A few days before I went to Thailand, a girl asked me a question.
“Are they stupid?” she asked.
And by ‘they’ she meant the Thai girls. The Thai bar girls. The prostitutes. The hookers. The farm girls from Issan and Ayutthya and whatever, jiggling their booty for money.
“No,” I said. Indignant as hell. Offended. “They’re people. And people are smart and people are stupid. Plus, they could con a white man out of his pay.”
“Who did YOU con?” I asked, inside my head. “Some poor Malay boy? A farmer’s son? Just cause some people are better at this prostitution thing doesn’t mean that they’re stupid.”
So I do what I know best. I started interviewing the bar girls. Again. Not for them to prove to me or to the world that they’re not stupid. But I believe that I owe it to them. That at the very least.
I believe that I owe it to them to talk to them and find out their stories. And they were fantastic stories. And beautiful minds. In beautiful bodies.
The first girl I talked to, her name was Mae. She was from Ayutthya. Her parents were farmers somewhere in Thailand. Were. They then became cooks. At a restaurant they do not own.
Me: Do they make better money as cooks than as farmers?
Mae: Yes. That’s why…I don’t know how to say…I know if I can tell you…properly…it will make sense. You will understand. I think if Thailand can make better farming like in France or in Germany, in Europe.
Me: Or in Canada or the States…
Mae: Yes. Then farmer will get more money. No more poor.
I think I understand. See, if farming in Thailand is a viable source of income, a proper one, one that could get Thai farmers better pay, then there would be no need for girls like Mae to take of her clothes in the seedy bars of Pattaya.
She wouldn’t have to make the choice of sleeping with whoever has enough cash to blow. She would have just been content being a farmer’s daughter, a farmer herself or a farmer’s wife.
And it is quite hard to understand at first. At least to me. Thailand has so many good things. Their rice is addictive. I have been eating rice and Thai natural produce every time I go to Thailand, and it has been many trips. I never ever, eat western food there, except for breakfast, because I just love Thai food, especially that ubiquituous Thai resource – rice.
The rice grown in Thailand is the kind that smells good and has the perfect texture. I can just eat their fried rice every day, for every meal, for the rest of my natural life, and I would be content. It tastes so bloody fucking good.
And steps are being taken to improve the Thai agricultural sector. To make it fairer. I talked to Ann, a massage girl in Bangkok, about this.
Me: Thai King very good.
Ann: Yes. Thai King do a lot of projects that will make money for people.
Me: Like what?
Ann: Like agriculture.
And there are obstacles.
Ann: But problem is marketing.
Ann: Problem is big supermarkets. People who buy rice and fruit.
Me: You mean the middlemen and departmental stores?
Ann: You know rambutan?
Me: I know rambutan.
Ann: We sell rambutan, 5 baht. Then go to supermarket, they sell 50 baht. They packing-packing and they do brand, and sell more expensive. Farmer no make money. Supermarket make money.
The girls know the deal. They see the problem. They understand. There is a lot of money to be made from the Thai agricultural sector, especially with 9 billion mouths to feed by 2010 and the increasing price of food and oil as well as the eternal land shortage. But fairer distribution is needed. A new system should be in place.
They understand that to have a better choice than just taking off their g-strings for 20 baht tips, they don’t need just money. They need to tackle the source of the problem, and not just treat the delightful symptoms. They need to take care of their farming. They need to take care of their country.
Me: Why don’t you just find a rich farang (foreigner/white man) and take all his money?
Ning aka An American Crime (Bangkok): I don’t want to find just rich farang and marry, and get money. I have five brother sister. I don’t know if farang want to take care them. And I don’t love ALL farang. Have money don’t mean have big heart. Some are good, some are bad.
Which is more than I can say for some girls here who only think of themselves. And how better off they are from other girls.
The Thai girls I talked to all have some amazing insights to share. And they are real people. They have dreams.
Mae: What you do in Malaysia?
Me: I’m a writer. I write.
Me: That too. I wrote for a newspaper. Now TV and movies. Films.
Mae: I wanted to be writer.
Mae: Yes. When I in school, I was always top of class.
Me: What were your favourite subjects? English?
Mae: Hahaha. Little bit. I like Thai language. I get A. Hahaha.
Me: Well, many newspapers in Bangkok and Pattaya. Maybe you go try.
Mae: But have no university, you see?
Me: Most of my bosses don’t go to university. You go train yourself.
It’s not that simple. And it IS that simple.
Ann likes Lord of the Rings, but mostly prefers Thai movies.
Me: I saw Nang Nak.
Ann: Nang Nak very good, ne? I think lot of Thai story can be made movie, ne?
Me: Yes, of course. I also saw Ong Bak and Tom Yum Koong and Beautiful Boxer. Beautiful Boxer one of the best movies I saw last year. But on TV. Should have won Oscar, when it came out.
Ann: I from Issan. Tony Jaa also from Issan. Movie Ong Bak in Issan language. Not Thai. Not Bangkok. Bangkok people not understand. You like Beautiful Boxer? Ladyboy?
Me: No, I don’t like ladyboy. I like real lady.
Ann: But ladyboy so very beautiful. Our ladyboy ___ became Miss Universe ladyboy.
Me: Yyyyyyyeah…what you do before massage?
Ann: I work sell cosmetics.
Me: What brand?
Me: Is that Japanese or Korean?
Ann: Japanese. Oh, Japanese and Korean don’t be friend with each other. They don’t like each other.
Me: I can imagine. What do you think of Malaysian girls?
Ann: Malaysian girls can be very beautiful, ne? They have big eyes. Very beautiful. But they don’t take care their clothing. Their fashion. Their make-up. Some have dark skin, like me…
Me: You don’t have dark skin.
Ann: I do. Same Malaysian girls. But they wear farang make-up. Face is white. Body is dark.
Me: Like a monkey?
Ann: Hahahaha. But they very beautiful. Can be. Have to wear beautiful clothes, not just t-shirt and jeans. And no cheap night market dress.
Hear that? Judge ye not, lest ye be judged. Yesus Kristus, yo!
Me: So, you Christian, Buddhist of Muslim?
An American Crime: I’m a Bood.
AAC: Yes. That. I am Bood in my heart. But…(blabberblabberblabber)
Me: Ah, are you saying that you’re not really practicing Buddhism, but is really a Buddhist at heart?
AAC: Yes. Buddha tell us that everyone same inside. No need to fight for anything. End of everything, everyone die and be part of life.