A recent survey for a Thai based news forum for expats living in Thailand found that 15% of foreign men described their life in the Kingdom as blissful while in total, a figure of 75% said that they were very happy with their life in Thailand.
American expat: Life in Thailand is so good
The figures are not surprising given that Thailand has become one of the world's most popular destinations for middle aged
and older foreigners from European and western countries. The senior expats choose to retire to a country where the cost of
living is substantially lower than western countries and which enjoys all year sunshine and hot weather. Jim Boland, originally
from Maryland in the United States, is one of these foreigners leading a 'blissful' retirement in paradise. 'I came here about
fifteen years ago, it took me two to three years to organise my retirement. I have to say that so far, it has surpassed my
expectations. Some days I have to pinch myself. It is that good,' says Jim. The American expat lives in a beautiful villa with a
private swimming pool near Jomtien beach in Pattaya.
Relocating and living in Thailand takes discipline
Jim, a former municipal engineer, is sixty two years of age. His Thai wife, Noi, is forty three. We're visiting Jim on a
Wednesday, late afternoon. His beautiful home is a hive of activity. There are sprinklers on the lawn and western pop music
playing in Jim's den. Jim has just finished a two hour workout in his own gym within the house. His wife, Noi, will now take him to
a local bar where he meets up with other expats living in Pattaya. As we load up Jim's gleaming Mercedes saloon with Noi at
the driving wheel, his labrador comes bounding out and is held back by Noi's niece who also lives in the house. Noi's niece has
her own apartment as a maid and companion to his wife. We drive to the local bar near the beach. Jim tells us that he goes out
two to three times a week, more often with his wife but sometimes alone to meet friends. He also plays golf at least once a week
at a nearby golf course. In spite of the apparently lavish lifestyle, Jim tells us that he is quite careful about his expenditure and
prepares, with his wife, accounts on a monthly basis. 'This place is a bit of paradise, it's like a dream I suppose, but sure as hell,
it can easily turn into your own personal nightmare if it all went to your head. Jim tells us that it takes a certain amount of self
discipline to relocate and live successfully in Thailand. This is despite everything it has going for it. 'One golden rule and it is
this: stay away from the hotties.' This what Jim calls the bar girls and prostitutes in different guises that are everywhere in Pattaya
and Jomtien. 'I have seen quite a few guys lose the run of themselves over Thai hotties including a few good friends of mine,' he
says. What's a hottie? 'Well you now, all Thai girls are pretty beautiful. Thai women have that knack for looking well but some
girls in Pattaya are simply stunning, jaw dropping attractive, make you wish you were young again, we call them hotties.'
American expat's puritan values go a long way in Pattaya
Jim, the American expat in Thailand, tells us that he knows many foreigners, living and retired in Pattaya, who regularly host
parties, visit go-go bars, massage parlours and even hire sex escorts to attend their homes. 'We have a lot of guys here like that
and live like that too! I think many people expect that this is the kind of lifestyle you live here but it can easily be the road to ruin. It
must be the the bit of a puritan in me that keeps me on the right track,' he laughs.
Young American graduate in Thailand has no Thai girlfriend
At the bar, among Jim's friends, we meet a younger American, Robert Taylor who is visiting but lives on Ko Pha Ngan. Ko
Pha Ngan is one of Thailand's most popular tourist destinations and a beautiful island. Robert has developed a business for
himself as a blogger. He's 28 years of age, a university graduate and has no permanent girlfriend in Thailand even though he is
dating a Thai woman in Ko Pha Ngan but it's 'not serious'. He is representative of a new trend that is beginning to appear in
Thailand in the age of the internet. 'When I finished university I had a number of jobs but in tough economic environment, it was
a bit of a rat race, a loser's rate race. I figured I could do better working for myself. When I came and experienced Thailand, I
wanted to see if I could live here. Now I do alright, I can afford to live here, I even pay taxes and I can afford to hang out with
these wealthy old timers. I also find the time time to travel around and get to know all the beautiful Thai girls,' he says. Robert is
engaging in a verbal banter in both Thai and English with a very attractive bar girl.
