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Heart to Heart with Hillary


Update February 27, 2016

Dear Hillary,
Every week there’s another farang that has been taken to the cleaners by one of the beautiful little schemers. These girls must go to acting classes they are so good at it. Nobody could be so good at it without lessons! Or do the lies come naturally. If so, how can any of us trust them? And how do you stop falling in love with them. Acting classes again?

Dear Ross,
Sounds to me that you are the first of this week’s tales of woe yourself. If you are referring to the bar girls, Petal, their job is to empty the punters wallets, as quickly as possible. Some of the older ones are very expert at this and can keep several men on the line for years in some cases. The younger ones are too urgent and just milk one customer at a time. Yes, they have training schools, as in on the job training. They watch the older and more experienced ladies of the night twist the drinkers around their little fingers and then take them away for intensive therapy, whereupon they return with an empty wallet and then beg for more. The lady can oblige by milking the cash machine after getting the PIN number. And so the money wheel is oiled and ready to roll again.

Dear Hillary,
Do these dating services use photos of the real girls? I’ve replied to a couple which seemed to be in their late 50’s, not early 20’ as advertised. I’m not even sure if they were the ones I picked out.
Dear Jack,
What do you expect to find in a dating agency? If a girl is a raving beauty, do you think they have to join an agency? Do you think ladies under 40 are going to look for a partner through an agency? No, they will continue to look around, but by the time they get to 50 they will have run out of available men so go to an agency. And for that matter, if you are like Brad Pitt you wouldn’t be looking at agency ladies either.

Dear Hillary,
I am being asked for a dowry for the girl who has been living with me for three months now. I enjoy having her around, and we went up to her home town to meet her folks. Her mother looks after her child from a previous marriage. Her father has a small rice farm. My girl is now saying that her parents expect us now to get married and we must go back to her village for the marriage, and that I am expected to pay the dowry for her as well as paying for the monks and the marriage ceremony and party. I asked her how much did they expect and she tells me around 200,000 baht will cover everything. Honestly Hillary, that is a lot of money, being a bit close to 4,000 pounds, and I don’t know that I really want to go through this at that sort of money. I understand this may be the custom out here, but I want your opinion on it. I haven’t got anyone else I can ask to get some sensible advice.
Dear Will,
I am so tempted to reply “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” but I won’t ;-). Dowries are worked out as a sum to reimburse the parents for the loss of a daughter. In this case 200,000 baht is nonsense, I’m afraid. She has been married before and has a dependent child which her mother looks after. Your blushing bride will be sending money to her mother each month to look after the child. Don’t get sucked in by all this, Petal. It is a con. The village “marriage” is not a legal entity either. Run, and never go near that village again. Time to show your GF the door too, I’m afraid.

Dear Hillary,
I have had this relationship with one of the girls in the local bar. If she wants a night off, I pay for her bar fine, and she comes home with me. We have a great time and I usually take her for som tam or something on the way. The other night I felt like seeing her, but when I went to the bar and suggested I pay bar for her she said no. I stayed for a while and then another farang came in and off she went off with him all lovey-dovey if you please. Are they all like this? I thought I had a pretty good relationship with the girl, but it must have meant nothing to her.

Dear Befuddled,
“This relationship” as you call it, is nothing like the “relationship” as she sees it. She sees one customer who she can get to buy her out and buy some noodles. The other farang was probably offering two bowls of noodles. Your girl in the bar is a businesswoman, Petal. That’s where you are going wrong. Your relationship represents an “off” for the evening and a bowl of som tam. No more, no less. Stop confusing business with pleasure.

Update February 20, 2016

Dear Hillary,
I write to soothe the pride of all those Isaan people who’ve read the letter about phra ra, commonly pronounced “palah”. With respect, it is much more than something they eat in Isaan, much, much more. Yes, it’s on the nose (and there are as many different phra ra brews as there are people making it), but as a flavor enhancer it’s great. Whether in any of the thousands of little eateries or a private home, in Isaan you eat the national dish, and that’s som tum, and there’s no such thing as real som tum without phra ra. Those pussies down south who eat pawpaw salad (or tum daeng or tum tua) without it are missing a treat!

Dear Adrian,
Have you consulted an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor for this ailment of yours? Or does your local phra ra cook lace it with some addictive herbs? Or have you been diagnosed with an extreme form of masochism? You need help, Petal. You need help! If you’re already on treatment, I suggest you double the dose.

Dear Hillary,
I am tired of hearing that the Thai ladies are only interested in money. You could say that about any woman in any country. Women depend on the man, that’s normal. If you meet a woman who makes a big salary, they don’t need a man, but in Thailand there are very few rich ladies, so they need to hook up with a man who can look after them financially. Nothing wrong with that. Thinking ahead.

Dear Lance,
I agree with you, Petal. The relationship will always be one-sided and that is normal. The most successful relationships are where financial decisions are a joint agreement. The woman feels she is an important part of the relationship, not just a cook and bottle washer and bed warmer. The men who complain about Thai women are generally the ones who put their partner down, instead of making her feel important.

