Sawadee ka from Hua Hin, a beach town about three hours south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand.
Hua Hin is a tourist resort but not a party place like Phuket or a luxury resort like those on some of Thailand’s southern islands.
The beach here is beautiful with white sand and calm, warm water. I have enjoyed walking along that special place where the water meets dry sand.
But really, beaches are better with sweethearts or children so after my first beach walk, I headed off to the local night market for dinner and walking around. Most communities in Thailand have night markets where families come to hang out and eat so they are always lively places.
In Hua Hin’s night market, it’s all about the seafood. I had an amazing dinner at Bird Chilies that included juicy local crab in a spicy pepper sauce. (The top of the page shows a basket of bird chilies I found on an abandoned sidewalk. In the daytime.). And then a young man with vegan coconut ice cream found me.
I was wrong to think this auspicious beginning in Hua Hin would be an omen. Today was not such a big success. Here are things I wanted to do before I was presented with some type of insurmountable challenge:
Horseback riding on the beach — Now you know why I chose to visit Hua Hin instead of Ayutthaya. Unfortunately, the only horse available for my ride “occasionally bucks” because he “changes from behind.” He needs a “strong leg” and please make sure you have a “light seat” in a gallop. These are all signs of a horse in pain, so I cancelled.
Cock fighting — Well, I didn’t come here to go to the mall. I came to see things I won’t see in my own country and to try to understand why people do things differently. Even if I am a vegan who supports animal rights. I explained this to the hotel staff and they said I am the only guest who has ever asked about cock fighting. They asked me how I found out about cock fights in Hua Hin, since Lonely Planet does not list them as a local attraction. I told them I saw a handwritten sign on the road. They say it is not cock fighting season. I don’t believe them.
Thai boxing — I am not a boxing fan either but I am curious and I am still trying to make up for missing that baseball game in Havana, which everyone in my travel group talked about for days. Boxing is not happening on the nights I am in town.
Biking Tour — Rained out.
The Local craft market — Closed on the days I am here.
Seeing “The Martian” at the local mall — This was definitely a Plan B kind of activity but the local theater is showing this movie in Thai language only! Harrumph.
I could have taken a hike in the sweltering heat or visited a couple of temples, but I decided to do a little research instead on something I have seen a lot of in Thailand, especially here in Hua Hin — namely, older western men with local Thai women.
I think one way or another most of us have a negative reaction to this picture. We probably assume the man is looking for a submissive trophy bride or the woman is a gold digger. Or both. But I did my homework and I learned the situation is more complicated than I assumed, which come to think of it seems to be the case with pretty much everything.
Surprisingly, although the internet is awash with blogs and punditry on the topic, there is very little published by the mainstream media on western men traveling to Asia to find Thai companions. But here are a few things I found.
- An article by Nomadic Matt, a premier travel blogger I trust, about prostitution in Thailand. He says it’s not a black and white thing. http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/why-sex-tourism-in-thailand-is-not-as-black-and-white-as-you-think/
- One of the only articles I could find published by mainstream media is about marriages between Thai women and western men. It tells an interesting story about a part of Thailand where a lot of Western men have been “imported.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/25/world/asia/25iht-thai.html
- A good article by a Thai woman who isn’t going to take any crap. http://thaiwomantalks.com/2010/05/10/thai-women-and-the-question-of%C2%A0money/
My research has relieved me of some subconscious stereotyping. And what a relief. As part of an increasingly inter-racial and LGBTQ-diverse family, I should be more attuned to any kind of uninformed bias. From now on, I won’t assume relationships between western men and younger women in Thailand are inauthentic, exploitative or “icky” (a word I saw in a lot of online commentary by women) — by either side. Or that they are romantic and mutually supportive either. Some may be loving and some may be awful. To the extent money and status enter into the equation, you know what they say about people in glass houses. Consenting and non-consenting adults in all cultures, including our own, have always married for reasons of convenience and financial security.
Back to the Beach: