign men living in Udon Thani? 11,000? That’s a lot of foreign men. That’s a lot of Thai wives. That’s a lot of humpy humpy going on between foreign men and Thai ladies. What the heck is going on? The first thing I found fascinating is that these foreign men were not going to Thailand, picking a lady of their liking, and importing them back to the safety of their Western democracies. No, these foreign men are living there. Udon Thani is their home. Why? Well, the forgiving optimist in me concludes this: economics. It’s no secret that it’s becoming harder and harder to feel financially secure for those of us who reside in developed, Western countries. Maybe not right now, but for many of us, the reality of a comfortable retirement in our later years will either be impossible or not so easily achieved. So it’s no coincidence that in areas like Costa Rica, Panama, Thailand, etc., there are western enclaves sprouting up, allowing it’s new residents a quality of life and tangible prosperity impossible in the land from which they came. A few years ago I went to Bangkok. A new, modern condo in the center of town with a river view was $80,000 (us). That nest made me moist. And in a place like Udan Thani, housing cost is much lower. So why slave over a mortgage for 30 years when you can sell your place, pack your bags, buy a spanking new pad in cash, and have a chunk of hard coin with ten times the purchasing power? Welcome To Thailand. It’s not for everyone but it’s becoming a more and more popular option for those westerners who are looking for an economically sensible life design without having to worry about money or the lack of it. And it also doesn’t hurt that places like Costa Rica and Thailand have incredibly cheap healthcare at or near western-level standards. So check one – these foreign men can roll like pimps in da club in Udon Thani. Or, to put it less ghetto, these foreign men, who are mostly older, can retire in tropical comfort instead of domestic poverty.
OK, so now that said foreign man has planted himself in Udon Thani and has easily acquired a modern palace to boot (pay no heed to the huts and shacks that surround his compound walls), what next? A nice girl to help round out and compliment his new digs, right? Isn’t that why said foreign man moved to the Thai sticks for in the first place? Well, luckily for the foreign man, it is a cultural norm in Udon Thani that he will take a Thai woman’s hand in marriage and welcome her into his hearth. So common a practice that there’s even a street called “Son-In-Law Street” where the now-local, foreign man can gather, commune, and dine with his other 11,000 now-local, foreign brothers and celebrate their new unions and good fortune. It’s Singha time! House? Check! Much younger Thai wife of Udon Thani heritage? Check! A lifetime of happiness and fulfillment for both foreign man and much younger Udon Thani, Thai wife? Uhh…perhaps on a case by case basis. About 50% of the relationships don’t work out (which is better than America’s divorce rate).
For the cynic, visions of a young, Udon Thani girl-wife servicing the sexual needs of the foreign man and his alabaster stock 24/7 while trapped in the confines of his newly-built erotic palace may come to mind. I hope not. And actually, I venture to guess, most likely less likely. Why? Well, unlike the sexual politics found on the seedy streets of Patpong Road in Bangkok, Patong Beach in Phuket, or Phnom Penh of neighboring Cambodia, the overall Udon Thani proposition is different (or so it seems). This may be a huge generalization, but a foreign man’s objective when traveling to these 3 said cities is to humpy humpy the exotic asian lass, while a foreign man’s goal when relocating to Udon Thani is to find a nice Thai wife with a fine rockin’ ass (ok, the last bit was inappropriate. but it rhymed so nicely). Call it love, call it companionship, call it what you will, but a union between the foreign man and the yellow woman in Udon Thani is a long term love affair and a far cry from the standard 15 minute tryst at the blowjob bar in Pattaya. For a foreign man to journey into the heart of Udon Thani with the hopes of capturing the fancy of one of it’s feminine singles, he must imbue himself with a desire far beyond just the carnal and be ready and willing to present a hall pass that reads: I Wish To Commit to you, my Thai flower… and to your entire family.
That’s right. Unlike the rather selfish tales of western Harlequin Romances, a union between a foreign man and Udon Thani dame comes at a price – a substantial dowry and a promise to support her entire family (dogs, pigs, and fighting cocks too). The fine print of the Udon Thani marriage contract can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing for the Udon Thani woman. Instead of focusing on the “bad things” (marrying for money, gold digging, etc…wait a second, are we talking about Thai women or western women of the big cities? i’m so confused), I am going to focus on the good. Call me an optimistic romantic, but such a matrimonial covenant definitely has it’s upsides. One being that an entire, extended bloodline (at least the living ones) can be lifted out of poverty with a simple “I Do”. Also, with an entire extended family living in the foreign man’s castle (or the huts and shacks surrounding his compound walls), the wife has a live-in insurance policy, minimizing physical, mental, or sexual abuse from her new foreign hubby. If said foreign man raises a hand to strike his Thai butterfly or demands a type of sex that she finds unholy or rectally painful, cousin Angaraka, who just happens to be a kick boxing champion and sports the hard body and fist of Tony Jaa, will instantly leap to her rescue and dislodge the penis of the foreign man with the speed and precision of a tan ninja. But this will be nothing compared to the mental trauma experienced when Angaraka forces the foreign man to watch his own penis being eaten by his pride of fighting cocks. Don’t fuck with the Thai’s. They have cocks that can eat your cock.
So, foreign man relocates to Udon Thani in search of Thai girl. Thai girl awaits in Udon Thani to meet the right foreign man. It just works. Both parties want something but both must give something to get some of that thing that we’re all looking for. And what is that thing? Hope, happiness, a reason to get up in the morning, etc. At the end of the day, no matter how odd a couple may appear or how strange the circumstance for which they met, if both parties have more smiles and laughs than frowns and weeps while together, who’s to say that such a pairing can’t be a good thing? Yes, this whole topic is fraught with moral landmines that could busy an ethnic studies class for years. I’m not saying that it’s good. But then again, I’m not saying that it’s bad. For sure, the underbelly of the whole Vietnam/Korea GI boom boom long time thing makes many people gag (as well as smile). The gooey ejaculate from America’s/Europe’s military past still brings a sour taste to the mouth’s of certain parties when encountering something with a similar appearance. Which makes the NY Times article all the more interesting. As much as it has a look and feel of history’s not so glorious moments, Udon Thani is something different. For in the Udon Thani reality of today, there seems to be more (and I use this word very cautiously) of an even exchange (again, very cautiously) between foreign man and asian woman. Where as in the past, the balance was much, much more skewed in favor of the foreign guy. At least that’s what it seems like without the benefit of actually visiting Udon Thani personally or being able to travel back in time to hang out with some GI’s during shore leave.
If you have time, read the article and watch the video. See how you feel. Do you think the relationship politics in Udon Thani is that far different than the relationship politics of modern, western society? Are the foreign men of Udon Thani really all that different than your guy friends? What about the Thai women? Are they really all that different when compared to the dating women in let’s say NYC, LA, SF, London, or Paris?