Dear Hillary,
Have you any experience with transferring money from the UK to Thailand? I want to send a few pounds over to a little lady who looked after me so well over Xmas. She has given me her account number, but trying to transfer never seems to work. What about the exchange companies, are they any better? We’re not talking about big money, around about 10,000 baht.

Dear Graham,
The best way involves some setting up, but basically you get her a bank account here with a debit card. You transfer money via the bank in the UK into that account and she can draw on it. The money exchanges can be a bit expensive, especially if you are only transferring a relatively small amount – but any time you want to transfer a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, I’ll be here to catch it. (Or even Prosecco!)

Dear Hillary,
Why do people complain about their lives here in Thailand? The weather is warm all year, the people are so friendly and the cost of living is much less. Perhaps it isn’t the best place to be in the world, but I haven’t found a better one yet.

Dear Tom,
I am so glad to get letters like yours. People who can see the good side of life in my country and not complaining and comparing life here with the life they left before. If Thailand is so bad, the complainers would be better off going back to their old countries. Certainly, no place is ever perfect for all people, but tell those complaining to lighten up, brighten up and enjoy the life here.

Dear Hillary,
I need a little help here. I was raised that a woman’s place is in the home. She is the homemaker, cleans, cooks, washes and all that sort of thing. Is it different in Thailand, or what? My Thai GF is a good buddy, but she believes that housework is done by the maid, not by her. That’s OK while we’ve got a maid, but the last one has left and if I don’t throw things in the washing machine, then we’ll have no clothes by next Wednesday. Likewise the cooking. If I don’t do it we would starve. Is this what happens in Thailand, on the other hand, is she dead set lazy? I’m getting tired of working all day and then come home to dirty dishes.

Dear Derick,
Things are not the same as where you came from. Thai women who have been brought up to a higher standard expect housemaids/cooks/laundry. They would never dream of doing it themselves. Dish-pan hands are not a good look! I suggest you look for a laundry in your area – there will be one handy as they are everywhere, eat out at the cheaper roadside eateries and if needs be, get a contract cleaner a couple of times a week. Male chauvinism died out many years ago, my Petal. It’s a different ball game here.

Update February 13, 2016

Dear Hillary,
I just don’t bother going out Hillary; I can’t afford to get ripped off either emotionally or financially. I come here for the health benefits of the hot sun and to escape the cold of an English winter. It’s ironic that my dream job was being a male escort; I love the ladies and getting paid to spend time in their company would be like having died and gone to heaven. Any female ‘Big O’ fans out there willing to check me out for a modest fee? I do a mean version of ‘Crying.’
Big O

Dear Big O,
I’ve been looking out for you as I pass by the bars in my wheelchair. Big shock of black hair, dark glasses singing ‘Crying’ in a falsetto. So far I’ve found three Stevie Wonders, two Elvises and a dog named Boo – but no Orbison. Try waving your pension card as that is bound to attract some of the older ladies in the dimly lit bars.

Dear Hillary,
This is to John who was complaining that his wife didn’t dress sexy any more. Hillary said it might be because you are too old, but John, be thankful with what you have. My opinion of Thai women is that they hold their age well into their 50’s. My wife is 57 and still has the figure of one half her age. I recently saw a photo of the new vice president of Kasikorn Bank. She is 50 years old and looks a stunner. The type of woman who you would be proud to be seen with. So John, front up to the bar in your Singha singlet, shorts and sandals with sox’s. With your attitude I’m sure you will meet someone more suited to your taste.
Dear Bryan,
I think you are being a bit hard on John here. We can’t all be pictures of sartorial splendor like you. And you have been spotted with the socks and sandals too, and it is ‘socks’ not ‘sox’ (one of those creeping Americanisms). I’m sure John’s problems can be cured by taking his GF to the closest Kasikorn Bank. She can exchange some of his piggy bank for some sexy clothes and keep everybody happy.

Dear Hillary,
I am sure my wife is cheating on me behind my back. Too many old friends who have come for one night to Pattaya and don’t leave to six in the morning when she then puts them on the bus. Comes back smelling of that cheap Thai whisky and races immediately off to bed so there can be no discussion as I have to leave for work. Also goes for overnight stays at temples outside of Pattaya. It just doesn’t look right to me, Hillary. How much does a Private Investigator cost?

Dear Jerry,
All sounds a little suspicious doesn’t it, but there is an easy way of tracking her – through her mobile phone. Ask at your favorite mobile phone shop and they can sell you a program for her mobile which sends a signal (or something) so that you can track her at any time. I believe it will be cheaper than a PI.

