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The week that was in Thailand news: Mistaken identity and misconceptions: What goes through a Thai’s mind seeing foreigners?


The week that was in Thailand news: Mistaken identity and misconceptions: What goes through a Thai’s mind seeing foreigners?

I always wondered what might be going through a Thai’s mind when they observed this whitey – surely a farang in their thoughts – wandering, sometimes even staggering, down the street towards them.

In my earliest days in Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, I imagined they must just see a tourist. Probably a sex tourist. As time passed and I wandered around with a briefcase they probably imagined I was a door to door English teacher by day and a sex pest at night. Yes, they were never far off the mark.

When I travelled around the city in a suit and tie on a 750 cc chopper they probably thought I was heading off to some boiler room before going to a bar for more sex-patting. It amused me that in reality I was on my way to teach Thai manners to hi-so six year olds or perform Buddhist rites for Teachers’ Day!

In the early 90s I would occasionally sit wistfully in go-go bars in Patpong. Surely here was fair game, thought the ladies, surely here was a sex tourist ripe for the slaughter. Wrong again….that vacant look on my face was because I was mentally anagramming the name of the bar into six and seven letter words ahead of the Scrabble tournament next day. I’d down a happy hour beer and get an early night in preparation.

These days I wander around the capital or ride a bike with my three and six year old daughters in tow. Perhaps I am not a tourist anymore, in their eyes. When the children become teens I shall once again be a scurrilous white skinned miscreant up to no good with underage lasses. 

In 2019 with all that grey hair they assume I must be a visiting granddad….that’s it. They still get it wrong! And there is invariably that fear in their eyes that I might ask them the way or the time in English……some things never change.

I have never had a problem communicating effectively in the Thai language. This has led to many occasions when the barriers have been broken down and misconceptions have been cast aside, or at least that was the impression I got!

Anyone who can string a half decent sentence together in Thai in Bangkok becomes a tourist who has visited Thailand frequently. Doing that in Pattaya invites suspicion especially in bars but even in 7-Eleven.

Stringing many sentences together – and using correct tones – is another matter entirely. Being able to explain yourself, offer more than just opinions on the heat of the day and the heat in the food and your personal provenance puts you on a different level. Hopefully I am able to break down some barriers and make a positive difference.

Though some probably still go away and think I was lying, it is an interesting fact that when most Thais hear something coherent and well pronounced in their own language from a foreigner, they tend to take it as gospel.

It’s as absurd as the barstool keyboard warriors who claim that something is true about Thailand because they heard it from a Thai….

Misconceptions and mistaken identity always feature prominently in life anywhere and this week on Thaivisa and its illustrious forums was full of that, marking an absolutely corking seven days of news. My notebook that records the best stories of the week for this column was chock-a-block full of scribbles.

One of my favorite stories was about two grieving families in Buriram who were given the wrong corpses – one 47 the other 75 – after a breakdown in regulations at the hospital. The director promised it wouldn’t happen again, they’d be asking who they were in future – the relatives coming to collect, not the stiffs.

It brought to mind a favorite story three decades ago when the owners of the Crocodile Farm asked for the family of a man, who had fallen to his death from the walkway into the croc enclosure, to come forward. They explained they would kindly pay 10,000 baht for the funeral expenses on collection of the corpse.

The family duly showed up and took the body and the money away. Next day the REAL family showed up.

Mistaken identity seemed to be stretching a point after a man aged about 60 in black in a black pick-up was caught on CCTV before two “pretties” were shot at seven times in a Toyota traversing the immediate vicinity.

A sergeant major (first class ,no less) who bore a remarkable resemblance to the suspect turned up at Bang Yai nick to explain in an ashen face that it wasn’t him. He also incongruously explained that he’d sold his gun to a mate – an assertion that had the forum banging on about DPMs and watches. Yinn suggested, amusingly or perhaps even accurately, that the friend would soon be deceased.

After a whole swathe of stories featuring “pretties” – not least of all more developments in the Lanlabelle case – Rooster was obliged to explain in the now ubiquitous “Thaivisa notes” that the term does not necessarily refer to physical beauty and is more of a job description in Thailand.

I was proud of one of my lines in the shooting story that was not missed on some observant posters of a like mind: “The sergeant major denied shooting two pretties in the Yaris”.

One bullet had hit the rear of the car after all.

Regarding Lanlabelle – now one month deceased – Bangkok plod have been determined to arrest absolutely everybody who even said hello to the poor lady on the day she was found dead in a condo lobby in Bang Khun Thian. Several men at the party she attended, even a woman, are in custody for molestation and illegal detention.

Someone has obviously told plod to cast a wide net and to hell with justice!

Meanwhile the Thai public salivates; also of note was the arrest of “Sia Top” the alleged fraudster who returned to Thailand after a brief sojourn in Hong Kong to face the music for ripping off yet another pretty in a sham wedding.

So many pretties I was wondering where the uglies were until I mistakenly turned on a Thai soap while looking for the True football channel and saw some hi-so woman’s maids. Ah that is where they are!

Thai online news, translated by Rooster and others on Thaivisa, is now so salacious and in-yer-face that one wonders if the ratings for the soaps are suffering as the public glue themselves to their mobiles.