American's internet business pays for lifestyle in Thailand
Robert's internet blog, promoting Thailand has over 200,000 viewers per month and he even manages to sell subscriptions
to in depth reports covering Thailand and now lately, other countries in Southeast Asia. His services are aimed at western men
and women thinking of making the move to Asia from the western world or as he terms it, the 'rat race'. James Morris is an
internet commentator who lives and works in Bangkok. He explains that there has been a subtle change in the nature and
pattern of foreigners visiting Thailand seeking a lifestyle change and also trying to find love with Thai women. 'There are still
hundreds of thousands of Thai women looking to marry foreigners but what is beginning to happen is the demographics, they
are changing. There is also a change in the nature and scale of the tourist sex industry in Thailand,' Morris explains.
Younger western men: a new relationship with Thai women
He points to the following changes that he has observed in the last five years. More younger and contemporary western men
arriving in Thailand who are ironically, determined to avoid the hot Thai sex and bar girls bar scene. 'Don't get me wrong, there
are still thousands if not hundreds of thousands of guys coming here for the sex and the cheap beer. But there are now more
and more younger guys who actually want to meet Thai women under the right circumstances. What is also the case is that
there are more Thai women also who are also looking for a more contemporary relationship with foreigners,' says Morris, who
writes for an international online news website and for foreign newspapers.
Robert, who comes from quite a privileged background in the United States, confirms this view. 'Personally I do everything
possible to avoid the bar girl scene in Thailand. I don't even like walking the streets in those areas. Anyway, there is no shortage
of beautiful Thai girls to meet the right way, some wonderful people to get to know,' he says. This is a double edged sword.
There are still droves of young western men from Australia, the UK and Europe who see Thailand as a sex holiday resort and
there is yet another facet, which is even less welcoming.
Western men from foreign countries who become 'white knights'
Since the 1960s, many western men coming to Thailand have embraced the more liberal sex regime. Indeed, in the last
twenty years, part of the problem has been that many western men have found the exotic nature of Thailand and the more
relaxed approach to prostitution such a potent mix that they have fallen in love with some Thai girls and Thai women engaged
in it. This is what many commentators refer to as the 'White Knight' syndrome. It has caused some men from western countries
to go home and post on money to Thailand, often on a regular basis to Thai girls or hotties that they have formed attachments
to. In a series of high profile court cases in the United Kingdom, a number of UK men have, in fact, been convicted of fraud and
criminal offences in order to find large sums of money for Thai girls that they have managed to fall in love with. Many men in this
situation visit Thailand on a regular basis.
New relationship patterns online with Thai women
The western men who fall into the 'white knight' trap is declining. This is because the internet offers new relationship
opportunities including Thai dating but it still continues even the context of western men who meet Thai women online. It works
both ways online, with Thai women now becoming the target of internet scams as well as foreign men. However the internet, as
well as cultural and demographic changes in Thailand, is bringing about new relationship patterns.
Cynical young western men challenge Thai sex for sale
There is also lately a more cynical attitude among some younger western men towards the sex for sale or prostitution
industry in Thailand. These young turks come to Thailand intent on finding sex with hot Thai girls or hotties without paying
money in a game of wits. 'This gaming culture from these younger westerners, I have seen this, they will refuse to take care of
the Thai women like the older generation but this behaviour has become acceptable, ironically because younger Thai women
are now more in tune with more advanced western values, most particularly, the internet generation,' says James Morris.
'Traditionally, there has been a positive attitude towards foreigners in Thailand. This is still the case but the behaviour of some
younger foreign men has the potential to change perceptions. That might sound mercenary but this is Asia, it's not Europe or
the United States.'
Ladyboys - have always been a trend in Thailand
The sexual environment in western countries and indeed in Thailand has also resulted in an explosion of interest in
Thailand's famous katoeys or ladyboys with many younger and older western men coming to Thailand specifically to search for
love with the more exotic third gender that Thailand is famous for. There has also been a trend for ladyboys to end up working
in what are normally regarded as straight sex for sale venues. This is seen also as a sign of decline in the Thai bargirl industry
or sex industry in general in Thailand.
Thailand - is the prostitution industry coming to an end?
Despite the changes in the nature of tourism into Thailand, the phenomenon of western men seeking love and indeed sex
in Thailand continues. However things have changed from the roaring sex trade seen at the end of the century. 'There have
been changes to the phenomenon,' explains James Morris. 'I would say, yes, that the traditional prostitution industry is in decline
in Thailand. I think this is a matter of demographics. Economic development in Thailand has meant that younger Thai people
can now find employment. Thailand has the lowest unemployment rate in the world. I understand that there is now also more of
a choice for younger Thai people. I believe less poor Thai girls now become part of the sex and prostitution industry than
before. This is a thing that all people must welcome.'