Dear Hillary,
I have been offered a 50 percent share in a beer bar, and the price seems very reasonable (about ten thousand pounds sterling). The bar does good business (especially with me around!) but they do not keep books the way we have to in the U.K., so all I have to go on is the number of patrons - and that seems very good. How do I protect my investment, as it looks like a wonderful way to retire over here? Are there any hidden problems I should know about?
Lucky Lenny

Dear Lenny,
Not lucky for long, Lenny, this is a veritable minefield. Not only a foolhardy retirement plan here, it is also the best way that has ever been designed to lose ten thousand pounds sterling, or more, within six months. Of course there are no books kept, neither are farang “partners” kept for long. The “patrons” may have been just invited friends, that is a common practice (renta-crowd). Don’t even consider it. If you are still skeptical, leave the Sterling at home and come over here for a six months look-see. Do your own research and by that I do not mean just sitting drinking in bars. Find out how many bars there are in Pattaya. How many of them are well frequented? How many of them have farang owners or partners who have been here for years? What makes you think you can run a successful bar and what experience do you have? (Being a customer just doesn’t rate.) Do you speak Thai, do you have a trusted Thai friend you can trust with your life and your bank account? In that six months you may be able to locate a trustworthy Thai lawyer to help you arrange documents but that is really not much safeguard. As a bar owner you would become an instant target for the powers that be for all sorts of over and under the table payments. What you are suggesting is akin to taking the pin out of a hand grenade and playing pass the parcel! Forget it Lenny and stay lucky!

Update February 6, 2016

Dear Hillary,
I have been taking out a girl from the local bar for about three months or so. What I’d call a normal relationship and all was going fine. Last night I got drunk, went to the bar and she wasn’t there, so I took one of the other girls home. In the morning I woke with a headache and the other girl still with me. I sent her back to the bar, but now my real GF knows and I am getting nothing but frost from her. What’s the best way to break the ice?

Dear Don,
You are living in a dream world, my Petal. She’s not your GF, but a girl working out of a bar. She makes her money through people like you who pay her “bar fine” for the honor and glory of taking out your vision of loveliness. You are her meal ticket, Don. So where was she the night you dropped in drunk? I doubt that she was doing charity work somewhere. And her “friend” from the bar? She was just keeping you warm for the evening, as we’ve had a couple of cold snaps recently. Grow up Don, you are investing your money in the professional side of relationships where only money counts. It has been said many times that you can take a girl out of the bar, but you can’t take the bar out of the girl. Run away, Don, before you get in too deep.

Dear Hillary,
I was chatting to a Thai girl for about three months over the internet. I’m in the UK, but after we’ve been chatting together (though apart), I came over to Thailand to meet her and she is beautiful, much more than the photos she sent me. Are all Thai girls like this, or am I just lucky? She is so natural and has been staying with me in the hotel. She did tell me that I would have to pay some money to her work to allow her to have the two weeks off, but she has been worth every bit. Her English isn’t bad so we can talk to each other, though when we were internet chatting, I think her English was better than face to face. She wants to come with me back to the UK. How long does it take to get a visa for her to visit England?

Dear James,
You’ve really fallen for this girl, haven’t you, and you don’t really know her at all. Sorry to be blunt. Internet chat three months and two weeks away from work for her. Petal, workers do not have to pay the boss to get leave. They can either have some of their holiday pay, or unpaid leave of absence. The only “occupation” where they have to pay for their time off is in the bars, James. I am sure your lady friend is a professional, and she has been getting help with the written English to chat with you. Even if things were different, she is not going to get a visa for the UK on the strength of a three month association, and ‘professional’ ladies find it particularly hard. James, go and read Private Dancer and Money Number One and you will begin to get an idea of what happens here. Enjoy your holiday, hang onto your wallet and just go slow. This is no rare diamond you’ve found. More like a cubic zirconia.

Dear Hillary,
We enjoy coming to Thailand every year but the one thing that completely confuses me and leaves me embarrassed is the subject of tipping – when and how much? For example, if the restaurant charges a “service” fee, should you tip as well? I am told that the wages are not high for some of the up-country people in bars and restaurants and they need the tips, but I do not want to throw money away on our holiday trips either. I mean, the reason we come is because things are so much cheaper than at home. If the prices go up here, then it isn’t worth the traveling costs. What do you do as someone living there, for example? What’s your tip about tipping?
Gerry and Graham

Dear Gerry and Graham,
Look at the bill to see whether or not there is a service charge. If the establishment adds on 10 percent for service (the usual amount), then as far as I am concerned – that’s the tip. There are some places that no doubt pocket the service charge, but that’s not anything of our doing, nor can we change it. That is something between the employees and the owners to work out, and believe me that does happen. On the other hand, if I feel that the waiter or service staff has gone well beyond that which could be expected, then I reward them with a little extra something for that person, irrespective. In an establishment that has no standard add on service charge, then it really is up to you. Small change left over or up to 10 percent is quite normal. Thai people are grateful for anything you leave them.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Update February 27, 2016

Update February 20, 2016

Update February 13, 2016

Update February 6, 2016