Gun crime and murder was as rampant as ever. A well known DJ in Sattahip shot his “gik” and fleda stepfather killed his nursing wife’s child with a shovel; a 58 year old woman shot her philandering husband in the stomach through a door while his “mia noi” waited outside; a woman’s lover riddled her with bullets while her husband was out doing the factory night shift and a father, cross that his 18 year old daughter had shacked up with her boyfriend, stalked and shot her in the neck with an airgun nearly killing her.

The last of these had me reminiscing about my own grown up children who live in London and Liverpool these days. I had always been led to believe that a father had to be outraged when their daughter got boyfriends. Not me.

Practically and being just a bit Asian, I preferred to think of the prospect of a dowry.

My responsible – or so I thought – sixteen year old daughter once was delivered home paralytic by a girlfriend after a party. She needed to be carried upstairs, put to bed and have her shoes removed. Next day she was gushing in apology saying those immortal words that are rarely true – it won’t happen again!

Little did she know that I was in fact delighted that Miss Goody Two Shoes had erred but was still safe and sound and even contrite. Similarly when my son – who always appeared far too well behaved to be related to me – finally used the “F” word in company; I resorted to high-fiving everyone present, much to his dismay.

With all the mayhem and murder in Thailand this week – and I have just scratched the surface – it was a wonder there was room on the news pages for officialdom – both in Thailand and abroad – to make a fool of themselves. We weren’t disappointed.

Army Commander-in-Chief Apirat made a complete blithering idiot of himself burbling on about why he doesn’t expect everyone to believe him. Believe me General, NO ONE believes you. These dinosaurs continue to bang on about communists and insurgents as if Thailand is still locked in a 1970s and 80s death struggle in the jungles of Isaan. All the time while conveniently ignoring the reality of strife on the southern borders.

The government’s economic think-tank – now there’s an oxymoron – came up with 18 measures to ensure 39 million tourists visit Thailand. Though too numerous and absurd to list here, one of them caught my eye – a project called “Shocking Price on Weekdays”. 

Could this mean an end to dual pricing on Wednesdays, I thought, a chance for us farangs to get into Khao Yai for the Thai price in time to see the clearing up of dead elephants…..

Of course, “shocking” might mean that the price was actually INCREASED during the week; with billionaire Phiphat at the helm of the tourism ministry one has to believe that anything is possible.

Internationally the jokers in Washington and Westminster looked as idiotic as ever. The Eton Mess asked us to believe his Brexit deal was “new” and “great” while at the White House the POTUS got a comeuppance of sorts from an unexpected source.

The grieving parents of a young man who was killed riding a motorcycle by an American woman in England who claimed diplomatic immunity, were invited to the White House. As they entered the building it was revealed they would be meeting the president himself who had arranged for the family to talk with the woman who had killed their son.

Trump was clearly trying to make mileage out of this but it completely backfired. The parents stood up to him and said they would only meet the woman back in England on their terms. Fair play to them.

Arch paedophile Richard Huckle – responsible for 200 appalling child sex crimes in Malaysia and given 22 life sentences  – was found stabbed to death in his cell in a UK prison. Here in Thailand a record sentence of 374 years was handed down by a southern court to another sex criminal preying on children.

It is good that the courts most everywhere now appreciate the severity of these crimes. It marks a very great change from the dark days of child sexploitation in Thailand. Back in the 1980s you barely had to go out looking to see the exploitation of children in the sex industry. Some ghastly images I encountered by accident are forever burned into my retina.

No one would say that abuse of children has been eradicated but the Thai authorities are to be commended for the efforts made over the last three dozen years.

Wishing that they might be the victim of mistaken identity were two farangs who decided to rob exchange booths this week. One pulled off some sleight of hand skulduggery by pinching $30,000 in Phuket while another went for a more direct method producing a knife in Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok. He then compounded his idiocy by getting on a motorcycle taxi and was soon in custody.

Rooster told his editor that these two miscreants looked like the same person – I must have been in Thailand too long when even the farangs are starting to look alike….

So to a couple of “Amazing Thailand” Rooster awards. Lots of young ladies were pictured praying with joss-sticks and rubbing talc on the trunk of two banana trees. The fruit – rather in the manner of something unmentionable – were pointing skywards leading to the obvious conclusion that the trees must contain lottery numbers.

Rooster called the Thais “bananas” in the headline but that is more out of grudging admiration for their lunacy than bearing any malice aforethought.

Then came a surprise. This week’s Royal Barge Procession has been postponed until December 12th. The reason given was adverse water currents. As Bangkok Post legend Bernard Trink was wont to remark: Any comment would be superfluous.

Finally, with Mrs Rooster and the chicks away upcountry for another week of the school holidays I thought I’d see what I had been missing for years in Soi Cowboy. Very little as it transpired. But I was amused by the one and only conversation I had. It was further proof of the misconceptions about us foreigners…..

A scantily clad young lady who had been gyrating, okay shuffling, on stage came up and asked what that vacant look of yearning on my face might indicate.

“Khit arai yuu farang loop lor?” – “A penny for your thoughts handsome man?” was the question.

“Whether to order a Big Mac or a McKai before returning to the wife”, I replied.

We both laughed.


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