Thai women still seek relationships with foreigners online
In Thailand there is still a growing number of unattached Thai women seeking relationships with foreigners. It must be
clearly understood that these women are outside the sex industry. The sex industry itself, although in decline, has evolved to
include many different kinds of prostitution or services. The Thai military junta has expressed a determination to close down the
sex industry. Even before the 2014 coup in Thailand, there were calls across the political divide for this. For now Thailand is still
a playground for western men including younger western men.
Different forms of prostitution known in Thailand
The following is an outline of the array and nature of the Thai sex industry and the different forms of services offered by Thai
girls all over Thailand.
- Go Go bars in Bangkok, Pattaya and many urban centres: These are dancing establishments where foreign men
including many westerners pay exorbitant prices for drinks and watch scantily clad and often topless Thai girls dancing. For a
fee, known as a bar fine, the girl can be hired for a number of hours or a full night depending on what the customer is looking
for. There is also a further fee payable to the Thai girl or 'hottie' payable at the establishment or depending on the business
payable to the girls for her own services.
- Thai bars or bar girls - Thailand retail form of prostitution: These are bars where foreigners or Thai men can visit
and buy drinks while being entertained by attractive young girls who can also be bar fined. In some establishments sexuals
services can take place within the building. This has been the most common form of employment for many poorer Thai girls
from remotes parts of Thailand particularly northeastern Thailand or Isaan in the past. It is reported, by some western men
online, that there are less Thai girls entering this business and therefore the women working in the bars appear to be getting
older. Some of these foreign men, perhaps in bad taste, speak with sentimentality, on the current and past state of affairs in
Thailand's brothels. Some online expat bloggers in Thailand even look back in time to a period when there were more young
girls working in these bars and with what one expat termed 'joie de vivre,' if that can be understood or if indeed it is appropriate
at all to say. The prostitution industry in Thailand has been so widespread that perhaps it has a corrupting influence.
- Massage parlours and soapy bars: These are establishments that provide baths, showers, massages in the context
of sexual services. There are many famous establishments in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket that have grown a reputation over
the years. These are generally more expensive than beer bars which are home to Thailand's famous bar girls.
Thai women and prostitution in Thailand
A survey conducted by the ThaiLoveLines dating site (TLL) in 2012 found that 27% of the men admitted that they had visited
Thailand in the last five years had sex with Thai women outside of a long term relationship. The number seems low, but this
may also reflect the nature of the dating site's users, more intent on meeting respectable or mainstream Thai women.
ThaiLoveLines warns its users about the incompatibility of finding love in Thailand and such activities. However there are well
documented cases of successful relationships between foreign men and Thai sex workers. Some of these relationships have
not only brought happiness to the parties involved but have also contributed to society in Thailand and foreign countries. It is
very important not to be judgmental and to bear in mind that sex work in Thailand, although both illegal and frowned upon by
society, does not have the same opprobrium that we associate with the activity in western countries.
Prostitution in Thailand is a different affair
It is rather interesting that many westerners or foreigners visiting Thailand do not consider sex or prostitution in Thailand in
the same vein or terms as prostitution say in Europe or the United States. 'In Thailand it is a completely different concept, far
more relaxed and the lines are very blurred. In fact, this is the main reason why many western men fall victim to the white knight
syndrome,' says James Morris. There is no doubt that the many foreigners and westerners visiting Thailand are amazed at the
number of attractive women but there are a number of key factors that make Thai girls so attractive to western men and indeed
western men attractive to Thai women. The list is extensive but to summarise the reasons are partly a question of economics,
societal changes in Thailand and worldwide but also, significantly, an attraction of cultures.
Thai animist mentality: The depth and extent of Thai culture means that Thai women and Thai girls have a very
different mentality to women in western countries and indeed to western men. 'I often joke and relate to this myself. To me it
seems to be a fact that Thai women and Thai people in general, love cartoons, they seem to have a very vivid, indeed colourful
approach to life. Part of this animistic culture is also a sense of what's called sanook or a sense of fun. Thai women, in their
interactions with foreign men including with men in the sex trade, tend to inject this sense of fun into the activity. This is what
has made the Thai sex industry so attractive to foreigners although with the changing demographics and slight decline in the
industry, some observers say that this sense of fun is on the way out,' explains Morris. 'There is great belief and faith in Thailand
in such things as the supernatural and the spirit world. This is why Thailand is such fun and amazing. Sometimes it's sanook
but it can turn darker too. This vivacity translates into relationships and interactions with western men,' says James Morris.
Thai culture and prostitution in Thailand
Jim explains that in the psyche of most Thai bar girls and women involved in prostitution, it is not the same activity as it is
perceived in western countries where society and laws are based Judeo Christian values. Some commentators have argued
that the strong Buddhist faith of many deprived Thai women is a factor in their work as sex workers. It has been argued that it
helps them to see merit in the activity as they are providing a service to others in order to help their families and parents. This is
a very contentious point of view. Many also violently disagree with this proposition. They point out that prostitution and sex for
sale is the very antithesis of what Buddhism stands for. It is a raging debate. What cannot be denied is the Buddhism is very
active in Thai culture and in the minds of Thai people. In Thailand this 'living' culture has been so successful because it can be
adapted, in a meaningful way, by those at all level of Thai society, from those in the elite to those who are most marginalised.
'To many of the Thai girls, working in prostitution, it is the fulfillment of a duty to parents and family. This is the context of a more
relaxed attitude to prostitution in Thailand and these blurred lines we often refer to. It would not be uncommon for Thai sex
workers to visit a Buddhist temple on their day off to make merit. There is no exclusion and I suppose that in itself is a very good
thing,' says Morris. But this is not to justify the Thai prostitution industry. Also, things are changing in Thailand. The prostitution
industry in Thailand is now facing critical scrutiny from those that count, the Thai people themselves and those in positions of
leadership. 'Even to scratch the surface of what is happening, this reveals wholesale exploitation and degradation of human
dignity. Most westerners are appalled at the loss of dignity these Thai women and their families suffer just to make ends meet.
Many Thais also now feel like this,' says James Morris.
Thai Escort agencies - a growing sex industry in Thailand
The advent of the internet has brought about an explosion in the number of escort agencies in Thailand. These operate to
the same specifications as escort agencies in western countries. This is the one area where the prostitution in both western
countries and Thailand are similar. One of the key differences may be the nature of the Thai women working in these escort
agencies. Very often these women also are involved in short term relationships with foreigners and westerners visiting Thailand.
Some may have a number of western boyfriends, often wealthier clients with whom have developed some sort of relationship.
These escort agencies are particularly popular in Bangkok where there is a very extravagant and advanced nightlife scene.
Indeed Bangkok's nightlife is one of the most contemporary and advanced in the world certainly in terms of value for money.
Freelance Thai girls in the sex industry
Like many other Asian capitals, you will find attractive Thai girls or Thai women in bars and restaurants frequented by
foreigners in Bangkok. You will also find these ladies on the streets of areas that are popular with foreigners. Some of the Thai
girls working on this basis may be those who have been rejected or removed from agencies or establishments because of the
extensive screening of sex workers for HIV/Aids, which is part of Thailand's very successful aids prevention programme. There
is also noticeably, a large number of non Thai women such as women from Burma and indeed Africa or even Russia involved
in this trade.
Sex and Thai girls, it's simply a different culture
There is a body of opinion, often put forward by detractors in western countries, that suggests that Thai women are more
highly sexed. Caution, this should be weighed against the fact that Thailand is quite a conservative society. Most Thai women,
from respectable families, would have a very innocent view of sex compared to western standards. It should also be borne in
mind that Thailand does not have the same morality code or social mores when it comes to sex and the perceptions of sex. 'I
think, most westerners do not realise how influenced we are today by our christian origins and in some cases, puritanical
background when it comes to sex. From my own point of view I think that current western trends in the context of feminism
means that younger western men and women are often far more conservative in terms of attitudes to casual sex says,' James
American man surrounded by the same Thai hotties
As we look around the beer bar, which is one of the more popular girl bars in Jomtien, Jim chats with his friends and is quite
at home chatting to and surrounded by some very attractive young bar girls. The same 'Thai hotties' he warned me about. I ask
him what his wife thinks about this. 'She knows I am only here to drink and meet friends. She comes in herself to have a drink.'
Jim simply explains that he likes the atmosphere and this is a good place to meet his friends and other expats who happen to
be passing through.
As they say in Pattaya and Jomtien: This is Thailand
Robert, the young American graduate, is not so comfortable: 'This is not really my scene at all,' he says although he is quite
prepared to play a game of pool with one of the girls working in the bar and laughs and jokes with her. Jim explains about some
of the foreigners he has seen passing through the bar. 'Some of the guys coming through here have long distance relationships
with some of the girls, for instance the girl you saw coming in, she has a boyfriend in Brisbane, Australia. She'll tell you it's a
genuine relationship. Knows all about his home, his car and even his dog from the internet but she's still working here, it's not for
me to judge but maybe this is how some people find happiness, it's a crazy world but as they say here: This is Thailand. 'I will
say this, I don't like to hear talk about walking ATMs and guys shooting off at the mouth about Thai women, I think the whole
thing is a bit more worthy than that and I don't like disrespecting any Thai lady, this is their country and who are we to judge? It's
a damn sight better than living in the US. I suppose you could say that this has become a screwed up world but maybe we're just
Demographic crisis in the Thai sex industry
The number of Jim's hot Thai girls or hotties is decreasing. This is simply a fact of life as a result of a declining birthrate in
Thailand. It appears that the number of young bar girls available to work in the Thai sex industry peaked about twenty years ago.
In addition to this, the success of the Thai economy in the last twenty years has also raised income levels and wages available
to younger Thai women prepared to work in industry. 'An enterprising Thai girl who works as a secretary today may well earn
just as much as a Thai bar girl who works in a dead end job,' says James Morris. 'However I think what is happening is more
sophisticated than that, I think a lot of it has to do also with the internet and the use that Thai girls have made of the resource.
The Thai girls of the 21st century are really up to speed. Many of them now can speak English,' says James Morris.
New relationship between Thai girls and foreigners
However it is not all just about demographics and income. There have been some very significant social changes in Thai
society in the last twenty years. This has resulted in more Thai girls and Thai women being unattached and interested in
meeting foreigners. 'I think to some extent these developments have offset the demographic challenge. You are less likely now
to find Thai girls working as sex workers and bar girls and more likely to find them working in business, having jobs but also
working online for themselves using social networking and online dating sites for instance to meet foreigners or a suitable Thai
man,' says James Morris.
Internet chat with a dating partner and a Thai girl in Chiang Mai
As we talk in the bar in Jomtien, Robert, the young American graduate and internet entrepreneur, talks on his instant chat
with a Thai woman in Ko Pha Ngan that he is dating on a regular basis. At the same time, he is in contact with other Thai girls
he has befriended from around Thailand. 'Yes I have travelled around Thailand, I like to see the sights. I make some time, at
least every six to eight weeks, to get away and see a different part or side of Thailand.' From his smartphone, after signing off
with his girlfriend in Ko Pha Ngan, Robert is able to talk to a very attractive Thai girl in Chiang Mai.
She is just finishing up her shift at a local hotel where she works in the marketing department, he tells us. This Thai lady is
interested in meeting a foreigner preferable a western man and he has promised to come and see her before the end of the
year. With a live feed on the smartphone app, we can hear that the girl is quite articulate, most importantly, she speaks to Robert
as a contemporary and equal.
After the hot Thai girls, it has to be the hot weather in Thailand
We ask Jim, the American expat retiree, what it is he loves most about Thailand? 'I'd have to say, it's the beautiful Thai girls
and the warm Thai weather. I just cannot say often enough how wonderful it is to wake up everyday and see the sun shine,' he
Thailand's weather is one of the most consistent with three seasons that many describe as hot, hotter and too hot. The
period from late December to March is the coolest period but to most foreigners or westerners is the equivalent to a hot
summer. The period from late March to the beginning of August is the hottest time of the year in Thailand. It can become very
oppressive and humid. The heat and the sunshine is so strong that it is often not advisable to go out during the day but to wait for
the cooler period of the evening. The season from the end of July until December is often described as the rainy season but
there are two variations of climate of Thailand. One affects the central part of Thailand and the eastern seaboard while the
other affects the western seaboard and the southern part of the country. Some commentators point out that the advantage of this
is that there is always a place in Thailand where the weather is hot. However the truth is that nearly everywhere in Thailand
experiences sunshine most days.
'This hot weather and sunshine is very much part of the appeal of Thailand to foreigners and westerners,' says Morris.
'Count me in on that too.' The exotic nature of the country combined with the culture and the sheer number of attractive and
beautiful Thai women and hot Thai girls means that Thailand has a special place in the hearts of western men.